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Tuesday 22 September 2015

You've Got A Friend

As I've mentioned here before, I have a couple of notebooks, of different sizes, that I tend to carry around with me. They’re very useful for scribbling down thoughts, ideas, quotes and overheard comments etc.

In one of those I wrote down the following thought, “Music is like a life-raft on the turbulent seas of life”.
I know why I wrote those words at that time, although I’m not going to share that here.
The point being that there are times in all of our lives when we need a bit of comfort, and for many of us at least a part of that comfort comes via music. You only have to listen to the lyrics of many songs to realise that this is nothing new.

Sometimes we need music to raise our spirits, to reassure us, to cry along to, to escape into, or to motivate us. There is music and a song for every occasion, emotion, mood, mindset and situation, and if you have an open mind, musically, there will always be something out there that can work wonders in one of those aforementioned situations.
I expect we’ve all been there at one time or another during our lives? In fact I’d suspect that you’re lying if you say that wasn’t the case.

I’ve been a passionate music lover for as long as I can remember. I’ve played the drums in local bands, been a DJ on local radio and with mobile disco’s, I’ve written about music in various publications and on websites.
Music has been a constant and huge part of my life and I’m very grateful for that. I find it hard to see how it can be any other way for anybody and consequently the people that I tend to mix with and choose to be friends with, usually share that passion, albeit to varying degrees.
But over recent years music seems to have increased in importance to me and I’ve found myself turning to it more and more often, and not just because of a personal situation either, but often just because I’ve felt the urge to listen to music.

I realise that music is now more accessible than it’s ever been. It seems to be everywhere, inescapable even, in this Internet age. We can find it at the click of a mouse, or the tap on a smartphone. Whether that is a good thing, or not, is a topic for another day....

I’m not sure if I’m alone, or unusual, in feeling this way, but I suspect I’m not. The more I talk to people of my age, this seems to be a common theme. Yes, as I’ve mentioned, the people I mix with are musically minded people, but even so.....

As we grow older the amount of music that we become familiar with and hear, especially if you’re open minded to it, naturally increases. Using myself as an example, I was born in the late 1950’s and since the mid ’60’s have been absorbing music of varying genre’s. Some of that is bound to sink in, like a form of osmosis, regardless of how you feel about the music itself.
I’m sure we can all recite the lyrics and sing along to songs that we’d forgotten all about, or to songs we’d rather we didn’t remember! Why can I always sing along to songs that I dislike?

Music is also something that continues to deliver, often because no matter how many times we listen to a particular song, or piece of music, there always seems to be something new to discover within it.
I have often found myself listening to a song for the umpteenth time, and suddenly hearing the lyrics, as if for the first time, and finding that they really resonate with a particular time in your life, a situation you’ve been in, or are going through.
Funnily enough, I was having a conversation with a friend about this topic just last week. A conversation during which we both mentioned exactly the same number one song from the 1980‘s. We had both heard the song recently and we’d both been suddenly struck by the relevance of the lyrics, even though we’d both listened to the song countless times over the years.

The musical library in my head is expanding everyday. More songs are being added and old songs from the distant past, are being dredged up and remembered, often like old friends. A snippet of a song on the radio, in a film, or even on a TV commercial, can transport you back decades to another time, and another place. Music, just like the sense of smell, has the power to do that.

Music can be like that life-raft, something we can cling onto in times of need. But it can also be a time-machine, transporting us back a day, a year, or even decades, to times past.
Maybe that’s the ultimate beauty of music? It can mean many different things to many different people, and we can all use it for our own ends, and needs, whatever they may be.
What else can provide such a ubiquitous and enjoyable service?

PS: Since writing this I’ve come across another note I’d written, this time on my phone. Who needs a notebook these days eh?
It was ‘scribbled down’ some months ago now: “Music is a refuge, a safe haven and a loyal friend. One that you can rely on in times of trouble”.

Music is a loyal friend that doesn’t answer back, or question you or your actions. A friend that always says exactly the right thing, at just the right time.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Ladybird By Design

"The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there"

That quote is actually the opening line to L.P Hartley's classic 1953 novel, 'The Go-Between'. If that statement was true back then, it is still equally as relevant today, if not more so.

This was brought home to me on Friday when I was lucky enough to attend a preview for the 'Ladybird By Design' exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. The exhibition, which started yesterday and runs until 10th May, is a celebration of 100 years of Ladybird books.

For anyone of a certain age, the mere mention of Ladybird books will usually transport you back to your childhood. If you were a child, or even a parent, between the late 1950's and the early 1980's you will probably have vivid memories of reading at least some of the 600+ titles that have been produced by Ladybird during their 100 years. These books have been read and treasured throughout those 100 years, but those years mentioned above were certainly their heyday.

While the books themselves will bring back childhood memories, it is the artwork and illustrations, that were specially commissioned for the books, that will really take you back to that bygone age.

Whichever series of Ladybird books those illustrations come from, be it People At Work, Shopping With Mother, Aventures From History, How It Works etc etc, the sheer quality and attention to detail of the artwork springs out at you from the page.

The exhibition itself houses over 200 examples of the original artwork that graced those books. These are the actual illustrations that went into the finished books and they come complete with the artists annotations and notes. This is the first time that such an extensive collection of these artworks has ever been collected and displayed together.

