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.

Nights Out On The Town, Van Morrison and “Moondance”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

Well, it comes round quickly doesn’t it, and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland I’ve not actually seen any kind of moon for some time, as once the heatwave of 2018 broke here in Scotland, there’s been cloudy night skies ever since. Yesterday evening however I dragged Mr WIAA out on the town, as amazingly the sun had come out and it being the last Saturday night of the summer I felt the need to…, not so much celebrate, but have a last hurrah before it all starts getting a bit autumnal around here.

The town was heaving with tourists who seem to show no sign of going anywhere for a while yet – Great for the local economy, but not maybe so great for the likes of us, who had spontaneously decided to eat out without booking something in advance. After having a bit of a trawl of our favourite eateries it became apparent it would have to be a bar meal, in one of DD’s favourite haunts in fact, but by then we were so hungry we were in no position to be picky and very nice it was too. So, lots of “people watching” ensued (one of my favourite pastimes) and listening to loud music, but also a large glass of wine for me as for once I wasn’t the designated driver.

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With all the sunshine earlier on in the evening I felt sure I would see the moon on the way home, but sadly the clouds had yet again decided to form a blanket across our skies so it wasn’t to be – By this time you see, I was in the mood for a moon dance, and had that taken place I would have probably written this post last night, a tad under the influence. Although tipsy blogging has worked well for me in the past, there is always a risk that something might go horribly wrong and as we all know to our cost, once that publish button is pressed the words are out there for the world to see (or in my case the people who kindly follow this blog or casually stumble upon it) so probably best that I waited.

By now you must have guessed that this month’s moon-related song is going to be Van Morrison’s Moondance. The August full moon should appear in our skies tonight, Sunday the 26th, but looking through the windowpane right now, I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing this one as it’s expected to rain all day. No matter, I can cheer myself up by watching a clip of Van the Man performing the song in his usual jolly, upbeat fashion – Oh no, that’s right, Van doesn’t do jolly and upbeat so instead it’ll be a bit of an interesting clip that reminds me of the journey home last night (although my one had a lot less traffic).

Moondance by Van Morrison:

This song is the one most frequently performed by Van in concert and although not released as a single until 1977, it was first recorded in 1970 for the album of the same name. He apparently wrote Moondance first of all as a jazz saxophone instrumental and then added the lyrics later. As we all know he is highly reticent to talk about his music, feeling the songs should speak for themselves (the darling of the talk shows he is not), but I’m pretty sure many of us would have Moondance somewhere in our personal Top 100.

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When it comes to Van, I feel he is like one of those friends we all have, the one who is always late or lets us down in some way but whom we continually excuse because they are just such great company when we do get to spend time with them. He may be a bit grumpy on stage, and it’s a bit of a hit or a miss whether his live show will be a triumph or a bit of a disappointment, but we all forgive him because his canon of work is just so sublime.

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But something is missing here isn’t it? I haven’t yet given this August full moon a name. It’s apparently called the Sturgeon Moon, as for the Native Americans that was when they were most likely to catch the giant sturgeon that populate the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. I’ve known this particular moon was coming up for some time but however hard I try, I just can’t think fish, fish, fish…. No, being a Scot I just think of our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and here’s a great clip of Gary: Tank Commander (played by the wonderful Greg McHugh), interviewing the lady herself ahead of the last Scottish Parliament election. Probably hard to understand if you live outwith Scotland, but in my opinion, very funny.

Only two more moons to go in this series before I’ve covered all 12 months but because of the 29 and a half day cycle between full moons, and a few foibles unique to this year, there are a couple that have been missed. As it seems there is a never ending supply of songs with the word moon in their lyrics, this could be one series that just keeps on going. I can never quite get my head round the whole concept of what is beyond the moon, the solar system and the galaxy of stars we find ourselves part of – Infinity it’s called, so maybe this could become the infinite moon series. Let’s see.

Until next time….

Moondance Lyrics
(Song by Van Morrison)

Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
You know the night’s magic
Seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight
Seems to shine in your blush…

Can I just have one a’ more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with a’ you, my love?

Well I wanna make love to you tonight
I can’t wait till the morning has come
And I know now the time is just right
And straight into my arms you will run
And when you come my heart will be waiting
To make sure that you’re never alone
There and then all my dreams will come true dear
There and then I will make you my own
And every time I touch you, you just tremble inside
And I know how much you want me that, you can’t hide…

Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?

