An Emotional Week, The BRITS and ‘It’s A Sin’

I wish I could say my paucity of blogging was down to telly watching, but it’s really not. Now that we’ve had that revelatory finale to Line Of Duty (NOT), and with a few other things having come to an end, we’re looking for something new. I am missing my Hastings-isms though (and the wee donkey).

Line Of Duty, cottagecore-style

I did however watch a doc on Channel 4 last night and it caused me to shed a tear – I’m not even a fan of hers, but Davina McCall did future generations of women a massive service by lifting the lid on something that affects half the population, yet is still a strictly taboo subject. It turns out I am much more likely to suffer dementia and broken bones in later life because of a scare story that was widely circulated 20 years ago, but was deeply flawed. I am beyond angry at the lack of support and advice we were given, but too late now to turn back the clock. As it’s such a ‘taboo subject’, and because of my male readership, I don’t even feel I can name it here (oh the irony), but to all those men out there who care about their wives and partners, do your research. My own life, and Mr WIAA’s, could have been a lot easier over the last decade if we’d both had all the genuine facts at our disposal. Rant over.

I’ve been having a bit of an emotional week to be honest. The BRIT awards were aired on Tuesday night, and after all this time it was amazing to see thousands of people in the O2 arena again, enjoying live music. An experiment it seems, using key workers as guinea pigs, but the results will help us get events and mass gatherings up and running again post-pandemic.

The theme of the show was Community, Kindness and Giving (After a Difficult Year) so there was a lot of love in the room for those key workers, but the winners of the colourful little statuettes were predominantly women, just like at the Grammys. A bit of a backlash against the gender disparity amongst the previous year’s nominees I think. Dua Lipa was the big winner (Best British Female and Best Album) but there were also awards for Arlo Parks, Little Mix, J Hus, HAIM, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, Griff and Taylor Swift. In fact it was a very colourful and feminine event, with some very flamboyant outfits worn by both men and women (but not by Lewis Capaldi who just came as himself). There is always a standout collaboration on the night, and for me, this year, it was this performance of the Pet Shop Boys’ song It’s A Sin by Elton John and Olly Alexander.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Olly as he reminds me of some the boys in DD’s friendship group when she was growing up. (I think I just want to mother him, and make sure he’s eating properly.) The song choice was very much derived from the success of another drama aired earlier on this year, also called It’s A Sin. Olly Alexander played Ritchie Tozer, one of a group of gay boys who came to London in the early 1980s and formed a friendship group. Sadly, the fast developing HIV/AIDS crisis impacted all of their lives and it made for a powerful and emotional (that word again) watch. Anyone who remembers those days will know how much fear, ignorance and stigma there was attached to that particular virus at the time, but the scientists eventually came up with a treatment, and now it can be controlled with one tablet a day. The drama covered the period 1981-1991 when boys were dying alone, sometimes in locked wards, having been disowned by their families. Here’s a very young looking Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe with the original version of It’s A Sin, which made it right to the top of the UK Singles Chart in 1987. (A single of the version from the awards show is being released to raise money for the Elton John Aids Foundation.)

It’s A Sin by The Pet Shop Boys

Just to top things off, another heart-wrenching drama aired earlier this week (currently available on the BBC iPlayer) called Three Families. Again a controversial subject was dealt with, and again women were not always able to get the support they needed. Yes, it’s been a bit of a ‘heavy’ and emotional week, with a recurring theme it seems.

But to end this post, I’m going to add some pictures of a very happy live music event I witnessed this week. No, I wasn’t able to head down to the O2 for the BRIT Awards, and I’m not a key worker, but joy of joys a group of performers set out their stall in my mum’s care home car park. I was supposed to be there for a visit but I knew she couldn’t miss out on all the fun, so I socially distanced on the other side of the car park to let her enjoy their show. Needless to say most of the residents had to watch from the windows of their rooms, but a few hardy souls like my mum braved the elements and headed outside. We’re obviously cut from the same cloth as there was no holding her back and she was out there in front dancing along to their repertoire of mostly 1960s songs (many of which have appeared around here, which is a tad scary). One of the singers came to speak to me at the end, and yes, you’ve guessed it, I got all emotional again when thanking her for the show.

Not expecting much feedback on this one as touched upon a lot of taboo subjects but good to get my thoughts down, as ever.

