Lammas, Nancy & Lee and Summer Wine

Well, I had really promised myself that I would no longer tie myself down to a schedule of time-sensitive posts but I can’t ignore the fact that today is Lammas, one of the four Celtic fire festivals held to celebrate significant dates in the agricultural calendar. It was only last year at the time of the autumnal equinox that I discovered The Wheel Of The Year and I’ve made a point of writing a post on each of the dates as they occur – Today, the 1st of August, completes the annual cycle.

Lammas, meaning “loaf mass” is a festival celebrating the first harvests and is represented by those first loaves baked from the new year’s crops. Mr WIAA did pick up a nice crusty loaf from the supermarket this morning, but better than that, he also picked up a few punnets of strawberries and cherries which are ripe for being harvested at this time of year. The featured song to accompany this post therefore has to be this one:

Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood:

I don’t know how it’s happened, but it was not until I wrote about Nancy Sinatra earlier on this year (link here) that I discovered all the wonderful duets she recorded with Lee Hazlewood. It was Lee who wrote Summer Wine in 1966 but it was not a hit until he recorded it with Nancy the following year. I have always had a bit of a girl crush on Nancy, perhaps because that was the era of those highly unrealistic looking dolls we all “had to have” in the sixties, and Nancy certainly was doll-like.

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My girl crush!

As for Lee Hazlewood, he had a really distinctive baritone voice which I absolutely adore and his collaborations with Nancy Sinatra, as well as his solo output in the late ’60s and early ’70s, contributed to a sound often described as cowboy psychedelia. Check out that line, “Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time“.

It has been a feature of these landmark dates in nature’s calendar for me to say that we are going to have a little soirée for friends and neighbours – Sadly today has been really wet so not suitable for doing anything outdoorsy, and to be honest, this date kind of crept up on me as it wasn’t one I was previously familiar with at all. There is apparently a bank holiday next Monday but today is a boring old work day so other than enjoying some of the bread and strawberries purchased earlier on today, it’ll be a quiet night in for us.

Highly relevant however is the symbolism of today’s date as only yesterday I handed in my notice at work and will no longer be bread-winner. Mr WIAA’s quota of summer wine will be curtailed, but he is ok with that (he says!). Yes, I discovered the wonderful world of blogging and like Chandler Bing, can no longer get my head round the relentless processing of sometimes meaningless numbers, in order to produce the WENUS reports (but you probably need to be a Friends fan to get that one!).

So, “What’s it all about?” – Sometimes we have to do something a little bit scary just to find the impetus to explore new avenues. Actually it’s more than “a little bit scary” and on the hour, every hour, I want to tell them I’ve changed my mind BUT I will then hurtle toward retirement without ever having put myself in the position of trying new things. It’s now or never (as Elvis sang).

As for Summer Wine – Sounds like a bit of a euphemism to me but when I offer some to Mr WIAA tonight it will most definitely be the kind that comes in a bottle. He can leave his silver spurs at the door thank you very much, as I’m going to be far too busy planning for the future.

Happy Lammas!

Summer Wine Lyrics
(Song by Lee Hazlewood) 

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things

I walked in town on silver spurs that jingled to
A song that I had only sang to just a few
She saw my silver spurs and said lets pass some time
And I will give to you summer wine
Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Ohhh-oh summer wine

My eyes grew heavy and my lips they could not speak
I tried to get up but I couldn’t find my feet
She reassured me with an unfamiliar line
And then she gave to me more summer wine
Mmm-mm summer wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Mmm-mm summer wine

When I woke up the sun was shining in my eyes
My silver spurs were gone my head felt twice its size
She took my silver spurs a dollar and a dime
And left me cravin’ for more summer wine
Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring
My summer wine is really made from all these things
Take off your silver spurs and help me pass the time
And I will give to you summer wine
Mmm-mm summer wine

An Unlikely Mix of Stonehenge, The Summer Solstice and Will Smith

This is going to be a bit of a short post (ironic as it’s the longest day) but I have been taking a keen interest in the pagan, or nature’s calendar over the last year and today is Litha, also known as Midsummer or the Summer Solstice. As ever, the ancient festivals held on these days made use of fires, so tonight Mr WIAA is going to be all manly and will symbolically light our little fire pit. I have also done something that will inspire a bout of manic preparation today – Yes, I have invited the neighbours round for a bit of a soirée. Together we can admire the fire which is supposed to a) provide magical aid to the sun b) drive out evil and c) bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Not bad for an evening’s work.

