George and Ava
I Hate The Way I Love It
I drive all the back roads home, neither too fast nor too slowly. In an adequate fashion. Accompanied by a general metallic rattle. Only the tips of my fingers touch the wheel. I maintain a steady progress. I prod at the radio. Stations leak one into the other then fade to static. The hedgerows, this time of year, are hectic with growth; with birds, with bugs and blooms, with mice and rabbits. It takes a while to get home – on these roads it takes a while to get anywhere. I pass sheep and cattle and barns and fresh ploughed fields. I pass all the once open spaces that have now been put to work. When I get to the bottom of my hill I pass my neighbour’s house; I check to see if his car is parked next to his barn. It is. I pull over to the side and cross the yard to his house. I push open his door and call his name. He answers from the front room. By the time I walk the length of the hallway he’s put the kettle on. This is how I’ll spend the next hour: sipping tea, talking about the weather, discussing sport and mutual friends and cars and politics and his daughter and grandchild in Norwich. A not bright shadowed room, the backdoor often open, a fire in winter, the sound of sheep and passing trucks, a tin of biscuits, the TV mumbling.
At home, without thinking, letting my hand pick out the first record it comes to, I find myself holding I Hate The Way I Love It. I put it on the turntable. George and Ava. An awesome slice of southern regret. Restraint, remorse, guilt, acceptance, nonjudgement. George Soule and Ava Aldridge. Two giants of southern country soul. Two songwriters and singers who seem to be able to see around corners, who lay life bare, who never stop being honest. As George once told me: It ain’t wrong, it’s just life.
Tomorrow I’ll walk down the hill and stop in for a cup of tea. My neighbour called to say he’s got a new record to play me; Move That Body Over by George Lewis. When I walk I’ll stick close to the hedgerows, maybe catch a glimpse of a red legged partridge or a stoat. I’ll listen to the chaffinches and blackbirds. I’ll drag my finger tips through the tall grass. I’ll walk slowly. I might even sing a little – though not loud enough to disturb the wildlife.