My 400th Post and Christmas, WIAA Style

WIAA: Alyson…, oh Alyson.

ALYSON: Hi WIAA, I am here, it’s just that I’m feeling a bit discombobulated by all the uncertainly that’s crept in over the last week so don’t know where to go with this one. Last year I wrote a (hopefully humorous) blog post about the planned five day Christmas Bubbles, but then at the 11th hour, the rules all changed. It’s looking like that might happen again, and for the second year in a row, many of us will find ourselves…

WIAA: Do you have any Christmas songs to share with your lovely followers?

ALYSON: To be honest WIAA, as this is my fifth Christmas as a music blogger I fear I may have revisited all my favourites already (link here), and despite the fact many well-known artists have recorded something new this year, none of their songs have really resonated with me. Here’s something to kick off with though – I mentioned at the end of 2020 that my favourite ‘new song discovery’ of that year was José Felicianos version of California Dreamin’. As the whole world still seems to be going through a topsy-turvey time, it doesn’t feel that unusual for a music blogger from the Highlands of Scotland to be drawn to a song by a Puerto Rican singer/songwriter from 1970. I give you Feliz Navidad (don’t think you’ll need a translation).

Feliz Navidad by José Feliciano:


WIAA: Good one Alyson. What have you been doing in the build up to Christmas this year?

ALYSON: Well, it’s a bit of a weird one, as we’re now having to lie low to keep ourselves virus-free in advance of guests arriving at the holiday hideaway. Personally I think both sets will now cancel, which will be a bit of a blow, but before the whole lying low thing happened, I had tentatively returned to my regular cinema-going ways.

WIAA: What have you been to see?

ALYSON: It didn’t occur to me until now but maybe the reason I thought of José’s song is that I went to see Stephen Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story last week, all about the rivalry between two New York gangs, the Jets, and the Puerto Rican Sharks.

WIAA: Did you enjoy it?

ALYSON: I think I’m still processing it. The 1961 film won 10 Academy Awards, and when I first watched it as a teenager, I was blown away by it – Although some of the musical numbers were outstanding in the new film, as were the two female leads, there was something about it that felt a bit ‘silly’ for 2021. Our viewing habits have become a lot more sophisticated and I don’t think the younger generation would see it as a period drama. The clothes and themes could almost be contemporary, but the language used by the gangs and their balletic style of dance is most definitely not contemporary. Again, I was discombobulated and wondered if it really needed to be remade.

WIAA: Did you cry at the end?

ALYSON: Oh WIAA, you know me well. I did indeed despite knowing how it ended having watched the original many times. The love story was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but a story that never dates it seems, and just as relevant today. Stephen Sondheim, the musical’s lyricist, died aged 91 at the end of November, just at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of a tribute to him, here is the Tonight Quintet from the original film, an incredible piece of ‘opera’ based on the duet between Maria and Tony from earlier on in the musical. The five parts of the quintet are sung by the Jets, the Sharks, Tony, Maria, and Anita.

Tonight Quintet by the West Side Story Cast:


WIAA: Well, you really got into your stride there despite me feeling a bit unloved earlier on – A blank page sitting on a blogging platform with only five days to go until Christmas.

ALYSON: Yes I can always rely on you to get me back on track. Can you believe that when I press the publish button on this one, we’ll have racked up a total of 400 blog posts together. It’s been a journey, and we’re not finished yet are we? I think I can fly solo now WIAA, so happy to let you head off and do whatever blogs have to do behind the scenes, fixing broken links and the like. Merry Christmas to you.

WIAA: Merry Christmas Alyson.

Five years ago, in my first year of blogging, I bemoaned the fact I was one of the sandwich generation, someone who worked full-time but also had adult offspring still living at home and an elderly parent to look out for. As regulars around here will know, none of these things now apply – I waved goodbye to my old workplace four years ago, my mum moved into her care home three years ago and DD headed out into the world two years ago. It’s happened gradually, but it turns out you kinda miss being the squished filler in a sandwich, especially around Christmastime.

It’s become traditional at this time of year that I share some songs relevant to each generation of my family, and Mr WIAA and I have had some fun this week watching old clips on YouTube when we probably should have been engaged in something more productive, by hey, I’m a loose filler who has lost her bread, so it’s allowed.

