New Beginnings Part 1: Glenn Miller and “A String Of Pearls”

This has been an eventful week but one that has gone better than I could have ever expected. Regular visitors to this place know I’ve spent most of this year trying to do the best I can for my mum, who lives with dementia. Tough in itself, but after a recent bad fall she was admitted to hospital, and although now recovered physically, it was deemed she wouldn’t be able to go back home without 24-hour support. I’ve had a fair few rants here over the last year, never about my mum, as she has done nothing wrong, but about the lack of resources out there to help families cope. (You are probably all bored of this story now, but I promise that after this post I will draw a line under the topic and get back to simply writing about my musical memories, which was what this blog was always supposed to be about.)

My mum as a young woman

Turns out that the care of our old folk is moving wholeheartedly to the private sector, and if you are lucky enough to have the funds to pay for it, you will be well looked after. If you don’t have the eye-watering amounts of cash required it’s a bit of a lottery, which really saddens me. Our NHS is “crumbling under the strain of an aging population” they say, but here’s the thing, the aging population shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about having defied the odds and lived a long life.

Anyway, the upshot is that a very swish new private care home opened this summer in our town, and was the only place with a readily available room for my mum. It’s like a 5 star hotel inside with a menu and decoration to match, but now that she’s moved in, I realise it’s the perfect place for her. After 8 weeks in hospital I think she’d forgotten all about her own little retirement flat, as in hospital time has no meaning, and it probably felt more like 8 months. So, after a bit of basic packing of clothes and belongings, we made the momentous journey across town, and so far so good. She is being treated like a queen, the food is lovely and there are plenty of people to do things with. There is an inhouse hair salon (which is so important to ladies of a certain age) and ‘activities’ every day. If you have dementia, non-dementia sufferers sometimes lose patience with your inability to carry out a cohesive conversation. In the care home, most of the residents have dementia, so no-one is going to get frustrated with you the same way they do in civvy street.

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The girls of the ATS (my mum is the tall one on the right)

Talking of civvy street, I’m going to carry on with the analogy, as I realise my mum was born to live a regimented life with set meal-times and a tight schedule of tasks and activities. I remember her talking about life in the ATS as a girl (must have been a junior version), and of the wonderful times they spent at camp. No luxuries back then of course, but all the camaraderie of being with people just like yourself. I’m starting to think the most difficult part of her life has been the years spent living on her own after the death of my dad. She moved to the Highlands to be near us, but of course you leave your friends behind, and life in a retirement flat can be a sad and lonely business. She was a great walker, and walked a fair distance into town and back every day, but I’m starting to think that was probably just to have something to do. To make more of the day go away.

Early days still, and I do have the worry at the back of my mind she might be “evicted” if her funds ever run out, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For someone who worked up until retirement age from the time she left school however (bar a 3-year break to have me), and lived a simple life, it’s just what she deserves. She is a very sociable lady and unlike many more free-spirited old folk, was born to abide by ‘the rules’ and take part in whatever is thrown her way, so I’m hopeful it will all work out. I still feel uneasy about the fact such care should be for all, but sadly that’s a massive issue which will continue to challenge our governments for some time to come.

As for the music clip, this weekend we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day which signified the end of the First World War. I’m therefore going to choose something from the vast back catalogue of war-time favourites. My mum is off to a tea party this afternoon where they will no doubt be treated to such music. There is nothing good about war and so many young men on both sides lost their lives, but when times are tough, the sound of a big band always raised spirits and morale. During the Second World War, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra was a firm favourite with the troops (and is a firm favourite with myself), so it’s going to be something from him. Here is A String of Pearls from 1942.

No lyrics around here today, as for the first time ever, simply a piece of music and not a song. I found the string of pearls my mum received as a present from my dad when they were ‘courting’ yesterday. Not sure if such things can be taken into the care home yet (I suspect not), so in the meantime I will take good care of them.

Back to music blogging again for me now. A big change for all of us around here and a new-found freedom for me. Thanks for listening to my woes over the months – It’s been cathartic.

