Christmas 2016, still Christmas but a different kind of Christmas.

For as long as I can remember the Christmas in the UK ritual has rarely altered, when a child it would be my family, mum, dad and brother, who used to tramp around to all of our relatives, in the snow in those day and walking all the way, no car. Aunties, uncles, grandparents, there were all visited where we were fed and watered and presents were exchanged, then lugged all the way home. Very rarely the family used to come to us so that we could stay at home by the fire, but not very often, but as I grew up we didn’t do the visiting so much, I had my mates to hang around with. So the sitting in front of the TV watching stuff I normally wouldn’t have had time for was a thing of the past and when in my teens presents were not exchanged as such as those presents became gifts of money instead. This enabled me to spend it something I actually wanted not something I had unwrapped, then feigned delight or pleasure at some useless object, which sometimes was a former present given to the person how now passed it on to me.

Then my own family came along, a boy and a girl, but still the visiting continued but not all one way this time. But the ritual more or less stayed the same, visiting, watered, fed, then lug the presents back home, until 2016 that is. My own children were grown up with families of their own and I announced that I had booked 10 days away, including Christmas Day and Boxing Day (a UK peculiarity) so all the present giving, visiting would be done over a couple of days before we went. We arrived in Spain in a monsoon, it had been like it the day before we arrived and was still like the day after we arrived and it wasn’t like Christmas at all. But after the rain the sun, blue skies and sunshine and a Christmas that seemed very low-key by UK standards. So come Christmas day and the sun shone, and it was in the 20 degrees centigrade area, was this real? Just to visualise Christmas for us this year her are some pictures.

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Now for those of you not used to the UK I have to explain that at this time of the year it is usually big coats, woolly hats, scarfs, gloves, and if you are walking about, an umberella is a must. For us, both my wife and I in our late 60’s, this was a revelation. But why wait this long you say, well all sort of reasons, none that I can argue with, our kids, our ageing parents, then our kids kids and it just never happened. Some of you will recognise this resort as being on Spain’s Costa Blanca, Benidorm, a haven for the British, and other nationalities. I have know people come here for 6 weeks at a time, and now I know why, but the Spanish have a different kind of Christmas and it’s not like the Brits at all, in fact I think theirs is around January 6th. Yes we have waited a long time, but it was worth it and no more excuses for not going, our families are grown up with their own families now so our ritual has come to a close. It was strange, no getting away from it, but our 10 days on the Spanish Costa’s went by far too quickly. We have been to Benidorm now in every month of the year and apart from the summer months, where the heat can be oppressive at times, we have experienced wind, rain, sun, but not snow, we have spent days sheltering from the weather and even more days basking in the weather, but this Christmas was both different and special.

Do I fit into today?

Its been a funny kind of day, I don’t know if you people have the same thing a kind of nostalgic time when you hear a song or something triggers off days gone by. It may be a friend, relative or someone from your past but something clicks inside your head and memories come flooding back. Well in my case it was the death of yet another pop star from my early years when things seemed so much better, probably because I was younger, but none the less it got me thinking, do I fit into today? Now the pop star was not a mega blockbusting star and in fact some of you may never have heard of him, his name was Alvin Stardust, who was originally known as Shane Fenton but whose real name was Bernard Jewry and he sang a kind of what was called bubblegum pop in those days, just sing a long type of stuff, easy listening and easy going and the one I particularly like was a song called I Feel Like Buddy Holly.

The lyrics are very clever and whilst relaxing listening to this song over and over I was transported back to the time when this song was in the charts and it occurred to me that I loved those days. The music the buzz the clothes, an atmosphere of a life worth living but of course it was not all roses, there was death and mayhem around the world but closer to home things were manageable, you bills, mortgage and other stuff were never neglected, well ours were not, and although money wasn’t plentiful we got by. But I look at today and I don’t have that buzz, life has a lot of advantages in the technological sense, the internet for a start that enables me to write this. I’m still married to the same girl and somehow we still have that spark but so much of what I was use to has gone, not least friends and relatives.

I remember that once I wrote a piece about life resembling a jigsaw and not knowing where it was I just typed Jigsaw in my search box and this is what I found. Bear in mind the dates when this was written and I haven’t updated anything since but the outline of the whole thing still remains true.

