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Lessons too late for the learning

April 7, 2013

Miss me?

The title of this post comes from the opening line of the Tom Paxton song, The Last Thing on My Mind – sung on this version by The Seekers. I’ve known this since I was very young, but I’m not sure whose version I know. It’s been covered many times over the years, but when I looked for the link, I couldn’t find the one that seemed to trip the switch. I also found 2 different songs with the same name, a pop standard by Bananarama and a well performed duet by Ronan Keating (with LeAnn Rimes) respectively. There’s nothing new under the sun, I guess – not even song titles.

But to the Paxton song: I like the Seekers’ version, because it does allow the music to shine as well as the words. And before I move on, I will also share with you the link to Nana Mouskouri’s version – and that is not something I ever imagined doing when I first began this blog. Listening to it a few moments ago, once I had learnt to shut out the intrusion of the interjected backing vocals I could appreciate it as a truly melodic performance, with due attention to pitch and diction, floated on a pure and sweet voice. What’s not to like? And given that Nana Mouskouri is one of the best-selling singers of all time it will presumably not be difficult to find support for that view. Strictly mainstream and folk-rooted, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Music doesn’t have to be edgy or progressive to be worthwhile; there is value in artists consolidating the territory that boundary-pushers have gained. Mainstream  – in other words, popular – music has provided the base from which innovators have pushed on. I’m all for mainstream, as you can see. Except Strauss waltzes, which happily are easily avoided.

Now, where was I?

We probably all have lessons learnt too late to avoid consequences which are sad or bad. If we are lucky, however, we get another crack at it and can avoid repeating those consequences. As a wise man once said: people who don’t learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat it. Or something like that, anyway. I have many such lessons, first among which is not to ignore warnings. When friends and family say that I need to make adjustments in my life and seek assistance – for my own good or theirs – I know now to listen to them. I’m not going to go into particulars: my own troubles are not so very shameful but, frankly, need more explanation than I can bear to give or than I could expect to interest anybody who isn’t under an obligation to care. Suffice to say that I have been tempted to crawl back into the dark room that I wrote about a while ago, only not on this occasion in a sort of post-adolescent ecstasy of self-discovery. But that would be hardly be sensible, and unlike Bob Seger, I’m glad I know now what I didn’t know then. And I hope I can make more use of it than the caged bird in Aesop’s fable.

Do you know that line in Against the Wind – “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then”? According to Seger, he wasn’t sure that the line made sense, but was persuaded to leave it in and it became a sort of mantra for the regrets of lost naïveté. It’s an understandable if indulgent perspective, but personally I’m no longer young enough to want to be naïve. I’ve always looked forward to the onset of wisdom – it is perhaps inevitable that it never arrives quite in time to be of greatest use. So when tribulation arrives that I don’t feel equipped to manage, the discomfort of not knowing which way to turn eventually becomes like flailing around in quicksand. The older one gets the more disempowering that can be.

Enough of that, however. Getting older is generally not so bad. It doesn’t dull the senses – not the ones that matter, anyway. We’re still the same emotional beings, just as capable of love, distress, anger and joy. Perhaps the excitement of novelty gives way somewhat to the relish of memory but as The Beautiful South point out in Prettiest Eyes, that’s  not incompatible with having and sharing finer feelings. The song is slightly macabre in parts, but in a significant year for the very lovely Mrs simonssometimessays and me, it expresses well what I feel and what I will be looking forward to after sixty 25th of Decembers, a decade or so down the line.


Another lesson that came too late: the discovery of Pluto. I wondered what Holst felt, more than 20 years after the premiere of The Planets, on learning that his orchestral suite was astronomically incomplete? His outward reaction was to ignore it, as he felt that The Planets was already a distraction from his other works. Inwardly he must have been well and truly hacked off. And I suspect that his spirit will have been floating wherever spirits float loudly shouting “I told you so” when Pluto was declassified as a planet in 2006. Indeed, and in particular, I think that he will have been blowing an ethereal raspberry in the direction of Colin Matthews, who in 2000 wrote a movement to append to The Planets entitled Pluto, The Renewer. Listen carefully, now, because Pluto is a long way away, and most of this piece is very quiet…

Thank you for your attention. I hope you learnt something today.




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  1. Hey, good to see/read you blogging! I leave your post, as always, educated, but this time also with a lovely image of Holst giving everyone two fingers. Thank you!

  2. Thank you very much!
    Now that Pluto has joined the ranks of the “dwarf planets” there’s room for a whole new oeuvre, but that may be for one of these new-fangled jazz composers…

  3. Wish I could write like that. 🙂 Beautiful. (And you do have to be over 50 to appreciate the full impact of it all.)

  4. Well, I’m nearly there! Thank you for you kind comment. Simon

  5. Anne-Marie Hetherington permalink

    Good one. I am pretty sure it was the Seekers we heard back in the mists of time. Glad to see you back in the land of the blogger…

  6. I’ll take that at face value – not as a euphemism! Thank you. S

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