How NOT to write about music in the time of Coronavirus – 1. Al Green

Al Green How Can You Mend

The last time I wrote on this blog was 12 March, over a month ago.

I have not given up listening.
I have not given up caring.

When the children are around (Daniel was here for three weeks straight, starting in March) then I shy away from playing music, same reason I have always done – too much competition. As Pete Shelley once sang, “Little girls/Little boys/Have you ever heard your mommy shout/Noise annoys”. There is one main room in this house, and at all times I need to hear the conversation that is going down in case it breaks out. Sometimes I might play a little low level Electric Light Orchestra or Sonic Youth, to give up in despairing frustration 10 or 15 minutes later. Easier to give in to the far more uplifting, cheering sound of children’s voices. No music in the world can match that.

When the children are not around, then I usually wallow in the silence. Let it feed over me, calm this sullen soul. This perennial lockdown is nothing new to me: if I but had a partner (a relationship) I think I could well be as happy as I have ever been. As it is, I have intense periods of work followed by intense periods of isolation followed by intense periods of work. And so on. The loneliness sucks but I draw comfort from the fact I cannot be the only person who knows this now (not like before). I do not watch television (generally) or play music (generally). I do not care. I enjoy the wallow… enjoy is not the correct words. I accept the silence. I live in the spaces, the gaps in between.

I have not given up listening.
I have not given up caring.

It does strike me however that nearly all the people I can see playing out their new roles and ways of being on social media seem more passionately involved with music (or tv or football or quizzes) than me. Sometimes I wonder if I should be bothered, but my life has been stuck in this waiting room for several years now – dating back to Brisbane, easy – and it is so difficult to change habit. I am stuck staring at walls, not even staring. I am stuck lounging on the sofa, not even lounging. I mended the back gate yesterday. It took five minutes but that burst of activity should see me through the next six months.

I thought up the title of my next autobiography earlier: I Coulda Been Jim Reid. It would have been a short book, though: just one line.

But I didn’t want to be.

Stuff that I want to talk about, I have no one to talk about with. God, I wish I had that person to talk with.

Video conference me.

This feels like an Al Green kind of day. Kind of melancholy, kind of blue but also kind of OK with Al singing sweet sympathy into my ear, reassuring, cajoling. Everything feels more achievable when the sweet Reverend is in the room, everything feels like maybe it might just about turn out alright even through all the melancholy and heartbreak. What paralysis of the soul cannot be cured by a few well-placed “la la la’s” from the Reverend, and what distant tremor of loneliness cannot be assuaged by that sweet, sweet electric organ, and what isolation chamber cannot be broken by subtle repetition and reflection and the gentlest, whisper-it percussion?

I may not be able to mend a broken heart but I fixed the back gate yesterday.

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