A Bit of a Festive Ramble, Not Dreaming of a White Christmas and ‘Medicinal Compound, Most Efficacious in Every Case’

Well, last month I tried to become a daily blogger for a time but all that momentum left me when I called time on my challenge. At times like this it’s sometimes a good idea just to sit down and write ‘something’, to unblock the blockage, so it’s going to be a bit of a web-diary kind of affair I’m afraid with some songs thrown in.

How are we all doing? Back in Spring/Summer I did mention the pandemic a fair bit around here (an understatement) but as time went by I decided to leave well alone as people come here to escape all that negativity. Also, the awful truth is that this new way of living – with masks, social distancing, working from home and being apart from friends and family – has kind of become normalised and I’ve almost forgotten what my old life was like. If we do ever manage to get back together again in large groups, will we have lost all our social skills? What will we do with all the books that seem to have been acquired for Zoom call backdrops and will wearing comfy indoorsy trousers at all times become the norm?

But here we are coming up to Christmas and it’s all getting a bit complicated. We’ve been given the green light to get together in Festive Bubbles, but in some ways it makes things more difficult. We are trusted to be sensible and not put our elderly relatives in danger, but being realistic, sitting outside for Christmas dinner or even inside with all the doors and windows open is not a very appealing prospect. No-one will be ‘dreaming of a White Christmas‘ in my neck of the woods this year. Cue Bing Crosby, or alternatively, the Darlene Love version courtesy of Phil Spector.

White Christmas by Bing Crosby – The teen idol who smoked a pipe!

White Christmas by Darlene Love – That’s her at the back in the yellow cardi


As it turns out we will be on our own for the first time ever. After having lived at home with us for the last six months, DD has now decanted to the holiday hideaway and set up a ‘new household’ with her significant other who has given up his glamorous but all-consuming job and returned to the Highlands. The pair of them have had a really tough year but perhaps things are now looking up and with any luck they will both get back on track in 2021. We had them with us for Christmas last year, so it’s the other set of parents’ turn this year which seems entirely reasonable. On the upside, I think our relationship with DD will improve, as make no mistake, having your adult offspring back living with you is the ultimate test. After six months I think we were all more than ready for a change in living arrangements!

The cottage from the Christmas film The Holiday

My little mum always used to join us for Christmas dinner, but she of course is imprisoned in her care home, being kept safe. To be fair, she has stayed upbeat and smiling throughout this whole sorry situation as her condition means she pretty much lives in the moment. I have been able to visit indoors until recently (under super-strict conditions) but the home has now been shut for a couple of weeks after a scare that some staff might have contracted the virus (they hadn’t). Due to an admin error on their part, I also seem to have slipped through the net for a Christmas Day visit. It’s almost tougher not being able to see your loved ones now than at the start of the crisis and somehow more distressing at this time of year. You remember happy times as a child when your parents seemed invincible and could fix any problem. Sadly, I can’t fix the problem of not being able to visit, as totally outwith my control.

It has become customary for me to share a song that would appeal to my mum around this time. In the past it has often been something by Jim Reeves but I also remember her watching the Andy Williams Christmas shows on telly when I was growing up so how about something from him. We don’t call the festive period ‘The Holidays’ here in Scotland, but hey, let’s roll with it this once. (At least I’ve not shared the song that is bound to make someone who is NOT having the most wonderful time of the year, feel even worse. Oops, did it anyway.)

Andy (with three doppelgangers it seems) and the Osmond Brothers – Whatever became of them?


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m quite early around here with a Christmas post but somehow writing about anything else just didn’t seem right. Let’s hope all this festive bubbling doesn’t leave too many people taking needless risks. Apparently the messaging is going to be strong on what is advisable. With vaccines just round the corner it seems Easter 2021 is being touted as the best time to celebrate Christmas 2020. Let’s see how that goes?!

