My place. Tuesday, 10.45pm
Outside, the rain comes down in symphonic crescendi on the tin roof of my shack in the clouds.
Inside, it’s Granddaughter’s turn.
We’re playing musical round robin. She, her father, her grandmother and I are taking turns playing a favourite song, in whatever medium you want.
Granddaughter has chosen a gangsta rap toon from her dad’s phone. I plugged it into my old-school sound system and turned it up loud. I don’t like music through small speakers, despite people trying to impress me with instantly accessed tunes (great) played through their phone (awful – sounds like a bee in a bottle).
I can’t work out the lyrics (love and lipstick are involved) but it has a funky rhythm. Granddaughter has all the hip-hop moves, rocking it across the floor.
I’m dancing too – as much as I can with a buggered achilles tendon – spinning in my office chair and making satanic shapes with my fingers. I must look funny because Granddaughter’s serious dance pout is momentarily displaced by a laugh.
It hasn’t all been internet hip hop. My choice was from a DVD: Leonard Cohen singing Bird on the Wire in London in 2008. I love that song – because we all try, in our way, to be free. (But it’s hard to be free, shackled to a system where financial gain trumps social justice.) And that song has the most beautiful guitar solo by Bob Metzger. Man, he caresses that Stratocaster like a lover.
Granddaughter grooved to that too – she was a Lady dancing with a Knight (her dad) from some old fashioned book. I was moved, as always, by the song. (And the wine.) I conducted the band from my office chair, moving my arms about like a drunk in a midnight choir.
Inside, we dance.
Outside, it rains.
It’s gentler now. Diminuendo. I hope it doesn’t keep raining; it’s tough for those that live on the floodplains. Me, I’m a mountain man.
Inside, Granddaughter finishes her gansta choice with a shoulder-shrugging flourish. She rushes over to my vinyl collection where her grandmother is pulling something large and black from a jacket where four dour-looking blokes stand in long grass, waiting for the sun.
‘Can I put it on? I love putting these, um, things on,’ she says to her grandmother. ‘You must be very gentle with the needle, you know, Grandma,’ she adds, glancing at me. (Well, my grandfatherly role is to educate, isn’t it? We must have something to give to future generations.)
She expertly places the needle on track one, Grandma’s choice.
Hiss, crackle, pop… hiss, crackle, pop… drum intro, guitar riff, then:
Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name.
This song was embedded deep in my brain when I was a young fella. 1968.
The year of protest. In Belgrade, thousands marched against Tito’s tyranny. The Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. London, Rome, Berlin. Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro. People everywhere fighting corrupt states, trying to break the chains of capitalism.
In the US, people protested the war in Vietnam. Civil rights, long trammelled under shiny corporate boots, became right. In France, students and workers nearly toppled the government.
There was a dream – of social justice, of human dignity, of planetary sustainability.
Fifty years on, as Grandaughter dances into her future, consumerism is still poisoning the planet. And we are still trying, in our way, to be free.
Hello, I love you, let me jump in your game.
After Cohen, Morrison’s lyrics make me cringe. But it rhymes.
Granddaughter is rockin’ hard now, hair flying across her face, and pulling some moves that would make Jimmy proud.
Inside, we dance.
Outside, it rains.