Love And Music
Stranded on a grey seaside prom with nothing but grey concrete, grey sea and a grey sky was about as unromantic as I could imagine. I had ambled into a small store huddled behind a corner of the sea wall to get myself a bit warmer, but in amongst the crowded shelves of washing powder and cheap CDs, my head had started to throb with the corny piped music from the speakers just by my ear, screwed onto a very low ceiling. They probably had to have the music loud to drown the din of the people arguing in their flat upstairs.
I tottered out into the cold wind which I must admit did seem less hostile - almost welcome, after that din assaulting me. A few doors along a small village hall was open, one of its double doors ajar and a notice outside advertising some sort of sale. Well, I had another hour or so to spare before my train - the second of the two a day - so this would occupy a few more minutes.
Bizarrely, for this little Scottish town, it was a sale of Indian goods. Genuine Indian goods, hand made from locals in the villages in the north of the country and shipped here for discerning customers. Yeah, right.
There was no-one in the hall except for a young student studying his laptop in a corner.
I casually sidled along the length of the hall, past great piles of rugs and saris, headscarves and brightly coloured silk garments which reminded me a little of the plays I had enjoyed as a kid. There was a slight scent of dampness and old cloth, with a slightly exotic tinge. As I moved nearer the centre, with its low tables of smaller stuff, I noticed the scent from a couple of josticks strategically placed near the most expensive items.
The student looked up, smiled, as I approached. "Do you get many customers here?" I asked?
"Some" he replied, his eye casting around the empty hall. "But in fact we do have a lot of people who love all this - the bright colours and all that. It cheers up the houses when its all grey outside."
I saw his point.
"Anything take your eye?" he said, unnecessarily.
I went to a half hearted effort of looking around again.
"Well, nothing specific" I fabricated quickly, "but I'm still admiring the lovely display you have here."
The student glanced at my rucksack. I took the opportunity. "And I've not much space to carry anything."
I could detect one of those awkward pauses quickly arriving. "So how long have you been doing this? Do you find it interesting?" I wondered if he had an interest in the Indian culture. Perhaps he had been on a trip to India and had returned himself, personally with all this stock.
"Just a couple of months. I'm a student, this is just to get me a bit of money while I'm between terms."
"But its late September?"
"Yeah, they allowed me to spend a bit more time here as they felt it was relevant to my course."
I raised my eyebrow at him.
"Indian History and Culture. I've always had an interest and I found a fantastic course and of course all this has quite a lot of significance."
I looked around.
"Believe it or not" he added.
"The patterns in the carpets all tell stories and myths handed down over the years. The colours of the saris all have their significance. And of course this table here is full of just some of the gods they worship. And all of these have their jobs to do. Its really quite enthralling once you start getting into it."
"I can imagine." I was beginning to take a liking to this guy, he was so enthusiastic. It would be good to be enthusiastic about something. For a moment I realised that I had forgotten about the wind and the rain outside.
I wandered around a bit more. Finally I found myself looking for something small to buy. I didn't now want to just amble out with empty hands. A small purchase would help him just a small amount.
I looked along the tables with the smaller items.
He was reading my mind. I don't have much money. He showed me a couple of cheap things, nicknacks category.
"But this" he said, seemingly remembering something a bit further up he had almost overlooked, is an Indian flute."
He looked at me for reaction.
"A Bansuri" he explained. "A traditional flute used in the fields and mountains for centuries past."
"I'll play it for you." And with that he picked up one hidden at the end and played an eerily exotic song which somehow instantly put a picture in my mind of dark skinned cowherders tending their cattle on steep, green mountain slopes. How did that work? I always thought of the streets of Delhi and Mumbai when I thought of India. "You try?" he held the flute out towards me.
"Er, its OK, I'm fine. But I'll buy one though."
It might actually be good fun to be able to get a tune out of one of these. They were a good price for what might be a lot of fun value. I chose one with green and red bands.
The student grinned. "You chose a good one! That particular one I can see will do you well." I looked at him. He smiled conspiratorially.
