Powder of the stars

by John Meed

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released January 12, 2006


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Track Name: Le train de grande vitesse
Heading cross the blue lagoon
Where the pink flamingos fly
Straight lines to the horizon
Rose wings against the sky
Across the plains where Hannibal
Led his elephants in line
Along the shores where Ulysses
Sailed through dawns as red as wine
And the train goes on for ever
From the frontier in the west
We sail like Argonauts
On the train de grande vitesse

Marcel looks out the window
Like he did in ’68
While others manned the barricades
All he did was hesitate
He drank the wine of revolution
On the streets of the Sorbonne
But now he drinks cold cynicism
And the students march alone
And the train goes on for ever
And though the wine is not the best
Marcel’s still breaking promises
On the train de grande vitesse

Juliette’s from Calabria
Though she now lives far from there
She talks to me of blue skies
In this second tongue we share
Her Romeo bakes pizzas
Underneath her balcony
While she looks out over slate-grey roofs
To these Elysian fields
And the train goes on for ever
From Valence to Bourg-en-Bresse
Romeo waits for Juliette
On the train de grande vitesse

From New York to Tokyo
From Waterloo to Avignon
Speed is everything today
And time waits for no-one
Like Juliette and Marcel
We all must travel on
While moss grows on the sidings
And the slow train is gone
And the train goes on for ever
And it’s anybody’s guess
Where we might be going
On the train de grande vitesse
Track Name: Rocks and stones
This song is for Charly
We meet up in this shingle beach each evening
And we talk and talk for hours
In this land of wonder
Where the sweet spring water trickles down into the sea
And pigeons drink from showers
Charly brings me rocks and stones he’s stolen from the ocean
They glitter in the evening light like pearls
And aren’t we just like rocks and stones, fashioned out of minerals
Rearranged by each wave that unfurls

Charly is an artist
Though his eyes are tired from trying to catch the setting sun
And his fingers hold no pastels
He still paints his pictures out of words
And the clouds race south across the sky and the sun sets
By the tour de la Massane
Charly says these rocks and stones are powder of the stars
Gold and silver in the hands of artists
And aren’t we just like rocks and stones, we fell to earth so long ago
To twinkle on this shore like stardust

And Charly tells the story
Of the local man who laid the dry stone terraces
Around these mountain vineyards
Who was woken by the crying of a misfit stone
So out of place that it could not hold the hillside
Charly says these rocks and stones have stories they would tell us
If we would only take the time to listen
But aren’t we just like rocks and stones, packed so tight yet so alone
We wait for someone to see us glisten
Track Name: Dreaming of Rio
She listens to the talking book in the fading light
She knows it almost by heart but the end still brings tears to her eyes
She doesn’t go out much these days, in fact hardly ever at all
And she moves around her apartment by numbers
She puts on the TV for the company
The flickering lights in the corner tell her the evening news
And the government minister for pensions tells her to tighten her belt
If we all pull together, he says, we will somehow get through

But she can see through him without even looking
She doesn’t need eyes to see
And she smiles, even though he’s not listening
She’s dreaming of Rio

When she was young she fell for a travelling salesman
Together they watched the fighter come down in flames on the edge of town
And after the war he taught her to samba
And he promised one day he would take her to Rio

He left her and he left their two daughters
He went back to travelling, she got on with life, and their paths never crossed again
The fifties brought washing machines and Elvis
And a two bedroom, two up, two down in the rain
Her children grew up and she went back to dancing
The bossa nova, the samba, she could do them with style
And now on the days when there’s no one to talk to
She closes her eyes on her sofa for a while
For she can go there without even travelling
She doesn’t need wings to fly
And she smiles, even though nobody’s listening. She’s dreaming of Rio
Track Name: Quand se levera le vent
La brise estivale caresse le rivage
Le papillon virevolte du lis à la rose
Les hirondelles sillonnent le ciel du sud
Mais, voleront-elles encore quand se lèvera le vent?

Amours d’antan, ces émois les plus doux au souvenir
Tu voudras croire à tout ce que l’amour prétend
Mais, quand viendra novembre, penseras-tu ainsi
Souriras-tu encore quand se lèvera le vent?

Le vent mauvais balayera tout sur sa route
Tu échoueras sur quelque rive inhospitalière
Tes espoirs, tes rêves d’enfant, toutes tes réussites
Tu les abondonneras, le vent te dira que tu n’en auras plus besoin.

Les plages tant desirées de mes souvenirs vivants
Disparaissent sans bruit avec la neige du Nord
Les jours d’été déclinent, leurs reflets s’évanouissent
Et je frémirai quand se lèvera le vent.
Track Name: The last bus to Leeds
The daffodils tumbling
Down the city walls
The sun on the minster
And the market stalls
On the jukebox Roberta was singing
All of our lives with her words
And who would have cared if we missed the last bus to Leeds

So many inns in Otley
But still we did try
That Saturday night to drink
Half of them dry
Still eight miles to go when we heard
The nightingale sing in the reeds
It’s a long walk home when you miss
The last bus to Leeds

We’ve travelled so long
And we’ve travelled so far
And who knows who we then were
Or who we now are
Who cares what’s up and what’s down
What’s black and what’s white
Get me a ticket on that bus tonight

