Distant Showers Sweep Across Norfolk Schools

For the lucky ones such as I, memories of the past are akin to imaginary creatures, amorphous yet solid, there but yet not quite there, subject to being shaped by the will to make things fit with the idea of an ideal past, yes, once again those blue-remembered hills of yore.

Lately I have been listening to the work of a band called ‘July Skies’. They deal in a particular kind of musical nostalgia that is designed to evoke in the listener the distinct feeling of a place and time, and by goodness it works. The mainstay of the band is a young man named Antony Harding. He holds some singularly unusual ideas for a contemporary young man, and he can be found expressing them during a 2006 interview in a highly eloquent and captivating manner at this website, http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=4113 . His views really resonate with me – as a younger person I often found solace in visiting old deserted buildings, sitting quietly and listening to the sounds they made, imagining the lives of those who had once lived there… I was a strange little chap, really.

The title of this posting strikes me as emanating a strange, calm serenity, invoking something of a Turner landscape in the reader. In my mind’s eye I see huge skies flecked with streaks of blue-grey rain that descend upon and partially obscure the clusters of tiny grey buildings dotted amongst the green at the bottom of the picture. It actually comes from the name of a track on the July Skies album ‘The Weather Clock’, and in my opinion Mr. Harding totally succeeds in using appropriate instrumentation and almost intangible atmospheres on this recording to conjure the feelings and sensations of growing up and living in post-war twentieth century Britain. It’s a world of grass poking through grey concrete slabs, grimy windows, gritty pavements designed to inflict maximum damage to children’s knees, sweet wrappers blowing through deserted housing estates, a lone mother wrapped up against the cold pushing a pram up a steep hill… Real or make believe? Who knows? Why should we care if it feels right, which it does… One track is called ‘Waiting for the Test Card’, and it does remind this listener in an uncanny way of the butterfly-stomached anticipation that the test card appearing on the television screen brought to those of us of a certain age… impossible to convey to many today, as we face saturation television digitally penetrating our homes from satellites or cables twenty-four hours a day… the old guard are disappearing too… last year the genius that was Oliver Postgate, this year Tony Hart. My old musical sparring partner Skip has more to say on their sad passing on his blog over at skipcormack.blog.co.uk, please take the time to visit. I don’t always entirely see eye to eye with him, but in this case I do. These remarkable and gentle men were inspirations and friends to thousands of British children and I cannot help but wonder if the braying hyperactive ninnies who host many children’s TV programmes nowadays will be remembered with such warm fondness by their viewers. Mind you, Barney the Dinosaur seems, although oh-so-slightly annoying, quite a big-hearted kindly chap and little O is very taken by him indeed…

I’m sorry if these last two postings appear to have had an overly sentimental sepia tinge to them… it’s not that the past was better, for that is not the case, it’s just I feel, as I’m sure many do, that to a degree we have slightly lost our way as humans at the moment. Yes, the past is a distant country that we once visited, but it is still a place that we may have much to learn from. To paraphrase Blur (Back together again! Nostalgia for an age yet to come, anyone?), ‘Modern Life Is (not entirely) Rubbish’. If we can be informed by the past, then that can help us to have a viable present and a hopeful future…

Next posting I will try and inject a bit more humour into proceedings. After all, as ‘The Reader’s Digest’ (now there’s a publication to get nostalgic about if ever there was one!) has told us on countless occasions in Dr’s waiting rooms as we nervously await our appointment, ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine.’

So I shall leave you with this…

“What goes ‘Ha Ha Ha Thump!’?”

A man laughing his head off.