A Trip to Belfast, “Van the Man” and The Undertones

This time two weeks ago I was in Belfast. Whenever I have a wee trip, I usually end up writing one of my travelogue style posts (with a relevant song thrown in), so here I am finally getting round to it. Ironically, I was only able to go on this trip because my mum is still in hospital. The day before I left however there was a meeting with hospital staff, when I was told she wouldn’t be able to go home, ever, so a care home will have to be found. Problem is they are generally awful, and all of them have long waiting lists. Glad I managed to fit the trip in now, as a bit stressed at the moment rushing around viewing care homes and marshalling into place the eye-watering amounts of cash needed to pay for them.

But back to the matter in hand and a bit of background. Many years ago, when DD was just a wee tot, I used to head along to the local Mother and Toddler Group with her. These kind of things can be quite grim. A bit of a hit-or-miss. You are desperate for some interaction with other like-minded adults, but often all you have in common is that you have brought a small child into the world, and sometimes that’s just not enough. I did however make one good friend at our local group over 20 years ago. She lived around the corner from us, but as is wont to happen we moved to another part of town before DD went to school, and we kind of lost touch. A couple of years ago I made contact with her again, and we’ve started meeting up quite regularly. We just gel, and it’s such a shame we wasted so many years of potential friendship. Now that we’re making up for lost time, we decided to start having an annual trip together, during what we still call in Scotland, the “tattie holidays”. Last year it was Amsterdam (link here) and this year it was Belfast (both accessible from our local airport). As a great fan of alphabetisation, I can see we should look for a city starting with the letter C next year, and then D the year after, but it could get tricky, so we may have to rethink that plan!

We were very lucky in that the day we touched down at George Best City Airport the sun was shining, and after settling into our very central little apartment we headed off to explore the city. It certainly doesn’t have the unique history and current hip quality of Amsterdam, but of course it does have its very own history and seems to be a city well and truly on the up. The Good Friday Agreement has been in place for 20 years now, so although I remember the nightly news stories from Belfast at the height of The Troubles, there is a whole generation of young people who don’t even remember those dark days, and the population is quite dramatically on the rise again. The Peace Walls are due to come down in 2023 and much regeneration is going on within the city centre, so I really hope this pesky hiccup called Brexit (being sarcastic of course) is not going to jeopardise a lengthy period of calm for the city.

One thing we noticed straight away was that the residents of Belfast are very friendly. Whenever we looked a bit lost or disorientated (happened quite a lot), there was always a local at hand to help us out, offering great advice on which places to visit and where to eat. A ticket for the sight-seeing bus lasts 72 hours so that was our chosen method of transport and as it was one of those hop-on, hop-off affairs, we managed to take in a fair few of the sights – A trip out to Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly (which is sadly going through a period of suspension), a trip out to the new Titanic Experience building and of course, a journey around the many parts of the city where gable end political murals are very much part of the landscape. I did take some pictures, but won’t include them here, as I did find it discomforting being a tourist voyeur, paying to enjoy the spectacle of how these murals still mark out a city very much segregated by history and religion. The flags of the Union and of Ireland still adorn the streets in East and West Belfast, but most were looking a bit tattered and torn which I am hoping means no new ones are being put up to replace them. All being well the peace will continue to last, and with social media, young people who have been segregated through schooling will start to bond with other young people via shared interests, whatever their religion. Maybe I’m oversimplifying a complex issue here, but I am hopeful.

But this is supposed to be a music blog so which songs can I serve up for your delectation? You may well have spotted that along with footballer George Best, “Van the Man” Morrison also appears on the large mural in the picture at the top of the page. A son of East Belfast, he has achieved great things in the world of music and seems to be as prolific as ever, his 40th album due to be released in December. My chosen Van Morrison song is going to be Brown Eyed Girl, which I know is kind of over-familiar to most folk now, but this is my blog and I still love it, so Brown Eyed Girl it’s going to be! Released as a single in June 1967, it is considered to be Van’s signature song.

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Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison:

A band I always thought of as hailing from Belfast, were The Undertones. Turns out they weren’t, but from Derry instead. No matter, the fact they recorded this next featured song in Belfast makes it worthy of inclusion. Music lover, DJ and champion of unheard bands John Peel, had one pop song he regarded above all others. At his personal request Teenage Kicks was played at his funeral, and its opening line is inscribed on his gravestone. Released in October 1978 it only reached No. 31 in the UK Singles Chart but will be fondly remembered by so many.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Sometimes it’s just nice to get off the hamster wheel and spend a couple of days exploring new places with a good friend. It’s a long time since I’ve had such a close female friend, as Mr WIAA tends to be my go-to person for most things in life, but it’s been lovely having someone from outwith the family to spend time with (besides you guys of course whom I share everything with!).

