New Beginnings Part 2: Web Diaries and “Everything Changes”

“I don’t like it…, I love it!”

Those of us who watch mainstream telly in the UK, will recognise those words, as they frequently come from the mouth of Mr Simon Cowell, who seems to have singularly ruined this time of year for music lovers. His big-budget karaoke shows highjack the seasonal chart, so nobody makes Christmas records any more. This blog may feature songs from the 1970s more than any other decade, but if I have to endure another festive season listening to Slade and Wizard, I will be very grumpy indeed. (Nothing against Noddy and Roy of course, but even they must be getting embarrassed at the abundance of riches accumulated since making their respective festive hits forty-five years ago.)

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Christmas No. 1 Singles from over the decades

But as ever I’ve got side-tracked. Back to that hackneyed phrase:

“I don’t like it…, I love it!”

To my absolute delight, they were also the words that came from the mouth of my little mum this week, when I asked her if she liked her new care home. The relief was palpable, as so many old folk really resist going to live in such places. Of course it does help that it looks like a 5 Star Hotel; it does help that she is still able-bodied enough to enjoy all the activities, and finally; it helps immeasurably that the financial side of things is being taken care of by myself. As far as she is concerned, her state pension pays for all of it, and I intend to move heaven and earth to keep her there. Now that my time is being freed up from doing the actual caring (which was not my forte and can be done so much better by those professionally trained for such work), I can soon get back to being what they call “economically active”. Just a few things that need sorted out first…

You won’t probably have noticed, but I’ve not posted anything new around here for over a fortnight. Been a bit busy you see, but in a really good way. My mum is happy, so it’s now all steam ahead with selling her retirement flat, and we’ve watched enough of those “property porn” shows to know what can be done to dress the rooms for maximum effect. Still a bit to do, but it looks fantastic already. She was always really fastidious about keeping her home immaculate, so not too onerous at all. And, plenty of nice pieces to take to the care home once the deal is done.

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Phil and Kirsty doing their thing

But that’s not all. As far as my college course goes, we have now reached the end of the first semester. The last assignment had to be “uploaded” (bit more high-tech than first time around) on Monday, so now just waiting see how I did. Bit of a downside is that we had to prove we’d been keeping a journal, of sorts, for the last three months. Of course followers to this place know that this blog is in effect my web diary/journal, so although we all like retaining our anonymity around here, I had to bite the bullet and include a link. I have deliberately held off writing anything new for the last fortnight, as I was acutely aware that if my tutor opened the link, she would see the latest post – The pressure was on to make it a good one. I now realise however, she may not open the link for a while, so I can’t really hold off any longer. Will try and up the rate of output though, and with any luck, if she does drop by, it will be one of my better posts. Something that I did mention in my assignment though, was that after a lifetime of working with Excel spreadsheets, it’s been great being able to turn to writing in later life. Anyone who has been with me for the journey will hopefully agree I’ve got better at it over the years, the sentences becoming a little bit less clunky, and the posts a bit more entertaining.

Finally, the big one. As of last Saturday, I think we acquired a new business! We live right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands which now seems to be ranked No. 5 in the Lonely Planet Guide’s Top Regions to Visit in 2019, so anything related to tourism should be a winner. Won’t say too much about that one until it’s a done deal, but all very exciting, and with any luck it will help out with the care home fees.

So, not a lot of music around here yet today, but just kind of getting back into the swing of things again after a short absence. There is no doubt we have a lot of change going on around here at the moment, but it needed to happen, and just shows that retirement need never really be an option, as always new challenges out there to take on.

Lots of songs with the word ‘Change’ in the title, but I have included David Bowie’s Changes around here before (sadly still very relevant), so time for something different. I won’t inflict Wind of Change by the Scorpions on you, so you’re safe (although click on the link if you want a quick recap), but I will inflict this one, Everything Changes by Take That. I’ve always been a fan of Take That, right from the start, and remember well the outpouring of grief in 1996 when they announced they were splitting up. I’d just had DD and was a stay-at-home mum experiencing daytime telly for the first time in years – Poor Richard and Judy had to set up a helpline!

