I went to bed at 4AM, I couldn’t sleep on my right side because when I lay my head on the pillow my neck hurt into my shoulder, so I swapped sides of the bed and turned onto my left side but that was just weird. But I think I fell asleep because I woke up and looked at the clock, it was 5.40AM, Olivia was still not in bed so I moved myself back to the original position and in a drowsy haze, I fell asleep again. I had to be up at 10.45AM for my swimming appointment. I wanted to be there early to make sure all the paperwork was in order. So I dragged myself out of bed, had some cereal and a cup of tea, and prepared myself to leave. This was weird, I had to put on my swimmers under my shorts, I wasn’t allowed to get changed into them there. It felt strange walking up to the leisure centre not just because of the awkward feeling of the swimmers but because I was actually going there and it was the first time in 6 months but it was a beautiful day and my mind drifted towards the fluffy clouds and the large blocks of blue sky.
Inside the leisure centre, it was the first day that the pool was open for 6 months. There weren’t many people either in the pool or in the reception area, but then I was a little early. I talked to some members of staff and waited and then I was given the green light and in I went. I had to go to the ‘blue lockers’ after first taking off my shoes and socks. I got changed quickly because I didn’t have that long and made my way towards the water. And then I was in, what a feeling! Immersing yourself in water, that strange creature, heavy and yet it runs through your fingers, a wet street to a deep ocean, the realm of marine animals that live inside it like we live in the air, they don’t think about it, like we don’t think about it, gills, lungs, strange breathing apparatus for our specific environments. Liquid, we drink it, we swim in it, we’re made of it, we sail on it, we surf on it, we explore in it, it falls from the sky. Sometimes it’s calm, sometimes it’s angry whether it be in the form of sea, river or rain and whatever face it chooses it’s all beautiful, sparkling life.
So I was in, I was actually in the pool, a short stretch before I began, looking at the clock, it was just before midday and I was off. I had till ten to one and I had no idea if I would be able to even do this it’d been so long. There were three lanes, fast, medium and slow, you had to choose and I chose the middle. There was another lady in there with me who was a little slower but she sped up when she saw me catching her up and once or twice she moved over, not like the man with the caravan. Another two people came into the lane during the period but it was very easy to swim at your pace. My arms felt heavy, spiralling into the water, freestyle, a consistent circle of strokes, pushing the water behind me, head buried in the water, breathing to one side, legs kicking, trying to remember the technique I’d been taught, stretching my arms forward, reaching out with the tips of my fingers, keeping my body square and straight cutting through the water, if I was 25 I’d be fast, but I’m 62 so I’m slow, no longer streamlined, my body no longer lithe and bendy, more a block with arms and legs, like a van versus a sports car.
I soon realised that I was getting into a groove, or was I just happy to be in there, an observer might think what’s that sack of skin doing in the water but in my mind, I was Mark Spitz. At lap 38 I really was in a groove and the arms were no longer heavy, windmilling with ease, cutting through the water like a life through Buddha. I hadn’t imagined I could swim my usual mile, 64 lengths and once I was in there I found out that I hadn’t completely forgotten how to swim, that I wasn’t going to die of a heart attack and I hoped that I might make 40 lengths. But I soon realised that if I kept up this pace, this rhythm, I may make 50 or perhaps a few more, short of that magic number ’64’ but still a grand effort. I glanced at the clock, I was in the fifties and I still had 15 minutes to go, could I possibly reach that unreachable target? I’d felt myself speed up as I got more tired, putting in a little more effort to fight the heavy arms. The lane was mine, I was alone and with just one objective, to reach 64! I was pushing, trying not to splash my hands onto the surface in a desperate bid to hit the magic number before the clock hit 50. I hit 60 with minutes to go and I knew I was going to make it, I was trying to calculate how long a length takes, taking into consideration my flagging body, but I still felt strong and instead of relaxing I sped up, swam as fast as I could like a bullet (ok, a dart), and I rammed the wall at the start and the finish, lap 64, I made it with two minutes to spare.