Again, life in modern day suburbia is not quite as it used to be when these rituals were first performed and although I like the sound of driving out evil, I don’t have many crops or herds to consider but am mighty glad that others do, so yeah to the farmers of the world, who keep us well fed throughout the year. I wish their crops and herds well.

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Sadly this day has landed on a Wednesday, which is a work day, so I probably won’t be able to stay up late to watch the sunset which is a shame. There will have been many however who made the trek to Stonehenge this morning to watch the sunrise at around 4.15am. It has naturally become quite the gathering place for this ancient ritual but when looking into it further, the guidance was as follows: “The roads around Stonehenge will be very busy and parking facilities for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge are very limited. We recommend using public transport, car sharing or arranging lifts from taxis and local accommodation providers”.

Somehow the romance of it all gets a bit lost amidst the parking practicalities of 21st century Britain.

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But what should the featured song for this post be? I am going to cheat a little and borrow from the post I wrote this day last year when I was quite upset that the month of June had not panned out weather-wise as I had hoped. Yet again, the last couple of weeks here in Scotland have been quite wet and miserable but it does look as if good weather might be on it’s way. Lets hope so anyway.

First published June 2016:

Although for meteorologists summer starts at the beginning of June, apparently “astronomical summer” is defined as starting on the 21st, the Solstice. Time to re-load summer then, and the first song that came to mind when rethinking all of this was Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It was released in 1991 when I was in my early thirties, so not really one of the tracks of my years – Had I been a teenager around then I would have known Will Smith well from his television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but I wasn’t, and I didn’t. We still watched TOTP on a Thursday night however and despite the fact I have never really been a fan of rap, this was just a great sounding song that summed up what summertime means for young people.

Will Smith has gone on to great things since and has starred in 21 movies to date with a couple of Oscar nominations under his belt to boot. He is also widely thought of as being the “nicest” A-list movie actor around, always patient with interviewers despite having probably been asked the same question hundreds of times whilst on press junkets promoting a new film.

For now however, I will just enjoy watching the young Will, hang out with DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey to his mum) and a host of friends and relatives (but probably extras) whilst coming up with some very entertaining rhymes.

Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff  The Fresh Prince:

Happy Litha…

Summertime Lyrics
(Song by Will Smith and too many more to mention!)

Drums please, summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

Here it is, the groove slightly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm
Just a little somethin’ to break the monotony
Of all that hardcore dance that has gotten to be

A little bit out of control, it’s cool to dance
But what about the groove that soothes
That moves romance, give me a soft, subtle mix
And if ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it

And think of the summers of the past
Adjust the base and let the alpine blast
Pop in my CD and let me run a rhyme and put your car
On cruise and lay back ’cause this is summertime

Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind
Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind

School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
But back then I didn’t really know what it was
But now I see what have of this
The way that people respond to summer madness

The weather is hot and girls are dressin’ less
And checkin’ out the fellas to tell ’em who’s best
Ridin’ around in your jeep or your Benzos
Or in your Nissan sittin’ on Lorenzo’s

Back in Philly we be out in the park
A place called the plateau is where everybody goes
Guys out huntin’ and girls doin’ likewise
Honkin’ at the honey in front of you with the light eyes

She turn around to see what you beepin’ at
It’s like the summer’s a natural aphrodisiac
And with a pen and pad, I compose this rhyme
To hit you and get you equipped for the summertime

It’s late in the day and I ain’t been on the court yet
Hustle to the mall to get me a short set
Yeah, I got on sneaks but I need a new pair
‘Cause basketball courts in the summer got girls there

The temperature’s about 88
Hop in the water plug just for old times sake
Creak to ya crib, change your clothes once more
‘Cause you’re invited to a barbecue that’s startin’ at 4

Sittin’ with your friends ’cause y’all reminisce
About the days growin’ up and the first person you kiss
And as I think back, makes me wonder how
The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia

All the kids playin’ out front, little boys messin’ ’round
With the girls playin’ double-dutch
While the DJ’s spinnin’ a tune as the old folks
Dance at your family reunion

Then six ‘o clock rolls around
You just finished wipin’ your car down
It’s time to cruise, so you head to
The summertime hangout, it looks like a car show

Everybody come lookin’ real fine
Fresh from the barber shop or fly from the beauty salon
Every moment frontin’ and maxin’
Chillin’ in the car they spent all day waxin’

Leanin’ to the side but you can’t speed through
Two miles an hour so, everybody sees you
There’s an air of love and of happiness and this is
The Fresh Prince’s new definition of summer madness

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!

