Written by Guy Sigsworth
[from: 'GMT: Music from the film', Island, 1999]
Music I never say goodbye to people. Even when they’re disappearing to another continent or I’m leaving a place never to return, I’ll only turn to people I’ve become close to and tell them to take care, and often that I’ll see them next time. I never used to be like that. When I was twelve, I stood on a station platform crying my eyes out because a school mate was going to Australia. The problem was that I always did see them. And usually in the strangest of places. And having said all of the things you need to say when you aren’t going to see someone again, there was the disappointment because even after five years there wasn’t much to add.
I stopped saying goodbye to people when I saw the Channel 4 adaptation of the Anthony Powell novels ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’. This told the story of a group of school friends as they grew up during the last century into old age. The dance being the weaving in out of their lives, spinning off into the ballroom floor of time, returning to each other’s company the way people do as the music hits specific beats and rhythms. Some of them have two left feet and fall to the side; some aren’t invited up and don’t waltz at all. As I watched I noticed the same movements in my own life. The best television informs us all.
Years later I did meet my school friend, back from Oz for only a few moments – he happened to be in the UK for a few days for a conference. Sure enough, because of our big pronouncements we just looked at each other and asked what we’d been up to. No spark in the old friendship. Post ‘Dance’, I saw someone I’d once worked with but also knew through a mutual friend; we’d been close enough to whisper secrets but had lost touch when I’d left the job. I’d just waved when I left, with a shouted 'See you!'. When we saw each other this time we just kept grinning insanely, and talked for hours (well for as long as our train journey). At the end, my friend had remembered what I’d said before and offered, “I’ll see you next time…”, and I know she will. [Originally written twelve years ago.]
[Commentary: Still one of my favourite pieces of my own writing if you're allowed to say that sort of thing, though the sentiments are even more fluid in the social networking era when no one is entirely out of reach any more. My one regret is that after all these years I can't remember who the second subject in the third paragraph is or if we did see each other again, in the real world at least though I have an odd feeling that she might be reading this in which case assume my embarrassment and apologies. The song is from a British film I don't think anyone else has seen. But I did have the album on repeat for over a month thanks to vocals like these, which seemed to admirably capture the time and place.]