Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A Dance to the Music of Time, or too Much to Drink?

I took a break from a very busy day to make a sandwich (blackstrap bacon, green tomato chutney and black pepper) and, having already digested the mornings news turned to YouTube as a source of temporary distraction. Usually I type in 'high mass' or 'Palestrina' or some sort but , being one of those days, nothing appealed. Sandwich in hand, I looked through my CD rack for something soothing and chanced upon an album with no slip in the cover, thus being anonymous from my sideways glance. I resolved to play whatever it was. Overjoyed, I saw that it was an album I thought I had lost, Van Morrison and Lonnie Donegan's masterful album of skiffle classics recorded live in Ronnie Scott's a few years ago. Oh what rapture overtook me as I relived 'Don't you rock me Daddyo' and 'Midnight Special', 'the Ballad of Lost John' and other classics sent me back to YouTube where I found, to ever greater rapture, a new recording of 'Vanlose Stairway' by Van and Georgie Fame in Spitalfields Church, London, this year. You can see Van and Georgie in front of Ronnie Scott's club above, but more of that later.

The CD case which I has luckily selected also yielded one more surprise. The back had a piece of photographic paper in it, which I released and turned over. It showed myself, John Torode, Terence Conran and Leo Sayer at a party in Mezzo, once London's largest restaurant. A wave of reverie overtook me and I happily thought about a wasted youth in Soho. Of the Beaujolais Club (which I still frequent whenever I can, indeed I was once so regular there that I still have a 'tab' behind the bar for my yearly visits!), of Norman Balon in the Coach and Horses, of Peter Cook being drunk everywhere, of Willie Rushton, that beloved man of blessed memory, also drunk and of New Years Eves at Ronnies, with George Melly, who was also drunk. I could go on, indeed sometimes I do and with 'Saint Dominics Preview' playing in the background I am tempted to, but this is neither the time nor the place. They were amazing times and I would do it all over again before you could say 'knife' but we all change and move on.

Sometimes, old friends express surprise that I am training to be an Anglican Priest. Actually, forget that, old friends, for thus is the way of facebook, continually message me demanding to know why I am dressed in a black cassock and wonder what the party was. I try and explain, occasionally with success, that I have found something better to do, something more urgent than being jolly in Blacks Club, a better tune than Georgies. Something I could not have dreamed of all those years ago, but always had an inkling of. I think that my fellow students suspect that behind my placid smile there is a 'past' lurking, which is good, I enjoyed almost every last minute of it, but here we are, and seeing people gradually coming to the Faith is even more beautiful that seeing two old friends singing 'Vanlose Stairway'. Besides, everyone's dead now, gone to the Saloon Bar in the sky as we used to say.

This is the problem with finding sudden echoes of the past on busy days when I am stuck for anything to say. For a moment, I wished I was in the Wig and Pen Club with my brother deciding where to go next, but the Wig and Pen has closed down and my Brother is in Dorset. Pah. I think a playing of 'Madame George', dinner and cracking on with some more work is called for. My parents went to France (which is only two hours away, they tell me, which is clearly rubbish, if France is only two hours away, why are they so foreign?) yesterday and I went for dinner at their house. They had some smoked salmon in the fridge which went out of date as they were away. I shall treat myself!