More Weird Smells and John Dowland

The past is obviously creeping up on me.  I was at the Wigmore Hall the other evening (brilliant concert of John Dowland etc., sung by Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Kenny on theorbo) when  at the end he sang as an encore “Now oh, now I needs must part” and again that sudden lurch into childhood.

There used to be a radio programme broadcast by the BBC on Fridays for schools and one Friday they played this song.  I had never heard anything quite like it and I have always remembered it and it always, always brings back that specific time. We had just moved to this country and I was at my new primary school and having quite a tough time.  The other thing about those days was learning about the Dawn Chorus from my Dad and waking up early in the mornings especially to hear it.  I think those two things just seemed really English and quite magical to my eight-year-old ears.  The Dowland expresses everything about separation, grief and loss.

Reading was very Dickensian in those days and I remember trudging along the main street, there was fog and everything was dripping.  All the buildings seemed to be built of Victorian red brick and there was a really strange smell in the air.  When I asked my father what it was it turned out to be the Courage brewery on brewing day.

Beer, Dowland the the Dawn Chorus – all very curious and exotic to a child from Hong Kong.


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