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

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…

Another Very Serious Post, John Prine and “When I Get To Heaven”

As is wont to happen, if you update your blog as regularly as I do, aspects of your personal life tends to seep out onto the pages. Although I am fully aware I have a tendency to perhaps over-share, I seem to find it impossible to resist, as this blog is in effect my web-diary as well as the place where I share all the music I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Likewise, I’ve almost stopped counting the number of times I’ve put up a warning I might be absent for a while, only for you loyal followers to find me back in action soon afterwards. Some of you will remember I did that recently, and then wrote a short post explaining why – Right at the start of September my 83-year-old mum had a bad fall, but after taking her to A&E to be checked over, she was proclaimed fit to go home. A very fraught week followed, when just at the time I was supposed to start my long-awaited college course, I had to pretty much provide round-the-clock care for her. It became apparent however that something was very far wrong and after a particularly bad night spent entirely in her living room chair (as she was unable to move), I bravely pulled her flat’s emergency cord to summon help.

It was such a relief to see an ambulance arrive soon after and the guys who piled into her little flat were just brilliant, dealing with my poor mum in a really professional and sensitive manner. It was decided to take her back to A&E where we both spent a long day waiting for the results of tests and X-rays. In fact it wasn’t until around 2pm that I realised I’d not had breakfast yet, but such is the lot of an accompanying relative. By mid afternoon we knew she had fractured her pelvis and it was decided to transfer her to the smaller community hospital which is fortunately situated quite near to where we live.

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Our local community hospital

We are now nearly four weeks on from that momentous day and her physical recovery is going well. I visit daily, but on week one of her stay I suddenly became dog tired, as I think the adrenaline that had kept me going until then, suddenly left town. By week two however I was starting to feel like my old self again. I was able to return to blogging and managed to leave some comments on the various blogs I follow (I even managed to play Rol’s Saturday Snapshots!). As mentioned a few weeks ago, the college course was now a non-starter, but thankfully they let me reapply as a part-time student and that is going really well. Mr WIAA and I have also had a bit of a social life of late, visiting the theatre, the cinema and taking DD and her lovely boyfriend out for food. Even our little online store seems to be picking up lots of orders, as I’ve had the time to properly market it for the first time in quite a while. Life, as they say, is sweet. My mum is being well cared for, and I’ve got my life back on track.

So what’s the problem I hear you ask? Well as those of you who follow this blog know, I’ve spent most of this year struggling to cope with that most dreadful of non-physical ailments which affects so many older people – My mum’s dementia, or specifically in her case, Alzheimer’s Disease. I am reminded of something from Billy Connolly’s latest stand-up routine. “I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease”, he says. “But I wish he’d f**king kept it to himself”. Yes Billy, and I imagine all of those with Alzheimer’s feel exactly the same way, until the time comes when they are no longer even aware of their affliction.

I know there will be moves afoot in the very near future to send her home again. Beds are in short supply and that awful term “bed-blocker” gets applied to so many old souls, who by sheer accident, have found themselves with a fractured hip or pelvis after tripping over a kerb, or in my mum’s case, falling down some stairs. These are people who perhaps kept the home fires burning during the war, raised a family, carried out good deeds for their community, worked until retirement age, and paid taxes. At this stage in life however, they are called “bed blockers”, old folks who seem to be treated as if they are deliberately hogging a hospital bed through sheer ill-will.

Of late I have taken to sneaking in and out of my mum’s hospital room when the nurses are away from their work station, such is my fear of being told I can now take her home. The dementia has ramped up to a whole new level since being in hospital as the daily routine I used to organise for her is no more. I have been reassured by others who have been in a similar situation that she can’t be sent home without a discharge plan, but the worry is still there at the back of my mind. I’ve got my life back, and am reluctant to return to how things were.

As someone who has no siblings, I have been feeling the burden of care acutely of late, and ironically, after waiting for eight months to get help from the social care system, I finally got the call a day after the admission to hospital. They always say there has to be a crisis in order to get help and it seems that is indeed the case. People of my mum’s generation are living longer due to advances in medicine, but sadly, family life has changed. Most of us live in relatively small houses compared to those of my grandparent’s generation, so often no scope for taking in our old folk. The state pension age is now 67, so often no-one at home to do the caring anyway. Also, in the case of dementia, 24 hour care will eventually be needed, so not something many of us would be able to offer anyway.