2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls:


Can you believe it’s 25 years since Girl Power became ‘a thing’ courtesy of those larger than life Spice Girls. Back then I was a busy mum with a baby and a responsible job so they really weren’t aimed at my demographic, but you couldn’t fail to get caught up in all their Zig-a-Zig-ah-ing back in 1996. They’d already had two No. 1 hits that year and at Christmastime they did it again with this one, 2 Become 1. I just loved the video for it set in New York, and it reminded me that Mr WIAA and I had become an item just before Christmas a few years earlier – A great time of year to be all loved up. I was shocked therefore to learn it was all filmed in a studio on Old Compton Street, London, using a ‘green screen’. Anyway, this one’s for DD, as although I know what the song is really all about, the romantic in me just wants to acknowledge the fact it’s also about two individuals forming a relationship and perhaps welcoming a new little person into the world one day.

Yesterday I went to visit my mum at the care home. I had to wear full PPE and the visit was heavily supervised as her care home has yet again been forced into lockdown and all their Christmas activites were cancelled. I did however manage to play her a few Christmas songs on my phone from the only festive album that resided in our house when I was growing up. Yes, yet again it’s going to be that Texan Jim Reeves, with one of the songs from his best-selling album, Twelve Songs of Christmas. My mum was my age 25 years ago when the Spice Girls were at No.1 with their song, and a big help to me when I was a busy mum myself. How things change with the passage of time, and food for thought indeed. Think she enjoyed hearing Jim though, and hopefully it did bring back memories from the distant past.

As for us, I’m going to defer to Mr WIAA who seems to find good clips to watch. Another person we lost from the world of music recently was John Miles. As 1976 seems to have been my favourite year to revisit these last 12 months, here is an epic 2001 Proms performance of his song, Music, which reached the No. 3 spot on our UK Singles Chart back in ’76. It’s not a Christmas song, but the audience certainly make it look festive with all those lights. He was only aged 72 when he died. RIP John.

Music by John Miles:


One final indulgence, and yet again not a Christmas song, but one that is set to clips from the Emma Thompson film Last Christmas. In terms of plot, if you are using the lyrics from the song Last Christmas as inspiration, it really can’t get any more literal than this, and a bit ridiculous really. If however you are a fan of the songs of George Michael, as I am, it was a no-brainer you would go and see it at the cinema when it came out two years ago.

Five years ago George Michael died on Christmas Day, and his passing affected me more than any other person we’ve lost since I started this blog. My sidebar has a couple of categories dedicated to him. The song used is Praying for Time from 1990, and it still gives me goose-bumps when I listen to it. The song deals with, “the many social injustices faced by so many, and questions the conditioning society has created and why it can be so hard to be kind to one another.” He was a good egg George, and many of his random acts of kindness were only discovered after his death. Around this time of year we should all try and take a leaf out of his book, as over 30 years on, those social injustices are still around and have become compounded by the pandemic.

Praying for Time by George Michael:


Another final, final, indulgence (nearly done now I promise) – If you scroll forward to 0:22 in the clip above you’ll find the logo for an established London restaurant. Mr WIAA is commissioned by third parties to make miniature sculptures for their various clients. Sometimes we have samples left over, and I liked this chap, so he sits on my desk. Watching that video clip, we just found out who he was for!

Anyway, it’s a very wordy one this, but as it’s my 400th post and my 5th Christmas as a music blogger I really did want to get something published before the big day. Thankfully, with my blog’s encouragement, I got there in the end.

If you celebrate it, hope you have a lovely Christmas Day with no last minute changes to your plans. Unlike 25 years ago, or indeed 5 years ago, we’ll be having a very quiet time indeed but that’s just how life rolls. As ever I’ll raise a glass to George on the day – He is missed, but never forgotten.

Until next time…

Praying For Time Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God’s children
Crept out the back door

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here

So you scream from behind your door
Say, “What’s mine is mine and not yours”
I may have too much but I’ll take my chances
‘Cause God’s stopped keeping score

And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That he can’t come back
‘Cause he has no children to come back for

It’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time

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.

22 thoughts on “My 400th Post and Christmas, WIAA Style”

  1. A lovely post, and a lovely time to wish you & your loved ones a very Merry Christmas. Sorry for lurking & not commenting in quite some time, but life has taken over blog activity for the most part throughout 2021. I’m hoping that 2022 will see a return to the blogosphere. Oh, and happy 400th!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely to hear from you Rich – It feels like a long time since I dropped by your place with one of ‘my anecdotes’ but life takes over as you say. Hope it’s not been all work, work, work and did you ever do anything about starting a podcast?

      Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas too. Looking forward to your blogosphere return in 2022!

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    1. Hope you get to see it – If you do you might write about it on your blog. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the heads up about those mini-series. We now have an embarrassment of riches at our disposal on the small screen and I fear the big screen is losing out. I will no doubt return before the end of the year but yes Happy New Year to you and Sandy too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The original West Side Story soundtrack was etched into my memory at a very young age, as it was one of a selection of reel to reel tapes Dad would play and sing along to at an ear-shattering volume while decorating various parts of the house – and he was always decorating something!
    I think I’ve mentioned my fondness for the ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ LP before, particularly the Lennonesque ‘Praying For Time’. I realise that I’m only a casual fan, but I really wish he’d pursued this style of music a little further.
    Congratulations on your 400th Post Alyson – I hope whatever restrictions we have coming don’t interfere with your festive plans and that you and your family have a very Happy Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bought the album as a teenager straight after watching the film and it must be something about its ‘operatic’ nature, because it also inspired me to join in when I had the family house to myself (although my singing not nearly as good obviously).

      Yes, you’ve mentioned LWP before and specifically Praying for Time – Gets to me at this time of year. Can’t believe it’s five years since his death already and nearly six years since I started this blog. Pretty sure I wouldn’t have kept going for this long had I not found so many like-minded fellow bloggers so thanks for dropping by. Hope you feel better soon and manage to have a happy Christmas.

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        1. Thanks CC – Far short of the number you must have racked up but I’ve never cracked the short and snappy blogging style.

          Merry Christmas to you and Mrs CC – It was great to meet you both earlier on this year. Let’s hope in 2022 we can organise a bigger get-together.

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  3. Happy 400th, Alyson, and as happy a Christmas as can be had this year.

    I didn’t know John Miles had passed. We used to play a version of Music back in my brass band days. A very exciting tune.

    I cried through the entire third act of a new movie in the cinema earlier this week, but it wasn’t West Side Story. They weren’t really sad tears either (although something sad did happen), but more just a release of pent up emotion after quite a year, coupled with joy I can trace back to my childhood. Fortunately I was on my own (in a crowded cinema) and so I should have pulled myself together by the time I see it again with Sam and Louise. My mask was wet by the end of the film though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – For some, reaching 400 posts wouldn’t be that remarkable but I do get a bit wordy and do quite a lot of research so quite a feat. Still wonder if I would have been as foolish to give up my job had I not discovered blogging, but I suppose I’ll never know. I don’t think working from home during the pandemic would have worked for me anyway and reading your stories usually confirmed I’d made the right decision.

      I’m pretty sure I know which movie you went to see this week and I really do get where the tears came from. It’s happened to me in a cinema before when pent up emotion comes out, except in my case there were loud sobs as well as tears – Mr WIAA was very embarrassed and disowned me. Hopefully you’ll have desensitised enough for the next viewing.

      Merry Christmas Rol to you and the family – You’ve had quite a year so hopefully it’ll be a good one.

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  4. I’m ‘late to your party’ having only discovered your blog during the Covid years. I’m trying to catch up on the back catalogue and enjoying my journey. You have a great appreciation of music and artists from a time before you were born (or long before your teenage years). Long may you blog.
    I read somewhere that Stephen Sondheim wanted “I Feel Pretty” taken from this new take on “West Side Story”. It was the last set of lyrics he wrote for the original play and he always felt that it was an unnatural song, given her background, for Maria to sing. Tony Kushner, Sondheim’s screen writer, was resistant and took up the challenge.
    He said to Sondheim before his death, “Don’t worry, I’ve got it”.
    In the scene in the new movie, Maria is wandering through the fashion displays in Gimble’s department story when she sings the song. At the appropriate time, the camera catches an advertising sign that has the words “witty” and ‘bright’ as part of a commercial message. Very clever positioning that helps support Maria’s use of somewhat sophisticated language.
    Great save by Kushner!
    Happy Christmas Alyson and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The film Love Actually was on telly last night so I expected a big spike in ‘views’ for the post I wrote about it, and the songs from it. Of course that’s what happened and I was reminded that’s how you found out about this place last Christmas. Glad you’ve been entertained over the last year.

