Friday, June 22, 2007

Balls and songs

It's an in-between week in Cambridge for most of us. The marking is finally over, even the MPhil marking and viva voce examinations, and now there is a brief hiatus while marks are collated before a final examiners' meeting early next week. The students are busy get rained on at May Balls (it's Corpus Christi's Ball tonight and the forecast doesn't look good, unfortunately) and by Monday only the graduands will still be around for a final week before they too disappear and leave the colleges to be occupied by conferences and summer schools.

But that leaves a bit of time for some pleasant events, like the garden parties which a lot of colleges throw for those people who've taught for them during the year. I was at Fitzwilliam College yesterday, which is particularly nice because there are often lots of kids there. My two have acquired a taste for smoked salmon through events such as these, which is not a bad thing in itself, I suppose, but does tend to increase our grocery bill at home if ever they get their way.

On the way to Fitz yesterday I was walking along listening to some music and came across one of my favourite ever songs. It's so good that I think everyone ought to listen to it regularly. It's a song that has the odd ability to make me both sad and somehow elated at the same time. It's not beautifully sung, but the singing is heartfelt. The voice cracks and strains at the words but is carried along nevertheless by the backing. Here are the lyrics to the first verse:
I dreamt we were standing
By the banks of the Thames
Where the cold grey waters ripple
In the misty morning light
Held a match to your cigarette
Watched the smoke curl in the mist
Your eyes, blue as the ocean between us
Smiling at me.
You can hear a bit of it here. It is Misty morning, Albert bridge by the Pogues from the 1989 album Peace and Love and was written by the group's banjo player, Jem Finer. And I reckon it should be exhibit A in any case for including the group, particularly, Shane MacGowan (official website here) in the list of great songwriters of the past twenty-five years. (Exhibit B is of course Fairytale of New York...) He is also an Olympic-standard drinker, and there is presumably some kind of link between that and the songwriting (or at least with his distinctive voice). On this record, though, the combination is perfect.

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