An Open Letter to DD – When Life Gets Tough, Be Like Buffy

My Dearest Darling Daughter (DD for short)

I know you don’t often drop by this place and I thank you for giving me the freedom to write freely without worrying about being viewed by people from the real world, but here is a short post just for you. Other regulars may drop by but they already know all about you, as your shenanigans, as well as those of your dad and granny all pop up within these pages from time to time.

We are now heading into our 10th week of lockdown here in Scotland, which means it’s nearly 11 weeks since you were “let go” from your workplace. What an awful euphemism – You and your colleagues were not flimsy pieces of rope loosely tethered to your desks, but sparky, go-getting young people with so much to offer. Anyway, because of the pandemic it happened, and on behalf of my generation I apologise for how your generation have been treated over the last decade or so. 

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One of my favourite pictures of DD

We all know how tough it is for you to buy somewhere to live, as we bought everything up as “investment property”. We all know how tough it is for you to enter the job market, as we cling on to the quality jobs and now (have to) work ’til we drop. We gave you computers & phones which let you access social media 24/7, often damaging your mental health. Some of us call you “snowflakes” which is an insult of the highest order and could only come from those who haven’t seen how hard your generation have had to work to navigate the school system and beyond. And now…, the world has seen fit to give you a pandemic to deal with.

This is primarily a health crisis we are living through, and yes, it is our older people and those with underlying health conditions who have borne the brunt of it so far, however I would argue that it’s the 18 to 24-year-olds like yourself whose lives have been turned upside down by it most, and who will bear the brunt in the longer term. I feel desperately sorry for all of you who will miss sitting those life-changing exams; who will finish your degrees virtually; who will miss out on all those end of term revelries; whose new apprenticeships/jobs are now on hold, and; whose plans for next year are now in jeopardy. Many of you might be in a serious relationship yet are having to lockdown in different households. Your social life, which is of immense importance to your age group, is reduced to a Zoom quiz or a hour’s walk with your parents.     

Anyway, got to find some positives and I know you will do your absolute best to adapt to a post-pandemic world. It was obvious before all this that something had to change in terms of how we live, and this might just be the catalyst to make it happen. Over the last few months we have seen less pollution, more innovative ways of working and communities taking care of each other – All bodes well for the future, as long as we can get through this tricky next phase.

I know you’re starting to struggle a bit now and I would like nothing more than to give you a great big hug, but as you’re at the other end of the country, sadly not possible for some time yet. Your dad and I miss you desperately and are your biggest supporters – Whatever the future holds, you will be fabulous.

Mum xxx


Postscript:

I have written about DD often around here, so if anyone wants to drop by the comments boxes with a message of support I think it would give her a big lift. Cross fingers we can all reunite soon. Back in the day, we as a family spent a calendar year watching all 144 episodes of Joss Whedon’s award-winning cult drama, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. When times get tough, the question still is, “What would Buffy do?” – She was one powerful young lady.

As we watched all 144 episodes, we must have also heard the theme music by Nerf Herder at least 144 times. I had never thought to look into this before, but Nerf Herder are apparently an American rock band from Santa Barbara, California. They describe themselves as a “geek rock” band, and are known for simplistic, modern, punk-style songs and pop-culture-referencing lyrics. Perfect for the Buffy Theme it seems, and as I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Theme by Nerf Herder:

Eurovision, Pickettywitch and Another Look At The Chart Hits Of 1970

Well, we’re now coming up to eight weeks in lockdown here in Scotland with no sign yet of an easing of restrictions. We can now go out more than once a day for exercise, however that has somehow lessened its appeal. When something is rationed you make the absolute most of it, but when it is more freely available, it can be squandered. Don’t want to return to my old ways now that I’m feeling so much fitter than I have in years though, so good discipline will have to kick in instead. There is definitely a change in visible activity now with more traffic on the roads and more shops and services finding ways to re-open, but the days of welcoming millions of tourists over the summer months are still a very long way off.

Not many people around here will probably be aware of this, but it should be Eurovision week, culminating with the grand final taking place on Saturday 16th May. The contest this year was to be held in Rotterdam as Duncan Laurence (real name Duncan de Moor) from The Netherlands won last year with his song Arcade, and it is usual for the previous year’s winning country to host the next one.

