Born on this day – January 25 – in the year 1759, 'Rabbie Burns' is also known as ‘The Bard of Ayrshire’ and the ‘Ploughman Poet’. He came from humble farming stock and despite a life of struggles, grew a reputation which today sees him recognised as the national poet of his homeland - Scotland.
He wrote not just about the world around him but also commentated on the politics of the day, and after his death in July 1796 his work is said to have inspired the founders of the Romantic movement, liberalism and socialism.
Every January 25 around the world, especially where there is the glimmer of a Scottish population, is recognised as 'Burns Night' and ‘Burns Night Suppers’ are held to commemorate and celebrate this man who’s legacy has influenced so many generations.
I've read a few versions of how the Burns Night dinner came about. It's thought it was around 1801 when some of his friends and acquaintance met to remember Robert. After some confusion over when the poet was born, by 1803 they had settled on suppers being held on or around January 25th, his birthdate. The event has been a regular occurrence ever since and it now follows a pretty strict routine.
The supper always begins with the guests being 'piped in' ... that is greeted by the sound of the bagpipes.
The host welcomes the guests and the meal is blessed with The Selkirk Grace.
First course is soup, usually a Scottish soup or broth or similar.
Once again the bagpipes are full throttle as the cook enters the room bearing a large platter on which sits what is a sort of savoury pudding, containing sheep's heart, lungs and liver, minced up with onion, suet, oatmeal, spices and condiments. It's traditionally wrapped in an animal's stomach and - I've not tasted it yet - apparently it's a bit nutty.
Everyone in the room stands for the 'Piping in (of ) the Haggis' and the piper leads the dish all the way to the table.
And then, before digging in, there's a recital of Robert Burns' poem 'Address to a Haggis'. This is the centrepiece and highlight of the supper and pays tribute not just to Burns and his poetry, but to Scottish tradition and history.
At the line 'His knife see rustic Labour dicht,' the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife. At the line 'An' cut you up wi' ready slicht', he plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end.
As the poems ends, a whisky toast is proposed to the haggis, and the guests sit down to eat. The haggis is traditionally served with mashed 'tatties' (potatoes) and mashed 'neeps' (swede).
The meal usually includes dessert and a cheese course - all usually traditional Scottish recipes - and then coffee is followed by 'the water of life' - Scotch whisky. There are lots of toasts and speeches and the main speaker usually talks about Burns and his life or poetry. It could include a poem or a song ... and then there's a toast to the 'Immortal Memory of Robert Burns'.
Tradition then insists there's an 'Address to the Lassies' - originally a thanks to the women who had prepared the meal but now usually a comical thought about a man's view of women. It's not usually offensive, because what comes next is the 'Reply to the Laddies' ... a woman replies with her view on men.
I'm reliably informed that it's generally a long night which ends with a guest giving a vote of thanks and then, to end the evening, everyone is invited to stand, join hands, and sing perhaps Robert Burns's most famous and popular lyric ... Auld Lang Syne.
Set to a traditional Scottish folk tune and also sung across the world on 'Scottish Hogmanay' - the final night of the old year - ‘Auld Land Syne’ starts by posing a rhetorical question.
‘Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;’ is one version of the opening line. The other is ‘‘Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind;’
Is it right that old times be forgotten?
It’s an interesting question and is interpreted by some as a reminder to us all not to forget long-standing relationships and friendships, especially those that have been important to us.
As we live our lives, move from one experience to another, one relationship to another, develop in our careers and move on from our past, it’s easy to forget the people who, perhaps, have sacrificed so that we may have more. It’s easy to forget the relationships which, perhaps, have been the building blocks for our lives today, and for our futures.
So, even if we're not piping in the haggis tonight, or reciting poems and singing songs and toasting Rabbie Burns, let's take a moment to give thanks for all the people who have brought us to this moment in our lives and without whose influence we would be nothing.
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I'm always fascinated by how creative people come up with their ideas.
Plots for stories and novels, film scripts, song lyrics.
Although I know that sometimes inspiration appears to come from nowhere, and characters and music just appear in ones head or even dreams, at other times the idea might come from nature, real life characters, and even news stories.
And today I'm thinking about one of the best known rock and roll songs ever recorded ... American Pie written and recorded by Don McLean. It was inspired by an event which shocked the world on this day in 1959.