Until next time…

It’s A Sin Lyrics
(Song by Chris Lowe/Neil Tennant)

When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

At school they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn’t quite succeed
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

Father, forgive me
I tried not to do it
Turned over a new leaf
Then tore right through it
Whatever you taught me
I didn’t believe it
Father, you fought me
‘Cause I didn’t care
And I still don’t understand

Outlander, The Association and ‘Never My Love’

A new song came into my life last week which I have just discovered is one of the most listened to of the 20th century. Why am I only finding out about it now, as for me, it ticks all the boxes?

  • Released in 1967
  • Recorded by a band of the sunshine pop persuasion
  • Made with members of the legendary Wrecking Crew (that group of session musicians based in Los Angeles who worked with Sonny & Cher, the Mamas & the Papas, the 5th Dimension, the Monkees, the Beach Boys and many others)

The Association were until last week unknown to me, however according to the well-known online encyclopaedia, they hit the No. 1 spot in the charts in October 1967, and had four other top ten hits in the late 1960s. Ah…, but not here in the UK, in America (as I would have called it then). That would explain it, as it seems they largely bypassed the notice of the great British public. The song I have become quite smitten by is this one, their version of Never My Love.

Never My Love by The Association:


The reason I stumbled upon this beautiful song from over 50 years ago was because it featured in the final episode of the historical television drama Outlander, which we have just finished binge watching for the second time. Overkill perhaps I know, but we needed something to fill the gaps in our viewing schedule and the storyline is about events and people from our neck of the woods. It’s also one of the reasons why we’ve been getting so many visitors to the Highlands over the last few years (pre-pandemic), as what with time-travel and romance as well as drama, the Outlander books and television series have quite the cult following.

Anyway, I won’t give too much away in terms of spoilers in case anyone hasn’t reached the final episode of season five yet, but the main character Claire returns to her own time, the late 1960s, in a surreal, dream-like set of scenes. The song Never My Love would have been chosen because it fitted the era, as well as the love story that runs through the whole plotline. Here is a clip that uses some of that footage, as well as footage from the mid 1700s, where she goes back in time and meets her handsome Highlander, Jamie Fraser.

It was a strange coincidence then that we reached the end of a series that all kicked off with the build up to the Jacobite Rising, just as we were about to mark the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, the last pitched battle held on British soil. As most people know, the Jacobite army led by Charles Edward Stewart was decisively defeated by government troops on 16th April 1746, and over 2000 Highlanders were killed or wounded.

Although 275 is not a particularly round number for anniversaries, a large event had been planned at the visitor centre for last Friday, but sadly, due to continuing pandemic-related restrictions, it all moved online. The battlefield was still open for walks however, and as we are local we decided to go up with our new camera equipment, hoping to make a little film. I’ve shared a few dashcam films around here before, but this time all credit goes to Mr WIAA who put this effort together. A few Outlander fans were there on the day looking for the Clan Fraser stone (Jamie’s clan) and as usual it had a few floral tributes in front of it.

Culloden Battlefield – Site of the last pitched battle fought on British soil

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I love that I’m still making lots of new discoveries from the late ’60s as I do seem to have a real affinity for the music from that time. More often than not it comes from having heard it on a film or television soundtrack, and as there is nothing like an older song to evoke the era, film-makers usually choose wisely.

As for the Outlander phenomenon, not so many visitors for us over the last year, but I am hopeful that by summer we will be able to open up again and welcome people back. My little holiday hideaway is being prepped and made appealing for bookings as we speak. I know we won’t get many from abroad this year (nor should we), but hopefully we’ll get some guests from other parts of the UK. I hate the word ‘staycation’ which keeps being bandied about – For someone like me brought up in the ’60s and ’70s we never went abroad, and all our great ‘holidays’ were in Scotland. A staycation would have happened during one of those summers when for one reason or another we had to stay at home, and just had day trips instead – Something quite different to my mind.

Jamie Fraser from Outlander

Anyway, whatever it’s called, all being well we will be able to travel more freely this summer and you would be made very welcome if visiting the Highlands. Hopefully the visitor centre at Culloden will be open for business again and I can thoroughly recommend it – You can even dress up in a kilt, just like the one worn by Jamie in Outlander. As for the term Outlander, it apparently means foreigner, or more specifically an English person (used to describe Claire) although I’d personally never heard it before and am more familiar with the word Sassenach which essentially means the same thing. But again, whatever it’s called, you would be made very welcome, so what are you waiting for? The midges await!

