All I want is a barrel of you’
All this week the creatives have been stepping up to honour Joni Mitchell, and most particularly her studio album, Blue. Fifty years old and still ripping our hearts out, this outstanding song collection has a particular resonance. Like many people of my vintage, I like these songs very much. Unlike them, however, I never listened to them in my youth.
It’s a bit pathetic to admit this, but I can’t help thinking that my ignorance of Ms Mitchell and her prodigious talent during my formative years is another indication of my shortcomings. Perhaps if I had been listening to Joni’s ‘unresolved emotionality’ and learning to strum her chords while penning my own verses I’d be a different person now. I might even have a small volume of poetry, or a heartwarming work of creative genius, in my locker.
While the novelists, poets and songwriters queued up to pay tribute to Blue with eloquent and poignant reminiscences of passionate youthful affairs, citing Joni’s part in their subsequent glittering careers, they chose their favourite tracks from the album. And you can’t have a celebration of Blue without wondering at this intoxicating conceit:
‘I. Could drink. A case of you…and still be on my feet, I would still be on my feet.’
However I cannot sing those bittersweet lines without triggering memories of a rather less edifying version of the same idea:
‘I want more, give me more, all I want is a barrel of you,’ as warbled by the inimitable Buster Bloodvessel (aka Douglas Trendle), front man of Bad Manners. It is on a cassette tape from the days when my friend Mary and I used to take it in turns to record the Radio 1 chart show on a Sunday evening, create a new cardboard insert of the tape box with crayons and gift them to each other.
Somehow this descent into a barrel of Special Brew instead of sticking with Joni’s refined vintage speaks volumes about my inner artist. It is the very definition of bathos, with Joni and her real followers being the sublime, and Buster and me stuck with ridiculous.
Aside from beating myself up over my lowbrow musical heritage, I’ve been taking the high road this month. To celebrate the end of her finals, my daughter and I went for a very long cycle ride, with camping, in the Peak District. We met in Sheffield, where I’d been a university student in the 1980s. It is a very changed city, but still a hilly one. We spent two nights in our little tents, brewing tea in my Kelly kettle and eating quantities of peanut butter and chocolate. We wrote down our private thoughts in our little notebooks as the sun set over the White Peak landscape. I suppose most parents look at their offspring and see a better version of the young adult they once were. I can bet that my accomplished daughter’s poetry is untroubled by Bad Manners or the 21st century equivalent. Meeting her in the city where I had been an undergraduate drove home both the distance between us, and the flashes of young Ronnie I see in her mannerisms and preoccupations. And the peanut butter addiction is clearly in the genes, along with the uncooperative thick, red hair.
The languishing, unseasonably cold and wet May was seen off by a flaming June, and a combination of restlessness, continuing injury and a huge surge of carpe diem catapulted me into indulging in a series of minibreaks. Nothing involving passports and health spas, of course – I’m a gran on a budget – but still hugely enjoyable. There was a trip to the seaside to house-sit for a sister, then a train ride to Cromer with the old man to celebrate his birthday and our 32nd wedding anniversary. We had our customary row over a rather heavy pub dinner and chose not to speak to each other for the ensuing 18 hours, but at least I had a great book to read and my little navel-gazing notebook to record all his failings. Notebook nearly finished now.
After that, there was the Peak District, where the hill climbs on my pannier-laden Felicity Kendall bike nearly sent me into cardiac arrest. And I don’t think the resulting arse ache will earn me rear of the year., unlike Ms Kendall.
My final minibreak was that trip to Lincolnshire I was planning last post, with my running buddy to visit another mutual running buddy, late of this parish and still a pretty fleet veteran athlete for our club, Kent AC. She had a ten-mile race on the day we left, and let us know later she won her age-group and was third woman overall. Be still my inner green-eyed monster.
Nine weeks without running has left me with Buster Bloodvessel levels of fitness, but I am finally back training again. So it is with some creativity and the wisdom of a chagrined gran that I return to a training programme of my own device. My stated aim is to nail that perfect distance: the 5k. There is no reason I cannot come within a minute of the time I managed in the summer of 2015. I will never surpass it, but it floats there in my sights. I will rise. I have a new notebook.