Van Morrison’s music is woven deep into the fabric of my childhood. But even more than these clusters of memories, his music seems the very soul of my childhood places
The memory of a long car journey, coming back over the Craigantlet Hills from a trip to Donaghadee Lighthouse. The dip of the road and the sudden sensation of weightlessness, flying; the lights of the city spread out for you below. The soundtrack in my head is Van Morrison, of course: “Take me back, take me back, take me back / Take me way back, take me way back / Take me way back, take me way back / Take me way, way, way, way, way, way, way back…”
I’m likely remembering not one particular journey. On summer weekends, or special occasions, or most excitingly of all, if my Dad was test-driving a new car, we would drive out of Belfast along the coastal roads of the Ards Peninsula; and in the car Van Morrison would be playing. Sometimes the Chieftains, or Leonard Cohen, but I remember most of all the music of Van Morrison, a double cassette-tape of Hymns to the Silence, as my sisters and I day-dreamed and drowsed against each other in the back seat, cosy and warm and lulled by the car and the music.
In the strange way that memory works, this has come to be talismanic to me: deeper and truer and somehow more meaningful than anything that might have actually happened. A transfiguration of the mundane, a momentary glimpse into something beyond; a sense of something I can’t quite articulate, but have come back to time and again in my fiction.
Van Morrison’s music is woven deep into the fabric of my childhood. My Mum dancing in the kitchen to Moondance. My Grandma’s favourite hymn, Be Thou My Vision. Brown Eyed Girl playing as I walked back up the aisle after getting married. A magical trip I made with my Mum, just before I was pregnant with my son, on an unexpectedly sunny autumn day, retracing Coney Island…
But even more than these clusters of personal memories, his music seems the very soul of my childhood places.