Until next time…

Never My Love Lyrics
(Song by Don Addrisi/Dick Addrisi)

You ask me
If there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you
Never my love
Never my love

You wonder
If this heart of mine
Will lose its desire for you
Never my love
Never my love

What makes you think love will end
When you know that my whole life depends
On you?
On you

You say you fear
I’ll change my mind
I won’t require you
Never my love
Never my love

How can you think love will end
When I’ve asked you to spend
Your whole life
With me?
With me

You ask me
If there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you
Never my love
Never my love

Never my love
Never my love

Never my love
Never my love

Ten Months of Telly, My Top Ten and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

I’m going to hold my hands up and admit to having watched an awful lot of telly over the last ten months. I don’t think I’m alone here as we haven’t exactly had many other avenues open to us for entertainment since the virus hit our shores, but…, you still feel a bit guilty about perhaps not having spent your time engaged in something more productive.

I have a little side table next to my spot on the sofa with a basket of handy things like glasses for distance (the telly), glasses for close-up (sewing), hand cream, scissors, and most importantly, a notebook & pen set. At the start of lockdown last March I decided to keep a record of all the dramas we were watching, just to keep track, and quite shockingly we seem to have completed 53 seasons of all manner of things. Crikey I thought, that’s one a week on average, until I realised that it’s happened over only ten months which makes the average even higher. Again, I don’t think I’m alone, and all down to the way we watch things nowadays, binging on something in a single week, as opposed to over a period of a few months.

What our mums used to tell us, but so far so good

I’m still wondering when we’re going to run out of new things, as most of what we’ve watched must have been made before the first lockdown, but so far not much sign of it. Mr WIAA is fed up of me saying, ‘You couldn’t do that nowadays,’ or, ‘Do you think we’ll ever be able to do that again?’ when we see mass gatherings of happy people, just going about their lives as we all used to do.

But hey, here is my list taken from that now very dog-eared little notebook. I have highlighted my Top Ten in bold in case you haven’t yet seen them and trust my judgement. Some were on Netflix, some on Amazon Prime and the others on the BBC iPlayer, so most still easily accessible.

Outlander S5, Better Call Saul S5, Westworld S1, Belgravia, Killing Eve S3, Life On Mars S1&2, Unorthodox, After Life S2, Upload, Space Force, White Lines, The Woods, Noughts and Crosses, The Fall S1-3, Hannah S2, The Luminaries, Game Of Thrones S8, Schitt’s Creek S1-6, Normal People, Annika, A Suitable Boy, The Rain S2&3, Strike, The Affair S1-5, Us, The Singapore Grip, Ratched, Life, Roadkill, The End of the F**king World S2, The Crown S4, Queen’s Gambit, Small Axe, Industry, Black Narcissus, Bridgerton, Traces, The Sepent, The Teacher, Lupin.

Last time I got all science-y around here and wrote about that feeling we get when we hear certain songs from our youth, and how they can still elicit such strong emotional responses all these years later. It’s called a neuronic command and it seems our brains never forget those songs we obsessed over during the drama of our teenage years.

I don’t know about you, but I also experience neuronic commands when watching certain coming-of-age films or drama on television. None more so than when I watched last year’s BBC adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel Normal People (one of my Top Ten mentioned above). The Sligo in the drama felt very like the rural Aberdeenshire I grew up in, and many of the storylines resonated. I went to a school that punched above its weight in terms of academic success for its pupils and many of us from what I would call a working class culture headed off to university. Not always easy to assimilate though and I strongly identified with the male character Connell. No, not easy when you find yourself straddling two worlds but not really fitting into either.

One of the songs used in the drama was this one, Love Will Tear Us Apart, performed by Nerina Pallot. I don’t think I would be giving too much away in terms of spoilers if I said it was a perfect choice.

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division:


Love Will Tear Us Apart was written by the band Joy Division, its lyrics inspired by lead singer Ian Curtis’s marital problems, struggles with epilepsy and mental illness. As the band’s popularity grew, Curtis’s condition made it increasingly difficult for him to perform and he occasionally experienced seizures on stage. The single was released in June 1980, a month after his suicide, aged only 23.

Joy Division, Ian Curtis on the left

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’ve ended on a bit of a downer haven’t I whereas my intention was to highlight all the great telly we’ve had at our disposal during these tough times. Inevitably, if it’s been well-made, some of this telly will make us cry and that’s certainly happened to me at times, although there has been much laughter too (Schitt’s Creek a definite recommendation).

What’s been your favourite thing to watch over the long, long period of lockdown and restrictions? Do any of my choices match your own? I’d love to hear from you, and as you know by now, I always reply.

Until next time…

Love Will Tear Us Apart Lyrics
(Song by Ian Curtis/Peter Hook/Stephen Morris/Bernard Sumner)

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow,
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads.

