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Episode 12 Ships in the Night

July 3, 2011

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Words and Music–Richard Allen
Produced by David Barratt at the Abattoir of Good Taste

Vocals and Guitar–William Thaumatrope
Ukulele and Everything Else–David Barratt


With every nuance and aspect of relationships rendered in song, this blog has a danger of turning into some kind of ghastly advice column. The whole point of songs is that they can, in their brevity and simplicity, capture thoughts and feelings in a way that discursive prose cannot.

It is often said that relationships fail because of a loss of communication, but the underlying issue is usually one of trust. It’s not about the inability to say this or that, but whether or not the feelings that are pertinent to any given situation are expressed or whether they are disguised or masked. The failure to communicate (the masking of feelings) is often considered to be a male characteristic in comparison to women, a product of the allegedly taciturn nature of males who find it hard, and may think it inappropriate, to isolate, identify, and express their feelings. It goes along with the traditional bourgeois social demarcation of gender roles in the public (male) and private (female) spheres. Like many generalizations of this type, taciturn masculinity is at once confirmed in my experience as a generalization, but also contested in particular cases by men who are extremely articulate about their feelings and by women who are all locked up.

In any case, the health and vitality of human relationships depend upon the existence of meaningful conversation that is second nature when things are working, yet desperately difficult to retrieve when one or both partners go emotionally awol. There is, of course, never perfect equality in a relationship, one partner is usually more giving than the other, that is, more tolerant of emotional demands and absences. This is usually (though not always) the woman in a heterosexual couple. Communication breaks down when, for whatever reason, that tolerance can no longer be bestowed, or because the partner’s tolerance is no longer acknowledged, cherished, or esteemed, that is, he or she is taken for granted. The two often go hand in hand: six of one, half a dozen of the other. The relationship then evolves, where it still maintains civility, into a subtly elaborated play of masks and silences; the everyday is filled with an unspoken tension that should characterize only moments of crisis. But perhaps, all of a sudden, the domestic situation takes on the aspect of a screwball comedy or a farce for both players, and conversation is thereby renewed.


It’s hard to remember those everyday lines
Spoken in prose no verses no rhymes
It’s hard to remember what stance I should take
Without second guessing the gestures I make

It’s hard to know how to look at your face
The feelings we had do they still have a place
It’s hard to think as I try to write
What I could say to make it alright

It’s hard to remember the last time we kissed
Like people in love in a movie I missed
It’s hard to remember because there’s no plot
We can write it again if you give it a shot


The hours, the weeks
Getting by with little sleep
Living it up, travelling light
Pass each other by like ships in the night


Being two, it ain’t so easy
Getting through it’s tough, you know
What we could do if we weren’t so busy
I don’t even know if the feelings show
I don’t even know if there’re feelings any more


From → Thaumatropemusic

One Comment
  1. Geoff Hare permalink

    Catchy, with good lyrics. Like the song. Insightful comments in the blog (if that doesn’t sound patronising, as if what you write isn’t always insightful).

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