on an Advent of music

Advent Day 1

It seemed appropriate to start Day One with a piece of music that takes me right back to being a child.  Growing up on Merseyside music was all around us.  However Mum and Dad’s music was from an earlier time.  Spending their youth in the 1940’s and 50’s they loved the music of Glen Miller, The Rat Pack, Jim Reeves and all sorts of country music.  Later the new Liverpool sounds were to become a part of our lives, as the Beatles redefined pop music.

We used to have family parties where everyone would get together and beer would flow.  Every New Year’s Eve the Aunties would come along, the men joining Dad in the local until they all came back up the hill at 10.30pm to start the fun.  They drank drinks I don’t recognise now, whisky and dry, port and lemon and many more would be on offer, and in time they would start singing the songs from their teenage years and dancing together, like they had done when they met.

Us kids would be banished to bed, to creep out silently to sit on the stairs and listen in wonder at our normally sensible parents dancing and having fun.  I can feel the atmosphere right now, the smell of cigarette smoke and beer, the laughter, the tunes and the dancing,

I can feel the joy the music brought them. This was a generation who paid for lessons and learned how to dance, if you didn’t have the skills you couldn’t dance and if you couldn’t dance you had no hope with the boy or the girl you liked the look of, and in the ballrooms of their youth that would really matter.  So they made sure they could do it all, from the waltz and the foxtrot to the jive and the twist. Mum was great at the jive, she had won competitions in the past, and the music was a great part of it all.

Energy and excitement in the living room.  I don’t remember anyone ever being drunk, just really merry. There was always food and the women would congregate in the kitchen chatting while warming pies or sausage rolls. Lipstick stained cigarette ends in overflowing ashtrays, hair lacquer and the sweet perfumes that were all the rage.  The men, always smart, in shirts and ties, which would be loosened as the night went on, untucking from trousers as they danced and told jokes.  Clean shaven and smelling of Brylcreem and tobacco, this heady mix of aromas worked its way up through the house to where we sat quiet as mice, watching through the bannisters into the hall below.

We couldn’t always see what was happening, but the sounds and smells will live with me for ever.  It was a time of excitement, of being safe and loving those first friends who are our cousins and our ,siblings. Sometimes we would act out the dances and fall about laughing at our own antics.  Then we would be discovered and sent off to sleep, lying in bed, top to tail, the music would drift up and fill our dreams.

There are many, many tunes I could pick from this time, all have fond memories for me of both Mum and Dad. The one I have chosen for tonight’s Advent tune had to be from Glen Miller, so I have picked ‘In the mood’ which is three minutes of pure magic.

Give it a listen and as you do just close your eyes and see if you can see the fun being had by people who are now mostly no longer with us, the kids on the stairs grabbing the memories which will last a lifetime.

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