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Sadly the auditorium in Rotterdam is now an overspill hospital for Dutch Covid-19 patients and this will be the first year since the contest’s inception 64 years ago that it hasn’t gone ahead. 2020 will be the year that never happened for large events where the whole raison d’être is the gathering together of lots and lots of people, all there to enjoy the same thing – The Olympics, the Euros, Glastonbury, Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, the list goes on….

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Bucks Fizz or is it?

I have been brave enough to mention around here before that a few years ago we went to an actual live contest in Vienna, and the picture on the right appears somewhere on an official Eurovision website as we had been caught on camera whilst trying to navigate our way home on the city’s underground system. I’m not going to lie, it was great fun, and although definitely not the “coolest” thing ever to have done, we had a great weekend and found some like-minded fellow Scots to hang around with. If you’re looking for a bit of fluff and nonsense, it can’t be bettered.

Some of my first memories are of watching the contest with my family as a child when our most popular singing stars represented the nation and invariably won or came close to winning – One of my first posts was even about those days (link here). The contest we went to was nothing like the shows I watched as a child, and we of course no longer field the cream of our crop (as it could be career suicide for them), but there have been some worthy and memorable winners over the last few years, Salvador Sobral for one.

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Salvador Sobral

This Eurovision themed post comes just at the right time, as I have been manfully making my way through the UK Singles Chart of 1970 in the course of the year as a kind of 50 year retrospective, reflecting simpler times (got that right!). So far we have revisited the hits of Kenny Rogers, Edison Lighthouse, Lee Marvin and Simon & Garfunkel but then the 1970 Eurovision took place and the charts became littered with songs from participating nations as was wont to happen back then.

The song that took over the top spot in the UK Singles Chart from Bridge Over Troubled Water was All Kinds of Everything by very young Irish songstress Dana (the only Eurovision finalist to go on to became an MEP). I would only have been aged nine when this song won the contest and wouldn’t have found it nearly as unbearable to listen to as I do now, but, those sugary sweet songs were just the kind of thing that won back then. In time we would have hard rock winners but that would take a while yet.

The song representing the UK in 1970 was Knock, Knock Who’s There? performed by Welsh songstress Mary Hopkin. She had been the favourite to win on the night but ended up coming second. Most of us in the UK already knew Mary well as she had been one of the first artists to sign with Apple Records, owned by the Beatles. The model Twiggy had apparently seen her winning the British television talent show Opportunity Knocks, and recommended her to Paul McCartney. Her debut single Those Were The Days, produced by McCartney, reached the top spot in the UK in 1968 and yes Mary, the way I’m feeling right now, those definitely were the days.

Lots of Eurovision songs mentioned in this post but what else do I find in that same Singles Chart? Here’s one I haven’t heard in an awful long time but again, it brings back happy memories of watching TOTP with my family as a child. The Same Old Feeling was recorded by the band Pickettywitch and reached the No. 5 spot in 1970. I can still remember watching lead singer Polly Brown in her very short dress, although her immaculately coiffed singing sidekick draws a blank. The band apparently got their moniker after passing a pub of the same name in Yeovil in Somerset. Compared with the wholesome Eurovision ladies, Polly definitely had a bit of an edge.

The Same Old Feeling by Pickettywitch:

Bit of a rambling post this one but a bit sad that we won’t be having our usual get-together for Eurovision this year complete with food and drink of the host nation. As it turns out, Dutch food is not especially noteworthy, so might have been quite a tough one anyway. I did get a chance to revisit the chart of 50 years ago again though, and decided in the end I preferred Pickettywitch to any of the Eurovision entrants. It looks as if the next big chart topper of 1970 was also associated with a major event, but a football one this time. By the time I get round to it, I will have coincided with another cancelled 2020 event.

Until next time….

