‘Let it always be known that I was who I am’

Isn’t it interesting and so unsurprising that despite Laura Marling winning Best Female Singer in the Brit awards and Mumford & Sons winning Best Album, there has been virtually no mention of them on any of the popular radio stations?  This is a very anecdotal comment based on my usual amount of listening to the radio as I drive along.  Indeed in the day after the Brit awards, radio presenters sounded bemused and embarrassed when they mentioned these winners – if they mentioned them at all. 

We made the mistake of going to see Mumford & Sons at the Hammersmith Apollo last year – it was a weird and wonderful cultural experience.  I have never seen so many mobile phones flashing on and off during what could have been a great concert, except there were people walking back and forth spoiling the distant view throughout the performance swilling beer, and the floor and seats were sticky with years of spilled beer.  I had to peel myself off the seat when it came time to leave.  Every one of the thousands was a teenager (even the older ones) and there was huge excitement in the air.  Surely this counts as cool – but not mainstream radio acceptable.

One presenter sounded sheepish and embarrassed when he talked about Mumford and Sons and said you’d like their album if you enjoyed a lot of guitar-thrumming rousing music which he did.  His co-presenter was clearly bored and baffled.  

What does this say about media coverage in our world?  Nothing surprising to repeat myself – to generalise hugely, they report and endorse what’s the norm, within the narrow bands of convention, the fodder that a lot of loud, uncreative, unimaginative people prefer.  The real talents continue more or less unobtrusively to produce quality stuff, and people with little between their ears (listening equipment and brains) follow the media presenters like sheep.

I go to my local leisure centre and hear about the cost of UGG boots and exotic holidays, this stuff is in the air all around me and I feel protected by an invisible yogic bubble.  I think my thoughts, I try not to wince when someone invades my bubble by saying something crass.  This is what everyone thinks you should talk and smile and laugh about, and believe.  Has society always had been so facile?  Am I just getting old?  Yes and yes again probably.  I think I am living in the shadow of our times.  Or is this my own shadow?

I’ve been listening to Laura Marling a lot recently, partly in a spirit of quiet rebellion but mostly because I like her music.  If you don’t know her songs, listen to this one and even if you don’t like the music, the words are good and stick around for the interview that follows.  

I asked some of you readers a question recently in the middle of an extended dialogue – who do you admire?  In watching this interview clip, I thought suddenly, I admire Laura Marling.  She is who she is.  I find her unaffected, unpretentious and wise beyond her years.  I feel refreshed.

First flowers after the winter - photo by Chris Hill

Her favourite novelist is (I think) Jane Austen and she grew up listening to Joni Mitchell.  Many of the lyrics of her songs are poetic and intriguing.  She has poise, scepticism and cool disdain for media rubbish.  This comment won me over:

“There is an elegance in the sound of a fiddle and a banjo and a guitar, a whole tone shaped by history and the physical way they are played. And, if I might juxtapose that with the internet, there’s nothing, in my opinion, that’s elegant or romantic about Twitter.”

I really really deeply hope she doesn’t get polluted by the perils of a performer’s life, and she keeps being herself. 

Thinking about all this has made me conscious of the perils of the aging process too (as well as the internet!), and also reminded me that being around and working with youthful people is a huge boost to energy and hope.

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23 Responses to ‘Let it always be known that I was who I am’

  1. Viv says:

    No, this is not about ageing. It’s about being true to yourself and to what is real. Popular “culture” is by and large worthless and will be swept away.
    The benefits of surviving past your teens and twenties is the fact that you begin to see clearly what matters, what lasts and what does not. You begin to see patterns that exist beyond the daily mundane; you see things come round and round.
    Most people are facile and superficial. One of my colleagues whom I travelled with last month is a lovely girl, but she’s so shallow a gnat couldn’t drown in her. Obsessed with designer labels and outward appearances, and happily taken in by media hype, I was comforted by the fact that she is still young and has room to grow. It’s our duty as watchers to help people wake and grow.
    Lovely thought provoking post; thanks Karin!

