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Remembrance of Times Past …


We woke early again this morning – perhaps this is a sign of spring when we tend to awaken with the sunlight pouring into our bedroom (although it wasn’t quite doing that this morning) and husband was showered and dressed and leaving the house to collect our newspaper before 9 am.

Then, on his return, he made breakfast for us, bacon & tomatoes on toast, which I had in bed with a fresh pot of coffee.  How lovely to be able to relax in bed and have breakfast brought to me!  But I made up for this indulgence later when I cooked a roast chicken lunch for us. I made it as simple a roast as possible,  and served it with just tiny roast potatoes, braised red cabbage (which I had in the freezer, and which just needed re-heating), purple sprouting broccoli, and gravy.  Dessert was melon with slivers of stem ginger and some fresh raspberries.

And then, as I was preparing lunch – and had just poured each of us a pre-prandial G&T with ice and lemon and (we rarely have a drink before lunch, but we weren’t going to be driving anywhere) – I heard from the sitting room the mellow voice of Andy Williams singing Bridge Over Troubled Water.  So I yelled out to husband, “Don’t we have any other records?”  This is a recurring joke as we have many LPs that we still play (as well as CDs, of course, but as we have a turn table with our aged stereo system, we kept our LPs) because whenever he puts a record on, it’s usually this one.

Throughout our married life we have loved music but when we were younger we played far more classical music than we have done of late and, indeed, attended many classical concerts and opera in our town (before the festival theatre was turned into a multiplex cinema) and in Exeter and in Plymouth.  However,  many of our CDs  are also, as well as classical, music of the big bands from the 1940s and 1950s, and music such as the sound track to the BBC drama series, Pennies from Heaven.

When I was a child I had singing lessons (I was a mezzo soprano in those days), and later I sang with the local operatic society.  Later still I was a member of the South Devon choir and, with them, performed such choral works as Elijah and the St Matthew Passion, Messiah and St Paul.  We both love Beethoven and Mozart, Mahler and Bach, and so many composers, but somehow, on a damp and misty Sunday such as today, the mellow sounds of Andy Williams were just right.

My first LP, the one I bought when I was 14 or so, was Grieg’s Peer Gynt. I still have it.  We were studying this music at school in Music Appreciation classes (and were asked to make a musical appreciation scrapbook; mine won the prize for the best scrapbook, the only prize I have ever won in this way!)  Later, I enjoyed pop music, and Elvis was my idol. I went to see him in some of his films, and adored GI Blues – I was told that I even looked like the leading lady, Juliet Prowse (well, in those days, not now!)

I also loved the music of The Shadows (never Cliff Richard – I thought he was ‘wet’, as we called wussy people in those days) but I loved the Shads and bought their first LP (which was so long ago, like the Elvis LP above, it wasn’t even in stereo, but mono.)

Hearing, even seeing the record sleeves, takes me right back to when I was 14, then 17 for The Shadows, and Elvis.  Strangely enough, some friends and I also loved the music of Frank Sinatra, who would’ve been a whole generation or more older than ourselves, on a par with our parents!  But even now, Frank’s voice when he was young and singing such numbers as Saturday Night (is the loneliest night of the week), The Nearness of You and All or Nothing at All, recorded more than 70 years ago, still sends shivers down my spine.  His voice became less clear as he grew older – not surprisingly – but right until the end, ol’ blue eyes could sing better than many would-be singers today.

And so we had out little lunch time concert – Andy Williams, Frank, and the Shadows.  Perhaps next Sunday it will be Abba, James Last and Neil Diamond.  But you never know, it might just as easily be John Williams (the guitarist, not the composer of Hollywood film themes) and Julian Bream, or Jacqueline du Pre with Elgar’s marvellous Cello Concerto, or the Bach Brandenburgs, or even Carousel or Oklahoma, or Elgar’s Enigma Variations, or James Last, or Yehudi Menuhin and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto, or Jessye Norman singing Strauss’s Four Last Songs, or even Charles Trennet and his wonderfully evocative, La Mer … Where would we be without music? Indeed, it does remind us of times past, does it not?

