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.

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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

Yet Another Very Sad Post, The Evils of Social Media and “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.”

I had fully intended to return to blogging this weekend after a particularly busy three weeks. There was a lot to write about and many pictures to share – My current propensity to write negative posts could perhaps be assuaged.

Two weeks ago I went to Bergen in Norway with my best friend. For the third year in a row we managed to fit in an October City Break and lord knows we both deserved it, having worked so hard over the summer months both trying to earn the spondulicks and support our families. Luck was on our side and we had three wonderful days of dry weather when the sun shone. A cruise along the nearby fjords was a highlight of the trip and for the first time in years I got that sense of wonderment that comes from being amongst stunning scenery so unlike anything I am used to.

As ever, because of modern technology, there was a live hotline to Scotland whilst we were away, and although we knew my friend’s 18-year-old daughter was currently struggling and a bit troubled, we thought all would come right in the end. Sadly, on Friday afternoon, she took her own life. I have no idea what will go on the Death Certificate but in reality it should state Death by Social Media. It is hard for us of a certain age to comprehend cyber-bullying, but it is very real, and on top of all the other pressures an 18-year-old has to face in today’s world, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

I will share a picture of Holly as I will remember her. She was a member of the local pipe band and was usually the person called upon to perform a bagpipe solo, should it be required at some civic event. She was a great sportswoman and a member of the Scotland squad in her chosen discipline. So much to live for, yet probably as a result of her success, and those who were jealous of that success, all now a dreadful waste.

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Holly, 2001-2019

So, another gloomy post from me but I needed to explain my absence around here and warn you I am not in the best frame of mind for blogging at the moment so may well be largely absent for a while yet. We will all try to support my friend and her family, but the one thing they want more than anything else, we can’t give them – To have their daughter back.

It has often been mentioned around here that social media can be ugly and vile but how can we impress on those youngsters (and those in certain sectors of the press) that what they say about people whilst sitting in the comfort of their own homes, can have a profound and sometimes fatal impact. We now have the first generation reaching adulthood who have never known a world without social media, and we are losing them fast. I know that we could have so easily lost DD at the same age, and many of my friends feel the same in relation to their own children, which is why it is hitting us all so hard.

I invariably was thinking of sharing something by Norwegian band a-ha in this post as it was supposed to be all about my trip to Bergen. It hasn’t turned out that way, but I still want to share this song, The Sun Always Shines On TV. Pål Waaktaar, the writer of the song, is quoted as saying: “The Sun Always Shines On TV was written on one of those down days. Mags and I were in a hotel watching English television on a rainy day and the guy announcing the program says, ‘It’s a rainy day but, as ever, the sun always shines on TV.’ The song is about the power of television and the way television presents life.”

They didn’t have social media when the song was written back in 1985, but the sentiment remains the same in today’s world – The sun always shines on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and so on. It looks as if your friends’ lives are full of holidays, perfect relationships, glowing skin, stylish hair & clothes and nights out on the town. Thankfully many of us are waking up to the unreality of it all and even risk FOMO in order to tend our mental health. Not so easy if you are a teen however and sadly parental influence has to take a back seat during those tricky teenage years, to be replaced by often unstablising peer-group influence.

The Sun Always Shines On T.V. by a-ha:

Not much more to say really. Apologies if I have not visited the comments boxes of the various blogs I follow for a while but hopefully you will understand why. When I started this blog at the start of 2016 life was a lot less ugly, divisive, dangerous and cruel than it seems to be only four years later. A lot of the blame lands at the feet of he who called the fateful EU Referendum, but of course much, much more to it than that. We are living through strange and uncertain times so all the more reason to hold on tight to family and friends – Keep them close and do whatever it takes to protect them.

Until next time, RIP Holly xxx

The Sun Always Shines On T.V. Lyrics
(Song by Pål Waaktaar)

Touch me
How can it be
Believe me
The sun always shines on TV
Hold me
Close to your heart
Touch me
And give all your love to me
To me

I reached inside myself
And found nothing there
To ease the pressure of
My ever worrying mind
All my powers waste away
I fear the crazed and lonely looks
The mirror’s sending me
These days
Please don’t ask me to defend
The shameful lowlands
Of the way I’m drifting
Gloomily through time

I reached inside myself today
Thinking there’s got to be some way
To keep my troubles distant

Touch me
How can it be
Believe me
The sun always shines on TV
Hold me
Close to your heart
Touch me
And give all your love to me

Tin Pan Alley, Leon Redbone and “Shine On Harvest Moon”

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, I thought I was done with “moon posts” as I had kind of run out of familiar moon-related songs, but we had a beautiful Harvest Moon in our skies this last weekend and it made me want to revisit this series. I wrote about the Harvest Moon last year and shared the Neil Young song of the same name (link here) but I have discovered another relevant song, which I think, deserves to be featured.