Big decisions are going to have to be made soon I suspect, and it’s at times like this I wish I could turn to my dad for advice. He was one of my best friends but died a full 15 years ago. By sheer chance I heard this song on the radio whilst coming home from a hospital visit the other week and it has stuck with me. I think the host of the show was Whispering Bob, who at the end of the song said it was by John Prine. Until I started writing this blog I had never heard of John Prine but he often pops up over at CC’s wonderful place and has featured in Jez’s Sunday Morning Coming Down series. Whatever, despite being a bit of a non-believer, I was taken by the lyrics to When I Get To Heaven, written for his new album “The Tree of Forgiveness”. I realise this song choice might appear insensitive for the theme of this particular post, but trust me, the reason I picked it was because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there is nothing more I would like at the moment than to go find my dad, and ask for his advice (or is it perhaps “his permission” I wonder). Heck, listening to this song, I’m almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine has apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote this song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.” Way to go John.

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

I’m sorry if I’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable by mentioning such a personal family issue, but hey, our blogs sometimes feel like the most anonymous places we can turn to when a bit of writing therapy is required. From experience, our Facebook friends don’t want to hear of our woes, although if anyone ever does respond it is usually because they have been placed in similar situation. Likewise if anyone out there in the blogosphere has been in such a situation, I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts – Any advice gratefully received.

Until next time, I’m off to give John Prine another whirl. Now 71, and still with us thankfully. Heaven is going to have to wait a while yet.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics
(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm
What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?
And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug
Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug
I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts
I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts
And I always will remember these words my daddy said
He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”
I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town
Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Denise Marsa, “Lucky Stars” and Life As A Student (Second Time Around)

Going to pop my head above the parapet for a wee while as this blog is in effect my web diary, and lots to write about since last weekend. Over the last few months I have hinted that I might soon become one of the Highland’s newest intake of students. I jumped through all the hoops and back in June, much to my delight, was offered a place on my chosen course. It all kicked off this week but after only 4 days, because of my mum’s deteriorating health, I have had to withdraw. Very disappointed. On the upside, I have been able to reapply as a part-time student who can pick off one module at a time. Hopefully much more manageable.

Exactly 40 years ago I was preparing to head off to study at a University founded in 1495. The college I now plan to attend only opened in 2015. So much change in the intervening half millennium (bit of an understatement), but it seems that we humans still have a yearning for learning, and fortunately nowadays, much more accessible to all.

And here is where a strange coincidence has come about. Back in my early days of blogging I wrote a post about the song Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman (link here). As I said at the time, whenever I hear it I am reminded of autumn 1978, when I first left home to sample the delights of University life. It was given blanket airplay at the time and got to No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. That post has become one of this blog’s most frequently visited, so I am obviously not alone in having fond memories of the song.

Lucky Stars by Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa:

The wonderful thing about revisiting songs all these decades later, is that it’s possible to find out so much more of the backstory. In 1978 we knew Dean duetted with a female vocalist on Lucky Stars, but as she wasn’t credited, she became known as the “mystery singer”. In 2016, I discovered she was a singer/songwriter called Denise Marsa, who like Dean, also came from New Jersey. I made sure that in my blog post at any rate, she got full credit for having been part of this great Broadway-esque “musical discussion”. Lo and behold, a few weeks later she found my post and a few emails were exchanged – The wonders of blogging. (If you watch the above clip to the end, at 3:30 you will see Dean and Denise as they are today, having reunited for a special one-off performance.)

denisemarsa_cover_liveforever2

The strange coincidence is that 40 years on, just as I prepare to embark on life as a student for the second time, who should pop up in my life again but Denise Marsa. Back in 1978, her voice was the soundtrack to my early weeks as a nervous young student and here in 2018, she was appearing again. It seems her one-woman show is being staged at the Playground Theatre in London from the 20th September, and she wanted me to spread the word via my blog. Sure thing Denise (extract from her email below).

Hi Alyson

I remember we had a brief encounter via email when you first wrote about Dean Friedman’s LUCKY STARS. Just a quick mention, I am premiering my show THE PASS in London this fall at a new theater, The Playground Theatre. Maybe you could share this news with your readers? Here’s a link to the theater website as well as some recent press.

I also hope you can attend, would like the chance to meet you! Hope you are well!

My best, Denise

Sadly with all that’s going on in my life at the moment I’m not going to be able to head down for the show and potentially meet with Denise (wouldn’t that have really been something), but in the event some Dean and Denise fans visit this post, they will at least have been alerted to the fact she is in the country, and performing live.

All this of course, got me thinking about what the young students of today will be listening to as they embark on their chosen studies. Turns out, all these years later, the idea of featuring a female singer in a song produced by a man is still alive and well. The difference nowadays is that the female gets full credit for lending their vocals to the recording. In the Top 40 at the moment we have songs featuring Anne-Marie, Dua Lipa, Demi Lovato, Cardi B, Camila Cabella, and many more I am unfamiliar with (so could embarrass myself by getting their gender wrong). I do however have a feeling my fellow students will probably follow a whole other set of artists, but it’ll be interesting for the blog getting to know who they are.

