Tag Archives: Music

The memorial service

They didn’t go in for children’s books so much in the 1930s and 40s. That will be why the Grandmother, when she learned to read all those years ago, read Dickens and Scott for fun by the age of eight. And that’s why Daughter did a reading of the end of The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott at her Grandmother’s memorial service on Wednesday.

It was quite a nice service, if I do say so myself. We persuaded Son to be our MC, and he introduced the Resident IT Consultant’s eulogy, which was fairly amusing in places. The Grandmother had once been too young to sign the Official Secrets Act (while having cause to do so). And she used a cardboard box for the Resident IT Consultant to sleep in.

Odd sleeping habits must have run in the family, as her sister reminisced about the three or four years the two of them slept in the understairs cupboard, like some early Harry Potters.

At the crematorium before the memorial Son had the pleasure of hearing ‘Paul Temple’ reading William Penn, and this piece was repeated by Daughter in the next session.

We’re not exactly in the habit of organising this kind of thing, but we knew what we wanted. It was the knowing where to get hold of the right people that was hard. (Many thanks to the Scottish children’s author who didn’t object to questions about suitable musicians.)

In the end we were lucky, as Paul Temple introduced us to a 16-year-old local girl who played Schubert and Stradella on the cello, before charming everyone by singing Mononoke Hime – in Japanese – a cappella. Even an old witch can shed a tear over such perfection.

Initially we’d asked a local church if we could use it as our venue, but we were found too God-less, which meant that we actually ended up somewhere quite perfect in its place. Cowane’s Hospital was just right; the right size, nice and old, beautiful acoustics, situated next to the castle, and generally feeling like our kind of place.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Afterwards we wandered downhill a little – literally – for afternoon tea at the Stirling Highland Hotel, where I normally go to hear about gruesome murders during Bloody Scotland. It couldn’t have been nicer. And no funeral tea is complete without a quick trip upstairs to the Old High School Telescope. The Resident IT Consultant helped paint it, decades ago.

Almost there


And here they are, the ‘final’ shelves with actual books on them. Son is coming to inspect ‘his’ room, and the question is whether he will approve. Or will he notice there is no space for his hifi? I mean, who cares? Who in their right mind would use a large machine to listen to music?

We also need to get our three-book joiner to come and secure the whole shebang to the wall. Or else we could have a repeat of that time over twenty years ago when Son reckoned these shelves looked like ladder… The crash was very loud. Luckily both Son and the shelves and the books and the floor were pretty much as before, afterwards.

The eagle-eyed blog reader might feel like pointing out that there are some gaps still. That’s because I expect to have more books to put in there. Next week. And the week after. Also, there are double rows. Any book I want to find in future will be behind.

Ever younger kettles

Aunt Scarborough introduced the young Offspring to the Singing Kettle about twenty years ago. At that time they were mainly famous in Scotland, but filtered south to England during the period when we adored them the most. They were wonderful. And funny. Good all round entertainers, who took well known tunes and gave them new lyrics, or wrote their own, or simply used traditional songs for children, but in a fun way. Nothing boring about them at all. I would happily have listened to them with no child as an excuse.

Now they are stopping their Singing Kettling. The two main stars retired a while back, and with the audience age plummeting, they no longer have their ideal primary school aged children, but are performing funny songs to children perhaps too young to understand. (See my comments about this below. ‘Little Diddle’ didn’t even know his own name. But he was cute.)

But I simply had to treat Daughter to one more humiliation while she’s home for Christmas, and take her to see the farewell tour. (She enjoyed it, really.) It was good, but I can see that things are not what they were. Lots of things aren’t. The Singing Kettle have provided fun and intelligent songs for many, many children. And judging by comments from various astrophysicists on Daughter’s facebook page, and the fact that Dodo gave Son a Singing Kettle DVD for Christmas, I’d say that those primary age children may have got older, but they never forgot. That’s proof of quality.

Below is CultureWitch’s review of Monday morning’s concert at the Albert Halls.

“There was a slight disadvantage to sitting on row five when they used their large water ‘pistol’ from the stage. It reached. Very well, too. Although I didn’t do what many parents did, which was to hold their children in front of them as shields. Some parents they turned out to be!

The Singing Kettle at Stirling Albert Halls

I – on the other hand – was an exemplary parent and brought my baby girl to what has been advertised as the last tour for The Singing Kettle. She probably hadn’t been since the millennium concert at the Albert Halls in Stirling, which means it had been a 15 year gap. Contrary to what Daughter thought, you can actually go to these shows as an adult. Neither of us fell over, bumped our heads and cried, nor did we require help to go to the toilet.

