I’ve written before how a certain song can encapsulate a time and set of emotions so completely that to listen to it is akin to time travel. And now I find myself doing it again as my moogie has thrown up a surprise and suddenly I’ve been whirled back to another time and a younger, fresher, softer self. It’s a song I used to sing to myself under my breath when I was working in a fish and chip shop in Lancaster.
A second-year university student; one life and one set of certainties had evaporated when Jay (fiancé number one) and I split up at the end of the first year. No more returning to the Isle as a farmer’s wife once I graduated. No more plowing a straight and narrow furrow through life, no more protection; now I was alone and free. And with freedom comes fear.
Staring out through the condensation on the glass into a dark, wet and cold northern night and feeling lonely, I’d hum and gently rock, trying to make sense of what was going on. I’d fallen in love with – as a different song would have it – someone I shouldn’t have. And that person (or was it persons?) had introduced me to a new world and new songs. And so it was that, as I was waiting for the pubs to close and the late-night regulars to come in asking for chips and their sausages to be well and truly battered, I would hum this song to myself.
Him: [lecherously] “Hello, chip girl!”
Me: [with added sauce] “Would that be an extra-large sausage, sir?”
Staying up north to work at the chip shop while everyone else left town for Easter, working with the Greek Cypriots who had a drug addict black-sheep adopted daughter and a doted upon natural (their word) son, teaching myself to throw up the midnight pie-and-chip suppers, writing essays and, much more importantly, poems for assessment, breaking down: all of this is wrapped up in those plaintive words — I expected summer to be there in the morning.
That year did more to shape who I am now than the previous 19, and sometimes I wonder if I’m on the same precipice now. Except I’m not writing poetry these days and fiancé number two didn’t leave, but became a husband. Perhaps I’ll never be a farmer’s wife or an author; perhaps my life will be one long crushing compromise; perhaps I’ll always need the happy pills; perhaps I’ll drown in Cote du Rhône; perhaps I just need to change the record.