Time has gone faster
Than this National Express
Life’s been a long walk home
Down pathways that I miss
I travel this broken land
And my tired heart that bleeds
And who’s going to meet me tonight, on
The last bus to Leeds.
Track Name: I hide away
When you close your eyes and count to ten, I hide away
Behind the curtains, under the stairs, I hide away
I hide where no-one else can ever find me
I hide away

When you come to me asking questions I hide away
Where do I come from, what am I doing here, I hide away
I hide from anything that might cause me pain
I hide away

Like a butterfly growing its wings, I hide away
Like a blackbird learning the songs it’s going to sing, I hide away
I hide from anyone who might let me down again
I hide away

Don’t ask me what I do or what I do it for
Don’t ask me where I’m going or where I was before

I hide away from eloquence
I hide away from innocence
I hide from anybody else
But most of all I hide from myself

When you close your eyes and count to ten
I’ll be gone
Track Name: The ant and the grasshopper
The sun was shining brightly one September afternoon
And the ant was busy gathering his autumn harvest home
When he heard somebody playing a merry dancing tune
It was the grasshopper and he was singing
(The ant said) ‘Your coat of many colours is a beauty to behold
And you dance with all your body and you sing with all your soul
But what will you eat when the winter winds blow cold
You should be working instead of singing’
(The grasshopper replied) ‘My friend, life is too short for all this aggravation
We both of us will die be it from stress (in your case) or from starvation
And I have to father the coming generation
It may be tough but I’ll die singing’
Just then a dainty princess came by as if by chance
And the grasshopper jumped up and they both began to dance
And they went off hand in hand in search of hopeless, doomed romance
And in the distance the ant could hear them singing
The winter wind blew cold as the ant had well foreseen
And his bones ached from arthritis, and his brain from the routine
Of the endless round of chores in the service of the queen
‘Why am I working’, he said ‘when I could be singing?’
He stormed out of the anthill and he laid his burden down
He came to where the grasshopper lay buried in the ground
And with all his fading strength he danced and danced and danced around
‘My friend’, he said, ‘can you hear me singing?’
The moral of the story I would tell with apprehension
You could twist it anyway you like to suit your own contention
Like the ant I should be working to pay the mortgage and the pension
But like the grasshopper I’ll keep on singing
Track Name: Andalucia
Just one more glance
One final sigh before I turn the corner
Your olive groves stretch out before me, Andalucia
Your shimmering towers
Your trembling fountains and your quiet courtyards
I turn my back on all these memories, Andalucia
For seven centuries
We shared a land, we shared our learning
We kept the flame of tolerance burning, Andalucia
Now in the distance
I see the riders of the inquisition
Soldiers burning for superstition. Andalucia
Against the guns, against the ignorance
I brought you gardens
Against the cruel summer sun
I brought you fountains
I turn away now
No more for me the Mesquita in Cordoba
No more the palaces of the Alhambra, Andalucia
You will not see me
You will not read about me in your schoolbook histories
But you will hear me sighing in the segurya, Andalucia
Track Name: Is there anybody home?
I don’t know what hurt you the most
The times when we rowed
Or the times when all we said was pass the tea or the toast
And I was far to busy growing
To really care or to notice anybody else’s pain
Or to see the love that you kept
So deeply hidden
Is there anybody home?
Are you sitting in the dark on your own?
Did the lights go out alone?
Are you all alone?
You wore your fireworks on your sleeve
And you exploded into life
In pursuit of what you thought was right and what you believed
And after all the sound and fury
I came in to find you here in this darkened room
Sitting in the twilight
So far from heaven
Track Name: Wildcat Island
Reef the sail, step the mast, sail away
Sail away, never to return to Wildcat Island
Untie the painter, lower the boom, summer’s gone
Run close hauled before the wind, childhood’s done
From Swallowdale to Dunkirk beach with an engine in a metal box
Watch the wreck of innocence off duty’s rocks
Around the Horn from the China Seas all the way to Rio Bay
Life has made a roaring passage and regrets are ocean spray
Beating against the northeast wind, make the halyard fast
Windward the Point of Darien, home at last
Track Name: Poussière d’étoîles
Je dédie cette chanson à Charly
On se retrouve sur la plage chaque soir
Et nous parlons pendant des heures
Dans ce coin magique
Il me montre où la source jaillit dans la mer
Et où les oiseaux se désaltèrent
Charly m’apporte des galets volés de la mer
A la lueur du soir ils brillent comme des perles
Ne sommes-nous pas comme ces galets, faits de minéraux
Déplacés par les vagues qui déferlent ?
Charly est un artiste
Bien que ses yeux soient las d’avoir trop peint le soleil couchant
Et qu’il délaisse ses pinceaux
Il peint maintenant ses tableaux avec des mots
Et les nuages s’envolent vers le sud
Et le soleil descend derrière la tour de la Massane
Charly dit que ces galets sont poussière d’étoîles
De l’or et argent dans les mains des artistes
Ne sommes-nous pas comme ces galets
Tombés jadis sur terre
Scintillant sur la grève, reflet des astres ?
Charly raconte l’histoire de l’artisan
Qui avait construit le mur d’un vignoble
Qui, en pleine nuit, fut réveillé par le cri d’une pierre
Trop mal placée pour soutenir le côteau
Charly dit que ces galets ont des histoires à nous raconter
Si seulement nous savions les écouter
Ne sommes-nous pas comme ces galets
Entassés et pourtant si seuls
Espérant qu’on nous verra briller ?

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