The Sandwich Generation at Christmas: Gentleman Jim Reeves, S Club 7 and Wham!

Like many others my of my generation, I seem to have found myself in the position of becoming the squeezed filling in a sandwich. The family sandwich that is, with elderly parents who need a considerable amount of assistance (in essence, your time) and offspring who also need a considerable amount of assistance (in essence, your cash). At no point in the year is this more apparent than at Christmastime.

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The Christmas Sandwich

For the ladies in my mum’s retirement complex, their normal routine is thrown out of kilter which causes much confusion and distress. Combine that with trying to preserve the traditions of Christmas like writing cards to old friends, and the distress is compounded. We all pride ourselves around here on our knowledge of music and can hark back to what we were listening to up to 50 years ago. Imagine pouring over your Christmas card list only to find that you can’t remember the last name of life-long friends, and in many cases, can’t even remember who they are. It seems my mum’s long-term, as well as short-term memory, has now left her which is a frightening prospect for both of us. I’m not sure what the year ahead will bring but I do know, like many other ladies of her age, that she loved listening to a bit of Gentleman Jim Reeves, so this one’s for her – The highly sentimental (but unapologetically so) An Old Christmas Card.

James Travis Reeves hasn’t appeared on these pages before but his “Twelve Songs of Christmas” album was a staple in my parent’s house at this time of the year. The Texan country and popular music singer became well known as a practitioner of the Nashville sound (a mixture of older country-style music with elements of popular music) and his songs continued to chart for years after his death. Poor Jim died in a plane crash, like so many others of his generation, back in 1964 at the age of 40

But before things get too maudlin around here, I will move onto the other half of the sandwich, darling daughter. She moved home in the summer of 2016 for “around two months” but through no fault of her own is still with us. Having gone down the “artsy” route after school (I blame Mr WIAA’s side of the family), finding herself in a well-paid job by the age of 22 was always going to be hard and despite working full-time (and more) in a sometimes very stressful work environment, being able to cover the rent and bills for a flat is tricky at best. The ignominy therefore of living with your parents is still better than poverty it seems, and we are caught up in the moral dilemma of wanting to help out but also wanting to instil a sense of independence. At the moment “helping out” is winning, thus the outpouring of cash for a new laptop which will of course only be used for the purposes of further study and the completion of application forms!

It has been mentioned around here before that DD’s first single was one also much appreciated by the childlike Kayleigh Kitson from Peter Kay’s Car Share – Yes it was that wonderful pop song included in the “Now 48” album called Never Had A Dream Come True. It was used for one of the dream sequences featuring Peter’s character John, Kayleigh, and a monster truck! On the B-side of that millennium single however was this song, Perfect Christmas, which always takes me right back to those days when the grandparents were all still hale and hearty and the only item required for Santa’s sack was a large shiny toy with no electronics of any kind putting in an appearance. Happy days indeed so this one’s for her.

Perfect Christmas by S Club 7:

S Club 7 were of course a manufactured pop act put together by ex-Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller and they starred in four really successful kids’ sitcoms. They recorded some very pleasant pop records and I’m not even very sure why (maybe Kayleigh Kitson could help me with that one), but this “B-side” still ranks up there amongst my favourite Christmas songs ever.

So, “What’s It All About?” – For the second year in a row all this looking back nostalgically at the tracks of my years is making me maudlin. I did snap out of it last year before the big day however and I anticipate the same thing will happen this year. In any case, although I am listening to these songs with fond memories, as often happens they are probably selective ones – No doubt I was very unhappy listening to Jim Reeves as a 17-year-old in the year of punk, 1977. Also, although I had S Club 7 to serenade me back in the year 2000, having 10 people descend for Christmas dinner was no doubt a tad stressful.