    • Karin says:

      Much as I love your comment and part of me feels in tune with it, Viv, another part of me feels dissonant. I do like your sentence a lot though – ‘It’s our duty as watchers to help people wake and grow.’ Do you know? I think I saw things more clearly in my teens and twenties – certainly more emotional readiness and with less context and perspective (that only comes with age). I think that’s one of the reasons I admire and warm to Laura Marling – her youthful gaze. Things get more subtly coloured and etched with age.

      • Viv says:

        I think that one may be born a Watcher; one’s skills may increase with age but so do does disillusionment and despair.
        I don’t envy the young or think they have something I’d like but often I pity them.
        Our culture seems to worship youth but forget the beauty of age.

      • Karin says:

        Yes, I like the idea of being born a Watcher. However, I don’t feel that disillusionment and despair need to increase with age.

        I think that insight and the ability to intuit and read situations increases with age, one goes through perhaps a stage of disillusion and despair and then maybe a kind of non-attachment in a way – moving beyond the reaction to a situation and then being able to let it go more and more quickly, with more and more skill. There is always the reaction, but the after-effects may become a little less gripping, a little less intense, with practice and insight.

        I don’t envy the young either, nor do I worship youth. And yes, our society certainly has a cult of youth and a deep fear of age. However, it is lovely to see a wise young soul and know that even in the England that Michael (Captain Birdseye) describes, there can still be a rose.

  2. I really enjoyed this post Karin – it has cheered and inspired me in a morning when I’m feeling exhausted from too much work and house renovation mess! X

    • Karin says:

      I’m glad this came at the right time, Amanda. You never know when you push the ‘Publish’ button so I have stopped caring!! (that is, stopped caring in a ‘bad’ sense – I know you know what I mean!)

  3. souldipper says:

    Karin, you spoke my heart. I feel as though my inner journey has brought such sensitivity into my being that I can hardly bear to listen to news. I identify with your statement, “I try not to wince when someone invades my bubble by saying something crass.”

    I feel certain I am viewed as “that old woman” – but I simply cannot find the enthusiasm to politely engage as if the conversation was something of deep interest or content.

    • Karin says:

      Thank you, Amy. Whenever I think about these kind of issues, for some reason my local leisure centre is the focus of my thoughts. I go to some exercise classes there where I feel ‘estranged’ (if that is not too dramatic a word!) from nearly everyone else there. I also teach a yoga class there where I now have a dedicated core group of students who I really like and respect, as well as a lot of people who drift in because it’s a leisure centre and never come back again! When I stand in the room which has mirrors all along the front waiting for a class I’m attending to start, I often look around at the little cliques and huddles and I hear snippets of discussions and I see myself and a few others standing on our own, detached, uninvolved. Listening to what I hear, I have no desire to be involved. Like you ‘I simply cannot find the enthusiasm to politely engage as if the conversation was something of deep interest or content’. I see myself, perhaps they see me as ‘the yoga teacher’ who teaches a class where I don’t mention how ‘it really hurts’ or ‘the pain’ the whole time…..When I see that picture in the mirror I have mixed feelings. I am happy being there apart, in my bubble, yet I don’t like what the reflection offers me, my own self-image as ‘stand-offish’. Having that mirror there keeps this in my consciousness. So I try and connect in the little ways and that is a bridge to my yoga class, and it keeps me from feeling completely disengaged or alienated, even in what is for me probably a microcosm of larger society and an essentially hostile or, at best, uninvitingly neutral environment.

  4. Captain Birdseye says:

    At the Menin Gate ceremony in Ypres last Sunday at 8.00pm I watched as about 500 teenagers stood in silence and then one of them read the famous poem. ”We will remember them.”

    These children were not air heads or facile.

    If you visit the Tyne Cot cemetery 11,000 graves there is a young girl’s voice coming softly through speakers in the ground near the exibition

    ”private John Smith royal welsh fusiliers aged 19 , Lance corporal Peter Jones Nottingham Rifles aged 23 , Private Harry Humble Royal Lancashire regiment aged 24 ” and on and on, softly and in the centre exibition their sepia photographs coming up and fading.