As for my mum, her welfare is now in my hands and I am being thwarted at every turn. There are basically too few care home places, and every additional week she spends in hospital she is deteriorating, mentally. We can’t look after her 24 hours a day, and the only care home with places is a brand new, extortionately priced, private one. This I’m afraid, is how we are treating our old folk in the 21st century. Makes me very sad indeed.

Until next time….

Brown Eyed Girl Lyrics

(Song by Van Morrison)

Hey, where did we go

Days when the rains came ?

Down in the hollow

Playing a new game,

Laughing and a-running, hey, hey,

Skipping and a-jumping

In the misty morning fog with

Our, our hearts a-thumping

And you, my brown-eyed girl,

You, my brown-eyed girl.

Whatever happened

To Tuesday and so slow

Going down to the old mine with a

Transistor radio.

Standing in the sunlight laughing

Hide behind a rainbow’s wall,

Slipping and a-sliding

All along the waterfall

With you, my brown-eyed girl,

You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

Just like that

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

La dee dah.

So hard to find my way

Now that I’m all on my own.

I saw you just the other day,

My, how you have grown!

Cast my memory back there, Lord,

Sometime I’m overcome thinking about

Making love in the green grass

Behind the stadium

With you, my brown-eyed girl,

You, my brown-eyed girl.

Do you remember when we used to sing

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

Laying in the green grass

Sha la la la la la la la la la la dee dah

Dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee dah dee

Sha la la la la la la la la la la la la

Dee dah la dee dah la dee dah la

D-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d…

Live Aid, Freddie Mercury and “Radio Ga Ga”

Well, my stats are booming and all because of this particular post, written right at the start of my blogging career. Regular visitors will know I’ve had a bit of a cinema-fest going on of late before life starts to get really busy again, and this week I managed to catch the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.

It hasn’t received universally fantastic reviews, but for those of us who enjoy rock and pop folklore, it is I feel, a must-see film. Rami Malek played Freddie brilliantly I thought and having to act with those teeth must have been a challenge in itself. (Freddie was apparently born with an extra 4 incisors but forewent the intervention of a dentist in case it affected his voice.) We got a great insight into the early days of Queen and the background to the making of those epic records. The film ends with footage of the Live Aid concert where they pretty much stole the show (and formed the basis for this post). The best way to go I think. We leave the cinema with a smile on our faces, remembering Farrokh Bulsara at his prime, just as he would have wanted.

What's It All About?

I wrote yesterday about the Celtic rock band Runrig and how their rousing live performances induce mass participation, especially when at home in Scotland.

The performance most people my age will remember as being one of the finest ever to take place however, was when Queen arrived on stage for their segment of the Live Aid Concert, held on July the 13th, 1985. I still remember that day well and who knew before the concert began that this would be a seminal performance. To see and hear all 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium sing along with Freddie Mercury to Radio Ga Ga was a landmark moment in pop history. His a cappella section at the end of the song, featuring his amazing vocal range and ability to work the crowd, came to be known as “the note heard round the world”.

Radio Ga Ga by Queen:

There had been…

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The Hunter’s Moon, “The Killing Moon” and Echo & The Bunnymen

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

Well, this is a landmark “moon post” as it is the 13th in the series and brings us full circle (no pun intended) to the end of a calendar year of full moons. I started this series last November as we had been witness to the most spectacular supermoon on Bonfire Night and it made me want to investigate our only satellite a little further. Since then I have found out so much about the moon I had hitherto never bothered to question, and hopefully those of you who have followed this series, have gleaned a lot from it also.

The reason why this is the 13th full moon in a calendar year, is because the lunar cycle is 29.5 days – A full moon in early November last year has meant we are going to witness the Hunter’s Moon tonight, just sneaking into the tail end of the month of October. This is a series that just keeps on giving however, as no two years are ever going to be the same, and I’ll never run out of moon-themed songs. I fully intend to keep going with this one ad infinitum.

