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Dead Flowers - Townes Van Zandt

I had a dream last summer that seemed very real and has stuck in my memory like piece of apple skin in my teeth.

On a sunny summer morning, fifty or so horses, white mainly but some dappled, their heads proud and dancing, cantered along Old London Road, then followed the old route down the High Street to the seafront via George Street. People ran along behind them, and in front, like a gentle, pacifist Pamplona bull run, and along the raised pavements looking down in wonder. No-one whooped or cheered, everyone was silent and the sound was like a crowd shuffling to board a train in a wet, early dawn.

The horses joined the seafront road, trotting past the Carlisle, the White Rock Theatre, the Pier, then flowed down into Bottle Alley, a cascade of noble, heroic mammals, guilty of nothing but their natural grace and beauty, sound of their hoofs echoing off the concrete walls. There they gathered to rest in the protruding halfway viewing bay, an undulating, nickering, snorting mass gazing out at their mythological cousins, their white manes blown back, tumbling onto the beach below.

And we all gathered round, a motley cross section of the people of Hastings, from the flat white executives to the rough sleepers of the car park underworld, from the multiplee deprived to the new-age pagans, from pensioners to teenaged paupers. And we sang to the horses, mournfully, but with love and regret.

And the song we sang was "Dead Flowers", not the original arrangement by the Rolling Stones, but the version by Townes Van Zandt.


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