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#SaturdaySongs No.14 – Great Lake Swimmers

November 10, 2018 4 comments

When I reblogged my #SaturdaySongs post of songs for Bonfire Night last weekend, I had a slight pang of guilt, as I have posted so few of those recently. The idea for this post came about when, earlier in the week, I was having one of my late evening sessions watching YouTube videos. I was in the middle of a run of several by one of my favourite bands, the Canadian group Great Lake Swimmers, and was scrolling through the comments when I came across someone saying they were looking forward to seeing the band play in London. This struck a chord, as I went to that show, and I then had one of those D’oh lightbulb moments: the comment was by me! Here it is, in all its glory, second one down:

As this was six years ago I guess I can be forgiven for not recalling this, and in any event I rarely post comments on YouTube so wasn’t really expecting to see myself there! This brought back some lovely memories of the gig, which actually has a very special meaning for me, and it reminded me that I had written a post about it. After digging back into the darkest recesses of my library of posts, I found the piece. It was originally written on 23 April 2013 in response to that day’s WordPress Daily Prompt. I used to write a lot of those, until they spoiled it all by moving to single word prompts that did nothing for my limited imagination. These prompts have now stopped: it seems I may not have been the only one who didn’t like the change! I was going to do this as one of my reblogs but I thought the occasion deserved a fuller post, so I’m going to share the full text of what I originally wrote and will then round things up at the end. Here’s me in April 2013:

Daily Prompt: Earworm

“The question posed in today’s prompt is “What song is stuck in your head (or on permanent rotation in your CD  or MP3 player) these days? Why does it speak to you?”

The song which I have played most since the album it’s on came out last summer is unlikely to be known by many. It is ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ by the Canadian band The Great Lake Swimmers. Here’s the official video:

“Easy come and easy go

That’s what they say when they’re about to go broke

So try not to choke

And put your arms around me and don’t ever let go”

Have you even heard of them, let alone know their music? They have been together in various incarnations since 2003 and the album this song is on – ‘New Wild Everywhere’ – is their fifth. If you’d like to find out more about them they are at www.greatlakeswimmers.com

Apart from the fact that I love this band’s music, and this song in particular, there are two answers to the question about why it speaks to me. Firstly, the message is a simple one: “everything can be collapsing around you, but I’m here to look after you” – I know it’s more complex than that, but that’s what I take as the underlying message of the song. It’s a message I like and which I think we all want to have from a special someone if life reaches the point of being dismantled around us, as in the video, or should we be going through a difficult time. As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my previous offerings, I am in recovery from depression and started this blog to encourage others that things can and do get better. But I don’t just sail blithely through life, and I still have my black dog days. I had a spell of these last week and didn’t really start feeling better until yesterday morning. This was the first song I played – it is hard not to get carried along by the tune, and the words seemed comforting after a very rough few days. That’s what the song does for me.

The second level is that this band will always be special to me for a very personal reason. Before I was ill I used to love going to live gigs, usually at least once a month. I went through a period of nearly two years when I just didn’t feel like going to one – Great Lake Swimmers at Bush Hall in London, 26th November 2012, was my first after all that time. Being able to overcome my apprehension at going, on a horrible wet Monday night, to be part of a crowd and to enjoy losing myself in the music again is something that will stay with me forever. And just to prove I was there, a very quick snippet of ‘Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife’ :

Just to finish that evening off, a final part of the story: on the tube home I tweeted the band and thanked them for a great show. Most bands don’t reply to fan tweets like that, but GLS did – I had a very nice tweet back from Miranda, the rather lovely red headed one, saying how much they appreciated that. The perfect end to my first show after the long break!

I hope you have a special song, piece of music, poem, painting or whatever that says something for you when you need a comforting ‘voice.’ Why not share yours via the comments box, it would be interesting to see what helps, comforts and encourages you.”

Back in the here and now: as a little bonus I thought I’d also give you the song on which I made my comment. It is the title track from what was then the band’s new album, referenced in the 2013 post, and the video is nice, too:

I still play that a lot nowadays. As I said: special band for me, with special memories.

