Thursday, April 22, 2004

Some photographs of a summer's day. A little boy's lifetime away.

There are songs that will always stay with me. I remember the very second I first heard them. Some I associate with good times. Others have seen me through bad experiences.

A couple of years ago. Midway through my travels, of firstly South East Asia, then Central America. I had a two week stop in San Francisco.

Rather cleverly, I managed to get food poisoning on the flight there. I spent the first week climbing up and down from my dorm top bunk in order to make frequent trips to the toilet.

To add to this there wasn't the same traveller vibe in SF that I had come to enjoy elsewhere. There were next to no independent travellers and, when I was well, I ended up sightseeing on my own and on occasions walking the streets just to put off returning to my bunk.

I started to feel very sorry for myself.

It was also the first anniversary of the 9/11 bombings. I turned out for a small peace festival which was aimed at remembering the dead while also demonstrating against the possibility of war in Iraq. It was a very moving occasion.

Whether it was the isolation I felt, the sickness, or my surroundings but I started to feel very emotional about everything.

Anyway, I had discovered this great record shop on Haight Ashbury where I bought a Ewan MacColl CD. For those of you who haven't come across the man before his best known song is First Time Ever I saw Your Face. It has been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Elvis.

The legend has is that it was written virtually on the spot when he called his wife, folk singer Peggy Seeger, in the USA. She was upset because she didn't have showstopper ending for an upcoming TV performance. He made it up over the phone for her to sing. Later she sung acapella and it resulted in a standing ovation. For me it is still the most beautiful love song ever written.

But listening in San Francisco, looking out over the bay and the Golden Gate bridge, the song that moved me to tears, and still does is Joy of Living.

It was written by Ewan when he knew he was dying. He had written extensively about walking in the northern hills and the song is about saying goodbye to the places that he loved and to his family. It manages to be both very very sad but still life affirming.

The Joy of Living.

Farewell, you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye
Moorlands and stony ridges, crags and peaks, goodbye
Glyder Fach farewell, cold big Scafell, cloud-bearing Suilven
Sun-warmed rocks and the cold of Bleaklow's frozen sea
The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you're drunk on the joy of living

Farewell to you, my love, my time is almost done
Lie in my arms once more until the darkness comes
You filled all my days, held the night at bay, dearest companion
Years pass by and they're gone with the speed of birds in flight
Our lives like the verse of a song heard in the mountains
Give me your hand and love and join your voice with mine
And we'll sing of the hurt and the pain and the joy of living

Farewell to you, my chicks, soon you must fly alone
Flesh of my flesh, my future life, bone of my bone
May your wings be strong may your days be long safe be your journey
Each of you bears inside of you the gift of love
May it bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving
Eagerly savour each new day and the taste of its mouth
Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living

Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I may be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I'll be part of the curlew's cry and the soaring hawk,
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I'll be riding the gentle breeze as it blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.