Saturday, September 10, 2016

LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS. Join me and send off the Summer in style

So here we are, once again.

We have reached that time when we must say goodnight; & goodbye, to the BBC Proms for yet another year. And what a delicious, delightful musical feast it has been.

I cannot tell you how happy my middle aged lug-holes have been,
during the last two months.

And now; as Autumn is almost upon us, and the nights are drawing in, what better way could you find, to celebrate the passing of  summer and to herald in the new season,

than the Last Night of the Proms.

Scientists & Weather Forecasters; are in my opinion, a bit too neat and tidy for my liking. And if I may say; sometimes, a little dull.

They like the yearly seasons to begin at the beginning of the chosen month. Spring: March 1st, Summer: June 1st etc.

The Pagans & Traditionalists are just the same. Only they like their equinoxes to begin on the 21st day of the chosen month.

All well and good I suppose. Each to their own I say.

But when it comes to the Autumn,
we ought be a little . . . different?

We need the Summer to go with a bang!

To go with a rousing chorus, with all the bells and whistles It can muster, and with a reassuring reminder that in spite of all this wonderful, controversial and indeed, rich diversity, be it musical, political, cultural, religious or ethnic, that surround us all every day throughout the year . . . we're still British.

And the Last Night of the Proms; in my opinion,
helps me to feel precisely that.

As I mentioned earlier, this year's Proms has been one of the best I've heard in years. And trust me; I've heard a few in my time.

For those who have already read my previous review on the first night, will know how I was brought up on this stuff, thanks to my dear Mum. And she would have enjoyed this Prom Season just as much as I have. It really has been an absolute belter.

Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, and Love in general have been the primary themes throughout this year's BBC Prom season.

The highlights for me were many. But I won't bore you with them.  Suffice to say that if you have not tuned in to watch nor indeed,  listened on BBC Radio 3 during the last two months . . .

then you have truly, missed a treat.

But all that can be forgiven, providing of course; that you tune in for the Proms' climatic closure, to what has been perceived by many I'm sure, as one of the best Proms in many years.

I'm certain that all the usual "Last Night" favourites will be heard, like Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March (Land Of Hope & Glory) Thomas Ame's Rule Brittania, Hubert Parry's Jerusalem, and if we're really REALLY lucky  . . .

We will get to hear Sir Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs. After which there is only Auld Lang Syne followed by God Save The Queen to finish off a splendid evening.

But the real highlight of the night for me at least, will be George Butterworth's "The Banks of Green Willow".

You have simply got to listen to that.

It's very, very beautiful; trust me. And it's a personal favourite of mine for this reason.

I used to have an old recording of Richard Adams' Watership Down, read by that brilliant actor, Roy Dotrice. Mum and I spent many  weekends listening to it, being as it was a particular favourite story of hers. And the music which was used to accompany Roy's brilliant narration, was that of George Butterworth's.

And that particular piece (The Banks Of Green Willow) which was  used in the Dotrice recording, was an absolute favourite of ours.

And I have a suspicion that somewhere among those stars above me, Mum had a hand in this Last Night Of The Proms.

Perhaps to remind me of those weekends, now long past? I'm not sure. She may have just sneaked in Green Willow; just for herself?

Who knows. Whatever the reason; thanks Mum.

So why not tune in and join me, along with a glass or three  of your favourite tipple and send off the summer in style, with a rousing chorus of Rule Brittania, Jerusalem, Sea Songs, and a whole host of other wonderful music, that is not only an absolute must on such a special occasion, but also, and most importantly, very typical and indeed; very traditional, for such a night . . .

as the Last Night, of the Proms.

You will be in very good company, and I pretty much guarantee; that you will be very glad you took the time, to tune in.

So until the 123rd, Proms season,
so long, farewell, and most of all . . .

Rule Brittania!


Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

STEVE T : THE GARDENER THE NEIGHBOUR THE FRIEND

A eulogy  I wrote for my neighbour & friend who passed away on Friday August 12th 2016 Here below is the transcript I would have read at the service if I had been asked.

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If I may begin by quoting a line from a favourite film of mine,
It comes from Watership Down; by Richard Adams . . .

"My heart has joined the thousand;
for my friend stopped running today."

