Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I Heart Billy Bragg

I added a couple of Billy Bragg’s songs to my ‘Happy Tunes’ playlist on my iPod. I only really use the iPod in the kitchen as it is attached to a rather beefy set of speakers – it helps with our morning ‘Kitchen Disco’ which occurs after breakfast most mornings.

I love Billy Bragg. I have from the moment my brother and I ever so carefully lowered the needled onto Track 1, Side 1 of ‘Talking to the Taxman about Poetry’ in nineteeneightysomething. Hearing his guitar and his rough, Cockney vocals as he belted out ‘Shirley!’ was like stepping out of our suburban house right into a pub in north east London. We were in socialist heaven.

My love for Billy has endured the years. I have even met him. Twice. The first time as in a record shop called Polar Bear in Manchester. He was signing copies of ‘English, Half English’ at the time and I all but gushed. Actually, I think I did gush. I told him he, more than anyone or anything else had influenced my brother and my politics back in the 80s. He seemed he was visibly moved. He replied that it was one of the best things anyone could have said to him.
The next time we met was at Greenbelt in 2005 and I was so gobsmacked I could not actually speak. Most embarrassing.
As Billy earnestly sang ‘I’m celebrating my love for you with a pint of beer and a new tattoo’ I said to Joe that he would have to love Billy Bragg when he got older.  I am shameless in my efforts to programme my children’s musical taste. Much to my husband’s horror who will often throw something of quality as an attempt to counteract the doof doof doof [his words] I play relentlessly.
As I looked over at the boys who were at the table eating lunch, I found myself falling forward 20 years. I imagined Ian taking Joe and Arlo to the pub for an afternoon for some ‘bloke’ time. They will be strapping lads, no one can doubt that looking at them today. I see the three of them in the theatre of my mind; tall, all tousled hair and blue-eyed. Breathtaking beautiful and all mine.
Ian will have, no doubt, by the time the boys are in the late teens, broadened their musical education to include much of the music of his youth. I’m just there for the disco / dance / chilled modules of the curriculum.
In that moment, as I envisioned my beautiful boys and their father hanging out together, having a pint and enjoying each other’s company I was again excited about my future. A future that includes by beautiful men and all they will be in the years to come.
I could not help but feel elated and elevated out of the grind of trying to get the boys to eat their lunch and make myself the breakfast I had not actually managed to have by midday. And to ingest the coffee I so desperately needed.

My life may be a series of chores some times. Simply responding to the demands of my young children. There are however, wonderful moments of unadulterated joy. When I am reminded of what I have in my hands right now. And to make the most of it…

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