They are now a Man Band rather than a Boy Band and have lost a couple of members along the way, but this song just reminds me how great they were at the beginning – All that energy, and Robbie got starring role in this offering, which was a bit unusual, as Gary was usually in charge of the reins when it came to the lead singing role.

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I’m feeling quite upbeat today, and have the designer for a well-known luxury brand sitting next to me as I type, as Mr WIAA is working with them on a new range. She has also become a friend, so a couple of busy, but fun days are likely to follow. Everything changes from time to time, and for us, everything has changed as we end 2018 and get ready to enter 2019. I will soon have completed a full three years of blogging, but I’m not done yet, and although it looks as if I’m going to be kept really busy in the new year, I’m going to keep this place going with more Moon Posts, American Odyssey posts and items from what I call Alyson’s Archive.

The lyrics to today’s song are entirely inappropriate for my situation, but the title is, and their high energy video clip is weirdly fitting for how I’m feeling today. It looks great, is shot in a sepia tone, and shows the band in a jazz café, performing the song with various patrons joining in. The song was the fifth single from the band’s second studio album, “Everything Changes” and was inevitably written by Gary Barlow amongst others. It was Take That’s fourth consecutive single to go straight in at No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart, where it remained for two weeks in April 1994.

Everything Changes by Take That:

I’ve ended up writing way too much here, but just goes to show what happens if you have a fortnight off. If my tutor does drop by this post (hello Kirstie!), it’s not exactly representative of what I do around here, but it does show that my blog also doubles as my web diary, or journal, as well as being the place where I revisit the “tracks of my years”.

Back it 1996 everything changed for Take That, and life has continued to change for them over the intervening 22 years, as they later reformed, and morphed from being a five-piece Boy Band to a Man Band of varying number. In 2018 everything changed for us, and after a bit of an up-and-down year, everyone seems to be ending it in a good place. My mum loves her care home, I have my course and a new business to get up and running, Mr WIAA is busy making beautiful things that will appear in shop windows, and DD seems to have decanted to her boyfriend’s luxury apartment overlooking the river (no sad little student flat for her). I know it won’t last, as life just doesn’t work out that way, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy the calm. No more whinging. New beginnings.

Until next time….

Everything Changes Lyrics
(Song by Gary Barlow/Michael Ward/Eliot Kennedy/Cary Baylis)

We’ve said goodbye, the taxi cab is waiting
Now don’t you cry, just one more kiss
Before I have to go
Hey girl I know the situation changed
And so much is new but something in my life
Remains the same cos

Everything changes but you
We’re a thousand miles apart
But you know I love you
Everything changes but you
You know everything single day
I’ll be thinking about you

The rumours true, you know that there’ve been others
What can I do, I tell you baby they don’t mean a thing
Now girl don’t go and throw our love away
I’ll be home soon back in your arms to hear you say that

Everything changes but you
We’re a thousand miles apart
But you know I love you
Everything changes but you
You know everything single day
I’ll be thinking about you

Everything changes but you
We’re a thousand miles apart
But I still love you
Everything changes but you
I’ll spend everything single day
Thinking about you

Though everything changes around us
(Baby don’t U cry)
We will be the same as before more

Everything changes but you
We’re a thousand miles apart
And I still miss you baby
Everything changes but you
You know everything single day
I’ll be thinking about you

The Frost Arrives, Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Bad Moon Rising”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Welcome to my second November “moon post”. No two years are ever going to be the same as far as the lunar calendar is concerned, so this seems to be the series that can just keep on giving! The inspiration for these posts came from witnessing a fantastic low-lying supermoon this time last year (link here). It led me to wanting to find out all about our only satellite, as unbelievably, I had pretty much taken it for granted until then.

uk-frost-moon-flickrcc-elaine1150

All full moons have a name, and the November full moon, which will appear in our skies on Friday night, is called the Beaver Moon. I carefully sidestepped any further comment about that name last year, and will do so again, because joy of joys it has an alternate name, the Frost Moon. We certainly have had some frosty mornings around here of late, but also clear skies, which led myself and Mr WIAA to head out for another bit of filming on the dash cam. Some of you will recognise the route taken, as it’s the same one used for a previous film clip, but back then it was all sunshine and blue skies. We’re heading into a very different season at this time of year.

