Little memories – or larger ones?

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Desert Island Discs nearly always casts me away (see what I did there?) on a raft of my own memories and yesterday was no exception. The subject was Julia Cleverdon (I’m sorry, who?) – she’s jolly famous, actually, if you’ve ever heard of her. Funnily enough, after writing that, I thought I’d check her out on her own website. Evidently, I wasn’t alone in requiring more information…

“We’re sorry, too many people are accessing this website at the same time.”

Anyway, here’s a little piece about her from another site:

“Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE is a passionate and practical campaigner who has gained an international reputation for inspiring individuals and organisations from business, government, education and civil society to work together for the common good.”

International reputation? Ooops. Mea culpa, as if apologising in Latin makes a blind bit of difference.

The first piece of music she chose was this:

And that’s always, ALWAYS associated with some happy memories of my university days, up in Liverpool.

As a surprise treat for my parents, Peter and I booked the four of us tickets to see Romeo and Juliet, the Prokofiev ballet, at the Liverpool Empire. We went out to dinner first and we still kept it a secret what we were going to see.

Arriving at the Empire, everywhere there were huge adverts and billboards for the act appearing the next week at the same venue. Misleading.

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If you could have seen my father’s face…

An absolute classic of horror and disappointment, quickly transformed to British stoicism and good manners, expressing delight in the prospect of an evening’s entertainment with these comedy stalwarts of the late seventies.

Nothing against Little and Large, by the way, but absolutely NOT an act that my parents would have enjoyed in a million-zillion years.

Romeo and Juliet was magic!

So are my memories.

The (very slow) Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

Oh, happy memories of my piano-playing days when I heard Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, piano duet version, chosen by TV writer Sally Wainwright, on Desert Island Discs today.

N.B. This is not ME playing Arrival of the Queen of Sheba with my little friend. Read on, then you’ll be IN NO DOUBT.

At the sound of the opening notes, I was plunged unhesitatingly back to Northampton High School for Girls…


There’s Derngate…

44 Derngate

…and the main school building.

In a instant, there she was before me, my long-suffering piano teacher, a sweet woman called Elizabeth Bush. Well, she used to be sweet. I expect it wore off after a few years of teaching me.

I even saw the music in my mind and, with Google-amazingness, here it is, the very same copy:


Oh my goodness.

When I said ‘happy memories’ of playing Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, that wasn’t strictly accurate. True enough, I loved the piece and, in my imagination, I could sound as good as the couple in the YouTube video above. Better, even.

The trouble is, or was, that I wasn’t that good at playing the piano – and was even LESS good at practising  being not very good at playing the piano.

As some sort of incentive, maybe, Miss Bush suggested we should play the duet together in assembly. Had she a death wish?

I remember the excruciating, grindingly-slow, halting and mistake-ridden performance to this day. Assembly overran by several minutes.

I expect it was Miss Bush’s fault.

Mr. Handel has barely stopped spinning in his grave.



“Without music, life would be a mistake.”


Image by Gretzky


Yes, Friedrich Nietzsche on the subject of music.

Friedrich Nietzsche of the impossible spelling, which I have to check EVERY time I write it, and of the outrageous moustache, which I don’t.


I love music – yet I hardly ever go to concerts or listen to radio stations which play music. Occasionally Classic FM…if my brain needs soothing.

So – lately, I’ve discovered two new artists and one new track by an artist I already knew. Then,  I went on to buy the aforementioned tracks.

Here’s how I heard of them, all you music promotion people who spend millions and zillions on publicity campaigns.

First, Tricky and the track called Hell Is Round The Corner

See, I’m not at all averse to a bit of rapping and trip-hop.

(Eclectic, moi? Mais oui!)

“As a producer and a musician, Tricky is noted for a dark, rich and layered sound and a whispering sprechgesang lyrical style.”  Sprechgesang? Even I, with my limited grasp of German, managed to work that out – speaking-singing.

Where did I hear it? On Desert Island Discs, yes, RADIO 4, when Steve McQueen was the guest. (Not Steve “Bullitt and Great Escape” McQueen, but Steve “12 Years A Slave” McQueen).