Festive bubbles

As for us, I really can’t complain as this pandemic has come along when we were both working from home anyway, and although our business ventures have brought in little this year, I come from the kind of family where having a ‘rainy day fund’ is engrained. In 2020 it’s been torrential. I really do miss socialising with my friends and going to the cinema but I’ve experienced less FOMO via social media, because no-one is doing anything – No exotic holidays, fancy nights out or festivals in my social circle this year, and if anyone does share something they are quickly pulled up on it. ‘When was this taken?’ ‘Where did you go?’ ‘You’re awfully close to each other’ (The ‘Rules Police’ are out in force – grrr…)

2020 has been a year of just trying to tick over, walking and watching television, an awful lot of television. Watching breakfast news this morning a government minister (today’s lamb to the slaughter) was asked about the vaccine that is being rolled out and he replied that it was efficacious. Crikey I thought, last time I heard that word being used was in the song Lily the Pink. Got me thinking, that’s where we’ve been going wrong. What we all need is a hefty dose of ‘Medicinal Compound’ – Cue The Scaffold.

The Scaffold – Mike McGear (Macca’s little bro), John Gorman and Roger McGough


I remember this song well as it reached the No. 1 spot in the UK Singles Chart for four weeks around Christmastime 1968. I know my mum would still remember it if only I was allowed in to see her. What I hadn’t realised was that it’s based on an older folk song called ‘The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham’. She was the inventor of a herbal-alcoholic women’s tonic which is still on sale today in a modified form. Pinkham’s Medicinal Compound was aggressively marketed and became the subject of a bawdy drinking song chronicling its efficacious cures. Hard to believe I know but the backing vocalists on The Scaffold record included Graham Nash, Reg Dwight (the future Mr Elton John) and Tim RiceJack Bruce (of Cream) played bass guitar.

I shall return before Christmas Day but in the meantime I hope your plans for the big day pan out. I suspect many of us will be deferring the whole shebang until Easter.

Until next time…

Lily the Pink Lyrics
(Song by John Gorman, Mike McGear, Roger McGough)

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Mr. Frears
had sticky-out ears
and it made him awful shy
and so they gave him medicinal compound
and now he’s learning how to fly.

Brother Tony
Was notably bony
He would never eat his meals
And so they gave him medicinal compound
Now they move him round on wheels.

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Old Ebeneezer
Thought he was Julius Caesar
And so they put him in a Home
where they gave him medicinal compound
and now he’s Emperor of Rome.

Johnny Hammer
Had a terrible stammer
He could hardly say a word
And so they gave him medicinal compound
Now he’s seen (but never heard)!

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Auntie Millie
Ran willy-nilly
When her legs, they did recede
And so they rubbed on medicinal compound
And now they call her Millipede.

Jennifer Eccles
had terrible freckles
and the boys all called her names
but she changed with medicinal compound
and now he joins in all their games.

We’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case.

Lily the Pink, she
Turned to drink, she
Filled up with paraffin inside
and despite her medicinal compound
Sadly Picca-Lily died.

Up to Heaven
Her soul ascended
All the church bells they did ring
She took with her medicinal compound
Hark the herald angels sing.

Oooooooooooooooo Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ll drink a drink a drink
To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
The saviour of the human race
For she invented medicinal compound
Most efficacious in every case
.

Postscript:

I didn’t think of googling it at the time but yes, it didn’t take long to find some Medicinal Compound for sale online. Had never thought to look before, but all these years later it’s still going strong.

Film Nights, The Waterboys and ‘How Long Will I Love You’

I wrote a bit of a depressing post last time, so want to follow it up with something a whole lot lovlier. With trips to the cinema no longer happening in my neck of the woods I have gone old-school and am hosting a socially-distanced weekly soiree at the holiday hideaway (now sitting empty for obvious reasons) where we take turns in picking a DVD to watch. With so much choice out there nowadays via the various streaming services, it’s sometimes more satisfying to just pick a single film and run with it, a bit like when we all went to the local arts centre on the last Thursday of the month to watch whatever was on at 8.30pm. (Made some amazing new discoveries that would otherwise have been missed.)