He wrapped it in tissue paper, rolled up, gently stuffed the ends of the paper into the open ends of the flute.
"Thanks" as he passed it to me. "Good luck with the studies. Sounds exciting" I smiled.
"Cheers. Yes it is. Good luck with the bansuri."
As I walked towards the door I tucked my new purchase into the breast pocket of my jacket. I'd transfer it to my rucksack later.
Outside it seemed less windy now. Less chill. There was another small shop, so I ducked inside and bought a hot pasty, figuring I would eat it back at the seafront. It looked like the sun might actually be coming out in a minute.
At the front, the wind had indeed dropped quite a bit.
I chewed my way through the pasty, then remembered the flute and unzipped the pocket to make the transfer to my rucksack.
I could feel the warmth of the wood through the paper. I unrolled the paper to have another look at my purchase. It was simply a piece of cane with a few holes in it and a couple of coloured bits of tape wrapped around each end. Trying to ignore the "conned" label I felt sticking on my forehead I mused that I might as well see if it works.
I presented it to my lips like the student had when he had played it.
Then I took the flute away from my lips and looked around. OK, no-one in sight.
Flute back in position. Blow. Nothing. Change position. Blow. Nothing. And repeat. Several goes. Nothing.
And they reckon that music goes with love. No luck here then. What is love anyway? I want to know what love is.
Then finally: one more attempt. Different position. Big blow and a terrible warbling din rasped from the end.
I detected an intruder.
Here was someone.
Girl, my age, standing in front of me. Angry face.
Feet apart, confrontational.
"Did you just wolf whistle me?"
"Er," looking down at the flute.
"It's not good to wolf whistle," said as in a significant understatement.
Well I had whistled. That I could not deny. I wasn't sure if it had sounded like anything at all though, let along a wolf whistle.
I looked up. She was smiling. "Only kidding!" she laughted.
"So he sold you one, did he?" indicating the flute.
"Well, I guess so," I acknowledge.
"Here, shall I show you?"
With that, the girl snatched it from me and blew a little ditty. We grinned.
And before we knew it, we talked and I had missed my train.
And suddenly all the lyrics in all the songs made sense and came to life. The grey skies were full of colours. I looked at her. I longed to see the sunlight in her hair. Then the sun came out. The view, the colours . . . the music . . . took my breath away.
Its a little bit funny, this feeling. It feels as if my heart will overflow. She looks at me. And she has the sweetest eyes I've ever seen.
You and I have always been divided. At times it has felt like a great railway ran between us - the tracks humming quietly - the vibrations unsettling and setting my teeth on edge. Sometimes we take tentative steps across the tracks, but before we reach one another, a warning horn is sounded and we are knocked back by the force of a diesel train as it pounds its way through the desolate valley of our relationship. Its freight is a reminder to us of the baggage we carry - a reminder that it's much safer to stay either side of the divide that separates us, no matter how lonely that is.
But there are exceptions. When the past can recede into the background and love can be rekindled - if only for the length of time it takes the L P to turn on its table. Between those circular tracks, love and music reigns - the melody and harmony lulling us into a place of peace. Our mutual love of music can overcome what lies beyond the turntable and in the ruts of our relationship. In those times we work together, riding the same groove, whilst trying to keep the music free of dust and the L P free from scratches. We know very well, that one screech, or jump on the track, is enough to set us back and into the oncoming path of the freight train.
like trumpets, harps, drums, cymbals, kisses;
I say you are fortissimo and you go to work cantabile;
I touch you piano and you turn to me vivace.
Love takes in a whole spectrum of emotions,
and plays a tune to engage the audience
every now and then, as needed, before it
rampages off into a massive crashing diversion.
Love makes life worthwhile, and impossible;
such divergence of pluck, blow, strike, rhythmic
How can I know if it's right, other than it exists
and my world feels empty and barren without it.
Take me to the sea of loving scales where I will
leap like shining salmon arpeggios.