Saturday, 27 May 2017

Music to brighten your life.

One of my fellow bloggers wrote a post about the soundtrack to her life and asked anyone who wanted to join in.

I knew straight away that she was younger than me because she said her parents listened to the Beatles.

We' ve all got a soundtrack to our lives, especially the early years, and I know some people who can only listen to Sixties music. We get stuck in a time warp with our music, maybe because the music of our youth stirs all our bright, enthusiastic, exciting,  romantic, hopeful emotions and ideals. The first beats of our favourite music from our youth and we are young again. We might twirl around the house, dancing with our eyes closed and remembering the excitement and anticipation of all that we hoped was to come. Just put on some Tamla Motown and I can smell Brut, Charlie, Old Spice, the husky voice of Rod Stewart and I'm in the pub peering through the mists caused by cigarette smoke and thinking how wonderful it was to have friends, for it to be a Friday night and the whole weekend ahead.

So here's my soundtrack, so far, just as it comes, from the depth of my heart,

My first memories of music are entwined with my sweet memories of my precious mum. Her voice was a golden thread through my early years, she would sit beside me singing softly or hold my hand and twirl me round. She had a whole host of bedtime songs,

Have you seen the Muffin man?
Poly Wolly Doodle
There is a Tavern in the town
Molly Malone
Goodnight Ladies
to name but a few, it probably took a long time for me to drop off, she always ended with my favourite
The Mountains of Mourne, sweep down to the Sea. if you would like to listen to this then see comments where Derval and posted a link

Next came Helen Shapiro and 'walking Back to Happiness. My  brother and I were facinated by the courting couples, we called them lovers, who would kiss and hug in our local park, the girls wore tight skirts and we invented the Waggle Bottom dance, marching up and down singing Helen Shapiro's song at the tope of our voices. We loved all the Fifties rock and roll, anything that would make our feet tap and have us dancing and shaking all over the place. This music held all the exciting promise of being grown up, nit that we were in a hurry because we were very happy climbing trees and scraping our knees.
My all time favourite was Brian Poole and The Tremeloes ' Do you love me?' Closely followed a while later by Hey Mr Tambourine Man - The Byrds version.

Most Saturday mornings I would go my auntie's and be allowed to stack up all my cousins' records and I learned all the words to 'I wanna be Bobby'girl,' 'James, James Hold the ladder steady,' and of course Elvis.

We didn't have a dishwasher then and took turns washing and drying up.
Whenever I hadn't washed something properly my auntie would hand it back with a smile, singing
'Return to Sender..'
Then there was Adam Faith and Cliff Richard, for my friend and I a real dilemma to decide which one we would like to marry.
Oh what magical musical days.

One day when my brother and I were about 11 and 9, my dad brought us home an LP each as a present, he was like that, kind and generous. My brother being older had first choice, he chose 'Billy J.Kramer and the Dakotas, I was left with 'The Beatles'!! Yes, can you believe it? No-one had heard of them then. It didn't take long though, the rest is history.

I soon learned all the words to every song on that LP. That was the start of my love affair with the early Beatles songs. My whole existence was influenced by their songs of love, hope and joy. The Beatles told us young girls that romantic love exists with a vengeance, I want to hold your hand, Till there was you, If I fell, And I love her, She loves You, Please, Please Me.' The secret of a happy life was there in all these songs, you just had to find someone to love and then look after each other. It was just what I had hoped for and dreamed of.
 Even now when I listen to 'I feel Fine', my heart skips a beat, I feel a flutter of excitement and joy and remember how easily I twisted away at the Primary School Christmas Party. My knees never let me down then.

The Beatles were soon joined by The Rolling Stones in our record collection.
They were slightly less straight forward, less innocent, more sensual. As Tears go By, Satisfaction, and the daring Lets Spend the Night Together, which made me blush and squirm if my dad was present.
That was the moment when my parents taste in music parted company with ours.
The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, they were all considered a horrible noise. They had to compete with Acker Bilk and Mantovani on Sunday lunchtimes. Acker Bilk usually won.

Then came the era of gatherings, parties, dancing in village halls. Rod Stewart, Elton John, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, they all that made us get up and dance and made us feel happy.