It was my turn to pick and as the only customer in our local HMV last Saturday I felt duty bound to buy something, so started looking at the section for films starting with the letters A-D (I’m a great fan of alphabetisation). I know he’s not for everyone, but I am also a great fan of Richard Curtis movies so went for this one, About Time from 2013. Mr WIAA is not and never has been a member of Film Club, so the fact it was a very girly movie didn’t matter as he could stay home and watch Movies For Men. Despite finding common ground most of the time, we do occasionally like to veer off to the extremes of the genre spectrum.

As it turned out, the film was not vintage Richard Curtis, and seemed to have been written to a very familiar formula. Plenty of posh middle class Englishmen and smart American women, but somehow not as funny as the other films I’ve written about here and a basic premise that was slightly ridiculous – Time travel effected by standing in a wardrobe and clenching your fists (not quite the Tardis or a DeLorean). One aspect that did work for me however was the soundtrack, and I have been afflicted by yet another earworm this week because of one particular song choice. In the film it was sung by a group of tube station buskers (played by Jon Boden & Friends), who also provided the version for the end credits, but for me, the best version is still the original – How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys.

How Long Will I Love You by The Waterboys:


It’s a love song, but a low key and not overly sentimental one. A simple proclamation of undying love written by band member Mike Scott for their 1990 album, Room to Roam. I am a great fan of The Waterboys and they have appeared around here before as I shared their 1985 masterpiece The Whole Of The Moon as part of my Full Moon Calendar in Song series. Back then they were proponents of “The Big Music”, anthemic rock popularised by many Scottish and Irish bands of the time, but by 1990 they were more of a folk rock band. Surprisingly this song was never released by them as a single, which is a shame, as 23 years later Ellie Goulding reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart with it, no doubt because of the publicity it received from its connection to the film.


Not sure why this song has affected me quite so much this week – Touch wood Mr WIAA and I are still good, despite his occasional foray into the world of Movies For Men and my fondness for the odd rom-com. With DD back living at home I am once again involved in the lives of her friends, and really feel for them trying to navigate this brave new world filled with anxiety, and hurdles to be overcome. Finding love has never been tougher, and I doubt very much if Mike Scott considered a global pandemic when he wrote his beautiful lyrics back in 1990. No, I doubt it very much indeed.

Until next time….

How Long Will I Love You Lyrics
(Song by Mike Scott)

How long will I love you
As long as there are stars above you
And longer if I can

How long will I need you
As long as the seasons need to
Follow their plan

How long will I be with you
As long as the sea is bound to
wash upon the sand

How long will I want you
As long as you want me to
And longer by far

How long will I hold you
As long as your father told you
As long as you are

How long will I give to you
As long as I live to you
However long it you say

How long will I love you
As long as are stars above you
And longer if I may

Runrig, “Hearthammer” and A Bit Of Shameless Marketing

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

But of course I’m not lost for inspiration today, it’s just that I had a bit of a rant last week so feel I’m going to have to reel it in a bit this week. I had been a bit upset by the lack of empathy for those going through tough times. I shouldn’t have been surprised however as we are most definitely not all in the same boat during these early days of the crisis. Socio-economic factors have created a massive divide in terms of the lockdown experience and for many, their lives haven’t changed much at all. The economic/social crisis now developing from the health crisis is going to impact the young most, and also those who cannot work from home. In time, a new fairer balance will be found, but how many years will that take? I hope I’m still around to see it happen.

View across the Beauly Firth to Ben Wyvis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearthammer by Runrig:

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

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

Until next time….

Hearthammer Lyrics
(Song by Calum Macdonald/Rory Macdonald)

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

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

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

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

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

Hearthammer
And I lose control
Hearthammer

Lockdown Recipes, Gerry Rafferty and “Baker Street”

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

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

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

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

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Girdle Scones

Ingredients:

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

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

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

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

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

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Transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy.