* * * * *

I  mentioned my habit of occasionally matching bookmarks to the books I am reading and I have some photos I thought I might show you to demonstrate this habit still further.  I don’t always do this; indeed, I don’t spend hours searching for a suitable marker, it’s just that sometimes a photograph or a postcard or a bookmark presents itself as just being suitable.

None of the postcards or photographs (which are my own work) ‘match’ exactly, but they just somehow seem (to me, anyway) to ‘go’ with these books.  This is really a total waste of time, a piece of plain paper would act just as well as a bookmark, but to me having a nice marker adds something to the reading experience.   Indeed, here are two of my favourite paintings (as postcards) by the painter, Patrick Adam.  I  love paintings of interiors (as I’ve mentioned in a previous post), especially when you can see – as you can in the painting on the left below, an enticing view of a room beyond which you will never be able to enter.

I hope you have had as lovely as Sunday as we have had. And we have Endeavour to look forward to (and the first episode of Series 7 of Homeland, which I shall record.)

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    I use only two bookmarks, each with a sentimental attribute, but I really love your matched books and bookmarks.
    I see that you have shown The last duchess. I enjoyed that and hoped for a sequel but disappointingly it never came.

    We also have a very eclectic music collection but when I am cooking (large scale) I do so to Spanish guitar music. In the car I switch from classical to rock to modern country. I’m not keen on Jazz though.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I also hoped for a sequel to The Last Duchess, it was a lovely read.
      I love Spanish guitar music, we have many kinds of music but not rock or modern country. But as with you, I’m not keen on jazz. A little jazz goes a very long way! Having said that, we like The Temperance Seven and once went to a concert by them at Snape Maltings, it was simply wonderful! I even have some of their CDs. Of course, the members of the band have changed over the years, but they’re still very good. But not keen on modern jazz at all. We once went to an Akker Bilk concert, too, also at Snape – that was the time we fell in the mud, but that’s another story – but although we liked his Stranger on the Shore number (which was written for a children’s TV serial) we weren’t keen on the rest of the music.

  2. You are a woman of many talents, Margaret. A singer! That is so special. I gave away the first albums made by The Beatles & also The Rolling Stones, to my younger brother. Now they would be priceless.

    • Margaret Powling

      Sadly, when I had bronchitis many years ago my voice went and never really returned, Ratnamurti. I loved singing. It was when I was at my small private primary school that the music teacher noticed I had a good voice. Indeed, it was unusual in that it sounded like an adult voice but wasn’t ‘put on’, I wasn’t mimicking an adult singing. Anyway, the upshot is that a very good singing teacher took me on as a pupil. She hadn’t had children as pupils before, she only took adults, but when she heard my voice and then tested me in various ways, playing notes together and asking me to sing the top note, the bottom note or the middle note, she decided I could become a pupil. I enjoyed my lessons, but no matter how I tried, I wasn’t able to learn to sight read music, I just loved singing. All she had to do was play the tune and I could sing it. I progressed until I was about 12 or 13 and then gave up but later sang with the operatic society and later still with the choral society, until, as I said, my voice went.

  3. Enjoyed your post, Margaret. I love Andy Williams – we had his Christmas album growing up, and it always made it really feel like Christmas. I love Grieg too. Hank Marvin lives in Perth and we see him around a bit – we last saw him at a Hollies concert a couple of years ago…

    • Margaret Powling

      So glad you enjoyed the post and that you are also an Andy Williams fan! We love his voice for that kind of song (not operatic, he’s no Pavarotti, but then he’s not trying to be) and we remember watching The Andy Williams Show on TV in the 1960s, which was great fun. I had no idea that Hank Marvin lives in Perth, what fun to see him when you are out and about.

  4. Vinyl’s coming back into fashion Margaret, and it’s about time too! The sound from vinyl is far more ‘true’ than that from a CD. I’ve kept most of my vinyl from my childhood, teens and twenties, but also have a huge collection of CDs, and now of course, download music and also play music through our Amazon Echo, Alexa!
    I have very eclectic tastes as far as music is concerned, a bit of trad jazz is about bearable, but modern jazz is dreadful. There’s usually something to like about every other genre though, apart from punk and the obvious rubbish!
    I love Frank Sinatra, my mum did, and our son does too! We’re very lucky to have lived at the right time to have heard wonderful voices such as belonged to Frank, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Freddie Mercury, Luciano Pavarotti, Johnny Cash, Maria Callas etc.
    I was in the choir at Grammar school, but at the age of fourteen my voice changed and from then on I wasn’t so much a mezzo soprano as a messy soprano!

