Over the weekend I drove up to my old hometown. Not just a quick burst into the city centre of Dundee but out to the outlying suburb of ‘The Ferry’ and dormitory town/almost suburb of Monifieth. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning all along the estuary and I have to admit I was sad to leave the old place behind knowing the rain would surely be on by the time we got near Cumbernauld.
I’m at the age now when there’s a good deal more in the past than in the future. I quite enjoy nostalgia so I am well suited to reflection on days gone by. However, I find the most difficult aspect of my own history is the reality that so much of it isn’t there anymore. There’s alot of the physical building blocks of memory around, though many of these too have disappeared, but that worries me less than the numbing reality that, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t step back into events as they appeared to me growing up. I’m not alone in this and it’s worse for some. I had an extended conversation around this very theme with my ninety one year old mother the other day and she is the most sunny person I know. Despite this she couldn’t help mourning the loss of so many in her immediate family and wider circle of friends who are no longer around.
Last week I attended the funeral of the elderly father of a good friend. When I encounter friends who’ve lost a parent I usually relate a little of my own experience. Long after he died I still wanted to phone my father up and share news that only he would understand. That, of course, could no longer happen. The shared experience is one of the most beautiful parts of our humanity. One of my favourite Paddy McAloon lyrics is ‘nothing sounds as good as, I remember that. Like a bolt out from the blue did you feel it too.’ Oh so true. We just want someone else to get it.
On my little sojourns up to Dundee I want to step back into the Gospel Hall my grandparents attended and drink in the atmosphere. I want the same faces to be in the pie queue at the football and I can’t understand when I see a guy with tattoos and a hoodie stepping out of a shop when I know there should be a gent in a suit and a trilby fastening his overcoat and steeling himself against the east wind. Ah it’s there but it’s not. The buildings still exist, the roads leading to and fro still reach the destinations but time has (rightly) moved on. There is no point in complaining. The past is a different country; they do things differently there. True, Mr Hartley, and besides, we no longer hold a passport.
Perhaps that’s why I still enjoy so much music which nods back to where it came from. On this week’s Another Country the man who makes history come alive on any given day in Music City, our very own Nashville correspondent, Bill DeMain will drop in to tell us more stories from the epicentre of our musical world. We welcome new music from The Haden Triplets (above) whose father Charlie was the great jazz bass player but whose grandfather was a country musician of note too. On a similar theme we will play you the first available track from our old friend, Nathaniel Rateliff who has gone back to the acoustic routes we knew him for on his early records.
There will be new music from A Girl Called Eddy, Lauren Jenkins, Lilly Hiatt and my song of the week this week from Lainey Wilson. It’s all starting at five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland. Join me if you can.