But I can't help it. There is something about a lit-up room when viewed from the street that fascinates me enough to regularly interrupt my walks. The tendency is at its worst around Christmas, when people have their curtains open to display their trees, and the coloured lights pick out the shapes of things in the room beyond, such as bookshelves, mantelpieces, and bric-a-brac; the more shadowy bric-a-brac onto which my imagination can project itself, the better. Similarly I could sink an entire evening into scrolling through Flickr albums of old domestic photos belonging mostly to American families. It's the lives of others, innit? The wonderful strangeness of millions upon millions of lives, different from your own, yet moving along like your own, through plateaus of routine, events of personal importance, peaks, troughs and the bits in between, each as rich in its own way as the next. Each life, a perceptual universe unto itself.
Back to the shopping baskets. Have you ever looked specifically into the shopping basket of a lonely old man doing his own groceries? I often do this too, and I've noticed that many survive on vaguely sad, childish things; sugary spongey things. Stuff like jam and jaffa cakes, milk for the tea, and literally nothing else. In Aldi the other day, an old man in front of me had a basket containing 5 plastic boxes with a dozen tiny muffins in each, a white sliced pan, a jar of jam, and a kilo of granulated sugar. I felt strongly that this must be all he eats, that he probably lives in a dilapidated cottage outside the town, and spends his evenings in a dim, drafty kitchen chewing gummily on balls of white pan slathered in jam and moistened with slurps of tepid grey tea. There are surely things on his table that can't be moved without effort, adhered, as they are, by a seal of hardened sugar. Things like an old tin milk jug, a glass dish of rancid butter, a yellowing funeral mass missal, and a dead wasp.
MP3: Pentangle-Light Flight
fact: elderly Irish bachelors are 85% siúcra
MP3: Pentangle-Light Flight
I doubt there is a better time of year than Samhain (the start of the pagan new year) for listening to psychedelic folk such as Forest and Pentangle, and it is as good a time as any to remember the late Bert Jansch who I had only started to appreciate a couple of months before he died.
BOOO!!! See I haven't forgotten it's Halloween
MP3: Forest-Autumn Childhood
So many of these songs conjures up mental ground-mists, the memory scents of fungus and leaf smoke, and even the odd spectre. You can sense that the music emerges from a point far along a rich continuum that has left plenty of residual ancient material in its DNA.
MP3: Dr. Strangely Strange-Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal
These freak-folksters from the sixties were Ireland's very own Incredible String Band, but oddly, get relegated to a tiny footnote whenever we look back over our musical success stories. Okay, they did follow in the slipstream of other bands, most obviously the Incredible String Band, and weren't pioneers or anything, but the music on their debut album has a gently frazzled Hibernian identity of its own, more toylike and tinkling than the Incredible String Band - I can easily imagine songs of theirs clicking perfectly with the claymation story-inserts during Bosco or Wanderly Wagon. Perhaps the closeness of their sound to British folk led to unfavourable comparisons to more indigenous stuff such as Planxty and the Clancy Brothers? That's just some mad speculation on my part however. I genuinely don't know why more Irish people don't know about them.