One Thousand Ways to Say I Love You

What better way to celebrate a thousand blog posts since February 2012 than by sharing memorable thousands I have seen elsewhere?

  1. 1001 Nights – one of the best collection of stories anywhere – the original page-turner
Illustration from 1001 Nights, from Book Drum

2. A burger with Thousand Island dressing (which I pretended to like in my youth, but time is too short for me to ever befriend mayonnaise).

3. Will I finally read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, about an intergenerational friendship between Afghan women, a book about which I’ve heard many good things? (Why oh why am I so reluctant to read bestsellers though?)

4. Certainly not a bestseller, but this looks very interesting: One Thousand White Women: The Journal of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. It’s based on a true story about pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians, in an effort to assimilate them.

5. Admire the art project with anthropological flair: One Thousand ShacksTracey Snelling has created a multimedia sculptural installation depicting shantytowns from around the world.

6. 1000 Meere (or 1000 Oceans) – a song by German band Tokio Hotel. They’ve recorded this song in both English and German and I love the difference in voice timbre when singing in the two languages.

7. Anne of the Thousand Days – a film I loved in my childhood about the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII, with Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold.

8. New film just out: One Thousand Ropes directed by New Zealand-Samoan film director Tusi Tamasese has been presented at the Berlin Film Festival. This seems to be a film for our times, questioning notions of masculinity and toughness in a traditional society.

9. One for One Thousand literary magazine (1:1000) is open for submissions. They are looking for 1,000-word stories or narrative essays inspired by a photo, and will accept literary, genre, and experimental work, as long as the writing is quality.

10. Above all, a thousand thanks and kisses to all of you who have read, shared, commented, reblogged and simply been there for me over the past five years.

From freepik.com

Finally, because today is International Women’s Day, I just wanted to link up to a few posts from previous years celebrating inspirational role models.

2015 post about personal heroines

2016 post about more heroines

Inspiring women and their one weakness

 

 

Songs of My Life

There is a website where you can enter your year of birth and get to ‘see’ the top music tracks of each year of school, the soundtrack to your early life, as it were. Which got me thinking… what are the songs that meant most to me in my life? They weren’t necessarily the ones that were the greatest hits at the time, nor are they trendy, cool, or chosen for their artistic merit. I probably should be embarrassed to death about at least half of them. I’m certainly somewhat surprised and frustrated that they are so often related to ‘other people’, to falling in love and such things. But, like it or not, these are the songs to which I developed a personal connection and which are vivid reminders of certain periods of my life.

1982 – The Wall – Pink Floyd

Is there any school child who did not rise up and sing ‘We don’t need no education…’? Even though I actually rather liked school. At least in those early years.

DavidBowieScaryMonstersCover1983 – Scary Monsters (Super Creeps) – David Bowie

The first single I ever bought. Then I bought the album; then some of his earlier albums. This was David Bowie of the Serious Moonlight Tour, the pastel suits, the ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Little China Girl’. But I preferred his earlier music… and his film roles in The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and his cameo in Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo. I was completely besotted with him and convinced that he’d wait for me to grow up and we’d get married. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

1987 – I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight – Cutting Crew

Cutting Crew
Cutting Crew

My first big love affair with a boy with turquoise eyes… who vaguely resembled the lead singer of this band and taught me nearly everything I know about skiing.

1989 – I Want to Break Free – Queen

A secret anthem during my teenage years and my difficult relationship with my parents. But also the year that all of us young people finally broke free in my country – or at least found democracy and capitalism. For better, for worse…

1990 – She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals

I was interpreting for international television crews during the first free elections in Romania. I was often the only (young) woman in a gaggle of (older) men, but I think I managed to make them toe the line. This was the song that they said reminded them of me. It reminds me of the world of possibilities that was opening up to me just then.

1992 – Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba

One of the happiest years of my life, when I did my M.Phil. in Cambridge. I learnt ballroom dancing for the first time and fell completely in love with it – this was our cha-cha music. This was also the year that I met the great love of my life. Sadly, it didn’t last very long.

