0

Belle and Sebastian: Dress Up In You

model

 

Belle and Sebastian is a Glaswegian indie band formed in 1996. Named after a French children’s television series, their nine albums have received critical acclaim, and are known for their literate and wistful lyrics. I enjoy how characters and narratives feature in their songs so decided to investigate the ways language is used.

*

“Dress Up In You” comes from their 2006 album The Life Pursuit. Characterisation is a key element in this song. Establishing who the people in the song are is our first problem as the identities of the singer (the narrator) and the person they’re singing for (the addresse) present challenges for the listener.

The song is sung in first person, with lead singer Stuart Murdoch beginning,

I’m the singer, I’m the singer in the band

You’re the loser, I won’t dismiss you out of hand

This appears straightforward and autobiographical, and an obvious interpretation is that he’s (assuming Murdoch is singing as a male character) addressing a fan or groupie. “You’re the loser” is brutal, but suddenly softened in the next line.

As quickly as Murdoch presents this relationship he changes it, with a simple couplet that is striking

Cos you’ve got a beautiful face

It will take you places

He has rapidly moved from calling the addressee a “loser” to “beautiful.” Either way the relationship seems to only exist in the present tense, and might be temporary. However, in the second verse he again surprises us by revealing more about the two characters and the progression of their relationship.

You kept running

You’ve got money, you’ve got fame

Every morning I see your picture from the train

Now you’re an actress!

Typically for Belle and Sebastian, humour and sarcasm are employed to good effect, and here these help to establish both the narrator and the model who was once a friend and then a rival. Interestingly, the last line is also a cliché which softens the impact of the observation

Now you’re an actress!

So says your resume?

You’re made of card

You couldn’t act your way out of a paper bag

The great American writer, Norman Mailer, said that writing ultimately concerns the nature of power, and this is true here for in six lines we move from the narrator calling the other a “loser” to now confessing that he/she can “see your picture from the train.” This implies that the narrator has a regular job and sees this other person, a model, on a billboard, presumably in an advertisement. With sparse lyrics Murdoch conveys vivid characters and an intriguing relationship. This continues with the accusatory

You got lucky, you ain’t talking to me now

Many listeners might’ve realistically presumed their relationship was romantic, but yet again the lyricist changes our view by gradually disseminating information: it was platonic and sisterly. Murdoch leaves the precise nature of their connection unspoken with use of what Keats called Negative Capacity

We had a deal there

We nearly signed it with our blood

Antithesis is used by the lyricist to suggest the complexity of the relationship, and show that the narrator and the model were once close, possibly when they were at school. Their relationship has changed over the years, and this drives the narrative behind the song

You give me stomach pain

I wish that you were here

This sudden and dramatic revelation keeps the listener engaged, and its twin emotions of revulsion and longing evoke a relationship dynamic with which many would associate. Belle and Sebastian is perceived as bookish, and literate, but the diction within this song is plain, and casual: suitable for a personal monologue.

As the narrator’s anger lessens, he becomes confessional, with an accolade that’s metaphorical and striking

If I could have a second skin

I’d probably dress up in you

This couplet is telling for the use of the pronoun “We” which confirms the strong connection the two characters once shared. In a surprisingly minimal number of words the lyricist has depicted a complex relationship between two contrasting people. Given the song’s initial representation of the relationship, the title is startling, as it is most complimentary metaphor

The divergent paths the lives of the two characters have taken are symbolised by the crisp imagery of

You’re a star now

I am fixing people’s nails

with the former evocative of glamour and travel, and the second connoting a mundanity and suburban imprisonment. This song uses language with deceptive simplicity in creating haunted and wistful creatures.

