thing 15: ‘a magic made by melody’: a gig

Stripping off with a bunch of other people, variously familiar to me, in the chilly, cramped vestry of some hitherto-unknown church. Dressing for Saturday Night in modest, full-length black, then perching on a chair in an unheated church hall, eating squashed sandwiches. All the ingredients of a perfectly normal weekend for me.

I’ve been singing in choirs since I was about 7 (not continuously, obviously), and this has frequently involved doing gigs in (more…)

thing 14: ‘the dearest freshness deep down things’: lamb-hunting

Call me Ishmael.

Don’t worry, though. I’m not talking harpoons or shotguns here. It’s just that I do get possessed, each spring, by a need to find and gaze upon lambs—the wobblier and boing-ier the better. The obsession comes on really strong in early February and lasts till Mayish, when wild-swimming fever takes over. So there was never any question that lamb-hunting would be a Thing.

And now it’s time! It is a bright cold day in February and the flocks are dotting the green. Well-swaddled, I (more…)

thing 13: ‘sometimes counsel… sometimes tea’: the joy of cafes

I read an interview with Alain de Botton in which he revealed that the mirror features in his morning routine only as something he can glance into and ‘check that nothing too terrible [is] happening’. I like that a lot. This is a level of personal grooming I can relate to.

But even that isn’t necessary, of course, if you don’t go out of the house. If all you’re going to do is have a cup of tea, why put yourself through grooming, or indeed dressing, at all? Why take off your jamas/house clothes and brush your hair? (Or at least redeploy it; those among you (more…)

thing 12: ‘comfortable music’: a friend, a film and some food

Sometimes there are just too many bloody lemons. Sometimes you don’t want to make any more feckin’ lemonade. Sod turning your frown upside down and/or scrabbling around in search of the scrap of silver lining. Sometimes you just need to feel as bad as you feel.

It’s been a bit like that these last few weeks. Like many who experience periods of depression—or go through a sadness, which is definitely not the same thing—I dread the questions “what’s wrong?” or (more…)

thing 11: ‘the peerless crust’: sarnies on a hillside in Lancashire

In Notes from a Small island, Bill Bryson puts it like this:

‘I counted thirty-three people there ahead of us, huddled among the fog-whitened boulders with sandwiches, flasks and madly fluttering maps, and tried to imagine how I would explain this to a foreign onlooker—the idea of three dozen English people having a picnic on a mountain top in an ice storm—and realized there was no way you could explain it’. And you can see what he’s saying. However. Whether it’s Britishness, or nature, or nurture, in the end it (more…)