The Same Old Feeling Lyrics
(Song by John Macleod/Tony Macaulay)

I still get the same old feeling
Tearing at this heart of mine
Telling me that maybe I’m
Not really over you
I still get the same old yearning
Turning my heart inside out
Love, there can’t be any doubt
I’m still not over you

The oak tree where you carved my name
A year ago now
Somehow doesn’t really look the same
I think it closed now
The places we would go
Still play the songs we used to know

The cottage where we used to meet
Is overgrown now
We dreamed we’d live there too someday
Just on our own now
The letters you wrote me
Still bring that sentimental ring

Earworm Of The Week #4 – Odyssey and “If You’re Looking For A Way Out”

No prizes for guessing how this song popped into my subconscious this week as it’s now all about how we’re going to get out of lockdown, but as an earworm it’s a pleasant one, and it’s made me want to look into the story of the singing group Odyssey a bit more. For a long time I used to confuse them with fellow Americans Rose Royce because their most successful years in the UK Singles Chart coincided, and both produced up-tempo disco numbers but also beautiful ballads.

Odyssey would have first entered my radar during my final year of senior school as their first big hit in the UK reached the No. 2 spot that Christmas. Native New Yorker was more successful over here than in their native US which became a pattern for the rest of their career and eventually led them to move to the UK permanently.

The song was originally written for Frankie Valli but when covered by Odyssey it became their first hit. The song is about a girl who is unlucky in love. The singer is telling her that as a native New Yorker, she should know by now that love is as fabricated as a Broadway show, and that you have to look out for yourself in the city. It’s a song about disillusionment that captures the downside of the self-reliant New York lifestyle.

Now we’re fast-forwarding to the summer of 1980 and it was one of their songs I just couldn’t miss, as it spent 12 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and 2 weeks at the top spot. Believe it or not this song title inavertedly pops up in our house just about every other day, as whenever we look in the fridge and spot something that needs used up, we always ask each other if we should, Use it up and wear it out?“. It’s been hard-wired into our brains by Odyssey that you can’t say the first bit without adding the second!

By the end of the summer of 1980 they released a follow-up single, If You’re Lookin’ for a Way Out with Lillian Lopez again on lead vocals. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker and had I not been all loved-up that summer, but rather going through a painful break up, it would have made for tough listening. This single reached the No. 6 spot and spent 15 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. The common factor in all three featured songs is that they were either written or produced by Sandy Linzer who is a new name for me but seems to have been really prolific in the ’60s/’70s writing for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

To be fair, the person I was all loved-up with that summer did cause much heartache down the line, and looking at these lyrics I was not as magnanimous. You do feel like you’re dying inside and I did stand in his way, but ultimately to no avail. Does that make me a bad girlfriend? I don’t think so – Just a broken-hearted one.

If You’re Looking For A Way Out by Odyssey:

So, I now know a lot more about the group Odyssey and will no longer confuse them with Rose Royce. It’s also been nice to have a break from writing about all that’s going on in the world at the moment and just concentrate on the music (although this one definitely inspired by what’s going on). I have a few more drafts that would be good to get down in print as I’ve not yet written about any of the sad deaths we’ve had from the world of music this year, which is remiss of me. Easy to get distracted at the moment however.

Until next time….

If You’re Lookin’ For A Way Out Lyrics
(Song by Sandy Linzer, Ralph Kotkov)

Love is crazy baby, I can see it in your eyes
Your kisses taste the same
But it’s just a sweet disguise
Ain’t that just like you
To worry about me
But we promised to be honest
With each other for all eternity
So if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
And if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away
(Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away, run away)

Oh baby tell me I’m wrong
Just say I’m crazy
It’s with you that I belong
It’s never easy when lovers have to part
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in you heart
And if you’re looking for a way out
I won’t stand here in your way
But if you’re looking for a way out

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t kiss me again ’cause I’m dying
To keep you from running away

Don’t look at the tears that I’m crying
They’ll only make you wanna stay
Don’t love me again ’cause I’m tryin’
To keep you from running away
(Baby don’t run away, baby don’t run away)

Don’t you run away (ooh ooh)
(Ooh ooh)
Oh come on stop pretending
Tell me what’s in your heart

Postscript:

I don’t know if any of you have watched the new BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People but I would thoroughly recommend it. It made me realise that the Sligo of today in the drama is very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in and many of the storylines resonated. It’s probably not for everyone but just as the song featured above is a real tear-jerker, without giving too much away, the drama is a real tear-jerker too and involves young people who are around the age I was when these songs came into my life.