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

Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty:

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

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

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

Until Next time….

Baker Street Lyrics
(Song by Gerry Rafferty)

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

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

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

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

Christmas In Latin, “Gaudete” and “In Dulci Jubilo”

We had a really long round trip yesterday clocking up over 200 miles, and all because it’s the time of year when you really need to touch base with family in other parts of the country. We were lucky in that the day we picked for our drive was a good one with clear skies and no rain. We passed lots of familiar landmarks and although you don’t actually pass through them any more, we skirted the edge of the village where I grew up, and the town where I went to secondary school. I was reminded of the happy times spent there (yes I was one of the lucky ones) and of the many friends made over the years.

Like most of us I had a favourite teacher and my one happened to teach Latin. She had finished her training the year we moved up to the academy, so was still only 22 when she was entrusted with filling our 12-year-old brains with the language of the Romans. Can’t say I ever used my Latin much and have forgotten most of it, but something I will never forget is the opening page of Ecce Romani Textbook 1. These books told stories of a family who lived in a fine villa with an atrium (a new word to us back then but a fairly commonplace feature now in hotels and office blocks). There was the father Gaius Cornelius, the mother Aurelia and their four children, but also living with them was the tutor Euclydes and not surprisingly, it being ancient Rome an’ all, Davus the slavus. If I remember correctly the opening chapter read as follows:

Ecce, in pictura est puella. Puella est Cornelia. Cornelia est puella parva, sed etium in pictura est puella magna. Puella magna est Flavia…. and so it went on teaching us the words for “look” (ecce), “girl” (puella), “small” (parva), “big” (magna), “but also” (sed etium), et cetera (not et cetera yet actually, but you know what I mean).

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But this of course is a music blog so how the heck do I get from the Ecce Romani Latin textbooks to a festive song pick. Well as luck would have it in 1973, our second year of being taught Latin by the lovely Miss Fraser (whose platform shoes, midi skirts and tank tops were the envy of all the girls in the class), the British folk rock group Steeleye Span had a chart hit with Gaudete, a sacred Christmas carol with lyrics in Latin. The Ecce Romani books were cast aside for a whole lesson whilst we grappled with the task of translating the song into English.

As I don’t have any Steeleye Span in my digital database, I am going to have to add another festive offering. Gaudete is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung in Latin, but in 1975 Mike Oldfield had a top 10 hit with In Dulci Jubilo. This time the Latin song was performed purely as an instrumental and it licks along at a fair old pace making me feel quite Christmassy (at last).

I could have shared a boring old clip featuring pictures of Mike Oldfield, but no, as it’s Christmas I will add a clip showcasing the talents of Pans People, the Top Of The Pops in-house dance troupe, whose very literal routines delighted the viewing public every Thursday between 1970 and 1976. In this routine they are wearing diaphanous white garments as opposed to the skimpy bikinis they were often probably forced into wearing. A jaunty festive frolic this time with a blinking great Christmas tree getting in the way for much of it – Enjoy.

In Dulci Jubilo by Mike Oldfield:

Not sure if I’ll return with anything else before the big day so time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA. A bit thin on the ground this year what with DD having moved to the other end of the country and my little mum in the care home, but that’s just how life works, always change. Luckily for us DD is due to arrive home with her boyfriend on Christmas Eve so looking forward to that very much. With any luck some of their friends will turn up for a visit and it will be like old times again, old times I’ve missed very much of late.

Have a good one. Until next time….