Second. Kate Bush, on the same programme – and OF COURSE I’ve heard of her… but had somehow missed the track, This Woman’s Work. (Sorry, not a very good recording).

And finally…

Music from a trailer for a new ITV period drama called Grantchester – which I await impatiently.  Here, thanks to Mr. Google and my own persistence in finding out exactly which track was used – Jamie T’s track, Don’t You Find

SO – at the moment, my writing hours are inspired and enlivened by THIS music.

Next week, it might be Bach or Purcell…

It’s raining again

Raining Mobile Wallpaper

I wonder if iTunes arrange ear worms so you’re compelled to download a song?

This morning’s ear worm…

It’s raining again, by Supertramp. And it was. Raining again, I mean. The rain has been relentless. Completely without relent.

However, singing the song cheered me on my way to the yard and the knee-deep mud and the sliding about in semi-darkness.

It also brought back memories – but my mind was playing tricks on me.


From iStock

In my Liverpool University days, one of THE albums was Crime of the Century by Supertramp – released in 1974.


Rather scary to think that this was FORTY YEARS AGO. Scary and unbelievable.

It was a brilliant album. It IS a brilliant album, which I’m going to download as soon as I’ve written this blog. (iTunes triumphs again.)

BUT – It’s raining again isn’t a track from Crime of the Century. It’s from Famous Last Words, 1982



Choose joy at Christmas

I’m not sure what Joy’s up to this Christmas. She has been invited.


To help her to decide whether or not to attend, here’s the most glorious carol from Libera.

My favourite of the moment – and, somewhat bizarrely, Geekie Tim’s too. (How A Mum Can Shatter Street Cred In One Easy Step)

Christmas is a busy time for mums. And my mince pies all stuck to the patty tins and have been renamed mince crumbles. And no-one likes marzipan. And the quilt, while finished, looks crooked and amateurish. And try keeping the house clean enough for a baby in howling wind and rain and wallowing mud, with two labradors wanting to go in and out like a fiddler’s elbow.

Easy to feel somewhat less than a perfect housewife. In my case, easy to feel CONSIDERABLY less than a perfect housewife.



So I choose Joy at Christmas.




The Flower of Scotland

St. Andrew’s Day today – Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.

And rejoice for that.



My heart goes out to the people of Glasgow following the helicopter crash last night. Apparently, it fell like a stone from the sky, through the roof of a one-storey pub where a hundred or so people were gathered to watch a band. At time of writing, three fatalities, but who knows how many more?

Alex Salmond, first minister of  Scotland, said that this St. Andrew’s Day was “a day we can take pride and courage in how we respond to adversity and tragedy.”

This is for you. Not Alex Salmond in particular, but the people of Scotland.

Tonight we shall be eating haggis at a dinner party thrown by Scottish neighbours. For your information, I didn’t mean that the haggis would be thrown (necessarily.) Or, indeed, thrown up.

I’m not sure whether to say yum yum, yet.

“Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck – heart, liver and lungs; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.”

It’s a description that somehow doesn’t inspire taste buds to salivate in anticipation…


And not just the description…

Scotland the brave! (Well, they eat haggis, don’t they?)

I’m sure it will be delicious.


Without doubt.


Have I convinced myself yet?


My Teenage Diary – Day Three and beyond

See My Teenage Diary  Day One, here and Day Two, here for the thrilling prequel to The Big Day – or was it?

Big, I mean.

February 14th, 1971

I am going to complain to the Post Office because either they’ve lost my cards or they’ve delivered them to the wrong house.

complain to PO my teenage diary

Or maybe that cow Jean nicked them to add to her pile? I can’t believe anyone with her acne problem would get seven cards.

Neil Scott-Evans and Martin Oliver came up to me in school and said if I wanted to send Valentine’s cards to two people next year why didn’t I try using different disguised writing for each one? They were sniggering and I put on a haughty look to show I didn’t care, hardly at all. I never really wanted to go to the Valentine’s disco anyway.

