Just as the dinosaurs were dying out, I was on a family holiday with my parents in a cottage we rented in Scotland. Today, my world is a bleak as a downpour on a Scottish hillside and one song links the two eras.
It was a stone cottage, with cupboards built into the walls beside the fireplace for log fires, logs stored in a wooden vestibule at the back door. There was a steep staircase, with a door at the bottom to prevent the heat rushing upstairs like an internal chimney.
It was on a quiet road – except for the mad blacksmith in his coach-written Morris Minor van who careered around the stone-wall lined corners with abandon.
The cottage was in the middle of nowhere. We could take long walks and see an odd house but not reach even a hamlet. So it was only with my parents driving that we ever got to a town, one of which had a remarkable institution – the town hall restaurant where basically at-cost meals were served for all comers as a welcome to the area. It’s a great idea that today is rarely seen although about a month ago, during a couple of days in London with Starfish (I know.. don’t ask because I won’t tell) we went to Malaysia Hall in London where there is a similar idea – but only Malaysians and their guests are allowed to eat there. It is startlingly cheap and serves proper Malaysian food limited only by the Government’s Halal policy.
In the universe’s way of linking things, here’s goes:
On one of the trips into the Scottish town, I spotted a record shop. I was very early into my record collection and had a Simon and Garfunkel album, some albums of covers of top pop songs (such things were popular then) and, I think, The Sound of Music. A proper record shop was a thing of wonder for me. I bought two LPs: Argent’s In Deep and Teaser and the Firecat by Cat Stevens. But the cottage didn’t have a record player and so I had to wait until I got home to play them.
The hypnotic beat of Hold Your Head Up from the Argent album thumped through the house when there was no one else in and I loved it. But it was Teaser and the Firecat that has remained on my mental playlist since that holiday in, I think, 1972.
I think that one song probably had more of an influence on my writing, even on some parts of my life, than most other pieces of music. “How can I tell you?” is almost an auto-suggestion for The Things That I Can’t Say.
And today, the 26th February 2016, for a reason that only two people will understand, that song is the one that shapes my life.
To Cat Stevens, thank you.
To Starfish.. U2.