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Gaudete Lyrics
(Medieval song of praise)

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Tempus adest gratiae, hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Deus homo factus est natura mirante
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete

Ezechielis porta clausa per transitur
Unde lux est orta salus invenitur

Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus
Ex Maria…

That Final Journey, Gerry Cinnamon and “Belter”

Didn’t intend this to be the third post in what has turned out to be a trilogy, but still in shock over the tragic loss of my friend’s daughter, and on Friday the funeral took place in a church right in the centre of our town. An emotional event as expected, which threw our highly efficient local undertakers into a spin, as they’d never before had to try and seat so many people at one service. It was standing room only, which again makes me question what on earth we are doing to our young people. How is it they can feel just so alone, yet have so many people who care about them? Far too complex an issue to go into here but it has left many of us fearful for our own brood.

After a heartfelt poem written by and read out by a family friend, a reading by her sister, and the eulogy covering all the amazing achievements racked up during her brief 18 years, it was time for Holly’s wicker coffin to leave the church. Once outside, the town’s pipe band of which she had been a member, marched in front of the hearse to the cemetery for a private burial. People who didn’t know her or her family came out of their homes and shops to pay respect to this local girl who’d had just far too short a time on the planet. None of us noticed it at the time, but because of the rain that was falling, a rainbow had formed in the sky.

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That very rainbow

But as I always say around here this is a music blog and amongst all this sadness I have made a new musical discovery. I have been tardy as ever, but Gerry Cinnamon, a Scottish singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist, has been slowly building up a following over the last few years and tickets for his latest stadium concert apparently sold out on Friday in three minutes. Like The Proclaimers before him, he sings using his local accent and has come to prominence purely on the back of word of mouth and social media, his first album “Erratic Cinematic” funded via the PledgeMusic platform.

My friend’s daughter and her buddies were fans of Mr Cinnamon and I have no doubt, had things turned out differently, they would all have been heading to Hampden next summer to see him. For this reason, his song Belter was the one her family chose to accompany that wicker coffin leaving the church. A moment of levity amongst all the sadness. The song was apparently written about that moment at the start of a relationship when things can go either way, trying-to-be-cool and not wanting to let your guard down for fear of rejection, but your heart doing exactly what it wants to do. A realistic, tongue-in-cheek love song.

Belter by Gerry Cinnamon:

Sorry to have written yet another really sad post around here but this is the place where I can share my thoughts anonymously without the real world getting involved or having an opinion, so a great outlet really. As for Mr Cinnamon, he is very unhappy at how those tickets got sold to “corporate goons” just so quickly and are now appearing online at highly inflated prices. He also however realises that if the biggest bands in the world can’t stop it happening or do anything about it, he is likewise stymied.

I hope my friend and her family will be able to come to terms with what has happened in time, but it’s not going to be easy. Listening to the song shared here will never be the same again, that’s for sure, but it will certainly always hold a special place in their hearts.

Until next time….

Belter Lyrics
(Song by Gerry Cinnamon)

She is a belter, different from the rest
Diamonds oan’ her finger and she always looks her best
She is a gangster, with a hundred-mile stare
When she walks her feet don’t touch the flare

She is a belter

She plays wae’ lightning
I’m a hundred miles high
Dishing out the thunder like a god inside the sky
She is a dancer and she dances in my dreams
Reminds me that the world is not as evil as it seems

She is a belter

No happy endings; unless fairytales come true
But she looks like a princess and there’s not much else to do
I think I love her
She gets underneath my skin
But I’ve been stung a few times, so I don’t let no one in
No even belters!

She is a belter
She is a belter
She is a belter

How can she reach me when I’m high above the shelf?
Lost inside a smoke ring
While I ponder tae’ myself
Is she the answer, to the question in my mind?
Is happiness an option, or has love just turned me blind?

Is she a belter?

