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.

Retired, or just tired.

I am now in that genre of OAP, retired, old git or whatever other euphemism is appropriate for someone who, as it has been said, is in the twilight of their life. All very sobering I must say but how the heck did I get here? I remember being a young lad, in short trousers, and playing with my friends, outside with no tele, internet or any of today’s paraphernalia, and coming back looking like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards. I remember finding out that girls existed and not just football (soccer), now that was different, and I remember the music, oh yes the music the 1960’s (yawn yes I know what you are thinking). But then I remember getting married, children came along and now grandchildren and here I am retired.

Of course its been a long, and often arduous, journey to get where I am today, being at work for over 50 years, not some cushy desk job either, does give you a certain reflection on life the main one being that I am still here to tell it. I understand now why many old people rabbit on about the old days and what’s up with the the young of today blah blah, its not so much a criticism of the young as a sadness of the advent of being older and what used to be. A lot of people of my age find it hard living in today’s world as a lot of the the values of days gone by have gone by if you see what I mean. It,s a new way with most things, and yes the technological stuff I am talking about but take a simple thing like riding on a bus.

Now when I was with my mum and all the seat were occupied I would be required to stand for an older person to sit down, which on the face of things is quite logical, I was young and fairly healthy. But this was the picture a few days back of today’s scenario and I swear I am not joking. Picture a bus and all the seats are taken, mostly by older people,  so standing room only and we pull up at a bus stop where a mother and her son, about 10 or 11 years old and playing some sort of game on his gadget, get on the bus. She pays her fare and then for all to hear she shouts ‘Right which one of you is going to let my son sit down (without being too simplistic he looked like he had had one McDonald’s too many) you can’t expect a young lad to stand all the way’.

Some mumbling was heard and to be honest astonishment by most of the passengers but one woman did stand up, she was getting off at the next stop anyway but it doesn’t stop there. I still hold doors open for people to pass through, shops or elsewhere, but I have often had doors left to swing in my face by others, even the simple thing of saying sorry if you accidentally bump into someone is not a done thing these days. But maybe I should shut up and put up with the ways of the world these days, well I don’t have much choice really. Bye bye my old world it was nice to know you as it seemed such a nicer place despite all the crap that went on back then, but that’s another story.

 

 

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.

Do you reminisce?

There are those that say never look back what is past is the past but there are an equally vociferous segment think that history plays a big part in our lives. At the moment whilst writing this I have You Tube in the background playing stuff from the 50’s/60’s when I was growing up as a child with the influence of the American music scene and the emergence of the British response. So I have such a rich vein of memories to fall back on and that I admit I will not let go but why should I? I have arranged a number of school reunions and to date I think I can say they have been successful as many have asked since when am I doing another one. School friends of half a century ago get together and exchange chat and want to come back for more, makes me think that the those who think the past is the past are missing something.

Of course not everyone has a great story to tell, there is tragedy there is hardship as much as there is success but overall the feeling in these reunions is that of old friends getting together to have a chat and a laugh and I’m proud to have organised such events. But as with time there is death and we have lost some former classmates and some of the teachers, who incidentally enjoyed this get together as much as us former pupils did so these days such events tend to be depleted somewhat but none the less the overall feeling is of comradeship. I am going to include a couple of pictures and I’m sorry for all those in the pictures if they would rather I not but hey 50 years later many of us met up again and had a great time, and no I’m not going to supply the details to the pictures lol,

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An oldies take on this growing old lark, well no lark really.

There was a programme on TV today discussing the older generation, and can we afford them. It seems we of a certain age are living too long, unlike in years gone by when we had world wars, disease, poverty and the such, it kept our numbers down, but things have changed. Since the 1960’s and ever since we of that era have been to school, grown up, taken apprenticeships, or gone to university, then worked.

Worked for 50 years or more paying our way, bringing up families, paying for the life the current generations now enjoy. Don’t forget, for us, cars were few and far between, holidays abroad were for the rich, iPods, iPads, flat screen TV’s and mobile phones, were the domain of Dan Dare comics, and when TV did arrive it was black and white and only 2 or 3 channels.

I look around me now and deprivation is not having an iPhone, poverty is not wearing Nike, or some other fancy named garment and the hardest things most of the younger generation have to do these days is get up in a morning. And now we are told that yet again we will have to pay for others mistakes, mainly the bankers this time but hey we are all in this together, not.
But as far as I can remember our generation has always paid, from Harold Macmillan to David Cameron its the same old mantra, its our fault so we will have to pay. 

There will be cuts of course, but never, never have I known the lavish provisions for MP’s and local councillors ever been cut, no siree, its our services, and whilst those who have paid into the Governments Old Age Pension, Serps, and additional pension credits all their lives are told their entitlements are to be cut, there is not a murmur about MP’s, councillors or council workers provisions being cut in any way.

I’ll always remember my mum saying to me, I was about 30 years old at the time, ay lad its a crime to grow old, Mum how right you were.