on not looking Ethel!!

Advent Day 9, we all need a bit of fun in our lives, so when things are getting you down, when all around you is gloomy there is one tune that will cheer you up, well actually there are lots of tunes that will cheer you up, I could have chosen, (and nearly did) Always look on the Bright Side of Life, but instead have gone for this one.
The line ‘don’t look Ethel’ was particularly difficult for my lovely Mum, especially when we would roar with laughter at her name in such a song.
Have a listen and remember the music of my youth, and next time you are telling your kids how good the tunes were in the 1970’s think again, there was lots of stuff just like this. For heavens sake, who bought this and why??


on the death of a man of peace John Lennon

Advent Day 8
in tonights Advent I am thinking of a singer/songwriter who gave us some amazing tunes over the years. John Lennon together with Paul McCartney wrote songs that will be forever in the nations hearts. As a child  I remember cheering and singing along to the Beatles whenever they appeared on the television. I was a child in their heyday but grew to love John especially in my teen years. His cheeky irreverence his passion for peace and his talent for tackling tricky issues in music made him my very favourite Beatle. So, when I woke on the morning of December the 8th 1980 the tune playing on the radio was Imagine, perhaps is most loved song. When the next song was a Beatles song I was surprised, two in a row, even on local Merseyside radio was unusual. I was so shocked when at the end of the record the news reporter told us all that John had been shot and killed outside his apartment in New York.
I can still remember the shock and how I stood in my small bedroom with tears in my eyes. I went into to Mum and Dad’s bedroom, both just waking up. John Lennon is dead, Dad, bleary eyed from sleep said something like, was it drugs? I said no he has been shot. They were as shocked as I was.
Now some 34 years later it still shocks me. How a man who lived for peace could face such a violent and senseless death.
So tonight’s Advent song chooses itself, it has to be Imagine, a song I love especially for the lyrics, which have always offered an alternative to the crazy world in which we live, we would all do well to consider them carefully and try as much as we can, within our own worlds, to live in peace.
RIP John thanks for the music and the wisdom

on more friendship, fun and childhood memories

Advent Day 7 (also incorporating Days 5 and 6)
Today I had one of those Facebook conversations that connect you to old friends and within a few shared messages you remember just who you are and where you come from.
Imagine if you will two 9 nine year old kids in the same class at school, sharing the same community and the same world. Each morning one knocks on the front door and the other comes out ready for the walk to school. On the way we would knock on at least two other doors collecting pals as we wend our way to the school gate. I remember the streets, the short cut through the church (which was actually longer but more fun) I don’t remember it raining just sunny mornings and running skipping and jumping along the street just because we could
Later, much later we would grow into teens and the boy/girl friendship thing would fade away. We would forget the freedom of just being that we had when we were nine and get far too involved in how we looked, what our new friends thought of us and not how we used to be.
Later still, having made lives across at least two continents and in lots of towns and cities, we had carved out careers, changed them for other careers and found a special place in the world, then who would have guessed that the wonder of the internet would bring us back together.
There is a real connection with people we meet again in middle age who remember us as children. The crazy years mean nothing, we didn’t see any of the mistakes we may have made along the way. We are remembered as a preserved memory, with non of the baggage life has created. It is powerful friendship rekindled and means a great deal to me.
It was this friend who held out the hand of friendship and a voice of reason at a tricky time for me this year, it was this friend who understood exactly what I was on about, he had also faced similar situations and lived to tell the tale.
So tonight’s Advent is about friendship, about being positive and about grabbing life and living it. It is about where we come from, the places we have been and the place we are right now. There can only be one song from our childhood, one song from the band we all claimed to know personally, and about the one place close to all our hearts.
I hope that next year we will have the chance to meet in person, I owe this friend and several others who were instrumental in us meeting again a large hug and a nice pint! To say Cheers, to life long friendships, to memories of being young and free and for the rest of our lives, the best is yet to be.

on music, motivation and life

Day 4

Every day in every place people are living through difficulties, pain, addiction and sadness.  These same people are going to work, shopping and driving around carrying their worries inside.  Sometimes they smile and laugh for fear of being ‘found out’ to be different.  Sometimes the pain takes over and they slip the mask showing their emotions to the world.  This may mean aggression, anger or confusion and can come as a shock to those who haven’t noticed before that things are not quite rosy.

The urge can be there, to offer to ‘fix’ things for our friends who are in trouble in this way.  We don’t want to think that we cannot make it right, the people we love are suffering and we want to help.  Sometimes that is great, it is what is needed, but sometimes it is quiet acceptance of the person regardless of the problem which is much more powerful.

Mental health is a tricky subject, statistics tell us that many people will suffer in some way throughout their lifetime.  I blog constantly about the power of positive thought but even I am aware that sometimes this is very hard to do.

In tonight’s Advent I am thinking of my friends and relatives who have been fighting battles with emotional wellbeing for many years.  I am thinking of those who have used the crutch of substance misuse to manage feelings they are unable to deal with, sometimes choosing to drink to take away pain is a very human thing to do.  People in pain take painkillers.  It is easy to say, but consider how much harder it is to deal with the cause of the pain and move on.  Misunderstanding, judgements and impatience help no one.  A calm and steady approach, accepting and supporting is by far the best, but so, so hard to do at times.

