Englishness

In an earlier post, I said this…

I loved Seth Lakeman’s set on Saturday evening- he made me proud- not sure what of exactly- perhaps that English-ness thing again.

A trip down south set me thinking again about my roots, and the nature of our heritage in these wonderful islands.

I have struggled to feel fully at home anywhere- at least in terms of geography. I am Northern English, if anything- and that is a different thing from Southern English I can tell you!

But my father is Irish.

And I live in beautiful, proud Scotland.

But still, I remain… English.

This comes to me in subtle ways. In gentle landscapes and rugged hills misted with rains and quartered off by ‘dry’ stone walls.

In a love for cricket in all its skillful grace.

It is wrapped up in stories of working men trespassing in the Penine hills in defiance of the landowners- claiming the gritstone for their weekends and their children’s picnics.

Of the Levellers and the Luddites and the Chartists.

Of the Methodists who formed the labour movement with their English kind of revolution.

It has nothing to do with this

or even this

Perhaps most of us encounter our roots through our cultural connection- perhaps above all things, through music. Perhaps that why I enjoyed Seth Lakeman driving folk music at Greenbelt so much. Despite him being a Southener, his music, rising as it does from working class South West England, communicates something of the history that connects me with who I am, and where I came from. My Scottish friends can not understand this- any more than I can really ever become Scottish.

One of my favourite bands is another West country duo called A show of Hands. They wrote a song that captures something of this. Here’s a you tube clip of their (somewhat naff!) video. Song is great though…

A slice of idol worship- Bruce Cockburn

Here is some footage of Bruce Cockburn playing the guitar. I think this bloke is incredibly talented- both as a guitarist, and a poet. I love his lyricism, but I discovered him because he had something to say- from the tradition of the traveling troubadour/protest singer.

Enjoy!

(He is not an idol really, but we all need hero’s I reckon!)

For Neil

You would have liked this
I was listening to Bert Jansch
Picking out an opening riff
Beautiful and bell-like
And it made me think of you
My wounded friend
It was not a surprise
To find you with me
The shape of you
Is never far away

You would have loved this music
It would have rolled on you
Like poured oil
For a while
But then it would have drained
Into those corrugations
That life harrowed into your soul

And the simple beauty
Would have become something else
Something external
Something examined
Something measured
And as a consequence
Lost

It would have contributed
To the old
Reverse confidence trick
And leave you grasping for ownership
For evidence of your own
Worth
And creativity

Bert Jansch leaves me yearning too
For the simplicity of acoustic poetry
But like you
It has gone

And I feel your absence
Like the numbness
Of frostbite