Melancholy and chicken kebabs

Melancholy. What a word. I was discussing its beauty with Judith, a lurker on this blog, this morning. So beautifully… poised, it whispers sweetly of the warm darkness you find deep within a slough of despond. I have recently discovered some new melancholy music (it’s new to me, folks, ok?) in Quasi and Ray LaMontagne. The latter’s album ‘Till the sun turns black’, as if that wasn’t mournful genius enough by itself, includes songs with lines such as:

“I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters”

Gorgeous. Then there’s Quasi.

“Life is full life is grey:
At its best it’s just OK.
But I’m happy to report
Life is also short.”

Came across Quasi on Cully’s iPod. Cully is a maverick musician/artist who works as an arts staff worker for UCCF. Cully’s iPod is an unplumbed depth of exotic-sounding bands like the Violent Femmes. Exotic, and unheard of, to a boy with a sheltered Church of Ireland upbringing. Anyway, Cully does a good line in quirky songs himself, and played a great set at a gig a few Wednesdays ago. The gig was held in order to raise funds for UCCF’s CU Leaders Training weekend (CULT, as we like to call it) which took place last weekend. I was doing sound at both the fundraising gig and the weekend itself, which is how I came to be in charge of Cully’s iPod. So now you know.

After that gig, I dropped sound kit off at various locations, including my church (where I set the alarm off at about 11.45pm – apologies to any local residents who may be reading), and then stopped off for a chicken kebab, having gone to the gig straight from work and therefore being reasonably peckish at this point. On exiting the kebab emporium at about 12.15am, I weighed up my options. The thing about kebabs is, they leave a bit of a pong (on your clothes, breath, and in the room where you’ve eaten them), often only really noticeable the morning after. So I did the sensible thing and headed down to my mum’s. Mum, of course, was awake. With me in the kitchen and her tucked up in bed, she insisted on holding an inter-room conversation.

– “Did you have a good night?”
– “What?”

– “Did you have a good night?”
– “Yes.”

– “Are you having your supper?”
– “What?”

– “Are you having your supper?”
– “Yes.”

– “Would you not rather eat in the living room?”

Now that is a superfluous and irrelevant question to be asking at 12.25am. No. I feel bad enough for stinking out your kitchen never mind your living room.

– “No, I’m fine here, thanks.”

One Saturday, not long after this, I popped into my mum’s for lunch. No mention was made of the foul-smelling kitchen. Parents can be so forgiving at times. Just as well, really.

Over lunch we discussed funeral plans, cremations and choice of songs for same. Dad fixed his gaze on somewhere unspecifically distant.

– “I would like ‘Crown Him with many Crowns’, and ‘the Irish one’.

– “Whiskey in the Jar?” I volunteered tentatively, but I think he meant ‘Be thou my vision’.

In other sad news, Wiseman has got a girlfriend. What’s more, another friend, Jamie, has just got engaged. I began to wonder if I’m the only sensible/stubborn one left.

Then I remembered DC, and smiled. A cursory glance at him and I feel reassured that I won’t be alone on the singles shelf for some time yet.

21 thoughts on “Melancholy and chicken kebabs”

  1. Alright. Hold the phone.

    Too much information in one blog for me to deal with at 5.47am.

    First off Jamie’s engaged? Which Jamie? Jamie – Lord of the Manor – Jamie? To whom (to who? whom?) And Wiseman has a girlfriend? I need details (Wiseman get a blog!) and Cully wouldn’t happen to be David McCulloch would it?

    All my world is colliding. And why are you picking funeral songs – listening to melancholic songs isn’t, you know, affecting you is it? Don’t go anywhere just yet.

  2. Good blog – glad to see you took our topical advice….is the cricket going to remain unmentioned??

    Mark – nice one!

  3. The easy solution to the shelf?…. ask her out! Don’t you have a choice of 2? Pick one and go for it.

  4. Oh happy day! Guess the Wiseman fan club, NA, can officially close its doors (ah, he never really needed us, anyway). All this talk of melancholy and kababs brings Rumi to mind: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense. Kind of like this comment.

  5. ah, Whiskey in the Jar – takes me back to my folk band days 😉

    Good post Andrew but I must admit I’m slightly more interested in the anonymous question: “Don’t you have a choice of 2? Pick one and go for it.”

    This would make for some very interesting reading, care to expand on this?

    Back to the actual post of yours:
    Were you discussing the beauty of Melancholy itself or the beauty of the word?

  6. okay, I have taken a while to get over the reading of this most excellent post, Mr Quinn. Further hampered by the comments (2, eh? Do you have a stick with which to defend yourself as you may need one soon, once word of your impending marriage gets out, those silent watchers will be coming for you, be ready. That’s all I’m saying about that).