Well it’s a marvellous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
You know the night’s magic
Seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight
Seems to shine in your blush…

One more moondance with you
In the moonlight
On a magic night
la, la, la, la, there’s a moonlight
On a magic night
Can’t I just have one more dance
With you my love?

Blood, Sweat & Tears, Petite Fleur and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

Well, I hope everyone who celebrates it has enjoyed their Christmas Day. We were just four for lunch this year which is a really easy number to cater for so not too stressful at all. I don’t even feel as if I’ve eaten too much as instead of the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few snacks thrown in, on Christmas Day you just have breakfast, a whopping big festive lunch and then not much else, so it all evens itself out nicely. I realise not everyone is quite so restrained, but it works for me. As for the presents, lots of lovely things as ever and my daughter, who knows me just too well it seems, came up with this very appropriate gift. It is sitting beside me as I type so lets hope I will be inspired by the contents which sadly aren’t of the alcoholic variety as I am on driving duty, but I don’t mind, which is just as well.

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It has become my routine of late to post on a Monday so didn’t want to veer away from that pattern just because it’s Christmas Day. Also, the great thing is that we no longer have to share anything Christmassy as a song choice – I don’t know about you but if I ever hear Andy Williams singing It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year again whilst shopping, I will start a petition to have it banned. Unless your life really is on the up, and absolutely nothing bad has happened in the course of the year, it’s tough being constantly bombarded with Mr Williams’ chirpy lyrics. I always feel for those who may indeed not be having the MOST wonderful time. At one point I thought we ourselves might be having a bit of a Blue Christmas (Elvis version) this year as darling daughter is a bit lost spending it without her special someone, my mum is a bit lost without her memories and as regulars to this place know, I myself seem to have temporarily lost my “purpose”. As it turns out however it has been a really lovely day with no “blue-ness” making an appearance at all, for which I am really grateful.

But here I am linking to festive songs whereas the song that has formed an earworm over the last week is something quite different. I have mentioned recently that over the last few weeks I’ve been working my way through all seven series of the television show Mad Men on Netflix. Well here’s a bit of irony – The final season hasn’t fully made it on to Netflix yet so I had to buy back the same DVD I donated to a charity shop earlier in the year after embarking on a bit of decluttering. No matter, all for a good cause, but didn’t realise I would get quite so into it second time around. First time around I hadn’t starting blogging yet whereas this time the carefully chosen songs that feature in each episode are doubly interesting for me as the late 1960s seems to have become my favourite era to revisit. [Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet reached it, Season 6 is about to be mentioned!]

Megan

By the end of season 6, the main character’s wife had moved west to LA in order to further pursue her acting career. Megan Draper, the French Canadian secretary turned copy-writer turned actress, had always been captivating on screen ever since first appearing in season 4 but having set up home amongst the musicians and acting fraternity of Laurel Canyon, she seemed to have found her spiritual home. Her New York based, “Ad-Man” husband Don was suddenly an anachronism and it made for uncomfortable viewing watching the end of a marriage being played out on screen. Right at the end of episode 6 Megan hosts a party at her house in the hills – One of the songs played at the party was this one and although I had heard of the band Blood, Sweat & Tears and even seen pictures of them, they’ve never featured amongst the tracks of my years so I hadn’t realised they were responsible for this gem of a song – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy by Blood Sweat and Tears:

This beautiful song was written by Brenda Holloway amongst others and was first recorded by her in 1967 on the Tamla label. The song later became a huge hit for jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1969, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 35 in the UK Singles Chart. But the musical surprises didn’t end there in this particular episode as to husband Don’s discomfort, Megan proceeds to entertain her guests with an impromptu dance to Petite Fleur, a jazz instrumental played by some of her musician friends. This piece of music was originally written and recorded by Sidney Bechet in 1952 but became an international hit in 1959 for Chris Barber’s Jazz Band. It was this version with the clarinet solo that provided the inspiration for Megan’s “performance” – Very apt for the petite fleur that was French-speaking Megan Draper (née Calvet).

