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#SaturdaySongs No.7 – Every December Sky

December 3, 2016 27 comments

As we move into December I thought I’d devote my #SaturdaySongs this month to the month itself and to Christmas. I love this time of year, and always have done ever since I was a child. Call me naïve but I really believe that there is an added warmth to human spirit in this month, probably as a counter to the falling temperatures! I’ve often posted in previous years, showing videos of favourite Christmas songs and my own reviews of that year’s crop of Christmas TV ads. No ads this year though: I haven’t yet seen one that I like and I wouldn’t want to fill a post with expletives! But I may be posting a few more Christmas songs – possibly on days other than Saturdays too!

My first December choice is this one:

In this country Beth Nielsen Chapman is sadly underrated, but she has written some of the most beautiful songs of the past 20 years. This one was on her 2002 album Deeper Still. To my shame I’d not heard of her before but was introduced to her music, as with so many other artists, by the national treasure that is Bob Harris – Whispering Bob, as he has been known since his early 70s days on the Old Grey Whistle Test TV show. In the early 00s his weekly show on BBC Radio 2 ran from 10pm till 1am on a Saturday evening, and as I was often engaged in Dad’s Taxi duties at that time I managed to listen to quite a lot of them. So it was on a December evening in 2002 (21st December, to be precise) when I was sitting in my car, in the car park of the pub/restaurant where my older daughter had a Saturday job as a waitress. Bob played this and something about the beauty of the song, blended with a cold, clear, frosty night, entranced me from the outset. I bought the album, which remains a favourite to this day, along with many other of Beth’s releases. The male voice, by the way, is John Prine, whose music also deserves more attention than it receives.

img_1276Continuing the Bob Harris connection of this song for me, fast forward 9 years to 2011. I had been diagnosed with depression in October of that year, and was finding it difficult to do the basic daily stuff. I’m still not sure how I did it but I tweeted Bob a request that he play this song on his Saturday night programme. By then the BBC had shunted him back to a midnight-3am slot and, as luck would have it, in 2011 these were the first three hours of Christmas Day. Bob had put out a call on Twitter for suggestions for music for his programme, and took the trouble to reply to my slightly cheeky tweet – I promised I’d listen to the show if he played this – with the words ‘Deal! Beth’s in!’

We both kept our promise, as you can see from the screenshot from his amazing website. I listened and enjoyed three hours of magical music, and somehow the restorative powers of music helped me get through a difficult time. It is no coincidence that music is used as a therapy in mental health treatments: in addition to entertaining us it can do so much to help our mood. Like many of Beth’s songs, this one contains a real message of hope, and that is what I think I took from it, even on the first listen. I hope you like it as much as I do.

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New Beginnings?

December 30, 2015 11 comments

At this time of year everyone takes stock in some way. We look back at the past year and ask ourselves how it was for us, what we liked and didn’t like about it, what we could have done better, and what we have learned to take forward into next year and beyond. In doing so we have plenty of help from the media: those news reviews of the year on TV, the various end of year ‘awards’ pieces so beloved of newspaper and magazine columnists, and the (not) really uplifting montages of those public figures who have died in the past year. I blog with WordPress (other blogging hosts are available) and each year they contribute to this by providing their authors with a brief report on our blogging year. I have now had four of these and have opted to repost them here each year as a kind of record, as much for my own amusement as for yours, but they are building into a little catalogue now. I posted the latest earlier today: here, if you missed it (how could you? where were you!).

Previously I have posted these without really thinking much about what they have meant for my blog but there has been a big change this year, which encouraged me to look more deeply. In both 2013 and 2014 I received over 20,000 page views, whereas in 2015 this reduced to around 11,000. I know I’m not the most regular or consistent of bloggers but I didn’t think I deserved that! But the big numbers hide some important pieces of information for me. Since the early days I have linked my blog to the US site Blogsurfer, which has given me a major part of my traffic: in 2013 and 2014 it accounted for around 17,000 page views each year. But 2015 has seen a massive decline in these numbers, and it has only produced around 4,000 views. Turning that around gives me a large increase – from 3,000 to 7,000 – in non-Blogsurfer traffic. I have no idea why Blogsurfer has dropped off, although there have been several occasions when the site has been down, but these wouldn’t account for that much difference. I can only assume that the user numbers for the site as a whole have fallen, or that its users are fed up with me! The other piece of data that is very important to me is the actual number of blog followers. The figure shown here includes all of the ways in which I link my posts, including Twitter, which is the biggest by a distance. This masks the actual number of followers who have chosen to read what I write. As of today these reached 200, so thank you everyone. Looking back, 34 of those have joined since I started this year’s #NaBloPoMo, which makes my stated decision not to take part in this again in 2016 possibly short-sighted!

How to draw attention to yourself!

How to draw attention to yourself!

I have enjoyed much more interaction around my posts recently, which is hugely encouraging. There is nothing better for a blogger than to know that someone has read a piece, been interested by it and has felt something in it to prompt a comment. If we’re honest, writing a blog would be pretty pointless if we only had family and pets as readers, wouldn’t it! I’ve said before that I am planning some changes for my blog, and I intend to post more on mental health and retirement issues. But the past two months have shown me that I mustn’t do that at the expense of the occasional ramblings which seem to strike a chord with you. So you will still be entertained (?) by my odd thoughts on aspects of life, and by my selections of music and videos.

