This is the text of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2. Guests in the studio were Caro Emerald, Sally Lindsay (Mount Pleasant, Coronation Street), Matt Bellamy (Muse) and Mark Webber (Formula One) – inevitably, there are references to them or their work smuggled into the text.

I could do with a bit of Aussie Grit right now because … I am in the same room as Caro Emerald. Apart from buying her albums when they came out, I actually got to see her and her excellent band in Leeds a few months ago. It was brilliant and even made me want to dance.

That is not a pretty sight.

So, I didn't.

But, I love live music. I think I am probably the only bishop in the Church of England who has been arrested for busking on the Paris Metro. I was only nineteen or twenty at the time, but I still wear the badge with pride.

The thing about live music is that every performance is totally unique. It can never be done exactly the same way twice. The music itself can be played around with, and the audience plays its part in creating – or ruining – the atmosphere.

I guess this is what acting and Formula One and music have in common: you watch or listen partly to see if anything goes wrong. I remember reading a paper about why people watch other people climbing up cliffs – and concluding that it is partly to see if they fall off. There is always the potential for a live performance to go wrong as well as wonderfully well.

This 'living on the edge' bit is what gives performance its power, isn't it?

I think there are some people who are terrified of this. Play it safe, keep everything under control, make sure there are no surprises: all that sort of thing. But, that attitude can sometimes be rooted in fear, not adventure or excitement.

Now, this goes beyond music or acting or driving fast cars. I think it goes to the heart of whether we see life as something to be grasped or tamed. When Jesus asked people to follow him, I think he got this: don't come with me if you want to keep everything safe and tame; it's going to be an interesting ride and it might go wrong; are you up for it?

So, Caro, I hope the deleted scenes on the cutting room floor will not be the boring bits of life, but expose the undisclosed desires that are awakened by the muse that fires our imagination.


The great thing about getting away on holiday is the time to think, reflect and consider. Arriving on holiday to the mother of all thunder storms (started about four hours ago and still hammering), there isn't much to do other than think, reflect and consider.

Or read and think and consider.

At a business breakfast in Huddersfield last month I was given a book – strongly recommended as powerful and moving. That's usually enough to turn me off. After all, I have more books still to read than there is time to live. But, this one has proved its hype.

Nick Coleman is a man who lived music – then lost his hearing. But, his memoir isn't miserable or cloying; rather, the radical loss of music sent him deep into exploring. – sometimes explaining – how music works on the soul. Actually, it isn't just about music; it's about art and taste and love and growing up and mortality and loss. I don't want to quote it here, or give page references for a quick dip into its pages. It has to be read from the beginning. Don't miss his observations on Christmas carols or Soul music. And it is beautifully written.

The book is called The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss.

I read it against the backdrop of two recent albums: Leonard Cohen's Popular Problems and Robert Plant's Lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar. Both are differently preoccupied with mortality, joy and loss – both with an honest realism that puts regret and self-pity in their place.

Someone said recently that this is the album Cohen's (now 80 year old) voice was made for. I thought that of both Live in London and Old Ideas. Seeing him live at the Manchester Arena last year will live with me for ever – as will having to leave before he finished in order to get the last train back to Bradford, thus missing nearly forty minutes of encores.

They used to say that Cohen's earlier recordings were “music to slit your wrists to”. Of course, they never were. The humour was always there. But, age has brought it out as he has relaxed from the demands of … er … probably his libido. He sings:

There is no G-d in Heaven / And there is no Hell below / So says the great professor / Of all there is to know / But I've had the invitation / That a sinner can't refuse / And it's almost like salvation / It's almost like the blues

Robert Plant, on the other hand, responds to the break up of a long relationship in his new album Lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar. Again, this is a working out of the experience of loss and renewal, but with the edge that only the artist can bring to us. No wonder, then, that the Old Testament prophets were the ones to scratch away at the memories and imaginations of the people, using words that – in the words of Walter Brueggemann – “linger and explode”.

Anyway, this all comes on the back of seeing Caro Emerald live at the Leeds Arena a couple of weeks ago. The support act, Kris Berry, was lovely-but-bland and couldn't manage to hold the audience – it felt like the audience was trying to help her feel OK. Then Caro Emerald hit the stage with her eight or nine piece band and occupied the space with sheer force of musical personality. You couldn't take your eyes off her. Every song, every arrangement, coursed through your veins, lighting up the imagination and firing the bits of you that want to get up and dance even if to do so would have been unseemly. In my case, that is.

So, that is the soundtrack running through my mind while I begin a holiday from the relentlessness of establishing a new diocese in West Yorkshire and the Dales (and Barnsley and a slice of Lancashire and a bit of County Durham and North Yorkshire…).

(The thunderstorm stopped at 9pm allowing wifi to work…)