I can't remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside The day the music died
So bye, bye, Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey 'n rye Singin' this'll be the day that I die This'll be the day that I die
On February 3rd 1959 some of the biggest stars of the time, performers we now recognise as pioneers of American rock and roll, were killed in a plane crash.
Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens were on a national tour with a host of other musicians - what was dubbed the Winter Dance Party tour. They had been on the road since January 23rd, travelling from city to city and venue to venue in draughty and unreliable buses. It was all turning a bit disastrous, everyone was exhausted, morale was low and drummer Carl Bunch was hospitalised with frostbite in his toes - caused by the freezing conditions on the bus!
The next stop on the tour was Clear Lake in Iowa and Buddy Holly, who had organised the Dance Party, decided to charter a four seater aeroplane so that after the Clear Lake concert, they could fly to the next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota.
For Holly and two of his friends this would mean they could rest before the next show. But who to take?
Holly had gathered around him a band of fantastic musicians including Carl Bunch on drums, Waylon Jennings on electric bass and Tommy Allsup on guitar.
Jennings was to have a seat in the plane, but he gave up his place to J. P. Richardson (aka the Big Bopper), who had the flu. Allsup flipped a coin for the third seat and he lost to Ritchie Valens.
So it was that Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper were the trio who took their seats on that plane. Shortly after take off, just before 1am on February 3rd, the aircraft crashed into a cornfield.
When the news broke, the nation and certainly the world of entertainment and music went into mourning. Three of the biggest stars and the brightest talent had been lost. Buddy Holly was 22. Valens even younger ... just 17. And although Richardson was one of the older members of the band, he was only aged 28 on that fateful day.
Don McLean has revealed that he first heard about Buddy Holly's death on the morning of February 4th, from the newspaper headlines. The songwriter was then a 13-year-old and he was folding the papers ready for his newspaper route. Hence the line "February made me shiver/with every paper I'd deliver..."
Years ago, to mark a big birthday, I was treated to a night out at the theatre in Pretoria in South Africa with my brother and sister-in-law and enjoyed the musical 'Buddy', based on Holly's life and untimely death. The musical is around 30 years old, but it was a couple of decades before its creation, in autumn 1971, and 12 years after the fateful crash, that Don McLean released his iconic album 'American Pie' from which comes the single of the same name.
On January 15th 1972 it reached number one in the US Billboard charts and it stayed there for four weeks. The song also topped the charts in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the UK, the single reached number 2, where it stayed for 3 weeks on its original 1971 release. The song gained more popularity and a new audience when it was re-issued two decades later, in 1991. It was also listed as Number 5 in the Recording Industry Association of AmericaSongs of the Century project and in 2017, the original recording of McLean's 'American Pie' was chosen by the American Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry, being cited as "culturally, historically, or artistically significant"
As I said at the start, it's interesting where people get their ideas for genius, but I've always been more than intrigued by this song, not just because it mentions the events of February 3rd 1959, but also because it appears to have hidden references to other events and characters which influenced American culture.
Over the years, experts have endlessly unpicked and prevaricated over 'American Pie' and it's lyrics, trying to unravel it, especially the references which don't appear to relate specifically to that plane crash.
Don McLean consistently kept silent, but eventually, when the original manuscript of the song went up for auction in New York in 2015, he finally revealed the meaning of his lyrics,
He told us that it's a 'morality song' really ... it's not just about the loss suffered on that day, but its key theme is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation which the Feb 3 1959 events epitomise. Apparently, we now know, there are mentions of Elvis Presley ("the king") and Bob Dylan ("the jester"), and McLean also confirmed that the song culminates with a description of the death of Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old African American who was killed at the 1969 Altamont Free Concert. That controversial death and subsequent murder trial happened ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson.
Today, I remember 'The Day the Music Died', which is how, thanks to McLean's song, Feb 3rd 1959 will forever be remembered. And I think about and give thanks for the many talented people who have entertained us down the years and have left creative legacies in music, prose and poetry. Some have made a tremendous impact on our lives and on the world. Others not so much, admittedly, but we can't have it all.
Oh and by the way, that 'American Pie' original manuscript sold for $1.2 million! Well-deserved I would say, for a song that pays tribute to those who have gone before and given us so much.
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There are times when a song or a piece of music takes you by surprise, or unexpectedly reminds you of something in your past or takes you back to a moment in time.
That happened to me last weekend.
