Reggae Beat

My brother and I would have been no older than eight at the time and our sister perhaps ten. With the winter days closing in, it would be almost dark by the time we arrived home from school. Our mother cooked earlier in the winter, giving us about thirty minutes to spare before we were called for dinner.

The three of us would run into the front room – where antique furniture stared vacantly towards an old, wooden television with dust on its screen – and pull the thick, green curtains to a kiss. Jessy would light the candles with a small box of matches, because she was the oldest, whilst Jake and I would clatter through our mother’s rather humble, and certainly less than fashionable, collection of CDs; Roy Orbison, Lucinda Williams, Cliff Richard and, finally, ‘Ragga Heat, Reggae Beat’, a compilation of the 90s’ finest reggae tunes. We would push it eagerly into the CD player, climb onto the frail sofa in the dim light and wait for the music to begin.

We had listened to the album scores of times, if not hundreds, and knew the exact order of songs without reference. We, too, knew the entirety of the album’s lyrics, we knew the instrumental intros, and, most worryingly, we knew the rhythm of the crackles between each track. However, despite all of our worldly ‘Ragga Heat, Reggae Beat’ knowledge, there was one major element of the album, and more specifically, the opening track, ‘Sweat’, by Inner Circle, that had evaded our attention, blissfully, innocently and, most certainly, thankfully.

At the top of our voices, and without a sniff of a lewd thought, we would sing, ‘Girl, I want to make you sweat, sweat til you can’t sweat no more, and if you cry out, I’m going to push it, push it some more.’ What must our mother have thought? And, for that matter, what about the neighbours?

Jumping, twisting, flailing and yelping, the song thrilled the three of us to within inches of implosion. I felt so utterly content, not a care in the world, other than to make my siblings laugh at how silly I could jig, or how odd I could sound. The smell of the old cushions – a little musty perhaps – puffed into the air as our small feet sprung from their feathers, the floorboards thudded as we landed clumsily, and the candlelight flickered above our heads on the wood-chipped ceiling, mirroring our motions. Its beats addictive and its lyrics memorable, we would have danced all night long to Inner Circle’s reggae, if not for our mother’s call to the dinner table, where we would slouch our tired bodies over creaking chairs, smiling through deep breaths as we ate our mash.

About Danny Graham

I am a 27-year-old Englishman, currently living on the western coast of Canada. From my bedroom window - which looks south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and towards the Olympic National Park - I can see river otters playing in tangles of kelp and seaweed. These are the things that are important to me and I like to write them down. I would like to learn more about memoir writing.
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6 Responses to Reggae Beat

  1. freckles says:

    Beautiful piece of writing. I think that your surroundings will add magnitude and depth to your well written memoirs. Love the words, green curtains to a kiss. Great job 🙂

    What took you across the ocean to Canada?

    • Danny says:

      Thank you Freckles! I’ve always wanted to come to Canada (perhaps even before my inappropriate reggae music phase), largely because of David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries; the best features were always on Canada – orcas, otters, mountains.

      • freckles says:

        David Attenborough, I remember watching his show, mind you, at first it was through gritted teeth, as it was my dad who liked the show. Although, the more I sat and watched the show with my dad, the more I began to appreciate it. Now, I love anything to do with nature and revel in its wonderous delights. I look forward to reading more from you.

  2. Jude says:

    Loved the atmosphere you created with the description and the carefree enjoyment of the children. It is a great piece of writing. I was smiling as I read it. Looking forward to other writings from you.

  3. Ilene says:

    I am rather late to the party but wanted to say, I really enjoyed this piece of writing from your childhood as it evoked a memory that I could see. The only thing i would add is maybe the smells of the cooking? Just a thought. Keep writing!

    • Danny Graham says:

      Hello Ilene, thank you for your comments. Yes, smells would certainly have added to the piece, something I have learnt from the course. My mother used to mix mash potato with tinned tomatoes, a delicious smell to a child!

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