    In 1917 alone, 500,000 men died in about four months and won – a mere five miles of ground.

    The ground is very heavy there. Even after a week of bright dry weather quite deep water stood in the wheel ruts. At night covered in barbed wire and lit only by flares and artillery and criss crossed with machine gun fire it would have been unimaginable .

    The streets there were very clean -as indeed they were everywhere. The houses were clean tidy and the roads and villages were relatively quiet.

    It was apparently (I learnt from the historians there) that while other countries made very significant contributions , it was the British army that finally beat the Germans in Belgium. They fought them until they even ran out of food and ammunition. In dreadful conditions.

    We looked at this and said ”They simply would not do it today. They would say no”.

    We came back to the UK with its dirty streets , overcrowded motorways, tawdry sex obsessed entertainment and shops full of tat designed to get the poor into debt and wondered how and when their dream had been stolen.

  5. Karin says:

    Michael, very powerful images, very evocative scenes. A great question to ponder and I am sure you and others will have thoughts: how and when have we stolen our dream(s)?

  6. Stephen says:

    There’s a lot going on here but I guess the underlying theme is our view of the future left in the hands of the current generation. I really like Laura Marling’s music and the fact that she is a shy, thoughtful person enhances my opinion of her (a like minded spirit) and critics can compare and contrast her to Dylan, Donovan or any of those 60s youth icons but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter because she is who she is in this age at this time – things are no longer the same and we should be thankful that we live in a society that keeps changing. The debate as to whether the change is for the better or worse will go on forever and depend on so many variables that I won’t even engage in the debate unless I’ve got an hour or two to spare.
    I really like El Capitan’s comments on the effects of the first world war and the people who participated in it on both sides. When he says “They simply would not do it today. They would say no” I think that’s a really good view. Why would anyone give their life for ownership of 5 miles of ground let alone half a million people sacrifice themselves. No I’m glad that today’s generation have got more sense than to blindly follow the will of the ruling classes. It’s a pity that thinking wasn’t around in Germany in the 1930s.
    Having said that the BNP exists and has a following so anything is possible. With a charismatic leader, a significant underclass and a depressed economy with little hope for the immediate future then who knows?
    And finally if you like Laura Marling then try Imogen Heap – very different but the words are excellent.

  7. Karin says:

    Hi Steve
    It is always interesting to see what other people think the underlying theme is – invariably that surprises me, not because it’s wrong but probably because I am lost in a mass of thoughts/reflections.
    I agree with everything in your first paragraph and am glad you share my view of Laura Marling, musician and person.
    I am intrigued by your interpretation of Michael’s ‘they would say no’. I mischievously thought I would deliberately interpret it the way you have, as I think he means the opposite (perhaps you do too.) Where has the courage, the strength of character gone, that enabled the troops to fight Evil in WWII and shed their lives in the name of a principle of fairness and a valuing of all humanity? I do not believe in violence, but sometimes something happens that is bigger than yourself and your own beliefs and I guess you end up doing things you don’t believe in in normal times, and losing your sense of self first, in the name of a bigger cause. This hasn’t happened to me, but I would like to think it could in those kind of circumstances. And I would like to think that humanitarian belief, and a sense of spiritual connection, still exists within and across the cultures I live in.

  8. Madhu Sameer says:

    Pretty synchronistic that you’d write about the singer and poet. I’m influenced by poetical work, and immersed in poetry….as you may have read. 🙂

    Whats wrong with aging, though? 🙂

  9. Karin says:

    Hi Madhu,

    I’m feeling very distant from my blog at the moment, and it was a bit of a jolt to see a comment appear – I think it is the effect of FB. It has had a bad effect on me – interesting experience though. I think it has trivialised exchanges in the ether which previously had a kind of magic, thrill, stimulation, mystery, excitement for me – no doubt, all misplaced but I liked it….gone for the moment. Still it was nice to see your new post pop up.

