Making love to the sound of ‘Sunday Miscellany’
Maybe that’s why so many people enjoy the radio show: so they can make love to the sound of poets intoning their verses in the distance
Michael Harding at Lough Allen, Co Leitrim. Photograph: Brian Farrell
I was humming the Beatles tune I Wanna Hold Your Hand in Warsaw last Sunday morning and thinking about the woman I had met the night before, who had been wearing a coat from 1940 and had small grandmother spectacles and long brown hair. I was on the verge of suggesting a little intimacy but it wasn’t carnality that she was looking for. And besides, we were standing in the porch of a church.
Which is why I was alone on the balcony on Sunday morning, singing Beatles songs and looking out on Warsaw and the other apartment blocks built in the 1950s. I made myself a cup of mint tea, and felt a strange sense of longing for someone; anyone.
For me, Sunday morning still carries that residue of otherness, which I had an appetite for during my religious days. When I joined the secular world I began spending Sunday mornings with the beloved, in a big bed that took up the entire room in a small cottage, and though we could do little else in that house by way of entertainment, at least we could cavort around the bed on summer mornings for the entire length of Sunday Miscellany.
Maybe that’s why so many people enjoy Sunday Miscellany on the radio. The nation can make love to the sound of poets intoning their verses in the distance; whereas when Marian Finucane brings on politicians to discuss the newspapers it’s definitely time to get up and make the coffee. You need to be standing to endure politicians talking about house prices.
It’s probably the same all over Ireland. The woman steps out to the bathroom, and the man says, “Stay in bed just a little bit longer.” And she gets back in again for another moment while the bath is running. And then he says, “Hold me.” And she does. It’s a little coda at the end of love-making; a tiny fracture of vulnerability which opens up the universe. In the stillness they share an inner space deeper than all that which is beyond the moon. And the radio plays all the right tunes.
I imagine the same thing going on all over Warsaw. Oceans of tenderness out there in those other apartments, as lovers hold each other; man-woman, man-man, or woman-woman. And I imagine I can hear them all.
Not the rutting. Not the sweating. Not the clatter of virile galloping gazelles over the night club tiles, but the easy breathing of quiet languid males, on the flat of their backs, and dozing females like big beasts of prey when there is nothing to fight for, and they are resting.
So she holds him, and in that moment they transcend their sexuality and become fully human. As Tolstoy says – she held him for a moment.
To have and to hold
“To hold” is a lovely big metaphysical verb. We can hold hands or hold on or hold up or hold forth. But we can also hold things in our heart, and we can be held by another person, in their gaze.
When the beloved holds me it’s not just a touch. It’s not about the sheets or the smell and taste of another skin. To be held is like being surrounded by another person. It’s air to breathe with, and water to swim in.
My therapist used a phrase like that once. “I am there for you,” she said, “to hold you while you go through your journey.” I understood that. The tissues were sitting on the coffee table beside the armchair. The bubble was about to burst, as it does when you go to the therapist.
And it was not just that the therapist listened and said yes every so often. It’s that I knew I was being held. That some part of the therapist’s attention had been sectioned off for me. Some space within her was a space I could claim. And I could go there in a phone call, an email, or during my weekly session.
“I am here for you,” a voice says when we are breaking apart. “I am holding you.”
It’s what a mother does. It’s what a lover does. It’s what we thought God was doing. Or at least it’s what we had hoped; that when trouble came, when illness or mental breakdown or some accident of nature threatened to annihilate us, some invisible Other might be holding us.
So I sing like a canary on the balcony in Warsaw: “Hold me tight - just a little bit longer.” Because it’s Sunday, and I wish that my beloved was beside me now.