One of the things I love about having a holiday in the USA is the superficial politeness that appears to be endemic. I know that some people don’t like the insincerity of walking into a bookshop and being greeted like a best friend with a “Hi! How are you doing today?” but I love it. I think it’s great that “Have a nice day” has now become a universal way of saying “Goodbye” in a shop in the U.K. What’s wrong with being nice to someone, even if you don’t know them?
I’m not quite sure of the sociological interpretation of the old Punch cartoon about heaving half a brick at a stranger but I guess it’s something to do with the confidence of the middle classes and the wariness of the working class.
I 100% agree that the working classes have been mercilessly exploited by people in power since forever but I would love to be a member of a society whereby everybody’s initial reaction to seeing a stranger is to be superficially polite. Arguably, this cartoon says more about the smug superiority of the cartoonist than members of a mining community.
Today is Valentines Day. In 1400 Charles VI of France issued a charter declaring that festivities should take place on February 14th and ladies would hear and rule on lovers’ disputes. “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” was published in 1797 with some suggested verses which lovers could use if they were unable to compose their own. In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in the United Kingdom and this increased to 400,000 after the invention of the “Penny Black” in 1840. This number has now increased so much that it is estimated that around 190 million Valentines cards are sent each year in the U.S.A. Many people consider Valentines Day to be a “Hallmark Holiday” an expression which means a holiday that is exists only for commercial purposes and is not representative of a significant historical event. In that way, it’s easy to dismiss Valentines Day as a superficial irrelevance. To me, however, as someone who loves superficial politeness, any excuse to be nice to someone is worth while. It can be difficult (as it was for me this morning) when you’re currently not talking to your loved one because of a superficial disagreement but a quick exchange of cards, ice cream and chocolate can quickly help those angry, disappointed feeling evaporate. What is so funny about peace, love and understanding?
I wrote the other day about how many single female artists have taken to performing under a name that sounds like a band. Conversely, Sophia are basically a name for Robin Proper-Sheppard along with assorted other musicians.
“There Are No Goodbyes” is a break up album. Robin Proper-Sheppard said “The album is so dark because everything that is going on and going through my head, I was expressing at that moment through songs. And that’s what was so hard about it.” To express your emotion through songs is what separates the bland from the truly cathartic. If I had to define what music I like, it’s music that is borne of deep emotion. That’s why it’s so good to reacquaint myself with this album, which I’ve not played for a few years.
The first song on the album is the title track, “There Are No Goodbyes”. He knows the relationship isn’t working and he is unsure whether to be brave and end it or to hang on to any vestige that remains. “I’m sorry – can you forgive me? I wish that I was stronger but I tried and even though I know I should really be letting go, somehow I just keep holding on.”
“Heartache” is breathtakingly beautiful and sad. He thought he knew what to expect when his love had gone “but I’ve never known anything like this before”. He understands that nothing lasts forever and it seems that the only way to exorcise his feelings is to sing the saddest song in the world.
“Leaving” only has two verses. Robin proper-Sheppard said “I don’t use the kind of language that a lot of men use and I thought: do I want to hide that away from people or do I want to open myself up and say this is exactly what I’m thinking right now and this is my life? That’s why it was so hard. That’s why it was so dark. My life at that time was so dark. It was so filled with pain.”. He knows he has not been a good person but he regrets that she didn’t try harder to keep the flame going. “I thought you were a fighter but in the end I guess you lost your faith in me – I don’t blame you for leaving“.
“Signs” is a song in which he recognises that he never really picks up on non-verbal communication and wonders why he ever thought he ever had a chance with his girlfriend. “You said you should have left me at Christmas and then again on Valentines.“
The CD comes with a second disc, recorded for an Austrian radio station on February 14th 2009 which he calls “The Valentine Day Sessions”. One of the songs from this session is “I Left You” which was originally released on Sophia’s first major release, “People Are Like Seasons” in 2004. It’s a long song and it really builds and builds as he gets more and more frustrated about having left his girlfriend, but is she still waiting for him?
Music of such intensity and emotion resonates and amplifies my own feelings. To put it into context, Roo and I have just eaten pizza and ice cream and watched “A Dog’s Purpose” at the end of which I had tears streaming down my face. Happy Valentine’s Day.