The children of the sea

by John Meed

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released December 1, 2005


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Track Name: Spotland Road
Our house was black from the millstone grit
And the smoke from the cotton mills
And the river disappeared under the streets
On its way from the Pennine Hills
The weekend we took a bus to Whitworth Moor
Or played hide and seek in Healy Dell
And on Monday I walked to school down the Spotland Road

On Saturday the crowd walked past our door
On their way to the game
Though the club never made it out of the fourth division
Till the FA changed its name
The brightest young players moved to glittering careers
Down the road in Oldham or Burnley
And the glory days never came to Spotland Road

The cotton mills closed for maintenance
During Whitweek every year
And the owners went to Southport, the foremen to St Annes
And the rest of us to the common for the Whitweek fair
Now one by one
The cotton mills closed down forever
And now no-one walks to work down Spotland Road

I could tell you about one or two
Of our claims to fame
Gracie Fields, the bus to Ashton-under-Lyme
Or the co-op down Toad Lane
I moved away from home
When I was still a boy
And now I walk no more to school down the Spotland Road
Track Name: Thesalonika
I was thirteen when the Nazis came to Thesalonika
So I put away my dolls and I went to join the war
And my father and I fought side by side
On the Kilkis mountain we sang the International with pride
Liberation came in ’44
But the army carried on with the war
With allied money for their guns and for their planes
They left me for dead in a ditch in the rain

Where can I go?
Where can I call home?
Oh my Thesalonika
Where are you now?

I woke up in hospital in Bulgaria
Found exile and a husband in Czechoslovakia
And my children grew up far from the mountains an the sea
But after all the fighting they had some security
Springtime came to Prague in ’68
And my daughter joined the students who came to demonstrate
But the tanks have never been far away
In my European century

We finally returned after 30 years away
But as for Odysseus the homecoming was tinged with dismay
Now my winters may be warmer but my bones still feel the cold
And the streets are paved with promises but never with gold
People ask me if I feel more at home back here
Has my country changed in all these years
I say my home is wherever I can be me
And my land is any land where the people are free
Track Name: Mesopotamia
In 4000 BC people came to Mesopotamia
A thousand years before the pyramids were built
Three thousand years before Alexander invaded Asia
Six thousand years before the twin towers fell
But where civilisation comes, war usually follows
And the armies duly came out of Chaldea
The Hittites, the Persians, and even the Mongols
And they all laid waste to Mesopotamia

By 1920 we had fought in the trenches
Where thousands could die for an acre of no-man’s land
And the victors took out their maps of the desert
And they drew an imaginary line in the sand
Now the spoils of war go to the highest buyer
And the French took the lands to the north and called them Syria
South of that line became part of the British empire
And Iraq was the name given to Mesopotamia

Now it’s the 21st century and we’re back where we came from
Only this time in the name of freedom and liberty
But all I can smell is power and petroleum
And I don’t see the families smile as they bury the free
Now six thousand years is a long time to be learning
And you ask me who am I to point the finger of blame
But I say this as I watch the ambulances burning
We’ve no right to lay waste to Mesopotamia
Track Name: Only half
The artist sends shades of yellow and blue
Shimmering over the canvass
The colours are only half of the painting
Can you glimpse beneath the surface?

The poet sits down with a pen in her hand
And she murders her daddy and Lazarus
But the rhymes are only half of her suffering
Can you feel the pain in her adverbs?

I write down my secrets, I write down my shame
And I share them with you this evening
But the words are only half of the song
Can you hear what echoes between them?

The novelist writes we need only connect
But his characters tear each other apart
The pages are only half of his fiction
Can you read what’s breaking his heart?

I stand here tonight with my heart in my hands
Trying to make a connection
But I am only half of myself
Can you tell me what I am missing?
Track Name: The sadness
To some it may be a tropical paradise
But to me it was home
Like my father and grandfather before me
I grew up in the Chagos sun
But they herded us up like cattle
And they loaded us onto the ship
They brought us to live here in squalour
Used our land as a bargaining chip

Tell them we died of the sadness
Tell them we lived with the tears
Tell them we suffered the pain of the exile years

Century after century
Time after time and again
We’ve been abused and mistreated
For the colour of our skin
Hauled over the oceans
Torn apart against our will
Brought out into the darkness of this plantation hell

My heart may be breaking
So much we have to sustain
But they will pay for this injustice
For all this suffering and all of this pain
My years may be fading
But for the rest of the time I am here
Until I walk on my knees I will keep fighting
Track Name: You and John Peel
We walked all day through meadows of silver
And over the cliffs where the white gulls play
And rolled down the hill to the inn at the end of the day
Long summer days that echoed with leather on willow
Through my childhood days that could never end
Through my teenage torments you were still my best friend

You gave me hope
When others were dragging me down
And I was alone – you and John Peel

We talked all day about cricket and politics
You said that socialism would come one day
And I dreamed a world that was fashioned your way
On the old people’s ward you said you would never come home
And honesty ploughed up your honest brow
Half a lifetime on I miss you now
You kept me sane when I was close to the edge
And I was lost – you and John Peel

You never lost your temper or your cool
But I learnt more from you than I learnt at school
And you gave me the shoes for my journey through life
And I never thanked you half enough
Now I spend my days far from meadows of silver
Far from the cliffs where the white gulls mew
Further still from the days I spent with you
Track Name: The centre of the world
I’m drinking coffee in the buffet de la gare
Talking to the ghost of Picasso
And Dali just walked by the window
Saying this is the centre of the world
There’s a train leaving for Paris (Gare de Lyon)
And another for Barcelona
There’s a night train for Geneva
And a sleeper for Roma
Tonight they can go where they will
But tomorrow they will be back here in the centre of the world

They’re dancing the Sardane in front of the cathedral
They’re drinking aperitifs in Castillet
The gypsies are singing behind the Gambetta
And the tourists are heading for the sea
You can take a train to Marseilles
Or another to Girona
In two hours you can be high in the sierra
From the centre of the world

Between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean
Between France and the Spanish border
Between the vineyards and the bodegas
Is the centre of the world
Yes you can travel all round the world
You can even fly with Virgin into Space
But I will always come back here
To the centre of the world
Track Name: The children of the sea
The fishing nets are stretched out on the beach
As the sun comes up over the water
The cork trees are hissing in the breeze
As I turn my back on the Spanish border
I travel light and free like the children of the sea
But exile waits for me in Collioure

My land has just torn itself in two
From Madrid to Barcelona I had to flee
The fields of old Castille are stained in red
And these northern hills are where I now must be
The wind blows hard and cold and freedom is on hold
As I walk down the road to Collioure

I left my love in the plains of Sornia
While Granada cried for Federico’s blood
And thousands more will tread these stony paths
As the fascist tide returns in a flood
For the land that I now leave will soon a haven be
For those who next will flee through Collioure
They will travel light and free like the children of the sea

The poet lived just 31 more days
His heart could not withstand the exile chill
And I now walk the paths that brought him here
And I lift my eyes toward the Spanish hills
The same chill wind still blows along the chemin d’eau
Must history come and go through Collioure?
Will I travel light and free like the children of the sea?
Track Name: The finest flame
So many years ago today
You came and you stayed
There’d been nothing in my life that could compare
To that day
You gave my days direction
And you took away my sleepless nights

Yes, you lit a fire in my heart
And the winds of change just fan it brighter
It keeps me warm in my darkest hour
For you you are the finest flame

All those years ago my life
Was adrift on the ocean
Floating with the winds and the tide
And the cliffs were approaching
Taking the compass bearings
Was using all my emotion

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