Your head is full of the Psalms and rock music.
Often a phrase drops,unbidden, from either of them. It serves to underline the moment that you are going through better than any narrative.
The phrase “There is no real substitute for a ball struck firmly and squarely’ came to mind this week as I watched- with mounting wonder and admiration- my 12 year old son begin to square cut with elan. How had someone who I remember being born got to this level.
And why can I take an isolated line, in a song about adolescent sexual conquest, and use it to narrate cricket?
My youngest son’s musical education continues apace. He has an unquenchable appetite for new and different.
He overheard me playing this in the car and was attracted by the strangeness of the estuary English, and then began to refer to it as ‘the gay song’. We got into a few discussions about sexuality,why using the word ‘gay’ as abuse is not good and how some people are attracted to people of the same sex.
Mostly we just listened and liked it and marvelled at the way Billy Bragg uses rhymes. This is one of my favourite ever:-
‘I had an uncle who once played,
for Red Star Belgrade,
He said ‘somethings are best left unspoken,
I’ve left your aunt & run off with the postman’.
I have not yet begun to explain the tradition of left wing protest songs but we will get there: the Force is strong in this one.
I will be on a long journey today: driving all the way to Dunoon. I like long drives: I can think, I can listen to Radio 4, I can play CDs. I will be listening to this today from the first ‘Imagined Village’ album: re imagining folk music for now & using people like Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and Benjamin Zephaniah alongside folk musicians
On one level it is hideously inappropriate: I am heading into a country that wants independence from England. On another level it is not: in the North we face the same hard times: drained by London, multinationals and the increasingly wealthy uber rich.
Billy Bragg is a ‘marmite’ singer- loved and hated. I like him: before him, I rarely used the word ‘English’ to describe myself. The word had been tainted by childhood and teenage years in Leicester and the National Front’s strong presence there. Billy Bragg re imagined/ re claimed the word- you could be English without hating difference. I am looking forward to getting to know this album.
A few weeks back I discovered this version of the great Billy Bragg song: ‘A New England’. I like the adaptation to take account of singing the song in your late 40s. I also like it as I thought I would find this version easier to play (even though I have just started plugging my electric guitar in, I have yet to get fully to grips with what an amp can do): angry electric stabs should be the preserve of people in their 20s, not sad old gits like me.
Two weeks ago it was ‘above’ me: playing that many barre chords and sliding up and down the fretboard was just too difficult. Yet now I have become almost passable on the verses.
I attempted to play part of this in church last week. I get worked up sometimes with good, mature adults using the label ‘Christian’ in the same way as I would if a committed gig goer referred to themselves as a ‘musician’ if they never really touched an instrument. I had in the back of my mind an interview that Martin Freeman gave around the time of the film ‘Nativity’ where he said that he wanted to say to people who self described as ‘Christian’, simply ‘Already?’
You are abroad. You want to find something to read from ‘home’. You see a newspaper you are tempted buy that you would never normally buy ‘because it is British’.
Don’t. Just don’t.
Something from a modern day, flawed, prophet-particularly in the light of the last 3 weeks:-
The second part in an occasional series to find the saddest song I know and like….
I was introduced to this song almost 10 years ago. It is horribly poignant and I find it even more so now that I am a father. Listen and weep.
(the video is old and it being Billy Bragg it may include language that is not included in the average liturgy...)
I’m not going to write a big long article: other blogs do that better and I tend to stray more into the micro than the macro. Does God allow suffering? Yadda yadda yadda- bored already…….. seems he gave us hands to help is all I know right now….
It was Bono (inevitably) who said something like ‘In the age of globalisation, love thy neighbour is not good advice: it is a command’. I was sorting out a donation over the weekend (through Methodist Relief and Development Fund- 100% donated goes to the cause- a quirk of that particular charity-Â The Methodist Church of Great Britain picks up the admin costs).
