Sunday was empty. Sunday in Scotland was always gray and cold and huddled at home over a two-bar electric fire—even in summer—watching its plastic coal-fire display, lit by orange bulbs.
Sunday was empty. The shops were shut, the sky rubbed out, the streets dead. The TV flickered black-and-white war films, Jack Hawkins in a duffle coat and binoculars, watching-out for German U-boats, mouthing orders as Édith Piaf sang “La vie en Rose.”
The best thing about Sunday was Édith Piaf. That was the day my father commandeered the gramophone, and played records by Johnny Cash, Tijuana Sound of Brass, and the “Little Sparrow.” Sunday was Édith Piaf.
Sunday was also church, and we always walked the two-miles there-and-back, my brother, my mother, my father and me. Past the prison, under the canal and railway bridge, the abattoir with its strange sweet smell and Judas donkey eating grass in the field outside its closed, spiked gates. The gray row of pre-fab houses along towards a 1950’s built primary school, where I sat Monday-to-Friday dreaming of being grown-up, breathing-in the smell of the brewery over-the-road, with its malting floors, where you could see through small hand-sized windows, men hunched spreading grain.
The church was fake Gothic, built by subscription at the turn of the century, framed by yellow privet, and a green-painted fence. Inside, a high-ceiling, soot-colored columns, and a beautiful stained glass window full of misery and suffering. The chairs were hardwood, wicker seats, hard lino-covered kneelers. I could never understand why anyone came to this cold, grim place to celebrate god. I thought at least god might have central heating or a few easy chairs, or maybe even a proper hi-fi with stereo speakers. I thought I understood why when I overheard people talking about something that had happened, something described as bad thing.
In the priest house, a man had shot and killed his wife, before shooting himself in the head. The priest had been offering marriage guidance counseling.
I though about this, and when the priest talked about my immortal soul I pictured the white mushroom-shaped buttons on my mother’s white coat, ridged, and whorled like fingerprints.
Yes, Sunday was empty. But Sunday was also Édith Piaf, and walking home again, away from church, I’d sing her songs that made my Sunday bearable.
I don’t think slowing-down a classic Édith Piaf track adds much. If you like the kick, fine. But at least it gives the opportunity to play (once again) some of those tracks that warmed my childhood.
More from the Little Sparrow, after the jump…