JIGSAW
John Entwistle, bass guitarist of pop group The Who, died on Friday 28th June 2002, just another pop star of the sixties passed into history. No scandal, no drink and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, well not this time anyway, well maybe not. What really is the matter this time is my jigsaw. The pieces are getting lost at such an alarming rate that the picture is becoming unrecognisable What am babbling on about you are saying, and the answer is this. Life.

I likened my life to a jigsaw that at one time was totally complete. The pieces consisted of Mam, Dad, Brother, Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, Friends, and an assortment of hero’s and heroines, and of course girlfriends, the jigsaw was truly huge, but all the pieces were intact. Then I lost a piece, my Granddad actually, the first time I was old enough to understand death, but other than that the fact was that my jigsaw would always have a piece lost no matter how hard I looked for it. I was 14 or 15.

After that the jigsaw stayed complete, minus one piece, until a few years later when piece’s started disappearing on a regular basis and there was nothing I could do about it no matter how much I looked after my jigsaw. Then the day when I lost one of the most important pieces, I could barely look at my jigsaw. My Father had died. Death does rather make you look at your own life but what it doesn’t make you understand is the total indiscrimination of death. Death has no respect for age, or my jigsaw, as pieces I never expected to loose during my lifetime disappeared overnight.

After my Father passed away it was downhill all the way after that. Mother, Aunties, Uncles, In-Laws, nieces, and even some cousins went missing from my jigsaw. Some had reached a fine old age, many unfortunately did not, in fact they reached hardly any age at all in relation to my own. Then I found out about a couple of old schoolmates, the same age as me, but no more. My jigsaw of life was in a sorry state. And so back to John Entwistle, where does he fit in the scheme of things. Well he is another piece of my jigsaw of life that is forever lost and cannot be replaced along with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, and other personalities who helped complete my growing up and therefore complete my jigsaw.

There are literally hundreds of people who helped my jigsaw of life become complete over the years, now, sadly, a lot of these people are passing away and so my jigsaw is taking the appearance of more holes than pieces. It’s time to put the remaining pieces of the jigsaw away and keep them in a safe place it’s just too fragile to be messing about with.
Just like life. But wait a moment I have an update to my jigsaw, well that is being rather bland about it but I have lost more pieces, not only that but one of the biggest pieces of all, my best mate Trev Fall. Along with rock star, Maurice Gibb, this big piece was one of the worst pieces I have lost for many a year and now my jigsaw is in a very sorry state. No matter what I do everytime I take out my jigsaw another piece or two is missing. Buy another? No I can never ever replace the jigsaw of life I once had, even if I had all the money in the world, my jigsaw pieces are lost, forever.

Saturday, 29th June 2002.
Updated 14th January 2003.

I am quite proud of that piece I wrote and I could add a few other pieces that have gone missing since but I’ll leave it as it is. And so to my original headline, I don’t fit in, I’m not keen on the music of today although some of it has merit, I still wear jeans and jumper, not trainers just shoes, I don’t smoke, never have, but my circle of friends and family get ever smaller. The internet is good and bad, good is it allows so much to be  available from the keyboard and yet I feel that I am being watched constantly by unknown persons. I read of a world in which natural resources are in the hands of few and not always a friendly few. I risk being hacked, stalked, watched, terrorised, scrutinised, and other stuff and my life laid out in a digital world that I have chosen to inhibit.

But beam me back Scotty to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s where I met friends from school, I could approach a girl just for a chat and not be regarded as some pervert. There was drugs but I wasn’t interested, peer pressure had no effect on me, like smoking, cool? give me a break. Drink I did try and did come unstuck a few time in other words I was ill, very ill sometimes. But I got fed up of my head being down the toilet and the contents of my inside being transported into the bowl, drink is ok, in moderation. But now? Jeepers I don’t know where to begin, I have football (soccer) on tap, I use to look forward to one game at week that I went too. Music was Top Of The Pops, BBC if you don’t mind and a portable radio where  the sound disappeared sometimes.