I was doing this with my children. I explained it to the oldest ‘We will donate Â£x as that is the cost for x families’ (one relief site said Â£10 could help one family through). The youngest agreed. The oldest said ‘Why don’t we give x + y then more families can live?’ I was reduced to a manly snuffle: he was right….. still he will learn as he gets older: ‘charity begins at home’ (funny most people who say that tend to give almost nothing to no-one).
Ok, so far, so bleeding heart……. what about this….http://banksyboy.blogspot.com/2010/01/not-on-my-watch-please.html…read (and Mad Priest’s comment) and follow the link for a petition for debt cancellation….
…or this…http://miketodd.typepad.com/waving_or_drowning/2010/01/some-random-thoughts-on-haiti-life-and-the-world.html…. to alter the great Billy Bragg ‘Giving to charity is not enough in days like these’…
People have been asking me what my letter to Q said (ok- one person asked me. I used that phrase deliberately, as I have heard some people overuse it- what they really mean is ‘I want to tell you and I need my fragile ego massaged so I’m hiding behind mythical ‘some people’…….erm….. guilty as charged m’lud).
In the introduction to the letters page it says ‘….a man of the cloth writes in praise of Sir William of Bragg’
‘One of the first things I turn to in Q is Billy Bragg’s column. He always has some insight or quirky take on things that make me ponder and think ‘What a national treasure’. I read his column this month ( ‘The Bard ponders God, atheism and the very meaning of existence’) and my jaw dropped; in less than 1000 words he made more sense to me than a whole bus full of cosmologists, quantum physicists, theologians and militant atheists. Thanks- it was just beautiful and in a rock magazine as well!
Below it, they append ‘Thank you. More tea, vicar?’
Ok – it is not Shakespeare and to a non-Q reader it sounds a mite, well,toadying. But remember- this is a magazine that can be sarky about faith- so producing an article like Bragg’s was quite something.
If you read the links to my last posting, it started as I’m 43…in one sense; time is running out (!) – I’m getting to the stage of thinking that a faith that is just personal and can argue theologically but yet does nothing apart from being a ‘professional Christian’ is a waste of space. And I am thinking…why not try and bless a bit more, say thanks a bit more, act impulsively a bit more. And I am, and it is good…
I have finally become world famous!
This month’s Q magazine- p10. ‘Letter of the Month’ is a ‘Graham Peacock’ (Rev). It is me!
Remember- when you see me on a stage in front of 1000s, or doorstepped by the parapazzi, or swapping jokes with Bono/Desmond Tutu/Rowan Williams/John Wesley- just think ‘I once read his blog’.
I’m going to lie down now andÂ polish my ego. Then I will think of 3 jokes and attachÂ a text to them and call it sermon preparation….
Blogaholic that I am, I blogged about the process hereÂ Â Â http://diggingalot.org/diggingalot/?p=1459 and here http://diggingalot.org/diggingalot/?p=1457
What if…..all faith/not sure of faith/non faith dialogue was carried out like this passage (easy tiger- it will be cited soon). I’ve cited Billy Bragg before and in my 43 and a bit years on this planet I’ve seen him 3 times (once with ‘Red Wedge’- happy days- with special suprise guests ‘The Smiths’. Even as I write those words, it was if I have died and gone to heaven). I always have liked his music and increasingly I find him really insightful in how to grow old and maintain a radical perspective. I don’t know where he stands on faith- agnostic/athiest I suspect.
I read this, this week, in noted theological periodical ‘Q’:-
‘You don’t need to be a practicing Christian to take exception to Dawkins’s outspoken attacks on religious belief, particularly his suggestion that people of faith are ‘stupid’. He should come into the prisions I visit as part of my Jail Guitar Doors project and tell the men benefitting from the pastoral care of the chapel team that their helpers are ‘stupid’.
……Twenty-five years’ experience in politics has left me with a conviction that people who harbour no doubts about the self-evident correctness of their own viewpoint are downright dangerous.’
And the article continues, taking us through quantum physics, cosmology and faith. And I’m amazed- in a rock magazine? From a guy who earns his living through singing and recording? Truth can be found in unlikely places if you look hard enough….
I’m also thinking- can Christians defend their seeming opponents with such Grace?