A song from northern Britain; a song, to be specific, from Teenage Fanclub’s album, Songs from northern Britain. Not her part of northern Britain, but the bit beyond the Wall. As we’ve already heard on ‘Deceive yourself (in ignorant heaven)’, they know their way around a melody up there, and here songwriter Raymond McGinley pairs it with simply stated, beautiful words, the kind which make you think when you first encounter them that however many love songs you’ve heard before, there is always something more that can be done within its apparently confining limits.
I might easily have chosen another song from northern Britain, ‘I don’t want control of you’, written not by McGinley but by Norman Blake, because it too has that magical pairing of melody and lyric – ‘Every day I look in a different face / Feelings getting stronger with every embrace’. Beatles-style, there is a third songwriter in the group, who goes by the name of Gerard Love, and my favourite of his songs from northern Britain is ‘Ain’t that enough’, in which he asks his love to bring her loving over, and then in the chorus sings: ‘Here is a sunrise, ain’t that enough?’ There’s a lot of lived wisdom in each of the trio’s songs.
But ‘Your love is the place where I come from’ speaks to me most of all, sings to me most of all, because yes, her love is the place where I come from. It’s the place where I have felt most me, but paradoxically it’s also a place where I can lose myself, where my sense of self is abnegated, or rather, subsumed within something greater than myself. In that sense it’s an other-wordly place. Because when you are in love, you move towards someone, out of your own self, and if they do the same, then the essence of you both seems caught between your two beings, your two bodies, simultaneously inhabiting them, but also existing beyond them, in a place no-one but you two can access. It’s the most beautiful place, and I love to go there. A secret place, a midnight place. Ethereal, she used to think and call it, one that might evaporate in the full light of day. I always contested this, but reflecting on it now, perhaps she was right, that we are ethereal creatures as much as we are physical ones. That said, while by the light of the moon we can indulge in all kinds of magical practices, I still like to think that we would be physically fine between sunrise and sunset.
The place she is, is not where I am. That soon became a seemingly insoluble problem. Her place is beautiful, rolling green, spacious and open, and I would never wish her to leave it, certainly not against her will. I am attached to the place where I live, but the bonds are much less strong, the roots do not run anything like as deep. It’s not the place where I was born nor the one where I grew up, nor yet again the one where I started to make my way in the world. I’m here as much by geographic accident as design. So it’s easier for me to locate my love where she is, but even if all this were not so, her love would still be the place where I come from. We’ve experienced so much, in that other-worldly space. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that anyone has ever experienced or indeed imagined more there than we have. It’s become as familiar a place as the respective houses in which we live, and yet its air remains as intoxicating to me as it was when we ventured there for the first time.
I can put myself in there in our other-worldly place even when she cannot, and I think the reverse is also true. Of course, nothing beats being there at the same time. But life often seems to have other ideas about that. So I no longer ask her to enter it, because entry comes at a cost for her. All the same, the place remains, will always remain, while we still live. A room of requirement, there when we need it most. ‘A secret place to call our own / Where we found ourselves / When nothing else would work or do or comfort.’