BORROWED GROUND, my podcast short story for High Street Tales is now out in the world, and within it my apparently fairly spot-on imitation of Moira from the TV series Schitt’s Creek (Catherine O’Hara is Canadian, and I love her, so I will put my hands up and be okay with that).
And in honour of one of my story’s characters, the shuffling George Budd the piano tuner, I have made a playlist of songs on Spotify called High Street Tales Hastings.
My main character Jackie Brigham also plays piano, and an old Bluthner turns up throughout the story. I used to play piano, though can only remember one song by heart, which I still try to play badly.
So here we go.
First up, is Kenaston, by Chilly Gonzales.
When I was first offered the job to do this story, I had taken a bit of a break from writing. But I applied, largely because I had such amazing personal memories of the Trinity Triangle. And one of these was getting married – well, having the party – at the Printworks in Trinity Triangle. My husband and I walked down the aisle to this song, and it still makes my heart soar to hear it.
Oh, I love this song so much. So many have covered it, including a very young Stevie Wonder, which is also worth checking out. But this is pure joy and youth, and all that I wanted for my character Jackie Brigham. She hums this at the beginning of the story, with a skip in her step for each bouncy note.
This song feels to me as if it circles all round, slowly, like you are watching the stars, lying on a beach at night. It is soaked in that heart-bursting feeling of being young (or nostalgia for being young and having all that possible beauty and future lying ahead of you – take your pick!). I love Natasha Khan’s voice, and she’s a gorgeous pianist. I saw her play when she was first starting in Brighton, and she was just as good then.
‘Know the wolves that hunt you. In time, they will be the dogs that bring your slippers’… or ‘I’m listening to every little whisper in the distance singing hymns’… well. What a genius, in tone, lyrics, melody. I saw Kae perform a few years ago and it was pitch perfect and awe inspiring how they could stand on the stage and do an entire album of poems/songs from memory, not skipping a word, or a beat, and done with such love and urgency. Utterly beautiful writing that transcends time. Both these song poems circle ideas I had for Jackie, and the Trinity Triangle, about staying true to oneself, about the importance of having connections with people and with your own beliefs, and about having faith in people to find a way.
Love lost. Innocence held on to. The piano and the whistling here are childish on purpose… so many of the songs I listened to for inspiration are wilfully naive, and often have a really circular structure. This is what I was going for with the story as well, where things that happen or are noticed in the first section repeat themselves or are alluded to, or straight up return in physical form, like the Bible! I love the openly personal nature of the lyrics as well, and the humour. ‘If I’m a spinster for the rest of my life, my arms will keep me warm on cold and lonely nights.’ Also, Kimye Dawson is a force of nature.
I became obsessed with this song while I was researching for the story. I’d not heard of Becca Mancari before and heard it randomly on the radio. This song does something to me. The repeated mantra, ‘You’re never gonna track me down, no you’re never gonna find me out…’ is her answer to the first line of the song: ‘Letters in the mailbox, say I’m gonna hunt you down’. As a woman right now, and basically forever throughout time, her response is like a big ‘fuck you’ to all those ‘letters in the mailbox’, be they cat calls, harassment, supposedly innocent comments, less pay, more housework, all those and of course, less and worse. And I hope it came through in the story that this is what Jackie decides to do as well.
I was in the middle of writing the story over Christmas, and couldn’t help but put a bit of those feelings in there! When I saw the Ghosts Christmas special, I heard this song for the first time, played simply on the piano, and it made me cry. I wanted it to catch Jackie like this, too, and it certainly did!
I could lose myself in this playing endlessly on a loop – be warned, if you played it long enough, you might end up in a fugue state. The lagging beat and clapping take me somewhere else. It allowed me to get into Jackie’s head, and to imagine the Trinity Triangle at a time when, let’s be honest, none of us were going anywhere much during lockdown.
‘With your kiss, my life begins’… shivers all round. A true love song, and not just to a person, but to life, and to nature, and music, and freedom. Nina is all.
Hope you like the playlist. Will add more later!