I went to a school that punched above its weight in terms of academic success for its pupils and many of us from what I would call a working class culture headed off to university. Not always easy to assimilate though and I strongly identified with the male character Connell. No, not easy when you find yourself straddling two worlds but not fitting into either – If you watch it, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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Connell and Marianne from Normal People

Thoughts Of The Week, Thin Lizzy and “Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In It’s Spotlight)”

I’ve been surprised at how quickly we become acclimatised to the new normal. Just like the grieving process there seems to be a “lockdown process”, and although different for everyone depending on your circumstances, I am currently in a very different place to the one I was in seven weeks ago, possibly because I’ve entered the acceptance phase. The direct debits have been cancelled, I’ve fired out as many offers of help to neighbours as I can, my weekly menu plans mean we live in a zero food-waste household, and best of all, coming up to a slightly scary big birthday I think I’m the fittest I’ve been in years. Mr WIAA and I worked out yesterday that in terms of miles covered (purely for exercise of course), we could have walked to Aberdeen and back during the lockdown period, a distance of 200 miles.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers:

Before anyone thinks I’m starting to sound smug, I am still a tad concerned at how on earth we are going to get our businesses back up and running any time soon, but the blind panic I was experiencing at the beginning has certainly dissipated somewhat. It is a bit of a worry that my mum is in a local care home and I haven’t been able to visit her since the beginning of March, but so far the virus has been kept at bay, which is great. Every time I phone it feels like I am interrupting all the fun, and although she appreciates the call, she can’t wait to get back to what she was doing, painting rainbows or making VE Day bunting with her friends. I think the dynamic in the care home has changed in that it has become so much more self-contained by necessity, and they have become one big family, not having to open up for visitors all day long. It costs a lot, and a week of care home charges could subsidise DD for a month, but I can certainly sleep easy which is good.

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My mum as a young woman

Speaking of DD, we have seen more of her in the last seven weeks than we have in years as an awful lot of FaceTiming has been going on. When your offspring first leave home you pine for them and are desperate for them to call home, but realise they are busy with their new lives so try to remain patient. Turns out that during a global pandemic it’s not an issue, and we sometimes even have to cut the call short in order to free ourselves up for the latest instalment of our current boxset (but we won’t tell her that). Families also come together in a way they might not have done in decades. We have a weekly quiz night with Mr WIAA’s extended family who are scattered all over the country and even hosted our own for the first time on Wednesday night. I’d like to say it went well, and it did up to a point, but we totally messed up the scores on the doors and there was ensuing dissidence in the ranks. Fortunately we pulled it back and gave people their correct standings by the time we closed the meeting, so honour was restored. The other great thing about a quiz night is that no mention is made of politics, so the kind of “fallings out” that can sometimes occur when a seasonal tipple is involved, are no longer an issue. If anyone wants to download my very generic quiz for all age groups, here it is. Adapt it at will and add a picture of your own home town – Just make sure to tot up the scores correctly or there will be repercussions!

My Powerpoint Quiz

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We Are Family by Sister Sledge:

This bit of blogging is mainly for my own benefit as I no longer keep a paper diary so my blog is going to be my only record of the times we are living through. I do have a few musical posts in my back pocket however so want to get back to them soon or else the moment will pass. Somehow we are going to have to learn to live with this new virus, as a permanent life in lockdown until there is a safe vaccine is just not an option. We all have our own views on that, and a scary premise indeed, but just as we’ve kind of quickly got used to the whole lockdown scenario, we will have to get used to living in a way that minimises the health risk and preserves the capacity of our NHS. Difficult times indeed.

Before I go, many of you will have spotted the Flower Moon in our skies this week. I have written about it before for my Full Moon Calendar In Song series but the one on Wednesday night was the last supermoon of the year, so was particulary bright. In fact it was so bright I thought I’d left the outside light on and mistakenly got up to switch it off. It kind of caught you in its spotlight making you want to go dancing in the moonlight. Cue Thin Lizzy from 1977.

Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight) by Thin Lizzy:

I remember well watching Phil Lynott and the rest of the band on TOTP around this time and was always fascinated by their hair. Back in those days, the plethora of hair conditioning products available to us now just didn’t exist, yet his guitarist bandmate Scott Gorham had the most gorgeous long, shiny hair. As a teenage girl I was well jealous. As for Phil, he seemed to have managed to cultivate a “do” that covered his left eye, which was unusual for that time.

Looking at these lyrics now, it’s a song that reminds me of those teenage years when plucking up the courage to ask for that last dance can be so pivotal, and let’s face it, who hasn’t got chocolate stains on their “pants” at the cinema (heck I once dropped a whole ice-cream). You stay out too late and miss the last bus, so have to tell your parents you’re staying with a friend. All worthwhile however as you’ve been caught in the spotlight on a long hot summer night.

Until next time….

Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)
(Song by Phil Lynott)

When I passed you in the doorway
Well you took me with a glance
I should have took that last bus home
But I asked you for a dance

Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants
And my father he’s going crazy
He says I’m living in a trance

But I’m dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

It’s three o’clock in the morning
And I’m on the streets again
I disobeyed another warning
I should have been in by ten

Now I won’t get out until Sunday
I’ll have to say I stayed with friends
But it’s a habit worth forming
If it means to justify the end

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

And I’m walking home
The last bus has long gone
But I’m dancing in the moonlight

[Instrumental]

Dancing in the moonlight
It’s caught me in its spotlight
It’s alright, alright
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night

Dancing in the moonlight (I’m dancing in the moonlight)
It’s caught me in its spotlight (It’s caught me in in it’s spotlight)
Dancing in the moonlight (dancing in the moonlight)
On this long hot summer night (It’s got me hot)

Runrig, “Hearthammer” and A Bit Of Shameless Marketing

Well, another week on and another Saturday morning blogging session. As I sit down to type I am as yet undecided on today’s subject matter/featured song, so it’s going to be interesting. I occasionally take to “tipsy blogging” (just the one glass of red, so not too tipsy) when I’m lost for inspiration, but not really the done thing before elevenses so a mug of tea it’ll have to be instead.

But of course I’m not lost for inspiration today, it’s just that I had a bit of a rant last week so feel I’m going to have to reel it in a bit this week. I had been a bit upset by the apparent jollity around my neck of the woods during these difficult days, and was finding the lack of empathy for those going through tough times hard to take. I shouldn’t have been surprised however as we are most definitely not all in the same boat during these early days of the crisis. Socio-economic factors have created a massive divide in terms of the lockdown experience and for our retired neighbours with generous pensions, other than not being able to go on holiday at the moment, their lives haven’t changed much at all. My offers of help have not as yet been needed. The economic/social crisis now developing from the health crisis is going to impact the young most, and also those who cannot work from home. In time, a new fairer balance will be found, but how many years will that take? I hope I’m still around to see it happen.

View across the Beauly Firth to Ben Wyvis

I included this picture in last week’s post so shouldn’t really share it again but it’s a bobby dazzler isn’t it and taken from a place just 15 minutes walk from the holiday hideaway which has now been put into mothballs. Regulars around here will remember my foray into the world of tourism last year and how it didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped. Alyson’s Highland Adventures (AHA) soon became Highland Adventures (HA) as it became apparent people generally just want a lockbox, good Wi-Fi and for me to bugger off!

This week was spent cancelling the remainder of my bookings for the calendar year as we have no idea when we will be able to safely operate such businesses again. Being positive however, I think by next year people will start to have holidays again, and the Staycation will be a popular choice. Some shameless self-promotion here but my Orcadian blogging buddy Graeme from Imperfect and Tense came to stay with his family just before it all started to go horribly wrong, and shared some great pictures over at his place. I was nervous, as he lives in such a beautiful spot himself, but over the course of the week he found all sorts of interesting outdoors-y places that were even new to me. The bonus of course of having a self-contained holiday house on the edge of town, is that your guests have the duel benefits of access to great scenery but also an M&S Foodhall for holiday treats. (Don’t want to sound scary, but has to be said, also useful to have a large acute NHS hospital nearby too.)

