Saturday, 15 October 2011

Not leaving twice, coming home twice

I was thinking about the fact that I'm leaving NZ next week, and that after originally planning to leave for good in June, I had actually moved my flight to October - but kept my plan to leave permanently. It was around May or June I think I realised I could stay and that I wanted to stay here in Wellington (the details and time stamps are probably in one of these messy anxious blog posts here).

But still, the concept of leaving stuck in my head. Then of course it occurred to me that I am leaving the UK as well, 4 weeks after I land. Both of these things are not only sad, they are meaningful - symptomatic of how uncertain my situation has been and still is, and that even temporary moves mean leaving things behind.

When I came over to NZ originally, and knew more about what I was doing on my return to the UK in 2009 than what the hell I was going to do in Wellington for 11 months, I had in my head the idea of signing off with the video for "London Calling". (Imaginative, because that's where I was going next. So so clever.)

London is apparently at the moment a wasteland of rioters and jobless hopelessness(-ess-ess), according to this year, so I'm not sure I'll be signing up to some box flat in Brixton or Highbury any time soon. But in melodramatic moments (much like this blog post) I've pondered about appropriate songs to leave on.

"Leave This Town" by the Levellers is a song that's stuck with me, being on the notable British mid-90s folk-rock-punk album "Zeitgeist". But while the sentiments are indeed about the need to move and move on, they are also primarily about being glad to go, being glad to leave some fictional grey and dismal town - i.e. far more appropriate for when I left Chelmsford, Essex* in the first place, than leaving vibrant and cultural Wellington. (In case it needs saying, I am never talking about my friends or family when I mention my dislike of Chelmsford or Essex.) I will have to move on from Wellington permanently at some point, and it's very unlikely that I will be glad to do so.

Anyway. This is all getting very tedious and dull isn't it?

The gist is: I realised that I am not leaving twice, I am coming home twice, which is something even fortunate people don't get to do. In setting up semi-permanent shop here in New Zealand, yet being denied residency (for now) by those cold vampires and call-centre morons in Immigration NZ, I can't say the word "home" without having to check myself - do I mean the UK? Or do I mean Wellington? The answer is both. The word has become as truly ambiguous for me as the word "can" (tin can? or I can I can't?) and other examples of appalling administrative laziness in the English language.

So here are 2 songs which come to mind for these coming weeks, which I am glad to share with you: "Welcome Home" by Scottish indie-rock band Idlewild, and "Welcome Home" by New Zealand singer/songwriter Dave Dobbyn.

I know that Kiwis will be facepalming right now, having probably heard this song X zillion times and probably thinking it's highly overrated and mediocre cheese. But I guarantee that my most of my friends in the UK, Europe, America and elsewhere will not have heard it, and while it's a little bit cheesy, I like it. Even if you aren't a Kiwi, and you don't get the notion of leaving somewhere (as many Kiwis do at some point or other) and knowing that your own country - whatever it is, and whatever it means, whichever peoples live there, a tiny pair of islands in the corner of the world - is waiting for you, and you don't get the line about a woman whose hands are trembling singing "haere mai", even if you don't get all of that, it's still a nice song.

The other song is less nostalgic but more personal to me, being by Idlewild, a band I grew up with and still love to this day. Singer & lyricist Roody Woomble has a wonderful way with words, poetic but simple and understandable, and while some die-hard early-years Idlewild fans might deride it as a pedestrian song on what is definitely not their best album, I really like it. It's simple and honest and happy, and that's what any welcome home should be.

So there we go. See you soon, and see you soon.

*Chelmsford has, according to my brief visits and my Facebook feed, improved a lot since I left. The cultural scene is more diverse and now visibly supported by the same borough council which once seemed to shit on live music. I'm not sure they've got rid of all the chavs, thugs, racists, homophobes and meatheads yet, but it does sound like there is more to occupy intelligent interesting people than there was.

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