The Thaw and Alton Ellis, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard’

Trying not to fill too many of this month’s output with stuff that’s appeared around here before, so going to borrow from my college course this time. We had to write a short ‘character without words’ piece recently, based on watching a couple have a conversation through a café window. We had to rely on body language alone to explain what was happening, and this was my effort.

The Thaw, by Alyson

Waiting for the bus in the biting cold, I spot a young couple seated by the window in a nearby café. Rivulets of condensation run down the glass, blurring the scene, but I am transfixed.

The boy sits bolt upright like an angry meerkat, his canvas satchel slung over his shoulder, but the girl is hunched over the table with her head in her hands. I can tell from the rise and fall of her shoulders that she is sobbing, but he remains immobile, his eyes fixed on the doorway that leads out onto the pavement. His badly bleached and tousled hair contrasts wildly with her long dark braids, but they are both from the same tribe, dressed alike in jeans, ribbed sweater, and ethnic scarf. Her earrings are large silver hoops threaded with beads. In his right lobe, he wears a red stud.

Moments later the girl sits up and becomes animated. She tries to reach out for his hand across the wooden table, but to no avail. Her mascara has started to run down her pale cheeks, but she lets it happen. Still the boy sits immobile.

Someone comes along to clear their empty mugs, but obviously thinks better of it and leaves them be.

The girl starts waving her hands in front of his eyes, but he barely blinks and continues to focus on the pale blue doorway. She slumps back in her chair and reaches for a napkin. Dabbing her eyes, and then her cheeks, she appears to recover slightly although her face is still awash with sadness. The boy loosens slightly and turns to face her. He too seems to have shed tears.

Eventually the boy takes off his satchel and slowly heads to the counter. He returns with another two mugs and he sets them down on the table. This time he lets her hold his hand, but still no words are spoken. They sit like this for some time then the girl picks up her large mug and drinks. When she lowers it, a big blob of milky foam rests on her nose. The boy tries to fight it, I can tell, but then he starts to laugh. The girl smiles. I smile. My bus arrives at the stop.

The obvious song choice to accompany this piece for me was Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, but it has featured here before, when sung by both Neil Sedaka and The Partridge Family. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to find another song of the same name (almost), this time by an artist I had never heard of before called Alton Ellis, a Jamaican singer-songwriter. He died in 2008 but it seems he was one of the innovators of rocksteady and was given the informal title, ‘Godfather of Rocksteady’. Alton was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame in 2006.

Breaking Up Is Hard by Alton Ellis:


How beautiful is that? Breaking up is hard, of that there is no doubt, however the couple in my story fortunately seemed to have made up by the end of it. Looking through a café window we can’t be sure, but when the narrator gets on the bus, that milky blob of foam has her reassured.

Until next time….

Breaking Up (aka Breaking Up Is Hard) Lyrics
(Song by Alton Ellis)

When you turned
And you walked through that door
It hurt me so
Said it hurt me so

When you looked at me
And you said goodbye
You made me cry
Said you made me cry

So listen to me
While I say to you
Breaking up, is hard to do
Breaking up, is hard to do

I cannot let you go now
For my love is strong
My love, is so strong
My love, is so strong

The Arctic Monkeys, Bob Marley and “Come Together”

Wasn’t going to mention the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election in America as have tried to stay away from controversial topics since starting the blog. I seem to be one of the few in my little circle who hasn’t however, so here goes. (The caveat of course being that the following is just my opinion.)

I was not in the slightest surprised that the election went Trump’s way, just as I was not surprised in June, with our referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU, that the Leave camp won.

First of all polls don’t work – Too many people are not keen to share what they know could be construed as unpopular views, albeit ones they hold, thus we end up with the Shy Tory, the Shy Brexiteer and now it seems the Shy Trump-Supporter. Yet how campaigns are run is dictated by polls so here’s an idea for future elections and referendums – Forget what the pollsters say and LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE.

