Photo: detail of glass vase taken at an odd angle
This post isn’t actually about the vase, though the photo is as close a visual cue as I can muster for the very odd thing that happened last week . It went like this.
When I wake in the night, I often plug in an ear bud and listen to Radio 4 Extra, the blessedly news-free zone that continuously recycles BBC broadcasts: drama, book readings, poetry, quizzes, whodunnit Miss Marples and Sherlock Holmes. Imagine the shock, then, when in the dark hours of Wednesday morning, I switch on and the voice that emerges on the digital air waves is mine. What on earth…?
The voice (familiar yet unfamiliar) speaks of seizing the day, of the fallacy of perfect landscapes whose ‘loss’ we continue to mourn. And accompanying the words, my unrehearsed, off-the-cuff words, are the heart-haunting strains of George Butterworth’s Rhapsody, the orchestral epilogue to his song cycles that had set some of A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad poems to music.
It is all about loss – Housman’s song-like stanzas of Shropshire’s young men going off to war, written in reaction to the Boer War; Butterworth’s later musical echo, premiered in 1913, followed by his own death on the Somme in 1916.
Listening in the small hours of 26 January 2022, I struggle to believe what I’m hearing. Soul Music is a popular Radio 4 series, featuring several people’s stories and responses to a particular piece of music. In June 2014 I’d taken part in the programme’s recording. It was a special production for Remembrance Sunday November 2014. Yet here I was, randomly switching on, in the middle of the night, eight years later, just at the moment when the repeat broadcast was being aired. Had I become my own oracle? Was some entity trying to tell me something?
As I said, I was only one of several contributors whose thoughts on Butterworth and Housman were used to create the programme. Shropshire broadcaster, Sybil Ruscoe, provided the narrative thread, telling of the loss of her young great uncle who, like Butterworth, had died on the Somme. So it was stranger still to next discover that it was my sound bites that had been edited to create a trailer for that week’s Soul Music reprise. Over the next couple of nights, there I was again, several times over – talking to me. As odd experiences go, and days later, it’s still hard to process.
P.S. The story of how I came to be involved with the programme in the first place, my words being recorded by producer Maggie Ayre out in a Shropshire wheat field on Wenlock Edge can be found here. It was all down to her reading a post I’d done on Butterworth and landscape.
Some of you may be able download the programme here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04nrw25
Square Odds This month Becky, Doyenne of Squares, wants our header photos to feature all manner of oddities and oddnesses – however they come so long as they’re square.