‘There was a huge red ball in the sky above the centre of the city. I turned to my mother and asked “what’s that?”. And she replied: “that’s the cathedral”.’
A few days before the seventy-fifth anniversary of the blitz on Coventry in November 1940, an elderly woman was asked to recall that night of her girlhood when her home town burned down.
From early evening until early morning, more than 500 German aircraft dropped bombs on this Midlands city. Coventry was sent to pieces. Forlorn attempts to save themedieval cathedral came to nothing when the water supply ran dry.
Our eye-witness spoke in the voice we reserve for memories we revere – resonant (we hope), redolent (we’d like to think), little short of sanctified; until the last phrase, when the reverential tone was flattened into matter-of-fact.
Whether she was echoing her mother’s lack of intonation, or whether the change oftone was all her own; or perhaps it’s part of the Coventry city psyche – any road, ‘that’sthe cathedral’ was delivered deadpan, without any saving grace.
No more tripping the light fantastic for those good ol’ cops charged with murdering a six year old last week.
The dead boy was a passenger in his father’s car when it came under fire from Louisiana law enforcement officers.
Taken before the fatal shooting, Facebook photos of father and son make you think ofa beam of light between them.
A long way from luminous, the officers’ leaden mug shots suggest graceless lives lived on a flat earth peopled by perps, victims and law enforcement; and barely a human soul among the lot of them.
Maybe with partners and families they managed to enter into the spirit of the thing (thething spirited, spiritualised because people have entered into it); or perhaps prison-style purgatory is where they’ve been living all along.
Half-way between the bombing of Coventry and the recent recollection of it, in theearly 1980s the same flat tone was clearly audible in the singing voice of Terry Hall, lead vocalist in Coventry’s best-known band, The Specials. He set about using it to deliberately poignant effect, even if it was also part of his personality (the singer’s persona who previously worked in a stamp collecting shop).
A gift to be able to turn it on and off. But what if you can’t give it back?
Life among the graceless must be a crying shame, especially when you can’t cry.