No happy endings; unless fairytales come true
But she looks like a princess and there’s not much else to do
I think I love her
She gets underneath my skin
But I’ve been stung a few times, so I don’t let no one in
No even belters

She is a belter
She is a belter
She is a belter

Poppies, “Highland Cathedral” and A Brave Little Scot

Today was Remembrance Sunday and a parade took place through the centre of our town. One person was missing however, the person I wrote about last time, the daughter of my best friend who tragically took her own life just over a week ago. I hope this doesn’t come across as morbid but I have stumbled upon a clip I want to keep hold of, and for me this is the best place.

poppy

Holly was a great piper and four years ago the local pipe band staged a “flash mob” kind of event to raise money for the Poppy Scotland appeal. It was held in our local shopping centre and 14-year-old Holly, in her T-shirt and leggings, had to bravely step out into the limelight (or striplight) and play for a full four minutes before being joined by the rest of her band. I now watch the shoppers casually going about their business and want to shout out to them, “Stop, and watch this amazing little girl play her heart out”. The first piece she plays is Highland Cathedral which I will always associate with my dad as we used it at his funeral. The music the band marches out to is Scotland The Brave and watching the clip again through the tears, Holly was indeed a very brave little Scot that day.

Highland Cathedral:

I went to visit my friend this afternoon who is in the throes of doing something no parent should ever have to do, arrange her child’s funeral. There will be pictures, stories, lots of music and not a dry eye in the church. I showed her the post I wrote last time and passed on the messages of condolence left by my fellow bloggers. No need to leave comments this time as this post is more for my own remembrance, my blog being my web diary. My hometown is still in shock and there is so much more to this story I don’t want to go into here, but may do some day. It’s going to be another tough week.

Until next time, RIP our Brave Little Scot xxx

The Band, “The Weight” and a Bit of a Puzzler.

A while back I featured this song by Abba in one of my posts, and it led to a new discovery for me. I wouldn’t have spotted it myself, but in the comments boxes at the time, The Swede pointed out that one of the albums Agnetha was sadly storing away, post-divorce in her new abode, was Music From Big Pink recorded in 1968 by The Band (all happens very quickly at 0:58).

Back in 1968 I definitely wouldn’t have known about The Band and to be honest even in 1981 when the Abba video came out, all I knew of them was that they used to play with Bob Dylan and made a documentary movie called The Last Waltz.

Since having their great album cover pointed out to me however, I have been bombarded with references to it, especially after asking for song suggestions for the state of Pennsylvania for my American Odyssey series. Turns out their song The Weight, written by Band member Robbie Robertson, is about a traveller’s experiences arriving, visiting, and departing a town called Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Robbie chose this town  because it was the home of Martin Guitars, and he had written the guitar parts for Music From Big Pink on a 1951 Martin D-28. The Weight has been named as one of the best songs of the ’60s and is named as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The Weight by The Band:

The song was also featured the other week over at Rich Kamerman’s place, his Satur-debut post having been dedicated to Music From Big Pink. I of course had to point out my discovery that the album puts in an appearance in that 1981 Abba video, but after checking the exact location (0:58 as it turns out), I noticed that Agnetha places a second album on the shelf straight afterwards. For the last fortnight or so I have been driving myself mad trying to work out what it is, so if anyone can help me out I would be most grateful? At one point I thought it was Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees, but on closer inspection, definitely not. A bench it seems, and people in white clothing, but other than that I’m stumped. It has to be from earlier than 1981 otherwise we would be having a weird wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of thing going on, but as I say, any help in identifying it would be much appreciated.

As for the title of the album Music From Big Pink, I have now discovered it’s because the music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, the house shared by several of the band members in West Saugerties, New York. The cover artwork is a painting by Bob Dylan. I am no art expert, so it could either be a work of genius or the daubs of a child, but whatever it is considered to be, it certainly does make for memorable cover art.

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Big Pink with its pastel siding

So, “What’s It All About?” – So many songs make reference to other songs in their lyrics but it also seems that reference is made to other albums in videos. Makes sense as in the giant oak that is rock and pop’s family tree, everyone is influenced by someone else. Where did it all begin? Who knows, but like human life itself, I suspect it all came Out of Africa.

Bit of a heavy ending there so going to add some footage from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, the song this time being The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The Last Waltz was originally the name of a concert held on Thanksgiving Day 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was advertised as The Band’s “farewell concert appearance”, and they were joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and The Staple Singers. The event was filmed and made into a documentary of the same title, released in 1978.

