Remembering the soundtrack of youth

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When wooden horses were in use, I would have built one and left it for you.

Sixteen words, which constitute the only love letter I ever wrote, scrawled to fit the space on a bus ticket.

It was a dark night but I’d been light-fingered, and she knew it.

British Sea Power, she asked. Well, obviously.

Do You Like Rock Music? The name of their third album, released 2008. Less and less is my answer.

There was a man with a fiddle in this pub we discovered, near where we live, back when we were new here. Not rock but it rocked. The sound crashed around the furniture like a stormy sea, and the floor became hot coals. I fell in love with real ale that night.

Outside the rain whipped down from the seven hills and when we crossed the Don the wind blew through our hair and bones. It didn’t matter. We had stew and Hendo’s waiting at home.

Do You Like Rock Music?

It made the top 10, if I remember right. It caused some controversy too. It advocated immigrations, see.

It also pays tribute to Big Daddy but the newspaper articles didn’t mention that. Eighties wrestlers aren’t as scary as foreigners.

Sport though? People like that.

The doctor liked his cricket. He sat on my parents couch cheering India against England for 20 minutes before he even took my temperature. But it made me feel better, him just being there, this bloke who had travelled a continent and a half from a town on the banks of the Ganges, just to look after me.

I was sad, years later, when he died. I was sad when they said, actually, it turns out he should never have been here. Papers and passports don’t give a person his place in the world.

Immigration? It’s a minefield if you’re not armed with a chorus.

I met them at last - British Sea Power - in an Irish Centre in Leeds. Outside you were never more than a street from being mugged but inside the carpets were red and thick, and the old Yorkshire ladies sat where they’d been playing bingo since 1977.

The one who wrote the songs didn’t like journalists. He didn’t like questions about wooden horses and immigration.

It means what it means, he said. And sometimes it means nothing at all. It means something to me, I thought.

It didn’t matter. He was all sound bites and sloganeering, just like a politician, just like some middle manager. And yet the sounds he creates still soundtrack my days. For it was right what he said - words and phrases just fill time, boxes and space.