I know, it looks like a solecism, but it isn't: in this case, it could legitimately be someone else's if I'd left out the word 'My'. (A cricketer or some other sportsman published a book with that title a few years ago - that is definitely a solecism. And I bet that's the first time the word 'solecism' has been used three times in the first paragraph of a blog post, without any of us knowing quite what it means.)
Anyway, the point is, I've completed, or abandoned, the first draft of what, in a New Year's Resolution, I jokingly called that. It isn't, of course: if anything, it's a memoir of my early life, filtered through the element of music, and focussed on the band I eventually belonged to, Dave Anthony's Moods.
I'd like to publish this somehow, not for commercial gain or anything, just so that anyone who wants to can have a look. But I don't know how to do that. Anybody know how? It's 150 pages long, so the blog isn't really an option.
In the meantime, here are the first two paragraphs:
I first became aware of my musical talent quite late on. At school, I tended to be timid (my first name, which I hated) so other boys who weren’t so timid or shy took the lead. Although I had heard, loved, and even listened to music since my ears opened (my father singing me to sleep with ‘A Long Way to Tipperary’ and ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’; I think those songs will be my last memory traces to erase themselves), the idea that boys like us could actually do it ourselves never occurred to me, until we heard Lonnie Donegan, Johnnie Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys, the Vipers, Nancy Whiskey. Mike Caddy, Tony Barney and Pete Jennions were those leading, unshy boys who naturally formed skiffle groups. I was given the washboard, and begged my mother for thimbles (the washboard itself acquired from a long gone ironmongers in Southbourne Grove). But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back.
Let’s imagine Bournemouth in the post-war years, before the end of rationing. We lived in Southbourne. From the cliffs, the vista was defined by Hengistbury Head, then the distant Isle of Wight (the Polar Bear) to the left, Old Harry Rocks with the lights of Swanage beyond, on a clear night, twenty miles to the right, and in between, the vast expanse of blue or grey or silver sea, and the endless horizon. The cliffs, the beach with its alarmingly seasonal changes of sand levels, the tarmac prom, the barnacle-crusted seaweed-tangled breakwaters, the green paint-flaking beach-hut, the icy finger-whitening water – this was where I felt best. Once the barbed wire had been cleared from the beach (placed there just in case Hitler decided that Bournemouth was going to be one of his Normandy beaches; both piers were blown up for similar reasons: we weren’t going to let him dock his pleasure-boats here either, were we?), the family beach-hut was quickly salvaged, painted and reinstated by my energetic father, who had doubtless learned this principle of continual recovery, repair and restitution from his years in the Merchant Navy between the wars. I can’t be precise about the dates of ‘Tipperary’ and ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’. My father was away for most of the war, in Malvern and other places, on important scientific business which the family believed to have been to do with the development of radar, though he never talked about it, having presumably signed the Official Secrets Act. Come to think of it, he never talked about anything much until his very late years, preferring to retreat to his workshop, where he mended things, did obscure works of electronics, and crafted exquisite pieces of woodwork and furniture. But on home visits, he sang me to sleep with these songs, I think, before I could walk properly. There were others – ‘Waltzing Matilda’, ‘My Darling Clementine’, even Leadbelly’s ‘Good Night Irene’ – these melodies and lyrical stories plunged into my psyche at a very early age. I remember his pride in me when he came back on a visit and I had mastered the use of a wheelbarrow (I was four); at six, I helped him shift the sand from the road to the back garden when he single-handedly built the new garage at the side of 37 (which still stands). But after he came home for good, he never sang to me again.