I remember as a child when my uncles and aunts came to visit, the adults would gather in the kitchen for a chat. There, hours later in deep conversation, amongst the sweet smell of the large bottles and the sour breath of tobacco, my mother’s voice saying “sing a song Steve”
Steve, was her brother. A huge charming man, a stonemason. He was an outdoor man, who moved carefully through the delicate interiors of the woman’s touch, anxious not to break anything. He always sat at the top of the table, and through years and years of my mother’s pleadings, he never sang. “Ah go on Steve, just for me”. His reply always was a pragmatic“I won’t Lil, not now”. From the way he said it I knew there was a reason, but I had no idea what it was.
It was autumn, and the much grown family squeezed once more into the shrunken kitchen. The singing started. Mother naturally assumed her role as MC, and however she did it, I heard Steve whisper “but what will I sing”……….
He stood up,gently scattering table and chairs and overturning what seemed an endless tradition, arms in a giant embrace and eyes ablaze he sang“and now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain”. The room darkened and filled with an explosive emotion. I saw the window pane bulge. I felt dwarfed. As he soared off to another place I remember feeling “take me with you, I want to go there”. It was his song, and we were in his world. It was the only way he could sing. I thought the house would collapse, I had never seen or heard anything like it in my life.
It was the first time I had felt the power of a song. For years afterwards the picture stayed with me. That moment when the singer and the song become inseparable, watching as you listen with nape hair rigid, not knowing day or night.