Before next time, I hope someone can help me out with the puzzler?

The Weight Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Robertson)

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go but my friend can stick around.”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just old Luke and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company?”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Crazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog
He said, “I will fix your rack if you take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s OK, boy, won’t you feed him when you can?”

Yeah, take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Catch a cannon ball now to take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

The Kingdom of Fife, James Yorkston and “Woozy With Cider”

A few weeks ago, I threw down the gauntlet and asked followers to come up with ideas for future posts. Whenever I’ve done this in the past it’s been quite easy to come up with something reasonably entertaining, as a fairly mainstream song has been suggested. This time…., not quite so easy. This third reply post was always going to be tricky, as I hadn’t actually heard of the artist or song when it was first suggested by Mr Medd, whose Are We There Yet? blog is one I visit often. My proviso for this challenge was that I had to have heard of the artist, so by rights I could have wriggled out of it, but that would be a bit lame so here goes:

Woozy With Cider by James Yorkston:

Woozy With Cider was recorded by singer/songwriter James Yorkston in 2007. It’s a spoken word kind of affair and apparently falls into the electronic/folk rock camp. As I said above, both James and his “song” were new to me, so before hitting the keyboard I was going to have to do a bit of serious listening. Lots of imagery in this song but what comes across loud and clear is that Mr Yorkston is neither a fan of big cities nor city folk and their sometimes patronising attitude towards those of a more countrified nature. He kind of yearns to be back in the place he feels most comfortable, “a village the size of a teacup”. There has been a wedding though (oh no, another wedding post – I can’t get away from them), which is the reason for the trip to the big smoke, but it is now the day after where there is time for reflection, relaxation and just enough cider to cause a bit of “wooziness”.

I really liked this spoken word song right from the off, and I think I worked out why pretty early on. Once I’d done a bit of research into James Yorkston, I discovered he came from the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland, which is a peninsula situated between the Firth of Tay and Firth of Forth (and home to the ancient Pictish kings). He became part of something called the Fence Collective set up by Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote) where a group of Fife-based musicians got together and released music on their own record label with little more than a CD burner and the use of a local bar’s unused “back room”.

Looking at a map of Fife it looks remarkably like the Black Isle peninsula where I reside. From experience, these are beautiful places to live – Great scenery (water on three sides), picturesque villages, clean air and not too many people or cars. Like James, I would find life in a big city nowadays nigh impossible and find the best mix for me is kind of what is implied in the first line of the lyrics, “I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds”. It is now evening and the sound of the traffic has died down so the birds can be heard in equal measure. That’s my ideal – To be near enough civilisation to hear the sound of cars in the distance, but also to be able to hear the sound of birds (as I type I am listening to a hooting owl). It’s not for me the cacophony of city life with only the odd squawking seagull – I know where I’m supposed to “be” and like James Yorkston, I very fortuitously found it when I was relatively young, in my late twenties.

fife

black isle

So, I only found out about James Yorkston when the suggestion for this post came in but since then I have been bombarded by references to Fife and Fence Records. There is a name for this phenomenon (more than just coincidence) which currently eludes me, but we all experience it from time to time – In our house, whenever it happens it’s always accompanied by a quick burst of the Twilight Zone music.

First of all, as per my previous post, we ended up having a spontaneous wee break last week in the city of Dundee, which is just on the other side of the Tay Bridge from Fife. It was a no brainer therefore that we would head across for a visit. By this time I knew all about the Fence Collective based in the East Neuk of Fife, so what better place to visit in order to get “woozy with cider”?

