“All my friends said ‘I wish that I was you’
They don’t say that any more”
Years ago, I spent a Bank Holiday weekend in the West Country with my best friend and his wife. It was a year or so after their wedding, at which I’d developed a bit of a crush on one of the bridesmaids, and we spend an idyllic afternoon at the cottage where she was living a bohemian existence in a tiny village in Somerset.
Sitting there in the sunshine in her garden, surrounded by flowers and artsy knick-knacks, I had a brief glimpse of an alternative life. How would it be if I chucked in my dull job in London and came down here to live with her? She would paint and I would write, and we would drink in country pubs and go on long walks and be part of an artistic community…
All complete fantasy, of course, not least because she already had a boyfriend and didn’t give me a second glance. At the end of the weekend I returned to London and my workaday existence. But the memory of that afternoon has always stayed with me, and it’s what I think of now when I listen to my favourite song of the past year, ‘Crackington’ by Police Dog Hogan.
The song (which you can find on their 2014 album, Westward Ho!) takes a similar scenario to the one I fantasised about all those years ago and follows it through to its (logical?) conclusion. The narrator has given up his job, bought a van and a surfboard, and moved to the Cornish village of Crackington, but it’s safe to say it hasn’t worked out.
The opening line finds him sitting, hungover, on the cliffs, “smoking a spliff through red wine lips”, watching kids surfing far below, and the lyric goes on to paint an impressionistic picture of a life of boozing and failed relationships. What first attracted me to the song was a clever rhyme near the end; “Spent a night in my car with/a girl from Trebarwith/and never saw either again”, and the song has some fun with Cornish place names. (Though I confess that I had to use Google to find out why “Got slated in Delabole” is funny.)
But after a few listens, it was the melancholy that underpins the song that grabbed me, propelled onwards by the banjo-driven, folksy lilt of the tune. The killer line, almost hidden in the middle of the song, is: “Now I’m too old to go back again/I’m too old to stay here”.
The song suggests that maybe it’s best if fantasies of escape remain just that – fantasies. And if I ever find myself daydreaming about my alternative, bohemian life with Jane in Somerset, I will listen again to ‘Crackington’ and count my blessings.