Category Archives: Food of Love

Food of Love – The Football Years Part 2

Part 1 of The Football Years  (6 March) featured pea soup. This edition gets serious, with soya bean curry. The recipe is at the end. After I have explained its significance.

P1010335When I stopped playing football, the gap it left in my life felt bigger than I could have expected. I miss it a surprising amount, even all these years after the broken leg brought it to an early end.

Playing the game was about more than ninety minutes exercise on a Sunday morning. It gave me a regular ritual in my life.

In my football years a typical Sunday morning started with a friend turning up at around 9.15 in his van. I would need to be ready to go. This was not as straightforward as it might sound.

It wasn’t just a matter of getting up, getting dressed and having breakfast. There was the frequent discovery that the mud-covered football boots you had thrown into a cupboard after the previous week’s game had mysteriously failed to clean and polish themselves. Not only was the mud still there. If you had left the boots in a plastic bag you also got the bonus of interesting new fungal life forms colonising the damp leather.

Then there was the toilet issue.

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Food of Love: The Football Years Part 1

P1010335I played football on Sunday mornings for years. During that time I cooked all kinds of high-carb dishes on Saturday evenings. I’m not sure they ever made me run faster. Nor, as it turned out, did they make me stronger. Certainly not in the shin-bone department.

There are a million recipes for pea soup. This is my favourite, whether before playing football or not.

1lb dried green split peas

1½ lbs potatoes

4 pints of low-salt vegetable stock

2 cloves of garlic

4-5 onions

2 large carrots

4 oz butter

Salt, pepper to taste

Soak the split peas overnight in half the stock. Cook in the stock until they are soft (add more liquid if it runs low).

Peel and chop carrots, potatoes and onions. Melt the butter in a (very) large saucepan and fry the vegetables and garlic until softened (5-10 minutes). Add the rest of the stock and cook the vegetables in it.

Mix the vegetables into the peas and cook for a few more minutes. Whizz the whole lot in a liquidizer to the texture you want. Personally, I don’t mind a few lumpy peas left in the mix of my soup.

And here, to go with that winter warmer of a meal, is the story of my last ever game of football.

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Food of Love – Bread Pudding (Part 2)

You can read Part 1 here.

Ingredients:

About a pound of wholemeal bread (stale will do)
Pint of milk
4oz butter
8oz brown sugar
8oz mixed raisins, sultanas, currants
2tsp spice (cinnamon, coriander, cumin – or the commercial ready-mixed spice)
2 eggs
A little nutmeg

Break up the bread and let it soak in the milk in a large bowl while you sort out the music to play while cooking. I recommend “Making History” by Linton Kwesi Johnson, followed by “Blue” by Joni Mitchell.  Heat oven to 180C (gas mark 4). Add the raisins etc and mix everything together vigorously with the butter, and the sugar and spice.

Beat the eggs and mix in well. Put the whole lot into one or more greased shallow ovenproof dishes. Bake for around 45 minutes or until set.

One of my favourite movies is “Field of Dreams”, starring Kevin Costner. It is a shamelessly sentimental story of a young man called Ray who owns a farm in Iowa, under the big deep sky of the American Midwest. He hears a ghostly voice in his cornfield, telling him to build a baseball pitch on his land. “Build it and he will come,” the voice says.

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Food Of Love – Bread Pudding (Part 1)

“I think the heart remains a child
The mind may grow wise
But the heart just sulks and whines and remains a child.”

– Everything But The Girl, ‘The Heart Remains A Child’

BREAD PUDDING

For this recipe you will need:

About a pound of wholemeal bread (stale will do)
Pint of milk
4oz butter
8oz brown sugar
8oz mixed raisins, sultanas, currants
2tsp spice (cinnamon, coriander, cumin – or the commercial ready-mixed spice)
2 eggs
A little nutmeg

Break up the bread and let it soak in the milk in a large bowl. Heat oven to 180C (gas mark 4). Add the raisins etc and mix everything together vigorously with the butter (which you might want to melt a little in the microwave to ease things), and the sugar and spice. Any small children will enjoy this mixing, if you need help, and don’t mind some of the mixture being spread over the work surface and adhering to your clothes.

Beat the eggs and mix in well. Put the whole lot into one or more greased shallow ovenproof dishes. Bake for around 45 minutes or until set.

Delicious and evocative, hot or cold. Evocative for me, anyway.