In the final verse, the full extent of the truth; the gritty reality is laid bare for us, and we see just how mislead we were in the song’s opening, only a few minutes previously

You’re a star now, I am fixing people’s nails

I’m knitting jumpers,

I’m working after hours

I’ve got a boyfriend, I’ve got a feeling that he’s seeing someone else

girls

 

0

Jazz and me

trumpet

My own musical career was fleeting. When I was eight I learnt guitar until the teacher moved, and Kapunda being a country town, that was it. I remember strumming in that measured, funereal way to “Banks of the Ohio” and being uneasy at having to sing

 I plunged a knife into her breast

 And told her she was going to rest

 She cried “Oh Willy, don’t murder me

 I’m not prepared for eternity.”

The theme of inappropriate music continued. At our wedding two guitarist friends played some songs. During that bright October afternoon their version of “Hallelujah” was wonderful, but I’m still happy that one of the rehearsed numbers didn’t get an airing, because as fantastic as “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix is, it’s less than sunny in a nuptial context

 Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun of yours?

Hey Joe, I said where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?

Oh I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady

You know I caught her messin’ ’round with another man.

*

While at university I discovered Vince Jones, jazz vocalist and trumpeter and his album For All Colours. Its sophistication reminds me of Frank Sinatra, and “Straighten Up and Fly Right” stars a rowdy Wilbur Wilde sax solo. I then knew that the saxophone could be as cool as a guitar.

The first concert I attended was Midnight Oil at Memorial Drive (Julia) and Vince Jones at Le Rox in Light Square was the second. Standing with other students in the airless dark I note that Vince wears a suit and tie, and in contrast to Peter Garrett’s frenzied jumping the jazz ensemble appears uninterested.

But, I was in. Jones himself once said, “I want to be inside every atom of every note.” Over the next decade I saw him often, usually in the Piano Bar of the Festival Theatre. And then, I don’t know why, he stopped regularly touring Adelaide.

*

One wet Saturday in England I heard a BBC Radio 4 documentary on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, so immediately jogged up the high street to a HMV and bought it for ten quid. And as rain and sleet lashed our windows, its saxophonic hymn brightened the crushing winter sky.

The storms of Coltrane’s personal life thundered in counterpoint to the spiritual still of A Love Supreme, and within two years of its 1965 release he would be dead.

*

One distant summer some Kapunda boys and I drove across the Hay Plains to spend a fortnight in Sydney with an air-traffic controller mate. He was among rude privilege in a Drummoyne apartment. We parked Woodsy’s Datsun 180B on the street. As we’d daily exit the Western Distributor there was a looming billboard with a huge fanged spider warning us to watch out for funnel-webs. We did. I still do.

Besides playing cricket by the Parramatta River, and body-surfing at Bondi and Curl Curl I hauled everyone to The Basement in Circular Quay. I was a fan of Live at the Basement on ABC Saturday evenings, and Galapagos Duck was the house band, and Don Burrows and James Morrison were often guests. I can’t tell you who played that sultry evening, but I liked it. The wooden tables, the ambiance, the enveloping melodies.

*

Among the more brilliant things about living in England is chucking a sickie, and knicking off at dawn on a Friday to another country. Easyjet flew us from Luton to Cologne so we could explore their Christmas markets.

The city is largely unremarkable save for its compelling cathedral; the Dom. With twin spires ascending to 515 feet, it was the world’s tallest building until the Washington Monument. Similarly astonishing is that in 1162 Emperor Barbarossa secured for the Dom the authenticated remains of the Three Magi. We drifted about its vast interior and leaving, presented some Euros to a nodding priest.

Papa Joe’s En Streckstrump is Cologne’s premier jazz venue so we find our seats early for Sun Lane Ltd, an ensemble from nearby Aachen. Slender waitresses disperse wine and beer. We can scarcely see through the stinging blue smoke. The punters surge in. Bespectacled, ample musicians squash timorously onto the picnic-rug stage. The pianist looks like a sheet has been stretched about a lumpy, wobbling refrigerator.

Standing unnaturally close, an energetic type suddenly clambers up and straddles a nearby stair- and me, as if he and I are posing for a gay fire-fighters’ calendar. I am startled. Forgetting that Europeans are often bilingual I blurt, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’

As the gentleman dismounts the step, and my groin, I mutter, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome!” my intimate twitters.

