Monday, 25 July 2011

Not about the Poetry Society, not about Norway, not about Amy Winehouse

The Springfields: island of Dreams (1963)

It's lunchtime. C is down in Hitchin with her sister trying to sort through the parental house. I pop down to the cafe on the corner and decide to tuck into comfort food. Spicy mince, mash and greens. It's just like school, only tasty. Not wonderfully, gorgeously tasty, but sort of middle, respectable working-class tasty. It's cheap and it's a generous helping and I have a pot of tea on the table. I contemplate the sweets board which is always the same, including spotted dick and jam roly-poly. I quite like such places. In particular I like this one.

The woman who serves me looks tough but she calls me 'dear' now. I call her 'love'. 'Be with you in a minute, dear.' 'No problem, love.'

And she puts on the same late fifties /early sixties music that is always playing there. We begin with Cliff Richard (Summer Holiday), move on to Roy Orbison (Only the Lonely), which moves me now as it never did when it first came out. There follow The Shadows. And then, strangely startling, The Springfields and 'Island of Dreams'. It's Dusty and the two boys in faintly Country and Western mode. It startles because it is one of my early pop memories and I haven't heard it for a very long time. I liked it very much back in early 1963 when I was fourteen. And I fell in love with Dusty to the extent of writing her name in black ink on a school desk. The hair? Oh, quite natural for the period. Like wearing a hair drier instead of hair. My mother had the same in black. She was just thirty-nine then.

The song is still haunting. And, damn it all, it does take me back to Norway, despite my best intentions. Whatever it is that is poignant about memory, a little of it is lodged in this song, especially that middle break when Dusty sings alone. High in the sky, there's a bird on the wing / Please carry me with you.

Tomorrow down to London to do another proms spot, this time for TV. [Puts on his Hungarian face.]

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