Broken shafts of late winter sun came through the window, having penetrated the lemon tree just outside, and crawled their way across the floor, pieces of broken gold. Shards of toast were scattered on the table along with open jars of Vegemite and peanut butter, a newspaper wet from a spilt cup of tea and other detritus of the type generated by late-rising, breakfasting teenagers. Now water was running in adjacent bathrooms and, on the fridge, the radio tuned to 3MBS-FM played to a mute audience of one. 8.23 a.m.
Her voice came out of the speaker like a lark ascending, apologies to Messrs. Vaughan-Williams and Meredith. It was a live version, recorded much later than the original 1965 studio recording which was gayer, younger. This later version was shot through with a sense of sad, yearning wistfulness but without any over-sentimentality.
She lived in my suburb, but when I walked past her house on the way to St Monica's church on one of those rainy early 1960s winter Sunday mornings I knew neither her, nor that within a couple of years her astounding vocal purity, showcased in a song written by Tom Springfield, would push the Rolling Stones off the top of the British charts.
Songs return you to where you heard them first. I was eight. Summer holidays, and that extreme childhood joy that almost makes you burst. The ride in the Holden up into the mountains, where my uncle made wine from plums, or apricots, in his old farmhouse and cows grazing in the back and the face of my young three-year-old cousin covered in chocolate from the bowl in which her mother was mixing a cake. And the snake under the hedge, and the spiders in the woodpile, and the occasional rush, rare enough to notice, of a passing car on the high road at the top of the driveway. The song was in all of it, became the fabric of January 1965.
Fifty-seven years later. Its singer, Judith Durham, has passed on, and the song is broadcast in tribute on a late winter morning. And tears are welling in the eyes of grown men, in the presence of something unearthly, angelic.
There is a storm of bags, and packed lunches, and a scuffle of teenagers falling through the kitchen, and hurried goodbyes, and then quiet. Now the shafts of sunlight are climbing up the legs of the table. Inexorably, like time.
The Carnival is Over, by The Seekers. (Springfield, based on an 1883 Ukrainian folk song.) Festival Records, Australia, 1965.