“Say what you really want!” adds his friend. We don’t see them again.

The traditional jazz is brisk and zestful, and spilling out onto the Rhine’s bank Nina’s “99 Red Balloons” bursts from a heaving club. Lingering at the chilly Alter Markt, the wife sips a concluding gluhwein; the spiced, red wine and we confirm that Cologne jazz goes pretty well.

*

It was nearly an hour commute across Adelaide’s most miserable suburbs; Snowtown territory. After many months afternoon radio had become tiresome; especially when the old-age surrender of organising life around news bulletins, those ridiculous frissons began, so I fought this inevitability, by committing to Miles Davis. I submerged myself in Bitches Brew.

Menacing and swirling about you like a phantasm, the music is a sexual maelstrom, and its recording began within hours of Hendrix and his pyrotechnics at Woodstock. Was it jazz? Was it rock? Was it funk? I wasn’t sure, but I again knew that the trumpet could be as cool as a guitar.

Despite its ominous cadences and rhythms, I found it transportive and therapeutic as I’d make my way home to the beach. Bitches Brew is vital to jazz-fusion, and while the opening two tracks are rightly celebrated, “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” on side four is the standout. I still love getting lost in this 94-minute ocean.

*

This story begins with Mum and Dad’s record collection. Don’t they all? In among the usual 1970’s fodder of Ripper ’76 and the Best of Abba there’s some curios, and in the not on 5AD or 5KA and certainly not on Countdown section are some jazz albums, one a Dixieland compilation. I don’t especially recall any of the tracks, but these made significant impacts upon my psychology and vocabulary.

The jazz evoked widescreen travel and the speaking of strange tongues and moving about in dazzling metropolises that one day I might be permitted to visit. It was New York and Chicago and New Orleans. It wasn’t that I was trapped in dusty little Kapunda, it was that a planet was out there, and Mum and Dad’s jazz records captured these teeming, thrilling possibilities.

They still do.

BB

0

global revolutions

globe

 

I love a globe. There’s joy in being hypnotised by the loose symmetrical sweep of the Americas, contemplating the distant familiarity of England, and contending with innumerable Stans where once was the muscular bulk of the USSR.

Ah, seduced by a sphere.

For my birthday Mum and Dad bought me a standing floor globe, and Sunday morning Max and I assembled its dark wooden frame before slotting in the tilted ball. Max gave it a spin.

Ocean. Land. Giddy revolutions. Ocean. Land.

Like the best gifts it’s made me reflect.

Alex and Max often chat about the wider world, and as they engage with the geographical possibilities, their curiosity is comforting. Globes encourage this.

“Alex, how deep is the Marianas Trench?”

“Really deep. You couldn’t even touch the bottom.”

And last year, walking by the Singapore River-

“Max, when we’re older, like probably thirteen, Joseph and I are climbing Mt Everest. We won’t even need any oxygen tanks.”

“No oxygen tanks!”

As a kid I had enchanted possessions. The tape recorder I received one Christmas, my first cricket bat (still in a cupboard), a yellow, wooden skateboard. But, in our house in Kapunda the globe of my childhood held gentle power over me, like a mystic. Globes conjure memories, and are gateways into our future.

From his Nanna and Poppa Alex also got one for his eighth birthday. With eyes widening he ripped the wrapping paper from the box then hopped about the room. His globe came with a touch-activated light, and when the boys are in bed, it cloaks their room with a snug glow. Living in a corner, it watches over them, a silent sentry as they sleep.

How did I survive so long without a globe? For too many years my homes were without one, emptier dwellings surely dulled by their absence, and now we’ve two, offering invitations to our planet’s mysteries and marvels, and voyages and stories. They’re as essential as a stove and I love turning them, fingers on the thermoplastic joy, and meditating on unknown places, taking in their promise of exotic wonder.

Globes urge consideration of yourself, and the bustling world, just outside, waiting for you. Boys, go for it.

Thanks to Mum and Dad for their gifts of globes, over many decades.

