When I first heard about Chas Hodges on Saturday I was being all poncey and wine-drinking and middle-class at an art exhibition I'd contributed to. I didn't cry then, I just added 'Ain't No Pleasing You' to our playlist, told a couple of people I thought might be interested that Chas had died and pushed it away, to be dealt with later.
I cried on Sunday. I cried just as I'd started one of my rambles, being all clever and analytical about The Meaning Of Chas and Dave.
I cried. And I'm writing this because I'm trying to make sense of doing that and of the flood of thoughts and feelings I've been experiencing the last couple of days. I'm trying to clear the crowded, pissed-up Friday night public bar of my head (I'd quite like my head to be more of a quiet, Wednesday afternoon saloon bar, but to be fair, it never really has been).
I never knew Chas, never met him, though people I know did. I loved - as anyone who's ever heard it should - some of C&D's stuff, particularly 'Ain't No Pleasing You' and 'Edmonton Green' and 'Punchy and the Willar Warbler', each of them transcendent folk music that's so London and so Everywhere. Their - often unsung - contribution to popular music was immense. I was proud to share Enfield and Spurs with them. I've always thought rhyming 'trembly' with 'Wembley' was the single greatest poetic act in our history. And I've always felt their music was proud and clever and unrepentant and in love with the strange towns of our strange city and with our pasts and our need to live the small things, the things of our parents, the things of their parents, the rhythms and melodies that can lift and haunt us out of the places we find ourselves.
I've always felt a bit outside, partial, semi-detached - not working-class or middle-class, not one thing or another. I've never been sure if Enfield is in London, really. I may not be a proper Londoner. There are people in London who aren't sure where Enfield is, just as I’ve never really known where Spike Island - Dave's old neighbourhood - is.
I went to a poshish school. I didn't really belong there - there were lots of people from nicer bits of the borough than mine and there were lots of people from Chas and Dave's bits. I could speak both cultural languages (and still sometimes can) pretty fluently, but with an accent and an awkwardness that betrays me as a foreigner to both. I wanted to belong and I didn't want to belong and it's too late now anyway.
My grandparents on both sides of the family came from South London originally, and all crossed to the right side of river between the wars, ending up in Freezywater and the poor bit of Southgate. I realised this morning it's my grief for them that's a big part of what's going on for me at the moment - thinking about my grandfathers and the awful burns one of them got fighting fires in the Blitz, the malaria the other caught in Salonika fighting the Turks, thinking about the losses and fears my grandmothers experienced, thinking about how much I want to tell them, how much I need to ask them.
This isn't just the rekindling of adolescent grief for my grandparents, of course: it's also a kind of grief for their lives, their culture, the parts of their lives that were part of ours too, a grief for all the pubs that are now carpet shops and Thai restaurants and student flats, for turning up at White Hart Lane or the Valley on the day and standing on the heaving, flowing terraces, for a half-truth myth of England that held them together and valued decency and respect and doing the right thing. In many ways, Chas and Dave had more to do with my grandparents' lives than mine or my parents' - they were a joyous conduit to a time that was shot-through with the trauma of war and with the energy of community, a working-class culture that (sort of) knew what it was and (often) suffered and (sometimes) sang together. As my own parents moved 'up in the world', they became increasingly self-conscious about that culture, neither of them ever quite fitting either into their new mortgaged lives or back in their old, too-rough and too-ready ones.
And then, with folk-turned-to-country and skiffle-turned-to-rock-and-roll and rock-and-roll-turned-to-rock and everything turned-to-punk and punk-turned-to-it's-like-punk-never-happened and music-turned-to-X Factor, they died, Mum and Dad. I've tried to avoid thinking about that while writing this but I know I can't if I'm going to understand what's going on.
Mum loved Abba. Dad loved Gilbert and Sullivan. They both loved the Seekers and hated pubs. Both were awkward socially; neither felt comfortable in their own skin; my Dad had left his Norf London accent behind in Chester when he was evacuated, coming back posh and disgracing the family, while my Mum still clung to hers despite herself, despite her valiant attempts to be middle-class, or, rather, not working-class (I remember my sister once describing the area we grew up in as 'a bit working-class' and Mum was appalled...)
I cried, of course, in part because every loss reminds me of Mum and Dad, even the loss of someone I don't know. The warmth and grace of the responses this weekend to Chas dying, the sense of a sudden rebuilding of old communities (however online and shaky) has felt lovely and painful and a little bewildering. I don't know if Mum and Dad would have cared that much. But they'd have cared about the loss of the familiar and they'd have cared that I care and that makes me feel sad.
I cried, I think, because the one person I really want to talk to about this died last year. The one person more ambivalent about our upbringing than me, the one person who I know - despite him being The Anti-Chas in so many ways - would have helped make sense of all this stuff, who would have helped me place it all in context, who would have offered insights no-one I've ever met or ever will could match, who would have felt the loss of this old beardy friend/stranger just as deeply: that one person is no longer with me. I miss him and I'll always miss him and we'd have had such a laugh about all this and he'd have listened to me in the way only people who really love you listen.
So. Right now I'm picturing that person - the person who was witness to my life - playing piano in The Wonder while Chas and Dave stand, leaning, singing 'Gertcha' with him. I want to buy them all a pint.
And I reckon that's why I cried.