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George Michael RIP, in his 1984 Christmas jumper

But before I finish, unlike last year when I tried to be “cool” with my festive music choices, I am now obviously secure enough to share all manner of “uncool” material. Most of us will know that we lost George Michael on Christmas day last year which for me was a massive shock and many posts have been written about him here since. To my eternal shame I chose not to feature his Wham! triumph Last Christmas back then for fear of it being uncool to do so. As the clip epitomises my ever so slightly hedonistic mid-eighties lifestyle however, I have no compunction about doing so this year. I give you George, Andrew, Pepsi and Shirley having what seems to be a fantastic time in their winter hideaway – If that pesky heart just hadn’t been “given away the very next day”, all would have been perfect!

Last Christmas by Wham!

For those who celebrate it, Have a Very Merry Christmas from all of us who feature here at WIAA Towers (myself, Mr WIAA, DD and my little mum). See you on the other side, once it’s all over for another year. xxx

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Last Christmas Lyrics
(Song by George Michael)

Last Christmas
I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away.
This year
To save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special.

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye.
Tell me, baby,
Do you recognize me?
Well,
It’s been a year,
It doesn’t surprise me
(Merry Christmas)

I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying, “I love you,”
I meant it
Now I know what a fool I’ve been.
But if you kissed me now
I know you’d fool me again.

Oh, oh, baby.

A crowded room,
Friends with tired eyes.
I’m hiding from you
And your soul of ice.
My god I thought you were someone to rely on.
Me? I guess I was a shoulder to cry on.

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart.
A man under cover but you tore me apart, ooh-hoo.
Now I’ve found a real love, you’ll never fool me again.

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart (I gave you my heart)
A man under cover but you tore him apart
Maybe next year I’ll give it to someone
I’ll give it to someone special.

Car Share, Now 48 and the Fairytale World of Kayleigh Kitson

Well, I know he’s probably not for everyone, but I have absolutely loved the recent set of Car Share episodes, written by and starring, Peter Kay. In case of inadvertently issuing a spoiler however, I thought I should wait until they had actually all been aired on the BBC before writing about them. Like most fans of the first series, I dived in a few weeks ago as soon as they first appeared on the iPlayer – By the time the closing credits came up on a very emotional final ever episode, I had already viewed it around 5 times.

In case you haven’t watched the series, the half-hour episodes could not be simpler in terms of plot-line – Supermarket assistant manager John Redmond (Peter Kay) and supermarket worker Kayleigh Kitson (Sian Gibson) have taken part in their firm’s car share scheme and inevitably over the months, get to know each other really well. They develop a kind of sympatico whilst driving back and forth to work every day, all the time listening to the fictitious Forever FM on John’s Fiat 500 digital radio. Peter Kay has an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop music, especially from the ’80s and ’90s and the third star of this show became that Forever FM soundtrack (took me right back to those days). Moments of great humour emerged when just the right track was picked for a particular scene. The very first episode started off with Martika’s Kitchen and the final episode ended with Marillion’s Kayleigh, the reason for which will become clear (SPOILER ALERT).

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One of the strange outcomes from a hit series like this is that the Now That’s What I Call Music people have had to start repressing copies of Now 48. At the end of the first series, Kayleigh, who was moving house and would no longer be car-sharing with John, left him a parting gift in the form of the aforementioned CD. She also left a little note inside with the not-so-cryptic message that he should listen to Track 2 which was Hear’say’s Pure and Simple. Thinking back, this is the kind of thing I might have given my latest crush as a teenager but there is something very childlike about Kayleigh and this was her favourite CD, so it did seem apt. Not the kind of thing your average 43-year-old man would normally listen to but hey, Kayleigh had her message to get across and this was her way of doing it.