 

tape recorder

0

Courtney, cabernet and camels

camel

“Boxing Day Blues

I know that I let you down

You’re not keen on what you found

Courtney Barnett has many musical skills. Blistering guitar and compelling deadpan vocals, but chief among her gifts is crafting exquisite lyrics. The Melbournian uses sparse, arresting questions with potency.

When’s the funeral?

Do you want me to come?

I like how within a couplet she creates a backstory of considerable heartbreak. The questions speak of a sudden schism, destruction visited upon an intimate relationship. It’s sad.

Questions hang, and generate an ocean of regret. Courtney knows when to provide space for her listeners. The song breathes and gently sobs. It’s stunning.

*

In the days after we flew back from Queensland I chaperoned into our house a dreadful Clare shiraz. It was as if the grapes had been grown unnaturally out the back of a chip shop and the wine made, even more unnaturally, in the shed of an Ipswich car detailer.

I then ventured to the safer cabernet country of Langhorne Creek. Bleasdale is a ripper winery and its Mulberry Tree from 2013 is most companionable on these bracing evenings. The luscious fruit was an insulating treat, and I’ll engage it again soon. Friday looks likely. In Singapore it’d cost one of your limbs: prosthetic or God given. Here there’s change from twenty. Genius.

*

Despite being well beyond its sesquicentenary Adelaide continues to grow up. It’s moving from big town to city. An example of this is how the Torrens Parade Grounds was recently transformed into the Alpine Winter Village.

Borrowing heavily from German Christmas markets there was mulled wine, bratwurst and sauerkraut. Decidedly warmer than Munich in December it was brief fun under last Sunday’s pale rays. As it was booked out we couldn’t go ice skating (probably not me anyhow) but found a table and drank (and ate) in the continental troposphere.

And as you’d expect in this wintry European enclave there was a string of camels! The huge, silent beasts were led through along the village paths, their bulbous, poop-matted knees brushing my shoulders as they went past like noiseless, coffee-coloured combi-vans. Just like Bavaria!

Of course, our boys scampered off about the village to do some exploring. They returned, fresh camel turds smeared and speckled across their coats, ready for our evening at the football.

We look forward to the return of the Alpine Winter Village. But the camels can go back to the desert.

The Gobi will do.

courtney

0

Round 19 – Adelaide v Essendon: Dons’ Party or Don’s Party?

l and s

And a polite patter of applause is hird (sic) for Crows coach Don Pyke on defeating Essendon. Congratulations to Don on another first in his debut year.

Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters, the spectre of the disgraced 1996 Brownlow Medallist looms large. With which metaphors do we now designate this fallen figure? Is he a cultic prophet who fabricated his own Waco? Macbeth is probably too obvious a motif, so could the golden one now be the spectral illuminatus?

But, he was an astonishing footballer. When the Bombers stole a flag in 1993 I became a fan. However, it wasn’t until this millennium when I finally watched him at Footy Park that I became certain of his genius. His grace, immaculate skill, and tellingly, preternatural vision made him among the best I’d witnessed.

*

Roy and HG once considered the sledging skill of a rugby league player, who’d run around with the Lithgow Shamrocks, under the gruff tutelage of Grassy Grannall, expertly baiting his opponents, while using subordinate clauses.

The boys and I begin our afternoon on the Northern Mound at the Adelaide Oval, a secular temple of colossal beauty. We’re adjacent to the heritage scoreboard. With its elegant lines, and yellow and white lettering evoking Bradman and Chappell and Ebert, it’s a majestic icon. I hear no insults of lexical prettiness.

*

Despite the negligible obstacle of being delisted in 2009, a disappointment is that former Crow Robert Shirley isn’t in the side to tag Bomber Jayden Laverde. Who wouldn’t love the match-up of Laverde and Shirley? Happily humming, “Making Our Dreams Come True” I skip to the bar and request refreshment from Milwaukee’s finest, the Shotz Brewery, but instead am presented with a West End Draught.