2003 – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Andy Williams

The song I used to croon to my first-born, waltzing with him in a kangaroo pouch up and down the living room. How can a mother not identify with these words? ‘You’re just too good to be true/ can’t take my eyes off you/ You’d be like heaven to touch/ I wanna hold You so much/ At long last love has arrived/ And I thank God I’m alive…’

2014 – Sweet Darling – Frero Delavega

This is a really silly (and somewhat sexist) song, but it’s the one that my boys have adapted to sing to our beloved cat when she is debating whether to go outside in the wet, cold or snow: ‘Oh, my sweet darling Zoe/ don’t go!’ It perfectly captures all their humour, tenderness and silliness – and their affection for their ‘little sister’.

Will 2015 bring any memorable songs? I intend this to be a year of movement, of leaving lethargy behind and getting stuff DONE. So it’s either full circle to Pink Floyd and ‘Shine On, You Crazy Diamond’ or else… I’m rather tempted by this:

 

For Days Now, Mr. Bowie

Space Oddity Album Cover 1.
Space Oddity Album Cover 1.

For days now Mr. Bowie

has withered my poetic vine.

He absorbs all thought, each molecule

of passion.

So dreams turn monotonal

and pastel-grey wins mornings.

Twelve labours turn to twenty,

each step backbreaking toil.

Ears hum with his songs, not mine.

(So easy to find solace

when others say it better.)

Tempted – oh, yes! – to stop searching

for the word forever lost, crooked, faulty…

For just one minute I stopped upon a rock

with Sisyphus

lost in contemplation

of the melody of life.

Hunky Dory Album Cover
Hunky Dory Album Cover

But tell me, Mr. Bowie,

you who have known sorrow

– and great joy too, no doubt –

what do you know of my heart?

How can you show in my place

where fear fell  away,

out glistened unfettered soul beneath?

You cannot speak for me

so haunt no more my mind and senses.

Leave me to find my own laborious words.

 

Despite the pictures and the name-dropping, this poem is not really about David Bowie at all, although you know that I am a fan.  It’s about writing, finding words to describe your experiences, finding your own voice, inspiration: all the bees that are currently flying around in my bonnet.  Buzz over to the dVerse Poets Pub today, where they have Open Link Night.

We Didn’t Start the Fire…

It’s taken me nearly a week to chew over this one, so apologies for my slow reactions, dVerse Poets Pub.  

On the 9th of MarchBrian Miller and Gretchen Leary suggested two different types of prompts.  One was to ask someone to give you a few words to incorporate into a poem – but my own family came up with such delightful combinations as ‘poohead’, ‘smosh-smosh’ and ‘supercalifragilistic’, so I soon gave up on that one.  The second was to think of a seminal song from when we were growing up and I instantly thought of Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire’.  So, for the past few days I’ve been trying to add a few verses to that song, to bring it up to date.  This has been far more difficult than I thought! [Perhaps I will write another time a post about the difference between hard-working form or imitation versus spontaneous poetic outburst.]  In the end, my rhymes and verbal verve are not quite up to the original, but here goes:

 

One day like this or a few weeks of medal fever, cheering loud,

Being nice, a good sport, no rain falling from our cloud.

Dontcha feel unsisterly vibes at work or when you raise your child?

If you’re poor, endure the jibes, you’re universally reviled!

 

People killed every day at the click of a mouse,

Together we are forced to stay, shore up the value of our house…

Celtic Tiger lost his roar, gulf in Spain is golf no more,

Pension plans are sinking down, bankers screwing everyone.

Gladiator, Amelie, turned all blue in Avatar.

Lucky we can drive away in our silent Prius car.

 

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning

Since the world’s been turning

US is divided nation, tsunami and radiation,

Greeks protest austerity, nought left for posterity.

I don’t know where to  turn –  is there anything left to burn?

