Vic Godard – Holiday Hymn

A song that I probably haven’t listeimagened to for around 30 years may seem an odd place to start a series of posts on my musical past but it’s importance was more where it was bought than the music itself- Rough Trade, close to Portobello Road.

It was a shop I spent lunchtimes browsing in when I worked at a nearby summer play scheme in the early 1980s, and it was always my mental image of the record shop in Nick Hornby’s Hi Fidelity, although I knew full well that the ‘real’ shop was elsewhere.

I had returned to Portobello Road for a job interview just around the corner in early May 1986. The interview was unsuccessful but I used the opportunity to return to Rough Trade.

As for the song, and the album it came from, T.R.O.U.B.L.E., featured several members of Working Week which I guess it was why I was attracted to it – having never really listened to Godard’s previous work with Subway Sect. It was an album that was a long time in the making and in the three years from inception to release Godard had given up on music and was working as a postie – he still does, although has been back performing with the Subway Sect for over a decade.

It was a song, and album, that I listened to a lot that summer and autumn, mainly on a cheap cassette player precariously attached to the passenger side of the dashboard of my (Austin) Mini with bits of Meccano.

The cassette with it on became mangled on the badly cleaned rollers of my Walkman and while I could have easily re-recorded it, I never did, and the album had been largely forgotten before the winter was out. My memory was only jogged on a recent visit to Notting Hill looking for the blue door of one of my daughter’s favourite films.

The choice as a starting point for this part of the blog, is probably a nostalgic one though – whilst the Rough Trade shop remains, buoyed by a growth in buying vinyl again, it is one of a dying breed, a shop-type largely lost to downloads and on-line shopping. It is also perhaps symbolic of changes to my adopted city, Notting Hill has gone from a slightly shabby area where ordinary people lived, to the gentrified one where the likes of David Cameron have homes.

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Denis Thériault – The Peculiar Life of the Lonely Postman

imageAn almost certainly delightful novella of long-distance love through the medium of Japanese style poetry – a Montreal postman, Bilodo, steams open and reads letters in the form of Haiku between Ségolène, a young Guadeloupian teacher, and a Canadian academic.  Given the brevity of the tale, there would be a real danger of plot spoilers but as the key relationship intensifies the correspondence moves from Haiku to Tanka poetic forms.

On the canoe floor

A suffocating trunkfish,

drowning in the air

La Désirade’s waves

Clear and luminous

Like a tankra by Bashō

As the ocean licks the shore

its surf a salty

kiss – our lips lightly touch,

retreat, draw close again,

and lock at last

I prefaced the review with ‘almost certainly delightful’ novella because it wasn’t for me.  It was everything to do with timing, had I read the novella six months earlier, there would have been no qualification, it is a book I would have thoroughly enjoyed.  However, the use of a serious traffic accident as a plot device meant that aspects of the tale were far too close to my own life (and its near extinguishment) for comfort, so it emotionally became a bit of a struggle to finish the 110 pages.