Adelaide gets one within thirty seconds courtesy of McGovern, but then the footy is marooned for six turgid minutes in the Bombers forward line. It’s much like spending Christmas in Iron Knob: unexpected and increasingly disconcerting. Then, out it pops, and Eddie is scampering across half-forward and the crowd response is customarily seismic. He bounces thrice and goals.

Former Norwood boy Orazio Fantasia replies and Essendon are away too. The early period is characterised by a tussle before the Crows begin to assert themselves and the inevitable occurs. Watching Adelaide mechanically dismantle their opponents is largely joyless. Among the many negatives of the Essendon drug saga is the loss of narrative. It’s difficult to locate a compelling story.

But, footy fights back and presents Joe Daniher. With his moustache and oddly laconic dial, he looks like he should feature in the slow-motion action of a Carlton Draught advertisement. He takes multiple contested grabs, and must be the Bombers highpoint in this most wintry of winters. With less grace than the sacrificed buffalo in the last scenes of Apocalypse Now he stumbles on the grass, but somehow goals. Daniher’s high marking is exhilarating, but his kicking is more Travis Cloke than Travis Cloke.

At the other end of the paddock Charlie Cameron is also generating joy for his club. Like David Cameron his last month hadn’t been flash, but unlike the Tory lizard Charlie triumphed today with clear public approval in getting four majors, and keeping us in Europe.

The last quarter is forgettable until Josh Jenkins- he’d been quiet, possibly fiscally pre-occupied, marks assertively and goals. A dreary Festival of Fifty Metre Penalties ensues, but only the umpires have bought tickets. Eddie earns a free and handballs to ex-Magpie Paul Seedsman who again converts from the arc with a penetrating spear. Thank you Collingwood.

Tomorrow’s a school-day for the boys, and Escape to the Country is due to soon begin, doubtless featuring a smug empty-nester couple from Middlesex who’ve convinced themselves that they really do need seven bedrooms, so we start our Riverbank Stand descent towards basecamp. The Bombers get three late goals and the Crows remain outside the top four. It’s an evening carved with Baroque shapes.

scoreboard

 

 

 

0

The Oceanic Adventures of Bev Package: Our Week on a Cruise Ship

bev

 

It’d be fifteen years since I last heard it. But it’s irresistible and in the cosy chairs of the Pacific Dawn’s Promenade Bar we all sang along

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday

A regular crowd shuffles in

There’s an old man sitting next to me

Making love to his tonic and gin

Chugging across the Coral Sea during our week I heard Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” about a dozen times, and often twice an evening. Kieran, a Welsh fellow who looks a little like the comedian Jimeon was our favourite performer, did a grand version, and indeed, the first airing was, with planned theatricality, at precisely nine o’clock on the Saturday.

Earlier, we’d endured a curious, scatting, jazz interpretation, complete with messy harmonica, by a young pianist. We also heard it a couple times on the blustery pool deck.

Although it’s about broken dreams the song rollicks along in 3/4 waltz time and demands those with refreshments to raise and swing them about like pre-fight pirates. It’s an amazing narrative, dominated by the stirring affection with which the barroom tragics: John, Paul, Davy and co are described.

It was his first hit, and in its fifth decade, still works magnificently. Just as “Fairytale of New York” always takes me to Christmas in London, and with “LA Woman” I’m driving in Santa Monica, “Piano Man” will endlessly transport me to that rousing place on the Pacific Dawn.

*

We squeeze onto a water-taxi in Port Vila and transit across Vanuatu’s harbour. It’s an attractive winter’s morning and we’re buoyant with sea spray and the promise of exploration. Rounding Iririki Island, the coast is speckled with dozens of half-sunken yachts, ghostly victims of 2015’s Cyclone Pam. Seeing these dead craft reminds me that idyllic Pacific atolls frequently turn hellish, and that people are really, really small.