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Facebook

September 25, 2018 14 comments

I don’t know if it’s the same for those of you WordPress users who pay a premium for your site, but we cheapskates who just use the free version recently received an email notifying us of an ‘improvement’ being made by Facebook. This email came from WordPress – I don’t recall hearing anything from Facebook about it directly. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think so. This so-called improvement was the withdrawal of the facility to link our blogs to our personal Facebook pages, which meant that we would no longer be able to share our posts with our friends. No doubt most of mine were hugely relieved at this, but it was an option I know at least a few of them used to read my posts, though they don’t actually follow my blog. We could, of course, still copy a link to each post into Facebook, but somehow that extra little step didn’t seem quite the same.

I read elsewhere that this change was part of Facebook’s efforts to reduce the amount of ‘fake news’ their site was playing host to. The words ‘sledgehammer’ and ‘nut’ spring to mind – this seems to me to be an incredibly extreme reaction by the company as part of the long overdue need to get its act together. Whilst there would, no doubt, have been some who were using their blogs to promote fake news, this ability to link a personal blog to a personal Facebook page could hardly be thought to be a major cause of the proliferation of such crap. I really don’t believe that I could be accused of spreading as much fake news in my sporadic posts to my small group of Facebook friends as Fox News peddles every day to millions of gullible morons in the US and other countries in which they broadcast! A small aside here: Fox News is no longer available in the UK on the biggest satellite network – Sky – as the viewing figures were so pathetically low that they decided it wasn’t worth paying any longer for the access. I now have to get my laughs elsewhere.

As if that change wasn’t enough, Facebook compounded its stupidity by allowing us to share our posts directly to a separate page from our personal one. Yep, if we wanted to spread fake news via our blog direct to a small, private group of friends, we couldn’t – but if we were prepared to set up a public page, which could be seen by anyone, that would be alright. Is it just me, or is that breathtakingly idiotic? In effect they were saying that fake news on a small scale was wrong but it was perfectly alright on a large scale: they had taken the sledgehammer to the nut but had hit the tree instead.

I follow quite a few blogs for which there are discrete Facebook pages, and I’ve hit the ‘like’ button on several of these. More often than not, they are the ones with much larger followings than mine – sometimes, but not always, commercially oriented – and I hadn’t really considered doing this before, as I felt I wasn’t in the same league as them. I gave it a fair amount of thought and eventually decided to set up such a page a month or so ago. I haven’t promoted it at all since then apart from a passing reference in my post 300 Not Out – A Retrospective  and this probably explains why, to date, only one good and loyal friend has ‘liked’ the page! It is called – rather imaginatively I thought – Take It Easy . You can click on that link to find it, or on the site name in the image to the right of this post. Or if neither of those suit you, here is the full web address: https://www.facebook.com/takeiteasyblog/

Why would anyone bother, I hear you asking? Well, apart from the ability to read my posts there, I intend it to be a place where I expand on what I do in the blog itself. As regular readers will know, I love music, and often put on the headphones for a late night YouTube session, in the course of which I share the occasional song with my Facebook friends. I am now going to put up a regular ‘Song of the Day’ on the new Take It Easy page, starting from today – go take a look! These will be separate from the irregular series of #SaturdaySongs that I will still be doing occasionally: those are songs which have some special, personal meaning or memory for me, whereas the Song of the Day will be more of dip into my musical taste, with a little explanation.

In addition to music, I’m intending to make the page a place where followers can go to find other things which interest me, but which I don’t want to devote a full post to. So you will, over time, find things which amuse and entertain me, as we can all do with some of that in our lives, can’t we? There will also be links to news stories that interest me on topics including, but not limited to, mental health, social issues and a little bit of politics. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it light, but some things are too important not to be raised and shared.  Basically, I’m intending it will become a magazine style page, with the blog as its core. I will of course cross-reference between the page and this blog, but I hope to make them complementary: I see no point in just setting up the page and only sharing posts, which regular followers will probably have seen already. I’d ‘love it, absolutely love it’ (©️Kevin Keegan 😂) if you’d visit the page and show your love and support by hitting the ‘like’ button, and I hope you’ll feel that to be a worthwhile investment of your valuable time, and will dip in regularly. Thank you in advance, and I hope to see you there – drop me a message if you do visit and let me know what you think.