Track 3 on this CD (which became the soundtrack to the fantasy dream sequence starring John, Kayleigh and a Monster Truck!) was Never Had a Dream Come True by S Club 7 which was the official Children In Need charity single that year. This is not the kind of song that would normally be enjoyed by a lady of my age either, but I do have a soft spot for both it, and S Club 7, for the following reasons. S Club 7 were a manufactured pop act put together by ex-Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller and they starred in four really successful kids’ sitcoms. This all happened around the turn of the millennium which was just when I was having a few years off work to be a stay-at-home mum. There was big excitement in our house when Miami 7 first aired on kids’ telly and although she would be embarrassed to admit it now, darling daughter’s very first single (a cassette single actually) was Never Had a Dream Come True. If this blog was a Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks Of Her Years, this song would most definitely feature. By default therefore, it also features in mine.

Never Had a Dream Come True by S Club 7:

But getting back to Car Share, true-life never runs quite as smoothly as in the fairy-tale world of kids’ telly and John has conveniently chosen to ignore the message offered up in the form of the lyrics to Pure and Simple. They do however reinstate their car-sharing routine and get ever closer by the day as is wont to happen when you spend so much time together.

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In the final episode there is a wonderful scene where Billy Ocean’s Red Light Spells Danger comes on the radio and as ever, our supermarket colleagues who have that whole “unspoken thing” going on, burst into song – It is one of the real high points of the whole series but also spells the end of the unspoken thing, as it finally becomes a “spoken about thing” so can only go one of two ways. Kayleigh is accused of living in a fairy-tale world (which to be honest is preferable to the one we seem to be living in at the moment) and the cautious John, who comes from a background and part of the country where such things are most definitely not spoken about, does not come up with the correct responses. Kayleigh gets out of the car and out of his life. Sadly, if she had waited just a few more minutes, she would have realised that John had engineered a message of his own via the dulcet tones of Forever FM’s drive-time presenter and the playing of that song which bears her name.

So, “What’s It All About?” – As a long-term observer of the human condition, this was an excellent piece of writing from Mr Kay and his song choices throughout were impeccable. As a lady of a certain age, Kayleigh had indeed “no time to waste” and she had to invoke what I used to call, the 3-month rule. Even with the most unlikely of partners, you can have a lot of fun for around three months, but it is highly likely that after that point the rose-coloured spectacles come off and lots of things about them really start to grate. If however all is still going well, it is wise to find out where things are “going”, as before you know it the years have rolled by and you find yourself with someone who is unwilling to commit (not that I know of anyone who has had that happen to them of course).

As for Car Share, it sounds as if that truly is the end of it, and so it should be as we are left to decide for ourselves how things turned out for our supermarket heroes. I choose to think there would have been a happy ending as to think otherwise, for me, is not an option. As for the songs, I’m off to have another wallow in that Forever FM soundtrack as it takes me right back to those days of dalliances and the invoking of the 3-month rule. As for Now 48 I might just pass on that one, but for darling daughter, however strenuously she denies it in the future, I will always know that Track 3 was her very first single!

Never Had A Dream Come True Lyrics
(Song by Cathy Dennis/Simon Ellis)

Everybody’s got something
They had to leave behind
One regret from yesterday
That just seems to grow with time
There’s no use looking back, or wondering
How it could be now or might’ve been
All this I know
But still I can’t find ways to let you go

I never had a dream come true
‘Til the day that I found you
Even though I pretend that I’ve moved on
You’ll always be my baby
I never found the words to say
You’re the one I think about each day
And I know no matter where life takes me to
A part of me will always be with you

Somewhere in my memory
I’ve lost all sense of time
And tomorrow can never be
‘Cause yesterday is all that fills my mind
There’s no use looking back, oh wondering
How it should been, now oh might’ve been
All this I know
But, still I can’t find ways to let you go

I never had a dream come true
‘Til the day that I found you
Even though I pretend that I’ve moved on
You’ll always be my baby
I never found the words to say
You’re the one I think about each day
And I know no matter where life takes me to
A part of me will always be with you

You’ll always be the dream that fills my head
Yes you will
Say you will
You know you will oh baby
You’ll always be the one I know I’ll never forget
There’s no use looking back, oh wondering
Because love is a strange and funny thing
No matter how hard I try and try
I just can’t say good bye