Over the last year, we’ve had two Blue Moons, three supermoons, two lunar eclipses, a month with no full moon at all (February with its 28 days), a September Harvest Moon and a Super Blue Blood Moon. The most interesting thing of all for me however is that each one has a name, and of course it’s been fun choosing a relevant song for each post from the “tracks of my years”.

The Native Americans called this month’s full moon the Hunter’s Moon for obvious reasons. Now was the time for hunting, and laying in a store of provisions for the long winter ahead. The leaves were falling and the game was fattened. I still have many songs to feature in this series (which is why I’m going to keep going with it), but the one that jumps out at me for this month is of course The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen.

The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen:

The song was released in January 1984 as the lead single from their album “Ocean Rain” and reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart. Lead singer Ian McCulloch apparently attributed the use of astronomical imagery in the song to a childhood interest in space. He has even come out and said, “When I sing The Killing Moon, I know there isn’t a band in the world who’s got a song anywhere near it” – Others of course may choose to disagree but good to hear of an artist who thinks so highly of their work and freely admits to it. The chords of the song were even based on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, played backwards.

thS8LMZTY6Whenever I watch old footage of Echo & The Bunnymen I am always reminded of the crowd I hung around with back in 1984. The student boyfriend and his friends all looked and dressed like Ian McCulloch & Co, acquiring their outerwear at any rate from one of the charity shops that were around at the time. There weren’t nearly as many back then (only the Oxfam Shop really) as I think we all used to buy far fewer clothes. They were relatively expensive compared to now, so had to be looked after and worn for longer. Many a charcoal Great Coat or black 1960s Car Coat was sported by the guys in our crowd. They had all been students and although those days had now come to an end, they were spinning out the student lifestyle for as long as possible before entering the real world. Sadly, by this time I had entered the real world, so the charity shop wardrobe was now being infiltrated with smart office-wear. My social life was also changing, so pink and white sweatshirts started to make an appearance as well. Yes, student life was firmly behind me and so it seemed was the student boyfriend. We no longer “matched”, and never would again.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I am conscious of the fact I’ve been absent from the comments boxes of the other blogs I follow of late, but as regular visitors to this place know, I have a lot going on at the moment within my family. I did however manage to fit in a trip to Belfast last week (I plan to write one of my travelogue style posts about it soon) which gave me a much needed break. One of the things we did there was to go and see the newly released film First Man, about the life of Neil Armstrong. I won’t say too much about it as many of you won’t have seen it yet, but as I have been immersed in all things lunar for the last twelve months, it was a must-watch for me, and I really enjoyed it.

It was made even better for me because a few months ago I’d read the book Moondust by Andrew Smith – He had gone in search of the remaining 9 “moon walkers” and it was a fascinating read. It is bizarre indeed to think that soon there will be no-one left on Earth who has actually set foot on the moon, and looked down at our planet from up there. The chapter on Neil Armstrong meant I already knew much of his back story before going to see the film, which I think was a good thing.

For me, what came out loud and clear from the book was: a) it wasn’t much fun being a moon walker’s wife; b) the person operating the lunar module didn’t have the same “spiritual experience” as the commander, who could really take in the enormity of what they were doing, and finally; c) the Apollo moon landings were less about beating the Russians at their own game but more about President Kennedy and a bunch of others engaging in the biggest Boy’s Own adventure ever. These missions could never happen today as the public are far more savvy about how their tax dollars are spent and no administration could justify what it took to get those 12 moon walkers up there.

I hope the clouds clear and we get to see the Hunter’s Moon tonight and I plan to return next month with another “moon post”, as fortunately for me, they all seem to have an alternate name. Happy days.

Until next time….

The Killing Moon Lyrics
(Song by Will Sergeant/Ian McCulloch/Les Pattinson/Pete de Freitas)

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate
Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Postscript:

Well, I’d never heard of such a thing, but it seems we were also treated to a “moonbow” the other night up here in the north of Scotland – The particular combination of a full moon, a bit of rain and a very black sky made this phenomenon possible. My friend with the fancy-pants camera didn’t actually get a shot of it himself, but he did share on social media a couple of shots taken by other locals. Wish I’d seen it and something I am hell bent now on witnessing in the future. Enjoy.