Not sure as yet when I shall reopen for business but as I said last year, if any regular visitors want to give me a whirl when the time is right, feel free to get in touch via the Contact Me link at the top of the page. I’m pretty sure Graeme would be more than happy to provide a reference.

As the focus of this post seems to have been on local scenery, it would seem sensible to include a very local piece of music too. There are loads of small venues around here where bands perform in the summer months but of course not going to be easy for them to operate for some time, which is sad. As for the local festivals and gatherings which pepper the annual calendar, again, not going to happen this year. Thank goodness for aforementioned good Wi-Fi as at least many musicians have been able to take to online platforms, but must be said, not the same at all and of course won’t pay the bills.

A band who were able to stream their 2018 Farewell Concert the other week on social media was Runrig. They have featured around here before when I wrote about their version of the traditional song Loch Lomond. Despite looking a bit dated now, in the absence of coming up with a better alternative I’m going to revisit that video clip again (really gets lively after 3:00), as it’s a great reminder of how only weeks ago it would not have seemed unusual to attend such mass gatherings. When will we see their like again? Not for some time I suspect.

Loch Lomond was on the B-side of an EP released in 1991 and of course I bought it, along with the rest of the population of the Highlands. The main song on the EP was Hearthammer which made it into the UK Singles Chart and even got them a slot on TOTP. Looking at the lyrics properly now for the first time, they most definitely come from the memories of people who were youngsters in the 1960s, and I have found out about a famous Argentinian footballer called Di Stefano who was previously unknown to me. Sounds as if he was a remarkable player.

Hearthammer by Runrig:

Runrig’s lead singer Donnie Munro was Mr WIAA’s art teacher at school in the 1970s but by the late 1980s he was very much a full-time musician. When he’d told the class he was involved with a band, and that they played a kind of Gaelic/Celtic rock, the class were highly sceptical (this was the decade of glam rock, punk and disco after all) but he certainly proved them all wrong. In the period 1987-1997 they were signed to Chrysalis and released five very successful studio albums.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Wasn’t sure where this one would go but it seems I’ve ended up shamelessly plugging my temporarily mothballed holiday house. I would hope that by next year we will start to see visitors return to the Highlands of Scotland but with widespread foreign travel probably a thing of the past, and with Airlines going out of business, they are more likely to be of the home-grown variety rather than the myriad of nationalities I welcomed last year.  I’m sure local businesses will adapt and the smaller intimate (but not too intimate) venues will probably be the first to showcase live music again, but as we all keep saying, strange times indeed.

Until next time….

Hearthammer Lyrics
(Song by Calum Macdonald/Rory Macdonald)

With the eyes of a child
The wonder of it all
I used to search the stars at night
And I felt so safe and small
Sweet sounds from a Mersey town
And my nursery god
And I wanted to ride with Yuri Gagarin
As he circled all around my world

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

Lying under the covers
With the radio on
Settle down with Caroline
As she sailed all summer long
Sweetheart of the rodeo
Mining hearts of gold
I think it was somewhere pre stand-up time
Somewhere post Rubber Soul

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

There was the first caress
There were the Labour years
There was the man who walked the moon
Something you never really believed
The Di Stefano twists
The Charlton goals
Now I’m still here with the eyes of a child
The wonder never grows old

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

The C Word, Simon & Garfunkel and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

The first time I mentioned the “C Word” around here was on the 14th of March as that was the week when it suddenly became real for us here in the UK and it wasn’t just something happening elsewhere. Since then I’ve vacillated between trying to remain upbeat (sharing old photos & recipes) and getting down and dirty, having a bit of a rant about certain behaviours.

It’s Saturday morning, which is my usual time for a weekly blogging session, but I’m not really in the mood for upbeat today. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve had to back-pedal a fair few times of late, apologising to some friends and neighbours for having been a bit too honest regarding my predictions for the near future. I was apparently spoiling things, as it seems my neck of the woods is loving lockdown life. The weather is fine, the garden beckons and come Thursday evening there is a carnival atmosphere in my street as we Clap for Carers, complete with the dreaded vuvuzela, the scourge of the 2010 South Africa World Cup.

