Saturday, 10 January 2009

You talked of politics

It's almost 3am, we've guzzled three bottles of fairly good white wine (from my mother's belated Christmas present, arrived yesterday morning and cannibalised this evening) and TSB is asleep on the settee. I'm awake and in need of easy sentiment. ABBA ticks the boxes.

Actually, that's unfair. ABBA is not a band of cheap sentiment. It's all well-earned stuff, especially in my favourite period, Late ABBA, when it all turned wintry and Swedishly distant, melancholy.

One of my favourites:

Our Last Summer always makes me cry. In Mamma Mia (the stage play, not the film), it's the first of a triptych of sobbery - Slipping Through My Fingers then The Winner Takes It All - which invariably renders me a snivelling wreck. There's something about Our Last Summer that plucks my nostalgia strings in a particularly bittersweet manner. I think it may be partly because the events described in the song - a faintly romantic tourist's take on Paris - are doubly familiar to me: I remember having those experiences with my dad and my mother as well as, later, his second wife, my stepmother. And her children, one of whom was my best friend at school (which is how his mum and my dad first met). Paris is, for me, complicated.

Our Last Summer adds an extra layer of plangency in the musical, because it becomes a sort of gay swansong, the plaintive reminiscence of a boy who met a girl and, despite his natural inclinations, went with it. I can understand that. As a gay man who went through a really heartfelt period of trying very hard not to be gay (and falling in love with a woman - but not being sexually excited by her), something in the song strikes a chord with me. It's a kind of bittersweet appreciation of a perfect summer city and perfect company but everything being transient somehow. It couldn't last and you knew it couldn't last. It was wrong.

Lovely song. Colin Firth doesn't ruin it in the film version but the decision to place the song elsewhere in the score and open it up to all the male leads denudes it of intimacy somehow. I preferred it when it was about a one-to-one dialogue between two middle-aged people (one gay, one straight) about a past affection transmuted into enduring mutual fondness. I suppose it speaks to my own idealised relationship with one particular straight woman.

Hmm. And the "politics" bit of the title? I was going to write more about my work night out, but I feel a bit energy-sapped, still. Basically, an American colleague started opining on Palestinian "terrorism" and the rest of us slightly rounded on her, talking over each other about Israeli hypocrisy, controllingness, murder. Heavy conversation for a night out.

More to come there.

1 comment:

SubtleKnife said...

I'm in a similar position, having recently met a New Zealand Jew who self-identifies as right-wing but with whom I've had several interesting conversations on international relations in which we've found we agree on quite a lot. But I just can't get myself to sit down and write about it.