My grandmother loved country music. And cowboys. And anything to do with the wild, wild west. A lot of the Scots and the Irish people I knew in the 60s and early 70s did too.
Every Saturday afternoon we would go to the movies. The pictures. We usually saw a triple play of Westerns. I have seen just about every cowboy flick ever made from High Noon to The Magnificent Seven to the original True Grit. You would think little girls would get bored with all those horses and ten gallon hats and lassoes, but I never did. I lapped it all up.
My cousins did too. We wanted to know Alan Ladd from Shane and have a shoot out with Eli Wallach from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
I wanted to be Calamity Jane.
Along with the films came the music. My grandmother’s favourite was Patsy Cline. She loved Gene Autry, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Hank Williams. She even dabbled in a bit of Johnny Cash. But it was Patsy who had her photo above the mantelpiece next to the Pope.
My grandmother’s favourite Patsy song was Walking After Midnight. She loved it so much it was played at her funeral and the 500-strong mourners sang along. Even the priest did. It was an exceptionally moving moment. My grandmother would have loved it.
Walking After Midnight is a song about a girl who goes walking after midnight to find her love who has gone. She’s searching, she’s looking, out in the moonlight. She’s hoping that her lost love is looking for her too.
I think it is no accident that my grandmother loved that song so much because one of the things she always said, especially in times of trouble, was: just get out there and walk down that path. Walk right into it. That’s the only way to deal with things. My grandmother did believe that walking was a metaphor for human existence.
It’s funny how things come together. Sometimes years later.
I was having a coffee in the shopping centre the other day.
There were two young girls at the table next to me discussing their lives.
How did I get here? one said.
How did I make so many mistakes?
I had been listening to songs on my iTunes before I left the house and Walking After Midnight was the last song I heard. It was still stuck in my head.
I immediately thought how my grandmother would have answered that question.
You got here by putting one foot in front of the other, she would have said. You might have made mistakes but life is about walking forward, not standing still. You’ll make mistakes but it shouldn’t be the end of you. Not if you keep walking.
One of the girls was obviously a student because she had a copy of Macbeth poking out of her bag.
I have always thought that Macbeth with all that angst and disquietude and bemoaning – if he were a real guy – would be a country singer, probably bluegrass. (He would also do well as an Emo but that’s a thought for another day.)
Macbeth’s big hit would also have a bit of a theme about walking.
“Life’s but a walking shadow
Oh Lord, don’t you know
A poor player strutting and fretting his hour
upon the stage then heard no mo’
I ain’t gonna dream no mo’ mama
my life is but a walking shadow
full of sound and fury
like the blues in my heart mama
Full of sound and fury
And signifying nothing.”
My sincere apologies to all the diehard Macbeth fans out there but I do think there would have been less murder and suicide in Macbeth’s life if he had dealt with his inner demons through song.
We set out at some time on our path. The path that will shape our lives.
We stumble sometimes as we hear the wind a-blowin’ through the lonesome pines.
But we keep moving.
The songs help. Especially the Patsy Cline songs. They give us the answers to the big questions.
How did we get here?