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival:

When I started this series last year, I put out a request for moon-related songs, and one of the most frequently suggested, was Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. So far I’ve managed to avoid using it, as I have never been a fan of the song. I realise it does need to be included at some point however, so I’ve added it to my film clip above. It did really well in the UK Singles Chart, reaching the No. 1 spot in August 1969, but somehow not a song I have ever warmed to. I have a theory that songs have genders, some male and some female. Most of my favourite songs have a leaning towards the feminine side, whether performed by men or women. This song for me, is testosterone laden, and fully masculine, so not really my bag.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival

As mentioned recently, I’ve taken to heading out of an evening, enjoying long walks around my neighbourhood. Over the last couple of weeks, the moon has been a constant feature in our night skies, and has changed from being a half moon, to a waxing gibbous (look at me with all the jargon). Last night it looked pretty full to me, but if you looked closely, there was indeed a slight shading on the top left corner, as if someone had just started to rub it out with an eraser, then changed their mind.

My friend with the fancy camera has also been out and about over the last week, and I am going to share some of his pictures of the waxing gibbous moon – Some taken at a distance, and one taken with the full-on power of a zoom lens. Amazing shots as ever.

Pictures courtesy of R.J.

Before I go, another snippet about the featured song. A line from it has became one of rock’s most famous cases of misheard lyrics. Due to John Fogerty’s distinctive delivery, a large proportion of radio listeners thought he was singing: “There’s a bathroom on the right”! A classic mondegreen. As for the actual lyrics, considering all the political shenanigans going on at the moment, possibly quite apt for “our times”.

Until next time…

Bad Moon Rising Lyrics
(Song by John Fogerty)

I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightning
I see bad times today

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

I hear hurricanes a-blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life

There’s a bad moon on the rise

Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise

Christmas Ads, “Your Song” and Music from Moulin Rouge!

A couple of years ago I decided to write about the Randy Crawford song One Day I’ll Fly Away (link here) which featured in the 2016 John Lewis Christmas ad. It led me to share the version performed by Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s lavish movie Moulin Rouge!. Her male co-star and love interest in that movie was Ewan McGregor, my favourite Scottish actor.

One of the film’s very memorable duets was Elephant Love Medley, compiled from 13 different love songs – If you are around my age, you will recognise all of them. They came just too thick and fast when I watched the song being performed first time around, but once home, and with the newly purchased CD in the player (it was 17 years ago now), it was easier to identify them. The final song used for the medley, later on performed in full by Mr McGregor, was Elton John’s Your Song. Lo and behold, it’s the song the John Lewis people have used for their newly released 2018 Christmas ad. Two songs from the film Moulin Rouge! in three years – I’m starting to suspect the agency that put these things together are fans!

As luck would have it, I also wrote about Your Song two years ago, as it followed on nicely because of the Moulin Rouge! connection. Long term visitors to this place might recognise what is to follow from back then, but worthy of another outing I feel:

Originally published November 2016

Your Song was originally released back in 1970, and although I know it well, I had been too young back then to really appreciate those great lyrics by Elton’s long-time collaborator, Bernie Taupin. By the time I was a teenager in 1973, Elton John was one of the biggest singer/composer/musicians on the planet, his albums “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” having received massive critical acclaim. But, at that time my focus was very much on my oh so good-looking teen idols, the Donnys and the Davids. Elton by this time had embraced the full glam-rock persona, with ever more outrageous outfits, glasses and footwear, but not someone I saw as a potential teen idol.

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One of Elton’s outrageous outfits!

This is a roundabout way of saying that it was not until going to see Moulin Rouge! in 2001 that I truly appreciated the sentiment of Your Song. Maybe it’s the old romantic in me, but what a wonderful thing I thought, to have a song written specially for you which includes the line: “How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world”. Unlike Pattie Boyd, who seems to have had oh so many songs written about how wonderful it was to have her in the world, I am pretty sure no-one has ever written a song for me. At best there may have been a limerick or rhyme in a Valentine card at some point, but still perhaps time if Mr WIAA decides to take up the art of song-writing in later life! The really ironic thing is that his real-life profession is actually mentioned in the song, but in a bit of a derogatory fashion. Yes it is a great source of mirth in our house that one of the lines from Your Song goes as follows: “If I were a sculptor (bit of aside laughter at the ridiculousness of the suggestion), but then again, no”. It turns out that Bernie Taupin decided it would be preferable being “a man who makes potions in a travelling show” than to be a sculptor, although I beg to differ.