Then I started to fall in love and have boyfriends and were given records as presents, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, Country Joe and the Fish, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, many songs had a message that I still hold close to my heart.

It's all heady stuff this sound track, it's reminded me of when I went o see Forrest Gump. I came out of the cinema with my face soaked in tears. I had just heard the soundtrack of my youth. Nostalgia and homesickness for the days when you go home to your mum, when you can go out in the evening and be a bit daring and loud but there's always mum and dad like a cushion, like a haven, waiting for you.

Fast forward to my children's early years and there is a blur, nursery rhymes, Disney songs, interspersed with Blondie, the Bangles, Sting, George Michael, but I wasn't so involved as before because I had responsibilities. I might be walking on sunshine and driving round the country lanes belting out Close your eyes, give me your hand, but it wasn't really my music, it was another generation's.
 If I ever wanted to remember who I was, where I'd come from, I'd listen to Rod, the Beatles and Neil Young and be back, in harmony again.

Then came the years when I enjoyed listening to my childrens teenage music, Jon Bon Jovi, Blur, Oasis, The Cure, the Cranberries, Counting Crows, Red hot chilly Peppers, The Ramones, I loved the soundtrack to their youth. Again, it was more their soundtrack than mine.

Then last week I was watching the Eurovision Song Contest with my grandchildren. It was Saturday night and we were having a bit of a party, popcorn and fizzy drinks, while mummy and daddy were out.
 When the Italian entry came on, I watched in amazement as they leapt up, singing and dancing at the top of their voices
There, in their little faces,was the same ecstatic joy, the same excitement, the same love of life that my brother and I had dancing to Helen Shapiro, exactly the same.
They loved the Italian entry, they loved the singer, they want him to come and see us, he's Italian like them, they loved him.
That's when I felt it, they were on their way.
They have started the soundtrack to their young years.

My first LP

The long and winding road? Once there was a way to get back home again ? Beatles lovers will know

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Special evening in Venice

Last week I had an unexpected treat.
 I went to see an exhibition in Venice.
 It was part of the Biennale and in the Palazzo Mora, European Cultural centre and the title of the exhibition was Personal Structures open borders.

The Palazzo Mora is along a busy thoroughfare and you know you've gone too far when you can smell the perfume from the Lush shop.
The moment you step through the gates of the Palazzo you feel you could be entering a magic kingdom. Scents from the jasmine bushes waft around you on the warm spring air. You are no longer on a busy street passing stalls of trinkets and coffee bars but in a garden, in Venice, on an evening in May and you sense the excitement and anticipation that often surrounds Art exhibitions.

A pretty girl that could have stepped out of a painting by Gauguin is offering cup cakes, yes cupcakes! Chocolate sponge topped with whipped cream and sugar flowers like the one in her hair, reminding her of her South sea island home. There is Prosecco too, we are in Venice after all, a trio of musicians start to play softly by your side and the party has begun.

The stairs leading up into the Palazzo are lined with bags containing the catalogue of the exhibition. We looked straight away for our friend's exhibit and there she was on page 76, Sophie Dickens.

 The journey to find her statue took us through a labyrinth of rooms, terraces, stairways, cubby holes, all filled with art works, covering a whole range of topics from world strife, to children's playgrounds. Everything was beautifully and lovingly displayed and there was something for every taste.

What is Art after all? We just have to give small children some sheets of paper and coloured pencils, dough or modelling clay and they will all be heads down, producing works of art. To do this they will use their imaginations and express their feelings, then if you are lucky you will be offered the gift of their creativity.
The sun, bright yellow and round will usually sit in the top right hand corner, trees and flowers will abound, a little house with a door, maybe there will be lots and lots of hearts and your name, and maybe a declaration of love.

Give children a lump of dough and they will soon be rolling away, cutting out shapes and creating works of art, biscuits, animals, all manner of shapes and sizes.

Small children hold the secret to the meaning of art, producing or creating something using your feelings, emotions and senses that will then be a gift, something we can all enjoy and that will make us think, that will connect us in some way.
 That is what artists want us to do, they want us to enjoy their work and they want it to make us think, to enlarge our hearts and enrich our souls and to unite us, make us feel less alone.