The Vernal Equinox, Nina Simone and Feeling Good

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. At 10.28pm tonight we reach the Vernal Equinox, one of only two points in the year when the number of hours of night and day are equal. Because it’s March, and I’m in the Northern Hemisphere, that means it’s just going to get lighter and brighter every day now for the next three months. Unlike when we reach the Autumnal Equinox, when the thought of all those extra hours of darkness makes me sad, this equinox makes me very perky – The montbretia flowers in my garden today definitely add to this perkiness!

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Any regulars to this place will know that over the last six months I have been celebrating these markers in the calendar, and following some of the traditions from those days when nature dictated all that was important in life. In the pagan calendar today is Ostara, derived from the Old English goddess Eostre, later borrowed by Christians for Easter. This festival is therefore all about fertility, where seeds are blessed for planting soon after. It is traditionally the day of equilibrium, neither harsh winter or merciless summer (although never that merciless here in Scotland to be fair). Painted eggs and baskets of flowers are generally used to decorate the house so yet again I have created a little tableau of my own with eggs, spring flowers, a hare (not a real one) and a yellow candle.

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Yesterday, as it was Sunday, I went for a walk. I couldn’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm for blogging at all and thought I might find my lost mojo, which seems to have gone a-wanderin’ of late. Taking inspiration from C at Sun Dried Sparrows who took us on a walk with her recently, how about if I take you on my walk, which was up to the local duck pond. Also, will we find the missing mojo?

Right here we go, anti-clockwise or clockwise round the pond? Yesterday I chose anti-clockwise and didn’t even realise how much birdsong was in the air until I played this back. So far however, no sign of the missing mojo. Hmm… Where can it have gone?

Ok, so now we’ve got to the other side of the pond but thank goodness I went to the loo before I left or I’d be in trouble with the sound of all this running water! Loads of bikes been this way by the looks of things so a bit muddy but time perhaps for a wee sit down and another good look round for that pesky missing mojo.

No still nothing, but wait a minute, I see a few ducks out on the pond, maybe they’ve seen it.

“Hi guys, you haven’t happened to see my missing mojo have you? It was around until a couple of weeks ago but seems to have gone a-wanderin’.”

“Oh, hi Alyson, lovely day isn’t it. Yes we have seen it actually, it’s over by the Pet Cemetery.”

“Cheers guys, I’ll go and take a look.”

Got it!  It was hiding out amongst those tiny little gravestones marking the resting place of long gone, but much-loved pets.

What with the birdsong, the ducks, the blue skies and the forest, the perkiness brought on by the coming of today’s vernal equinox really hit me yesterday on the way back from my walk. What kind of song would suit a day like this I thought to myself and it turned out to be Feeling Good by Nina Simone.

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me yeah

Feeling Good by Nina Simone:

Feeling/Feelin’ Good (take your pick) was written back in 1964 by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the Broadway musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. Nina Simone recorded the song for her 1965 album “I Put a Spell on You” and it has kind of become a standard and been covered by many other artists including George Michael, Muse, Michael Bublé and American jazz musician John Coltrane. I would of course be lying if I said I remembered it from back then – Oh no, as often happens Nina’s version was used by a car company for a 1994 television advert, which in turn led to it re-entering the UK Singles Chart in the July of that year. Thankfully I couldn’t have been over-exposed to it at that time, as sometimes happens when song is used in that way, as I still enjoy listening to it and it is of course my very aptly chosen featured song for today, the day of the Vernal Equinox

It is not often that I revisit anything from the 21st century in this blog but I do also have a soft spot for the version by Muse which was originally recorded for their 2001 album “Origin of Symmetry” but was again used for an advert (must be good for sales), this time for an airline company. Until next time, I give you Muse with Feeling GoodHappy Ostara!