The main character in the book (Hazel) would say this "Rabbits Prayer if you will, when a rabbit had been killed by a fox, stoat or weazel, one of the thousand as Adams put it,
"Natural Enemies", of rabbits.

I have only used that line on two occasions, once for my Father when he died  in 1995, and again for my Mother in 2004.

And I sadly had to use it yet again the night my good friend & neighbour, Steve, died, on Friday, August 12th, 2016, at 9:40pm.

He was 60 years old.

I know it's not exactly a religious thing to say, but being as Godless as I am; I found that for me, it somehow helped.

And while I am on the subject of God . . .

It seems strange being here, given as I've just confessed to you, to being a non-believer in the so called, "All Mighty". So I am hoping those of you who are of a religious faith, and who are gathered here as I am, to celebrate the life of a friend, brother and neighbour, not to think too less of me.

For in my own way, I too have faith.

I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, and set in the evening only to once again return the following morning, rising in the east as it has done since the dawn of time. Not that I often see this natural wonder, thanks in part; to our typical English climate, and to me not getting out of bed early enough.

I have faith that this current summer will return again next year.

I have faith that Spring will come again, bringing with it, all its beauty and renewed life. I have faith too in the Autumn.

Autumn; for me, the Artist among the seasons, who paints the leaves on the trees in bright yellow and gold, red and brown, as if in respectful celebration of the passing summer, to send it off perhaps, in a blaze of colourful brilliance.

A talent, few artists (in my opinion) passed or present, can equal.

I have faith in all the seasons and I also have faith in other things closer to home, that for me, are just as important, like love, truth & friendship, family, loyalty, understanding, mutual respect, trust and unity. And perhaps, just perhaps . . .

I may have a tiny bit of faith, in our politicians.

And I think (perhaps I suspect; with the exception of the politicians) my good neighbour & friend, Steve,
had faith in these things too.

Steve was a gardener, green fingered, a lover of things that grow. He could take a tiny seed, nurture it, care for it, plant it, and he would let Mother Nature do the rest.

Steve had great faith in Mother Nature's talents; and she rarely let him down. Steve was (and is; and shall always be) my friend.

I am aware of course; that I did not know Steve as well as some who are gathered here today, but I believe I knew him well enough to know that he was a good, decent man. A private man; in some ways, yes, but a good man nonetheless.

A good neighbour, and a good friend.

And as I sat alone in my living room on that long night, following the evening of his passing, trying to put this eulogy together, drinking lots of coffee and smoking way too many cigarettes, I suddenly came up with the question . . .

How will I remember my friend?

Well; thanks to Steve, that question;
for me at least, was easy to answer.

I shall remember a man, who was noble, honourable, kind and courteous, and a true gentleman.

A man very much like his Father; William.

I shall remember a man who loved the outdoors. For when he was not gardening, he would often put on his rucksack, and take off for a long walk, typically along the Calder & Hebble canal.

And also; Steve would often visit his local library.
For Steve was in many ways, a knowledgeable man.

I shall remember a man who laughed a lot, smiled often, had time for his neighbours and friends, and not forgetting; time for my mischievous cat, Bailey.

I shall remember a man who; in the evenings he spent at home, would often be heard laughing and chuckling loudly whilst watching TV.

Steve had a liking; for comedies.

I shall remember a man, who looked at this old Southerner from Kent, standing before you today, right in the eye, and at last, finally, calling him a Yorkshireman.

Mind you; it took him 17 years to finally say it.
"You have to do your apprenticeship lad", he told me once.

But most of all; I shall remember a man who loved all the seasons, the stars twinkling in the deep summer blue of a night sky, the sight and scent of the many flowers that bloomed in abundance in his garden, and a man who never once had a harsh word; nor held any grudge, against me.

And I shall also remember a man; who never once, told me a dirty joke. Nor did I ever, not even once, hear Steve, break wind!

Steve was way too much of a gentleman for that.
Although I suspect; he probably knew a dirty joke or two.

So; as we gather here today, to celebrate Steve's life, let us remember I think, one very important thing.

Steve has not left us, not really.
He now lives in our hearts & in our minds.

And when I go fishing, and see that summer sun rise in the early morning, Steve will see it with me; through my eyes.

When we feel joy, as we will again, after this day has long passed,
Steve will feel that joy too, and celebrate it, with us.