Then love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

Why is the bedroom so cold?
You’ve turned away on your side.
Is my timing that flawed?
Our respect runs so dry.
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

You cry out in your sleep,
All my failings exposed.
And there’s a taste in my mouth,
As desperation takes hold.
Just that something so good
Just can’t function no more.

But love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.
Love, love will tear us apart again.

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.

More TV Themes: The Persuaders and Hill Street Blues

Well, I didn’t expect this to be the stumbling block in my challenge to become a daily blogger, but my left shoulder is aching from too many hours spent in front of a computer this week. I also have business and domestic admin, and my college course, so maybe a bridge too far for the poor shoulder that has just recovered from the physical strain of running a holiday let for the whole of last year.

Anyway, all this is really just to explain the brevity of today’s post (hurrah I hear you cry, as I can be a bit wordy at times). It’s obvious from the amount of comments received on my White Horses post, that we love looking back at the telly of our youth, and many other suggestions rolled in from visitors to the blog.

A good few years ago, when we first discovered iTunes, Mr WIAA and I spent some time collecting the themes from our favourite television shows. The music that brought back many happy memories for Mr WIAA was this one, Theme From The Persuaders starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore. (As a boy he wanted to be Danny Wilde.)

Theme From The Persuaders:


For me, it was either Angela by Bob James from the show Taxi, or this one, Theme From Hill Street Blues. As Angela has appeared here before when I visited New York for my American Odyssey series, I’ll include the other wonderful theme, this time written by Mike Post. Hill Street Blues was kind of ground-breaking in its day in its style, and although a police procedural, it also followed the private lives of its main characters via a story arc.

Young people today are often accused of just lounging around watching Netflix in their spare time, consuming takeaways. Well back in the mid 1980s I can confirm that in my shared flat we often got together with the boyfriends on a Saturday night to watch Hill Street Blues. In winter, combined with a takeaway from the Slow Boat Chinese at the end of the street, and the curtains pulled tight to keep out the cold wind coming off the North Sea, we were happy bunnies.

If you remember the show, you will know it always began with roll call (‘Let’s be careful out there’), and ended with Captain Frank Furillo and public defender Joyce Davenport in their bedroom, recounting their day.

Theme From Hill Street Blues by Mike Post:


What’s your favourite TV theme? Neil mentioned in my last TV theme-related post that his was from Bonanza, as it was ‘pretty rousing’. You’re right there Neil. As ever, I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time….

Balm For The Soul #2 – Theme From White Horses

Well, it’s all looking a bit fraught across the pond today with the election result in the balance and the votes still being counted (very legally). All a bit tense here in the UK too, with a new lockdown due to start at midnight. As an antidote to all that real world nonsense, let’s head back in time to a country that doesn’t even exist any more, and spend some time with Julia and her beautiful Lipizanner horses.

I started a new series recently called Balm For The Soul and I think this next song fits that category perfectly. If like me you were born at the start of the ’60s, you will remember kids telly featured many European dramas, such as Belle and Sebastian (the Scottish indie band took their name from it) and the wonderful White Horses. It was made by a Yugoslavian television company and followed the adventures of Julia and the Lipizanner horses raised on her Uncle Dimitri’s stud farm outside Belgrade. It came to our shores in 1968, dubbed into English, and soon became a firm favourite with horse-loving girls. The best bit of the show however was the theme song, White Horses sung by Jacky. Some pieces of music just can’t help but make you feel good and this is most definitely one of them, often coming at the top of polls for the best TV theme song ever.

White Horses by Jacky


Looking at my trusty Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, it seems White Horses reached the No. 10 spot in April 1968. Jacky was actually Jackie Lee from Ireland who had another hit in 1971 with Rupert, the song from the show based on the famous cartoon character, Rupert Bear. She certainly seems to have cornered that sector of the market.

I remember once feeling incredibly stressed ahead of a particular set of exams. One morning, rather than hitting the books, I took myself along to the only television lounge in our student Halls of Residence and spent a good few hours watching kids telly. By lunchtime I felt refreshed and ready to pick up my revision timetable again (as you expect, I had many). Of course I can’t now remember if White Horses was one of the shows I watched, but it is highly likely as it was repeated often, right through the ’70s. That theme song, and the whole nostalgia aspect, would have got me right back on track I’m sure. Let’s hope it does the same for us now.

Until next time….

White Horses Lyrics
(Song by Michael Carr/Ben Nisbet)

On white horses let me ride away
To my world of dreams so far away
Let me run
To the sun.

