Too Eager to Learn

This morning we were in a mob. At around 7.45 am, among a crowd of about a hundred people, we stood listening for a cue to start moving.  There were several false starts, moments when an individual at the front misheard the sign, and sent shockwaves of awareness that ricocheted through the rest of us. The crowd would contract, tensing up for a moment as if taking a breath. There would be a synchronised checking-of-watches, a universal recognition that we still had a few minutes to go, and then this giant organic entity would quietly relax. Conversation would restart until the next convulsion sent us all tensing up again.

We were waiting outside a building, and eventually a small door opened on the far right side. The moment which we had been standing in the cold with shower-damp hair and breakfast-less stomachs for had arrived. The crowd tensed up again but this time there was no relenting. We were caught up in the momentum of the mob, like invisible hands on a Ouija Board, nobody really pushing except everybody secretly pushing, semi-consciously willing the totem to shift. The rip tide dragged me toward the door, and as I got closer, the mass of bodies became more violent. People were swan-faced and tensely smiling, but beneath the surface their legs were kicking out for grip. A strategically placed shoulder blade here, an extended knee there: you did your best to politely screw over those around you, until finally, you reached the door. At the threshold came the final release, the champagne-cork pop that sent you sprawling into a foyer, half-smiling in concert with the co-conspirators around you, laughing inwardly at the others still engulfed in the maelstrom outside. You’d done it. You’d made it. Now you could find a desk and start revising.

That’s right. I WASN’T in line for tickets to a a super-awesome-trendy folk gig. I WASN’T queueing up to get on the last aeroplane out of volcano/blizzard-choked England. I was trying to get into the LIBRARY, and I’d been doing it every day for the last two weeks.

You probably think I go to a really nerdy university, where everybody is just so eager to learn that they stand outside in the cold every day at 8 am just so they can get hold of some juicy books on advanced trigonometry or neo-Marxian race-relations. The real truth, though, is that it’s exam season, and the Holy Place of Revision, the designated areas of worship where students come to pray that the Gods of Diligence might banish the Devils of Procrastination, happens to be the little wooden cubicles on the top floor of our main campus library. For the low, low price of a 6.30 am wakeup and half an hour of passive-aggressive shoving, you can slam down a backpack or jumper and reserve yourself a desk till midnight. At 11 am, the keen-eyed latecomers come to scavenge the scraps left behind by the early morning chaos, and they’ll pounce on any empty desk protected only by an ambiguous closed textbook. Vigilance is key; if you need an hour for lunch you must remember to leave an uncapped pen and a shuffle of half-finished notes to give the impression to envious passer-bys that you’ve only just popped off to the loo, that you’ll be back soon to reclaim your territory. Those among us who guard our desks in person, though, look up with sleep-deprived eyes and chuckle at the opportunistic scavengers. We know who the real hard workers are.

It is the library where I find myself now, condemned here not just because of the approaching exams but also due to a crashed hard drive that was conscientious enough to wait until I had finished my dissertation, but not enough to let me complete my exams too. I’ve given myself a guilt-racked hour to write a STFU post before I have to get back to revision. In the mean time, I have two textbooks on my desk to help me with my upcoming ‘Personal Life and Family’ sociology exam. One of them says ‘INTIMACY’ in big white letters on the cover, and I like to make sure it is especially conspicuous to anyone passing by.  ‘Oh, hello ladies. What was that? Yes, in fact I do know all about intimacy, I’ve even read a BOOK on it. What? You want my number? Oh sure, here it is…’


With all this research on the delicate subject of intimacy, I’ve had little time to do any on local folk happenings. With the chance (don’t even want to think about it) that my carefully cultivated collection of folk (blocking it out of my head right now) might actually disappear (no!) with the rest of my melted hard drive (now actually sobbing a teensy bit), I’ve lost everything I wanted to show you. Nevertheless, like your great  aunt always says, why BUY it when you can MAKE it? Though by now you all know my opinions of the self-promoting douchebags who don’t follow the rules of folk etiquette, I want to show you a tune that I’ve left my fingerprints on. Papa Burns recently wrote a song on the guitar, that I then added lyrics to, and we both set about recording on a makeshift little set-up in my bedroom in California. He and I would meet there after long days in the garden, and in front of a growing dissertation, respectively, and collaborate our folky minds to make something that eventually become a song we are really proud of.

Papa Burns is quick to point out that he thought his voice was a little shaky in parts, that he may have been nervous doing his first ever recording, that there are parts he’d like to have another go on. To me, though, it’s faultless. The whole song perfectly encapsulates my relationship with my dad, a silent collaboration and recognition that we’re always on the same team, that we both know what we like, that we both had the same thing in mind from the onset. He wrote a vocal melody and guitar parts, all I had to do was fill in the blanks with some lyrics.

And so while it may be a bit douchebaggy for me to be putting my own music on a website about good folk, in the end it really isn’t my music at all. It’s the kind of music that everyone who loves their dads would make if they were lucky enough like me to be able to sit down and write songs with them, and I kind of wanted to share that with you.

I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

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The Charlatan – Patrick and Luke (right-click here and select save as)


May 2011

5 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Vicki says:

    Luke, this is such a lovely song! I have followed the adventures of the Burns family via Holly’s blog for a while now and I love this little glimpse into your relationship with your dad. The harmonies remind me of a vintage Simon and Garfunkel sound which is about the highest compliment I can give you as I am a HUGE S&G fan. Well done to you and Papa Burns!
    (And good luck with your exams!)

  2. AC says:

    Lovely song! Thank you for sharing, Luke. Good luck with your exams.

  3. Hannah says:

    This is delightful, and I agree with Vicki–very Simon & Garfunkel-esque, in the best possible way. I hope there’s more where this came from!

  4. AG says:

    Good luck with your finals Luke, wishing you the best of luck. You have many an adventure ahead, and this is just the start!

    Have you heard the new Fleet Foxes album? It’s not your traditional folk, but it’s very good regardless. Check it out.

    Exams will soon be over and the fun part can begin! One day you just might wish you could magic yourself back to this time, before real life kicks in!

  5. Kim says:

    I agree with all that Vicki wrote – wonderful!!! =)


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