The End of an Era, Being Kept Safe and ‘Walk Tall’

I had fully intended to return to my regular web-diary style of blogging last Saturday, as there is much to write about, but events overtook me. I think we had all expected it for some time, but when the news was released on Friday that Prince Philip, our Queen’s consort of over 73 years, had died peacefully that morning, our mainstream radio and television channels pulled all their planned schedules and replaced them with sombre music and programmes about the life of the Prince. I was surprised at the level of coverage given to his passing, dare I say it because of his age, but it seems it had all been planned out for some time, so went ahead. In consequence, it no longer seemed appropriate for me to write a jokey blog post combined with upbeat music.

The Queen with her Prince – Because of their height difference there are so many pictures just like this.

It kind of feels like the end of an era for those of us of a certain age. For as long as I can remember the Prince was always there by the Queen’s side and their work ethic over the last 70 plus years has been phenomenal. He had the good looks of a Hollywood star as a younger man and my mum always had a bit of a crush on him I think. Although his naval career was cut short after his father-in-law the king died prematurely, he carved out a role for himself that included work on conservation (long before it became obvious it was going to be important) and the setting up of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which has helped millions of young people around the world find a confidence to do things that wouldn’t normally have been open to them. He made the odd gaffe, as we all know, but who wouldn’t when having to make small talk and break the ice at hundreds of engagements per year.

It was his time. He reached the age of almost a 100 without having to endure too many of the usual indignities of old age, and that would have suited him just fine. His wife is a pragmatic and stoic woman who will not crumble. They are the last of their kind I suspect.

Ironically I had planned to write a post about old age last Saturday, as I am finally able to enter my mum’s care home after an absence of over a year. It is a very different experience however, as even with the staff and residents all having had their full quota of vaccinations, a half-hour visit now takes around three hours. There is a lot of form filling to be done then I have to have a covid test and wait in the car for the result. Once given the all-clear there is much hand-washing/sanitising and temperature checking before being dressed in the required PPE. A convoluted walk to her room using fire escape doors and staircases then follows after which I am shown the seat I must not move from for the duration of the visit. My mum gets another chair several metres away but of course doesn’t understand why it’s not like it used to be – But she is being kept safe, as she has been, very successfully, for the last year and a bit.

We chose her particular care home as it had so many fine features, like a hair salon, a little cinema, two coffee shops and a steady stream of visiting musicians who came to entertain. This last year she has had to predominantly stay in her room and the doors to the salon, cinema and coffee shops have remained firmly closed – But she has been kept safe. The average length of stay in a care home is two and a half years as by it’s very nature it is for those who can no longer look after themselves. In the 13 months since the pandemic began many of the residents have passed away from natural causes. They spent the last few months of their lives alone in their rooms with no visits from family and friends – But they were kept safe from the virus.

I am being a tad sarcastic I know, but it does gall me a little that in some parts of the country you could buy a small house with the money it has taken to keep my mum captive in her room for the last year (the dementia tax is alive and well). It really wasn’t supposed to be like this but I don’t suppose the care homes had much of a choice after those initial outbreaks at the start of the pandemic. I do question however whether those that are being kept safe are going to live long enough to see the end of restrictions to visits and have their fine facilities open again for business. My mum no longer recognises her granddaughter in pictures, as she hasn’t seen her for over a year. They are being kept safe, but time is not on their side.

Another couple of the same generation, my mum and dad.

My mum was never what you would have called a music buff, but like many other ladies of her generation she did enjoy some of the artists who appeared on mainstream Saturday night television shows back in the day. I have over the years shared some of her favourites around here, Jim Reeves and Andy Williams come to mind. Another chap she was definitely fond of was Val Doonican who regularly appeared on our screens dressed in some very fine knitwear. His big hit Walk Tall from 1964 comes to mind as it also makes me think of Prince Philip, who although not actually that tall, always gave us that impression because of how he carried himself, right to the end. In the US the song was recorded by, and was also a hit for, Faron Young.

Walk Tall by Faron Young:

I think I needed to write this one as it has been upsetting over the last year being kept at arms length from the care home where my mum lives. It does also make you ponder on what might be to come. The Who sang about not wanting to grow old but two of them are most definitely heading that way and looking good on it I must say. We don’t know what lies ahead which is probably a good thing. For ladies like my mum the care home route worked well, until the pandemic came along. Now, not so much.

Until next time…

Walk Tall Lyrics
(Song by Don Wayne)

Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
That’s what my mama told me when I was about knee high
She said son, be a proud man and hold your head up high
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye

All through the years that I grew up, ma taught these things to me
But I was young and foolish then and much too blind to see
I ignored the things she said as if I’d never heard
Now I see and understand the wisdom of her words

Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
That’s what my mama told me when I was about knee high
She said, son, be a proud man and hold your head up high
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye

I started goin’ places where the youngsters shouldn’t go
I got to know the kind of girls it’s better not to know
I fell in with a bad crowd and laughed and drank with them
Through the laughter mama’s words would echo now and then

Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
That’s what my mama told me when I was about knee high
She said, son, be a proud man and hold your head up high
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye

I got in trouble with the law and I’m in prison now
Through these prison bars I see things so much different now
I’ve got one year left to serve and when my time is done
I’ll walk tall and straight and make ma proud to call me son

Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
That’s what my mama told me when I was about knee high
She said, son, be a proud man and hold your head up high
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye

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. 57 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 by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

13 thoughts on “The End of an Era, Being Kept Safe and ‘Walk Tall’”