We didn’t start the fire

No we didn’t light it

But we tried to fight it

Song Lyrics Poem

As a bit of a change from my usual rather intense and depressing poetry, I decided to have some fun today with song lyrics.  It works a bit like the book spine poetry which Breathing Space  or Bettina Forget  or DP Bowman do so well. Except that you choose song lyrics (rather than just titles) and, in my case, I stuck to David Bowie exclusively this time round.  Not quite as good when the music is missing, but I happen to think there is some great poetry in these songs too.  See if you can spot which songs they are from…

‘Can you hear me, Major Tom?’

‘Oh, no, not again!’

‘I thought you died alone, a long, long time ago…’

‘I never did good things, I never did bad things,

I never did anything out of the blue.’

‘Maybe we’re lying –

then you’d better not stay!’

This is ourselves under pressure:

the return of the Thin White Duke

throwing darts in lovers’ eyes…

It’s a godawful small affair to the girl with the mousy hair,

she’s lived it ten times or more.

And the planet is glowing…

Let the children use it,

let the children lose it

like some cat from Japan,

like a leper messiah

Up every evening, bout half-eight or nine.

She says:

‘Time may change me

But I can’t trace time,

So I will sit right down ,

waiting for the gift of sound and vision,

drifting into my solitude, over my head.’

Rebellious Songs

Today is another ominous, rainswept day and I turn once more to music to lift my mood.  Yesterday my good friend Nicky Wells posted the lyrics and translation of possibly one of the saddest (though most beautiful) songs in the world, which didn’t help.  So I turned to more revolutionary songs that meant a lot to me in my youth, like Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.  But that was depressing too, so what to do?

Confession time: I was never an avid follower of fashion in either clothes, music or literature.  Especially with music, I just liked what I liked, usually becoming obsessive about a certain artist or band, following every single release and snippet of news about them.  Some of my choices were kind of obvious for the time (Madonna, Duran Duran), others were more unusual  or considered old-fashioned  (David Bowie, Queen, Dire Straits).  But one constant pattern in my life (which only really becomes obvious with the gift of hindsight) is my love for rebellious songs.  Perhaps it’s the legacy of growing up in a Communist dictatorship, but I’ve always had a soft spot for  songs that protest against the established order of things, that are critical of an unjust society, whether that society is democratic and capitalist (Bruce Springsteen) or more obviously in the grips of dictatorship (Mikis Theodorakis).

So here are two of my favourite songs, with very suggestive lyrics.  And, despite the serious subject matter, the music somehow manages to uplift rather than dampen me!

First, the classic Supertramp song that almost anyone can hum along to: ‘The Logical Song’.

Here’s a glimpse of Supertramp in action:


And these are the lyrics that get to me every single time:

But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, responsible, practical
And then they showed me a world
Where I could be so dependable
Clinical, intellectual, cynical

Secondly, a rather less well-known song ‘Superbacana’ by the great Brazilian singer,  composer and political activist Caetano Veloso.  He was briefly imprisoned by the military dictatorship in Brazil and had to go into exile in the late 1960s. I was unable to find a video of Caetano singing this, but here is an audio snippet:

My knowledge of Portuguese is very rudimentary, so my translation is probably not very accurate, but to me the song seems to be mocking the rhetoric of the absolutist Brazilian government of the time, promising ‘supersonic aircraft, electronic (high-tech) parks, atomic power, economic progress’, everything super-duper in fact, while contrasting it with the actual poverty of the vast majority of the population, who have ‘nothing in your pocket or your hands’.

Why do these songs cheer me up a little on such a gloomy day? [By the way, you may think I am harping overly much on the fact that it is raining, but I have been known to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so it really is all in my mind!]  Because they express anger in a humorous way.  I find anger a more productive sentiment than sadness and despair, because it usually makes you want to do something to change matters.  And when anger is tinged with humour, it no longer is simply destructive, but becomes instructive and constructive.

What do you think of these songs?  Are you a fan of songs with ‘political’ messages?  Or does that create an obstacle in your appreciation of a song?  And what about songs in different languages, where you might not understand the subtext or even the outright meaning at all?  Can you still enjoy a song, even if you think it’s about something completely different?