Zig-zagging along the main street it’s clear that our massive ship disgorging a couple thousand folks is an event. Some load-up at a duty-free shop and then I see it, that most ubiquitous of Australian chains: Billabong. It speaks of the worst colonial toxicity; a symbol of Australia’s reptilian hegemony and doomed local aspiration. I find it troubling to visit a country which is economically obliged to try to sell me surf wear.

*

I’m hoping that somebody can help me with this. Is it true that “Reminiscing” by LRB features on each of Cruise Ship Classics: Volumes 1 – 12?

Yeah, I thought so.

*

I love regressing to boyish wonder and again finding it awesome that a plane like an A-380 can fly. The Pacific Dawn, is also a leviathan which, if dropped onto Footy Park, would flatten both sets of goal posts. Of course if this were during a 2011 Power home game, it’d scare the be-jesus out of the scattered punters and Kochie while possibly also tearing the tarps.

That our ship glides seaward across a rippling bay can appear, from our vantage point, over one-hundred feet above the sea, as the muscular act of a magical god.

Aside from the Promenade Bar my favourite place within this hydropolis was on the pool deck, with my Jonathan Franzen novel, and a crisp Peroni courtesy of everyone’s bestie: Bev Package. How could I not love being drenched in languid holiday rhythms and their drifting afternoons? Up there, our petty urgencies evaporate into brief irrelevance.

*

Each morning over the PA and in his Genoan tones our captain addressed the ship: “So, we are travelling north-east through the Coral Sea at eighteen knots. Later today we’ll cross the Tropic of Capricorn and by afternoon the winds should abate. There’s currently around four to five metre swells, and we’ve activated our stabilisers to give you greater comfort. It’s nineteen degrees centigrade and should reach a top of twenty-three. Up next, a 1973 singalong classic by Billy Joel.”

*

Trudging up the tropical hill to Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel on the eastern coast of Lifou the terrain and vegetation remind me of Singapore’s Pulau Ubin, but without the aggressive monkeys. It’s an energetic stroll across this member of the Loyalty Islands and the view is fetching. Inspired by the beauty and proximate godliness, Bazz and I exchange observations:

“Look out there. See that yacht. That belongs to Richard Branson’s butcher.”

“Sure. Did you know that Sister Janet Mead isn’t buried beside this chapel?”

“Have I told you that Leo Sayer has never toured here?”

We then gathered on the beach, and some confronted the cruel, blue water. Alex and I clambered up to the village market to buy him a coconut. As we came back down the rocky track I see my wife, crying and saying something, but it’s lost in the wind. I think: someone’s been stung by a stingray, or worse, someone’s lost their phone, or even worse, Tex Walker’s done his knee (again).

Bursting onto the seashore, the cruislings are gathered about my brother-in-law Richard and his girlfriend Jasmine. They’ve just become engaged. Months prior to this voyage, he’d bought a ring to make this their moment. There’s tears and hugs and laughter. Families are meant to get bigger. Ours just did.

And with this Lifou is changed. For us, it was just an anonymous islet, a previously unencountered paradise, but now it’s invested, and forever enchanted. Isn’t this what people should do? With love, drape their stories upon an innocent geography, and transmogrify the terrain into something wonderful and harmless and humanly sweet?

*

Billy Joel hasn’t released a new song since 1993, and like many musicians he peaked early. But how fantastic that his biggest tune was born of grinding slog in an LA piano bar. That this song about crushed dreams would make his come rapidly and unthinkably true is a joyful irony.

For most of us, going on a cruise ship was new, and “Piano Man” an old friend, a smiling stowaway, waiting to surprise us. It was excellent to catch up over a beer or two, and like the best of songs it became a unifying motif for us, on our little holiday.

 Sing us a song you’re the piano man

Sing us a song tonight

Well we’re all in the mood for a melody

And you’ve got us feeling alright

BJ

0

Trish

Imp

 

Hello from Caloundra, on the Sunshine Coast. If you’re seeing me read this, it means that Pauline Hanson and I have been kidnapped.