I have been much cheered by one friend from my youth who as I type this is winning the battle of addiction and finding life is good, perhaps ever better than good, it is a life worth living.  The cost of their addiction has been huge, relationships have been lost, self-respect disappeared but now, gradually piece by piece their jigsaw is being put back together.  This friend has been supported by people who accepted just where they were and allowed them time to figure it out for themselves. I suspect they also offered buckets of love and support when it was necessary too.

I have had times when I have felt desperate, when the sky has been black and the winds cold.  I have felt that I was alone, never more so than in a group of people who didn’t understand or even acknowledge me.  I have been angry, with the world in general and with individuals and organisations who I have felt have put me down, chipped away at my very being and sometimes almost beaten me.

In those times I seldom talk to anyone about my feelings, I keep it all inside until I have figured out how I am going to deal with things.  Then with luck, positive thoughts and good people around me I have tackled the demons and mostly won the battles.

Lots of things can encourage and move us forward when times are bleak.  I often turn to favourite poets, to reread lines from familiar poems and writings, they offer me comfort and a reminder perhaps that I have been in those places before and the sun did come back out one day.  Music is another tool for altering my mood.  In yesterday’s post I talked about being an angry teen and how music helped me to make sense of myself.

Every now and then there is one song that says it all.  The song that inspires and heals that reminds me of strength and of fortitude and this is such a song. I have at times felt this to be my theme tune, the one melody and words that can get me through anything at anytime.

Amazingly this song was posted today by my recovering friend as they are moving to a good place in their life.  I am sure you will all know the routes of where the song has come from, it details fighting oppression, I also believe that it is talking about every one of us.  Amazing strong and vibrant people all doing their best to get on with whatever the world is choosing to throw our way.  There really is something so strong inside each and every one of us, listen and enjoy and take comfort from the power and strength of life itself.

on how it was always My Fault

Advent Day 3

Do you remember ever feeling really angry as a teenager, feeling that the world was against you, everyone else was having more fun, more freedom was better looking and had it all going on? Your parents were your enemy, always wanting to stop you having fun and to control you. Well when those days happened to me I would storm out of our house and run down two hills to stand on the banks of the Mersey. Once there I would lean against the railings and watch the waves crashing on the beach. I would look at the ships sailing out of port towards the ocean and imagine where they were heading for, who was on board and how much better life must be away from my small home town.

The feeling of wanting to get away from my home and in to the world was complete and sometimes overwhelmed me.  I felt constrained and confined within the family and the town and longed to be able to break free.  I was so sure there was more to everything than I could find where I was.  I was the discontented daughter of stable, loving and very contented parents.  They simply didn’t understand me for a minute, the clashes were endless, we argued about everything from CND to riding a bike, I was critical, moody, hormonal and rude I must have been a nightmare to live with.

On those days I would leave the river feeling slightly calmer and would eventually make my way back up the hills, leaving the route to freedom behind me.  I would come into the house and head for my bedroom, where, on my trusty record player I would want to listen to one song and only one song.  The Faces did moody teens really, really well and as I played this song loudly I believed I was sending a message to everyone letting them know exactly how I was feeling.

Take me like you find me, don’t try to change me, it will be my fault and no one else.

Well at least I thought that was what I was doing, in truth no one was actually listening.  They were probably too busy talking about how on earth they had managed to collect the wrong baby from the maternity ward.  Mum would be knitting or sewing and watching Coronation Street as they talked, too busy to even notice the lyrics booming out from above.

Years later remembering these times stood me in great stead in dealing with moody teens of my own.  Instead of confrontation I have always tried to let them be who they are at that moment in time, in a way, to encourage them to be discontented and to seek out the right road for themselves.

Three out of the four have never showed a moments interest in moving away or changing their lives, to my surprise they are content to be where we live, with their friends and family around them.  That is great for me, I get to see them often.  The one most like me is my youngest and my only daughter, she is as I type this of course off on her adventures which is as it should be. She has found the escape route I looked for and is making the most of it.  Maybe this is My Fault too.

on first freedom and friendship

Advent Day 2

For todays Advent I am thinking of a friend who is having a sad time and remembering our happy youthful days. As an eighteen year old I left home to share a flat with her, we had met at work, and decided to have our independence by renting a studio flat in the city centre. We were young and carefree and didn’t much worry about having very little money or even much furniture. We had friends and freedom and could walk to work every morning, which we often did.

We stayed out late at night, danced in the university bars, spent our money on clothes not food, shared our hopes and dreams and laughed more than I think I have ever done since. We held parties which got us into all sorts of trouble, we drank cheap cider and spent time in wine bars thinking we were so sophisticated.

Eventually we met the men we would marry, we drifted apart and life went on. The years have passed by, we lost touch and then through the magic of the internet found each other again. All was as it was before, we are still the same women we were then, albeit a bit wiser, and at her special birthday last year we once again danced to the tunes of that first freedom.

So tonight as I see she has lost someone she loved, I am thinking of us, not as middle aged ladies with families and responsibilities but as young women with it all in front of us, life to be lived and the world ahead. There are lots of tunes that I associate with this lovely friend and fun times, this cheesy cheeky song will never win an award, but it perfectly sums up the life we lived, the fun we had and the good, good times.


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.