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A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…

Another Very Serious Post, John Prine and “When I Get To Heaven”

As is wont to happen, if you update your blog as regularly as I do, aspects of your personal life tends to seep out onto the pages. Although I am fully aware I have a tendency to perhaps over-share, I seem to find it impossible to resist, as this blog is in effect my web-diary as well as the place where I share all the music I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Likewise, I’ve almost stopped counting the number of times I’ve put up a warning I might be absent for a while, only for you loyal followers to find me back in action soon afterwards. Some of you will remember I did that recently, and then wrote a short post explaining why – Right at the start of September my 83-year-old mum had a bad fall, but after taking her to A&E to be checked over, she was proclaimed fit to go home. A very fraught week followed, when just at the time I was supposed to start my long-awaited college course, I had to pretty much provide round-the-clock care for her. It became apparent however that something was very far wrong and after a particularly bad night spent entirely in her living room chair (as she was unable to move), I bravely pulled her flat’s emergency cord to summon help.

It was such a relief to see an ambulance arrive soon after and the guys who piled into her little flat were just brilliant, dealing with my poor mum in a really professional and sensitive manner. It was decided to take her back to A&E where we both spent a long day waiting for the results of tests and X-rays. In fact it wasn’t until around 2pm that I realised I’d not had breakfast yet, but such is the lot of an accompanying relative. By mid afternoon we knew she had fractured her pelvis and it was decided to transfer her to the smaller community hospital which is fortunately situated quite near to where we live.

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Our local community hospital

We are now nearly four weeks on from that momentous day and her physical recovery is going well. I visit daily, but on week one of her stay I suddenly became dog tired, as I think the adrenaline that had kept me going until then, suddenly left town. By week two however I was starting to feel like my old self again. I was able to return to blogging and managed to leave some comments on the various blogs I follow (I even managed to play Rol’s Saturday Snapshots!). As mentioned a few weeks ago, the college course was now a non-starter, but thankfully they let me reapply as a part-time student and that is going really well. Mr WIAA and I have also had a bit of a social life of late, visiting the theatre, the cinema and taking DD and her lovely boyfriend out for food. Even our little online store seems to be picking up lots of orders, as I’ve had the time to properly market it for the first time in quite a while. Life, as they say, is sweet. My mum is being well cared for, and I’ve got my life back on track.

So what’s the problem I hear you ask? Well as those of you who follow this blog know, I’ve spent most of this year struggling to cope with that most dreadful of non-physical ailments which affects so many older people – My mum’s dementia, or specifically in her case, Alzheimer’s Disease. I am reminded of something from Billy Connolly’s latest stand-up routine. “I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease”, he says. “But I wish he’d f**king kept it to himself”. Yes Billy, and I imagine all of those with Alzheimer’s feel exactly the same way, until the time comes when they are no longer even aware of their affliction.

I know there will be moves afoot in the very near future to send her home again. Beds are in short supply and that awful term “bed-blocker” gets applied to so many old souls, who by sheer accident, have found themselves with a fractured hip or pelvis after tripping over a kerb, or in my mum’s case, falling down some stairs. These are people who perhaps kept the home fires burning during the war, raised a family, carried out good deeds for their community, worked until retirement age, and paid taxes. At this stage in life however, they are called “bed blockers”, old folks who seem to be treated as if they are deliberately hogging a hospital bed through sheer ill-will.

Of late I have taken to sneaking in and out of my mum’s hospital room when the nurses are away from their work station, such is my fear of being told I can now take her home. The dementia has ramped up to a whole new level since being in hospital as the daily routine I used to organise for her is no more. I have been reassured by others who have been in a similar situation that she can’t be sent home without a discharge plan, but the worry is still there at the back of my mind. I’ve got my life back, and am reluctant to return to how things were.

As someone who has no siblings, I have been feeling the burden of care acutely of late, and ironically, after waiting for eight months to get help from the social care system, I finally got the call a day after the admission to hospital. They always say there has to be a crisis in order to get help and it seems that is indeed the case. People of my mum’s generation are living longer due to advances in medicine, but sadly, family life has changed. Most of us live in relatively small houses compared to those of my grandparent’s generation, so often no scope for taking in our old folk. The state pension age is now 67, so often no-one at home to do the caring anyway. Also, in the case of dementia, 24 hour care will eventually be needed, so not something many of us would be able to offer anyway.

