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I know where I’m going

June 26, 2014

You wouldn’t know it, to judge from my sporadic behaviour on these pages in recent months, but I know where I’m going. Put it down to a variety of factors: a change in direction, the unexpected frenzy of having more leisure (and therefore more people expecting me to spend it on them), and the World Cup to worry abo… No: strike that last one.

I know where I’m going is a traditional Scottish folk song. The link above is to Cerys Mathews’ live performance of it – and she does it with the conviction of someone with their roots in folk music. I don’t know if that’s true or not – but she sings it like it is.

It’s also the song used to give the title to a Powell and Pressburger movie, a beautifully filmed and characteristically engrossing ballad set around a Scottish island. Anything by that duo is worth a look  (I remember saying so before in relation to their richly-layered portrait of Australia – They’re a Weird Mob) – so please do, if for nothing more than the unmistakeable silk-and-gravel voice of Roger Livesey as the young Laird.

It was pure coincidence that just a few days after I first saw I know where I’m going that I first met some in-laws* who were singing the song, and an instant connection was made. Powell and Pressburger gave us movies that connect across eras, despite coming from an age when actors believed that humour was conveyed by uttering the word “Ha!” as if in imitation of a basset hound in a hurry.

The range of the two Ps’ output was wide indeed. Take The Tales of Hoffmann, for instance: a cinematic re-working of Offenbach’s** opera as a tale within a tale. It includes the lovely Barcarolle – here sung by Katherine Ciesinski and the incomparable Jessye Norman.

Anyway – I still know where I’m going. And although Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere has very appropriate opening lyrics, that isn’t where I’m going.

No: I’m going to get some breakfast.

*  Technically, they are my brother’s in-laws, but why ruin the narrative? If you consider Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope, their characters were always referring to their brothers’ wives as “sister”, their wives’ brothers as “brother”, and so on. How much simpler that was. When did we get so bothered by the precision? I have a fear that it comes from a misplaced belief that other people regard the details of our personal lives as essential knowledge.

**  Yes the one who wrote the music for the Can-Can. But if he really thought it would end up as performed by Bad Manners I am sure he would have scratched the whole project.

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