Feeling Good Lyrics
(Song by Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley)

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me yeah

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
Oh
And I’m feeling good

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River running free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world, is a new world
And a bold world for me

Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel

It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me

And I’m feeling good

Imbolc, Love Unlimited and It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring)

Well, all winter I’ve been trying to work out how to fit this song into the blog as although there are loads (and loads) of Christmassy songs, there aren’t that many about winter per se. But today seems to be the day as it’s the 1st of February and on nature’s “wheel of the year”, it is Imbolc. Ever since last year’s autumnal equinox, or Mabon as it is also called on the pagan calendar, I have been taking a key interest in these landmark dates, creating a little display, and hopefully finding an appropriate song to post that day.

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Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar as for them, the success of the new farming season was of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low, rituals were performed to ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later. As darling daughter pointed out last September however, we don’t really have to perform such rituals nowadays as we go to the supermarket where you can acquire raspberries in December and Brussels sprouts in June, but I would like to at least acknowledge the old ways before we get just too out of touch with nature in our busy 21st century lives.

So today is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter, and make way for Spring. The featured song may not really be about the world of nature but I have always loved Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra and so far in the blog, no Barry. As it turns out still no Barry, but this song was written by him and then released in the UK in 1975 by the group Love Unlimited who provided backing vocals for him on his albums and concert tours but who then went on to find success in their own right. (Takes around a full minute to get going, but bear with it.)

It May Be Winter Outside by Love Unlimited:

The symbol of Imbolc is the snowdrop but having had a good recce of the area at the weekend, so far no snowdrops. In the garden today however I was pleasantly surprised to see a little clump popping through in the rockery but just a bit too early for us here in the North of Scotland it seems. I looked back at my folder of pictures taken in 2010 when I manfully tried to take a shot of the natural world every day for a year – Back then this snowdrop shot was taken on the 11th of February so in about 10 days they will no doubt be plentiful.

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The first snowdrops of the year

Coincidentally last weekend I wrote about Johnny Cash and how his deep bass baritone voice was something you don’t often hear in music nowadays. Of course another person who had a very deep bass baritone voice was aforementioned, three-time Grammy Award winner Barry White, also known for his romantic image (but I’ll not mention his nickname here as not very becoming). Barry’s music was of a soul/funk/disco/R&B persuasion and his greatest success came in the ’70s both as a solo singer and with his Love Unlimited Orchestra. Looking at his discography, he was barely out of the UK Singles Chart between 1973 and 1979, his biggest hit being You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.

I am constantly amazed when blogging how everything suddenly comes together by the end of the post and when I started to write about today’s special date in the Celtic calendar I didn’t think I would end up with Barry White, but the symbolism around Imbolc is all of the colour white – snowdrops, ewe’s milk (oi-melc) and St Bride – so very apt in an odd kind of way. Perhaps my subconscious was being cleverer than I was.

Just the Way You Are by Barry White:

I will finish with Barry’s version of the Billy Joel song Just the Way You Are. Again there is a bit of a preamble so bear with it but if anyone knows of a performer with a deeper voice, I’d like to know who? Poor Barry died in 2003 after a few years of health problems but again he has left a massive body of work, much of which is in my music library and I have sadly not been brave enough to admit to that yet. Perhaps appropriate then, on this the first day of Spring (in certain calendars), to come clean – As for me I’m off to light my white candle set amidst the little pot of white crocuses I had to buy as a substitute for snowdrops, and listen to a bit more Barry White!

It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It’s Spring) Lyrics
(Song by Barry White/Paul Politi)

When the temperature dips
I miss my baby’s arms
His tender finger tips
Knows just how to keep me warm

It may be zero degrees
With the snow falling down
But I’ve got warm and tender love
Just as long as he’s around

It may be winter outside
But in my heart it’s spring
How much joy and pleasure, baby
Can one guy bring me

Winter nights can be awful cold
Without someone to hold
But when I have him next to me
Baby, I’m in ecstasy

Throughout my life
I’ve had my share of guys
But he’s been the only one
Who can make my temperature rise

Things are just not the same
When he’s not by my side
But yet, I shouldn’t complain
But be waiting with my arms open wide

Music from Love Actually, Part 2 – Joni Mitchell and Both Sides Now

Well, what I hadn’t realised earlier this year when I decided to have a nostalgic revisitation of the “tracks of my years”, was that when we got to Christmas it would all get a bit emotional. Emotional partly because it has, I think we all agree, been one of those years; emotional because I am reminded of all the people who are no longer with us especially my darling dad who crops up on these pages often; emotional because this is the first year my daughter won’t be with us (I hadn’t considered that at some point we would have to share her with her boyfriend’s parents) and finally; emotional because of all the seasonal music my fellow-bloggers are posting.

