Sunday, 19 January 2014

an eastern sky

Wond'ring aloud,
Will the years treat us well?

A Suffolk Big Sky
My father used to build model gliders. I remember in particular, the balsa wood and red plastic material covering it. For much of my youth, it sat on top of my dad's wardrobe. I think it was my dad's wardrobe because it was a single one whereas my mother's was a double. The smaller one had a suit or two, the larger seemed to house a lot of voluminous dresses. On top of his wardrobe sat a red plastic and balsa wood aeroplane that I used to long to see fly.

The only opportunity to see it fly was on those occasions we went to Dunstable Downs on a Sunday afternoon. We would picnic there, watch dad trying to fly his glider and try to spot wallabies - yes, even then. Like the Unicorns in Bill Caddick's song, they were always there. If you Google it, evidently, wallabies are new to the UK. Oh no they're not. By the way, picnics in those days seemed to include lots of banana or jam sandwiches and, knowing my mother, something involving a very heavy pastry casing.

Anyway, I know that as time went by, my father seemed to lose interest in the glider and trips to the Downs became rarer. This is all a shame and something that I will never, ever, be able to understand why. Best to move on, then. The plastic got ripped and the balsa wood skeleton probably got involved in one of those wars that I seemed to be continually enacting throughout my childhood. I mean, of course, the continual wars of toy soldiers.

What prompted me to think of this - and it's something that I've not really thought about for years - is that last weekend, during our walk, we came across a slightly surreal scenario. We trudged through a ridiculously muddy field and eventually wandered fairly unfettered across a field. The noise of birds singing became less and a continuous droning noise - somewhat akin to the sound of a child that has been told that they are not allowed to do/say/whatever and they are responding in their best low-slung whingeing whine - but, behold! A group of  adults flying their hand-built 'planes. Helicopters, gliders, WWII planes and other such models I have no idea about. No airships, though, disappointingly.

I must admit that we were not distracted for too long - several were well-built and impressive in their own way - but it smacked of some sort of secret society. I believe the term "guilty pleasure" is often used. These guys shouldn't be embarrassed (well, not too much) about their interests but it did all seem a little secretive. A few furtive glances around and each member scrutinised the other guys' 'planes with a fair amount of attentiveness.

We moved on. Mrs Dave mentioned the episode today. We were walking around a very muddy wood in another part of Suffolk. Wonderful weather with gorgeous typical Big Suffolk skies. She thought it a slightly surreal episode. It was like coming across a Punch and Judy festival in Covent Garden after coming out of the hospital after seeing your dad who's dying . . . oh yeah, that actually happened. A long time ago, now.

I wander across the Suffolk landscape with pure pleasure, but on the way home, see friends taking their parents out for a Sunday afternoon trip and hear of them dealing with the issues that the Winter years of their parent's lives bring. I take deep joy in the understanding that all I have to do is make decisions about my own future. I miss my parents, of course, but know that the heartbreaking decisions to come for those peers makes for some tense discussions and sleepless nights.

Suddenly coming across glider fanatics in the middle of a walk brings backs memories of a fairly care-free childhood (they tuck you up, your mum and dad) but I don't envy my many friends who are going through the end of days with their parents. I'm really not being glib, here. I'm just grateful that I'm in the situation that I can look back with rose-tinted glasses nowadays.


Zouk Delors said...

Feedly doesn't seem to appreciate your big Suffolk sky: for some reason it has placed what looks like an album cover next to the feed listing. Unfortunately I don't recognize the album or even the young man depicted on its cover and there's no way of enlarging the thumbnail to read the writing on it. Any ideas?

Mike C. said...

How odd, you should choose that particular lyric to open with, which I would not have recognised a week ago, but found myself listening to Aqualung for the first time in 40 years this last week, and that song has stayed with me (post upcoming).

Yes, sounds callous, but I'm truly glad they're both gone now, my parents. Life opened out onto a bright new sunny upland, once that weight was lifted. Everyone needs to carry it for a while, just to feel the weight of their own mortality, but no-one should have to carry it for too long... When old people used to say "I don't want to be a burden", it was once hard to know what they were on about, now it's only too clear.


Dave Leeke said...


Sorry, can't help you there. In fact, I had to Google "Feedly". Let us know if you are able to find out - and if you can see the Suffolk photo.


I guess you mean that the song has stayed with you since revisiting the album? Interesting that you should go back to it after all this time, as I think you once called it "greasy kid's music". To be honest, I've always loved those couple of short acoustic songs on the album rather than the clumsy heavy ones. I must admit, I like Ian Anderson but have always found Martin Barre's guitar playing to be ludicrously over-the-top. Interestingly, it was Anderson that played the electric guitar on "Locomotive Breath".

I don't think you sound callous, I understand what you're saying. My mother was always of the mind that she didn't want to "be a burden". My dad's protracted struggle with cancer at a fairly young age (63) certainly didn't cause him to be a burden.

Of course, that brings us back to "Cheap Day Return" from the aforesaid album.


Mike C. said...


Yes, what struck about that album, despite playing it constantly for a few years then never listening to it again until this week, was how far I'd failed to notice (a) how folk influenced it is, and (b) how far the gentler, more thoughtful side of the songwriting outweighs the "heavy", willie-waving stuff.

What was funny was that Spotify recommended it to me! (I don't own a copy).


Dave Leeke said...


I have actually got the live version of "Aqualung" that was recorded in front of a small group of American fans in 2005. I don't really listen to it in its entirety but occasionally a track will come up on my iPod.

I guess I bought it as any proceeds from it are given to charities for the homeless, which seems appropriate. From what I remember it isn't anywhere near as overblown as the "willie-wavers". The quiet ones are still the best ones, of course.

Since you suggested Spotify to me, I have taken to using it occasionally. It's great for when I want to discover Vaughan Williams and suchlike. Also, the Amazon Cloud Player is good as I can listen to stuff I've bought over the years without getting up from the laptop. So thanks for that, Mike.


Zouk Delors said...

As Google probably told you, Feedly is an RSS feeder - an indispensible tool for journalists - and the number one app for the purpose since Google callously took the life of their own Google Reader. It's quite good in some ways, but hopeless in others and I'd appreciate any recommendations from anywhere for something better, usable on an android smartphone. When you open the app you see a list (in my configuration) of headlines and opening words from your nominated RSS feeds, each next to an image. This is usually the first photo presented in the item but occasionally something else not even appearing therein. That's only happened once before in my experience - when a photo of Joni Mitchell appeared next to a feed from Idiotic Hat in preference to Mike's artwork when he happened to mention the singer. In your case, I'm at a loss to understand what triggered the unknown artist - it certainly wasn't Anderson; it was a young, French-looking(?) man with long hair. No way of finding out what it was all about unless someone else who got the feed recognised it. Your photo was in the body of the feed ok: very nice - who says sky don't work?

Martyn Cornell said...

My wife's mother (87 and living on her own in Dublin) is growing increasingly loopy. If she doesn't get enough human contact during the week she starts hallucinating that people – dead people – are living in her flat with her. Yes, I miss my parents, yes I'm sorry they never saw their granddaughter, no, I too am not sorry I don't have to deal with that sort of shite.