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Having watched footage on telly, it seems the NHS frontline staff do appreciate the support of the nation and in the absence of us being able to come in and help intubate critically ill patients, not much more many of us can do. We are all patting ourselves on the back for staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives but it just doesn’t sit well with me at all. At some point the narrative will have to change, and we will have to leave home, but by then everyone will have become so acclimatised to the risks that could bring, they won’t want to.

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The Castle in the centre of town

It has always horrified me how much as a nation we spend on defence and nuclear weaponry, and all because we apparently need a place at some Top Table or other. Not in my name. I really don’t want a place anywhere near that table, and as it’s turned out, we’ve been spending money on the wrong kind of defence. The enemy in this war is an invisible virus and no amount of nuclear missiles could defeat it. Our frontline warriors are doctors, nurses, care workers, cleaners and porters who never signed up for this and whose places of work have been criminally underfunded for years. How much PPE could that new aircraft carrier have bought. Here is a quote from the Defence pages of the Government’s website.

The future flagships for the UK are the 2 new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and are the largest British warships ever built.

They, along with the F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and Merlin Mk2 helicopters will help keep the UK armed forces modern, flexible and powerful.

The combination of the carrier, its aircraft and personnel will enable the UK to protect the nation.

As I said, we’ve been spending the money from our coffers on the wrong kind of defence. I sincerely hope all the frontline workers dealing with this pandemic get the support they are going to need when we move onto the second phase of the “new normal”. It’s an obvious quote to choose I know, but Churchill’s, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” springs to mind.

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One of the upsides of the lockdown is that many of us are making full use of our one hour of daily exercise. Mr WIAA and I have covered most of the routes radiating from base camp over the last five weeks and taken a fair amount of pictures. Another upside of course is that we are heading into summer and not winter which would have been awful (but of course only for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). Here are a few of those pictures:

At the start of this year I had decided to revisit the UK Singles Chart of 1970. It contained music from 50 years ago and reflected simpler and happier times I thought (how prescient). I only got as far as Lee Marvin’s Wandrin’ Star (link here) when things started to go horribly wrong and my blog posts changed tack. Picking up where I left off, the record that made it to the No. 1 spot after Lee’s song from the film Paint Your Wagon, was this one by Simon & Garfunkel.

Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel:

Somehow this is the 5th time I’ll have featured a song by Simon & Garfunkel around here and they even have their very own category on my sidebar. I don’t think I would have envisioned that happening when I started the blog. They’ve made their way into my adult hippocampus by stealth and are now firmly going to remain there.

I remember Bridge Over Troubled Water well from 1970 as it stayed at the top spot in the charts for many weeks. I also remember that it was one of those situations when the artists never appeared on telly and a very basic little film was shown on TOTP to accompany the song instead. I would be lying if I said it was a favourite of mine from their vast back catalogue having now become a bit over-familiar, but as well as tying in with my revisitation of the Singles Chart of 1970, it is also apt for the times and fits in with one of my pictures above. We are lucky to live within walking distance of the Caledonian Canal, the River Ness and the Beauly Firth, so there are many bridges around here. Hopefully the waters won’t be troubled for too much longer.

I will end with a funny story I remember from one of the many film star biographies I read when I was young. I mentioned the “C Word” in my opening line, but of course that is usually a euphemism for another upsetting ailment, and one used by John Wayne when he called his sons together to break the bad news. They were quite young at the time, but still old enough to misinterpret what he meant. Eldest son quickly replied with the words, “Jeez Dad, you’ve got the clap”.

I seem to have gone full circle in this one from one kind of clap to another, and also from one kind of bridge to another, but often just the way it turns out.

Until next time….

Bridge Over Troubled Water Lyrics
(Song by Paul Simon) 

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
Oh when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Oh when darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Lockdown Recipes, Gerry Rafferty and “Baker Street”

Here’s a little present for you. Two in fact.