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Food Of Love – Corn Chowder

Some years ago I had an idea for a kind of cookery book memoir, telling stories about events associated with some of my favourite dishes. A bit like ‘Fever Pitch’, but with food instead of football.

In the event, it proved harder to write than I thought, and other people got in first with similar books. But some recipes and events stuck with me. Here is the first, which sets the scene for others to come, explaining why for me cooking and emotion are so closely linked.

Anyway, enough preamble. This story is called

‘The Corn Chowder of Love’

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And Finally…Songs To Play At My Funeral – Part 3

IT’S TAKEN ME A WHILE to conclude my list of funeral songs (see 14 and 23 June). I fear it risks becoming a bit self-indulgent. And it’s emotional. So let’s wrap it up here.

Last time, I wrote about last times, specifically the difficulty of knowing when something actually is the last time. I suppose, in the scheme of things, when I come to meet my maker it won’t matter too much whether I listened to “You Can’t Always get What You Want” a month before, a year before or that very morning. Maybe I could even play it as I go (you could do a lot worse). I don’t suppose it would make a difference.

It isn’t so much that I may not listen to some of my favourite music many more times in my life, though that of course is bad enough. It is more that I will never know the last time that I hear some of my most treasured musical moments. That makes me sad. It’s hard enough facing up to the idea of your own mortality. But if you have to face going, you want to say goodbye to the people and things you loved.

If I was dying, I’m sure I’d want some extra time in order to play all my favourites again, and to seek out those potentially great albums I never got round to hearing. Life seems unlikely to grant such a neat ending. But the alternative would involve playing “Desolation Row” every day, along with hundreds of other classics. That doesn’t seem terribly practical either.

And obviously, if all I cared about was the music, that would make me a bit of a saddo. Even more so than I actually am. Of course, what makes the music special is often its association with the memories of people you love. Here then, to end, are some songs that get on my list because of the people they make me think about.

10. Smile – The Jayhawks

For my son, who heard this while still in the womb, as a heavily pregnant Laura came with me to see the Jayhawks in London. And who as a baby would fall asleep instantly if you played this, however fractious he was.

And because it was the song Laura was listening to on headphones in her hospital bed when I brought Sam from the special care unit, and she saw her baby properly for the first time (having been away on wings of sedation when he was delivered by caesarian section).

11. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

For my older daughter, Kate, who sang this with me at a karaoke session on a caravan park in Scotland when she was six years old. (We also did Puff the Magic Dragon, but that has less appeal. Although there is that charming reggae version by Gregory Isaacs…)

It’s another song like Madonna’s Holiday or Bunny Wailer’s Dreamland. On the surface full of hope and optimism but some quality of dread or desperation in the singer’s voice undercuts that feeling.

I smile at the line: “Oh Daddy dear you know you’re still number one.” which is nice for a father to hear. But the zest with which Cyndi follows it up with “but girls just wanna have fun”, suggests there are plenty of other numbers on her phone. An impression reinforced as she repeats the line, but just can’t wait to complete it, interrupting herself as she sings: “they just wanna have – that’s all they really want – some fun”.

Which is all a dad wants for his girl really.

12. Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac

Oddly, it was hardest to choose a song for my younger daughter. Which surprised me because she’s probably the one most like me in magpie attraction to variety of music.

In the end I chose the relentless positivism of this song. There are two reasons for that.

The first is because I did another play list once, for Nicola’s 21st birthday. I intended to burn it on a CD and make it part of her present, but never completed the job. This song was on it, and I found it intriguing that many of the songs on the birthday list were the same ones as on my funeral list. I don‘t know what to make of that.

But the main reason for choosing this is because it is so genuinely optimistic, and it will always remind me of speeding down the motorway, in a rented white van with Nicola and Sam, bringing her home from three years at university, playing Fleetwood Mac and the Ramones at high volume.

13. Shadow on a Harvest Moon – Everything But the Girl

I’m not superstitious. I can have thirteen songs in my list if I want to.

In some ways this is just a straightforward sad ballad. I’m not even sure that it is my favourite Everything But the Girl song. But it has a place in my memory of how I fell in love with Laura and my life changed. (And, I have to be honest, how I changed the lives of other people around me.)

We used to play EBTG a lot together, early on. We didn’t know how serious this was, but we knew we had to see each other. The problem was that we were both married to other people. Neither of us planned for that to happen, to fall so inconveniently in love. If we had known it was likely, I suspect we would have found ways to avoid it. But by the time we realised, it was too late.

