As I saw out the old year and prepared to welcome in the new, a friend of mine imparted some sad news. I knew already that Tim Hart, formerly of my beloved Steeleye Span, was gravely ill, but that was the night I learnt he had passed away. The moment he told me, I felt something break deep within my soul, as if a part of me had gone with him. I realise it will be hard for most people to understand, so I won’t even try, but Steeleye are more than a band to me. As I write, I realise, after thirty-five years of listening, that their version of Black Jack Davy is almost identical to Raggle Taggle Gypsy (or, the reason I know the latter so well as it was done by Bluehorses, Raggle Taggle Gypsio). I wonder why it has taken me so long, since knowing both, to realise this? Tim will be greatly and sorely missed. English trad folk has lost an iconic figure and an incredible voice that was quite unique. Shine on, Tim, in that life as you did in this.
On a rather happier note, I found out during the holidays that I’d passed my third foundation kung fu grading, which means I can start this new year afresh, with no loose ends, and that would definitely have been a loose end. I was dying to get through the foundations and get started on the patterns gradings, which I can now do and I can’t wait.
The snow we’ve all had recently has been a change, if unpleasant at times. I’m not so much a kid any more that I feel obliged to go out and throw snowballs, especially when one evening I was treading carefully down some steps and fell with a thump on my arse. Not glamorous. At all. Still, the bruise just adds to the ones I get when I’ve been sparring (read ‘fighting’) in class, so it’s just another one for the collection, I suppose. Beautiful as the snow was, I feel somewhat relieved now most of it has disappeared and we can all walk normally again instead of taking tentative steps and trying not to break a limb. Are we going to get harsher winters for a few years? Who knows? All I know is that it’s been freezing bloody cold, but I admit the beauty of it still enchants me, even now. There’s something about a thick blanket of snow that conjures up images of fairy tales and the stories our parents read to us when we were small. It’s an excuse to curl up with a hot drink and a good book (there I go again), snuggle up in cosy clothes and not go outside for a fortnight. OK, so that last bit’s an exaggeration, but you see where I’m going with this? This is the season of closing down, of saying farewell and a time to prepare for what the next season will bring: spring lambs, crocuses, daffodils and blossom. I suppose you could say it’s the not-so-latent romantic in me, especially as most of us now live in towns and cities, but mostly it’s just me being the Earth worshipper that I’ve always been, at heart.
I bought a bagua mirror today, in a local Chinese shop called Oriental Arts, in the North Laine. I’ve been looking at getting one for a while, to deflect any negative energy and bring in the positive. I have countless crystals to do the same, yes, but this just adds to the effect and besides, I’m a sinophile, in case you hadn’t figured out that part of me yet, and I felt I needed to have one. And the other thing is, of course, that this coming Chinese New Year, falling on the 14th of February, I should really be marking as significant to me personally, because it will be the Year of the Tiger. Perhaps, as the system of kung fu I practise is based on the Tiger-Crane style, it can send some strong and pure energies my way and I’ll become a better martial artist. Or perhaps it will simply imbue me with a sense of well-being and belonging. I shall no doubt find out when the time comes. Certainly there are enough Chinese people in Brighton that I shall be disappointed if the event is not celebrated somehow. If it’s not, I’ll try to be in Soho instead, a piece of China in London that I feel, if I’m completely honest, totally at home in. The more I immerse myself in Chinese culture, the more I’m convinced there’s more than a passing connection there. I know it in my heart. Why else would a child of six or seven lap up Chinese tales and relish the chance to make Chinese lanterns out of loo roll tubes and crepe paper? It wasn’t the love of crafts; I have none, particularly. I have no affinity with a needle or glue. But give me a book about China or a film set in the Tang dynasty and you’ve lost me for the duration. No getting away from it, so my friends, I suppose, just accept it. Or ignore it. Either way, it’s there and it’s a part of me. Just like Steeleye Span are a part of me. I embrace it. How you deal with those parts of who you are, those parts of you deep within, is up to you.