News Article

A Still Beating Heart


Published in Edition One (2024) as part of the Auld Lang Syne column.

Sometimes I’ll see old friends smoking at the table around the corner. It’s a small place dwarfed by a petrol station to which this table sits closest. The meals inside are good and cheap. They’re all reheated yet the line ran through the doorway and we all had to stand straight and near to it so others could pass by. There might be eight tables — half inside and half out. Each set goes fast at midday — even after rain. There had been rain when the queue and I found ourselves just past the door, stepping patient half-steps into the huddled crowd talking on low, metallic stools by the bookshelves. Soon-to-be patrons ahead of us were making their well considered choice from a menu of just five or six items. The bookshelves seemed to occupy a third of the store with a selection that was large and varied. The books are old of course and the titles have begun to fade on every other spine. Falling out of covers decorated in archaic Penguin colour schemes, paperback works of philosophers and revolutionaries past are fittingly arranged to an unknown or unobserved order. Collapsing on one another in the absence of a title borrowed, they rest above a sign on the counter which reads “1970s prices” — I looked around but couldn’t see anyone of an age to say otherwise.

There’s a piano flush against the right hand wall. There’s a slick shine to it, amidst all else earth toned and rustic in the place. It has a clean black finish that makes it look as if it was only brought in for a song just now; but I had heard the last tune trailing out when I first leant through the doorway. By the piano were what looked like two students, one sat on the bench as the other leant down and laughed with them. They were afforded more space than anyone else in the room and spoke above a phone in a language I only know pieces of. A glass jar marked for tips sat atop the piano — I had to look forward and move along in the line but inside I still saw flashes of pink and blue.

The queue set again and the person by the bench leant their phone on the shelf of the piano. The pianist ran their hand through their hair and looked down at the keys. The first notes of a familiar melody rang out. It was a classic tune, heard mostly on strings. The sound of the piano alone was delicate and seemed to draw everyone closer. The person who now stood straight and proud by the piano began to sing clear and true.

Des yeux qui font baisser les miens (Eyes that kiss mine)
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche (A smile that hides under his mouth)
Voilà le portrait sans retouche (This is the portrait that needs no touching up) De l'homme auquel j’appartiens (Of the man to whom I belong)

Quand il me prend dans ses bras (When he takes me in his arms) Qu'il me parle tout bas (He speaks to me softly)
Je vois la vie en rose (And I see life through rose-coloured glasses) Il me dit des mots d’amour (He speaks to me words of love)

Des mots de tous les jours (Everyday words)
Et ça m'fait quelque chose (And this does something to me)1

(Piaf, 1947)

Through grainy recordings of a voice decades lost, I had heard these words before. I heard them sung again in this restaurant without hesitation or mistake. The door and the long window by the bar were open and I’m sure those passing by did hear this tune, but it felt heard by us alone. The line had to keep moving and purchases were made only in low tones. The song’s bridge began to speak of grief and joy in a voice lower than that which had sung the refrain as cards and cash were moved between appreciating glances or occasionally without aversion at all. Conversations that had stopped now went on in whispers unless they were already in need of stopping. The singer's voice had seen out its crescendo and I considered if life need already have passed to be seen through rose coloured glasses. The song ended to applause and some people tipped as they left.

1 Edith Piaf, La Vie En Rose, (Columbia Records, 1947)

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

Read online