I make no apology for the longer length of today’s Sonic Breakfast post. It’s a weekend after all and we have more time to read and write, to convey and listen, to think and be.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s husband for donkeys years died on Friday aged 99. The media in the UK is awash with stories about how great the man was. I rather suspect that he wasn’t as flawless as he’s being presented. This isn’t a blog post about him though.
My Nan, born as Frances but known throughout her life as Sally, also passed away aged 99. She desperately clung to life in those latter years despite her short term memory failing her. She wanted to get her telegram from the Queen for reaching a century. Sadly, it didn’t happen. It’s my Nan who I’ve thought about most this weekend whilst the TV coverage provided an endless showreel of Philip’s ‘great’ works of charity. Her wonderful warm nature, enduring laughter and effervescent fizz was unforgettable to all who met her.
When my Nan died, letters that she proudly clung to were found in her bedside cabinet. They were love letters from my George, my Grandad. “Whatever did I see in George Fripp“, my Nan would mischievously joke in her latter years. We could all see beyond the joke though to know that their companionship was a thing of strength and beauty.
The love letters from George are an amazing read. A man of the countryside, a solid oak, he was not (I imagine) prone to floral language or the poetry of the romantics. And yet, in these letters that document a specific time in the lives of Sally and George, the ruddy emotion of his love flows strong.
My Nan has travelled to Vienna. It is the 1930’s and I assume the menace of Naziism must loom large – though no reference of the external political scene is made. Nan is on an extended vacation. She’s visiting an Austrian friend, an expert cake-maker, and is learning baking skills to bring back home to the kitchen in which she works. My Grandad works in the stables on the same estate.
The scrawl fades but the words are still visible. Grandad must have been pressing hard, tightly grasping the pencil as he carves out his craft. It becomes clear that George has proposed to Sally just before she left for Austria but my Nan, perhaps shocked by his demonstration of affection, has delayed with her answer. “I’ll give you my answer on my return from Vienna,”, she says.
But as the story develops and the letters grow in number, it’s clear that Sally is having a change of heart. Perhaps absence has made the heart grow fonder but in one landmark letter from my Grandad, it becomes evident that the proposal has been accepted. “You make me the happiest man in all of England“, says George before suggesting that he should obtain the permission of parents whilst Sally is away. The language is agricultural and elemental but starkly beautiful. I read the letters to cheer myself up if ever I’m feeling down.
Vienna holds quite a place in my heart. It’s delicious to know that it was from the city, surrounded by sugary whirls and chocolate swirls, that part of my family history is secured. I’ve been there a couple of times but would like to spend longer exploring in the future. The last time I visited was as part of the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s fair to say that my memories of that weekend are blurred by drunken excess and all-night parties.
Michael Schmücking is one half of Another Vision. Until recently, he lived and loved in Vienna until moving back to his hometown, Innsbruck. He remembers the Eurovision in Vienna well. “That was a special summer in Vienna I’d say,“, says Michael. “I was never that interested in EVSC but we spent the night at Cafe Savoy at Naschmarkt to watch the Vienna edition, wich was a total blast!”
Another Vision have recently released a single, Heartbeat. It’s atmospheric, grainy pop; the analog synths offering more than a nod to an Eighties influence. Restrained at the start but one that you know will erupt into a storm of emotion, the impending sense of loss is never far away. “You fade away, I let go. Memories, I want to hold on“, sing Another Vision in the chorus – simply and effectively summing up the longing at the heart of Heartbeat.
“I moved from Vienna back to our hometown Innsbruck in Tyrol, which is also part of the whole story around our upcoming songs as well as in Heartbeat.“, says Michael about the tune. “Moving is a strange thing these times I’d say.”
Here at Sonic Breakfast, I’d tend to agree. Heartbeat is equal parts romantic and sad, optimistic and reflective. It seems highly appropriate for a weekend such as this.