Sophie Dickens statue does just this. She has put her heart and soul into her work, using wood and bronze. We can see her passion for her work, for her life companion and the deep bond between them.
Sophie gave her statue the title 'Together, Forever', but she is happy for anyone to interpret it as they wish.

The whole exhibition at the Palazzo Mora is uplifting and stimulating. The Palazzo itself is harmonious and interesting. As you wander through the rooms and duck your head on the beams, peer over the edge of the many small terraces, you might wonder what it would have been like to have lived here, when Venice was a ballroom, life was a constant party, and on a warm, balmy spring evening in May you would have listened to a discrete trio of musicians, sipped at a glass of wine, admired the beautiful architecture created by man and watched the sun go down over your beloved city.

Desert Island cupcakes, decorated with exotic flowers

Flowers for cupcakes and hair

We all need a hand

Follow the catelogues

Interesting and cheerful

Skate board girls of Kabul, moving and heartbreaking

An oasis of cupcakes, Prosecco, scents of jasmine and harmonious melodies

Sophie Dickens in wood and bronze, Together Forever

Here she is !!

What's Mother Teresa doing on that balcony? It's Art of  course

Intriguing views

Hold hands and stick together, it's better that way

All the fun of the fair

Warm, balmy nights in Venice, an everlasting love story

Sophie Dickens' book

The exhibition is on from May till November

Saturday, 13 May 2017

A Dream in a Draw

Many people I know have what they refer to as a 'Bucket List', this comes from the English expression, 'To kick the bucket, ' and it's probably not to dwell on the origin of this expression, let's say it just means things you want to do before you can't do them any longer.
In Italian there is, unsurprisingly, a more romantic way of expressing the things you long to do and that is ' Un sogno nel cassetto.'  A dream in a draw.

Someone once said 'Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it', which reminds me of a bedtime story that made me giggle.
A  poor man had been sent by his wife to look for some food and while he was walking along the road he helps a fairy in difficulty (or something like that) and to thank him she grants him three wishes.

The man is so excited, and hungry, he immediately wished for a large sausage. He rushes back home to tell his wife and share the sausage.
Her reaction is not what he expected.

'You stupid man, you should have wish for gold, I wish that sausage was stuck on your nose.'
The sausage shot off the table and attached itself to the poor man's nose.
yes, you've guessed it, they had to use the third wish to get the sausage off his nose.

So, do people what you wish for

Whether you've got a dream in a draw or a bucket list though, do realize that the most important thing in our lives is our relationship with other people, to try to evaluate and improve yourself and every so often ask yourself these questions,
Do I love enough?
Do I laugh enough?
Do I make a difference?

Close yoour eyes and make a wish upon a star

A dream in a draw

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Virtually Friends

For a long time I considered modern technology as a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, people that I was already fond of. Facebook, what's app, Face time are wonderful for enriching relationships and strengthening bonds that already exist.

Something unexpected has happened now though and I have grown fond of fellow bloggers, fellow members of various groups with common interests. I am fond of people that I have never met, I have warmed to many people just through their writing, the photos they share, the views they express, their interests, passions and enthusiasm.

When I was a child we had pen-pals. At school we were given addresses of children our age in far off lands and then we would write to them saying what we liked doing, how old we were, if we had a dog, what music we liked. Some of these pen friends carried on corresponding for years, sometimes there would even be an exchange.  So people reaching out to each other to make the world a friendlier place is nothing new.

A friend of mine has three children, one is in Japan, one is in Germany and one is still at home. When I asked her if they missed each other, if they suffered from homesickness or nostalgia, she thought for a moment and then told me that in her opinion young people today don't know what it feels like to miss someone the way we did. they don't have that wrenching, tearing feeling when they have to part with their loved ones.
They don't experience these feelings because no sooner are they out of sight than they can be on what's app or Facebook, sending photos of what they're doing. Never feeling out of touch, never feeling left out and unwanted. They can skype the minute they get home and sit and chat with a cup of coffee.

Homesickness is terrible, it's like a chronic illness, you have to deal with it, to accept it as a part of your life and develop strategies to cope with it. The pain I felt when leaving my parents was akin to agony, like being stabbed in my heart, but you have to carry on, putting on a brave face, accepting.
It can only be a good thing that homesickness is a thing of the past.

