It Gets Dark So We Can See The Stars

“The wind says die
The sea said live
The sun said it can, it can, it will, it will fly away
But the rain
We must listen to that
The rain knows all of these songs
That our hearts have mapped”

  • Butler/Buckley

I never appreciated how lucky we were growing up in Dundalk and then Monaghan until much later in life I was chatting to my friend Baz over pints in Manzors in Clane and I mentioned The Arabian Knights cartoon. He looked at me oddly.

“The cartoon in The Banana Splits  ?”

“What are you talking about ?”

“ Saturday mornings on the BBC !”

“I grew up in Macroom. We only had RTE 1 up until 1978 when we then had RTE 2. Saturday morning tv was live racing from the Curragh !”

It was only then that it struck me that we, in Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal, received the BBC and ITV television signals whereas the rest of the country was stuck with RTE. We also had RTE, but if you had the choice, especially as a child, of watching Bosco , and The Wanderley Wagon, compared to The Banana Splits, Rent-A-Ghost, Jackanory, or Blue Peter, well, it was the BBC all the way.

I grew up watching Mr.Benn, Bagpuss, and The Clangers.

As I got a wee bit older it could get a bit confusing as you were growing up in Ireland but watching British centric television. This came into focus in 1977 when it was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. All of the kids programmes on the BBC were getting very excited about it, with Take Hart and Blue Peter especially showing you how to make Union Jack bunting, and cakes with crowns on them. And then you’d get on the school bus the next day and every bridge , or wall you’d pass would have ‘BRITS OUT!’ daubed on it.

It was especially confusing in our house as we were regularly visited by Dad’s Aunt Minnie, our grand aunt, from Belfast. Aunt Minnie adored the Queen. When she would stay with us at Christmas the dinner had to be paused so that she could watch the Queen’s speech. Aunt Minnie , dressed in her fox stole, tweed skirt, would hang on every word, and nod along , as if the Queen was reading out a script suggested by Aunt Minnie.

So naturally when it came time for the Queens silver jubilee celebrations I asked Dad if he could bring home some red , white and blue, card paper from work so that I could make bunting for the house. Dad told me that Mum would explain, and hurried off to work , leaving his poached eggs and toast behind. Mam was a brilliant, and patient, explainer. We were all taught as kids to respect everyone regardless of the colour of their skin, religion or nationality. We were all the same, none of us any better than any one else, some of us just a wee bit luckier.

Mam explained that we didn’t live in England, weren’t English , and that although the Queen seemed to be a nice old lady, and we would wish her a happy birthday if we ever met her, she was not our queen. And just to be clear , we would not be putting any Union Jack bunting on the house…not if we wanted to continue living in Ballinode.

I was a bit disappointed. All the kids on Blue Peter seemed to be getting very excited about it, and John Craven’s Newsround was now talking about street parties.

And then I heard it.

I had the radio on in my bedroom and The Sex Pistols ‘God Save The Queen’ came on with Steve Jones pneumatic chords and in an instant I went from being an incredibly naïve 10 year old to being…a slightly less naïve 10 year old. As the song was promptly banned by the BBC, I started listening to RTE to hear it. Mam and Dad didn’t like it, so it became especially delicious. I remember recording it from the radio onto a cassette with the intention of playing it accidently for Aunt Minnie when she next visited… but I just couldn’t do that to her. I told her story at Ten x9 a few years ago, and I’ll attach it at the end…if you’re getting this on the blog email…and if you’re not, again, why haven’t you signed up the stunningly wonderful blog ???

I honestly never looked at the Royal Family in the same way ever again. That song was powerful. There’s a brilliant documentary about that whole album, ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols’ on the Classic Album series on Sky Arts. They only ever recorded that one album. Their whole existence was bizarre. Glen Matlock wrote 10 of the 12 songs on the album and played on all the songs, but they sacked him and replaced him with Sid Vicious before the album was released. I loved the fact that Freddie Mercury used to call him Simon Ferocious.

There was a raw energy to it, unlike anything I’d ever heard. Our record collection at home was small, consisting of Abba, Demis Roussos and all the Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals. I started to listen to John Peel and Radio Luxembourg, getting a thrill out of songs you didn’t hear on RTE or Top Of The Pops.

I have a couple of friends and we’ll send each other songs we like. Shane sent me a song on Wednesday and I sent him one back, and we started to reminisce about school days, taking albums into class just to show them to others. Calling in to Hamills newsagents to flick through music magazines just to find the lyrics to songs.

I find meaning and great emotion in lots of songs. They help explain life to me, and help me cope.

Not that I have anything too onerous to cope with , I live a charmed existence.

A friend sent me a video of himself in Italy visiting a church and lighting a candle. I messaged him back saying that I once introduced an Evangelical friend to the interior of a Catholic church and lit a candle for a mutual friend and encouraged him to do the same. He looked at the little candles, which were little mini candles back then, not the tea lights they have now, put 50p into the box, lit one candle and put the other nine in his pocket, winked at me, and said “Bargain !”

I bumped into a friend in Flemings on Tuesday. I was in top form. I’d just bought 12 sourdough donuts in The Local and was picking up a carrot cake to bring with them for my nurses and doctors when I went up on Wednesday for my final treatment of Cycle Three. Yay ! One Cycle, three treatments left now.

Anyway, this particular friend is much younger than I am and yet I’ve always looked up to him, physically and metaphorically. He’s such a kind hearted soul, always helping others and has a wonderful smile that can’t help but make you smile. I hadn’t seen him in ages. We fist bumped and he told me that he’d been reading the blogs and had been prompted to go get something medical checked. He’s the seventh person that has told me something similar.

How fucking cool is that ?

My inane ramblings have inspired seven wonderful humans to go and get scanned, probed, prodded, by a medical professional, for something that had been troubling them, but they’d put off doing anything about.

Gives me thrills.

Another friend sent me a lovely message about how reading about my Chemolympics had made him appreciate the beauty in small things. I replied with a link to Sigrid’s song on her new album, which is wonderful, and yes I’ve ordered the deluxe vinyl bundle, with the signed poster and really cool long sleeve tee. The song is called It Gets Dark, and has the wonderful line :

“It gets dark, so we can see the stars.”

Simply magnificent.

Happy jubilee Liz !



Author: paul

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