• Plymouth, UK

The Sound I Left Behind

The British countryside is all violins and pianos and I have my proof; just look out there. The train from Plymouth to Paddington is quiet but then I have two more trains—those completely unfamiliar to me—before reaching my top secret, undisclosed location. For now we’re zipping along the hedgerows as we speed out of the city centre and the place I called home for 25 years.

I’m transfixed to the window; out there is a bumpy landscape that rolls and twists out of view.

For some reason I can’t listen to anything upbeat on the way though and it’s here that I realize that the landscape requires a certain kind of music. It’s almost like this landscape doesn’t take kindly to bass guitar or drums at all. Instead, it requires quiet, prolonged strings all the way. Even behind glass this country looks like it’s been stretched out across an old wooden frame—a violin of leafless, twisted branches, a Steinway of dilapidated barns, a flute of clueless sheep, a Yamaha of starlings, a Roland Kiyola KF-10 KW of crows. It’s all a choir of strings and soft piano keys and distant chords played slowly.

I see this place with foreign eyes now. After three years of not stepping foot on home soil, some things have become clearer—more focused, obvious now—and other things have become harder to see. For example, returning to Plymouth I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days, as I forgot how London feels stodgy, the air thick with exhaust fumes. I forgot the biting cold air and I forgot the wealth of accents and slang and twists of the tongue.

“Go on, lad. Take one!” I hear someone say on the seat behind me and I think to myself, ah yes this is the sound I left behind.