It’s been raining on and off for about three weeks now. There have been some sunny days but there’s been little chance of sitting in the garden. It’s not been cold but it hasn’t felt like the middle of Summer. Last week the drains overflowed on the A273 outside the house and the front garden was flooded. Sussex have had five T20 matches rained off. I’ve reverted to walking Bruno around the streets rather than brave the submerged pools on the golf course. It’s all rather disappointing. Back to mismatched expectations: I expect early July to be sunny and glorious – the Weather Gods have decided otherwise.
I’ve just googled “is good weather beneficial to mental health” and found a ludicrous blog which advocates the benefits of a dark and gloomy winter because putting up Christmas decorations and eating turkey makes people feel happy and therefore mental health is improved in the winter. I tried another article which is written by someone who lives in Toledo which explains that too much sun makes you dehydrated. Doh.
When I used to teach hypothesis testing, the approved method was to assume nothing out of the ordinary until the facts told you otherwise. In contrast, many of us like to have a hunch and we then search around for the facts to support our subjective thoughts. I have a feeling that Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday of the lifting of all lockdown restrictions from July 19th is an example of that. He has found one scientist whose model suggests that the demand on hospitalisations would be greater if “freedom day” was to be postponed. This fits with his wish to placate the right wing of his party. Therefore, that allows him to claim that science is on his side and so he has doomed us all to a horrible death in a fourth wave of the virus.
My hunch is that good weather makes us all feel better and so I’ve just done the same thing as Boris Johnson did. I’ve searched until I’ve found “evidence” that confirms my theory that sun is beneficial to health. The not very well known website “inspiyr.com” claims that sunny weather increases a body’s Vitamin D levels, improves memory, avoids illness and death due to hypothermia and regulates blood pressure. Case proven. The lack of good weather is contributing to my lugubrious mood and developing my inner curmudgeon.
Yesterday, Boris Johnson said “What we’re trying to do is move from a universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.” To an old cynic, that sounds like another way of saying “don’t blame us – it will be your fault if you become ill”. Robert West (Emeritus Professor of Health Psychology at UCL) has tweeted that making the wearing of masks up to each individual is “like having a government that thinks road safety should be completely up to ‘individual responsibility’: no traffic lights, no highway code, no law about driving on the left, no crash barriers, … Absolutely bonkers.”
All of this makes my current state of mind very confusing. I have some great activities planned over the next couple of months that I am really looking forward to which involve meeting friends in Cambridge, Bristol, London and Marlborough as well as various sporting events watching Brighton, Lewes, Crawley, Kent, Sussex and England. Should I go or should I stay? The safety of complete lockdown seems a long time ago. Now I have to make up my own mind.
To complicate matters, I have started to wonder how many good years I have left. Time is slipping away. I’m on a waiting list for a hip replacement and my body is starting to wear out. With the poor weather, it seems like the summer is flying by and Boris Johnson is tempting me with the possibility of an exciting few months ahead, if I am prepared to
risk my life take on personal responsibility. Poor weather, old age and concerns about the pandemic are combining to make me simply want to ignore everything and avoid thinking too much about anything except sport and music.
Katherine Priddy is a folk artist from Birmingham who, at 25, has just released her first album. She has spent many years opening for artists such as Richard Thompson, The Chieftans and Martin Carthy and she cites Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, John Martyn, Tunng and Imagined Village as major influences. She first started performing when she studied English Literature at university in Brighton. There are many great things about this album: Katherine Priddy’s gentle voice, her sympathetic and interesting acoustic guitar playing and the intelligent and thought provoking songwriting. I think that what sets it apart from a lot of “folk” albums is the interesting arrangements of the songs – they are not over produced but every song has extra instrumentation which makes the listening experience joyful. Katherine Priddy has said that Nick Drake has been a big influence on her and listening to this album reminds me of some of Robert Kirby’s great arrangements on “Five Leaves Left”, which enhance the music rather than distract from it. Another influence is Joni Mitchell and it’s lovely to hear that “Cactus Tree”, from “Song To A Seagull” is one of her favourite songs; it’s one of mine too.
The last track on the album is sublime. “The Summer Has Flown” is a farewell to a blissful summer and describes apprehension about the “darkening skies” of an approaching winter. It starts very simply, with just Katherine Priddy’s voice and acoustic guitar but Mikey Kenney’s fiddle slowly weaves its way into the song. As Katherine Priddy’s double-tracked voice harmonises with itself, the intensity briefly builds with double bass and further strings. By the end, her voice has receded into silence until all that remains is some birdsong. The summer in the U.K. is, indeed, flying away and all we will be left with soon is birdsong and Christmas decorations without the bliss that Katherine Priddy evokes on this astonishing song.
The opening song is “Indigo” which she wrote when she was 16 years old and has been the opening song in her live act for many years. It was inspired by a tree in the village of Alvechurch, where she grew up. The tree had fallen and “lay sprawled out across the top of a hill – a big pile of glorious, sun-warmed limbs. ” After many years of playing on the tree or smoking furtively behind it, the council cleared it and Katherine Priddy wrote the song as a way of claiming back memories of her childhood.
“Wolf” is a poppy song with a slightly more upbeat tempo. Katherine Priddy sings about a lover who is manipulative and, she know, will ultimately destroy her. The accompanying video shows her walking to an abandoned warehouse where she can take out her frustration by destroying some beautiful ornaments. I have just found out that the accepted name for such a place is an “anger room” and there appears to be confusion as to whether or not such rooms dissipate or increase angry feelings. The video drew some criticism but Katherine Priddy has responded by saying that she is determined not to conform to the stereotype of a female musician who wears “a flowery dress, wandering through the fields looking like a forest nymph“. She says that, as a woman, she has to work twice as hard to be taken seriously and make it in the music business.
The wonderful “Sex Education” has a scene in which one of the characters, who has been sexually abused, is encouraged to smash things up by her friends in order to vent her anger. The new season is coming on September 17th. I can’t wait for Summer to end so I can watch it. Hang on! What am I saying?
“Ring O’Roses” is a wonderful song. Last night, as I could barely bring myself to watch the England v Denmark Euro “’20” semifinal, I listened to this song 10 times in a row in order to distract myself from the terrible commentary provided by Sam Matterface, who has mistakenly been promoted over Clive Tyldsley to be the ITV lead football commentator and seemed hellbent on ignoring 20 million people shouting at him to avoid the “commentator’s curse”. I digress. “Ring O’Roses” is blissfully quiet, calm and beautiful. Katherine Priddy’s voice is double tracked as she sings a wonderful melody accompanied by her acoustic guitar and Richard Marsh’s double bass. As the song progresses and restrained percussion is introduced, she sings a counter melody before the last verse is so quiet, it is barely audible. The song was written by Katherine Priddy but is a new take on the nursery rhyme “Ring-a-ring-o’-roses” which originates from The Great Plague of 1665. The “roses” are red skin blotches, the posies are sweet smelling flowers that were carried to try to ward off the plague and “all fall down” refers to death. The song obviously resonates with the current pandemic but was written several years ago and is, in fact, one of the first songs that she ever wrote.
In an interview with Folk Radio, Katherine Priddy states that, when she writes songs, she doesn’t feel that she has to explain everything. She thinks that good song captures fragments of conversation and provides a brief little insight into something rather than tell a coherent story with a beginning, middle and an end. That’s a perfect way of describing what makes repeated listening to music so wonderful and why listening to this album over the last couple of days has helped me forget about the weather, the pandemic and my mortality.