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Requiem for a coconut

February 23, 2013

On those mornings when (like Bill Evans) I’m Up with the Lark and wish to avoid the dire consequences of disturbing Mrs simonsometimessays before she has hit Snooze on the phone alarm for the third time, I head for the front bathroom of the sss abode. There, while shaving (if the mood takes me) and showering, I am at my most suggestible. The physical routine takes no thought at all, leaving my mind – which has a different daily trajectory full operation – to do its own thing. At the front of my brain there is enough of superficial consciousness to ensure that I don’t brush my teeth with a razor or apply shampoo to the face-flannel (not 100% successful on the second one, sadly); at the back, where the complicated, free-form matter that is about me buzzes around, unpredictable things happen.

(To me, anatomy and phrenology are things to be heard of, rather than understood. Good for crosswords, general knowledge quizzes and bluffing. So you’ll understand that my representation of front brain/back brain activity is not intended to suggest actual knowledge.)

In that bathroom there appeared a few days ago* an interesting plastic container labelled My Coconut Island – Body Scrub. It’s not mine, and I mention it not for the possible benefits of product placement but because it has brought to mind a 1975 song – Barbados by Typically Tropical. The premise is of a London bus driver returning to his native Barbados on a Coconut Airways flight. It’s a sweet and bouncy song, though probably contains too many stereotypes to get past a savvy record executive these days. Still, I prefer it to the 1999 revision – Ibiza – by Vengaboys (is it really ok to rhyme “Ibiza” with “pizza”??). I’ve never been to Ibiza, and nor does that song much tempt me to do so.

I have, however, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of my brother Chris**, been to Barbados, where the sort of holiday normally beyond the means of this branch of the sss’s was enjoyed by a dozen of us across three generations. Barbados Mme Tussauds Morthoe 008

Chris is a few years older than me: a big brother to revere when I was small, and that reverence has not lessened through adult life. He was always cool. He owned The War of the Worlds earlier than anyone I knew, and a Rolling Stones compilation almost before the Stones had enough songs to compile and Jagger had lost his looks. If he’s wondering where that record is, by the way – I have it safe. 19th Nervous Breakdown – it doesn’t need an excuse.

Among the many wonderful memories of that fortnight – swimming with turtles from a catamaran, my parents having their photo taken with a recently replaced British Prime Minister, bathing from a private beach, and worshipping at the statue of Gary Sobers in Bridgetown – is the Crop-Over carnival. An event in two parts, each celebrating the finish of the harvest with enthusiasm equal in measure if different in style: the joyful parade of the united church communities singing and dancing their thanks with chaste exuberance, followed by the lines of colourful costumes and sexy rhythmic swaying of the secular contingent. The tunes were the same, though the words didn’t have quite so many references to Jesus. Visitors to the carnival – as we conspicuously were – made easy targets for the raunchy, thrusting moves with plenty of body contact which (I believe) would cost extra at certain clubs in London.

It’s a far cry from the scene outside our window this morning. Frost which has settled overnight is slowly fading, and in the air is the hint of snow with flakes so few and falling so slowly that you feel that you could catch them one by one.

As often happens on a Saturday if I have woken up too soon and am thinking too hard about things that should have been kept to Friday, I lay claim to the dining table for an hour or so and tap away at something such as this, with calming music playing in the room around me. Today it’s Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem.  There’s a whole CD to listen to there – your sample is Lead Kindly Light. If you feel inclined to explore the requiem further – and I think you should – you’ll find The Lord is my Shepherd will repay the effort (and be perhaps familiar).

I often find it settling to listen to a requiem. Although some are fretful and restless (the well-known Dies Irae from Verdi’s setting, for example) and worry about death and judgement, others concentrate musically on rest and peace. Fauré’s is the one I reach for first as a rule.

But let’s return to that another day; right now my mood has moved on a little, and my thoughts are troubled only by the breakfast dilemma: Porridge or Toast?

I’ve just this minute discovered that the vocalist of Streetband – the perpetrators of that peculiar late 70s song – was Paul Young. I don’t know how I feel about that, except that is has decided me in favour of porridge. Honestly. As it says in the Benjamin Calypso from Joseph: honest as coconuts – before they have been savagely rendered into toiletries for the masochistic.

  • *Other members of the sss outfit may assert that it had been there for a long time, proving what they regularly say about my powers of observation. I can only point out that it would be unkind of them to spoil the narrative.
  • ** For “Chris” read “Chris and Maura”.
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2 Comments
  1. Question is, where you sipping an early morning Malibu as you wrote this? All this lovely talk of far away islands, I can practically smell coconut. And from the frosty Shires I am most grateful.

  2. You’re most welcome, and thank you for the comment, RT, share.
    Malibu is one of those things that I have to treat with caution – I learnt at a relatively young age that consumed in large quantities it’s not a good thing. Even the idea of an early morning one makes my tummy give a little jump.

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