Talking of the people, here in the UK it became clear after our referendum just how divided we were as a nation and now it appears the US has gone the same way. The urban areas appear in one colour whereas the mainly rural and traditionally industrial areas appear in another colour (Scotland and N. Ireland being the exceptions but then we have our own devolved parliament/assembly). Whoever has been in charge for the last couple of decades hasn’t been LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE. Just as in the UK after Brexit, I don’t believe for a minute that the vast number of Trump voters in the US agree with his very extreme views but if they would rather go down that route than vote for the alternative, there seems to be a very big problem.

So here we are in a state of limbo in the UK awaiting the outcome of the machinations that will decide whether we go down the hard or soft Brexit route. In the US they will find out what kind of President Donald J will become – The businessman-cum-reality television star will set up home in The White House! In an era of 24-hour Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reality TV, Netflix, X-Box, iPhones, iTunes, Soundbites, Drive-through McDonalds, Zero-hour contracts, Temporary contracts, Student loans, Crippling house prices, Aging populations, Sink Estates, Clothing at throwaway prices – none of it surprises me. As for Mr Trump, I am trusting there are enough checks and balances built into the constitution of the United States to save anything truly dire happening.

But this is supposed to be a music blog and these are the two songs that have come to mind to compliment this post. The first is One Love by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Marley wrote this song during the turmoil of the Jamaican elections of December 1976. Marley had supported Michael Manley when he won the election in 1972 and became Prime Minister of Jamaica, but four years later, although Marley was by far the most popular person in Jamaica, he refused to take a political stance as the country was divided between Manley’s People’s National Party and the Jamaican Labour Party. It was very violent time in the country, and Marley tried to stay politically neutral while offering peace and shelter however he could – His home was kind of a safehouse for people with nowhere to go.

One Love by Bob Marley & the Wailers:

This second one is Come Together, a song written by John Lennon but performed here by the Arctic Monkeys for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. It was ironically inspired by a political campaign, when Timothy Leary stood against Ronald Reagan for Governor of California. Although Lennon freely admitted that the lyrics are gobbledygook, I love this performance, and the sentiment of “coming together”.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I get that there are a lot of forgotten people out there who feel as if they have been hung out to dry by successive governments, but the challenges are just so insurmountable that we seem to be reaching a tipping point whereby life in the western world will just carry on getting a little harder every year.

I do fear for my daughter and her generation who were sold the dream of going to University in order to get a good job, but in reality, for the majority, the only jobs they get are in retail or hospitality (we have the most highly qualified army of baristas in history). They are generally heavily in debt due to student loans and if they ever do manage to buy property, they will just make it onto the first rung of the ladder, the only rung they will ever be able to afford. We have middle-aged parents in large houses with offspring raising a family in converted basements for goodness sake. We will of course try our best to help, and those little cartoons you see showing recent retirees “spending the kids inheritance” don’t amuse me – The majority will need you, and your cash, for some time to come.

I do try to keep my posts light and amusing and realise that this one hasn’t been at all. Felt it needed to be said however as this is primarily a web-log (with music thrown in). Hopefully back to business as usual soon!

One Love Lyrics
(Song by Bob Marley)

One Love!
One Heart!
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin’
(One Love! );
Hear the children cryin’
(One Heart! ),
Sayin’: give thanks and praise
To the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin’: let’s get together
And feel all right.
Wo wo-wo wo-wo!

Let them all pass all their dirty
Remarks (One Love! );
There is one question
I’d really love to ask (One Heart! ):
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just
To save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart?
One Heart!
What about?
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning
(One Love! );
So shall it be in the end
(One Heart! ),
All right!
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together
And feel all right.
One more thing!

Let’s get together to fight
This Holy Armagiddyon (One Love! ),
So when the Man comes there will be no,
No doom (One Song! ).
Have pity on those whose
Chances grows t’inner;
There ain’t no hiding place
From the Father of Creation.

Sayin’: One Love!
What about the One Heart?
(One Heart! )
What about the?
Let’s get together and feel all right.
I’m pleadin’ to mankind!
(One Love! );
Oh, Lord!
(One Heart)
Wo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord
And I will feel all right;
Let’s get together and feel all right.