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But this is only Tuesday so still time to pull myself together, once I get this effort done and dusted. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that last time, the title of my post was “Music from Love Actually, Part 1”. This then, is to be Part 2.

Since watching the film Love Actually last week I have since re-watched it (overkill maybe), just to remind myself of how significant a role today’s featured song plays in the storyline. Those of you who know the film well will also know that Emma Thompson‘s character, who is married to Harry (played by Alan Rickman RIP), has inadvertently found a beautiful gold necklace she fully expects to be given as a present for Christmas. Upon opening the square shaped box with expectant glee, she discovers that it is instead a Joni Mitchell CD, a great present as she is a big fan, but in that split second she realises that the gold necklace was for someone else, and she has to quickly extricate herself from the room. An emotional (that word again) scene then takes place where she has to pull herself together before re-emerging to join the family.

 

Throughout this scene in the bedroom, we hear the plaintive sounds of a more mature Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides Now from the album of the same name, released in the year 2000. Maybe it’s just because I’m a lady of a certain age, but it gets me every time. Like Emma’s character in the film, my life for many years was one of putting family first. I ran the school board, organised fund-raisers, took my daughter (and all the kids whose parents worked full-time) to after-school activities, completed courses with the OU and was chief cook and bottle-washer. If I had a pound for every time someone told me I was lucky that I “didn’t work” and was a lady of leisure, I would be a very rich woman! Anyway my point is that poor Emma found herself in the situation where Harry had made, she felt, a fool of her, and the life she had chosen. Fortunately for me, Mr WIAA is self-employed and I have been his (unpaid) secretary for years, so if anyone was going to get a gold necklace it was going to be me (but I didn’t, because I perhaps stupidly keep a tight control on the finances).

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell:

But of course most people will know the song Both Sides Now from the 1967 Judy Collins version (there it is again, my favourite year). Joni had written the song earlier that year inspired by a passage from a novel by Saul Bellow. A quote from her goes as follows:

“I was reading Saul Bellow’s “Henderson the Rain King” on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”

Judy Collins won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1969 and it has become one of her signature songs. What I find remarkable is that I wrote very recently about how Judy Collins recorded Leonard Cohen’s song Suzanne in 1966 and that it was she who persuaded the reluctant poet Cohen, to get out on stage to perform his own songs. Here we are again with Judy being the catalyst who perhaps made a couple of Canadian songwriters, international artists of great renown in their own right.

Very few of my real-live friends know about this “place” but one who does told me that she liked it, because it wasn’t one of those depressing blogs – Oh dear, I think I may have just disappointed! Hopefully got it all out of my system now but oh my, listening to the mature Joni Mitchell again, really tugs at the heartstrings.

I have decided that on Christmas Day, as darling daughter will not be with us, we will have a festive lunch and then take food out for the homeless. Mr WIAA is not convinced we will find them, as they will probably already be well catered for, but I have my doubts – Even up here in The Highlands, last weekend we had girls my daughter’s age sleeping in doorways, and in 2016, that just can’t be right.

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Tomorrow is the winter solstice however, where the day is the shortest of the year and the night the longest – We are at the cusp of something astronomical, looking at both sides now, one side has been getting darker and one will be getting lighter. Very apt song therefore for this post.

I will return in a cheerier mood before the big day. Merry Christmas!

Both Sides Now Lyrics
(Song by Joni Mitchell)

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way.

But now they only block the sun,
They rain and they snow on everyone
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real,
I’ve looked at love that way.

But now it’s just another show,
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know,
Don’t give yourself away.

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,
I’ve looked at life that way.

