Maybe four or five times I’ve seen this now, live, most often performed by James Yorkston but I did once see HMS Ginafore sing it. She performs with painful infrequency, seldom stepping south of the Scottish border. It’s upsetting. This is her song, which is to say that she wrote and she owns it, totally owns it, because when she sings it she blows you over.
I listened to an awful lot of Fence Collective records after my last break up, but the association with Fence and sadness – strangely – doesn’t revolve around that. It revolves around Scottishness.
My Dad’s parents are Scottish, but it’s fair to say that they’ve lived a much more international life than most since they first set out from Edinburgh. Somewhere between Iraq, Northern Ireland and California they lost their accents and gained a family, and while I’m sure they looked back it’s never something that’s given then cause to act.
And yet for years and years there are times when I’m sad when all I want to do is sit and watch the haar roll in on the docks of some remote Scottish port, wrapped to the chin in rough wool and humming through my beard. And so when Ginafore, or Yorkston, sing “let the north wind blow” I’m moments away from heading there. This song makes me sad because I don’t.