Big decisions are going to have to be made soon I suspect, and it’s at times like this I wish I could turn to my dad for advice. He was one of my best friends but died a full 15 years ago. By sheer chance I heard this song on the radio whilst coming home from a hospital visit the other week and it has stuck with me. I think the host of the show was Whispering Bob, who at the end of the song said it was by John Prine. Until I started writing this blog I had never heard of John Prine but he often pops up over at CC’s wonderful place and has featured in Jez’s Sunday Morning Coming Down series. Whatever, despite being a bit of a non-believer, I was taken by the lyrics to When I Get To Heaven, written for his new album “The Tree of Forgiveness”. I realise this song choice might appear insensitive for the theme of this particular post, but trust me, the reason I picked it was because of these lines of lyric:

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug

Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug

I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts

I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

Yes, there is nothing more I would like at the moment than to go find my dad, and ask for his advice (or is it perhaps “his permission” I wonder). Heck, listening to this song, I’m almost prepared to be converted, as there is a definite party atmosphere going on. John Prine has apparently been treated for cancer twice, and it was after his second bout that he wrote this song about some of the things he had to give up following his illness. Here is a quote: “I wrote that song because I figured there’s no cancer in heaven. So when I get up there, I’m going to have a cocktail and a cigarette that’s 9 miles long. That’s my idea of what heaven is like.” Way to go John.

When I Get To Heaven by John Prine:

I’m sorry if I’ve made anyone feel uncomfortable by mentioning such a personal family issue, but hey, our blogs sometimes feel like the most anonymous places we can turn to when a bit of writing therapy is required. From experience, our Facebook friends don’t want to hear of our woes, although if anyone ever does respond it is usually because they have been placed in similar situation. Likewise if anyone out there in the blogosphere has been in such a situation, I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts – Any advice gratefully received.

Until next time, I’m off to give John Prine another whirl. Now 71, and still with us thankfully. Heaven is going to have to wait a while yet.

When I Get To Heaven Lyrics

(Song by John Prine)

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand

Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand

Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band

Check into a swell hotel, ain’t the afterlife grand?

And then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long

I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl

‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into show business

I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”

And forgive everybody ever done me any harm

Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics

Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm

‘Cause then I’m gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long

I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wristwatch off my arm

What are you gonna do with time after you’ve bought the farm?

And then I’m gonna go find my mom and dad, and good old brother Doug

Well I bet him and cousin Jackie are still cuttin’ up a rug

I wanna see all my mama’s sisters, ’cause that’s where all the love starts

I miss ’em all like crazy, bless their little hearts

And I always will remember these words my daddy said

He said, “Buddy, when you’re dead, you’re a dead pecker-head”

I hope to prove him wrong… that is, when I get to heaven

‘Cause I’m gonna have a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale

Yeah I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long

I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Yeah this old man is goin’ to town

Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #2 – “Maggie May”

Well, the Scarlet Pimpernel he is not – Since last Friday, just about every time I switch on the telly or tune into the radio, up pops Rod Stewart. This new album of his is getting a serious amount of promotion but considering he is back living in this country with his young family, and considering he seems to be really enjoying making new music at the moment, why not?

This is the second post in the series and this time I’m going to be concentrating on his 1970s career, which was definitely his most successful decade, if you judge success in terms of record sales and No. 1 hits that is. For most fans however the decade was a game of two halves (Rod would no doubt appreciate the football analogy) as in 1975 he left Old Blighty behind and made his way across the Atlantic to the place we used to call, America.

everyBut before that momentous journey across the pond, Mr Stewart had already carved out a very successful career for himself here in Britain. Right at the start of the ’70s he was simultaneously acting as lead singer for the Faces but also releasing critically acclaimed albums as a solo artist. His third solo album “Every Picture Tells a Story” contained the wonderful Tim Hardin song Reason To Believe, which was subsequently released as a single. It wasn’t long however before the single’s B-side was receiving more airplay, and the rest as they say, is history. Maggie May has since been named as one of the “500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll”, and watching this clip below brings back so many memories.

