Then and Now

1994 (we think)

Dad can’t quite believe it when he sees them.

We are – I think – just walking up the crest of a small hill, on top of a cliff, when he sees them. It’s dusk, and the air is that blue-ish purple it seems only to be in July, during the summer holidays, with my family. The ground is spongy and yields strangely underfoot and Dad reaches out a hand to steady me as I stumble over the sandy grasses.

Well,” Dad says, looking down, to the bottom of the cliff, and then at me. Music is playing, down at ground level, beyond us.

“What?” I say, about nine years old, and unconcerned with my father’s hobbies.

“That,” Dad says, pointing down at the ground as a band strum a song, “is my all-time favourite band. James.”

The air seems to shimmer with the sounds. I’ve never heard music like it. Not boy bands or novelty acts or The Spice Girls, but true, proper music. An acoustic guitar. The beat as the drums kick in; like optimism in music form. The shooting-star twang of that first, clean note of an electric guitar.

“You need to hear Sit Down,” Dad says. “It’s the perfect song.” He has begun teaching me about music, recently. Trying to wean me away from Boyzone and towards Bob Dylan, David Gray, some rap.

The lead singer’s voice fills the summer air around us. It’s pure and loud. Effortless.

We find a wide, flat rock. And, from there, drinking two Cokes amongst the stiff, coastal grasses, totally alone, we watch the most perfect concert, seemingly, just for us.



We almost miss it. My train is late. The motorway is shut. We have had no dinner. Dad’s hands look older, on the steering wheel, as he frustratedly tries to follow my haphazard directions.

But now we are here, in the stalls, drinking cokes. It’s hot, and our coats are on the chairs in front of us. James walk on, Tim Booth wearing wide-leg trousers and a trendy coat with its collar up. “He looks nothing like I thought,” I say.

“Don’t you remember?” Dad says, turning to me in surprise.

“I remember. But he’s different, now,” I say. Dad’s forehead lines catch the spotlights as the auditorium dims around us. They open with a new song, a song I don’t yet know. I lean into the darkness, against my dad. The view isn’t as good this time, but the rest is just the same.



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