Oh but now old friends they’re acting strange,
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life
I really don’t know life at all

Halloween, K’s Choice and Virgin State of Mind

Couldn’t really let tonight pass without mentioning that it’s Halloween and we’re just back from a bit of a “do” at our neighbour’s house. The local kids who dropped by for some trick or treating were rewarded with a bit of old-fashioned “bobbing for apples”, which pretty much no-one does any more, so it was great fun for them. Of course when I was a youngster here in Scotland it was called guising and there were certainly no pumpkins in those days – Oh no, it was a case of hollowing out turnips, which if you were not careful resulted in the loss of a digit.

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My dad once helped me create a pretty spectacular one for a Brownie Halloween party, but unfortunately on the way there, it got dropped (in those days we walked everywhere unaccompanied, even at night). Being a root vegetable it pretty much fell to pieces, so when it came to the prize for the best “neep lantern” it was in a bit of a sorry state and did not fare well against other, initially lesser, neeps! When I got back, I of course told the parents it had befallen an accident on the way home from the party, so as not to have made the making of the lantern a waste of time – One of the rare lies of my childhood and I felt bad about it for years. Funny how those things stick.

But of course Halloween is now big business and pop-up shops appear on our high streets during the build up to the 31st selling nothing but OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAghoulish dressing-up outfits, scary masks and very realistic, gory make-up. Our daughter had two events at the weekend and needed a different outfit for each one. In fact the town was so busy with Halloween revellers on Saturday night that the ATMs ran out of money in the early hours of the morning. With no access to cash for taxis home, there were many SOS calls to parents, us included!

Most of this commercialisation of Halloween has come from across the pond but there is no point in trying to fight it anymore, so I did indeed buy myself a pumpkin this year. Unlike with the “neeps” of my youth however, faster than you can say Jack Robinson he became the fine Jack-o’-Lantern you see above.

So, what song comes to mind when you think of Halloween? – Far too many to mention actually so instead I am going to pick something, yet again, from one of our favourite television shows – Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This song, Virgin State of Mind by Belgian band K’s Choice, featured in the 1999 episode “Doppelgängland” where the vampire alternate of Willow Rosenberg arrives in Sunnydale. The Bronze nightclub was the meeting place of choice for Buffy and her pals, and it was usual to have bands playing there. If you watched all seven seasons, as we did, you were treated to some excellent music and this song by K’s Choice is the one I enjoyed most.

Virgin State of Mind by K’s Choice:

K’s Choice have been around since the early ’90s and their music can be described as guitar-based, singer-songwriter rock or folk-rock. Sarah Bettens’ husky voice is the band’s most distinctive characteristic. Sarah and her brother Gert write all the songs for the band and although most of the lyrics are easily understood, some are strange and incomprehensible. This led Gert to comment on this song, Virgin State of Mind – “Listening to the lyrics for the first time, you may find it hard to understand their meaning. When you listen to them a second time however, you may sense a basic truth in those cryptic words. If you do, please let me know.” – Will do Gert!

As it turns out, by the time I finish this post and publish it, Halloween will be over and we will have moved into All Hallows’ Day. Time to blow out the candle in my Jack-o’-Lantern then, but before I go I will share a clip featuring the the scariest group of characters from aforementioned seven seasons of Buffy – “The Gentlemen from Hush”.

“Hush” was the tenth episode in the fourth season where creator Joss Whedon set out to write a silent episode, almost completely devoid of speech. Only about 17 minutes of dialogue is presented in the entire 44 minutes. In “Hush”, a group of fairytale ghouls named “The Gentlemen” come to town and steal everyone’s voices, leaving them unable to scream when they cut out their hearts. The episode was highly praised when it aired and was the only episode from that season to be nominated for an Emmy Award. Prepare to be afraid!

Virgin State of Mind Lyrics
(Song by Sarah Bettens/Gert Bettens)

There’s a chair in my head on which I used to sit
Took a pencil and I wrote the following on it

Now there’s a key where my wonderful mouth used to be
Dig it up, throw it at me
Dig it up, throw it at me

Where can I run to, where can I hide
Who will I turn to now I’m in a virgin state of mind

Got a knife to disengage the voids that I can’t bear
To cut out words I’ve got written on my chair

Like do you think I’m sexy
Do you think I really care

Can I burn the mazes I grow
Can I, I don’t think so

Can I burn the mazes I grow
Can I, I don’t think so

Where can I run to, where can I hide
Who will I turn to now I’m in a virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind
Virgin state of mind