    • Margaret Powling

      I have seen Amazon Echo, but really, I have no idea what it is, ha ha! That’s how behind the times I am, Colette! Like us, you enjoy a wide variety of music but yes, modern jazz … h’m! Mind you, we don’t go in for punk and other rubbish as you so aptly put it! Yes, we are lucky to have lived at the right time, to have hears these wonderful voices. I’d forgotten to include Roy Orbison, and of course, Maria Callas – not a perfect voice, but what a voice! Yes, I was in my grammar school choir, too! My voice eventually went from mezzo to alto, for the South Devon choir. I am so glad that we have kept all our LPs, I love the sound. I also have some boxed vinyl sets of some opera – Marriage of Figaro, Britten’s War Requiem, some Verdi. Wonderful stuff.

  5. Am ashamed to admit that my collection of vinyl records resides in the understairs cupboard and has done since we moved in 10 years ago! The biggest problem is that I no longer have a turntable to play them on and replaced many of my favourites years ago with CD’s (which themselves have now been replaced by our Sonos which holds our whole collection) We have previously spoken about getting a new record player, perhaps it’s time to do just that. My taste is very eclectic, ranging from indie to classical with everything in between with perhaps the exception of modern jazz. My darling Mum was a huge fan of Frank Sinatra as well.
    We saw Julian Bream in concert many years ago at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, I was totally absorbed in the music, wonderful.

    • Margaret Powling

      What a shame you don’t have a turntable now, Elaine. Put that on your Christmas List! However, don’t get a cheap one. We bought one for younger son and daughter in law, one they requested, but it had to be returned as it just wasn’t good enough. I have no idea what a Sonos is, that shows you I’m terribly behind the times! I love the records we have of John Williams and Julian Bream playing together, indeed, the records are called Together and Together Again. We have seen John Williams play, too, but many years ago when he was a relatively young man. And another person who isn’t keen on modern jazz, just a cacophony of noise, to me!

  6. The list of coincidences is growing!! I, too, have sung with many choral societies. I’m a semi trained first soprano who can hit and sustain top C. The highlight of my singing career was singing a solo of Baa Baa Black Sheep in the Royal Albert Hall. This was by a Czech composer who had transcribed Baa Baa Black Sheep in about fifteen different ways. The basic tune was always there but he wrote various harmonies to accompany it and the solo was sung over these harmonies. I was the lead soprano soloist at school as well. My favourite pieces of choral music are the St Matthew Passion and the Messiah. When my school sang the Messiah I sang the main soprano solo of ‘ I know that my redeemer liveth ‘ Maybe I should investigate the South Devon Choral Society!!

    • Margaret Powling

      That is wonderful, Fiona. I could hit top C when I was very young, but sadly that ability went with age, and I’m now 2nd alto, if I can hit a note at all! I don’t know how long you’ve lived in my area, but you might have heard of my teacher, Miss Ethelwyn Widger. How wonderful to have sung in the Royal Albert Hall! Oh, I love Messiah, and I also love Elijah. I used to have an old recording (of my mother’s) of the soprano, Isabelle Bailey (I think she was a New Zealander or Australian) singing I know that my redeemer liveth. Yes, if you can still sing, then do investigate the South Devon Choral Society. My favourite singer of all time is Jessye Norman, and singing Strauss’s Four Last Songs, the only problem is they always make me cry!
      Amendment: I’ve just Gloogled Isobel Baillie (I even spelt her name incorrectly!) and she wasn’t a New Zealander at all, but Scottish. Where on earth I got the idea she was born in NZ or Australia, I do not know! She died in 1983 but had been a great oratoria singer.

  7. Hope you don’t mind, just testing to see if I can post a comment today!

  8. I did lose a comment I tried to send on this post yesterday; it said something like your site had timed out. But I’m sure it’s my computer, not your site. Anyway, I won’t try to rewrite my comment but will just say I really enjoyed this post, Margaret!