Secondly, a couple of night’s ago I caught the final episode of the BBC2 documentary series Rip It Up which was ostensibly about how Scots have had to overcome obstacles, and blaze a trail, in order to make the music they love. This episode featured those independent labels such as Fence Records who decided to follow a different path and not head to London, but to remain in Scotland and be inspired by their surroundings – They would make music primarily for the love of it and not just to make lots of money. We even had a lengthy interview with Mr Yorkston (whom I warmed to greatly) and I’ll no doubt look out for him now that I know the background to his, and the Collective’s, aims.

Before I go, here is something I found when trying to find out a bit more about the man. It was from an interview he gave after having written his second book (yes it seems he’s multi-talented, also being an author – not jealous honest, grrr…).

Interviewer: James, what’s your guiltiest music pleasure?

James: I think I’ve grown out of that stuff now. When I was a kid, I was very much involved in genre, so I’d only like punk rock or dub reggae, say. Fortunately, as I’ve aged, I’ve thrown off such daft shackles and I no longer feel guilty about anything I like. I feel guiltier disliking things, especially if it’s music by people who I like as people. Guilty Music Displeasure, perhaps.

A great place to end, as since starting this blog I have had massive crises of confidence after writing about songs from my collection that others may well class as “a guilty pleasure”. I know everyone is usually very kind about it, but when James Yorkston also comes out and admits to now feeling more guilty about disliking music, I think I’m ok.

Until next time…

Woozy with Cider Lyrics
(Song by James Yorkston)

I watch the park quieten from the hotel window, I hear you softly sleep amongst the cars and saluting songbirds,
For a city whose size had scared me for years right now it’s a feeble evening row, not un-similar to a beach evening ending.
On the table to my left there’s a magazine with a picture of dead money, making a mockery of what I’d call art
But what would I know about the scene in the city that has swallowed up friends lovers and family,
Just give me a village the size of a teacup

You’re happier here spread out with your eyes closed,
I feel I should order a drink in celebration to welcome the summer, whose first day is ending
Should you wake you’d catch me of course and ask me the wisdom of drinking once more
I cast my mind back to yesterdays wedding where we got drunk and fell over
I did my best to be polite to a family I’d never met, but on numerous occasions, I guess, I could have tried harder
Of course by the end of the night I was a best friend with everyone and every ones wife but right now I couldn’t remember their names no matter how hard I try

As the sun glares through the hotel window I wonder of our future and where it will lead to,
I wonder if you’ll be laying there 10 years 20 years 30 years down the line
I’ll still be staring out at the street confused about love and life,
It’ll be interesting to see if anyone every bought those songs of mine if anyone heard those words that I never got quite right,
I think I can be honest in presuming the world is not exactly going to be leaping out of its bed to make me rich using my songs in adverts selling oranges or lemons

Who knows I may end up owning the whole street, or more likely sleeping under tree in the park opposite
Would the runners keep me awake or would I keep them asleep
I’d hope I have the sense to move back home, as lovely as today is, I‘d imagine the winter would be rather cold

I’d been told for years that the devil had the best tunes and that the devil lived down here whereas us country folk weren’t worth the salt from the road
Ex pat magazine editors who choose to loose their temper on the easily persuaded northern town dwellers
And sure enough 99 percent of the people I meet have scant regard for entertaining me, it seems I’m too old too slow too quiet and just wrong
And I’m glad. In their cocaine fuelled electronic cabarets I’ll be the man at the bar drinking overpriced whiskey from a bar maid who’s too good to catch my eye
She only works here two nights a week, the rest of the time she’s a singer in a rock and roll band
I bet she’d change her tune if I told her my album had peaked at number 172 and that I also had friends who worked in bars and that didn’t define who they are
Though it certainly helps their capacity to drink.

But I’ve strayed off the subject
Now I’ll be leaning over and waking you up, and you’ll squint at me through the cracks between your eyelids, woozy with cider
As if you’re asking exactly where we are and exactly what I wanted.
And I’ll be happy because we won’t be taking anything too seriously.

Capercaillie, “Caledonia” and Letters From America

So far so good with this annual challenge to write seven posts in seven days, 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.