I’m going to start with a piece of advice. Windmills of Your Mind is a haunting and beautiful song that lodged itself in my head nearly 40 years and, I am sure, will never leave. It is, however, a song that has rather more than its fair share of bad interpretations. The bad ones are all bad for the same reason; they are too slow, stretching the melancholy of the lyrics into sickly and maudlin sentimentalism. This is a song that needs to be suing at a tempo that reflects these lyrics. These are full of motion. They are also, as we see as the song develops, about the remorseless passage of time. Noel Harrison’s interpretation, whilst not perfect, captures this and its 2 minutes 18 seconds are just about right. My advice is, therefore, to stick to this version but of you want to look elsewhere avoid all those versions that stretch the song out to 3 minutes plus. In particular avoid Barbra Streisand’s version.
It is with this song that I want to start, One section, in particular, speaks tom me with increasing power as I grow older:
“Lovers walk along the shore
And leave their footprints in the sand.
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures in a hallway,
A fragment of a song,
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?”
Consider the fragments of songs. My life, like that of everyone of my age has had its particular soundtrack and particular songs take me back to places and times, not all of them places I want to return to. The last part is the most striking of all. I am constantly reminded of the number of people I have known, family members, people at school, at university, at work, friends who have come into my life and, in many cases, drifted out of it again. There are those I remember well, those who are simply “half-remembered names and faces.” Even the half remembering can be troublesome or maybe burdensome. Who were they fir me? How have they influenced my life? Where are they now? Do they remember me or even half remember me? At times it seems that these people, or maybe the years of life already lived that they represent, weigh heavily on my spirit. There are days when I will suddenly remember someone from the past and start to think about them. Sometimes when I do this I feel that memories can be destructive of memory, the sheer number of them defying any attempt to order them and make them into the coherent whole that, for me, is memory.
This is really why I write, to make sense of tall and recreate my own past. When I write I may well be living in it but a creative and ordered sense of living in it, that, I find empowering, I am taking back control from an oppressive melancholy and to misquote another song “I free my mind, I free my soul.”
Writing fiction takes this a stage further and helps me to mould my lived experience into new realities. Like reading, like learning a new language it is a genuine broadening of experience, an enrichment of my life.
And those who are half remembered are in there somewhere. I may have given them a new name, a remembered face and placed them in sexual contexts they never dreamt of, (or maybe they did!). But they are there as one day, dear reader, you may too, when time has continued its remorseless progression and
“You are suddenly aware,
That the autumn leaves are turning
To the colour of her hair.”