I went for a walk in Croppies Acre memorial park. A beautiful Sunday with the promise of fine Spring weather. Daffodils and Cherry Blossoms in bloom. Not many people about. I usually wear my airpods and listen to a podcast. For some reason I didn’t today. Instead, I shared the look of guilt on some people’s faces for being out at all. We kept at arm’s length. Two arm’s length, 2 meters. I kept thinking about an account I read somewhere about the fine Summer of 1939 in the weeks before war began. I imagined that people might have looked like this at each other then? in late August 1939. In parks, in London and Berlin. Hoping that talk of war is overplayed. The warm sunshine a harbinger of normality remaining. As I walked out the gate I remembered some lines from Auden.
Faces along the bar Cling to their average day: The lights must never go out, The music must always play, All the conventions conspire To make this fort assume The furniture of home; Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood, Children afraid of the night Who have never been happy or good. – W.H. Auden, Septemper 1 1939.
Talk of apocalypse and social isolation reminds me of a booklet sent out to all homes in Ireland in the mid 1960s. The civil defence service published it as a handy guide on how to survive a nuclear war. It was kept in houses all over the country for years, often hanging on a peg by a window. Some years ago, doing a final clear out of our family home in Lettermullen, I found it in a box in the attic. I took it back home to Dublin with me. I’m looking at it now, during this strange Corona shutdown of 2020. Growing up as a shy bookish child in the 1960s, I used to read it a lot. Often, when expected to go outside and interact with the world, I longed for the locked in future it foretold. Sitting under the stairs or under the table, listening to the radio all day didn’t seem so bad. Years later in a play called “Blood Guilty“, I had one of the characters refer to it in a speech.
I started reading this book during the first days of the Covid-19 shutdown. I remember someone recommending it on a podcast some months ago. It’s a wonderful trawl through the glory days of UK pop and rock music of the 1960s and 70s. It all seems so far away now. Buried deep in the nostalgic glow of another century. Full of names of groups and songs that meant so much to me when I was growing up. The author, Simon Napier Bell , gives center stage to the creativity and showbiz talent of the gay entrepreneurs and band managers of that era. He also gives credit to the role played by acid and other drugs in the forming of the soundtrack that shaped so many people’s lives. It was an awakening of sorts. It’s energy still echoes in shards, through the prism of the decades it begat.