Good grief, they’re all clones of each other!

As regular followers know, this year has seen me becoming the very squeezed filling in a generational sandwich, trying to cope with a mum who has health issues just not able to be addressed by the social care system and a daughter who has still not quite flown the nest. My mum is now in hospital, as her fall the other week seems to have caused a (previously undetected) fractured pelvis – Not easy to get over at any age, but at least she is being cared for. DD has started her course at college and seems to be getting on fine so perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to have some “me-time” and find my feet as a mature student. Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, life is never dull around here.

Hopefully, my new friend Denise Marsa will have a successful run of her one-woman show. Strange to think she first came into my life 40 years ago as I embarked on life as a student, and here she is popping up again, second time around. We couldn’t have predicted back then just how much our lives would change because of this tool we all use daily called The Internet. A force for good (connecting us with old friends, enabling the making of new friends, giving us access to vast amounts of information and services) but also a force for bad (no need to spell it out).

Who knows how things will have evolved in another 40 years but I have a sneaking suspicion that the song Lucky Stars will still occasionally pop up on the musical airwaves of the future. I might not be around to hear it, but hopefully DD will, and she will no doubt have fond memories of her mum and dad “murdering” the song which had become their party-piece of choice. She will also remember how we always forgot the words, despite having listened to it hundreds of times, and she will smile.

Until next time….

Lucky Stars
(Song by Dean Friedman)

What are you crazy? How in the hell can you say what you just said?
I was talking to myself. Shut the door and come to bed.
By the way, I forgot to say, your endearing mother called today.
Did you see Lisa?
Yes I saw Lisa.
Is that why you’re angry?
I wasn’t angry.
Maybe a little.
Not even maybe.
Must be the weather.
Now don’t be a baby.
We’ll how am I supposed to feel with all the things you don’t reveal and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Would you like to talk about it?
There’s not much to say.
We had lunch this afternoon. Her life’s in disarray.
She still goes around as if she is always stumbling off a cliff.
Do you still want her?
What are you saying?
Do you still want her?
Baby stop playing.
Really, I mean it. Can you forget her?
Baby, now stop it. You should know better.
I know this is hard to do. but, there’s no one for me but you and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Baby, I’m sorry, I was wrong, I have no alibis.
I was acting like a fool and I apologize.
Listen, hon’, I know you’re dumb, but that’s ok, you don’t have to look so glum.
Do you still love me?
Yes, I still love you.
You mean, you’re not just being nice.
No, I’m not just being nice.
Do you feel sleepy.
Aw, you’re so sincere. Yes, I feel sleepy.
Well, slide over here ’cause I may not be all that bright, but I know how to hold you tight and
You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and

You can thank your lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are and
We can thank our lucky stars that we’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are.

Trafalgar Square, Doris Day and “Jimmy Unknown”

My very wordy, heavily researched posts are on the back burner at the moment I’m afraid, but a quick scan of this photograph has given me a great opportunity to write a short and snappy post explaining why. My poor mum had a fall last week, and on top of all her other health issues, it has made life very difficult for her. I’m doing my best to look after her on my own as it seems the resources are no longer there to get help from elsewhere – Eventually, perhaps, but we’ll have to be patient. Will soldier on in the meantime.

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Mum and Dad, circa 1955

This is my favourite picture of my mum and dad, taken in the mid 1950s in Trafalgar Square (didn’t they always look so smart in those days). I think many of my peers will also have a similar picture of their parents from that era. I know Mr Medd from Are We There Yet? does, as he shared it with us recently (click on link for the post).

So that’s the visual, but what would they have been listening to around that time? I still have their old 78s in my collection and the one that always brings a tear to my eye is this one, Jimmy Unknown by Doris Day – My dad was indeed a “Jimmy” and was one of life’s unsung heroes who always led by example, doing lots of great work for his community. At the time of this picture he was general foreman, and my mum the boss’s secretary, at the local building firm which seemed to soak up all the school leavers back in the day. Long gone now of course, but many happy years were spent there for both of them.

Sorry I’ve been absent from the comments boxes of the blogs I usually have time to visit, but will have to curb my blogging activities for a while I’m afraid – Hopefully you will all understand.

Until next time….

Jimmy Unknown Lyrics
(Song by Ruth Roberts/Bill Katz)

Who will be my Jimmy Unknown?
Someone to love me and call me his own
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me

Will he be handsome?
Will he be strong?
Lifting my heart like a beautiful song
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me

The day I surrendered
My lips to his charms
My secret of love
Will be lost in his arms

Who will be my Jimmy Unknown?
Someone who never would leave me alone
Over the mountain
Over the sea
Somewhere my Jimmy is waiting for me