For more about the history of Ladybird books and to see many of the images used in the exhibition, it is well worth watching this offiical video. Included in this video is Lawrence Zeegan, who has written the 'Ladybird By Design' book which accompanies this exhibition.

Ladybird By Design from De La Warr Pavilion on Vimeo.

I was fortunate enough to be able to walk around the complete exhibition alone and while doing so I found myself scribbling down notes about certain aspects that jumped out at me, or struck me at the time. I'll share some of those here:

These Ladybird books are a time capsule that show a bygone age, albeit a sanitised version.
Since the late 1950's the world has gone through some huge changes, especially with regard to technology, work, class and social order.
We live in a completely different world today, but at least we have a record of those days. These books and their illustrations provide us with what is almost a mini social history of Britain. The vibrancy of the colours and the attention to detail in the artworks really bring that home.

This is a world where the family shop on the high street is still king, before the rise of big supermarkets. A pre Internet, mysterious world, where international travel was a dream, or an aspiration, rather than an regular occurrence and the British Empire is still clinging on in some far flung corners of the globe.
A fast changing, but exciting, world where space travel and nuclear power are the future and computers still fill a whole room. An innocent world, where families left their front doors unlocked and where babies were left in prams outside of those small shops.
A non PC world, where everybody knew their place.
It is also a disappearing world. Many of the trades and jobs portrayed no longer exist and have been replaced by technology, or have been 'outsourced'.

I suppose the question many who lived through those past decades may inevitably ask themselves, especially after walking around these galleries, is "was the world a better place then?"
I've no doubt that some of the grandparents taking their own grandchildren to Ladybird By Design may well think so, but I'm not so sure. After all, this is a view of the world through rose tinted eyes, with not a hair out of place.

The past is indeed a foreign country and they do do things a bit differently there. But like even the best holiday, it is nice to return home afterwards to what is familiar to you.

But don't take my word for it, go and see Ladybird By Design for yourself, you won't regret it.

Monday 12 January 2015

Did You Ever....?

Did you ever have one of those opportunities that came completely out of the blue?
So much so that at first you didn't even realise it was there and the people you were working with probably didn't either.
Like a fire, it starts with a spark from an unforseen source and spreads from there.

Then, over the course of a few months and after many discussions and meetings, there is a creeping realisation that you may well be onto something big, something with real potential, something you had not even considered a short period before, something you weren't looking to do and something you had certainly never tried before.

But then the brick wall that has been lurking on the horizon the whole time, comes racing up to meet you. The brick wall that you knew was there, but didn't want to confront for fear of scuppering the whole project. The brick wall that you forlornly thought you may be able to circumvent, but in reality could only break through by creating big problems elsewhere. Problems you thought you could somehow overcome, but you now realise that that was a bit of a pie in the sky dream.

So with a heavy heart you collectively decide to abandon the project, before it gets too far advanced, and aim to go for something more realistic, hoping that the spirit will remain intact and that the time spent on it will not have been in vain.

After much reflection you now look back on the time, thought, work and emotion you put into the project with fond memories. The topsy turvy life you lived throughout that period will slowly return to normal and you know that the decision made to abandon the project was, most probably, the correct one to make.
That doesn't make that decision any easier to bear, but....

Now, naturally, you can't help but think of what might have been:
- Would the project have fully realised the potential you imagined?
- What might it have led to?
- Could you have done anything differently to help it succeed?
- What if circumstances had been different?

Whatever the answer to those questions, which in all likelihood will never be answered, nothing can take away the high hopes, good times and fun you had along the way.

Sometimes a journey can be as rewarding as reaching the final destination.
Maybe this was one of those occasions?
Only time will tell I guess?

Well? Did you ever?

Thursday 1 January 2015

Another Year Over......

...... And a new one just begun.

I've written about, or at least referenced, New Year resolutions quite enough over the past few days. But there's always room for at least one new angle on a particular topic and this is one I personally think is very relevant to most, if not all, of us.
It concerns a blog post that I became aware of a few months ago and I know it's one that has generated quite a lot of publicity since it was first written back in 2009.
That blog post was written by an Australian ex palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, and is called "Regrets Of The Dying".

When I first discovered it I shared it via social media, but at that time I only saw the headline list of those regrets. Those being:
1 - I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2 - I wish I didn't work so hard.
3 - I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4 - I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5 - I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Although that list stayed with me, it wasn't until recently that I actually read the complete post which expands on those five main points and explains more about the reasons for the regrets of those patients in Bronnie Ware's care.
As she writes in that original post "For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives..... When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again." Hence that list above.

If you've not read the full post, I suggest you do.
When you have, I've no doubt that at least some of those five regrets will jump out at you and make you ponder, they certainly did for me.
I consider myself to be very lucky in that I have done quite a lot in my life that I am proud of, and have done things that many others haven't. But that doesn't mean that I don't have much that I still want to achieve, or at least try to do, in the future.
I also know that there is one point on that list that requires attention.....

I think it's probably unrealistic for anyone to do everything they want to do with their life, however hard we try, for a variety of reasons. But if you at least have the courage to try, even if you fail, those ultimate regrets will be fewer in number.

None of us can change our past, as much as we may want to. But we do have an opportunity to change our future, so why not do it and what better time to start than now? It is a new year after all.

Bronnie Ware's post ends with these words, "Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness."

What are you waiting for?

PS: Bronnie Ware has since expanded on that original blog post and written a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.