Petite Fleur by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band:

So, “What’s It All About” – Sometimes we don’t even realise how much time and effort has gone into choosing just the right music for a television show as it just feels incidental, but once you start to take note, as I have done re-watching this award winning drama, it adds a whole new dimension to the experience. The Blood, Sweat & Tears song was the perfect choice for this party in the Hollywood Hills of 1969 but also bittersweet as that evening perhaps marked the beginning of the end for the two main protagonists. Megan had made Don “so very happy” and vice versa, but those days were soon to be in the past. The petite fleur would soon be out of his life for good.

But here I am blogging with my new mug by my side at nearly 10pm on Christmas Day – DD has invited some friends round and by the sound of the laughter from the other room, they seem to be making her “so very happy”. Time to seek out Mr WIAA, as it’s probably time to make him “so very ….. ” – No that all sounds a bit wrong. Time to sign off for today before I get myself into trouble!

Merry Christmas from all of us here at WIAA – Hope you’ve had a good one.

Until next time….

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy Lyrics
(Song by Berry Gordy Jr/Brenda Holloway/Frank Wilson/Patrice Holloway)

I lost at love before
Got mad and closed the door
But you said try just once more
I chose you for the one
Now I’m having so much fun
You treated me so kind,
I’m about to lose my mind
You made me so very happy
I’m so glad you came into my life

The others were untrue,
But when it came to lovin’ you
I’d spend my whole life with you
‘Cause you came and you took control
You touched my very soul
You always showed me that
Loving you was where it’s at
You made me so very happy
I’m so glad you came into my life

Thank you baby, yeah yeah

I love you so much, it seems
That you’re even in my dreams I can hear
Baby, I hear you calling me
I’m so in love with you
All I ever want to do is
Thank you, baby
Thank you, baby

You made me so very happy
I’m so glad you came into my life
You made me so very happy
You made me so, so very happy baby
I’m so glad you
Came into my life
Mmmm, I want to thank you, girl
Every day of my life
I wanna thank you
You made me so very happy
Oh, I wanna spend my life thanking you
(Thank you baby, thank you baby)

May Day, Ella Fitzgerald and “Summertime”

Well, it’s May Day and I don’t know about you but up here in Scotland it’s been a wonderful sunny day. As ever I am celebrating this landmark date in the calendar with a few of the old customs. First of all I managed to do a symbolic washing of my face with morning dew – With any luck I may wake up tomorrow morning looking like a young maiden, but I’m not holding out much hope.

Next on the agenda was to gather some spring flowers for the little shrine I’ve got used to putting together on such days – Cherry blossom, narcissi and a few pink flowers I don’t know the name of. Along with a candle, some ribbon and some symbolic dew, it all looks very nice.

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Holy wells are popular places to visit on May Day or Beltane as it used to be called here in Scotland. As luck would have it we have a clootie well a short drive away and as Mr WIAA and I were both on holiday, that seemed like a good plan. This ancient spring is dedicated to Saint Curetán where the rags, dipped in the water from the well, are hung on the surrounding bushes and trees. It was once thought to have had the power to cure sick children. The spring runs into a kind of basin and just as we got there a young maiden was indeed washing her face – Just as well we knew the significance of the day or it would have all been a bit weird.

Beltane marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celts and that was when their cattle were driven out to the higher pastures and rituals were performed to protect cattle, crops and people. Bonfires were kindled, their flames, smoke and ashes deemed to have protective powers.

Most of us are no longer pastoral people with cattle, but suburban people with garden furniture and fire pits so instead of driving my cattle to high pastures today, I have just got the rest of the accoutrements of summer out of the shed and lit a symbolic fire to celebrate Beltane. A wee spot of Drambuie also slipped down nicely and was my toast to the coming of summer.

Whenever a fire is lit the young people all seem to want to congregate round it – Darling daughter did a bit of texting and we now have a garden-full. Perhaps a bit of a novelty that drags them away from their electronic devices – Whatever, we have now left them to it, so time for a quick post to celebrate this special day.

The song I’ve chosen could not be less Scottish if it tried, but one I have always loved. Summertime was composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. The one I have in my music library is by Ella Fitzgerald who would have last week reached the age of 100. For over half a century Ella was the jazz singer who commanded the largest popular following and her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong were amongst her most notable. No long wordy post from me today then, just this lovely version of one of Gershwin’s finest compositions.

Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong:

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward)

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush little baby, Don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that morning, there ain’t nothin can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin’ by

Postscript:

It’s not an Oscar winner and I’m still learning how to do this, but here is my little film of our day out – It all ends rather abruptly I’m afraid but I will improve!