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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006
    Sandra met Raymond at the Race Relations
    Much to the dismay of her family and friends
    The love that we have is so important

    The time that it takes to make a baby
    Can be the time it takes to make a cup of tea
    The love that we have is so important

    He still goes dancing and she still cuts hair
    They put the baby into Council care
    The love that we have is so important

    - sang Billy Bragg on This Guitar Says Sorry. That was 22 years ago. When I was a young 22. And when I heard it then I guess I laughed at the comedy last line, a satire, it seems, on something we so easily cheapen. I've lived a whole life more since then, and the music has stayed with me. Grown on me.

    Revisiting this miniature work of understated genius today*, there's so much more to this repeated final line. In the first verse it challenges family racism; in the final verse it asks a big question of those whose love has soured. In the middle verse Bill is juxtaposing something profound with something mundane - but which is the profound act and which the mundane, or are they interchangeable in their relative significance, the baby-making and the tea-making? Both might be considered acts of love; and the love that we have is so important.

    On my birthday I'm inclined towards melancholy. In my 44 years I have made plenty of cups of tea but no babies. When I first heard Brewing Up with Billy Bragg I was a geeky guy surrounded by stacks of cassettes and books. Now, all that has changed around me is the technology. I haven't yet outgrown my youthful posturing; but my t-shirts fit far tighter these days. Part of me thinks: I'm sinking into decrepitude, kill me now. Another thinks I'm only really beginning to understand the stuff I've filled my life with all this time. The love that we have is so important: that's no throwaway line. But what does it mean? What could it mean?

    [*thanks for the box set, Linda & Pete]