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, what a shame, Bess, that your comment was lost. Oh, computers … they’re lovely when they work, aren’t they, and then they decide to have minds of their own, it would seem! I’m glad you enjoyed the post on music (and also the various bookmarks!). The trouble with Jessye Norman’s wonderful voice is that it moves us to tears. Last night we played an LP that belonged to my mother and Jessye sang the glorious Sanctus from Gounod’s Messe Solenelle de Ste Cecile. If you don’t know this, then do find a recording. There might even be one you can listen to online. She also sings Goudnod’s O Divine Redeemer, and Franck’s Panis Angelicus. The LP is called Jessye Norman – Sacred Songs. It’s absolutely beautiful.

  9. It’s on youtube and I’m listening now! Very beautiful. So clear a voice. Yes, when computers work, they are wonderful! Case in point: listening to music recommended just a few minutes ago from a dear blogger in the UK to a follower in Kansas! Your latest post is marvelous. Love the flamingos, peacock, and even the lizards! That garden center looks wonderful. What a nice place to shop or just look about. And I think your primroses look very lovely together!

    • Margaret Powling

      Glad you have been able to hear Jessye Norman singing those wonderful songs, Bess! And yes, it’s totally wonderful, is it not, that we can chat like this, me here in the south Devon on our little island in the North Atlantic/North Sea, and you in Kansas, in the very heart of America!
      So glad you like my latest post – I love to see the flamingos and to sit and have our pasty for lunch and have a peacock come up and stand next to us was lovely.

  10. Singing is a wonderful pastime – whether you do it in a choir or in the privacy of your car. I recently read a newspaper article about a new choir group being formed specifically for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It seems that many with Parkinson’s Disease feel isolated and have a higher rate of depression than the general population so these choir groups are encouraging them to come, have fun and connect with others – and perhaps most importantly, to do so in a supportive environment.

    We always have music playing in our house. Our radio is permanently tuned to a station which plays music from the 1950s to 1990s, so on any day you will hear Dolly Parton, The Shadows, etc. In fact when I first moved to the area and would listen to this station I had no idea how many songs Cliff Richard had sung ! I also have many vinyl records from my teens. Unfortunately several of them are in poor condition but I won’t part with them as I had to do a lot of babysitting to save the funds to buy them ha ha. Music is something that triggers many memories – much like food or certain aromas (such as perfume or aftershave). Aged care facilities which care for dementia patients have introduced some wonderful music programs which have helped staff and families ‘reach’ their otherwise ‘lost’ loved ones.

    Your matching of bookmarks to your books is further proof of your eye for colour, etc. I have several bookmarks but have two favourites which were given to me years ago by dear friends who bought them on their travels. I flinch if I see anyone fold back a (paperback) book or fold over the corner of a page to mark their spot in the book. The pedant in me believes all books should be treated with respect.

    • Margaret Powling

      What a wonderful idea that is, Lara – singing for those with Parkinson’s Disease. Singing is such a wonderful activity, not only the sound it creates, but the deep breathing which is so good for us, the mental activity if singing in a choir (knowing one’s part, following the conductor, etc) and the companionship, doing something with others. And, as you say, playing music also helps dementia patients. As soon as I hear certain pieces of music, I’m transported back to either when we bought the music, or when we used to listen to it together. But some pieces are almost too painful to play, such as Strauss’s Four Last Songs, we can’t play those without weeping and that’s both of us! (But it has to be Jessye Norman singing them, no other singer does them justice in our opinion.)
      I always used to listen to the radio a lot, it was always tuned to our Radio Four which was mainly speech – information, plays, books, that sort of thing, and then I’d listen also to Radio Three, which then focused on classical music. These days I seldom put the radio on as I tend to prefer peace and quiet, it’s only recently we have been playing music again (and enjoying it, too.)

      • Hi. Loving your blogs. I collect book marks and have done since 1989. They are kept in three albums. I have over 200 from all sorts of places. I use plain leather book marks when reading

        • Margaret Powling

          How lovely to collect bookmarks, Lillian. I don’t collect them in albums but I just have an assortment of postcards, photographs, bookmarks that I rootle through when I want one to go with a book. But they must look very pretty, placed in albums.

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