I thought I might do 30 or at least die trying, it’s been 6 months! I didn’t dream of making a mile. I took a shower, got half-dressed and walked out of the centre around the corner of the building near to what used to be the football pitch, all overgrown, except the goalmouth. I was thinking someone should have seeded the goalmouth. I put my bag down and brushed my hair in the sunlight. It was warm and the sun on my body felt wonderful. I threw my T-shirt over one shoulder and my bag over the other and walked through the glade at the back of the leisure centre and through to the houses. The sun was penetrating the trees and leaving patches of light on the earth, it was beautiful to see the patterns on the ground, flickering as the leaves gently swayed with the branches in the treetops. I said hello to a guy I didn’t know but who I always see because he has the corner house where the footpath connects to the glade that leads to the centre. I walked into town, put my T-shirt on before I hit the shops. I went to the bakers to get my pasty, I was ravenous. Amy apologised profusely for giving me the wrong time for the previous day. I headed to the studio where Olivia was waiting.
It was such a lovely day, we went down to look at the sea, there were strange boats in the bay and we sat and watched the people walk by with their dogs, all kinds of shapes and sizes (the dogs and the people). On the way down we took a picture in the park with the sunlight shining on an exotic tree. On the way back my body was asking me if we could please stop moving today. At the archive, I did some more record sorting and then had a long interesting sesh with Chris in New Jersey where we talked music, and music and music and music. We had spaghetti for dinner and watched the last episode of Humans (Season 2). I listened to Salim’s EP and then realised that my neck really hurt and it was making my head hurt and then I realised that the best thing about the swim was that it was loosening me up and the worst thing about the swim was that it was tightening me up. So I took two Ibuprofen and Olivia massaged my neck and pain, pain, pain. But I wrote all this somehow and later took two Paracetamol, changing up the pain killers. Let’s face it, my body will never forgive me for today.
Music today started with some Spotify surfing, I listened to Alanis Morissette’s new album Such Pretty Forks In The Road, optimistic, and it started well but I was disappointed and won’t buy it for the archive until I can find a second-hand copy in the coming months. It sounded more like pretty forks in the middle of the road. I pressed on Made For You on Spotify and Julian Cope, Kate Bush, The Frazier Chorus, The Waterboys, Bill Nelson and Phil Manzanera came up. What usually happens is one track comes up that makes you want to listen to a whole album but this time, no, so I wondered what new albums or reissues had come through the door and then I knew.
Neil Young’s Homegrown was released on June 19th 2020 but it was recorded between June 1974 and January 1975. It might have been released except the material was backing up and Tonight’s The Night recorded in 1973 was in the can and unreleased. This from Wikipedia:
It was so near to being released that a cover had been created. At the last moment, however, Young chose to drop Homegrown and release instead Tonight’s The Night, an unreleased album recorded in 1973. Young stated that he had a playback party for Homegrown and Tonight’s The Night happened to be on the same reel. He decided to release Tonight’s The Night after that listening because of “its overall strength in performance and feeling” and because Homegrown “was just a very down album”.
If you are a fan of the early to mid-seventies Neil Young this is for you – another snippet from Wikipedia:
Young has said that “Homegrown is the missing link between Harvest, Comes A Time, Old Ways and Harvest Moon”. The songs are quite personal and reveal much of his feelings on his failing relationship at the time with actress Carrie Snodgress. “It was a little too personal…it scared me”.
It’s been hyped up as a classic missing record but it’s no Harvest or After The Goldrush but still, great to hear some original material from then with the same vibe.
And then there’s Hitchhiker recorded on August 11th 1976, acoustic, and released on September 8th 2017. A lot of these songs found their way onto different albums in different mostly electric forms, including Rust Never Sleeps, American Stars ‘n Bars, Le Noise, Comes A Time and Hawks And Doves. Again, if you’re a fan of his mid-seventies acousticy side you have to have this but at the same time they’re interesting, sometimes great but unlikely to blow your mind like Harvest or After The Goldrush did.
But if you want to find a couple of early Neil Young records that are really great, go for Live At Massey Hall 1971 and Sugar Mountain, Live At Canterbury House in 1968. They both come with DVDs. Great acoustic performances that have all the magic you need.
Song Of The Day is Neil Young – Live In Concert 1971 (BBC):