A Little Musical Remembrance

Soon enough now, it will be nine years since Mum died. It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long, ‘seems like yesterday in many ways. 

As I have done in other years, around this time, I feel the urge to write something about her. To evoke her just a little. But it’s been tricky this year. I didn't feel the urge to be terribly maudlin because she never was. 

My mind kept coming back to how she was always singing around the house and how she never ever sang anywhere else. Whatever chore she was about, it was always accompanied by a snippet of some song. 

It’s a lasting memory but it’s also one I’ve touched upon in several bits of writing already.

When I woke up this morning, it being Saturday and all, I could tell that my brain was in a bit of a pleasant post dreaming muddle. This, for me, is a ripe time to find an idea. Logic is still a few moments away and silly amorphous things can often shape themselves into something useful, if you let them.

So, feeling bleary-eyed, I deliberately set my mind to the problem of what to write, to see if some fuzzy logic might be applied to it.

Again, my thoughts went to the songs she used to sing and how they had come to define her for me more than practically anything else. I remembered how, when she was alive, I had toyed listlessly with an idea of preparing a collection of her favourite songs and playing them at some future party that was never thrown for her.

Then the fuzzy logic thing worked and I made a connection I would not have made when wider awake. 

At Christmas, my boys had bought me a month’s subscription to Spotify so that I could try it advert-free. The month came with another two free months so I am, at the moment, pleasantly without interruption in my music appreciation.

There it was. Simple as that. 

I could make a playlist of some of the songs that Mum used to sing around the house. I could share it on here and nobody would ever have to listen to it or anything, that wouldn’t matter. I would have evoked her one more time, by pulling up the songs she loved from the same ether where she now perhaps resides. 

It was fun to do. It’s not a definitive list by any means. There’s only fourteen songs on there, after all, and her repertoire was vast. What is does reflect, though, was the quirkiness of many of her song choices and also how she seemed to migrate towards the playful and the slightly unusual. 

Here’s the link to the Spotify playlist:


There are notable omissions. Although ‘Show Me The Way to Go Home’ is on there (and Mum’s singing of it dates back to long before ‘Jaws’ made it a household thing), Mum’s version was a complex one that I can never find anywhere but in my memory. If you can help, please do. Her version had lines like;

They showed me the way to go home and they put me on an icy plank bed, they gave me no clothes to cover my toes, no pillow for my head. Next morning, present at court, the man with the sheikh’s beard on said “… …. Nine bob is the fee, pay up, get out, and go home.” 

I kid you not, she sang that and, as far as I can tell, nobody else ever did even though somebody must have. 

‘Little Mister Baggy Britches’ is another key song that is missing. I wrote (and sang) about that one on this post (click here for link). If anyone has a link to an online recording of it, I’d sure like to hear it.

One of the songs seems particularly incongruous, I think. In Nineteen Seventy Nine, a new local radio station was warming up in Sligo, doing test transmissions. They only had three records as their playlist and one of them was ‘Oliver’s Army’ by Elvis Costello. Mum immediately added it to her performances as she cleaned the kitchen or made the dinner. It fitted in with all the other older hits as effortlessly as we all fitted in that little house by the river. 

The remarkable thing about these songs is that none of them were records we had in the house. For quite a few of them, the only place I ever heard them was Mum singing them. This remained the case for most of my life, until I looked them up here in later life or, once or twice, was side-swiped by one of them coming on the radio. For me, most of these songs only existed through her.

For you non-Spotify people, I’ll add a comment to the post shortly which lists the songs, just on the off chance that you feel like Youtubing one or two of them or in case one of them evokes a memory for you.

Like I said, there’s no obligation to go to Spotify and certainly no requirement to hear the songs. It’s enough that I gathered them for myself and put them together in one place in her treasured memory. 

That will do.

Initial Final Thoughts

This day last week, there were some visitors in the house and the telly was on in the corner with nobody paying any attention to it. I glanced over at it, at one point, and saw that there was some downhill skiing on.

It was a remarkable image, looking down from the top of the ski run to the tiny village below. Usually the television pictures seem to level out and nullify the potency of a ski slope but this one seemed to capture it well, the sense of edginess and danger, the thundering steepness.

This image evoked a sleepy random thought in my head. Something along the lines of, “the next time I go skiing, I must remember to stand at the top of the run for an extra moment, to appreciate the view.”

It was the kind of thought that must run through a person’s mind a hundred times a day without ever getting interrogated or mulled over.

That’s what would normally have happened with this thought. I usually wouldn’t have even remembered thinking it, a few moments later. But this time, another part of my brain just happened to be paying attention too. It was the part of the brain that tries to catch me when I’m doing something stupid. Just as I had finished thinking my disposable skiing thought, just as I was about to turn my attention back to the visitors in the room, this part of my brain piped up.

“Hey, fuckwit, what do you think you're doing?”

“Nothing. I was just thinking about the next time I go skiing.”

“Really? Is that all? Well, let me give you a free wake up call here, sunshine. You haven’t been skiing in over twenty five years, you have a game knee, and you’re fifty one years old. Hear me on this, you are never going skiing again, pal. Not ever. Never.”

The combined awfulness and absolute truth of this left-brained interjection hit me quite forcibly. I looked again at the mountainous images on my screen. 

Never again.

Never.

Again.

It rather set the tone for the rest of the week. I kept doing little things and that same argumentative part of my brain kept wondering how many more times I would get to do them. Which time would be the last? An old song came on the car radio, one I only heard once every couple of years, and I was busy humming along when the brain voice interjected and asked me if I thought I might ever hear it again. If so, when? And would that next time be the last. Would this time be the last?

It was a momentary glitch, this uncharacteristic moribundity, and it’s largely gone again now, unless this writing brings it back. If it does, I shall have to give myself another stern talking-to like I did during the week.

It’s okay to be a little self-indulgent sometimes. “Gosh, I’m getting on a bit,” and “Golly, I'll never-ever do that again.” It’s fine. But then you’ve got to get over it, son. The world is full of ever-new eventualities, some of them great, some of them admittedly awful. Regardless whether they are good or ill, they will play themselves out as they must. Greet them as best you can and don’t waste your bloody time moaning over spilt milk. Or even (more to the point) milk that has been drunk and enjoyed to the full in the days when it was at its creamiest and its very best.

Maybe I’ve done my skiing but there’s a thousand other things I haven’t done and will do when I get the chance. Bring them on, I’m ready.

Now, dear visitors, that's enough skiing on the telly. 

Would you like some tea?