London has always been a place that has weighed heavy in my imagination. My grandmother had a great little collection of classic movies that included many depictions of this foggy, immense city that seemed like a cartoon where wormholes opened onto strange scenes and characters. Further along in my childhood I became infatuated with sporting events (again thanks to my lovely grandmother!) such as Wimbledon and the Lord’s cricket Test match, awake at all hours listening to the radio describe events in a land full of tradition and history. Then, as I entered out of my youth, I discovered pop music. More specifically, the wonderfully eclectic and diverse British version that worked in madcap concepts and inventive soundscapes. I was extremely partial to songs that told of this wildly diverse yet historically rich city that was founded on a river that many artists seemed drawn to. Couple this with the great propagandist of British culture, the BBC, and you get a kid who longed to discover this world outside his little city in North Queensland.
I wasn’t alone in this obsession and fortunately life connected me to a woman who had the same love for this city across the sea. We shared so many of the same character traits and bonded over many of the same interests, including a love for British TV shows, history and pop music. Many of our early weekends together were spent watching Dr Who or Sherlock and scouring the record shops for CDs that seemed mostly British in proportion. I like to think that we are a bit more interesting than just being limited to these interests, but it is true that we spent a fair chunk of our time escaping our immediate cares and worries (and around this period there was plenty) to the next episode or newly found soundtrack from this now familiar land. So it was no surprise that we decided to use London as the destination for our honeymoon.
I remember walking down the Tottenham Court Road shortly after arriving and us looking at the many shop windows contemplating what it would be like to live here on a permanent basis. At the time this thought seemed impossible. We were both so young and naïve, lacking in confidence of our own abilities and personality. This world was such a scary proposition and our life back home was comfortable, it is so crazy to look back on that time now and realise how young we were. Barely into our 20s and with no real idea on the machinations of life or formalised philosophies and beliefs apart from the ones we grew up with, we forged ahead with our life together in a haze of love, hot chips and TV shows. The memories of our trip to the big smoke became pure nostalgia and the dream of moving away to our fantasy land a distant notion in the back of our minds.
It’s amazing how formative and life-changing your early adult life can be. This is shown in the careers of many artists whose work is a constant evolution of ideas and a shedding of personas almost on a yearly basis. David Bowie is a great example of this, developing many of his great characters and albums within a decade. The Beatles went from ‘Love Me Do’ to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ within five years! It is true that youth can be wasted on the young but my goodness has there been some people who have grasped that fervour for change and discovery. Our household also went through a transformative period as well. Each year seemed to bring a new phase of development to our lives and we began to shed our fears and insecurities. This period wasn’t formatted to a Whig telling of history, it wasn’t always an upward trajectory. It wasn’t always pleasant either, we both went through the furnace together and in our own private thoughts and experiences. The third caveat I keep realising is that this period of transformation is most likely far from over, and I for one hope that the ending is a long way off. It seems to be a bit self-congratulatory and smug to be writing this down now but I think we have changed for the better. We both still have so many downfalls between us and many areas of improvement ahead but we aren’t the same kids that we started out as. More importantly we have been bought closer together through all of this.
There are many reasons why we now find ourselves in London so very far away from our roots, surety and comforts. Partly it’s because of our great interest in this fair city as previously mentioned. I also think that in a way it was a natural extension of our goals and desires, personalities and abilities. But another great motivator was escape which is where the germ of today’s song comes into view (finally you might say). As I’ve mentioned, we went through so much during the last five or so years and there were a few years there that were particularly hellish. We had tragedy and crazy weather events, physical and mental ailments, experienced death for the first time, and discovered that it isn’t always smooth sailing when dealing with friends and family. I could never convincingly say that we ran away or shrugged off our responsibilities from what are fairly natural occurrences in life; we both feel the great pull of responsibility and consider the fulfillment of that as vital to our existence. I think the escapism was motivated more by a growing sense of self and adventure, a hope to extend ourselves, than a tangible wish to run away. I don’t think running away from your problems is ever that great of an idea anyway and a basis for massive life decisions.
Nevertheless, the dream of London became greater and we found ourselves longing for rainy days (this longing has now passed!) and the city life. It’s funny looking back on it now but at the time I started jotting down all these plans I had and describing experiences that I’ve never lived through as lyrics in the hopes that we’d fulfil them if they were put out into the ether. I promise I’ve never read ‘The Secret’! Sure, I’ve added a line here or there and the meaning of the song has changed in subtle ways but the lyrics have remained fairly true to the original version. I’ve also noticed that the negatives and downside of living in a city take as much precedence as the positive experiences hoped for. Maybe I was completing a mental note of the pros and cons when thinking about this song. That sounds about right knowing my personality!
This song has reappeared in my conscious again as we approach our one-year anniversary of being in the city. The planning process has fired up again as we consider the future and the last year of our working visas. This has been an almost impossible task as every day brings a new sense of comfort and ‘home’ to our lives, and the amazing joy and opportunity we’ve experienced has clouded our judgement somewhat. There are a lot of tough decisions ahead for us and this next year is shaping up as another transformative period. I hope that we remain unafraid to dream and leave ourselves open to new adventures and encounters no matter where that may be.
Notes: I am finding that a lot of my melodies seem to be variants on the same theme as I write them down for the blog. Maybe I’m just being my own harshest critic but I am becoming increasingly aware (not that I wasn’t before) of my limitations and am working my hardest to change this. I have also just listed all the verses together because I’m not completely sold on where (or if) the chorus and bridge will ultimately fit in. I’d love to hear of any tips or constructive criticisms you may have from your own experiences and of course my virtual door is always open if anyone out there would to collaborate in any form. Please also check my Soundcloud page out! I’m trying to update it regularly with different musical sketches that I’m working on and I’d love your feedback. Thanks for reading this to the end, talk soon!
1. This town is beautiful in melancholy when the
fog surrounds the vast suburban sky.
Let’s walk down to the river in the evening,
let’s sit awhile and joke away our day.
2. Don’t get homesick now we’ve finally grasped the calling
that we’ve dreamed about for half our adult lives.
It’s amazing how wear down in the chaos.
It’s amazing how we long for anything.
3. The daily grind has only now just reached crescendo.
My legs are sore, your mind is shutting down.
Our journeys home are filled with sighs and weary silence;
you hold my hand and take away the pain.
4. We can wander into Camden on a Friday
with nothing more than adventure in our hearts.
Or we could curl up with some pizza and a movie.
No one would fault us if we fall asleep unwashed.
5. The air we breathe is full of heavy toxins
and soot that’s caked these streets of ancient days.
We get caught up in the rush to find fulfilment
but we can’t admit that something is amiss.
6. Our Heath is lit with colours so refreshing,
we lack for nothing more than time to spare.
Yes, it’s busy and the midge’s are overwhelming
but there’s nowhere than with you I’d rather be.
E F#m A A/C#
C. Let’s go down, down, down to the river
D F#m E
where worries and cares don’t exist.
F#m E A E
We’ll throw them away in glorious abandon.
D E F#m
It will never be better than this.
Bm7 E A
Never be better than this.
B. We will turn things around at the start of the summer
A F#m E D
up on Primrose Hill, nothing else could be better.
We will turn things around in the bleak midwinter
A F#m E D
just off Holloway Road, let’s be homesick forever.