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Significant Songs (36)

Tears Dry On Their Own

I first saw Amy Winehouse at an open-air festival in Sussex. She was one of the support artists, and before the gig, she could be seen wandering around the venue eating an ice cream, chatting to anyone who approached her, responding with a shy smile. Her voice was a mixture of Jazz and Blues, and it seemed to me that she could sing almost any song I liked, and make it sound better. I thought that she was the best new talent to emerge in the UK in my lifetime, and I believed she would go on to be one of the greatest performers that this country had ever seen.

Less than eight years later, she was dead. A life marred by drug and alcohol abuse had taken its toll, and her tiny frame could take no more. She had only released two albums, and her performing career had been notable for excesses, rather than successes. She made a bad choice with the man in her life, and found it hard to cope with fame at a young age. Hounded by the press, vilified in the media, she never really had a chance. Towards the end, with an emaciated, heavily-tattooed body, unkempt hair and bad attitude, she was unrecognisable as the pleasant young woman I had first seen, with her bobbed hair, and retro 1960s look.

But what a voice, and how she could sing. Like Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday, Janis Joplin, and so many others who made unfortunate choices, every moment of heartbreak and despair came through in her vocals. As we lived near to her, in Camden, North London, we would see her often, wandering around Inverness Street with a huge minder looking out for her. She was often staggering, sometimes talking loudly, always obviously disturbed. As one of her biggest fans, I always found this terribly sad to see. Her legacy is painfully sparse. Nonetheless, every song is a gem, and her recordings will live on for much longer than she did, dying at the far too young age of 27.

I could pick any song she wrote really, as they are all significant to me. However, the track I have chosen has lyrics that are so personal to her, yet so poignant for anyone who has suffered rejection and heartbreak. It is also a very simple song, and is reminiscent of Motown and Soul songs of my youth. So, an obvious choice really. If you know nothing of her work, please explore further, and seek out more gems. If you decided you didn’t want to know about her, because of bad press, or her questionable attitude, please give her another chance. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I like her.

I posted recently about Ollie and The Mole. After finding Ollie digging in the garden, we later realised that he was searching for a mole. This was apparent when we found a small row of molehills had appeared on the lawn, radiating from the area of the shed. Discussing the situation with local people, it was generally agreed that moles are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Some had laid conventional traps, a hit-and-miss affair, if you are not sure what direction the mole is taking. Others had used the modern approach, sonic spikes that emit mole-disturbing sounds, making them want to leave your property. One way is disruptive, having to cut trenches across your grass, the other very expensive.

I decided to wait and see. Not one of my better ideas. After flattening the molehills, and seeing no activity for a few days, we awoke one morning to a fresh batch of recently-turned hills. We had to go off on holiday, so could do little about it at the time. Arriving home on Friday, we were worried to see a change of direction from Mr Mole (OK, or Mrs Mole). New hills had sprung up along the edge of the house. They were in the small gap between the rear paving slabs of the patio, and directly under the kitchen window. This might well affect drainage from the sink, the guttering down-pipes, and the waste water from our washing machine. Time to take some drastic action, before the little blighter undermines the whole house!

Julie has contacted the Norwich ‘Mole Woman’. She is an accomplished mole-catcher (apparently) and advertises her services with the unusual offer of ‘No Mole-No Fee’. Mind you, if she does catch the culprit, the fee is substantial. Still, this will be less than the cost of new turf for the entire lawn, or sorting out drain problems caused by the industrious tunneler.

Luckily, our neighbours pitched in to help. When we were away, they installed a statue of a mole, dressed as a miner, on one of the fresh hills. The lamp in his miners’ hat is a solar powered light. Not only do we have to see the small statue during the day to remind us of the mole, we also have him illuminated at night, so we can continue to worry during the hours of darkness.

Just as well we have a good sense of humour.

Significant Songs (35)

And I Am Telling You

I have never been someone to deny my feminine side, and I can appreciate a power ballad as much as the next person. I love a Torch Song too, though I don’t often go for songs from musicals. There are some exceptions though, and this is most definitely one of them. In 1981, ‘Dreamgirls’ opened on Broadway to generally positive reviews. It eventually received world-wide recognition, and was made into a film of the same name in 2006. The stellar cast of the film included Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, and the talented newcomer, Jennifer Hudson. The theatrical production is still touring to this day; a testament to how good it is.

The story is a thinly-disguised biopic of The Supremes, with Beyonce in the ‘role’ of Diana Ross, and Jennifer Hudson playing a character similar to Mary Wilson. The largely black cast of both stage and screen adaptations give their all, with the result that even the film feels like a stage show. The music covers many styles, and is all quite good. However, one song literally steals the show. Realising that her lover is deserting her for her best friend, Effie (Jennifer Hudson in the film) pleads with him not to go, in the form of this spine-tingling song. Covered by almost every female singer I could name (and by many men too), the definitive version is performed by Jennifer Holliday, from the Broadway production. However, the clip of this is not great, so I am offering the Jennifer Hudson version, from the 2006 film. For anyone who has ever had a broken heart. Tissues at the ready.

A Short Holiday

We are back today, from a short holiday in Kent. I must first apologise to all my friends and family in that area, or nearby. Sorry we did not visit you. We didn’t have a lot of time; Ollie was with us, and the weather was surprisingly good too. So, we decided to make the most of the few days available. It is surprising how much you can fit in to a short time, if you plan it right. We went as far east as the coast at Deal, taking in the delightful old town of Sandwich on the way. South took us as far as Rye, with a stop at Dymchurch, and a stroll on the beach at Camber Sands included. West was restricted to Tenterden, and the places on the way.

