Going For A Song: ‘Jerusalem’

Paul Robeson – Jerusalem

I’ve always liked the song ‘Jerusalem’ – William Blake’s poem and Hubert Parry’s music set in harmony and perhaps in a little tension.

I heard this version by Paul Robeson when listening to the Radio 4 Programme Soul Music. In this episode dedicated to ‘Jerusalem’ one Pamela Davenport is interviewed. She talks about her Dad, a former mill worker in Manchester, and his relationship with the song:

To my Dad, ‘Jerusalem’ was not anything to do with ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ or ‘Rule Britannia’. It was to do with people’s lives, people who work hard day in day out; and sometimes they don’t get the justice, the wages, the rights they should do.

There are calls now and then for ‘Jerusalem’ to become the English national anthem. I don’t think I’d object if those calls at some point were ever to be seriously considered.

Participation: Are You In Or Are You Out?

Conversations are moving more and more into Facebook. In order to continue to participate, I’d have to accept Facebook’s philosophy, which includes the idea that third parties would pay to be able to spy on me and my family in order to manipulate what shows up on the screen in front of us

You might view my access to musical instrument forums as an inconsequential matter, and perhaps it is, but then what is consequential about the Internet in that case? You can replace musical instruments with political, medical, or legal discussions. They’re all moving under the cloak of a spying service.

You might further object that it’s all based on individual choice, and that if Facebook wants to offer us a preferable free service, and the offer is accepted, that’s just the market making decision. That argument ignores network effects. Once a critical mass of conversation is on Facebook, then it’s hard to get conversation going elsewhere. What might have started out as a choice is no longer a choice after a network effect causes a phase change. After that point we effectively have less choice – Jaron Lanier

This is one of the points made by Lanier in his book, Who Owns The Future?, that has stayed with me. Mainly because it’s a point I feel I’ve had most first-hand experience of, particularly recently.

Facebook is a platform that seems to divide people into those who do have a problem with it, those who don’t or think the situation “unwinnable”, and those who are (more or less) pragmatic. But putting this aside for a moment, I’ve been looking for alternatives to participation off Facebook; looking for those places elsewhere where the conversations can be had.

Micro.blog seems promising, which then led me to the IndieWeb. But in the short-term (and other suggestions are most welcome) it seems just checking blogs, websites and, if you’re lucky enough, finding events to attend is the way to go. So I guess I’m nor in or out, but just hoping to participate in another way.



Going For A Song: ‘Emotional Rescue’

The Rolling Stones – ‘Emotional Rescue’

In an interview with Stuart Maconie about a compilation, English Weather, he and Pete Wiggs had compiled, Bob Stanley was asked if they were trying to evoke a certain period with the songs they had chosen? In reply he said the day after the 60s; before the 70s knew what the 70s were.

A song like 1980’s ‘Emotional Rescue’ (and Dylan’s ‘Jokerman’ [1983] comes to mind also) evokes for me, if I can adapt Stanley’s phrase, the day after the 70s; before The Rolling Stones (or Dylan) knew what the 80s were. However, where Stanley means his positively, I don’t necessarily.



Uncle Fred

In actual count of time, he was no longer in his first youth. The Spring now enlivening England with its alternate sunshine and blizzards was one of many that had passed over his head, leaving it a becoming iron-grey. But just as the years had failed to deprive him of his slender figure, so had they been impotent to quench his indomitable spirit. Together with a juvenile waistline, he still retained the bright enthusiasms and the fresh, unspoilt outlook of a slightly inebriated undergraduate – though to catch him at his best, as he would have been the first to admit, you had to catch him in London.

So goes the introduction to Uncle Fred in P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred in the Springtime. It’s my first Wodehouse novel I’ve read and I’m beginning to sense that quality (which was mentioned to me) a Wodehouse novel possesses – its ability to pull you up out of despondency; this no doubt connected to, as Stephen Fry writes in praise on the book’s back cover, its ‘sunlit perfection,[…] its warmth and splendour’.

I also wanted to give this particular passage a mention because it kind of touches on a point that came up in a conversation I was having recently: when someone refers to maturity, or perhaps more often levels the charge of immaturity (not that the narrator of Uncle Fred is doing so here), what exactly do they mean? What was this measured in then, when Uncle Fred was on the loose, and now? Responsibilities? Appearance? As a work colleague said to me the other day: “My Dad never wore jeans; if he had I would have been shocked.”

Going For A Song: ‘Slow Show’

The National – Slow Show

As if sensing The National were to imminently announce a new single and tour I had begun listening to them again rather a lot recently. And now after the release of the single and, through some enterprising work undertaken by my friend Euan, securing a London ticket (this made even more exciting because – for reasons to lengthy to go into now – this will be my first big gig for some years) my listening has continued; playing their 2007 album Boxer quite a few times, off which ‘Slow Show’ is one of my favourite songs.



In any case, what both VanderMeer’s Borne and Roberts’s Bête do is describe a future (far future in one case, near in the other) in which human beings live permanently in an uncanny valley, where the boundaries between the human and the nonhuman are never erased but never quite fixed either, so that anxiety over these matters is woven into the texture of everyday experience. Which sounds exhausting. And if VanderMeer is right, then the management of this anxiety will become focused not on the unanswerable questions of what is or is not human, but rather on a slightly but profoundly different question: What is a person? – things and creatures, conscience and personhood

Alan Jacobs, insightful as usual, on his Text Patterns blog.


Trying to define what swimming means to me is like looking at a shell sitting in a few feet of clear, still water. There it is, in sharp focus, but once I reach for it, breaking the surface, the ripples refract the shell. It becomes five shells, twenty-five shells, some smaller, some larger, and I blindly feel for what I saw perfectly before trying to grasp it – Leanne Shapton

‘Swimming’ is an ancient technique in which the coordinated thrashing of the arms and legs provides propulsion through water. Effectively, the human participant becomes a boat – Alan Partridge

The great depths of the sea began to beat like music […] The music invaded him, commanding his hands, his arms, his pelvis to keep time. Water streamed of his forehead and into his hair. The cold of the ocean became, with its new rhythm, a fierce heat. Never had movement been so exquisite a thing – ‘The Colonel’s Daughter’, Rose Tremain

a significant capture in the lungs,
that elegant trap deep inside.

Reading Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies I began thinking of other writings on swimming I’ve liked: Alan Partridge’s swimming training in Nomad; and the moment in Rose Tremain’s short story where Jim Reese keeps swimming out to sea. The two lines following this are the two closing lines from a poem, ‘Swimming,’, I’ve been writing for a few years, and which I’m beginning to suspect I’ll struggle to finish. Where I want the poem to end up is mixing between that I’ve quoted; where it’s been and is now is another matter.