We were stuck for some months in this limbo world where on the surface our normal lives carried on unchanged. Most people we knew had no idea that anything was wrong. But in our hearts and minds everything was transformed and I found myself an actor playing a part in my own life. Pretending to be the person I was before it all changed. Somehow the longing I felt for Laura – the desire to be with her that started when I woke up and kept me lying awake when my wife and children were asleep – somehow that passion stayed off my face when it felt as if it must have changed my features forever. We knew we had to be together, but it felt impossible and we felt so guilty, because in order for us to be together it would cause other people we loved a lot of pain. All at once our lives were asking us a question that had no right answer. It isn’t a place I would wish on anyone.

I remember listening to this song repeatedly one night while my wife was out with a friend and my two young daughters were asleep. At some point that evening I remember I spoke to Laura on the phone. Our desire to be together – our frustration that we were each alone in our homes but out of reach of the other – made the telephone line hum in the silences between our words. I told her about this song, which is basically about one person missing another, and how much it made me want to be with her.

After we hung up I went upstairs to check on the children. I stood in each of their bedroom doorways to listen. Their breathing was quiet and regular. My older daughter had my old teddy bear beside her bed, cast carelessly on the floor in that way children do with things they love. She lay on her back, arms spread out as if she had been dropped asleep into the bed. It was a pose that advertised innocence and complete trust that her world was benign. The sun would come up every day as normal and nothing would disturb the loving home she had lived in all her life. Her younger sister lay curled up with her thumb in her mouth. As I watched her, she stirred slightly and a small frown momentarily crossed her brow, before she settled again.

As I stood there I felt I hung above a dark precipice. My children were here, innocent and asleep, knowing nothing in the world as strongly as they knew that their daddy would be there for them when they woke in the morning. But forty miles away, alone in her house, was a woman I missed so hard it was a physical pain. I couldn’t balance forever on this cliff edge. But it was so dark that I didn’t know which way to fall, which way was safe. I knew that either way it was a long way down, and I couldn’t see the ground.

“Put away that torch you carry”, sings Tracey Thorn, her voice breathy and forlorn. “It’s doing you no good.”

I think I knew that night that I would in the end have to do as the song said. Lay to rest the ghost of my unhappiness. I didn’t yet know which way I would jump, but jump I must. Maybe I could be with Laura for good, with all the pain and upheaval that entailed. Or else I had to end it with her, drown the torch I carried. I didn’t know which it would be. But I knew that before long I would have to close my eyes and leap one way or the other.

********************

It has become a bit of a trend for people to choose their own music for funerals. And why not? If you want to go out to the sound of a few of your favourite album tracks, that is fine by me. Especially if the alternative is the vicar’s selection from “Crematorium Classical Greats” or “20 Favourite Committal Hymns”. It’s a pity that the alternative for many funerals appears to be nothing more than endless replays of “I will Always Love You”, or the “Wind beneath My Wings”. I don’t want to have any of these on my conscience. And I don’t expect that my friends and family want to hear them. Especially on a day when I hope they will already have quite enough to be miserable about.

No, the music to be played at my funeral needs to be a last slice of the music that moved me while I was alive. The songs that made me happy or sad or just made me laugh. I don’t care whether they conform to some kind of funeral etiquette. They don’t have to be about loss or sorrow. I just want the people I love and leave behind to come along to say goodbye. And while they are there I want them to smile a bit as they remember the music I played. They can shed a tear too, of course. But after that, take the rest of my record collection and have a bloody good party, and comfort yourselves with this thought.

You may miss me when I‘m gone. But I’ll miss you more.

**************************************

Postscript

A short while after writing my list of songs for my funeral I went out for a run. I ran down the hill, past Lewisham station and up onto Blackheath. The weather was warm and bands of pale cloud were pasted loosely across a china blue sky above the green grass of the heath. I did what I usually did when I ran alone: I listened to music. I held my iPod in my hand and put on a thick headband to hold the earphones in place.

It can be tricky deciding exactly what to play when you go out for a run. You can never be entirely sure what your mood will be once you’ve been running for ten minutes. But you can bet it will be quite different to the mood you were in before you set out. This time I picked out an old play list I had made months before. I couldn’t remember the details of what was on there.