I thought I’d hang about outside to Make My Presence Felt, just to show how little I cared. I wore my black midi coat and wet-look boots and lay in the gutter sobbing but nobody noticed.


Later, I played the Songs of Leonard Cohen to cheer myself up.

February 15th, 1971

Three hundred and sixty four days to go...

my teenage diary pierced heart

Pierced Heart by Aida Thuresson

I shall now close My Teenage Diary until the next time, or possibly forever, and curl up in the corner of the room with a big box of tissues.

P.S. Neil Scott-Evans and Martin Oliver, wherever you are – SEE WHAT YOU DID?

But I’m okay now.


My teenage diary – Day One

my teenage diary

‘My teenage diary’ was an assignment for my creative writing class. I found it unbelievably easy to write – the memories are so vivid all those years on.  I think teenage experiences often are. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve never really grown up?

Funnily enough, we have a teenager in our class and he found it an impossible task – too close to the highs and lows of hormonal-induced emotions?

So, this teenage diary is TRUE in essence, although slightly embroidered.

February 12th, 1971

Two days to go, and oh, I can hardly sleep. This year will be the year…I just know it deep inside me. This will be the year when I get a Valentine’s card that won’t be from Mum and Dad and signed with a question mark. I mean, do they think I’m STUPID or something? It’s a total INSULT!!!!!!

As I couldn’t choose between Neil Scott-Evans and Martin Oliver who are both drool-makingly dishy, I’ve decided to send both of them a card. I will disguise my writing so they don’t know it’s from me.

 This evening I sat beside the phone for three hours, thirty eight minutes and seventeen seconds waiting for That Phonecall when Martin or Neil will invite me to the Valentine’s disco.

my teenage diary

By Lori Novo

I listened to My Sweet Lord eleven times in a row, which is my favourite song EVER until Dad ripped the record player plug out of the wall, which just proves he has no soul.

I think Neil and Martin must have been trapped in their rooms by vengeful parents because they didn’t get the chance to phone me. I hate grown-ups. They just want to spoil everyone’s fun, don’t they? Bet they weren’t ever fifteen. They just went from little children straight into being snotty parents.

My Teenage Diary – Day Two –  tomorrow.

Be still your beating hearts.

About Me: The music that helps connect my brain hemispheres

Of course, I don’t know that’s what it’s doing. All I CAN say is that there are certain pieces of music that have the effect of making my brain EFFICIENT.

I suppose I could play them all the time…

“Listening to music stimulates the whole brain through diverse neural circuitry that stimulate better brain metabolism,” says Maximised Living doctor, David Jockers. (Maximised Living doctor? Uh?)

The article is interesting, nonetheless.

Here is the Number One Piece of Efficient Music for me:
(I apologise to people looking at this on an iPad which doesn’t support Flash, if that proves to be a problem. Blooming Apple!)

Well, must dash…do something efficient…

Yes, sad songs DO make me happy!

There’s research from Tokyo University and the RIKEN Brain Institute flying about the airwaves at the moment which asserts that listening to sad music may well make us feel happier.

Sure it does.

This morning, I was feeling a little miserable because my hip joint hurts so much, and, as an active person, I hate the inconvenience, though it doesn’t stop me from carrying on.  Then I was feeling MORE miserable because I have zillions of blessings in my life, so ended up castigating myself for daring to feel miserable for even one millisecond.

Then I got into the car to go to the yard and heard this on the radio:

The beauty of it brought tears to my eyes. Though sad, the emotions that welled up inside me were exactly those of the unutterable joy I feel at the birth of Matilda, my first grandchild.

Not the sort of transitory joy that makes you want to scream and shout from the rooftops and then it’s gone, but a deep and fulfilling and eternal joy.

The researchers ‘noted that emotions stirred up by music do not pose a direct threat to listeners, unlike emotions we feel on a daily basis. “Therefore,” they say, “we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.”‘

The conclusion of the experiment, with me as subject? My hip still hurts but I no longer feel miserable!