What do they know of England who only England know?
My first Reflection of 2021 offered that it, and those for the rest of the year, would have a different spin. That spin was to be music. Each week my Reflection would revolve around a piece of music, a song or some such. Something that has personal meaning. Or comes to mind because of an event. Or it might be a new musical discovery.
I realise I have drifted away from that intent. All my Reflections include music, but over the year, the thrust has become my words with the music then added to ‘fit’ those words.
So, I intend to go back to the original intent for the few weeks still left of this year. I will choose the music first and then wrap my words around that. It will be a mini–Desert Island Discs. To kick things off, I go back to 1973 and the album ‘Holland’. Given that name as the album’s recording took place in the Netherlands. While The Beach Boys surfing music never really did it for me ‘Holland’ was a much more eclectic mix of tracks. Indeed, some now say that ‘Holland’ was the last great Beach Boys album.
I bought the album in the NAAFI in RAF Wildenrath. At that time, my brother and sister were both married and both in the Army and based at Wildenrath. My visit to them was my first foreign foray (and my last holiday with my parents). I recall how much I both looked forward to, and then very much enjoyed, the adventure.
It began with an overnight train from Sunderland to London’s King Cross. Not a sleeper. There wasn’t the money for that. Then it was my first journey on the London Underground (how many hundreds have I taken since that day) from Kings Cross to Victoria and a train from there to Gatwick.
We flew (another first for me) on a Boeing 727 operated by the now demised Dan-Air (colloquially known as Dan Dare) airline. I recall in the days leading up to the flight of having some apprehension. I fell for the old line from my sister that flying was “just like sitting in a bus”. It’s from the same family of lines used by people to describe the food you may not have eaten before. That “it tastes like chicken”. Invariably it doesn’t. And flying is not like being on any bus in which I’ve travelled. Anyway, that early experience did not put me off.
My next memory was the check by an Army doctor that my smallpox ‘injection’ had taken. At the time, there was a smallpox scare across Europe so one needed an inoculation against it to enter what was then West Germany. The ‘bedside manner’ of the doctor, as he closely examined the large blister that had formed on my upper arm (that was a good sign), still lives with me. I guess it was one of the reasons that I realised a life in the services was not for me.
The adventure didn’t stop there. I saw my first Hawker Harrier aircraft, and more than that, saw its vertical take-off. Less exciting for me was watching Sunderland win the FA Cup. I was pleased they won even though I had mixed feelings before the match. My local northeast loyalty won out, given Sunderland were playing the much-disliked Leeds. I recall watching the game amidst a room full of soldiers, and my brother-in-law, an avid Sunderland supporter, was understandably overjoyed.
I much enjoyed my visits to various places both in West Germany and the Netherlands while learning a little about their diverse cultures. I’ve travelled to both Germany and the Netherlands many times since that first visit, for both business and pleasure. However, that first experience of a foreign shore still stays with me.
So back to ‘Holland’, and I’ve chosen this track from the album. Something I found engaging from my first listening. It’s ‘The Beaks of Eagles’ that features the poem of that name by Robinson Jeffers intertwined between music and song.