Fifteen minutes later I was running through Greenwich Park and it felt like my feet were barely touching the ground. I was running on a carpet of exhilarating music, song after beautiful song.  I remembered now that I had made the playlist the last time I got to thinking about songs for my funeral. On that occasion I didn’t just write a list. I got as far as digging the songs out and deciding on a running order. So “Constant Craving” by kd lang gave me wings of song across the open heath and “Fisherman’s Blues” by the Waterboys lifted me up a steep hill, my lips echoing in breathless whisper its small whoops of joy. I ran beneath chestnut trees as Ken Boothe crooned “Everything I Own” in a voice as clear and pure as the crystalline bowl of the sky which hung above me.

And the strange thing was, almost none of the dozen or so songs in that playlist was in the list I’ve set out here. Each time a new song started I cursed myself. Of course, I thought, how could I forget this one? How could I leave this off my list? Surely I have to have that track, “Two Hearts” by the Jayhawks, in my list? How could I not include Nick Cave’s echoingly gloomy and lovelorn “Lime Tree Arbor”?

I found it all oddly reassuring. It made me smile as I ran, in a way that people I ran past may have found even more unsettling than the sight of my deeply unfashionable headband. Of course I could compile two such different lists of favourite songs. Music is just like that isn’t it? One day a particular song is absolutely the best thing I have ever heard. A week later, I will have remembered that something else is actually the best. A week after that, it may be something else again.

A three minute pop song, at its best, is a time capsule of deep emotion, frozen forever at its feverish height. In a way, the very disposability of pop music adds to its emotional impact. A fragment of a lyric, a sigh in the singer’s voice, the way the drummer hits the snare just so on one beat but not on the next. All these things may mean nothing in isolation. But in the tornado of a song that just has to say something, and it just has to say it NOW, they can pack a punch. And of course the punch can be weaker or stronger depending on the mood of the listener.

So none of us should be surprised that last week the hollow weariness with which Ian Maculloch sings Echo and the Bunnymen’s achingly beautiful “Rust” was the perfect song for me to contemplate the end of my time. But today it feels like the ideal farewell would be something less defeated, more defiant like the Four Tops.

Music’s like that. A thing of beauty is indeed a joy forever. But sometimes one thing feels more of a joy than another. And other times the joy may rest elsewhere. To a great extent you get out of music what you put in, and the pleasure it gives can depend on what you bring with you, the angle you approach it from, and the way you look at it.

Life’s like that too. Isn’t it?

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Songs To Play At My Funeral – Part Two

LISTEN TO THIS and tell me if it makes me a sad person.

Something I love doing  – which Laura tolerates – is when we’re together of an evening I’ll play a piece of music that just seems right for the mood of the moment. And then I’ll think of another that has some connection with it. It might be the title, or some phrase in the song links to another. Possibly the same person played guitar on both, or maybe there is a similarity of tone or melody, or maybe it’s some emotion in the song that prompts me to reach for another song which seems to carry the same feeling. Once I get going I can spend an hour or two playing one song after another, all connected in some way, at least in my mind. It’s a form of word association but with music.

Here’s an example. I could play “Youngstown” by Bruce Springsteen. For some reason, while its playing, I remember that another of my favourite Springsteen songs – “Tougher than the Rest” – was covered by Everything But the Girl on their acoustic album. So I play that. Tracey Thorn’s voice reminds me of the gorgeous vocal she did on the title track of Massive Attack’s Protection album, so that comes next. While that’s playing, I remember another Indie chanteuse, Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins sang sweetly and memorably on “Teardrop”, another Massive Attack song. As it happens, I choose not to play that. Not because I don’t want to hear it. (Because I do, oh I do.) But because I remember my favourite Elizabeth Fraser vocal; the version of “Song for the Siren” (which was in Part One of this funeral list – see June 14th). So I play that. The song was written by Tim Buckley, so next up is another of his songs, “Dolphins”, as played by Billy Bragg on 1991’s Don’t Try this at Home.

That Billy Bragg album is rich in possibilities. Johnny Marr plays guitar on it, so it opens up the way to any number of gorgeous Smiths songs (and normally – trust me – I need no excuse to go in that direction). But for some reason I also play the track “Cindy of a Thousand Lives”. The first line of this strange and unsettling song refers to “Blue Velvet America”. Think about David Lynch, who made the film Blue Velvet and I‘m on to the TV series Twin Peaks. So the next song I play is “Floating”, co-written by David Lynch as the theme tune to Twin Peaks and performed by Julie Cruise.