It was good. Apart – possibly – from the water and the fact that The Singing Kettle will be no more. It was a tonic, on a Monday morning after Christmas, with plenty of grinning and laughing, not to mention singing. I did draw the line at rocking my poor head from left to right and forwards and back, going over the Irish Sea.

The Singing Kettle mug

Despite there being no Artie and Cilla anymore, Kevin and Anya did a great job, ably assisted by the still baby-faced Gary and his purple trombone. Anya is testament to the strength of the brand, having herself been one of the audience participants, being invited onto the stage. (She clearly never left, which was something I did think about as parents blithely let their offspring wander off with these strangers, in order to perform on stage with them. Did they see them again? ‘The tiniest ever’ Diddle in the first half was the smallest, cutest participant I have ever seen. A little confused maybe, but so keen, and later seen trying to return to the stage again.)

We knew some of the songs (because back then we were pros) and some not, as they were possibly using new material as well as recycling old songs forever. Daughter had forgotten Bunny Fou Fou, but not I. And you have to love Music Man (even without Cilla…).

The preparing and cooking (and subsequent burning) of the turkey made an impression on the younger part of the audience, especially cleaning it with a toilet brush. The snowman who sneezed all over and the galloping reindeer, not to mention the adorable yellow ducks (including tiny Diddle) helped make this a very visual show.

But we weren’t allowed to take pictures (if I’d been Diddle’s mother, I’d have taken a photo of him in his duck costume anyway!) so we don’t have much to show you. Daughter did hit the merchandise stall as soon as we arrived, however. It might be her last opportunity.

The Singing Kettle mug

There was some Hokey Cokey at the end, and a fitting finale of pushing Granny off the bus. (As if we would…)

If you’ve never seen The Singing Kettle live, I feel sorry for you. We used to travel across half the country for them, whereas now it was a mere walk away.”

Mean witch

The conundrum the other day was how cold it was in the conservatory, aka our dining room. It was probably slightly colder than it was in the fridge (that’s the fridge that came with the house, and which is integrated, and that is why we put up with it being a little on the warm side). It felt ridiculous.

But with the help of an electric heater, the breakfast area improved. That’s the same heater we used to fry our former piano. (It’s not former as in late. It just became unwell.) The Grandmother used to sleep next to the piano when she visited, and she felt the cold, so we put the heater in. It made it nice and warm, and the wood on the piano decided to split.

The piano tuner solved it by adding water. Underneath. It got better.

Fifty years ago I never liked sharing sweets with other children. As you know, I still don’t like lending books, for instance. I’m a bit of a Scrooge. But then came the business of moving house and needing to shrink the belongings.

The piano had to go. So did the saxophone. It didn’t look as though we could sell either instrument and make a satisfying killing. In fact, we’d probably be lucky to give them away. So we did.

Luckily the literary world stepped in, and it turned out one of my author friends had a great need for a saxophone. Problem solved. Another author could use a piano. She sent two piano collector men round to pick it up.

For some reason we started chatting about our tuner. ‘Who did you use?’ asked the men. I told them Mr Sandwich. Within a split second they were both bending their knees and bobbing their heads towards the undercarriage of the piano.

‘No water,’ said one to the other. ‘Phew.’

It turns out Mr Sandwich has quite a reputation for curing ill pianos with water. On some occasions it has still been there when the collector men start tilting the instrument prior to conveying it elsewhere. So they’ve learned that if Mr Sandwich has been involved, that it pays to look before you tilt.

Changing genres

I disappointed a young reader the other week. I wish I hadn’t. Not that I think this reader will give up reading, but still.

There’s a writer whom we shall call Edward Litteless. He is very popular with his fans, and I’m not surprised. I’ve read the first books in a couple of his thriller style series, and while I personally have no need to read more, I can fully see why young people – and especially boys – love these books.

So when Wirral Boy’s mother made expectant noises online regarding Edward’s new series, I had a great idea. I would ask Wirral Boy to read and review it for me, as he’d be able to give it full justice.

Except, WB hated it so much he didn’t even finish the book. WB’s mother soldiered on, because she’s an adult and she felt I deserved the review I’d asked for. But she hated it too.

The thing is, I don’t like posting bad reviews, so she might as well not have persevered to the bitter end. What I don’t know, is if the book is not as well written as the others, or if it is merely this complete change of genre that went wrong for our fervent fan. It can’t have been only genre, though, or he would have expected to have no interest in the new series. I sometimes feel like that, and while it’s a valid opinion to have, giving something new a chance seems fair.