Records that were as big as dinner plates then saucers and cost nearly as much as I earned now I have a memory stick that holds fiver thousand song, I’ll put that in figures, 5,000 songs. I have a TV with more channels that I know I have and never watch most of them, things were simpler with just 3. And so it goes on, you get the drift, would I like to be young again in this day and age is what I am really trying to say? And the answer is an emphatic NO, but I would be willing to go back and live those times again, just one more time? I Feel Like Buddy Holly cause its raining in my heart. (Lyrics are copyright by the way I believe Mike Batt) I know I would, but would you?

 

Does a certain song signify a certain period in your life and that is how you remember it?

Appendix: As I have been tidying up my blogs I have come across some stuff in the draft section that I never published and so in the process have been moving things around deleting things here and there but this is one blog that I still think is relevant today as when I last edited it on April 7th 2012. So today 1st October 2014 I have added a little, completing the editing I suppose but let it finish where I had over 2 years ago.

I listen to various music, although hands up, not today’s stuff, it is all beyond me. They say open your ears to differential styles and you may like what you hear, I don’t, period. Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Justine Bieber and their ilk, have no attraction to me whatsoever, I am a child of the 50’s and 60’s and remain so, resolutely. And so it comes to the title of this blog, and yes I can recall times from my past by certain songs, good times and bad times.

So I think back to the likes of Guy Mitchell, Connie Francis, Mario Lanza and think, ah early years, mum, dad, brother and a radiogram. I can hear the sniggers already, what you say? Well a contraption that was an early music centre if you like, it had a radio, and record player, records being the size of large dinner plates and spun at 78 rpm. They were held on a flimsy piece of a stem of metal and when the record changed it came crashing down onto the turntable and you wondered why it didn’t smash.

The radio had all the stations of the day, usually the BBC, then a miracle, on our tiny Japanese made portable radio’s Radio Luxembourg came on the air, and kept disappearing as well. The signal varied, summer was best by the way, it seemed to be stronger, but the radio station played stuff we wanted to hear, not what our parents liked. Ok not all of our parents stuff was of dubious quality to us young ones, but time was moving on.

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Martino didn’t really hold any interest to us, but others did. Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Johnny Tillotson, Brenda Lee, Connie Stevens, Guy Mitchell, but they were all American as was a blockbuster of a guy, a certain Elvis Presley. He moved the goalposts, so to speak, raunchy and punchy, he sang rock n roll like no one else and we were hooked, but he was still American. Step forward one Cliff Richard, a British version of the original, but something we could attach too as our own, even if he was born in India. But Frank, Dean, Al, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydel, etc all sang ballads, good songs, but not exactly get up and go types of songs. Brenda Lee was not Christened Little Miss Dynamite for nothing, she was, dynamite, singing rock n roll with the best.

But then the wheels came off and they were never put back on again as four lads from Liverpool tore up the script and rewrote the whole pop music business. But one song encapsulates what I am trying to say here, the whole world changed and would stay changed from the period of a ditty little song called Please Please Me, by a group of mopheads called The Beatles.

Not the creepy crawly type, notice the spelling, B E A T as in the music L E S, Beatles as instead of Beetles. Not their first record by the way, oh no, they had been a back up group to an obscure pop star in Germany called Tony Sheridan, with such hits as Ain’t She Sweet, but Please Please Me was written and performed by these four Liverpool lads and all of a sudden the floodgates opened. Stones, Kinks, Billy J Kramer, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Searchers, Fourmost, Yardbirds, Dave Clark Five, the list goes on, and all singing for us.

So the songs came thick and fast, Satisfaction, You Really Got Me, Bits And Pieces, Needles And Pins, You’ll Never Walk Alone, each song a defining moment in our lives, depending on which artist or group you took a fancy too. Oh yes single artists were still on the go, Cliff for a start, and Cat Stevens, PJ Proby, and of course Elvis. But the list of distractions was getting longer, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and other were now on the scene so the list of song were mind blowing.

But what songs exactly? Well here is a rough list of songs that have a significance in my lifeline through the years and although nowhere near complete or compendious its basically a rough guide. From about 8 years old or so, Who’s Sorry Now, Connie Frances, Al Marino, Here In My Heart, and Mario Lanza, I’ll Walk With God and a trumpeter Eddie Calvert, Oh Mine Papa.