    Anyway, what struck me about your post was that I had been thinking about the melancholy of (european?) music while traveling recently. I was listening to some music from various Pacific Islands and you know what, it was all really happy. Not in a Euro-pap made-of-plastic way, but in a real, genuine, we’re happy and hope you are too kind of way.

    I wondered, therefore, if the proportion of melancholy in a country’s music was linked by some mathematically measurable ratio.

    Is it related to the amount of sun we have (or don’t?). Or is just that we’re all to prebeterian and a bit glum.

    Okay, that’s probably enough for now, I’ll have given people plenty opportunity to take offence.

    Peace out, ya’ll.


  7. Voluntary indulgence in melancholia is all very well, but might I suggest that you put on some Beach Boys and open the curtains once in a while? 😉

  8. Portland07

    Hello! Welcome to the commenting anarchy that is my blog.

    So, can I just clarify: are you the Wiseman Fan Club (North America), the ‘anon’ that seems to think I’ve got “a choice of 2”, or another ‘anon’ altogether…?

    Duggles, I find opening the curtains an over-rated experience. That goes for the Beach Boys too.

    Kenny, I do find the word itself beautiful, although part of its attraction can perhaps be attributed to the brooding magnificence of the realisation. Hope that clears that up.

    Weir, you raise an interesting point. Perhaps our degree of melancholia is linked to how ‘advanced’ our society is. That would explain why I didn’t hear much in the way of sombre music when I was in Australia

  9. I’m coming to this a bit late, not realising there was another posting. Jen tipped me off, particularly on the less than flattering reference I seem to have merited. Mind you, I had hoped that the start of the cricket world cup might result in a cricket-oriented blog.
    Anyway, perhaps our degree of melancholy is linked to a subconscious absorption of some of the hopelessness inherent in a post-Christian society. Perhaps we can discuss this on our mutual shelf, Andrew, although if various comments are to be believed you might not be on it for much longer 🙂
    And thanks to the dc fan club, whoever you might be!

  10. aka the anon of the now defunct Wiseman FC, NA. All the more time now to devote to other good works. (Commenting, anarchy – both equal good times, no?)

    Do believe Weir is on to something re degree of melancholy of music : where music originates. Esp country music, where it seems like the most melancholy of melancholy ‘country’ (old, not new) songs/lyrics seem to come from the most depressed areas of the southern states. Have you heard Hank Williams’ “I’ll Be A Bachelor ‘Till I Die”? Just asking.

    Btw, having a ‘choice of 2’ is impressive – as is the apparent collective interest in hearing you elaborate on that particular topic.

  11. Just a thought: Do those discovering melancholia naturally sink into a depressive state or is it only those already prone to misery and/or for whom the topic is particularly pertinent? In other words is it safe to follow the fashion in this instance? Do those writing melancholy music write as a form of self expression, to share their misery with the world or do they do it because they enjoy it? I once was required to write a song to a ‘blues theme’ and not feeling particularly depressed at the time picked my misfortunes fairly randomly and was no more sad by the time I had finished. Maybe worth the risk then. And maybe nothing to do with the weather. Or the misery of the nation

    On another note, may I join you on your mutual shelf? – the conversation appears to be much more interesting than on mine!

  12. Hmm, I think it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a spot of melancholia without it significantly affecting one’s outlook. Although those who enjoy melancholy songs probably have a relatively cloudy outlook on life anyway. Like most things, should be safe enough in moderation 🙂

    As for your application to join our shelf, I will have to discuss the matter with DC, although I don’t foresee a problem – he’s a very welcoming soul and I can’t imagine him running an exclusive shelf. Although you might need to provide your name first [sigh] … even a pretend one’s better than nothing

  13. Am most impressed (& totally lost) by all this deep chat. However, on the subject of melancholy, something on the bookshelf caught my eye – ‘Eeyore’s Little Book of Gloom’ (the best and worst of Eeyore’s melancholia.) He’s right up there with modern-day lyricists:
    ‘Even if you think you have nothing worth stealing…someone will come along and steal your tail.’ Profound.

  14. Eeyore new how to look on the bright side too!

    “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
    “So it is.”
    “And freezing.”
    “Is it?”
    “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

  15. oops, rather embarrassed with my typo there :[
    of course Eeyore knew; my fingers working faster than my brain there.

    oh well, may as well draw attention to it.

  16. DANG NABBIT!!!

    I thought you’d stopped posting and I hadn’t checked your site for ages and now I find all this stuff out.

    Thankfully Wiseman still emails me so I knew about his lass – but what’s this about your choice of 2?

    Look – Alison Mair and I had a bit of a (brief) conversation about you Bellevue boys as we strolled down Manly Beach last week…
    AQ – I’m not sure you don’t just want to have something to whinge about – and not having a wife is slightly better than whinging about your wife (because that’s just plain nasty)…

    Hope you’re travelling well anyway!

    PS “Whiskey in the Jar” made me laugh out loud. stop it.

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