Your Song by Elton John:

So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s good in later life to revisit songs you may not have truly appreciated first time around, because you were just far too busy swooning over your latest teen idol, who happened to have great hair, teeth, waistcoats and headwear. (That would be Donny Osmond in his trademark purple cap then!) I sadly did not appreciate Your Song first time around, so was glad to rediscover it properly after watching Baz Luhrmann’s lavish film.

Until next time, here is the Moulin Rouge! version of the song, Baz Luhrmann style. Both have their merits but it’s the simple pared down version by Elton for me now – Unlike Pattie Boyd I may never have any songs written for me, or about me, but in the meantime a nice piece of sculptural jewellery will do nicely. The man who makes potions in a travelling show is not the one for me!

Your Song Lyrics
(Song by Elton John/Bernie Taupin)

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one’s for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they’ve got me quite cross
But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song
It’s for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

Walking As Therapy, R.E.M. and “Nightswimming”

Today, when I sat down to write my first post since turning over a new leaf (in terms of blogging), I discover WordPress has totally changed how we create content around here and I suspect it’s going to take a little while to get to grips with it all. Just as I was getting comfortable they go and change it, by adding a new piece of software called Gutenberg. Anyway, a great chance to test it out by putting together a bit of a picture post, which is what I had planned for today anyway.

One of the benefits of having been so stressed over the last few weeks is that I am probably fitter than I’ve been in years. We all know that exercise is a great stress buster, and rather than donning the lycra and heading to the gym (one of the most boring pastimes ever invented), I’ve taken to pounding the paths and pavements of my “hood”, and have now clocked up a serious amount of miles. Nothing easier when you find yourself with a spare half hour, than to grab a hat, a pair of gloves, a waterproof jacket and some comfortable shoes, then head out in whatever direction takes your fancy. A brolly can also come in handy and a pair of sunglasses to keep the wrinkles at bay, but not obligatory.

Some pictures below – If you look closely you will see a daytime moon.

There have been some beautiful sunny days around here of late and it’s been a privilege to take in the blue skies and autumn hues that surround us at this time of year. Another bonus is that I seem to have inspired a few friends to join me, so although I’m happy to go it alone, I often have company, which has been great. Putting one foot in front of the other – It’s not rocket science is it, but something that seems to be lost to so many of us nowadays and I used to be one of the worst culprits. We sit in front of computers all day, drive to work and to the shops, binge watch telly on our sofas and then go to bed, only to get up and do it all over again the next day.

Hat, gloves, jacket, shoes…

Hat, gloves, jacket, shoes…

Leave the Fitbits and all the gadgetry at home and just get out there and enjoy whatever there is to see. I don’t want to come across all smug and self-righteous here, but I think I’ve now seen the light, and if I don’t fit a couple of walks into a day, something feels all wrong. Talking of seeing the light, some of the best times to be out during autumn is in the evening, especially if you live on a hill as I do. It gets dark at around 5pm, after which you see all the lights across town; the lights in the offices where people are still working; and those that illuminate our highways and byways.

Still hard at work – Scottish Natural Heritage HQ
Down by the canal locks at night-time

Looking at the picture above, I am reminded of the song Nightswimming by the American alternative rock band R.E.M. It was released in 1993 as the fifth single from their album “Automatic for the People”. I don’t think the waters of the Caledonian Canal would be much fun to swim in at this time of year, but of course the waters of Athens, Georgia, where the band hail from, would have made night-time skinny dipping perfectly possible. This is where the inspiration for this song came from, I think, but those R.E.M. boys have a habit of making things up as they go along, so it could be about something totally different!

