Scary stories from a lovely place
Music has always been significant in my life. But only particular music and very particular musicians.
I am, however, not musical at all. As a child I briefly had piano lessons. Then flute. Then guitar. I have no natural talent and zero aptitude for all that practising that adults say you have to do when you learn an instrument. But I have always liked listening to it and finding my own experiences and attitudes within the lyrics and beat.
At times when life has felt the lowest it has been music that has played a vital role in distracting me from that stuff. I have songs that represent different high school woes and others that mirror serious adult troubles. I remember a particularly dark couple of weeks back in 2008 when I listened to the one Thom Yorke song about a thousand times. Over and over. Loud or soft. While doing nothing or while busy. I wrote out the lyrics over and over and stared at the words while I heard their sounds.
When I first met Stephen in early 2008 it quickly became apparent that we didn’t share a love for many of the same bands. He hadn’t even heard of You am I and didn’t have strong feelings about the order in which the Radiohead albums should be appreciated or whether Calexico were better than Iron and Wine. At first I thought this might be a problem, but then all the wonderful things about Stephen became apparent and I was willing to overlook this. Slowly though I realised that we did share some similarities. I liked U2. I knew all the words to With or Without You and that Sunday Bloody Sunday was about something real and important. Then one day while rowing a boat on a lake in a lovely park in Johannesburg he sang me an Irish ballad. After that I was willing to overlook any fickle problems and happily rushed to the altar.
Then, a few years later, and after Stephen had dutifully listened his way through my iTunes library and learned to appreciate Weezer and Gomez, we moved to Australia and basically started life together again. We had a weird first year here. Silas learned to walk and didn’t want to stop discovering everything he possible could. Oisín was born a funny, dark little boy and didn’t sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time until a couple of years later. I remembered all the annoying things about Australia and pined for the simplicity of life in our little community in Johannesburg. Stephen fumbled his way through the over-bureacracy that is Australia’s administration – the RTA, Centrelink, the tax office.
Then early in 2012 Stephen commented on the results of Triple J’s Hottest 100. He was very disappointed that Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ was number 1 and that with all the great music in Australia we hadn’t voted for an Australian artist. I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t know who Macklemore was or when Stephen had become a die-hard JJJ fan or what was going on with my non-music savvy husband.
Now, tonight, on Stephen’s tradie site radio, we have listened to the Triple J concert celebrating their 40 years of airtime. We have voted in this year’s JJJ Hottest 100. Stephen has once again surprised me with his knowledge of music that is currently popular. I am way behind. He knows all the words to Briggs and who Siya is and what songs made each artist famous.
Stephen’s love for Triple J is a great emblem of this man’s efforts to make Australia his home with his rugged little family, despite his sadness for leaving South Africa and Ireland. And he still listens to U2. And Freshlyground.