I remember when we were in Year 12 at Kapunda High. How could any of us forget? We’d the wonderful Mrs Schultz for English, and had to read the distinctly un- wonderful poetry of the British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, or GMH for short. Maybe it was this poet from Essex who set Trish on her particularly British-flavoured life journey. However, before he’d a chance to inflict his tortured verse upon us I often wished that a GMH-assembled vehicle had run over Hopkins.

As great as Mrs Schultz was, it was you Trish who helped me most in year 12 English. With your brutal intellect, passion for argument, and literary insight you showed me how to interrogate a text. In the depths of that soggy winter I was awestruck by your skill as we also read The Grapes of Wrath. I knew it well, but what a ridiculous title! Grapes of Wrath? Grapes, I remind you, make wine. If the book was vaguely accurate it’d be called The Grapes of Enormous Eternal Joy.

There were tutorials and Trish volunteered to chaperon us through the garden of symbolism. We were in expert hands, and were about to be symbolism-ed to within an inch of our proverbial. She took us through page after page, merrily dissecting the novelist’s exhaustive, and exhausting use of motif. Most impressively, she provided tremendous detail on the book’s famous recurring turtle that somehow represents the poor, evicted families. I know! A turtle! In this Trish enthused me and challenged me and, yes, she terrified me.

And if ever again I encounter a fictitious turtle signifying displaced Oklahoman farmers, I know who to phone.

*

As is often the case with the talented, Trish flirted with many university courses. She began a teaching degree with Claire and me and in my old Holden we’d travel together daily to and from Salisbury. With the girls imprisoned in my car I’d inflict all sorts of teenaged cruelty upon them courtesy of my music. I simply refused to have the radio on. No evil mastermind leaves things to choice, and I permitted only my curated set of cassettes, and as we hurtled through Smithfield along Main North Road, accompanied these dreadful songs with my unfathomably awful singing and, on special occasions, even more unfathomably horrid kazoo playing.

For this Trish, I unreservedly apologise.

Over the long decades Trish began multiple degrees; including education, arts, and finally, communications at Magill. She’d have excelled in any of these. But, in keeping with her life’s English theme I maintain that she should’ve pursued animal husbandry, through which she might have become a Mrs Herriot, living in North Yorkshire and happily inseminating grateful cows.

*

It’s a mark of her individuality that she owned a most British vehicle too. An MG? No. A Rolls Royce? Sadly, no. Our Trish, I tell you with some delight, drove a Hillman Imp. This duo was as distinctive as Mr Bean and his 1976 British Leyland Mini 1000. Of course we’d banter about this car and I’d tease her with my revolutionary wit, for example, calling her Imp a wimp. Ha-ha. But revenge was Trish’s for when I had my mid-life crisis twenty years early, and bought an obviously phallic sports-car, she labelled it, or possibly me with the abbreviated form of “Richard.” Game over. Trish wins.

*

An idea in this speech has been the decidedly British nature of Trish’s life. She is reminiscent of an “English rose” but unlike a Kate Moss, has expressed herself through the creative and performing arts as an accomplished writer, editor, visual artist, singer and actor. Of these achievements we’re all most proud.

I reckon she’d live well in Cambridge. I can see her discussing poetry mid-morning over camomile tea, before taking a trudge through the muddy fields of Grantchester. Then returning to her homely cottage to make Brett and Riley a supper of gluten-free scones.

Indeed, as evidence that my notion is not so silly she also worked for a while in a Geezer-styled boozer, the Norwood Hotel. Like a much-loved character from East-Enders I can see Trish smiling from behind the bar, and saying to the shuffling menfolk, “You orright darling? Can I get you a ‘alf?”

*

Dear Trish. You’re a faithful and precious friend who’s taught me much about people and our planet. As you know, when she laughs with you in that beautifully abandoned way she has, it is to be alive and loved. For this, and everything else, thank you, and happy birthday!

In concluding, I can assure you that I’m on the balcony of our holiday apartment, and at this very moment, as a tribute to you Trish, am Salsa dancing in a most fetching fashion with a turtle who goes by the name of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Enjoy your afternoon.

turtle