      Interesting to hear about the song I Feel Pretty and I didn’t notice that bit in the new film actually as I was so busy processing the changes they had to make e.g. The Gimbles Dept. Store instead of the bridal shop. Can’t say the lyrics ever felt that unnatural, as to be honest, everything about a musical is unnatural which is why we love them so much. It would be great if we could all break out into choreographed dance whilst walking down the High Street, but in real life it’s never going to happen. Richard Beymer in the original I thought was the most unlikely tough gang member ever, but hey, when the songs come along who cares! Anyway, glad Stephen got his wish and glad Kushner managed to pass it on to him before he passed.

      Happy Christmas to you and your family too. Stay safe.

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  5. Congratulations on the 400, Alyson and may there be many, many more! Such a lot has happened since you started, both for you individually and for the world… what a time but I hope at least that blogging has been a positive way to help offset the difficult bits. It’s also hard to believe that it’s five years since George died. One of those particularly sad losses. He and I were born a week apart and he was one of those people who, whilst of course I didn’t know him personally, I would like to have grown old alongside, if that makes any sense… he was just very special.
    I’ve never seen the West Side Story film (either version) but was once taken to a performance of it at a local theatre when I was about 12 and I really enjoyed it – it all seemed a bit daring and grown-up to me then too, so that added a little extra spice.
    I love Mr WIAA’s sculpture by the way – fantastic.
    So here we are heading rapidly towards another very weird and not very Christmassy Christmas but I really hope yours is as merry as it can possibly be! We’ve had enough discombobulation, bring out the sherry and the mince pies!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – So much has happened since I started in 2016, so much so I sometimes wonder if it was my little blog that kicked it all off! Anyway, the one constant for me in all that time has been this place, so long may it continue.

      Of course, you are the same age as George would have been had he got through that awful Christmas five years ago. I’m really starting to notice the ages of the people we are losing from the world of music and film – Getting closer to my own age all the time but inevitable of course.

      I loved musicals as a pre-teen and have carried on loving them ever since. Not sure what you’d think of either version of West Side Story if you haven’t grown up with the original. As I said to Damian above, there is nothing about them that is natural, but I suppose that’s the magic of them (for many of us).

      Sherry and mince pies may well rectify the discombobulation – Have lots of both, and have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas!

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  6. Sending a real big CONGRATS! Thanks for all the good writing and music. I read your posts via FEEDLY, (as I do most other sites I enjoy.) I just don’t often leave comments. But 400 posts! That’s good stuff. Merry Christmas.

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  7. So much to digest here. First, congratulations on the blogging milestone. There are two people in this household that really want to see West Side Story. Personally, I’ll stick with the original film. I wish the best for you when it comes to seeing family and hosting guests at the guest house. Let’s hope for better times in 2022, but I am getting tired of typing that every December. Happy Christmas to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Christmas to you too Brian and family. I saw your comment over on Rol’s blog – Great that despite the kids growing up, you are still keeping the Christmas morning traditions going. To be honest, we still kept ours going until two years ago when DD was 24! She’s been elsewhere since then, but we had a good innings.

      Yes, my 400th post became a bit wordy (a 2 for 1 I think) so thanks for taking the time to read it. The new West Side Story tries to explain a bit more of the back story to the characters and changes the settings to make them more contemporary or understandable to modern day audiences, but like you, I think I’ll stick with the original. Apparently it hasn’t done that well at the box office as its target audience is of the demographic that’s still avoiding crowded indoor spaces. Also it just doesn’t resonate with younger audiences. Don’t think Spielberg will worry too much as it’s something he’s wanted to make for years and now he’s done it.

      Guests arriving imminently and so far everyone concerned is still testing negative so cross fingers it stays that way.

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  8. I’ve seen a few stage versions of West Side Story; like Return to the Forbidden Planet, I have to see it whenever it rolls into town.
    It’s probably why I still click my fingers like I do.
    We’ll done on the 400. I’ve lost count of mine.
    Your blogs always hit the N on H and give a real insight into what makes you tick😊✅

    Hope you had a restful Christmas.

    J

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You click your fingers, I do that whistle.

      My 400 equates to an awful lot of words, too many words sometimes (this one a case in point) but can’t help myself. My college course should have taught me how to edit them down, but still working on it.

      We had a very quiet Christmas but we did get invited out for lunch so was nice. Hope you had a good day too.

      Like

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