    Yes, synchrony…I just read the opening of your piece and could echo nearly all of it. ‘Life has moved at a hectic pace, and in an effort to slow it down, I have had to give up some of my favorite things, one of them being writing.’ As I say, I am not sure if I have given up writing just because of life’s current pace or because of FB too! I hope to come back to it, but as you say of yourself, the next few weeks seem strangely hectic, full of lots of impending endings, loose knots to be tightened. And also like you, I have been reflecting a lot on music from all sorts of angles. Interesting how our paths have crossed in this particular way right now.
    Hoping all is well with you. I like seeing you here.


    • Stephen says:

      Hi Karin. Thank goodness you’ve emerged from your silence I was beginning to worry. OK, I feel a bit stupid here but what’s FB? Whatever it is it must be pretty powerful to knock you off your blog.
      I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms from not seeing any new comments or fresh thinking. I draw a lot of intellectual thinking from your site and I think it would be a shame if you didn’t continue to write with all the enthusiasm you have displayed to date.
      The sun’s shining, the birds are singing, daffodils are out so there has to be something good going on somewhere.

      • Karin says:

        Hi Steve, thanks for your comment – it makes me feel like writing again. I had been wondering about your silence too and also El Capitan’s (I understand that refers to some geographical landmark in Yosemite Park, otherwise known as Northamptonshire by the way).

        FB = Facebook. I have been kind of tsunami-ed out by it. I can’t get my mind around the style at all, and it just switched me off to all online communication. I didn’t realise this, I thought I was just feeling generally weary and overwhelmed, but all of a sudden I saw why. I am not sure why it has had such an impact, it’s really strange! I think it’s made me feel there are so many of us out there writing stuff for the world and others to see – and suddenly it felt quite pointless.

        Japan has had a big impact on me too.

        And also a couple blogs I follow have taken some different courses that I don’t like, and I was a little discomforted to find that a personal internal prediction I made about one blogger seemed to be enacted in their life. I had felt they were more involved with their online life than the rest of their life, and that seems to have been proved true at quite a cost. So all this stuff milling around plus me feeling I was engaging in displacement activity and should knuckle down to work which is busy but strange and hardgoing -all of this took me away from my blog.

        I will come back. I’ve had an idea brewing for a few weeks, but it may take me a little while to focus. I am surrounded by piles of paper and I feel swamped!

        Hoping you are well,

  10. Madhu Sameer says:


    I thought by now you must have understood there is no “bad” or “good” effect. I guess it all boils down to what it is that you want. For connection – fb is perfect (I am glad to see that you think so too). Intellectual thinking – wordpress is perfect. Face to face contacts – both of the above are bad !

    The universe has everything. Everything exists as a potentiality. What you/me make manifest, and what you/me want from the universe, is up to you/me.

    But yes, I had to pull out an old old paper to compensate for my silences… not good !!! But I have reaped many benefits from my relationships on the fb – as you read some. There is a startup brewing on the horizon – thru fb. 🙂

    Every situation is a treasure trove – of possibilities.


  11. Karin says:

    Hi Madhu,

    I was writing synchronously with you.

    I connect here and there (at yours) with you. Talking on a blog is like a good conversation, face-to-face, and I’m happy to talk on blogs with friends I see face-to-face, if they want to. FB is filling time – for me. It’s fascinating as a sociological experiment and, as you know, occasionally something grabs me.

    I am pleased for you that FB has given you many good (re)connections and opportunities. My feelings about it are just mine, and I’m also pleased and privileged to be part of your circle.

    Life is indeed a treasure trove!


  12. Viv says:

    Hi Karin,
    just curious about your comments to Stephen. What makes you place a lower value on an online life than on the rest of life? Do you consider it a lesser thing? I have one blogging friend who has been so seriously ill that her blog work and her blog life has been pretty much the only life she’s been able to cope with for some time. I know a little of her history and the work she has done through this online life has been important.
    The paradigms for living have shifted, drastically, so hence the value in some people’s lives of FB etc This year I received over 50 birthday greetings via FB Twitter and email, and only 3 traditional cards. The way we communicate and socialise is in flux. Don’t under estimate the power of such things.
    looking forward to your next post.