And should a time come when we once again, feel sorrow,
Steve again, will be there, in our hearts, to comfort us.

What I am trying to say is, that although Steve is not here, as we once knew him, in the form that he once was, he is still here now; inside us, inside all of us.

The reality as I see it; is that Steve is closer to us now,
than he has ever been.

And that surely; is indeed something to celebrate.

And also for this old sinner; standing before you . . .
it's something else, to have faith in.

So in answer to that question (How will I remember Steve) I will watch the seasons come & go, watch those flowers blooming in the gardens and parks, fade and be born again, gaze up at the stars in the night sky, hear music & laughter, maybe have a beer or two, a toast, to celebrate the honour of knowing him.

And all the while, I will know; Steve will
be with me throughout, always.

Or maybe; I'll remember Steve quite simply; as my thoughtful Step Daughter beautifully put it on Facebook, upon hearing of his passing . . . "There's another bright new star, in the sky."

Either way; I shall not forget him.

Rest in Peace; Steve, The Gardener, The Neighbour, The Friend.

And; if I may close as I began, with a line from another favourite of mine, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, act one, scene two . . .

"He was a man. Take him for all in all.
I shall not look, upon his like, again."


Thanks for reading.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

ALL HAIL SIR HENRY WOOD and my Mum

The 122nd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts began last night at the Royal Albert Hall in London and for me personally, these concerts bring back so many happy memories of my early life.

My mother (may her soul rest in peace) was a music nut and in between all those Andy Williams LP's she would play on her radio-gram, she would often assault my young ears with various pieces from Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Greig, Shostakovich, Vaughan -Williams, Bizet, Rachmaninov, Schubert, Lizt, Brahms, Bach, and so many others I could list but I reckon you've got the idea.

And as the years went by all too quickly it seems, my mum & I would tune into BBC Radio 3 around this time to listen to the BBC Proms. Once there we would embark  on a nightly musical journey of imagination accompanied quite literally by some of the greatest classical music ever composed.

Those were good years.

Mum sadly passed away 12 years ago and to this day, I still tune in and hope that somewhere up among the stars or maybe at the Royal Albert itself . . .

She too is listening.

And of course had it not been for Sir Henry Wood's brilliant idea back in 1890 to bring, conduct classical and popular music to the masses at low prices, we would not be enjoying the Proms (as they are now affectionately known) today.

Sadly too; Sir Henry died in 1944 but his legacy lives on and I have to say quite happily, that it shows absolutely no sign of dying.

Quite the contrary; it becomes more lively with every passing year.

Now I know to some who may be reading this, Classical music is not your cup of tea but here's the thing. These Classics have been playing for hundreds of years and to be honest, they'll still be played long after the likes of Justine Beiber, One Direction, Nuclear Pusscat or Lady's Permitted have gone the way of the Dodo taking all their music (hopefully) with them.

Last night's "First Night of the Proms" on BBC Four was a blast and also very moving from the beginning.

Music really is a language we all can understand and it was a lovely gesture at the start from the BBC Symphony Orchestra to play La Marseillaise (the French National Anthem) as a mark of respect in the light of the terrible events in Nice.

France; we are with you.

This was shortly followed by Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture of Romeo & Juliet. A moving piece that's been unfortunately featured in many a comedy love scene.

After which came Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor. Now I had not heard this for a very long time and I must admit that I'd forgotten how beautiful it is.

Then came the Russians with Sergei Prokofiev Cantata 'Alexander Nevsky.

Even for me this was heavy stuff as I sometimes find Russian Classical music just as heavy and complicated as their language however; there is an intriguing beauty about it which kept me listening.

I should have really watched this on BBC Four but I've always listened to the Proms on the radio. I find it easier to just lie back, close my eyes and simply listen.

After all; why change the habits of a lifetime?
Besides; I feel it brings me closer for a little while to my mum

In summing up I think the Proms are well worth a listen. If you're tired of the latest storyline from Coronation Street or fed up of Phil's constant heavy breathing in EastEnders, or even if you have never listened to Classical Music before . . .

Why not give the Proms a go?

I mean who knows; you might just like it. And it may surprise you to learn that you've already heard some of it before elsewhere.

The Proms are on every night for the next two months and for those who love this music genre have plenty to look forward to. Failing that you can always catch up on the concerts you've missed through the BBC's iPlayer service.