To a world my heart can understand
It’s a gentle warm and wonderland
Far away
Stars away

Where the clouds are made of candy floss
As the day is born.
When the stars are gone
We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey
Of a sad and very lonely day
That’s when I softly sigh
On white horses
Snowy white horses
Let me ride away

More From Laurel Canyon, Fiona Apple and ‘In My Room’

Thankfully I’ve managed to keep most of my pandemic related thoughts to myself around here of late. I’m all pandemicked-out, so instead have been enjoying writing about some new musical discoveries. Most of these discoveries have come about via telly, which I seem to have been watching an unhealthy amount of recently. It feels wrong, but my regular trips to the cinema/theatre are in abeyance, and trying to meet up with with friends is becoming a bit of a logistical nightmare. With the nights drawing in and the weather getting a tad colder, it’s quite comforting to curl up on the sofa with a cuppa and a full set of remotes – Hopefully I’ll not start morphing into a Maris Piper anytime soon.

Before the rules changed (yet again), I’d been regularly meeting up with my friend Eve, as we are working our way through The Affair, that award winning drama starring Ruth Wilson and Dominic West. Somehow I’d missed it when it aired first time around, but it had been mentioned in the comments boxes around here in relation to a particular song, so I got curious and thought I’d give it a whirl. I should have known from the title there would be many, many scenes of a sexual nature, and although I’m no prude, it can be a bit awkward watching such shenanigans with your ‘walking buddy’. Now that we can no longer meet indoors here in Scotland, my blushes will be spared for the foreseeable, but as we both intend to carry on watching it independently, we’ll still be able to discuss the latest twists and turns when we meet up for our weekly walk outdoors. Such times.

And here is where a wonderful bit of synchronicity has kicked in. I have really been enjoying the show’s theme song, Container, but only took note of who recorded it last week. It was Fiona Apple, an American singer-songwriter who was new to me, as I seem to to be firmly stuck in the last millennium when it comes to such things.

Fiona Apple

How good is that? Fiona also wrote the song and in the first line she is ‘screaming into the canyon’. Over the last week I have spent much of my time revisiting the music that poured forth from the artists who lived in California’s Laurel Canyon in the late ’60s and as well as the documentary written about last time, I’ve also watched Echo In The Canyon fronted by Jakob Dylan, son of Bob.

The young Bob and Jakob

He looks and sounds uncannily like his dad at times during the film, where he and a selection of other musicians cleverly intersperse candid interviews with performances of some of the most memorable songs from the era. One of these guest musicians was my new discovery, Fiona Apple. I was bowled over when they got up on stage to sing the Brian Wilson song In My Room. Short, but oh so beautiful.

In My Room by Fiona Apple and Jakob Dylan:


Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys had been a Laurel Canyon resident in the late ’60s and despite starting out writing songs that represented the youth culture of southern California (basically surfin’, surfin’ and more surfin’) it soon became obvious that Brian was a bit of a musical genius, the like of whom doesn’t come along very often. Their album Pet Sounds, written and produced by Brian, was released in 1966 and is often cited as having inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper.

Apparently Brian had been an agoraphobic during his teens and had refused to leave his bedroom for some time. The song was written from the perspective of a teenager who felt safe and comfortable there. I’m pretty sure DD doesn’t have agoraphobia, but the amount of time she has been spending in her old school bedroom since returning home is concerning me. She is studying, and possibly doesn’t want to interfere with our routines, but as for many other young people who may not have work right now and can no longer be with friends, it just doesn’t feel very healthy at all. Maybe why I’ve been affected by the song so much.

Although it’s the Fiona Apple/Jakob Dylan version that I’ve fallen in love with this week, I can’t go without sharing the original by the Beach Boys themselves. Lots of screaming from the girls in the audience, but I think we still get the sense of it (and a lovely boyish smile from Brian at 0:35).

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I may have over-egged the pudding about how much television I’m watching, but with many other leisure-time activities still unavailable to us, it has become a bit of a saviour. I’m trying to avoid watching rolling news channels nowadays and instead am finding escapism in quality dramas and documentaries – Why so many people flocked to the cinema during the war to watch Hollywood musicals I suppose.

As for DD, she is currently ‘in her room’, but hopefully she’ll join us to watch Gogglebox later on, which always raises a smile. The world in 2020 – We work from home on laptops, socialise via Zoom, and sit in our living rooms watching television programs about other people sitting in their living rooms watching television programs. Like a wacky hall of mirrors, it really doesn’t sound healthy at all does it?