  1. So glad to see that you are back ‘blogging’, Alyson. You were missed.
    A Sunday morning habit for me is to grab a cup of coffee and to read the Sunday papers while listening to BBC 2.(Remember that I am 5 hours behind you here in Canada). It started back when ‘Weekend with Wogan’ was on the air and has continued through temporary hosts until settling now on Michael Ball . I always felt that Terry Wogan (or his producer) had an excellent ear for music both current and ‘oldies.
    This Sunday, Michael Ball followed the tradition. The music, IMHO, was familiar yet so respectful. The conversation between the songs was obviously about the late Prince Philip. The anecdotes shared were not full of sorrow, but like the music, reminded the listener of past memories, sometimes amusing always interesting.
    The Hollies, Cliff Richard, Susan Boyle, Mark Knopfler, The Beatles, Elton John, Wet, Wet, Wet…. I could go on and on. I doubt that a computer, regardless of the algorithm, could have chosen the playlist. Too much sensitivity for the words and the sound. Well done BBC 2.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah Damian, Terry Wogan was a legend and is still sorely missed. He was the Radio 2 Breakfast DJ for decades and made for a calming start to the day. Now the breakfast DJ is an ex-children’s telly presenter who talks at 100 miles/hour and can’t have any considered silences like Terry used to give us. Not to my liking at all.

      If you listened to Michael’s show last Sunday, it was the third day by then of respectful music and it had all got a bit too much to be honest. The BBC had obviously decided what they would do in the event of such a death many years previously, but maybe misjudged the needs of their licence payers. There were many complaints about prime time shows being pulled. Like you I did enjoy many of the anecdotes which were as you say interesting and not sorrowful at all but perhaps we had heard them all after the first day. I don’t even think the Prince would have approved of the level of coverage given but for someone like you who dipped in for that one show I can imagine the stories and songs would have made for an enjoyable few hours.


      1. Interesting perspective. Only choosing to listen on a Sunday morning, I totally missed the fact that that Radio 2 may have been in the ‘rinse and repeat’ cycle. I need that ‘fee payers’ viewpoint.


    1. I know, it is good that I am allowed in again but my goodness, what a faff. It just bothers me a bit that it will never go back to how it was again and that the “new normal” will become permanent. All those fine facilities just won’t be used again for the current residents probably, which was the whole raison d’etre for choosing it in the first place. We are in uncharted territory.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Philip might have appreciated that his death reminded us of some funny stories:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such great news that you are able to get to see your Mum relatively up close again, the past year must’ve been so confusing and distressing for her. Three hours for a half hour visit though – what a palaver, as my own dear old Mum would’ve said.
    A glorious old photo of your folks feeding the pigeons. John Medd and I have both shared very similar shots over the years, taken at Trafalgar Square. I reckon every home must have one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is good isn’t it and I hope this didn’t come across as seeming ungrateful but it just worries me that we might never get back to the old normal and for residents with dementia, conversation is limited, so we used to go for a little walk, have coffee with a group of her friends, play a game, tidy her room. Sitting a few meters apart in a mask is very unsatisfactory as I feel as if I am continually reminding her that we have to “socially distance”, that I can’t help her with anything or bring anything in, that we can’t go for coffee or a walk etc. On the plus side I can see she is being well looked after and I’ve never had any doubts about that so a big positive.

      Yes I’ve shared the Trafalgar Square picture around here before and it’s my favourite picture of them. Most families will indeed have a picture just like it but back in the 1950s a trip to London from the North of Scotland must have been a really big deal.


  4. Glad you can get back to seeing your mum Alyson albeit after all the hoops you have to jump through
    We had a Primary 7 trip to London and visited Trafalgar Square to feed the pigeons.
    They were squabbling and joshing for position and I remember getting some blood on my black and purple platform shoes which were my pride and joy!


    1. Yes, a big leap forward. I totally get why there are so many hoops to jump through as mistakes were made at the start of the pandemic but for some of the residents who used to see family members daily, it has been really tough, and they have really deteriorated. A very difficult balance but with the vaccines now I really hope restrictions can start to ease a bit over the next few months.

      I’m thinking your trip must have been around 1973 so platform shoes would have been the footwear of choice (I had a red/black pair). A big adventure heading to London from Scotland back then and a trip to Trafalgar Square would have been on the list of things to do. The last time I was in London was to meet up with C, and thinking back we ended our day at Trafalgar Square but sadly didn’t take a picture – A missed opportunity.


  5. So glad you can see your mum again but what a palaver to go through, sounds awful – just so unreal and offputting too. My dad told me it would be the same if he were to visit his wife whom he hasn’t seen in over a year now, but at 92 he felt he couldn’t go through all that so is just having to stick to daily phone calls – must say I would do the same in his shoes!
    I remember that lovely photo of your mum and dad in Trafalgar Square – yes if only I hadn’t needed to make sure I made my train connections it would have been great to spend a little longer there with you and get a photo. Ever the optimist (albeit struggling a bit with that at the moment!), I am going to say: Next time!
    All the best with future care home visits – let’s hope once the vaccine is completely rolled out these procedures will be removed and also that your mum and the other residents get to take full advantage of all the facilities there that they used to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I can imagine for your dad it would be really tough to visit – So sad that residents with dementia will have forgotten their loved ones in the last year. Let’s hope things loosen a bit soon but I have an awful feeling the rules for care homes will stay in place the longest.

      It was a lovely sunny day wasn’t it and all we had to do was cross over to the Underground entrance on Trafalgar Square to get our trains, but it was all blocked off because of building work so we had a mad panic to find the next nearest entrance. No time for pictures but as you say, being optimistic, next time!


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