Further to my earlier post about the mystery whistler, I saw him again today – this time cycling very slowly up the Brampton Valley Way (a disused railway line that used to lead (very usefully for me) to Northampton). Not whistling this time, but with a look of ineffable melancholy on his face which, looking at it again, reminded me not so much of Richard Harris but an elongated, fairground mirror, version of one of the Dubliners. Wearing, too, the same black suit and white shirt – the uniform of the kind of Irishman who used to frequent the pubs of Camden Town when I first lived in that vicinity in the seventies. I’d guess that he might be a traveller, returning to one of the sites on the outskirts of our town.
Coincidentally I actually watched most of the final of Britain’s Got Talent (the TV show) last night and had my first sight of Susan Boyle. The impression I had of her (from reading the papers) was that she was a homely woman with a “beautiful voice” – by which I assumed that she sounded a bit like Mariah Carey, or possibly Katherine Jenkins – and the surprise of her was in this (alleged) incongruity. Having seen and heard her I found the reality more rich and strange – in spite of the fact that she was singing a showtune of some sort her voice had an eerie, keening quality that suggested something of the Old Weird Britain (or the Old Weird Ireland). If she reminded me of anyone it was Sinead O’Connor, and if I had to select a song for her to sing it would be “I am stretched on your grave (and will lie there forever”).
In the end though this sprite was vanquished by what I can’t help seeing as the establishment candidates – a multiracial street dance troupe called (what else?) Diversity. At the conclusion, Boyle, having made what sounded like a well-rehearsed statement that the best act had won, started to behave a little unpredictably and even, as they say inappropriately – hitching her skirt up a little further than the authorities would have liked – and seemed to be escorted off the stage by – no doubt kindly- minders.
Our masters (or possibly ourselves), it seems, cannot bear very much of some kinds of reality.
All this reminded me too of an episode of the X Factor I saw where some Irish funeral singers auditioned – their voices weren’t beautiful in the way that Boyle’s is, but the same keening quality was there. The panel looked as though they’d seen a pair of ghosts, or at any rate something that shouldn’t be allowed to exist in their shiny, perpetually present world.
(Wonder if that’s on YouTube?).