A fellow blogger made the point to me that her WordPress review told her that people were still reading her older posts and that she should do something about this. My reply was that the same thing happens to me and I am happy to see it. I have a number of posts that I still enjoy seeing again when I look through my back catalogue – some of which I have updated and recycled when the mood took me. In 2013 I posted No Sex Please, We’re British in response to one of WordPress’ daily prompts, and that is one of my most read posts of 2015. Tagging a post with ‘sex’ is a good way of drawing attention from search engines – and of instantly disappointing people!

My Facebook post - click to enlarge

My Facebook post – click to enlarge

The post from this year which meant most to me was Don’t Give Up, which marked my coming off anti-depressants after four years. This attracted a lot of likes and comments, both here and on Facebook, some of those from people who have been with me for the journey since I was first diagnosed with depression and then, a year on, from when I started this blog. I may post all sorts of other things but at the heart of what I’m doing here is my passion for supporting those who have mental illness, in the hope that in my own small way I can offer them some support and help remove the stigma that still, sadly, attach to those of us who have ever been diagnosed with such an illness. I suffered this again this year, from a now ex-friend who should have known better than to judge me. Wrongly, as it turned out. Her loss though, not mine. This is why I have called this post New Beginnings? – that question mark is very important, as recent followers may not be aware of this, and what I will be doing in 2016 may seem new to them. But for me it is a continuation of what I set out to do.

I have one final and very personal thought from 2015. When I started this blog it was at the instigation of my counsellor, who wanted me to turn what I had been writing for him as part of our therapy sessions into a blog, for others to read. At around the time that I was going through this I met someone via Twitter and we became good friends. She was an amazingly creative and funny person, who had suffered much more than her fair share of the horrible things that life can throw at us, but bore it all with wit, courage, charm and determination. She was the most wonderfully supportive follower of my blog, from when it first started, and we used to chat for hours about anything and everything. Throughout this period she was ill and being occasionally hospitalised, and this took a turn for the worse when she was diagnosed with cancer. But she recovered – so typical of her! Then life played its last and most cruel trick. Within weeks of being given the all clear she began to suffer debilitating migraines, which turned out to be brain cancer. Sadly, this was one battle too many, even for her, and she was taken from us in July. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but if I did the one for this blog would be to honour her memory and the support she gave me by doing more to support others. I am just one small cog in the great scheme of things but if I can help one person in her memory I will feel I have done a very little towards that. Cyd, I owe you that for your friendship and support.

I hope you will stay with me for the ride. Happy New Year!

Glass Half Full?

November 20, 2015 Leave a comment

As I’ve spent the morning rushing around from shops to doctor and back again I’m feeling distinctly tired, and lacking even my usual low levels of creativity today. So this seems like an ideal opportunity to revisit and recycle a previous post. For #NaBloPoMo I’m sharing all of November’s posts on BlogHer – after all, they run the show! – and readers on there won’t have seen this before. And any of my regulars who remembers this is either a genius or is seriously in need of a life! I wrote this one on May 5 2103, in response to one of WordPress’ daily prompts. I must have been lacking in original thought then, too! The link to WordPress still works, so I’ve left it in for you to see what others thought of their prompt, should you wish. Looking back at what I wrote two and a half years ago, I wouldn’t have said this differently now, although the recent terrorist atrocities do put a slightly more sinister context around my remarks about being bullied into agreeing with people. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da Life Goes On

Today’s Daily Prompt is the old question “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” There is of course a third possibility, that it is neither of these:

Blinded by science!

Blinded by science!

but only a pedant such as I would even consider such a thought! Actually, the science of that is beyond me anyway: given that I am blessed with the typical Virgo’s mind – logical, structured, boring – it’s a wonder I was always so bad at science when I was at school. But I was!

I’m rather hoping that the question is intended to be taken philosophically, rather than scientifically. At least that gives me a chance of answering it! The usual interpretation of the two approaches is:

Glass half-full = optimistic, positive

Glass half-empty = pessimistic, negative.

So what? Who’s to say if either of those is right or wrong? Actually, I think there’s a lot to be said for being a pessimist – that way, your expectations are likely at least to be met, if not exceeded, and that should be a cause for happiness  shouldn’t it? So, following that logic (I told you I was like that) I believe this means that pessimists are generally happy people. Now, what was the question again?

Oh yes, whether the glass is half-full or empty. My answer is: it doesn’t matter. Whatever best suits you and your outlook on life is the right answer for you: no one has the right to judge you and tell you which way to think. Look at Twitter, as I do fairly frequently. How often do you see people there telling you that your attitude, approach or beliefs are wrong if you differ from them? That’s a matter of choice, not a reason to be judged. Unfortunately, those who are like that tend to be lacking in self-awareness and unable to debate sensibly – they just want to bully everyone into agreeing with them. So if they tell you what’s in the glass they must be right? Total crap! You have a right to believe what you want, however ‘wrong’ it may be when judged by societal norms. Other people can then choose to agree or disagree with you, to like or dislike you and your beliefs and attitude. The world isn’t about to be knocked off its axis because you have the temerity to disagree with someone or see things differently from them. Anything extreme is likely to be filtered out by the majority view anyway – whatever that is.

So, believe what you want to. Look at the glass whichever way you prefer. It’s your choice, and it’s what helps define you as a person. The answer to the question

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

has to be:

YES!!

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