Going back to my virtual friends, you who I have never met, yet you have comforted and warmed me, helped me learn about different ways of life, taste in music, films, books, dealing with problems, letting off steam, oh so many ways. Thank you to all my fellow bloggers, I love reading your blogs. thank you to all the members of the various groups I belong to, you have all enriched my life.

The sort of photo we collected from Boots before smart phones

we can keep in touch the moment we leave loved ones, no time to feel the wrench

How to live happily ever after

My six year old grandson asked me to refresh his memory about the story of The Little Mermaid. It's never been in his top ten favourite stories, being more interested in Cars, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, but he was playing in the bath and had a little boat with Eric and Ariel. .
As I started telling him the story, the Disney version where the Little Mermaid gets legs, we'd got to the part where the witch of the sea was trying to stop Eric falling in love with Ariel, he beseeched me to get quickly to the part where they happily ever after.
For what seemed like years, as a child, every story I liked started with 'Once upon a time' and ended with '..and they all lived happily ever after.'
I even knew how to say 'Once upon a time' in Latin, Olim erat.

As we get older we learn that the happily ever after bit is just the beginning. That's when things get tough. they shouldn't though should they? There we are, having chosen each other, we are lucky enough to be able to do that.

In the last fifty years society has swept away so many taboos. For my generation living together without having got married was considered a terrible thing to do. Divorce and separation could make people feel social outcasts. Nowadays things have changed drastically.
No-one I'm sure would want to go back in time here. who would ever want to waste their life in a loveless marriage? My favourite comment about divorce is from an Adrian Mole book by Sue Townsend, and I might have said this before, Burt Baxter the elderly man that Adrian looks after tells Adrian he is against divorce, the reason being that he had thirty years of misery and doesn't see why anyone else should get away with it.

Let's get back to the happily ever after bit. The stories that end on this hopeful note have usually involved a lot of hardship, the couple that end up united and ready to live together in total harmony have always been put to the test, they have earned each other. Just think of Snow White, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel and of course, The Little Mermaid. They all suffered before they could have their own true love all to themselves. They all realized before they got married that no-one else would do.

Now if you love someone they usually have a family of origin, this family is very important, it is what made that person who they are. So the person you love has arguably become what they are largely due to the family they came from.

I will dedicate this post to all my readers who have a wedding anniversary in May, you know who you are.
Wishing you all a very happy ever after, always and forever.
As Eddie Cochran sings, it's very simple really.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Perfect Woods

We all must have places where we feel the perfection of nature, that make us feel one with the world and all its beauty.
For some it might be by the sea, strolling along a vast sandy beach and listening to the music of the waves, for others ,wide open spaces with stunning views as far as the eye can see, or climbing to the top of a hill or mountain peak and feeling on top of the world, or striding through the jungle admiring the bright colours and lush vegetation, or feeling at one while roaming the desert sands.
 All over the world there are places where people have their roots or simply feel they are at peace with the world. So many places are filled with such beauty that your heart can ache with emotion.

For me, this happens in a beech wood. It's where I have my roots. There is magic for me standing in a beech wood, listening to the rustling of the little creatures, the melody of the bird song, the unexpected sight of a deer shyly moving among the trees, the agile leap of a squirrel, the sound of children playing nearby.
Beech woods are majestic and stunning with every season that passes, but it is in spring that they are perfect, holding the promise of summer, the sunlight piercing the foliage, the leaves bright and green, fresh and new, and the carpets of bluebells, as blue as the sea, making you gasp in wonder.
My mum and I would go and cut a few branches of beech  and pick a handful of bluebells, take them home and arrange them in a terracotta vase that she brought back from her honeymoon, clutching the vase and my father on the back of a motorbike.
Once you would see people emerging from the beech woods carrying enormous bunches of bluebells, but now it is not only frowned upon, but really they only last a few days once picked but in the woods they give pleasure for over two weeks.

This verse from William Blake (1757 - 1827) seems very appropriate for the beech woods in spring, it is called The Laughing Song

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by
When the air does laugh with our merry wit
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it..