Changing the world is the simple stuff

Jun 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Pop thinking

The Nore was at winter levels, its waters turned dark brown by the flood waters of Laois; inundations had created ponds and lakes in summer pastures. Puddles joined across the road, creating fords divided by lorries leaving great wakes of spray.

The match commentary was as grey as the weather; no bright spots were promised. Ireland reached half time only 1-0 down, but it was the sort of match in which they were lucky to get nil. The expert analysis would only be bleak and switching stations brought John Creedon’s programme.

Two songs from Kirsty McColl; Kirsty, the daughter of one of the greatest ever folk singers; Kirsty of the flaming red hair. Kirsty who needed no name and no connections to be recognized for her greatness, but who was all the more interesting for her background and her associations.

Two songs were played, the second Kirsty McColl’s rendion of Billy Bragg’s, ‘I’m not looking for a New England.’ Bragg’s lyrics   have a deep social realism:

I was 21 years when I wrote this song
I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long
People ask me when will I grow up to understand
Why the girls I knew at school are already pushing prams

I loved you then as I love you still
Though I put you on a pedestal you put me on the pill
I don’t feel bad about letting you go
I just feel sad about letting you know.

But, three decades ago, the song seemed disappointing. Just when it seemed there might be a step toward the radical politics espoused by Billy Bragg, just when it seemed that the twenty-one year old woman might take a feminist stance and tell her erstwhile partner he was superfluous to her needs, a human realism intrudes:

I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl?

Not looking for a new England? Wasn’t that what really mattered? Creating a new society where the old way of things would be superseded? What need to be concerned about him looking for another girl when a new social and political order was possible?

Of course, there was not going to be a New England; the era of Reagan and Thatcher was not the best time for political idealism. But perhaps Bragg is right, whatever the political climate, there comes a point when the private and the personal assume priority; when even the trivial and the irrelevant and the inconsequential can fill the perspective on the world.

Turning back to the match commentary, Spain scored a second goal. Game, set and match. The solstice next week and hardly a clear evening this summer. Flood water pulled the car to the left.  Thursday evening and half a week’s work still to do. Changing the world would be easier than all the little stuff.




Leave a comment »

  1. I thought kirsty mcColl altered the original Bragg lyrics slightly?

  2. The lyrics were changed – in verse 4 I think.

  3. A tragic end to her life, taken too soon………

  4. I remember hearing the news – at Christmas 2000 – and feeling anger that the idiocy of someone in a speedboat could just take a life way in a single random moment.

Leave Comment