There is this tiny garden by the house on the corner of my mother’s street. A small thing but so beautiful it lifts the spirits like a good song, a poem or a bright smile.
Memories play false sometimes. Yesterday my brother in law gave me the vinyl of Dominique by the Singing Nun: a thoughtful gift and a joke. A find, that perhaps he had searched out, trawling retro record shops or the internet, rather than happening on it in the Oxfam shop. The character, Dominic, from Murielle’s Angel sings the refrain ‘Dominique, nique nique,’ to explain his name.
‘Can’t believe you did that to him!’ My BiL quipped. Pleased to know he’d read it and intrigued by the merging of fact and fiction, I may have glowed like a first time author.
I played it today on my mother’s old record player – that of course she still has and of course still works, once she had reminded me to plug in the speakers. It was the jolly ditty I remembered, like something from a holiday camp. Occasional words were recognisable: – Dieu, of course. that you would expect from a singing nun. The flip side, ‘Entre Les Etoiles,’ (Amongst the stars the Lord has written your name near him in paradise – possibly- over and over.) I remember with more affection, together with the vague hope, belief even, that the universe was looking out for me. ( I was only eight or nine at the time.)
I’ll frame the record and think fondly of my brother in law every time I look at it.
It was the stash of 45s kept on top of the speakers, that I had forgotten, that we had played incessantly in the sixties. Listening again the words were a stab of memory, almost like a guilty conscience. ‘ The Universal Soldier,’ by Donovan; Joan Baez and Bob, ‘Blowing in the Wind,’ even Marlene Dietrich, ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ We used to be pacifists. We used to feel, strongly, righteously that we could change the world with words and flowers. Maybe they don’t write songs like that anymore. Maybe we just don’t listen. Now we have jingoism. Young men and boys have not been slain in battle, they have merely fallen. Our boys, soldiers are heroes. Perhaps they are, but war is still wrong. We never hear of putting an end to war anymore.