Storying Sheffield

Kestrel Variations – May Days in Barcelona

This post is by Sam Nash. 

My friend Simon played me the earliest version of a song he had written called ‘Kestrel’ back in 2012. Even before I knew the title, I thought it sounded like a reimagined soundtrack for Kes. There is the same strange stillness to it that Casper’s teacher talked about after seeing the hawk in flight. In the subsequent 8 years Simon has returned to the song almost obsessively, remoulding it to soundtrack the events, interests, and moods at specific moments.

Over the years, versions of the song came about that had been altered so much that they bear little resemblance to the original. In other versions the original melodies are hauntingly echoed and manipulated. The Kestrel Variations EP collects a few of these versions, recording the way the original composition seemed to grow up and change alongside us.

I wrote the following prose poem to complement the recordings, reflecting on the way each iteration of the song seemed to be fixed in a particular time and place, bookmarking a particular moment from the 8 years since I first heard it.


Kestrel Variations

Craning my head outside my window in the early hours to watch the big Tescos slowly sink into the earth. Tracking the infinitesimal progress of the steel pillars propping it up as they twist and convolve into replicas of the spire. It’s the damp that does it. Nothing ever gets completely dry and the roots turn rotten.

Each variation is a mark on the door frame. A tiny flake of permanence carved from all of the flux of flesh, bone and vibrations. Not so much measuring growth as recording a time when all the infinite possible configurations of the particles are momentarily arranged in an order that makes the heart ache for stillness.

At times a hesitant optimism. Like the breath in the air and the rasp in the throat after a January Sunday league game. A gentle, reassuring little pain. Pining for her the way the crack of the frozen pitch pines for the thermos flask. Feeling like you might crumble into yourself in the middle of the jobcentre on the Monday, but knowing that your dog is still going to absolutely lose her shit when you get back home.

Incubating the eggs in the hollow of your grandfather’s violin. Regurgitating. Nurturing the ones that make it and mourning the ones that don’t. Regurgitating. “When it’s flying, there’s something about it makes you feel strange.” Regurgitating and nurturing. Re-gur-gi-tat-ing.

It isn’t really apathy but every stage of grief occurring simultaneously so that they cancel each other out. Like the brief moment when a child trips over and looks to the reaction of their parents to try to gauge how serious the fall was. Before either tears or laughter have been decided upon. Stillness. Stinging in the palms and grit in the grazes and not knowing how to feel. There is a strange, hopeless kind of anger in articulating that. But then what’s left? Variations, regurgitations and silent flight. Marks on the door frame.