It's all there for ages so you have plenty of time to catch up on them all.
As for me; I'm looking forward to two months of pleasant ear therapy.

It's a nice way to pass the Summer evenings. Let the music begin!

Rest in peace Mum; and thanks for the musical memories.


And thank you too for reading.

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

THE CHILCOT REPORT: Yes; we were wrong

Yesterday; July 6th 2016 saw the long awaited Chilcot report regarding the invasion of Iraq in 2003 finally emerge.

Not having read this report myself (and most likely will never do so due to the complexity and sheer length of it) I still hold onto the opinion that Her Majesty's government should NOT have gone to war with Iraq in 2003.

I agree; Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator but then again, he lived in a brutal middle east. And regardless of the world's opinion of him, he was NOT a global threat and his regime DID keep the locals in line and now, 13 years later, we are seeing what Iraq has become due to our interference and Saddam's absence.

Doesnt look all that good does it?

It is hoped this report will give some sense of closure and comfort to the families and friends of the 179 servicemen & women who lost their lives during the Iraq war. And it is also hoped that those who took us into this war will be held accountable for their actions.

War is painful, costly and in many ways; futile. It does not differentiate between right and wrong, it does not discriminate, judge, oppose or offer any solution.

War just brings suffering to all who are involved either directly or indirectly on a massive scale. I cannot begin to imagine the pain, grief and sorrow felt and still being felt by those who lost loved ones in the conflict. I can only hope that this report which took seven years to put together will finally answer some critical questions and bring some closure.

So then; what happens now?

It would be very unwise to think that now the Chilcot Report is out that this matter is over. You couldn't be more wrong. There will be much debate on this for some time and I don't think Tony Blair and indeed George W. Bush will come out totally unscathed by the Chilcot report's aftermath.

Whatever the outcome, justice; in whatever form it comes in must be seen to be done. For this has been a terrible episode in this country's history, not only for the country but also for the families involved.

And let us not forget the people of Iraq; for they too lost loved one's.
Just like us; they too are human beings.


Thanks for reading.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

ANARCHY IN THE UK? FORGET IT. I'm going fishing.

It's been quite a week hasn't it?

Since pretty much most of the UK voted to leave the EU last Thursday June 23rd 2016 we have lost a Prime Minister, the value of the Pound, Scotland is drawing up plans for another independence referendum and we also lost against a supermarket chain (Iceland) in the Euro 2016 Football tournament in France.

Even by our own standards that's quite a lot of monumental cock-ups in so short space of time. The Labour Party has not done any better either.

Jeremy Corbyn the current party leader is under extreme pressure to step down following a resounding vote of no confidence in his leadership. And to the frustration of the party members who voted against him, he's not budging.

Now I'm no fan of Mr Corbyn but I have to admire he stubbornness.

For in the last few days Jeremy Corbyn has clearly shown that he has more backbone in him than the rest of this country put together. And I say this because I have seen, read and heard stories of embarrassing panic, name calling, hate speech and hate crime carried out by some since the leave campaign won.

From where I am sitting it appears that the whole country and in particular those within parliament are now running around like headless chickens!

There is even talk about having a SECOND EU Referendum!
I mean come on guys, let's get a grip here.

Speaking personally; I really don't understand what all the fuss is all about.
This country got its wish, we are leaving the EU so let's get on with it.

Maybe I'm on my own here but I suspect in five years time, we will look back to June 23rd 2016 and realise that it was the best decision we ever made. For our decision to leave has created shock waves throughout Europe and I wouldn't be surprised if this was the beginnings of the end for the EU.

Even as I write this, several European countries including Germany have called for their own EU Referendum. The cracks are beginning to show. And while all this is going on here at home, there are preparations for leadership elections for both Conservative & Labour party's. Looks like it's going to be a busy Summer.

I bet the journalists have never been so busy nor had it so good!

And while the politicians will be spending the entire Summer arguing, canvassing and campaigning on behalf of their chosen candidate, I shall be putting down my pen, picking up my fishing rod and setting off to enjoy a Summer full of fishing.

So this will be my last post for a while or at least until all this political post Brexit squabbling and In Party fighting has ended because quite frankly . . .

I'm fed up of the whole business!
Have a great Summer.

Now then; where's my fishing rod?



Thanks for reading.

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