There’s another thing here I feel uncomfortable about. The review copies of Edward’s last two books have arrived with ‘contracts’ that I have no wish to have anything to do with. By default it is assumed I will adhere to the rules, which seems to be not only not to share with anyone, but to make no mention at all before publication date.

If you’re not writing Harry Potter, I think this is OTT. If people don’t trust me to handle advance copies; then don’t send them to me. In this case I broke the contract I’d not agreed to, by letting WB read the book. I saw it as me sub-contracting the work, in order to get a lovely review. That backfired.

My other problem is I chucked the press release and the contract and I have only my own memory of the date the book is published. Being vaguely fearful of getting it wrong, I double checked online. I found two dates in February. I found no date at all. There was a date back in 2013, and one for autumn 2014. Edward’s own website seemed not to mention it at all.

Apologies for any breach of contract. I meant well. And that’s why I have used a pseudonym for Edward. The date I’ve chosen came from throwing a dart at February and picking a day at random.

The Beatles

You certainly feel your age when Offspring come home from school, tasked to enquire whether their parents were alive when The Beatles were around. Does it make you very old? Or is it merely that teachers have grown disproportionately young? The one who asked this was actually very nice, and a good teacher. Nevertheless, I felt ancient. (Since when does pop music belong in history lessons?)

Because, yes, I was around, back when.

It doesn’t mean I know, or remember, every fact about The Fab Four, but I do recall the general feel of the era. Although I need to point out I was obviously very young when all this happened. Ahem. To prove it I can tell you I had to rely on Mother-of-witch to read what the newspapers wrote about the long-haired Liverpool lads.

For Christmas 1963 I was given a record player, and my first record, She Loves You. The Aunts disapproved of all this foreign stuff. After all, there were people around who sang in a language you could understand. But I sang happily along to She Loves You and all the others, without having any idea of what they, and I, were singing about.

Mick Manning and Brita Granström, The Beatles

Now my fellow countrywoman Brita Granström and her husband Mick Manning have produced a very nice illustrated reference book on The Beatles. I have learned things I didn’t know before. I have been reminded of what was so special about John, Paul, George and Ringo. And I remembered why I half ditched them in the end.

Brita’s pictures tell more of a story than words do, and together she and Mick have made a fab book about what came before The Beatles made it big 50 years ago, what happened once they did, and how it all ended. I know more now about their early lives (including getting some unexpected help with a quiz question I came across the same day I read the book), and I properly understand how the haircut came to be. I’ve even had a new and better explanation to their name.

Whether you’re the right side of 50, or just ten and wondering who The Beatles really were, this is the book for you. I happen to have a good friend who likes all things Beatles. I will not be passing my copy on to him.

Just thought I’d mention that. He can buy his own.

Bookwitch bites #110

Daughter joined us on Friday, on possibly the most impossible of evenings. The area by the railway station had an extra 20,000 people milling about (and for a small town that’s quite a lot), but they hadn’t all come to meet her. We just managed to miss, yet again, Gyllene Tider in concert. We’ll get our act together, one of these years.

So far it’s been a mixed sort of holiday. I’ve done almost nothing, so pretty restful. I did join in the Twitter chat between Sarah Dessen and Cathy Cassidy last Sunday. It wasn’t the total fan crash I’d predicted. I even managed to ask Sarah a question, and she replied! You might be able to find all or some of it on #PenguinChat.

And speaking of wildlife, mere days after reviewing Anthony McGowan’s Brock, we encountered a badger of our own, running across the road. We’ve seen plenty of hares, which caused the Resident IT Consultant to ask ‘what’s the Swedish for hare?’ I told him it’s hare. It’s obvious.

He was kind enough to stop to let two people and their dog cross the road outside the local foodshop (rather than run them down with the Vets’ car). They smiled and waved (I suspect even the dog smiled). This alarmed me, until I encountered them inside the shop and realised they were Danish. Which totally explained the happiness.

Number ten

With me being in new house mode these days, I have looked at advertisements here as well. Just out of curiosity. Found one described as being dressing gown distance from the sea. I can’t tell you how tempting that is.

And once you’re on the beach, what you might find is your next coffee table. The Resident IT Consultant and I came across a complete pallet as we strolled near the water’s edge the first day. He doesn’t keep up with fashion, so had no idea people now pay hundreds of pounds for a pallet with castors (when you can simply carry one home from the beach). Now he knows. But we resisted the urge to bring it home. It was hard, but we managed. For all I know it’s still there. Or the dressing gown brigade got to it.

But it’s not all fun and Danes and driftwood. I have had another delivery of books. My holiday letterbox doesn’t know what’s hit it. (Two books. On the same day.)

Holiday letterbox