And finally, to give you a taste of what you’ll find there, here’s a recent post that you won’t have seen on the blog:

(Very) late night music time. I’ve been listening to a lot of Celtic punk/folk recently, most of which doesn’t come from anywhere near Eire! There are the brilliant Dropkick Murphys, from Boston, USA. Then there’s the O’Reillys and Paddyhats who, as I’m sure you guessed from their name, are German 😂 Or you could try Selfish Murphy from, wait for it, Transylvania. Yes, really! But I’m giving you this, because I think it’s fantastic and contains a good allegory for today’s times about people fighting over nothing. This is the Rumjacks who, of course, are Australian 😉

See you soon on the Take It Easy page? 😊

300 Not Out – A Retrospective

August 29, 2018 29 comments

Recently I mentioned that I was planning something to mark my 300th post. Well, this is number 300, and the more observant among you will have noticed that it has been more than a month since number 299. The gap is much longer than I had intended, partly due to my natural indolence and a bit of illness, but more the result of the several false starts I made on the planned post. Finally, I’ve accepted reality: it just wasn’t working, so I’ve consigned it to the WordPress equivalent of the round metal file on the floor. I covered some of this ground in my recent-ish post 69 Months Later, but I’ve been looking back over what I have posted over the years, and post number 300 seems as good a time as any for a fuller reflection on what I’ve done, whilst using that as a stepping stone to the future. So…. here goes!

I’ve often restated why I began this blog so, at the risk of boring you, I’ll do a brief recap now to start off this retrospective (you have my permission to skip this bit if you’ve heard it before!). I was diagnosed in late 2011 with depression, and was off work for more than nine months. When I went back I was invited to take a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and, as part of this, I did a number of written exercises which got me thinking more than I had ever done before about me, my life, and what was important to me. After all, I was only 59 so it wasn’t too late to start! At the suggestion of my counsellor, who described my writing as ‘inspiring,’ some of these became the basis for my first few posts. These can be found under  ‘My Story’ in the menu above, and if you haven’t read them before I think they’re worth a few minutes of your time if you want to know where I’m coming from.

The point of doing this wasn’t to wallow in self pity, though: what would have been the value in that? I started blogging because I had realised how important our mental health and well-being is to us, and hoped that by sharing my own experience I could encourage others who might also be having a hard time to see that they weren’t alone. The response was encouraging, so I decided to keep going. Mental health is still, and will always be, important for me and it is a theme to which I return even if I’ve rambled off into the distance for many of my posts.

I think you can learn a lot about blogs from the category descriptions their authors use. I’ve tinkered a bit with my categories over the years, both to tighten up what was in danger of becoming an amorphous mass, and also to (hopefully) make it easier for readers to find their way around. The current menu structure has been largely unchanged for quite a while now: it works for me, and reflects what I’m trying to do. Dip in to some, if you haven’t before. You’ll see that some just take you to the most recent post in that category, while others give you a sub-menu of posts – basically, these are the shorter menus (some were getting ridiculously long!).

Over the past couple of years the number of people following my blog has increased tremendously. Many of you won’t have seen some of my earlier posts before, and I’ve mined my back catalogue a lot to share some of these. I usually add a new commentary, updating what I had previously said, and I hope you have enjoyed some of these. It should go without saying that any post which has been given this treatment is one that I enjoyed writing and revisiting, and sharing them again has the added benefit of sparing me from writing something new! As this is a retrospective, I thought I’d highlight a few favourite posts – both mine and those which appear to have been popular in others’ eyes.

Rather surprisingly, perhaps, when I went through my back catalogue I found quite a few posts that I hadn’t recycled. Some of these, such as those I produced in the two years that I participated in November’s National Blog Posting Month – post every day, watch the quality fall off a cliff – were probably best left alone, and I’ve long since removed the menu link for them. Masochists can always find them via the Archives tab on the right, and looking for the Novembers of 2014 and 2015! One early post which I rather like was Dazed And Confused, from August 2013, in which I had one of my little rants: the target for this was marketing, which is a worthy subject for a moan! Another post from 2013 has a great deal of meaning for me. In those days I often responded to the daily prompt offered by WordPress, back when these were meaningful thoughts, rather than the single word option they went for instead – which was responsible for more pointless doggerel appearing in my email notifications than I could ever have wished for. No surprise to me that these prompts were eventually discontinued. In this post, My Mind’s Eye, I was looking ahead to my imminent retirement and sharing the symbolism of the London Eye for what I wanted to do with my future. My two wonderful daughters took me out for a special day to celebrate my 60th birthday and retirement – I must have mentioned my wish to go on the Eye, as that was part of my day! For some reason it took me a while to write about that day, but I eventually got round to it three years later in A Celebration – another of my favourite posts.