Then it got lively, Bill Haley Rock Around The Clock started it but Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock got my attention, as did the Everly Brothers, along with Bobby Vee, Rydel etc, then I was 12 and Ciff Richard and the Shadows were around, good but it was a little while later that Love Me Do appeared, and although not great, it was a start. After that it was all uphill for me and Please Please Me wanted me having a mop top haircut and Beatle suit. From then on the songs just flowed, but I was 13, a teenager, yessssssssss.

I went dancing, dance halls meant girls and the song that coincided with the time I realised what a girl could do to your hormones was one by a group called Billy J Kramer And The Dakotas, the song? Little Children. I saw this girl, queue violins, our eyes met and this song was just about to start. I strode onto the dance floor and embraced this beauty, and nothing else mattered. The record finished but we never noticed, only about 150 other people in the place did, but not us. And so songs were dotted throughout the history of my life, some good, some not so good.

I met my wife and it was The Ballad Of John And Yoko and Tommy Roe, Dizzy, our first child was born and it was Pussycat and Mississippi, Dr Hook A little bit more and in America Barry Manilow I write the songs. For our second child it was Blondie, The Village People, Art Garfunkel, Queen, Bee Gees, a song to remember each occasion vividly. Then my father died when I was 29 and a series was on TV, Grizzly Adams, about a guy and a bear, but it was the theme song that sticks in my mind and still produces a tear even today 32 years later. Maybe was sung by Tom Pace and the words fitted the occasion of the day, by father had been in hospital and I was waiting to take him home, I never did.

What if?

In my more reflective moments I let my mind wonder and it comes up with some strange scenarios. One that crops up a few times is my parents, who incidentally died 30 years or so ago, and what would they think of times now if they could return for a couple of days. I mean when they passed away video recorders were the thing to have with VHS finally outwitting Betamax to being the dominant system. When my father passed away they were too expensive for the mainstream, Philips were the big player in the field then, and most people, usually affluent, rented rather than bought.

As my dad passed on video recorders became more affordable, so much so my mum bought one but there was a problem, she hadn’t a clue how to use it. So I virtually re-wrote the instruction manual which although being a Japanese machine the manual was written in English, but still too complicated for mum to get to grips with. So I wrote everything of importance down on paper, which didn’t include timer settings and all that, just press a button mum and record. Press another button and watch the program you taped, and when you wanted to tape something else then start the tape back at the beginning.

You also have to remember that this was pre large screen TV’s, TV’s back then were still square boxes usually of 22 inches. In fact it was pretty much pre everything, IPod, LED TV’s, LCD TV’s, Plasma TV’s, satellite TV, mobile/cell phones, video on demand XBox, Playstation, computers, and of course pre internet. So my mind got to wondering what on earth they would think today’s world is like. There are also more holidays/vacations abroad, more cars, life is so much faster it would certainly be a culture shock.

I’m purely guessing here of course but dad would love the gadgets, mum would just roll her eyes and look up to the Heaven’s as she always did, but I’m not sure I would like them to come back, even just for a couple of days. I’m not sure I would like them to be here when they grew up in circumstances totally remote from today’s world. When they were kids there was literally nothing, not even a radio in the house sometimes as survival was the name of the game and poverty had a proper meaning. Like no food on the table, not poverty today when they haven’t got Nike trainers.

Mum was never materialistic, so all the microchip wonders would have been lost on her, and as for the huge supermarkets of today, I think she would have been intimidated by it all. They were a generation that ‘made do’ mending and making things last that little bit longer, not the throw away society that we have today. Things could be tinkered with and made to work again if broken, try that with your latest gadgets today. When we were kids we never travelled far for holidays/vacations, and going abroad was fantasy land.

The places of their lives have nearly all gone now, demolished for ‘re-development’ but never finished, families are not the families of my parents era, they are young girls with two or more children, a house and living on benefits, my parents would have a fit at such a notion. No I’m almost certain it would be a big mistake for them to come back in my imaginary thoughts, even just for two days. They left this world when it was far from perfect, but a damn sight more perfect than it is today.