Seven in Seven #4: Capercaillie, “Caledonia” and Letters From America

Day Four of my annual challenge to write seven posts in seven days. No pressure on regular visitors to leave comments though and these….. Oh what the heck, you know the score by now, I’ll just get on with it.

So far so good with this challenge but as I was away last weekend, today the garden beckoned. Lots of plants to be bedded in and pots to be filled. I am seriously cream-crackered so this will definitely have to be a shorter post.

One of the gardening pressures I have, is that I am custodian of the “family begonias”. Some people inherit money and some inherit good genes. After my dad’s death I inherited begonia corms! These corms have passed down the generations and can’t be purchased in garden centres nowadays but continually reproduce every year. I usually have around ten tubs of beautiful red flowers in my garden every summer but as the only child, of an only child, of an only child, I feel the pressure not to render them extinct. Darling daughter is sadly disinterested in gardening at the moment, but then again so was I at her age, so all is not yet lost – Down the line these knobby corms will become hers, and hopefully she will rise to the challenge of keeping them going for another generation.

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The family begonias!

These begonias have been mentioned in this blog before, when I wrote about The Proclaimers’ song Letter From America (link here). The lyrics reminded me that although my family in Scotland is really small, if I included all those who left for America at the turn of the last century to find work, and perhaps their fortunes, it would be enormous. My grandad’s aunts and uncles all left the family croft and made the brave journey across the Atlantic to the New World. To track down their offspring would be an enormous task, and one that might have to be a retirement project, but at this time of the year I often wonder if any of them took a few begonia corms with them, as a reminder of home. If they did, there could well be gardens all over America with pots of red flowers just like mine.

emigration

Letter From America by The Proclaimers:

The Scottish diaspora is said to be around five times the size of our native population, and often far more fervently Scottish. Caledonian Societies abound and many bands from Scotland are probably far more widely known in “The Colonies” than south of the border. The folk band Capercaillie was founded in the 1980s, and is fronted by singer Karen Matheson. The group adapt traditional Gaelic music and lyrics with modern instruments such as electric guitar or bass and are probably one of our most successful exports. Here they are performing Cape Breton Song at Aberdeen’s Capitol Theatre in 1992.

But I always include the lyrics in my posts and although I laboured over Peter Kay’s Car Share Buddy song yesterday (which I couldn’t find anywhere), this time the lyrics are in Gaelic, so I have no chance. Time to think of another song that seems to go down well in those parts of the world where the residents often have a surname with the the prefix Mac. The song Caledonia was written in 1977 by Dougie MacLean – He was on a beach in France, feeling homesick, and wrote it in less than ten minutes. The song has became something of an anthem for Scotland and has been covered by many artists. The version I have in my collection is by Frankie Miller, so the audio clip will be that one, but for the video clip I think it will have to be the man himself. I wonder if he is also custodian of the family begonia corms?

Caledonia by Frankie Miller:

Caledonia Lyrics
(Song by Dougie MacLean)

I don’t know if you can see
The changes that have come over me
In these last few days I’ve been afraid
That I might drift away
I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs
That make me think about where I’ve come from
That’s the reason why I seem
So far away today

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me, now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger
Know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I have moved and I’ve kept on moving
Proved the points that I needed proving
Lost the friends that I needed losing
Found others on the way

I have kissed the fellas and left them crying
Stolen dreams, yes, there’s no denying
I have travelled hard, sometimes with conscience flying
Somewhere with the wind

Let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me, now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger
Know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Now I’m sitting here before the fire
The empty room, the forest choir
The flames have cooled, don’t get any higher
They’ve withered, now they’ve gone
But I’m steady thinking, my way is clear
And I know what I will do tomorrow
When hands have shaken, the kisses float
Then I will disappear

Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

Postscript:

Just in case anyone doesn’t know what I’m talking about when I mention the word “corm” – This is what they look like.

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Not very attractive granted, but once buried in some soil they start to perform their annual magic.

The scene of our “End of the Summer” get-together.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

5 thoughts on “Seven in Seven #4: Capercaillie, “Caledonia” and Letters From America”

  1. All power to your begonias and I hope your DD continues this fine family tradition. While reading this piece, I couldn’t help thinking of the lovely wee song “I’m A Lonely Little Petunia In An Onion Patch”, but maybe that’s just me.
    As for Dougie MacLean, I’m a long time fan and think his original version of “Caledonia” is best, although Frankie Miller comes a damn close second. I wonder if you have heard Dougie singing the ballad ” Gin I Were A Baron’s Heir” – a love song made to melt the hardest heart.
    Well worth a listen, it’s from Dougie’s “Craigie Dhu” album.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the heads up on these 2 songs, neither of which I’m familiar with. Once I get this ridiculous challenge out of the way I will have time to investigate them.

      As for DD and the begonias, not so sure – She has been brought up in a time when everything is bought new and not much is passed down the generations. Perhaps she will find herself a green-fingered partner?

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    2. I’ve now had time to check out both the songs you mentioned here – That Petunia one has been covered by everyone! Poor thing in amongst all those onions! So, the first one was from 1946 and the next one from the 18th century – We’re going back a bit now but it seems a great love song is a great love song whenever it was written. The sentiment is always the same.

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  2. I love the idea that you are custodian of the family begonias. Both Mum and Dad had green fingers, which sadly I didn’t inherit. I only have to look at a plant and it withers before my very eyes. Fortunately (among her many many skills) Mrs S loves spending time out back and has transformed a once dull patch of grass into a wonderful, rambling country garden.

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    1. My dad was a great gardener and once we moved to this house I had to take up the mantle of custodian of the begonias! Sadly much of gardening is just hard labour and you have to be out in all weathers at times – Worth it though when you have a beautiful little haven to sit out in over the summer.

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