In a few songs I have made my way from the bitterness of Springsteen’s declining steel community in Pennsylvania to the scary dreamscapes of the theme music to a bizarre soap-cum-horror series set in a weird community in Washington State. Meanwhile, Laura lies on the sofa and sips her wine. Occasionally she greets the first notes of a song by saying something like, “I love this track.” But mostly she is happy to let it wash over her, just to take each piece of music as it comes and enjoy it for what it is.

Unlike me. As I listen to each song start, the links with other songs are already starting to run through my mind, as if each song is a piece of a much larger jigsaw and when I hear it I can see where the edges of one piece match with other pieces. As Billy Bragg sings “Dolphins”, it offers a lot of edges with other songs of his. I could go for Kirsty McColl’s version of his song “A New England”, or Paul Young singing “Man in the Iron Mask”. Or try this: Billy Bragg wrote the song “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” and Levi Stubbs was one of the singers in the Four Tops. This opens up the whole Four Tops catalogue. Or beyond that – given the way Tamla Motown used different writers on different artists’ records – there are edges which link up with hundreds of great Motown songs.

And all of this goes through my head for each song. Pity me. How do I ever get anything else done?

Anyway, mentioning the Four Tops takes me back to that list of songs to play at my funeral.

5. “Reach out I’ll be there” – Four Tops

I’m sure a lot of people would have this on their list of songs to leave behind, to say goodbye to their loved ones on their behalf. Mainly because of the words (”If you feel that you can’t go on…I’ll be there, with a love that will shelter you”, and so on.)

The song is so well known it barely needs describing. But the power of the obvious should never be underestimated in pop music. Nor should the power of emotion expressed without words.  What makes this song for me is the raw edge of desperation in singer Levi Stubbs’ voice, and – best of all – the guttural “Ugh!” yelled by the backing singers at the start of the very first line, and again at the start of other verses, matched by the “hah!” that Stubbs lets out before the second chorus.

These guys didn’t write this song, but they sure meant it. And so do I. Those people who love me can hear this at my funeral and know that if I still had the power, every line would come from me.

“Just look over your shoulder…”

6. Blue – Lucinda Williams

This is basically just a couple of guitars, gently strummed and picked, with Williams’ aching and gentle singing over the top of them. Some people don’t like her singing. At times –and especially in this song – her voice seems to fall short of the note she was aiming for, and comes close to cracking. But if ever someone turned an apparent flaw to their advantage, this is it. You hardly need the words to know what she’s feeling. She could be singing this song in Polish and you would still know exactly what she meant. The shaky-sounding voice expresses perfectly the longing and loneliness at the heart of the song.  “Go find a jukebox,” she sings, “and see what a quarter will do.” In her hands, it does a lot.

Mostly, I don’t want sad songs at my funeral. But somebody’s got to shed a tear or two. This is the song that will do it.

7. Dreamland – Bunny Wailer

From the marvellous Blackheart Man album, on the surface this song glows with simple optimism, as Bunny Livingstone sings of a land ‘like heaven’, ‘across the sea’, where he can get breakfast from the trees and honey from bees and live happily with his loved one.

But an apparently straightforward song is for me given immense power by two things. The first is the unusual dynamic of the song. The verses are very simple, loping along on a relaxed backing of drums, bass and a child-like electric piano. But each line is sung twice, the first time slowly and gently, and then repeated at a higher pitch, with a hint of Wailer’s voice straining, despite the happiness of the lyrics. Then, just when you expect a shift back down, the song goes up a key and into a chorus that is really just another verse, but sung in that emotional falsetto, twisted up a further notch. The effect is similar to the Madonna song I listed last time (see 14 June). What lyrically might seem wide-eyed and soft-centred acquires an edge of desperation and sadness from the tone of Wailer’s voice.

That impression is strengthened as the next verse lurches into the second chorus, which is really just a fourth verse but one that spirals upwards on a circular synthesiser riff as the unease in Wailer’s voice leaks into the lyrics themselves. ’Oh what a time that will be,’ he sings, with all the joy of a man who has just realised that the only way he will reach his dreamland is by dying first. ‘We’ll count the stars up in the sky,’ he says, before finally, over the fade out, voicing the fear that has shadowed the song all the way through: ‘surely, we’ll never die.’