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First of all a bit of trivia – The Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we shall reach the equinox, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of darkness than light in our days, on Monday the 23rd Sept. If it hadn’t landed that way, the full moon would have been called the Corn Moon. A second foible of this month’s full moon was that it was at apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit around Earth, so was called a “mini moon”.  Apparently it should have seemed a bit dimmer than usual, but when I looked out the back door on Saturday night it seemed anything but. Here is my own picture taken quickly on my phone, so not a brilliant image, but if you were lucky enough to see it in person you will probably agree it was a bobby-dazzler!

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The Harvest Moon

But back to the song, after doing a bit of googling and YouTubing (another new verb), I found this great clip where Leon Redbone, who sadly died earlier on this year, performs Shine On Harvest Moon. Mr Redbone was a new find for me, but I do love his quirky delivery and very unique style. He specialised in jazz, blues and Tin Pan Alley classics such as this one, and his signature style was the panama hat, dark glasses and black tie. Of Armenian origin, he was born in Cyprus but then moved with his family first to London and then Canada where he began performing in public at Toronto nightclubs and folk festivals. After a mention from Bob Dylan in an early ’70s interview, he was featured in Rolling Stone magazine, a full year before he had a recording contract. He died in May this year at the very young (from where I’m sitting) sounding age of 69.

Shine On Harvest Moon by Leon Redbone:

The song Shine On Harvest Moon was written way back in the early 1900s and credited to the married vaudeville team of Nora Hayes and Jack Norworth. It was one of a series of moon-related Tin Pan Alley songs from the era and debuted in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908 to great acclaim, later becoming a popular standard.

It occurred to me that although I have often heard the term Tin Pan Alley used, I have never really taken the time to investigate whether it is/was an actual place. It seems it was, although not called that in reality, but simply the section of West 28th Street in Manhattan, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, where a number of music publishers set up shop from 1885 onward. Once the phonograph, radio, and motion pictures took over from sheet music as the driving force behind American popular music, Tin Pan Alley lost out in importance, and with the rise of rock & roll, the Brill Building became the new home for music industry offices and studios. Some of the most popular American songs of the late ’50s/early ’60s were written in the Brill Building and it is considered to have been the centre of the American music industry at that time.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Didn’t think I’d return with another “moon-post” but still some new things to discover about our only satellite and still a Corn Moon to write about at some point as that’s the only one to date that has been omitted entirely – All down to the timing of the Autumnal Equinox it seems. With a lunar cycle that is shorter than the average calendar month though, I’ll get there in the end.

As for Leon Redbone, what a fine new discovery to have made, but such a shame it had to be just after his death.

RIP Leon.

Shine On Harvest Moon Lyrics
(Song by Nora Bayes/Jack Norworth)

The night was mighty dark so you could hardly see, cause the moon refused to shine
There’s a couple sittin ‘neath the willow tree, for love, they pine
Little maid was kinda ‘fraid of darkness, so she said I think I’ll go
Boy began to sigh, looked up in the sky and told the moon his little tale of woe, oh

Shine on, shine on harvest moon up in the sky
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June, or July
Snow time ain’t no time to sit outdoors and spoon
Shine on, shine on harvest moon for me ‘n’ my gal

Shine on harvest moon way up there in the sky
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June, AND July? Now, looka
Snow Time ain’t time no time to stay outdoors and spoon
So shine on Harvest moon

The night was mighty dark so you could hardly see, cause the moon refused to shine
There’s a couple sittin ‘neath the willow tree, for love, they pine
Little maid was kinda ‘fraid of darkness, so she said I think I’ll go
Boy began to sigh, looked up in the sky and told the moon his little tale of woe, oh

Shine on, shine on harvest moon(shine on, shine on) Up in the sky?
I ain’t had no lovin’ since January, February, June, or July
Snow Time ain’t no time to stay outdoors and spoon
So shine on, shine on harvest moon for me ‘n’ my gal, for me ‘n my gal

Doris Day, Calamity Jane and Another Hollywood Legend Gone

“You take the grey skies out of my way
You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day”, sang George Michael back in 1984 and he wasn’t far wrong.