I think I’ve mentioned around here before that I have another blog set up as an homage to my favourite Scottish author, Jane Duncan. I’ve not updated it for a while but today decided to check if anyone had visited recently. Turns out they had, and all because I’d included a recipe for Girdle Scones a fair while back. In these days of staying at home, it seems more and more of us are trying our hands at baking, and girdle scones couldn’t be easier to make. Just to be clear, I’ve not made a typo there, I do mean girdle and not griddle, as that’s just what it’s called around here.

I had included that recipe after paying a visit to MacDonald’s Hardware in Dingwall (click on the link to see what their very Scottish best-selling item is), where I’d spotted a girdle just like the one my granny used to have. Most mornings, especially during the long summer holidays when her grandchildren were around, she would mix together a few ingredients and make some pancakes or scones. I absolutely had to buy one for myself, and soon found the perfect recipe, ironically on a website set up by a lady in Dunedin, New Zealand. Considering Dunedin (Dùn Èideann) is the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and considering the fact that New Zealand is awash with the offspring of former Scottish immigrants, I thought it was quite fitting.

In case you want to try them out for yourself (a heavy frying pan can be substituted for a girdle), here is that recipe. Very easy indeed, and quick to make. I took some pictures last time I made some and you must admit, they do look tasty, especially if spread with homemade strawberry jam.

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Girdle Scones

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
1/2 oz butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup milk

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the currants (or sultanas if you prefer) and then add just enough milk to make a soft dough. Don’t add all the milk at once though, in case you don’t need all of it. If your dough looks a little sticky don’t be afraid to add a little more flour.

Roll out to roughly 1/2 an inch thick and cut into six wedges.

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Grease the girdle then place on a hob until hot. Carefully transfer the “snuggled up” wedges onto the girdle and wait until golden brown and cooked in the middle. Takes roughly 5 minutes on either side. When turning your wedges, be careful to place them gently on the hot surface, and try to turn them only once.

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Transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy.

But of course this is supposed to be a music blog, so where’s the song? At first I was a bit stumped, as not many songs about baking out there and I’ve already exhausted my stash of kitchen songs for an earlier post. All seemed lost, then a light bulb moment, and I was reminded of this classic from 1978, Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.

Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty:

Named after a street in London which had no doubt housed bakeries centuries earlier, the song was included on Gerry’s album, City to City. It came along during my last year at senior school and although it didn’t make it to the No.1 spot, it certainly did hang around the charts for an awful long time. The song had apparently been written when he was commuting between his home in Glasgow and his lawyers in London, trying to disentangle himself from the contract he’d had with his previous band Stealers Wheel. “I knew a guy who lived in a little flat off Baker Street,” he said. “We’d sit and chat or play guitar there through the night.” Of course for most of us, the most memorable part of the song is the prominent eight-bar saxophone riff played as a break between verses.

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So, “What’s It All About?” – It’s a funny old business being on lockdown isn’t it, and although I’ve been on a real roller-coaster of emotions over the last few weeks (as can be seem from the material in my blog posts), today I think I just let it go. It’s been lovely and sunny, so our morning walk (for exercise) took in a really picturesque part of town and I made a little film when I came home with the shots taken on my phone. In the afternoon I rearranged the furniture to create a comforting little nook in the now redundant dining room that overlooks the garden. No-one will be coming to visit for some time, so we can live just how we want at the moment. I think we are all appreciating our food a lot more, and valuing where it comes from, so spending time in the kitchen is less of a chore and more of a joy.

Having said all that, if you are a frontline or key worker, or indeed trying to work from home whilst home-schooling children, I know your experience of lockdown will be a totally different one. I do feel guilty that the way things have landed, neither Mr WIAA or myself are currently of much use to anyone, but hopefully our time will come. Tomorrow I might fall to pieces again, but until then, I will enjoy Gerry and enjoy my scones. Should you choose to accept the mission of making them, you will not be disappointed.

Until Next time….

Baker Street Lyrics
(Song by Gerry Rafferty)

Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well, another crazy day
You’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul
And it’s taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

Way down the street there’s a light in his place
He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
And he asks you where you’ve been
You tell him who you’ve seen
And you talk about anything
He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything

But you know he’ll always keep moving
You know he’s never gonna stop moving
‘Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone
And when you wake up, it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
And you’re going, you’re going home