  13. Karin says:

    Hi Viv

    I realised my comments might not be well received generally, but I wanted to be honest about my recent thoughts. My views/feelings are just mine (seems relevant I’ve somehow got into these dialogues under the banner of this post with its title – not the original plan!) and I fully appreciate others will have different feelings. As you know, I find some of the connections I’ve made through blogging hugely stimulating. FB has been different for me. I don’t want to go on about that here, I think I’ve already said enough (though I could say more!)

    I have got a lot of jumbled thoughts on this topic and they keep occurring to me at odd moments, but I can’t organise them right now – just glimmers of insight.

    There is also something about the grey area between real communication, marketing, ego and self-promotion which is always potentially there in any interaction, but maybe more so in online communications. I think my radar is pretty good at sensing this generally but perhaps less acute online.

    You know I enjoy your posts though I am an occasional reader/commenter – that suits me better. I liked your piece on the Kindle and could especially empathise with the comments you made about the loss of the feel and smell of a book, its tangible identity. And so for me, a birthday card is infinitely more than an e-mail wish – though an e-mail wish is still nice. Maybe it is the thought that counts after all.

    Thanks for yours.

    Karin xx

  14. Madhu Sameer says:

    Online is a way of escaping reality, or in some cases, not being able to connect realistically and authentically. In instances where the separation is forced by the environment – like for me all my friends and family is in India and other parts of the world – online is great. For people who escape from the world and HIDE behind online, it is like a persona they put on. The real problem in such cases lies in their interactions with people….so online becomes a band aid. It is detrimental to the overall health….

    Just my 2c….again, my own opinion…


    • Karin says:


      I agree with everything you say, very much, and with how you say it. Online is also lots of other things, I don’t know them all, does anyone?

      I was working with some people from the Middle East this week and they were saying how they ‘have to’ communicate with their children online in order to have real and open discussions, how their children tell them more about their lives and their selves online than face-to-face. They also talked about adopting different personas and how their children may do this too. Underneath it all – and once or twice said explicitly – was a message around being able to exert more control in relationships by having an online link. That was interesting to hear. They talked about front rooms full of people – family, friends, visitors – all together online with each other and others, all texting, all at laptops etc.

      I try not to be judgmental, but I do shudder at that image. Do we really need all that stuff to connect when we are really together? Is it connection or new barriers? I guess I have to accept it is happening…

      I think online is also a way of forging new relationships with people whose interests/concerns/feelings might overlap in a way with your own – who you might not meet even if they are relatively close geographically to you. That feels good and exciting to me.

      But sometimes I wonder how ‘real’ any of it is, just sometimes. Of course I could extend those musings outwards…..I’m glad you came back online with your comments which I did and do understand about your own circumstances.

      Hope the conference goes well,

  15. Tricia says:

    I love Laura Marling too. I watched the interviews and was very impressed by her poise and balanced attitude to life and her work. What a beautiful person she is. There are so many good tracks on both the albums I have – but I particularly like Goodbye England Covered in Snow, Crawled out of the Sea and Shine. I have noticed that several (most actually) of my favourite songwriters at the moment are extremely youthful – Birdy springs to mind too. Terrible Love is one of my favourites. And I ask myself, how can they write such wise, deep lyrics at their age? It’s a mystery to me, but they resonate, they make me feel less alone. Do they have help/input from others? Or have they accumulated wisdom from the amount of songs they have listened to – probably more than most, being musicians? Laura Marling mentioned Joni Mitchell etc – who I also love. A Case of You is one of my favourites of hers. Oh – so much music, so little time…I listen to lyrics so much more carefully now than I ever did as if they are an answer to my questions. The same themes in all the songs…repeated as stories are in so many different forms, but essentially the same.

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