The ‘Stars’ of Gogglebox

Until next time….

In My Room Lyrics
(Song by Brian Wilson)

There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room

Do my dreaming and my scheming
Lie awake and pray
Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday

Now it’s dark and I’m alone
But I won’t be afraid
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room
In my room, in my room

California Dreamin’: Laurel Canyon, A Special Place In Time

Like many others I’ve not had a holiday this year, but I did spend much of last week in Laurel Canyon, that hotbed of creativity that became the epicentre of the late ’60s folk rock scene. First of all I watched the two-part series Laurel Canyon, A Place In Time and then I revisited Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, where much of the action takes place in the same location, at the same point in time. (Both can be found on Amazon Prime.)

I’ve watched many documentaries over the years about the music and lifestyles of those who resided in Laurel Canyon, but this was a particularly good one, as the only two ‘talking heads’ were photographers from those days (Henry Diltz and Nurit Wilde) who shared many of their candid shots. We saw Joni Mitchell looking all loved up with Graham Nash, Peter Tork larking around in Frank Zappa’s back garden, Jim Morrison on his bicycle and David Crosby hanging out with future sidekick Stephen Stills.

During my first year of blogging, as some regulars might remember, I kept returning to the year 1967, as for some reason there is a special place in my heart for the music from that era. Perhaps it’s because I was just a little too young to remember it from first time around, so still have many new discoveries to make, or maybe I’m just a bit of a hippie at heart and if I could hire an honest-to-goodness time machine for a day, I think I would head back to Laurel Canyon. In the early ’60s the music industry was still very much centred in New York, but by 1967 many Greenwich Village folk artists were moving west to California and setting up home in the houses and cabins which littered the hillsides of the West Hollywood district of Los Angeles. Doors were left unlocked, residents hung out and partied, but best of all, they made great music.

Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, a district of Los Angeles

As for choosing a featured song for this post, there are literally too many to choose from. I took notes whilst watching the first episode of the documentary and they stretched to six pages. The names of some of the people who lived in Laurel Canyon in the late ’60s are as follows:

The Byrds, ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’, Love, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Buffalo Springfield, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz and The Mamas & the Papas.

Considering Mama Cass used to have an open house policy, and seems to have been one of the main figures of Canyon life, maybe this song would be a good choice. It was written when the Mamas & the Papas were still based in cold and wet New York, but were contemplating a move to California, which just like many others before them is exactly what they did.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & the Papas:


But of course all good things come to an end and that’s kind of what happened to this free-loving, drug-fuelled community a few years later. Doors could no longer be left open after The Manson Family killings, and a couple of the key players died way before their time (Jim Morrison and Mama Cass). As we headed into the 1970s bands like the Eagles entered the frame, and the music became more about making money, which was a new direction for Canyon residents. One by one they started to head down to more salubrious residences in more upmarket districts such as Beverley Hills.

The film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is set in 1969, and is a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. The main character is Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a star who fears his career is fading, and his stunt double Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) who now acts as his gofer. As ever with Tarantino, the plot follows multiple storylines all coming together at the end. Rick’s house on Cielo Drive is right next to the one rented by Sharon Tate (a Manson Family victim) and her husband Roman Polanski. I won’t spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but suffice to say it was vintage Tarantino. Cielo Drive is not in Laurel Canyon but a bit further west, however it’s still located in the Hollywood Hills. With winter now approaching here in Scotland, I know where I’d rather be (without the murders of course).

I’ve long known about the community who took up residence in these hills, just a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles, but I never took the time to work out where on the map Laurel Canyon is actually located. Now I’ve got that sorted it’s time to revisit the good times, before it started to go wrong, and enjoy the music that was inspired by the place.

There was a lovely story in the documentary about how the song Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young came about. Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell, both young and in love, had gone down into Los Angeles for some breakfast. On the way they’d stopped at an antique shop where Joni bought a simple, blue vase. When they got home, Graham suggested she stroll through the woods to pick flowers for the vase. Rather than build the fire he had promised, he sat down at her piano and began writing a song about their shared domestic bliss: “I’ll light the fire, you put the flowers in the vase that you bought today”. I’m an old romantic so really loved that story but find it hard to believe that by the time the song was released, they were no longer a couple. Makes me sad.

This one by Buffalo Springfield always sends shivers down my spine, and it has appeared in many a Vietnam War film. Although often considered an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was inspired to write it because of the Sunset Strip curfew riots in November 1966, a series of early counterculture-era clashes that took place between police and young people.