This is the second time something from that album has appeared on these pages in the last few months. Last time (link here) I included their 1992 single Man On The Moon as one of the featured songs for my “Moon Series”. It wasn’t really until “Automatic for the People” that I started to properly appreciate R.E.M., and other than the songs already mentioned, it also spawned the singles Everybody Hurts, Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and Find The River. Not quite a record at 6 singles in total, but very impressive nonetheless.

Nightswimming by R.E.M.:

So, “What’s It All About?”- I don’t know if any of my blogging buddies are having similar problems here on WordPress, but the times they are a-changin’ it seems and I think we’re all going to have to man up, and learn how to adapt to this new software. Typical, just as I crack how to use all the bells and whistles, the system changes (that was the story of my working life too). I have a feeling this post is going to resemble a dog’s dinner, but bear with me, I’ll get better.

(Oh and yes, I know that if I had a dog I would be out there pounding the pavement every day anyway, but I don’t, so it’s just never been part of my daily routine. The gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs that have been part of our lives over the years were not what you would have called labour intensive – My mistake I now see!)

Until next time….

Nightswimming Lyrics
(Song by William Berry/Peter Buck/Mike Mills/Michael Stipe)

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it’s so much clearer
I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge
The moon is low tonight

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I’m not sure all these people understand
It’s not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
The recklessness in water
They cannot see me naked
These things they go away
Replaced by every day

Nightswimming,
remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit around the fairest sun?
The bright tide forever drawn
Could not describe nightswimming

You, I thought I knew you
You, I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly
Underneath my breath
Nightswimming

The photograph reflects
Every street light a reminder
Nightswimming
Deserves a quiet night
Deserves a quiet night

New Beginnings Part 1: Glenn Miller and “A String Of Pearls”

This has been an eventful week but one that has gone better than I could have ever expected. Regular visitors to this place know I’ve spent most of this year trying to do the best I can for my mum, who lives with dementia. Tough in itself, but after a recent bad fall she was admitted to hospital, and although now recovered physically, it was deemed she wouldn’t be able to go back home without 24-hour support. I’ve had a fair few rants here over the last year, never about my mum, as she has done nothing wrong, but about the lack of resources out there to help families cope. (You are probably all bored of this story now, but I promise that after this post I will draw a line under the topic and get back to simply writing about my musical memories, which was what this blog was always supposed to be about.)

My mum as a young woman

Turns out that the care of our old folk is moving wholeheartedly to the private sector, and if you are lucky enough to have the funds to pay for it, you will be well looked after. If you don’t have the eye-watering amounts of cash required it’s a bit of a lottery, which really saddens me. Our NHS is “crumbling under the strain of an aging population” they say, but here’s the thing, the aging population shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about having defied the odds and lived a long life.

Anyway, the upshot is that a very swish new private care home opened this summer in our town, and was the only place with a readily available room for my mum. It’s like a 5 star hotel inside with a menu and decoration to match, but now that she’s moved in, I realise it’s the perfect place for her. After 8 weeks in hospital I think she’d forgotten all about her own little retirement flat, as in hospital time has no meaning, and it probably felt more like 8 months. So, after a bit of basic packing of clothes and belongings, we made the momentous journey across town, and so far so good. She is being treated like a queen, the food is lovely and there are plenty of people to do things with. There is an inhouse hair salon (which is so important to ladies of a certain age) and ‘activities’ every day. If you have dementia, non-dementia sufferers sometimes lose patience with your inability to carry out a cohesive conversation. In the care home, most of the residents have dementia, so no-one is going to get frustrated with you the same way they do in civvy street.

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The girls of the ATS (my mum is the tall one on the right)

Talking of civvy street, I’m going to carry on with the analogy, as I realise my mum was born to live a regimented life with set meal-times and a tight schedule of tasks and activities. I remember her talking about life in the ATS as a girl (must have been a junior version), and of the wonderful times they spent at camp. No luxuries back then of course, but all the camaraderie of being with people just like yourself. I’m starting to think the most difficult part of her life has been the years spent living on her own after the death of my dad. She moved to the Highlands to be near us, but of course you leave your friends behind, and life in a retirement flat can be a sad and lonely business. She was a great walker, and walked a fair distance into town and back every day, but I’m starting to think that was probably just to have something to do. To make more of the day go away.