Having begun this blog to post about mental health, I’m rather proud of the fact that my three posts which have achieved the most ‘likes’ from readers are all mental health posts: see the ‘Top Posts & Pages’ links to the right. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a huge readership for this blog, and a typical post is likely to pick up around 20 to 25 likes: these three posts are all comfortably beyond that and the top one, Mental Health Matters, has 140 likes. For some of you that is nothing significant but for me it is astonishing! It was written in response to a report in the paper, about the way that the commissioning bodies for health services here in the UK were diverting funds which were supposedly ringfenced for mental health treatments, using them instead for other services. It seems that I wasn’t alone in finding this outrageous! Those top posts can all be easily reached – just click on the titles – so please feel free to take a look at any that you may not have seen previously. Mental health has been a recurrent theme for me. I used to do a regular series of ‘Dates To Note’ which were usually about health and social care subjects. Mental health featured often in these posts, which have their own menu entry above – as, of course, does mental health itself. If you’re interested, you’ll find my most recent posts – from May this year – under both menu headings. One of the aspects of mental health that has exercised me on several occasions is the way that it is stigmatised. This post from 2013 is an early one of this sort, and I have used that as the basis both for a reblog and a reworked piece. Sadly, this is still an issue now and I fear there may need to be another post of this kind when the time comes this year. As I said, mental health is still an important issue for me, so expect to see more about it in future.

Another important subject for me is music, which has played a central role in my life since I was a child. I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, but I couldn’t live without music. It gets its own special mention in the tagline for the blog, and the blog’s title is that of one of my favourite songs. As well as countless sharings of songs at random times, I also have my occasional series of #SaturdaySongs where, by and large, I share the story of why a song is important to me. The menu gives you easy access to them all, but probably the most important piece for me which relates to a song isn’t in that series: I Hope You Dance, which I wrote to welcome the birth of my first grandchild, has that honour. I’m grateful that so many of you have hit the ‘like’ button for it: that means a great deal to me.

So, after 300 posts in nearly six years, where do I go from here? What does the future hold for my blog? I don’t imagine that I’ll change my blogging habits in any perceptible way: I’m not someone who can produce to a schedule and, since I retired and tried to remove stress from my life as far as possible, I imagine that there will still be erratic gaps or, more rarely, very short periods between posts. I don’t want to be driven by a clock or a calendar, but at least that means you’ll always have that element of surprise when an email notification lands on you! In short, the future for this blog will be more of the same though hopefully not in any boring way! A blogger I respect enormously told me in a comment today that I ‘have a fantastic blog.’ I’m not sure I deserve that, but I’d like to think that I can in some way inform, entertain and amuse you sufficiently to make you come back for more.

Those of you who, like me, use one of the free WordPress packages will, no doubt, have noticed that Facebook have recently made an ‘improvement’ which has meant that we can no longer share posts with our Facebook friends. They did this in the name of reducing fake news: frankly, I think removing this facility from those of us with personal blogs is ridiculous, but who am I to question Farcebook in its infinite wisdom? This has, however, prompted me to do something new. So, as you can see from the picture link to the right, I have…. cue fanfare…. started a Facebook page for this blog. I haven’t done much with it yet, but the intention is to post pictures, YouTube videos and news links which I hope you’ll find interesting and enjoyable, as well as being relevant and complementary to my blog. And, of course, new blog posts will all appear there – Facebook still lets us do that, probably because it gives them the option to bombard us with entreaties to ‘boost’ our posts. For a fee, of course. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be taking up their kind offer! So please, take a look and if you feel in the mood to ‘like’ the page I’d be very grateful. As I said, there isn’t much there yet, but I intend to make it somewhere worth spending a moment or two of your time. I expect I’ll be plugging it here a bit, too!

This has turned out to be a much longer post than I intended, so thank you for reading this far! Thank you also for following my blog – assuming that you do, of course – and for bearing with me for however much of the past six years or so that you’ve been here. Thank you also for all of the likes and comments: it’s good to know that so many of you have enjoyed at least a little of what I’ve been doing, and being a part of the blogging community and sharing those interactions is what really makes it all worthwhile.

See you again soon, I hope 😊

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