Of course we can’t forget about Joni Mitchell, that Lady of the Canyon.

Finally, something from Jim Morrison and The Doors, one of the most iconic and influential frontmen in rock history, who sadly died at the age of 27 in 1971. Jim was a true bohemian and poet who struggled to cope with his fame. Perhaps his brooding good looks were a hindrance to him, but he remains on many a deep-thinker’s bedroom wall to this day.

Until next time….

California Dreamin’ Lyrics
(Song by John Phillips/Michelle Phillips)

All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

Stopped in to a church I passed along the way.
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray.
You know the preacher liked the cold;
He knows I’m gonna stay.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day.
If I didn’t tell her I could leave today;
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

An Open Letter to DD – When Life Gets Tough, ‘What Would Buffy Do?’

My Dearest Darling Daughter (DD for short)

I know you don’t often drop by this place and I thank you for giving me the freedom to write freely without worrying about being viewed by people from the real world, but here is a short post just for you. Other regulars may drop by but they already know all about you, as all of your shenanigans, as well as those of your dad and granny, pop up within these pages from time to time.

We are now heading into our 10th week of lockdown here in Scotland, which means it’s nearly 11 weeks since you were ‘let go’ from your workplace. What an awful euphemism – You and your colleagues were not flimsy pieces of rope loosely tethered to your desks, but were sparky, go-getting young people with so much to offer. Anyway, because of the pandemic it happened, and on behalf of my generation I apologise for how your generation have been treated over the last decade or so. 

We all know how tough it is for you to buy somewhere to live, as we bought everything up as ‘investment property’. We all know how tough it is for you to enter the job market, as we cling on to the quality jobs and now (have to) work ’til we drop. We gave you computers & phones which let you access social media 24/7, often damaging your mental health. Some of us call you ‘snowflakes’ which is an insult of the highest order and could only come from those who haven’t seen how hard your generation have had to work to navigate the school system and beyond. And now… , the world has seen fit to give you a pandemic to deal with.

This is primarily a health crisis we are living through, and yes, it is our older people and those with underlying health conditions who have borne the brunt of it so far, however I would argue that it’s the 18 to 24-year-olds like yourself whose lives have been turned upside down by it most, and who will bear the brunt in the longer term. I feel desperately sorry for all of you who will miss sitting those life-changing exams; who will finish your degrees virtually; who will miss out on all those end of term revelries; who work in the arts & hospitality; whose new apprenticeships/jobs are now on hold, and; whose plans for next year are now in jeopardy. Many of you might be in a serious relationship yet are having to lockdown in different households. Your social life, which is of immense importance to your age group, is reduced to a Zoom quiz or a hour’s walk with your parents.     

Anyway, got to find some positives and I know you will do your absolute best to adapt to a post-pandemic world. It was obvious before all this that something had to change in terms of how we live, and this might just be the catalyst to make it happen. Over the last few months we have seen less pollution, more innovative ways of working and communities taking care of each other – All bodes well for the future, as long as we can get through this tricky next phase.

I know you’re starting to struggle a bit now and I would like nothing more than to give you a great big hug, but as you’re at the other end of the country, sadly not possible for some time yet. Your dad and I miss you desperately and are your biggest supporters – Whatever the future holds, you will be fabulous.

Mum xxx


Postscript:

I have written about DD often around here, so if anyone wants to drop by the comments boxes with a message of support I think it would give her a big lift. Cross fingers we can all reunite soon. Back in the day, we as a family once spent a whole calendar year watching all 144 episodes of Joss Whedon’s award-winning cult drama, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. When times get tough, the question still is, ‘What would Buffy do?’ – She was one powerful young lady.

As we watched all the episodes, we must have also heard the theme music by Nerf Herder at least 144 times. I had never thought to look into this before, but Nerf Herder are apparently an American rock band from Santa Barbara, California. They describe themselves as a ‘geek rock’ band, and are known for simplistic, modern, punk-style songs and pop-culture-referencing lyrics. Perfect for the Buffy Theme it seems, and as I often say around here, every day’s a school day.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Theme by Nerf Herder:

Happy Families At The BRITs, Neneh Cherry and “7 Seconds” of Innocence

This week I watched the BRIT Awards. It’s a big night for those in the music industry as a large clutch of awards can really raise sales to stratospheric levels – But enough about “The Suits” from the record companies, it is also a big night for the artists who have worked hard on their craft and been allowed to shine over the last 12 months. For many, all their dreams have come true, but for others, they may crash and burn – Lets hope most will fall into the former camp.