She certainly did shine brightly on the big screen but today she passed away, at the grand old age of 97. Despite her success, life threw her some lemons, but in typical Doris style, she made lemonade.

Back in March, I wrote my final “Moon Post” celebrating the appearance of the Sugar Moon in our skies. To round off the series I chose a couple of Doris Day songs as I had been reminded of her brilliance whilst spending a lovely afternoon watching Calamity Jane with my mum at the care home. She was a force of nature and I have just caught an old interview with her on telly tonight where she admits that the real Doris was Calamity Jane!

RIP to one of the most popular singers and actresses of the 20th century.

What's It All About?

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.

To be honest I didn’t think I was going to write any more “moon posts” as I think I’ve  clocked up 17 now, and have had to start using the alternate name for the full moon. Also, most of my favourite moon-related songs have been written about now, so starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel a bit.

This week however, I had a really pleasurable afternoon with a number of ladies who suffer from dementia, and it reminded me there are a few more songs I had…

View original post 917 more words

Another Serious Post: A Much-loved Cousin who was “Football Crazy”

I had a long and sad journey to make yesterday as my 56-year-old cousin, who was diagnosed with MND nearly four years ago, finally lost his battle with that horrible “locked-in” disease. Down to the excellent round-the-clock care given to him by his mum and sisters, he outlived most other victims post diagnosis, but everyone knew it was time for his suffering to end and his friends turned out in droves to his memorial service in Aberdeen. It was standing room only and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a service where quite so many middle-aged men found it impossible to control their emotions. The main reason for this outpouring of emotion – Football.

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My cousin didn’t have a glittering career or ever earn vast sums of money but he worked hard, raised a family and was a loving father, son and brother. From an early age however, his passion was football, and for nearly 35 yrs he played in the many Junior and Amateur leagues run within The Granite City. Apparently he was still playing at age 50, just two years before his diagnosis. Facebook is awash with tributes to him and of his many exploits on the pitch. He had played with, and captained, many teams over the years so knew the entire footballing fraternity and they had nothing but good things to say about him – A legend, a true gent, a prankster, a great friend, and so it went on.

There is a dearth of quality football songs out there, so I’m just going to go with the obvious choice, Football Crazy, a song written back in the days of yore but made popular by Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor when they regularly performed their version of it on the Tonight programme back in the early 1960s. I don’t remember watching this show back then (just too young), but I must have recognised the theme tune as I always knew when “Ciff” (that would be Cliff Michelmore) came on the telly, it was time for bed (we didn’t climb the stairs to Bedfordshire where I came from).

Strangely enough, last Saturday I went to our football stadium for the first time in nearly 20 years to watch the local team. DD’s boyfriend, who looks after the team’s physical (and often mental) welfare, got us tickets for the section where the player’s wives, kids and mums sit. They probably go to every home match and build up that familiarity and camaraderie from spending so much time together. I watched friends meet up for their weekly fix of football; old men turning up in their scarves who have probably been fans since they were lads; and the staff who kept everything running like clockwork – A massive footballing family. It was nice.

This week we have had the freaky scenario where two English teams who were not expected to come back with a win on aggregate, did just that – Even fans of other teams, usually fierce rivals, have come out and congratulated them on those fantastic wins. Just at the time we were supposed to have left the EU, both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are on their way to Madrid and the Champion’s League Final. There’s going to be an English winner now whatever the outcome.

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This time last week I wasn’t really thinking much about football at all, but as with my cousin, if it has played a large part in your life you could be one of the lucky ones as you are part of one big family. Many of the middle-aged men at yesterday’s service had walked, ran and climbed improbable distances and heights to raise money for a vehicle for their old team-mate. They called it the Stephen-Hawking-mobile and there were many great outings in it. There have also been fund-raising dinners for MND and the many other charities who supported him and his family over the last few years. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt very much if my old work-mates would do the same for me.

On a personal level, one of the player’s mums sitting behind me at last weeks match turned out to be a carer at my mum’s nursing home. I had thought she looked familiar but out of context I couldn’t place her. Having now met with her this week at the home, I realise my mum will now potentially be even better looked after, as I am now (somewhat loosely) attached to her son’s team.

So, a sad week for my family, but as ever at these events it was great to meet up with people whom I have been out of touch with for a long time. Plans are now being made for me to keep in touch with everyone and contact details have been exchanged. It seems unfair that people who are the healthiest, fittest, kindest and most generous can be dealt such a cruel blow, but no-one ever said life was fair.

