Friday, 6 March 2009

Broken tracks of music for my dear Guardianista

I thought of you this morning when I was wrapping my lunch in clingfilm before heading over to school.

Your voice came in the kitchen window, from the pissing rain hitting the window.

It said, "Cling film? Have I taught you nothing?" and was accompanied with a very raised eyebrow.

And I thought of you yesterday when I was reading this article on education in the Guardian.

In the very heated comments section, someone used the word "Guardianista" as a term of abuse, in the same way that "socialist" is used as a term of abuse by certain sections of society in the US.

As if wanting equality over the right to prep your kid from age 4 for entry to an Oxbridge education is something really, really bad that only evil people do. But I digress.

I thought of you. A Guardianista. That's what you are.

When you were younger, you lived in a commune, had long hair and played the guitar.

Now, after the mother of your child tragically passed away from cancer, you live on your own with your teenage baby, who is of course no longer a baby, though you still ring her from work every morning to check that she's got up in time.

You are all middle-class with a doctorate, and you hold a respectable job in a respectable company (all Guardianistas must be respectable).

You bake your own bread. You have a pottery wheel in your garage. You recycle as if it were a religion, and hardly ever drive. You make slightly lame but very endearing art for people's wedding presents, though you sniff at the thought of marriage, saying you and your partner lived happily ever after without such a "borgeouis" institution to bind you in its shackles.

You still play the guitar, and you sing. Beautifully*. Of course, you have a radio voice. I love radio voices.

Once, you tried to learn how to knit. I think it failed disatrously, though you still have some of my size 8 knitting needles, if I remember correctly.

You would rather cut off a hand than vote Tory, though if it were on your daughter's life, you'd probably just about manage.

In short, you are a lovely, ex-hippie middle class, middle age, extremely handsome male specimen.

When I started out as a journalist, you were my mentor. I was terrified of you. In fact, everyone was terrified of you. You would snap at everyone, at all times, for no good reason. You had no patience for mediocrity. But you have mellowed over the five years we have known each other. At least a little..

You already had grey hair when we met, although you were not yet 50, and I think this gave you an extra scary air of authority. Not to mention you were just about the only person there with some actual broadcasting experience. You could write, you were uncompromising. I bet you have 50 unfinished novels in your bedroom drawer.

As we learned to know each other, we made the mentor thing into our private little joke. Every time something significant happened in my life, when I told you, you would exclaim: "But how could you not tell me this immediately? I'm your mentor, for God's sake!" Though clearly, being a good former hippie, you don't believe in one.

You thought I was talented. I believed you.

You were my office crush. In the way every schoolgirl has a crush on their father, and later a teacher, I had a crush on you, you were everything my own father wasn't, intelligent, well-read, understanding, fiercely idealist even as you approached 50. And, of course, you read the Guardian. I could tell you everything, and you would always know what to do.

You also mentored J. When J and I first got to know each other, and had hardly anything in common, you were an object of common affection, and you still are.

In fact, if it weren't for you, J and I might not be together. When our relationship was struggling through its breech birth, you sat me down and told me not to give up. "You are so young, you think it will never be too late, that you can make that move again, another time, that you want to wait. But it's not like that. It's now or never." I remember it clearly, and so I jumped, and I haven't regretted it since.

When I left the workplace, you wrote me a song, which can only be described as a love song, and you sang it on stage in front of all the people at my leaving do. It was a rewrite of a Dylan song, I think, and the lyrics said something about the light being taken away from you.

You held a speech too, thanking me for bringing light into the office. And I hope, your life. It was a weird and wonderful feeling, because I felt that you could see me, as I really am, stripped, even as I was sitting in front of that crowd unwrapping my leaving gifts and helplessly listening to your music.

Soon, your child will be out of school, and you will no longer be shackled to that meaningless job which I know grinds you down a little bit each year.

I hope you grow your hair and travel around the world with your guitar, writing songs that make women feel like a bright star shining against a very dark sky.


*If you want to imagine what this singing might sound like, think Giles in Buffy singing at that coffee place. In fact, I might have headlined this post "my dear Watcher".

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