The big winner at the Grammys this year was American Billie Eilish, who is only 18 years old. She was also a big winner at the BRITs and performed the new Bond theme song No Time To Die written by her brother, who simply goes by the name Finneas. Billie certainly doesn’t follow any of the normal rules associated with pop princesses, and eschews make-up, hair extensions and skimpy clothing. With her lime green hair, she is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly plasticised world. What upset me however was that when she received her award she became quite emotional, as she’d been feeling “hated” of late on social media, but the reception she got from the crowd on Tuesday night had made her feel “loved”. Regulars around here will know my last post was about the #BeKind movement, and for Billie’s sake, I hope those who hide behind their keyboards spouting hatred take heed, and start being kinder.

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Billie Eilish with brother Finneas

Another big winner on Tuesday night was Scotland’s own Lewis Capaldi who won both the award for Best New Artist and also for Song of the Year. Like Billie he is no conventional pop idol, which is great, and as is his way, his acceptance speech was peppered with the kind of language not allowed on pre-watershed telly, so we didn’t get to hear any of it. He is so typically Glaswegian however and has that knack of not taking himself too seriously which I love. His Italian surname is the same as that of fellow Glaswegian Peter Capaldi, and yes, it turns out they are related, sharing a great-grandfather. Peter even appeared in the video for Lewis’ song of the year, Someone You Loved.

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Lewis Capaldi with “cousin” Peter Capaldi aka Dr Who

Another family connection that surprised me when watching Tuesday night’s show, was that Mabel, winner of Best British Female Solo Artist, has a mum who herself is the proud owner of three BRIT awards. Who could this be I wondered and did a quick google search – Her mum turns out to be Neneh Cherry and frighteningly, her awards were all received on the show exactly 30 years ago to the day. I remember watching that show well and honest to goodness, it feels like only about 10 years ago! Mabel also put in a great performance of her big hit Don’t Call Me Up on the night which reminded me a lot of Dua Lipa’s New Rules from two year’s ago. More stories of strong women taking control – A regular theme for the 21st century it seems.

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Mabel with her mum Neneh Cherry

But here is a clip of the most powerful performance of the night. Dave, from Streatham in South London, won the award for British Album of the Year which is apparently “the big one”. As a woman of a certain age living in the Scottish Highlands, I could not be culturally more different from Dave and his “brothers”, but listening to his Brits’ version of Black which had an incredibly moving verse added at the end encompassing a tribute to London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt, it does make me understand their world a little more. Two years ago Stormzy blew me away at the Brits, but this year it was Dave. I urge you to watch until the end, and also, to admire the very clever graphics on the piano.

But getting back to Neneh Cherry, in case anyone has forgotten just how good she was back in the day, here is one of my all-time favourite songs – 7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour featuring Neneh Cherry. It was released in 1994 as a single, and reached the No. 1 spot in numerous countries. In France it stayed at No. 1 for a record 16 weeks and it also won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Song of 1994. 7 Seconds is apparently about the first positive 7 seconds in the life of a newborn child, a child who does not know about the problems and violence in our world. Three different languages were used in the song: English, French and Wolof, which is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania. Also very apt I think for today’s post.

7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry:

Until next time….

7 Seconds Lyrics
(Song by Neneh Cherry/Youssou N’Dour/Cameron McVey/Jonathan Sharp)

Boul ma sene, boul ma guiss madi re nga fokni mane
Khamouma li neka thi sama souf ak thi guinaw
Beugouma kouma khol oaldine yaw li neka si yaw
mo ne si man, li ne si mane moye dilene diapale

Roughneck and rudeness,
We should be using
On the ones who practice wicked charms
For the sword and the stone
Bad to the bone
Battle is not over
Even when it’s won

And when a child is born
Into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin is living in

It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting

J’assume les raisons qui nous poussent de changer tout,
J’aimerais qu’on oublie leur couleur pour qu’ils esperent
Beaucoup de sentiments de races qui font qu’ils desesperent
Je veux les deux mains ouvertes,
Des amis pour parler de leur peine, de leur joie
Pour qu’ils leur filent des infos qui ne divisent pas
Changer

Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting
I’ll be waiting

And when a child is born
Into this world
It has no concept
Of the tone the skin it’s living in

And there’s a million voices
And there’s a million voices
To tell you what you should be thinking
So you better sober up for just a second

We’re seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
We’re seven seconds away
For just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting
It’s not a second
Seven seconds away
Just as long as I stay
I’ll be waiting