All entries for Tuesday 12 April 2005

April 12, 2005

Lucia comes to stay

Ellie's French exchange partner arived the other day, and now I'm subconsciously translating everything I say into French. It's wierd. I have to consciously think, and stop myself talking French,for fear that I'll sound patronising, reminding myself that Lucia is here to learn our language, and reminding myself of my own experiences on an exchange. My French improved dramatically when I was away, and I was perfectly happy with people speaking to me in a language I couldn't understand. I also understood a lot more than I realised I could before I went away. So to be perfectly honest, Lucia (who is actually bilingual anyway, speaking Spanish fluently as well as French,) can probably understand the sentences I could manage to say in French perfectly well if I'd said them in English.

All the same, I still feel very aware of the complexities of my own language as soon as I am placed in a room with someone for whom English is not their native tounge. I don't want to seem patronising by altering my language to any large extent, but I'm never quite sure just how much I should alter my language for the sake of comprehension.
When I was in France, I didn't take offence if anyone spoke to me a little in English, or if they slowed down or anything, but then, the balance of power was different. I was the one in a strange country, and I was younger than anyone else. I've never been comfortable being in a position of power over anyone else, so being the one slightly at a disadvantage was perfectly fine for me. And to be honest, I wasn't struggling that much – my knowledge of French was better than my partner's knowledge of English, so French was easier to get along in. Pas de Problem.
It's different when you're the one in charge, as it were. As the host, you're the one regulating the conversation – unless you have a fairly exceptional exchange student who will take the initiative. So you don't want to be too challenging, or too patronising. Personally, I'd rather be the one who just has to worry about understanding it all.

The Day the Music Died

As a bit of a break from writing this damn protest piece, I've decided to write another short story. All comments, as ever, very much appreciated, thanks guys :)

Dedicated to, amongst others, Sinatra, Jeff Buckley, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, and Badly Drawn Boy

The Day the Music Died

One day we woke up to a broken radio. Changing the batteries didn’t work, all it did was scream at us. There was nothing but static and the DJ hadn’t noticed. Perhaps he was still asleep, because his radio alarm was broken too. Everyone’s radio was broken. People started filing in late for work, grumbling about broken alarms, and static and silence. All over the country the radios had stopped.

Most people didn’t notice at first. They’d perhaps get an odd feeling that something was wrong, something was missing, but they couldn’t tell what. It wasn’t like the death of a relative, where you know almost immediately – more like an old friend. It was as if you had called them up, and got a dead line where you’d expected an answer. Later on you’d get a phone call from someone to tell you the bad news, but there was no funeral for the music, no mourners, no coffin to follow, just a sudden absence in life, a vague feeling that once there was something more.

Shops were oddly silent. People shopped quietly, didn’t buy things, ran away home, spooked by something they couldn’t hear.

Sid Pierce and his band used to practice in his father’s garage every Monday night, in the hopes that one day they’d be signed by a record label. They dreamed of becoming superstars. And then they realised that they were just making a noise, and gave up, despondent.

At the end of term concert, Jane Parks, aged four and a half, was climbing on stage to play her recorder solo. She’d practiced for weeks, but just as she took her first breath, the instrument broke in her hands.

In the Royal opera house Maria Francis, the famous Soprano, dried mid-aria. Unwittingly, she had forgotten the notes to every song she’d ever sung, and was confronted in that instant with a silent auditorium. All she could hear was a thousand people breathing, staring at her expectantly, watching, waiting, confused. She looked at the silent Orchestra, bowed over their instruments, desperately trying to remember how to play them. She too left the stage in tears.

There should have been a warning. There should have been notice given that it would all go quiet. That guitar strings would snap like breaking hearts and the warm, beating pulse of the music would dry up. Composers would break their pens, conductors their batons, torn manuscripts would fall from the sky like the wreckage of a plane. Choir boys voices would break beyond repair and the only sound in the shower would be splashing water.

Compact Discs shattered, gramophone needles broke, LPs snapped in two. The Bolshoi Ballet lost the beat, and the steps lost their meaning. Clubs closed down, and the greatest Jazz musician of them all was found dead at his piano, stabbed through the heart with a violin bow. It’s not life and death, they said, music is not life and death. But it was for him. It was too for the guitarist who used his strings to hang himself, the thousand fans crushed when they stormed the empty stage at Glastonbury, and the dancer who took one final grande jeté off a bridge.

How did it die? People asked. How do you kill a note? A grand piano thrown from a first floor window, an accident in a car, on a plane, a drug overdose, and a suicide note written on staves?
Or perhaps a dark night, and a cliff edge, and the irresistible pull of gravity. A glass plectrum, outlined in blue lightning, one final chord, and then the longest minute’s silence in the world.

April 2005

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