I've just got home from my government mandated exercise (or, in old English, "a walk") which, bizarrely, has become a hugely important part of my day. I think now that I am only allowed out once a day, there is no way that I'm going to pass up the opportunity, and I'm going to make the most of it when I do go out. In any event, thanks to being lucky enough to live on the edge of town, in the countryside, I've been able to walk quiet old footpaths that carve through fields, or snake along by streams, with the number of actual humans I see able to be counted on the fingers of one hand. Even then, they are usually silhouetted against the horizon, and I curse myself for reading M.R. James.
But I gots me to thinkin'. I have some odd little quirks. Don't we all? Anyway - as I was walking, as always, I jam my hands into the pockets of my leather jacket, and jangle the coins that I keep in the pockets. I am one of those people who has one coat, and tends to wear one pair of shoes until the soles fall out. So, this coat has been with me on my travels, such as they are.
As for the coins, well, they tell their own story. In one pocket, I have some Swedish currency, left over from a trip to see some friends who live in Stockholm. I would've dug the coins out of my jean pocket in customs, as I loaded up the coat with all the metal and electronics I had on me, in order to be able to quickly get through the metal-detectors, and grab everything in one fell swoop on the other side. Rinse and repeat with the other pocket, as in there we have a handful of Euros left over from a trip to Madrid last year. (I should've been there this week, in that other life, where things didn't get turned upside down).
But over time, these coins became something a bit more symbolic than just illustrations of my absent-mindedness. Whenever I'm out, wearing my coat, and my fingers find the coins in the pockets, I'm instantly reminded of their origin, and from there, the association to the happier circumstances I received them in. They've become totemic.
In cricket, the umpire is responsible for counting how balls have been bowled. Six balls equals one over, and then the bowling team have to swap ends. Cricket is all about numbers and statistics, and something like this is a Very Important Job. Cricket is also very much about tradition, and so, for most, the best way of counting the balls as they are bowled is to hold in one hand six small stones or beads. After each ball, one of the stones is dropped into the pocket, helping the umpire keep count, until the hand is empty, and "over" is called. So, that's me, on my long walk, shuffling the coins in my fingers, dropping them into my pocket one at a time, and then collecting them all up again to repeat the process.
See, these coins symbolize friends, and freedom, and those moments when you know that your internal video recorder (yes, yes, I am 42) is taping, to be squeezed onto a shelf in your head with "DO NOT TAPE OVER" written on the spine in thick, black marker. Before lockdown, and Covid, they were just a nice little nudge to have me thinking of my friends again, but now, they are a tangible reminder that I can't see my friends, that I miss my friends, and I really need to send someone a text when I get home.
I'm going to talk about music again, because, as always, as I'm writing, there is music playing. Shuffle has popped up with EURYTHMICS and "THERE MUST BE AN ANGEL", a song I hated as a kid, but now sorta kinda really like. However, what it always makes me think of is how I've never heard anyone make a harmonica sound like Stevie Wonder does. I'm mean, c'mon, have you ever heard him play it and not know it was him instantly? I'm sure I'll write about Stevie again in the future, because, without doubt, he is a bonafide genius.
But for now, have a listen, and maybe dig out some old coins for your pockets, and go for a walk, if you can