Where exactly does it lead, all this time and effort spent thinking about music? What is the point I‘m trying to make here? I guess it’s this. I constantly marvel at just how much there is to listen to, how much great and interesting music there is in the world. Sometimes the beauty of it all is a little too much. I listen to a song and find myself wanting to play all the other great songs which have a connection to it. But each one I choose suggests another bunch of links to another crowd of great songs. And each of those connects to many more. So many more that you just couldn’t keep track, you couldn’t sit down and play them all. You couldn’t possibly listen to all the songs you’d want to listen to if you started following the links between them.

That seems a little depressing sometimes. I wonder if there is time enough left in life to listen to all the music that ideally I’d like to listen to. There probably isn’t.

All of which leads on to other gloomy thoughts. I get to thinking about last times. It must be sad to know that you are doing something you love, or seeing or hearing something you love, for the very last time. But maybe it’s even sadder not to know, to have that final taste but not realise it is the last. That way the thing you love could slip away unnoticed.

It is usually easy enough to know that you are doing something for the first time. There are some first times that we all remember: the first time you kiss a girl or touch a teenage breast inside a teenage bra; the first time you have sex. You may not remember clearly the first time you rode a bike or heard the Sex Pistols. But at the time you would have known that you hadn’t done this before.

Maybe you don’t know what exactly was the first time you ate artichoke (as it happens, I do, but that’s another story). However, when you faced that globe, and cagily watched people around you peeling off the leaves but only eating a small part of them, you probably knew very well that this was a new experience.

It isn’t guaranteed to be that easy with the last time. The last time I ate artichoke was about two weeks ago. I have no specific plans to buy any but I expect I’ll eat one again within the next few months. Or maybe I won’t. What if I don’t get around to it over the next year? What if I didn’t eat artichoke at all now until I die unexpectedly (and tragically young, of course) in a year or so?  True, if I died in a year’s time I would probably have more to regret than failing to eat artichoke recently. Even so, the point is that I would never know as I ate my last artichoke that it was in fact the last.

The same thing applies to music. (To be honest, the music worries me more than the artichokes.) There are so many fantastic songs around that you can’t listen to them as much as you want to. I look at my shelves of CDs and tapes and vinyl albums and catch sight of a Rolling Stones album cover. When was the last time I played Let It Bleed? Not in the last year or two. But just thinking about it now reminds me of that exhilarating choir which spirals up into the heavens on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Suddenly I want to hear that soaring vocal chorus and the way the drums start hitting in front of the beat to speed the song on towards its end. I hardly ever play it these days. Maybe the last time I played that song was two or three years ago. What if I die before I play it again?

8. Because The Night – Patti Smith

This in the list because the night belongs to lovers. Because it’s one of the few cases of Patti Smith getting it precisely right in the balance of drama and emotion, and of sadness and defiant lyricism. And because it’s also one of the even fewer examples of anyone improving a Bruce Springsteen song.

And finally because it makes me think of a time when music mattered so much to me, and buying a new single was an exciting event. When I bought this I was a student in Cambridge. One evening I was just finishing an essay assignment when my friends Paul and Jerry came round to drag me out to the pub. I had to deliver my essay to another college, across the city centre. I left Paul and Jerry in my room playing this single. I was away nearly half an hour and when I got back they were still playing it.

Because as Patti sings with that desperate urgency that drives this song, the night belongs to us. Once it did.

9. From Clare to Here – Nanci Griffith

This is the unashamedly sentimental one. I’m not sure why a version of a Ralph McTell song by a woman from Texas should work so well, but it does.

I bought Nanci Griffith’s Other Voices, Other Rooms years ago in a second-hand shop in York. It has some strong memories associated with it. None of them features York.

The record became a favourite for me and Laura in our early days together. We were playing it a lot when we went away to Ireland for a few days. Laura was speaking at a conference in Dublin. Towards the end of the conference, there was an evening out in a pub on the outskirts of Dublin. A lot of beer was drunk, dinner was served and then there was music and dancing. The band offered to do requests and I went up to the stage and asked them to play “From Clare to Here”. It was the only song I liked that I thought they might play. The guitar player nodded appreciatively when I made the request, as though I‘d made a well-argued point in a debate. The band played the song, and for Laura and me it crystallised a perfect evening, always remembered for this song.

One of the functions of funerals must be to open the floodgates of grief, to help people break through that numbing shock and start to feel the pain. Only by feeling it can you start to deal with it. If I heard this song at Laura’s funeral I know what it would do to me. Assuming it would do the same to her, I leave it in this list as a last gift to her. Hear this and weep. Because no one could have loved you more than I did.

(To be concluded next week.)

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