Early days still, and I do have the worry at the back of my mind she might be “evicted” if her funds ever run out, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For someone who worked up until retirement age from the time she left school however (bar a 3-year break to have me), and lived a simple life, it’s just what she deserves. She is a very sociable lady and unlike many more free-spirited old folk, was born to abide by ‘the rules’ and take part in whatever is thrown her way, so I’m hopeful it will all work out. I still feel uneasy about the fact such care should be for all, but sadly that’s a massive issue which will continue to challenge our governments for some time to come.

As for the music clip, this weekend we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day which signified the end of the First World War. I’m therefore going to choose something from the vast back catalogue of war-time favourites. My mum is off to a tea party this afternoon where they will no doubt be treated to such music. There is nothing good about war and so many young men on both sides lost their lives, but when times are tough, the sound of a big band always raised spirits and morale. During the Second World War, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra was a firm favourite with the troops (and is a firm favourite with myself), so it’s going to be something from him. Here is A String of Pearls from 1942.

No lyrics around here today, as for the first time ever, simply a piece of music and not a song. I found the string of pearls my mum received as a present from my dad when they were ‘courting’ yesterday. Not sure if such things can be taken into the care home yet (I suspect not), so in the meantime I will take good care of them.

Back to music blogging again for me now. A big change for all of us around here and a new-found freedom for me. Thanks for listening to my woes over the months – It’s been cathartic.

A Trip to Belfast, “Van the Man” and The Undertones

This time two weeks ago I was in Belfast. Whenever I have a wee trip, I usually end up writing one of my travelogue style posts (with a relevant song thrown in), so here I am finally getting round to it. Ironically, I was only able to go on this trip because my mum is still in hospital. The day before I left however there was a meeting with hospital staff, when I was told she wouldn’t be able to go home, ever, so a care home will have to be found. Problem is they are generally awful, and all of them have long waiting lists. Glad I managed to fit the trip in now, as a bit stressed at the moment rushing around viewing care homes and marshalling into place the eye-watering amounts of cash needed to pay for them.

But back to the matter in hand and a bit of background. Many years ago, when DD was just a wee tot, I used to head along to the local Mother and Toddler Group with her. These kind of things can be quite grim. A bit of a hit-or-miss. You are desperate for some interaction with other like-minded adults, but often all you have in common is that you have brought a small child into the world, and sometimes that’s just not enough. I did however make one good friend at our local group over 20 years ago. She lived around the corner from us, but as wont to happen we moved to another part of town before DD went to school, and we kind of lost touch. A couple of years ago I made contact with her again, and we’ve started meeting up quite regularly. We just gel, and it’s such a shame we wasted so many years of potential friendship. Now that we’re making up for lost time, we decided to start having an annual trip together, during what we still call in Scotland, the “tattie holidays”. Last year it was Amsterdam (link here) and this year it was Belfast (both accessible from our local airport). As a great fan of alphabetisation, I can see we should look for a city starting with the letter C next year, and then D the year after, but it could get tricky, so we may have to rethink that plan!

We were very lucky in that the day we touched down at George Best City Airport the sun was shining, and after settling into our very central little apartment we headed off to explore the city. It certainly doesn’t have the unique history and current hip quality of Amsterdam, but of course it does have its very own history and seems to be a city well and truly on the up. The Good Friday Agreement has been in place for 20 years now, so although I remember the nightly news stories from Belfast at the height of The Troubles, there is a whole generation of young people who don’t even remember those dark days, and the population is quite dramatically on the rise again. The Peace Walls are due to come down in 2023 and much regeneration is going on within the city centre, so I really hope this pesky hiccup called Brexit (being sarcastic of course) is not going to jeopardise a lengthy period of calm for the city.