It was our first trip renting a self-catering cottage that allowed dogs. Ollie could come away too, and enjoy being with us for every adventure. He got up to the usual stuff; chasing rabbits and squirrels, and sniffing incessantly. This time though, he ventured into towns, had to get accustomed to traffic, and receiving the admiring attention of numerous passers-by. He behaved impeccably, and was no trouble at all. We could even take him into country pubs, to have meals in the evening, and he was never less than charming and well-mannered. He endured various car trips, short and long, without complaint, happy to be going along with us. He even joined us for the evening celebration of our fifth wedding anniversary this week, though he did forget to give us a card!

Regular readers will be well-aware of my constant complaints, even carping on, about the weather. No complaints this time, you will be pleased to hear, as it was very pleasant all week. Traffic was also reasonably light everywhere, and our trips here and there were remarkably stress-free. It has been some time since we had a holiday of any kind, so it was extra pleasing to have a trouble-free stay. In fact, it all went so well, that we are certain to try it all again, next year. Not having to concern ourselves about the dog was such a nice change, and it was good for him not to be left with friends, however nice, and caring, they might be. There are some downsides to canine companionship that have to be considered though. We were very close to Leeds Castle, one of Kent’s best attractions. However, no dogs are allowed, so we couldn’t go there. This also applies to many formal gardens, castles, and other places of interest. Luckily, it was never an issue for us, and we found plenty to do.

I returned to almost two hundred e mails, mostly blog-related, informing me of new posts on blogs that I follow. Sorry I have not been commenting, I will get around to it soon. Thanks to the few of you who sent personal e mails, making sure that all was well. It was nice to be missed. As for my own blog, stats show that absence definitely decreases viewing. More proof that a happy blog needs to be well-tended, and fed with posts or articles. I will hopefully be back up to speed soon, and welcome back my absent readers. During the week away, I saw very little TV, and did not log on to my blog once. I only sent one e mail, a personal one, from Julie’s tablet. It has been my biggest break from the keyboard for over two years. I am sure it was necessary, and it will prove to have been a rewarding one. I hope to return inspired and enthused, and carry on a little better than before.

Missing Mum

I don’t really know how to explain it, but I have been missing my Mum a fair bit lately. For those of you who don’t know, my Mum died in March 2012, after a difficult time. It was a few days before my birthday, just before I retired, and a week before I moved to Norfolk. It was all a bit quick, and everything happened during a very short period.

I have her ashes in an urn in a room here. Last year, I bought a marble bird-bath. It contains a purpose-built inner sleeve, designed to hold her ashes, and I intended to place it in our garden, as a memorial to her. I don’t know why, but I just haven’t been able to get around to doing that yet. I must really organise myself to get this done soon, as it has gone on too long.

Until she became confused and difficult, following multiple strokes, I had a very good relationship with my Mum. We could talk about anything and everything; and she was always forthright in her comments, despite our closeness. The funny thing is, I don’t even have anything I need to talk about. There are no issues in my life, nothing I need her advice on, and no concerns that I want to discuss. Part of me just wishes that she was still around.

Of course, if she was here, my life would be completely different. She would have care problems, and she might well be cantankerous, and hard to get on with. At the end, she wanted to die, and we also wanted what was best for her quality of life. I thought that I had dealt with it all. At the age of 62, I was sure that I could go on, and be happy that she had no more need to suffer.

But just for the last few days, I have missed her. And I have no idea why.

A Slow Week

It has been a very slow week of blogging. My reader has been almost devoid of inspirational posts, (save one or two) and views have been erratic too. It is that time of year, I suspect, when people are either recovering from holidays, or off on them. Blogging has its occasional ‘Marianas Trench’, when all seems becalmed, and too deep to get into.

I have a break coming up soon myself. We usually holiday once the children go back to school. Places are quieter, prices more reasonable, and visits less fraught with noise and crowds. Julie and I will be enjoying a sojourn away from Norfolk. A change of scene, perhaps a recharge of ‘batteries’. Time with friends, and reclaiming past places. It has been a long time since we have done anything like this, and there is the associated excitement with places new, and undiscovered, as well as those comfortable, and familiar.

Ollie can come along too. We made sure of that. He needs a break from his routine, whether he understands that, or not.

So, if I don’t reply, or comment on posts with my customary zeal, you will appreciate why. I will give myself a little time away from e mails, and blogging, to see what life was like before I understood such things. Perhaps I will appreciate night skies, ice creams, and beaches, who knows? I may miss the buzz, and yearn to return. That’s a possibility.

In the meantime, I wish you all well, send you my regards, and my best wishes. See you all again soon. Pete.

Word Up  

Funk is a musical genre that has been interpreted in many ways by numerous artists and bands over the years. From James Brown’s ‘Make it Funky’, Tom Browne’s ‘Funkin For Jamaica’ and rock band Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’, it has been an enduring theme for over forty years. In 1986, American vocal group Cameo released this song, which seemed to sum up the whole thing, in just four and a half minutes.

This was also the age of MTV, and the pop video was often as important as the song. Cameo’s front man, Larry Blackmon, obviously had this in mind when he chose his outfit. Dressed in a skin-tight black leotard, with a red plastic heart worn between his legs, we all knew that this was going to make Cameo stand out from the crowd. Fortunately, the song was as memorable as the outfit, and is still as good today, as it was twenty-eight years ago. Recently revived in the UK, thanks to its use on a prominent TV commercial, a new generation can now enjoy the feel-good funk provided by this group. Although still performing today, their international fame was short-lived, and it is unlikely that they will ever better this. Try to keep still. I dare you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZjAantupsA

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