Beyond the Wings, January 2021

The UK is now back under the strictest level of lockdown for the foreseeable future. Everyone is having a tough time mentally and emotionally, but I have been lucky enough to see business grow and to be able to keep pursuing passion projects.

Output

In January I wrote two new English songs. As is often the case, I was so eager to get them recorded, there are flaws. ‘Someone Somewhere’ – which is a hybrid of ‘Someone’ by Dennis O’Driscoll, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell, and ‘The Bad Touch’ by The Bloodhound Gang – should have been in a lower key

This song, ‘Voice of a Generation’ – which started out as a comedy song but ended up just as a list of things that happened – should really end with the line: “And now I have a PhD and work in a coffee shop”.

Another project, which took almost a month to practice and is still far from perfect, brings together two things that were long-term companions before bawdy ballads were a twinkle in my eye: East Asia and the classical guitar:

Activities

The Mandarin Club is thriving to the extent that can be expected when in-person gatherings are months away at least. The China Book club for January was Eileen Chang’s ‘Red Rose White Rose’. For February it is Leslie Chang’s ‘Factory Girls’, for March it is Lu Yao’s ‘Life’, for April it is Tsering Döndrup’s ‘The Handsome Monk’, and for May it is Laozi’s ‘Daodejing’.

Most exciting, personally, is on February 6th I will perform a set of self-penned Chinese songs. It will hopefully provide inspiration for more songs yet to be written.

To pass the time, I have also restarted recording Weekly Miscellaneous Covers.

Wider World

For reasons beyond the obvious, the world is going bad and things are set to get much worse. Covid deaths passed 100,000 here in the UK. The economic impact of lockdown is yet to be fully understood. The trauma of the past ten months will last years if not decades.

But it is not all gloom.

Joe Biden had already signed forty-two executive orders by January 28th. These include cancelling the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; the phasing out of private prisons; and elevating climate change to the status of a national security threat.

It reminds me of this poem by Sheenagh Pugh:

‘Sometimes’

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,

from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel

faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,

sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;

elect an honest man, decide they care

enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.

Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go

amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.

The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow

that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

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