It’s a misty and muddy Monday morning, or was as of this writing, and I cannot come up with a really good excuse for not going to work today. I’m fond of my job, don’t get me wrong, but, well, it’s raining, and it’s dreadfully cold, and I don’t want to. None of those are acceptable reasons, even to me, and so I layer on my clothing, drag myself out the door, and tell my phone to play some music as I drive, in an effort to find some comfort in the cold.
What plays is this, my latest official endorsement for A Song to Stare off into the Distance and Be Dramatic to This October Morning, a song with a steady, if quiet beat, good for making oneself get up and go out, out of a sense of duty, if nothing else.
Schooldays over, come on then John
Time to be gettin’ your pit boots on
On with your sark and moleskin trousers
It’s time you were on your way
Time you were learning the pitman’s job
And earning the pitman’s pay
Come on then Jim, it’s time to go
Time you were working down below
Time to be handling a pick and a shovel
You start at the pits today
Time you were learning the collier’s job
And earning the collier’s pay
Come on then Dai, it’s almost light
Time you were off to the anthracite
The morning mist is on the valley
It’s time you were on your way
Time you were learning the miner’s job
And earning the miner’s pay
That’s “School Days Are Over,” the cover the Chieftains did with this band called The Low Anthem. The original song is by Ewan MacColl; the lay listener might have a chance of knowing a much more popular song he is the original writer of, namely, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” MacColl has an impressive pedigree, as described by Wikipedia, being “a British folk singer, songwriter, communist, labour activist, actor, poet, playwright and record producer born in Lancashire to Scottish parents.”
Contrary to what you might expect, “School Days Are Over” is not an especially political ditty – although the adverb there is important. It’s meant, as far as my limited internet research leads me to believe, as a more general lament, “a wistful song,” as I read it described. And that is how I feel, listening to it: wistful. Though what I have to be wistful about it comparatively limited.
I awoke in a nice, heated apartment, and put on my nice, soft clothes and my nice, new (!) boots, deposited my belongs in a nice, padded backpack, and drove – not walked – the ten or so miles to my workplace, where I parked on the first floor of a parking garage and then walked, covered the whole way from the rain, to an elevator that took me up – not down, into the earth – where I spent most the day sitting in a not uncomfortable chair typing, which is not a very labor intensive skill. I’m hardly a lad newly off to a life of backbreaking work.
Am I wistful about the idea of my school days themselves being long over? I never much liked school, though. But perhaps it is the more universal themes espoused by the song that’s affected me just so this morning. You are grown, your school days are over, time to be earning the [insert occupation]’s pay.
Well. I look forward to what’s supposed to be another long rainy day tomorrow.