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IN A HALF-GHOST WORLD...

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

As usual at weekends, Emi and I travelled to Wakefield to visit my mother. She will be 91 years old next month. She is frail but as sharp as a knife mentally. Can't get my head around the fact that she was only 20 years old when I was born, way back in 1948.


As I've mentioned so often in this journal, time plays strange tricks with our perception of events and their sequence. In the essential core of me, I'm still a wide-eyed kid of the 1950s, dreaming science fiction dreams, lost in a magical realm of wonder and imagination.


Another part of me exists outside of time, somehow impervious to circumstance and the cultural signifiers of any era. It's as if I'm floating above it all, looking down and acknowledging all the changes but not, ultimately, bound or chained by them. Free and yet, paradoxically, kind of tethered at the same time. In this lies a great mystery I suspect.


My weekly visits to Wakefield, the place of my birth, inevitably spark memories. The city has changed, in some ways dramatically from the haunts of my youth. Many of the old buildings which deserved to be preserved have been demolished and replaced by typically banal contemporary architecture, buildings that say absolutely nothing about the city's history or heritage. Like so many other places, it has become a victim of indifferent and ignorant planning departments. Once thriving and colourful outdoor market places have been replaced by identikit shopping malls, whilst the thriving high street has also declined dramatically, like most high streets all over this country.


What strikes me most is that when driving through the town I am confronted with locations which, superficially look similar to the historic city I grew up in, and yet there are peculiar, unwelcome, invasions, twists and gaps in its core fabric. It appears as if it's a dream, a dream where the details are awry, blurred, out of kilter, twisted into some weird semblance of the familiar. It appears as a kind of ghost town, or a film set that isn't quite real or accurate, and I have to superimpose upon it the visual and emotional memory of what it once was.


No one is against progress, but history should not be sacrificed to blandness and uniformity. The past is as important as the future and a balance needs to be struck.


I've been an enthusiastic 'futurist' for many years, but I also am an advocate of the preservation of those foundations on which the future is built. In this age of immediately dismissible cultural information, we need to protect our heritage.


How does all the above feed into my musical life? Well, those who know will, know....







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© Bill Nelson 2020

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