OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY

It’s odd how things crop up. I’ll give you an example. Once I was listening to the radio and Led Zeppelin’s “Over The Hills And Far Away” came on. Not heard it for years. But I had to sit down. I’d been washing up and as I sat I dried my hands then used the tea towel to wipe my eyes. That was unexpected.

As I said, it was a long time since I’d heard the song. Straight after Led Zeppelin came John Tams singing a different song with the same title. The coincidence triggered a train of thought that led me to an old friend. A friend who went missing from my life many years ago. More than 25 years. And, yes, I had looked for him. But even in this age of social media, digital media, the internet and all I’d not managed to find him.

There’s more to the story than that of course and I wondered how much of his story there is to know. Had he died? Gone into hiding? He’d often talked about “finding himself”  but I’d always thought that was hippy bullshit. The open road was only part of it though. There were other elements, lies, many lies. That word ‘many’ is one that keeps you thinking. Well, it kept me guessing how many lies there had been. I told lies but may times I listened. There were things we should have known and, looking back, I think I did know.

Anyway, there is a sense of loss in the song. And that I felt that day. Thing is though it wasn’t the Zeppelin tune that particularly moved me but the one used in the TV series “Sharpe.” Boys who went to war and didn’t come back, people who walk out of your life and never return. There’s a longing, a regret and an inevitability about it. It also brought to mind that Houseman poem “Blue Remembered Hills.”

“That is the land of lost content

I see it shining plain

The happy highways where I went

But cannot come again.” Melancholy indeed. And my friend Percy had gone “over the hills and far away” or into those “blue remembered hills” and ended up who knows where. Somewhere in the past he existed but just the thought of that conjured up the “air that kills.” Nostalgia. Memory. Melancholy. As the poet asked, “who knows where the time goes?”

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