One thing we noticed straight away was that the residents of Belfast are very friendly. Whenever we looked a bit lost or disorientated (happened quite a lot), there was always a local at hand to help us out, offering great advice on which places to visit and where to eat. A ticket for the sight-seeing bus lasts 72 hours so that was our chosen method of transport and as it was one of those hop-on, hop-off affairs, we managed to take in a fair few of the sights – A trip out to Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly (which is sadly going through a period of suspension), a trip out to the new Titanic Experience building and of course, a journey around the many parts of the city where gable end political murals are very much part of the landscape. I did take some pictures, but won’t include them here, as I did find it discomforting being a tourist voyeur, paying to enjoy the spectacle of how these murals still mark out a city very much segregated by history and religion. The flags of the Union and of Ireland still adorn the streets in East and West Belfast, but most were looking a bit tattered and torn which I am hoping means no new ones are being put up to replace them. All being well the peace will continue to last, and with social media, young people who have been segregated through schooling will start to bond with other young people via shared interests, whatever their religion. Maybe I’m oversimplifying a complex issue here, but I am hopeful.

But this is supposed to be a music blog so which songs can I serve up for your delectation? You may well have spotted that along with footballer George Best, “Van the Man” Morrison also appears on the large mural in the picture at the top of the page. A son of East Belfast, he has achieved great things in the world of music and seems to be as prolific as ever, his 40th album due to be released in December. My chosen Van Morrison song is going to be Brown Eyed Girl, which I know is kind of over-familiar to most folk now, but this is my blog and I still love it, so Brown Eyed Girl it’s going to be! Released as a single in June 1967, it is considered to be Van’s signature song.

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Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison:

A band whom I always thought of as hailing from Belfast were The Undertones. Turns out they weren’t, but from Derry instead. No matter, the fact they recorded this next featured song in Belfast makes it worthy of inclusion. Music lover, DJ and champion of unheard bands John Peel, had one pop song he regarded above all others. At his personal request Teenage Kicks was played at his funeral, and its opening line is inscribed on his gravestone. Released in October 1978 it only reached No. 31 in the UK Singles Chart but will be fondly remembered by so many.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes it’s just nice to get off the hamster wheel and spend a couple of days exploring new places with a good friend. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a close female friend, as Mr WIAA tends to be my go-to person for most things in life, but it’s been lovely having someone from outwith the family to share things with (besides you guys of course whom I share everything with!).

As for my mum, her welfare is now in my hands and I am being thwarted at every turn. There are basically too few care home places, and every additional week she spends in hospital she is deteriorating, mentally. We can’t look after her 24 hours a day, and the only care home with places is a brand new, extortionately priced, private one. This I’m afraid, is how we are treating our old folk in the 21st century. Makes me very sad indeed.

Until next time….

Brown Eyed Girl Lyrics
(Song by Van Morrison)

Hey, where did we go
Days when the rains came ?
Down in the hollow
Playing a new game,
Laughing and a-running, hey, hey,
Skipping and a-jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our, our hearts a-thumping
And you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Whatever happened
To Tuesday and so slow
Going down to the old mine with a
Transistor radio.
Standing in the sunlight laughing
Hide behind a rainbow’s wall,
Slipping and a-sliding
All along the waterfall
With you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
Just like that
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
La dee dah.

So hard to find my way
Now that I’m all on my own.
I saw you just the other day,
My, how you have grown!
Cast my memory back there, Lord,
Sometime I’m overcome thinking about
Making love in the green grass
Behind the stadium
With you, my brown-eyed girl,
You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
Laying in the green grass
Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah
Dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee
Sha la la la la la la la la la la la la
Dee dah la dee dah la dee dah la
D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d…

Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and “Radio Ga Ga”

Well, my stats are booming and all because of this particular post, written right at the start of my blogging career. Regular visitors will know I’ve had a bit of a cinema-fest going on of late before life starts to get really busy again, and this week I managed to catch the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.

It hasn’t received universally fantastic reviews, but for those of us who enjoy rock and pop folklore, it is I feel, a must-see film. Rami Malek played Freddie brilliantly I thought and having to act with those teeth must have been a challenge in itself. (Freddie was apparently born with an extra 4 incisors but forewent the intervention of a dentist in case it affected his voice.) We got a great insight into the early days of Queen and the background to the making of those epic records. The film ends with footage of the Live Aid concert where they pretty much stole the show (and formed the basis for this post). The best way to go I think. We leave the cinema with a smile on our faces, remembering Farrokh Bulsara at his prime, just as he would have wanted.

What's It All About?

I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.

The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “the note heard round the world”.

Radio Ga Ga by Queen:

There had been…

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