Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, September 28, 2009

Family Matters

I've been a bit distracted from blogging by various things over the past couple of weeks. A couple of work things requiring stays in Glasgow, a visit to my big brother who is seriously ill and lives at the other end of the country (or indeed the end of the other country as he lives on the Channel coast) and a weekend of playing Wagner. So apologies. Normal service, I hope, returning now.

Let's begin with my son, who as I type is in the next room listening to playbacks of his multi-tracked vocals on his digital studio. A cheery little ditty with lyrics, insofar as about fifty hearings have informed me, concerning the rising of the forces of evil to destroy the planet. My son seems to inhabit a musical space somewhere between prog rock and heavy metal, and it's rather strange to hear the playback of those lyrics over a very Dream Theaterish instrumental mix. That's my boy.....

My brother Martin has alpha-antitrypsin deficiency, which is effectively a kind of hereditary emphysema. As far back as I can remember he suffered lung problems which in the 1950s were basically inexplicable. He was born in Dorset and began to have trouble when my parents moved to Manchester. This was before the Clean Air Act, and the proximity of a large chemical plant can't have helped (let me put it this way: by the time I was born it had been fitted with one of Britain's first electrostatic precipitators to suck the shit out of its effluent - and that was before the Clean Air Act!) I used to get bronchitis but grew out of that, and now apart from a mildly chesty cold every couple of years have no problems at all. My brother smoked for longer than I did, which won't have helped. Anyway, I have no problems other than being unfit and overweight, while my big bro is on 24-hour oxygen and doesn't get out much. Right now he doesn't get out of bed much either, though that's a recent development and might not be permanent. He may not be at death's door yet but he is becoming familiar with death's front path, so a visit seemed indicated.

When I was a student, on my returns home we used to play each other the records we'd bought during the term and try to guess what each one was. It's been a couple of years since I'd seen Martin, and we hadn't played each other stuff for a while, so I made up a couple of CDs I thought he'd enjoy (and might enjoy guessing in some cases). His tastes are prety eclectic so I figured he might already own half a dozen or so tracks, though in the event he didn't have any, which was nice. (Track lists appended below for the inquisitive.) He definitely enjoyed them, and was glad of my company for a couple of days, which we spent chatting pretty much all the time he was awake. He updated me on his genealogical researches, from which I gather (to my daughter's joy) that my forebears include a privateer ("Pirates!") and a shepherd who lived next door to the young Thomas Hardy so is likely to be (in part at least) the model for Gabriel Oak. We talked about the Dorset folk scene (in which Martin used to be quite well-known as a singer), friends from our days playing together in Stockport, about books, films, our shared loathing for Tony Blair, and my delightful nephew, recently married, who lives in Leipzig and is currently on a course in Damascus studying Arabic. (I got even more on him from my sister-in-law while Martin slept or while we walked the dog.)

I have to admit the visit was a little weird: it felt very strange travelling down for what might very well be my last visit - odder than going for a funeral. But once I was there the years fell away and carried the AAT deficiency with them, and I was back playing all the silly sibling one-upmanship games we used to play 35 years ago. And at least his mind is as sharp as ever: I think dementia terrifies him as much as it does me, and at least his brain is likely to outlast his lungs.

Ay oop, our kid.

CD #1

1. Björk: Overture: Dancer In The Dark
2. Baba Yaga: Back In The USSR
3. Tarika Sammy: Hana
4. Shock Treatment OST: Little Black Dress
5. Gåte: Knut Liten Og Sylvelin
6. Richard Thompson: Now That I Am Dead
7. Michel Polnareff: L’Amour Avec Toi
8. Nordman: Hon är Redan Här
9. Linda Thompson: Telling Me Lies
10. Tonight At Noon: The John McLean March
11. Martin Carthy: Your Baby ‘as Gorn Dahn The Plug’ole
12. Beth Nielsen Chapman: Dancer To The Drum
13. Alabama 3: Mao Tse Tung Said
14. Steve Martin: Daddy Played The Banjo
15. Martin Carthy: Girls
16. Al Stewart: The Coldest Winter In Memory
17. Richard Thompson: My Daddy Is A Mummy
18. Celine Dion: Vole

CD #2

1. Dweezil Zappa: Stayin’ Alive
2. Stackridge: (Waiting For You And) England To Return
3. The Open Window: Exchanges Of Information (from Oh Calcutta! original cast recording)
4. Jean-Jacques Goldman: Je Commence Demain
5. Alan Stivell (with John Cale): Ever
6. Full Moon Fair: Night Comes In
7. Shock Treatment OST: Duel Duet
8. Steve Ashley: Say Goodbye
9. Danny Burstein & Melissa Weil: Tear Jerk (from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change original cast recording)
10. Hedningarna: Metsyn Tytto (Forest Maiden)
11. Beth Nielsen Chapman: Say It To Me Now
12. The 3 City 4: The Apprentice’s Song
13. Helen Sjöholm: Duvemåla hage (from Kristina från Duvemåla by Benny Andersson / Bjorn Ulvaeus)
14. Richard Thompson: Dragging The River
15. Maire Ni Chathasaigh & Chris Newman: A Sore Point
16. The Decemberists: I Was Meant for The Stage
17. Shock Treatment OST: Anyhow, Anyhow


At 29 September, 2009 19:18, Blogger Z said...

I don't have any of those tracks either - must look some of them out, always ready to extend my tastes.

Very sorry to hear about your brother, for his own sake and for yours. A sibling has a link with your deepest memories that no one else has and you don't entirely realise it until you have a reason to. If there's anything left to say or ask, please don't be embarrassed to - only recently I found out things about my childhood that my older sister knew, I didn't, and I was pleased to know. And there's something startling about the realisation that you're the oldest member of the oldest generation - several friends have told me that. Sympathy in advance, I suppose - I hope Martin rallies and lives a good life yet.


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