When John Lydon once declared ‘anger is an energy’, he had a point; anger is certainly a creatively fruitful source of motivation when it comes to writing so much. Few emotions can inspire a hammering of the keyboard in quite the same way, it has to be said; but shall we have a day-off and talk about something nice for a change? This year so far has naturally carried on where 2016 left off, and most of the stories to make the headlines and thus provoke posts on here have hardly celebrated the joy of life. Was there ever a time when the news wasn’t doom ‘n’ gloom? Bar the odd occasion, probably not. But today I proclaim a 24-hour armistice on Brexit and Trump and instead present a post that coincidentally happens to fall on February 14th. Okay, so it’s an obvious cash-in, but not entirely unwelcome.
Writing about things one loves, as opposed to hates, is easier than it sounds. Sure, well over half of the songs ever penned have been an ode to an object of desire, though they tend to work best when said object is unattainable or has so far proved impervious to the author’s desperate entreaties. Songs that sing of domestic harmony and mutual understanding between two people when the thrill of the chase is over tend to veer towards the twee and nauseating; and it’s also telling that many of the greatest love songs emanate from the end of an affair, whether heartbreakingly melancholy or spectacularly bitter.
Avoiding melancholia and bitterness narrows the field and risks heading in a direction that should really provide free sick buckets en route; therefore, I am steering an extremely delicate course here and will do my utmost to prevent the wheel from taking us to Vomit City.
So, what do you love? What makes you feel warm inside, lighting a soothing internal flame as though you’d just ingested a bowl of chocolate Ready Brek on a chilly, misty morning as a momentary respite from the dread of venturing out into the dim, dank day with an icy classroom as your destination? It’s something one has to think long and hard about, just as listing one’s most detested records is a simpler task than compiling a mere eight Desert Island Discs that one loves above all others. The seemingly never-ending run of a TV programme such as ‘Room 101’, as well as its one-time competitors like ‘Grumpy Old Men’, show how venting one’s spleen comes so easy whereas the opposite requires a little more contemplation.
As far as the most basic sensations go, then of course it’s hard to beat that outdoor stroll when spring has surfaced for the first moment of the year. Winter’s main drawback for me is not so much the cold or the lousy weather – more the way everything looks drained of life, with the bare trees, the hard ground, the absence of flowers, and most of the day resembling the middle of the night. When spring hits, somebody switches the daylight on again and we’re striding through a landscape straight out of a Ladybird book, like the transition when Dorothy leaves monochrome Kansas and arrives in Technicolor Oz.
Conversely, I also embrace the autumn. For many, it is a depressing curtailment of summer; for me, it is one last glorious hurrah of rich, deep colour injected into the landscape and a dash back to the hearth with the anticipation of a warm meal. These sensations take root in childhood and tend to remain there even when the surroundings change, though this has now been extended into a cottage industry. Recently, there has been a rare incursion of a Scandinavian word into the English language that has been on the tip of trendy tongues over the last twelve months – Hygge.
In case it’s passed you by, Hygge has become the latest publishing fad, with several books of less substance than the coffee-tables they were designed to rest upon rush-released to cash-in on the craze before it burns itself out. Hygge emanates from Denmark and seems to be summed-up as a retreat back to a pre-electronic world of simple uncomplicated pleasures – candles, open fires, reading a book, walking the dog, and generally chilling out in a smug New Age Nirvana. Hygge shouldn’t naturally lead to cynicism, but it smells too much like a pre-prepared diet associated with the kind of people who tend not to appeal to one’s best instincts. Package a mood for mass consumption and you kill it. Few sounds put me at ease more than the contented purr of a cat in my lap, but the fact that you can’t bottle and sell it keeps it precious.
Other serene sedatives for me include the speaking voice of Oliver Postgate and the singing voice of Sandy Denny; but not all the things I love lull me into seductive torpor. Who (at least over a certain age) doesn’t enjoy the occasional four-minute air-guitar indulgence behind closed doors? For me, few provide better work-outs on the invisible fret-board than ‘Hocus Pocus’ by legendary fuzzy Dutch Prog-rockers Focus; but I’m sure you all have your own personal favourites. I also used to love spinning the likes of Bizarre Inc, Altern-8, The Prodigy and numerous others when I felt like staging an indoor Rave with an audience of one back in the day – the day being roundabout 1991; releases a fair bit of ‘positive’ energy when you can leap around like a lunatic for a bit – in moderation and with due consideration for one’s neighbours, of course.
What else? I love a cigarette (or 40), as regulars will be aware; and I love a glass of Scotch-on-the-rocks as a liquid accompaniment, just like all those Real Men used to in ‘The Professionals’. I love a bottle of wine with a good meal, though the good meal is a pleasure more sparing in my schedule, usually once-a-week. Snacks were basically made with me in mind. I love a good book as well – something that was an early passion and then lapsed for a shameful decadent decade or so before I got my arse in gear and decided the best way to conquer my voluntary illiteracy was to devour the library of nineteenth century classics.
I love Larry David and the way he can make me laugh like few others have these past ten years, and I love the elegant brushstrokes of Thomas Gainsborough, the stark black & white French and English cinema of the early 60s, architecture from the Georgian to Art Deco, British history from the Civil War to the Second World War, the aesthetic beauty of a dress cut by Ossie Clark, and – to quote the late, great Jake Thackray – I love a good bum on a woman, it makes my day. No, this isn’t me applying for a dating agency, though I know it’s beginning to sound that way. So I shall call time on this brief interlude between the grimness we’ve become accustomed to and leave the floor clear for you and your loves. That wasn’t too painful, was it?
© The Editor