I was on a workshop once in the beautiful highlands of Scotland when Boo Hewerdine said that the best piece of songwriting advice he was ever given was by a guy in Nashville who had told him, “The longer you hold a chord, the bigger it sounds”.
I’ve told numerous people since the beginning of lockdown that I can’t understand the media’s fascination with telling us all how to use our free time. Despite claiming not to have noticed much of an increase I have been writing a new bunch of songs, probably for the first time in four or five years.
Something is shifting.
Earlier in the week my son and I tried to fix the swingball after the ball had come off the string for the umpteenth time.
“You shouldn’t hit it so hard,” I tell him, realising that hitting it as hard as you can is most of the fun.
We puzzle over the best strategy for a few minutes until we decide to adapt another tennis ball with the aid of a Stanley knife.
A few months ago I can’t imagine my son having been interested in playing swingball, even less so helping me to fix it.
I’ve missed those days when he was around all the time. They disappeared so fast.
There’s something surprisingly uplifting about cutting holes in tennis balls with your grown-up children.
Pleased with our inventiveness we pick up the garish yellow plastic bats and start to hit the ball, gently at first, building to full-bodied blows back and forth until the ball shoots off at speed over the fence into next doors garden.
We go in for dinner.
Later in the week I’m walking with my daughter through the woods.
“Did you remember to bring your secateurs?” She asks.
I hold them aloft, triumphant.
We wander through the valley while she points out the most cloud-like bursts of elderflower and I snip them off and put them into my bag ready to make cordial.
There is a rumble of thunder and the sky darkens.
“I think we’re going to get wet,” I say.
“I hope so,” she says.
She always wanted to go out into the rain when she was a little girl, preferably without a coat on. She would dance around laughing, face upturned, eyes squinting to keep the worst of the water out. Coming back indoors she’d grin from ear to ear dripping onto the carpet.
The rain comes, we pull our insubstantial sweatshirt hoods up over our heads. I look at her and she’s smiling.
Usually, as I write this, I’d listen to a playlist but today I’m listening to one album from start to finish which happens to be about love, empathy, and the meaning of home.
To an untrained eye there hasn’t been much happening around here this week, but we’ve all been holding the chord and, the longer we do, the bigger it sounds.