Maggie May by Rod Stewart:

First of all, I know for a fact I would have watched this episode of TOTP with my parents, because that’s just what families did back then on a Thursday night at 7.30pm. They would have called him “Rod the Mod”, a little play on words for my amusement I always thought, not realising he had been a part of the whole Mod phenomenon during the previous decade.

Secondly, although this is ostensibly a Rod Stewart solo effort, it seems the Faces still acted as his backing band, and what a rollicking good time they seem to be having here. As we all know there was very little actual live singing done on the set of TOTP in those days, the artists always being asked to mime. For these guys that just meant there was more time for “havin’ a larf” which they always did in bucketloads. A bit of a kickabout with a football (became a bit of a trademark for Rod), a few circus tricks with the mike-stand, Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane showboating with their guitars, and last but not least, a bit of John Peel on mandolin (what?). Yes, they certainly knew how to have a good time those boys and many a trashed hotel room was testament to that fact.

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The Faces (Ronnie Lane here looking awfully like a Hobbit!)

My third observation is this. When you watch old episodes of telly shows and pop performances, especially from over 40 years ago like this one, you really notice how people have changed, physically, during that time. These were guys who grew up with rationing for goodness sake so the protein rich diets available to young men today were just a pipe dream. The result of course, was that they always had snake hips, spindly legs and not a six pack in sight. (Think early Bowie, and the Beatles in their mohair suits and cuban heels.) Also, the hair was always darkish and the skin very, very pale. Back in those days Rod himself had classic Anglo-Saxon dirty blonde hair and fair skin. Over the years, his glamorous life-stye and the advent of hair colouring techniques led to the hair becoming lighter and the skin becoming perma-tanned, as it still is today. Not criticising, as to be honest, we females born with the same colouring have gone down the same route. My dirty blonde hair has not seen the light of day for a good thirty plus years (and probably never will again).

Finally, although I remember this particular performance well and still love the song Maggie May, for me at that time Rod Stewart was not someone who would have appeared in pin-up form on my bedroom wall. No, even at age 11, I understood that bands like these had a certain aura about them (they actually sang about sex), which meant they were not really aimed at the pre-teen market. Rod would have to wait another few years for that to happen.

Rod made another couple of albums after “Every Picture…” for Mercury Records, “Never A Dull Moment” and then “Smiler” but in 1975 a few massive changes took place – He switched to Warner Bros Records, the Faces broke up (Ronnie Wood had already joined the Rolling Stones on tour) and he made the move to LA.

Too much Rod Stewart 1970s goodness for one post I’ve decided, so I’m going to leave the second half of the decade for the next post in this series. Also I have a fair few anecdotes to get through that will have to be sensitively dealt with, so whilst I ponder on how I’m going to do that, I shall leave you with the lyrics to Maggie May. Inspired by a real life encounter experienced by the 16-year-old Rod, the song expressed the contradictory emotions felt by a young lad after getting into a relationship with an older woman.

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There aren’t that many songs out there where just about everyone can sing along, seemingly word perfect. That happened when we went to see Rod at our local stadium – He didn’t have to do much at all when it was time for this song to make an appearance on the bill as we pretty much sang it for him, albeit a nano-second behind in timing, which is all it seems to take to prompt the next line from the memory banks. The stage overlooked the Moray Firth, the sun was setting and it was a warm summer night – Most definitely, a “pinch me” moment.

Until next time….

Maggie May Lyrics
(Song by Rod Stewart/Martin Quittenton)

Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you
It’s late September and I really should be back at school
I know I keep you amused but I feel I’m being used
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that’s what really hurt

The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age
But that don’t worry me none in my eyes you’re everything
I laughed at all of your jokes my love you didn’t need to coax
Oh, Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without

All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand
But you turned into a lover and
mother what a lover, you wore me out
All you did was wreck my bed
and in the morning kick me in the head
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried anymore
You lured me away from home ’cause you didn’t want to be alone
You stole my heart I couldn’t leave you if I tried

I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school
Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin’ hand
Oh Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
You made a first-class fool out of me
But I’m as blind as a fool can be
You stole my heart but I love you anyway

Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
I’ll get on back home one of these days