Until next time…

Football Crazy Original Lyrics
(Song by James Curran)

I have a favourite brother
And his Christian name is Paul.
He’s lately joined a football club
For he’s mad about football.
He’s got two black eyes already
And teeth lost from his gob,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

For he’s football crazy,
He’s football mad,
The football it has taken away
The little bit o’ sense he had,
And it would take a dozen servants
To wash his clothes and scrub,
Since Paul became a member of
That terrible football club.

In the middle of the field, one afternoon,
The captain says, “Now Paul,
Would you kindly take this place-kick
Since you’re mad about football?”
So he took forty paces backwards,
Shot off from the mark.
The ball went sailing over the bar
And landed in New York.

His wife, she says she’ll leave him
If Paulie doesn’t keep
Away from football kicking
At night-time in his sleep.
He calls out ‘Pass, McGinty!”
And other things so droll
Last night he kicked her out of bed
And swore it was a goal!

Peter Tork, The Monkees and “Shades of Gray”

Saddened to hear the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees has died. Since starting this project, where I journey back in time reminiscing about the music of my youth, it has become apparent that it all started for me at around the age of six, which in my case was 1966. Coincidentally that was when the Monkees first made an appearance on our black and white television screens, and although I was aware of other artists who popped up on the prime time slots watched by my mum and dad, the Monkees belonged to me.

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Peter Tork, RIP

I am sorry Peter, but the Monkee I was most infatuated with at age six, was Davy Jones, and one of the first posts I published on this blog was about him (link here). But you Peter, were the Howard Donald of the Monkees. You weren’t the cutest or the zaniest; you had a bowl haircut, didn’t wear a hat and were the oldest of the group; but like Howard of Take That fame, in time you became my favourite Monkee.

Despite being an accomplished Greenwich Village folk musician when you got the role in the sitcom that would change your life, at the start you weren’t even allowed to play your own instruments. That would change with time however, and you became the man in charge of keyboards and bass. You didn’t get the role of star vocalist very often, but here is a lovely song where you did share lead vocals with Davy Jones. Shades of Gray (American spelling of grey) is also very apt for this post, as it starts off with the lines:

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play, (yes, that would have been 1966 for me)

and ends with the verse:

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray, (oh yes, as our politicians can testify, how complicated life has become in 2019)

Shades of Gray was another of those great ’60s songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was recorded by The Monkees for their 1967 album “Headquarters” and was the first song on which the group played all their own instruments.

But here is another great song from that era, the clip this time in colour, where the boys are wearing those iconic dark red shirts with the silver buttons. Of course back in 1966 we wouldn’t have known their shirts were red, would we, because we watched telly in black and white? But here is where I beg to differ. Our local football team, Aberdeen FC played in red, and whenever their matches were aired on television, the grey of their shirts matched the grey of the Monkees shirts. At age six I was obviously pretty good at working out what the colours should be, based on the shades of grey of the various team shirts. Living in a football loving household meant you developed all sorts of useful skills of a televisual nature.

Last Train To Clarksville by the Monkees:

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote Last Train To Clarksville as a protest to the Vietnam War but had to keep that quiet in order to get it recorded. It is about a guy who gets drafted, and the train is taking him to the army base. He knows he may die in Vietnam, and at the end of the song he states, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Peter Tork was one of the many artists of my youth to have been born in 1942, right in the middle of a World War, but yet a vintage year for the birth of future musical legends (what was that all about?). Unlike in 2016, when I started this blog, I haven’t actually written any tributes so far this year. Cross fingers there won’t be too many more, but considering the span of time I write about here, I suspect there will be. A great chance to revisit the music though, and I have a feeling that a lot of people who had all but forgotten about the Monkees, might have had a sneaky peek at an old clip of Daydream Believer yesterday – I know I did.

the monkeesUntil next time…

Shades of Gray Lyrics
(Song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)

When the world and I were young
Just yesterday
Life was such a simple game
A child could play
It was easy then to tell right from wrong
Easy then to tell weak from strong
When a man should stand and fight
Or just go along

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

I remember when the answers seemed so clear
We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear
It was easy then to tell truth from lies
Selling out from compromise
Who to love and who to hate
The foolish from the wise

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray

It was easy then to know what was fair
When to keep and when to share
How much to protect your heart
And how much to care

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light
Today there is no black or white
Only shades of gray
Only shades of gray