I feel very safe in my garden at the moment. It’s about 70 feet long and not overlooked Although we don’t have many ancient flowers blooming, it looks pretty nice. There are quite a few weeds but I cut the grass today and it looks a bit tidier. The lockdown is slowly being lifted and the impression is that everybody else in the world is going out, socialising, not keeping 2 metres apart and generally assuming that there is not going to be a second wave of Covid-19. I intend to keep safe.
The worst thing about this government at the moment is that every decision they make appears to be political and not medical. The poor funding of the NHS going into this pandemic is a result of George Osborne’s “experiment” with austerity over the last 10 years. The late imposition of lockdown was due to Johnson’s inability to take on detail and the self-absorption surrounding the birth of yet another of his offspring. The early relaxation of lockdown was largely down to trying to take the spotlight of his miserable handling of the Cummings incident. There’s also the influence of big business and the right wing of the Tory party who are pressurising Johnson to kick start the economy. They seem to be saying that for the good of the country we should put workers at risk of dying whereas what they really mean is that a few dead members of the working classes is a small price to pay for people with power and money to maintain their positions of superiority. Trust in the Government was maybe never high amongst people who understood Johnson’s narcissism but there were times when we trusted that he was at least taking on good advice from the scientists. Now, it’s not so clear as more and more experts are saying that the lockdown is being relaxed too soon. I am hiding away, safe in my garden and although every day is more or less the same, I used to feel that things would start improving at some point. Now it all looks like it’s going to get worse and worse. In the end, we are all going to have to fend for ourselves and take a decision based on our perception of the risks involved. Our mental health or our physical health? I can’t spend the rest of my life hiding away, safe in my garden, simply to avoid all risk but how much risk is appropriate? If I drive my car there’s a risk of death. Last year about 1800 people died on the roads in the U.K. so there’s a probability of 0.003% for any one of us dying. That seems a risk that most of us are willing to take. So far there have been around 40 000 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.K. and factor in that people of my age account for nearly a quarter of all deaths and the risk rises closer to 3%. How much risk is appropriate? We are all alone making up our own minds. I’m going to stay safe in my garden.
To make things worse, in the U.S.A. there are cops out with the megaphones, telling people stay inside their home. Can’t they see the world’s on fire? The death of George Floyd has seen protests and curfews imposed in around 75 cities and there have been protests in the U.K. as well. The BBC reports that “The George Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism”. Demonstrating is a valid and correct form of protesting. Obviously, a small minority see a demonstration as an excuse to sink into violence and looting but that doesn’t invalidate the outrage that the death has caused.
Here are some of the lyrics to my favourite song by The Mamas And The Papas called “Safe In My Garden.” which is the second track on side 1 of their 4th record.
“Safe in my garden an ancient flower blooms and the scent from its nature slowly squares my room. And its perfume being such that it’s causing me to swoon. When you go out in the street so many hassles with the heat; No one there can fill your desire. Cops out with the megaphones telling people to stay inside their home. Man, can’t they see the world’s on fire? Take us away…take us away…”
Now it might be clear why I kept writing about being safe in my garden but it’s honestly how I feel. Safe in my garden. This is such a great song and not just because of the words. It starts with Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips singing quietly but it soon builds as John Phillips and Denny Docherty join in to make that instantly recognisable strong harmonic vocal that takes your breath away. As the “mamas” sing the chorus, the “papas” sing a beautiful counter melody. Hal Blaine of “The Wrecking Crew” is playing drums. The Wrecking Crew were a group of immensely talented session musicians who played with hundreds and hundreds of great artists including The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Sonny & Cher, The Carpenters, John Denver etc. As all four of the group sing “Take us away” the power created by the interaction between their voices is immense. As I said before, it’s breathtaking. After the line about the world being on fire, the dynamics quieten and a flute (or possibly keyboards played by Larry Knetchel who was also part of “The Wrecking Crew”) kicks in. Finally, the “papas” sing “the world’s on fire” and the “mamas” sing “take us away” before the song comes to a delicate conclusion. It was my very good friend Alex who first played me this song and we played it hundreds of times. He had the single which was the first one by the group not to make the US Top 40, reaching only 53. It got nowhere in the U.K.
The rest of this record is very good. Other singles from the record are “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” which got to Number 11 in the U.K. and “Twelve Thirty” which failed to chart in the U.K. but had got to Number 20 in the U.S. in 1967.
Here is what “Rolling Stone” had to say about this record at the time: “Gone is the strident excitement of their first album. Its absence is to be lamented, but the richer harmonics of the present album are more substantial, and the cuts are more of a joy to listen to repeatedly. Gone are the sometime histrionic “California Dreamin'” and “String Man.” Gone, too, are the “yeah’s” and “no’s”. In their place is a more controlled performance: they no longer have to reach for effects; they have them at hand. John Phillips has always seemed to have a great deal more to say than he has said, and his ideas have never gotten their full development. They do in this album. The songs are a further development, in style and feeling, of the earlier songs, though they have little in common with the earlier material except craftsmanship. “Twelve Thirty,” the last recording of the self-proclaimed “Golden Era,” is included here, its more classical lines almost lost amid the vocal opulence that abounds. It’s probably the best realized song the group has recorded, though John’s “Safe in My Garden” has strong claim to that distinction. “Garden” is a beautiful thing, the clarity of the lyric and the Beardsleyian imagery of the refrain forming a tension with the effortlessly complex vocal textures. “Mansions” and “Too Late” are much the same thing, and the marvelously intricate vocal treatment of the latter rises above the lyrics.”
“Safe In My Garden” is such an appropriate song to listen to at the moment, I’m amazed I haven’t played it over the past 72 days. Lyrically, it’s perfect and musically it’s sublime.