Words by Matt Yau It’s been three years now since the release of the Spanish duo’s debut album and their shimmering sounds still shine with splendour. ‘Remembering Better Times’ is the third single from their LP, Hope Only Brings Pain, and also the albums opening track. Layer by layer, this wistful track builds patiently; creating the kind of atmospheric swelling that could make it a movie soundtrack. …
After being dive-bombed by an angry crow on the rec’ for ten minutes earlier today, Audrey and I took a different route home, along Landsbury Avenue and past the sewage works on the other side of the village. We regretted it.
Just before we reached the junction with the main road that leads to Mansfield, we passed an elderly woman who was standing outside a rough-looking house with an outdoor refrigerator and an unkempt garden that resembled a building site.
Trembling and swaying dangerously from side to side, the old dear seemed to be in some distress. I thought at first that she was weeping; but as we drew near, it was obvious from the trebly strains of Madonna’s hit song Like A Virgin that were emanating from a tiny speaker in a mobile phone the woman was holding, she was singing. ‘Like a vir-ir-ir-ir-gin.’ She could have been singing. She could have been speaking in ancient Celtic tongues – it was difficult to tell. She also stank, and from the way she was dressed, she was – well, suffice it to say, her appearance had something of an earthy charm.
A burly young man opened the bay window of the house. ‘Alright, Mam?’ he asked the woman. And then to me: ‘On yer way, mate.’
‘I’m sorry, I thought for a moment your mother was in trouble.’
‘Seen enough, ‘ave yer? Wanna come in ‘ere an’ ‘elp me wiv me beer do yer? It’s lovely beer, this is.’ He made his sarcastic questions sound like a threat of violence. But even so, for a moment there, I wondered if Audrey and I were being matriculated into a local cult. ‘Mind yer fookin’ business.’ He spat. ‘There’s no trouble ‘ere. When there is, I’ll come and get yer. I know where you live.’
My dog and I showed all the fighting spirit of the French by turning quickly on our heels and making for home. ‘It’s no wonder I’m paranoid,’ I reminded her as we reached the safety of our front door.
Later, when I was at the mixing desk positioning microphones on my acoustic guitar, I looked at Audrey who was snoozing on the sofa by the window, and the image of something wonderful flashed across my mind. I couldn’t quite grasp it, its meaning or its nature. But it had been there, and I knew it would be back.
It was still a little dark at six this morning when Audrey and I veered toward the shops during our early morning walk.
As we neared the market place, I recognised one of the local Polish newcomers sitting on the pavement outside the post office. He had with him a wooden stool and beside him on the ground was an open box full of brushes and grubby cloths. How enterprising, I thought; It has been quite a while since I last encountered an immigrant shoe-shine boy vying for business on a – frankly, deserted – street in this part of the world.
I was about to wish him good morning but as I drew near he suddenly proclaimed: ‘I not cleaning you shoes, Steve. You dog is always shit in me garden, Steve. Is little shit bugger dog. Is big pile shit, Steve. I told him to council. In you blinking eye.’ (I’m not sure I heard this last bit correctly.)
I could not be bothered trying to argue with him – it was too early and I was feeling rather indifferent, so I simply ignored him and we carried on our way.
I had to button up my coat as we wandered along Water Lane past the church; a cold breeze was blowing down from the Pennines. I glanced back up the empty street before we entered the house and watched the morning sun dissolve into light.
For a while now, I have been toying with the idea of starting a new religion.
It isn’t that I feel inadequately provided for or spiritually bereft in any way, neither am I living in purgatory or suffering any kind moral agony – it is simply that I think the time is right for a creed that is innovative, clean and fresh.
I am as entitled as the next man to invent and describe the divine and I am tempted to do so sometime in the near future. But, for the time being at least, my theological course – and indeed the very nature of my beliefs, is slightly inchoate.
I have no idea what the ethos of my religion will be, what fundamental elements it will encompass, what it will be called, or to what universal truths it will eventually aspire, only that it will endeavour to be benign, compassionate and all-embracing. More significantly, it will be uncorrupted by centuries of extremism and abuse.
My religion will be liberal and civilised and ultimately objective in essence, unlike most of the established faiths which seem to me to be handicapped by atavistic barbarism.
Love is all you need. Who’s in?
For some reason, everything seems brighter this morning.
I felt refreshed when I awoke, which is unusual for me – I mostly wake up feeling more tired than when I went to bed. My first cup of tea of the day tasted like hot nectar, as if it had been brewed by naked Japanese virgins, and the politicians arguing on the morning news about their vain hierarchies made me smile instead of annoying me intensely, as they do usually.
Audrey and I went for our stroll around the rec’, the sun was shining, the birds’ songs were louder and more mellifluous than yesterday, and for once, no one tried to engage me in a soul-destroying conversation about trivial nonsense.
Best of all, as I write this at 11am, I have not – so far today, at least – been overcome by existential doubt and worry. I have experienced no lingering perception of the basic horror of the universe.
I feel hopeful. I wonder why . . .