On Sunday at lunchtime in the UK the BBC broadcasts its long running and very popular television programme called Songs of Praise, a religious show which features Christian hymns sung in churches of different denominations across the country, and interesting interviews and features about the life of faith of the nation.
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when they haven't been able to go out and record big congregations singing at the top of their voices, Songs of Praise has kept alive and vibrant. They have recorded soloists, and small groups and choirs singing at safe distance, and new interviews are interwoven with some of the highlights of congregational singing recorded in recent years, before churches were all locked up to keep us safe.
I've been involved with Songs of Praise for several reasons down the years. I've sung in a few big congregations. As a PR working for different churches and faith charities, I've helped provide guests for the programme. And many years ago, I was actually a guest myself when the programme came to Jersey and I was interviewed for the show.
In addition to the church based programmes, every year Songs of Praise also hosts 'specials' like 'The Big Sing' and competitions like 'Gospel Choir of the Year' and 'Young Chorister of the Year' which enable the whole nation to enjoy some amazing singers and performances.
This year, for the first time, Songs of Praise is hosting a new contest - 'Gospel Singer of the Year' - and last Sunday (Jan 31) they held the semi-finals. The top three will be in the final today.
But that's not really why I'm writing this.
I'm inspired to share a song with you this Sunday. It was sung last weekend by one of the semi-finalists in the Gospel Singer of the Year programme. And it brought back a particular time in my life and a poignant memory.
In May 1985 my darling Dad died. It was way before his time. He was only 63.
He and mum were living in the UK at the time, ministering in a Salvation Army corps (church) in Kent, and when Dad passed away - or as we say in The Salvation Army ... when he was 'Promoted to Glory' - we held three memorial services. One in the UK church that he was leading at the time of his passing, and then ten days later, the main funeral and an evening celebration service at home here in Jersey, in his 'home' church.
In the celebration service I sang a song for my Dad. How I managed it I'll never know, and I am aware that I missed some of the top notes because of my tears, but I did it for him.
The song meant a lot to me but I have to admit that I haven't listened to it much in the intervening 35 plus years and I certainly haven't sung it in public again. In fact, I don't really sing solos much anymore.
But it was THAT song I heard on the Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year. It was sung beautifully and I was pleased that the performer is in the final. It brought a tear to my eye and caused a lump in my throat, but it's been going through my mind all this week.
So - just for you - I share it with you this Sunday.
The title of the song is 'My Tribute - To God be the Glory' and it was written by the amazing singer/songwriter Andraé Crouch, who also sadly is no longer with us. He mixed his own words to the eternal poetry of hymnwriter Fanny Crosby to create this beautiful song.
'My Tribute' has been sung by many artists down the years, including one of my favourite singers - Sandi Patty. But in the 1980s I also listened a lot to a Christian singer called 'Evie' ... and it's her version of this amazing song that I was inspired by.
It took me a while to find it online, and in the process I discovered that Evie is still performing, including this song, and looking and sounding amazing ... but this is the original recording I fell in love with.
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Geldof is quoted as saying he wrote the ballad after he heard that the shooter who fired at children in a playground, killing two adults and injuring eight children and a police officer, explained herself by saying "I don't like Mondays...."
Now, I have to say, many of us might admit that Monday is not our favourite day of the week ... back to work/school after the weekend and all that.
But I read something recently that helped me put a new spin on Mondays. It's a quote attributed to David Dweck, entrepreneur, investor and speaker ... and I love it.
Just by thinking of Mondays in a different way, putting a more positive spin on the day ... well this says it all really.
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It's almost the end of February - my second month writing this blog.
I have to say sometimes - just sometimes - I've struggled to be inspired as to what to bring you.
Shall it be another diatribe based on something that happened 'On This Day in History'? Just something that popped into my head, a picture I've seen, a quote I adore?
Or in this case, a piece of music?
Little known fact ... unless you're me or a few people I know who've heard me go on about this endlessly ... one of my favourite stage shows is 'Les Misérables'.
When it first came to London's West End I heard the soundtrack, saw some reviews and was absolutely determined to see it live. I didn't live in London so every time I was visiting the UK capital, for whatever reason, I would try to get tickets. To no avail!
One time I even queued for hours in the hope of getting some 'return' seats. Nothing!
In 1993 when I moved from Jersey to the UK, I was in a better position, and eventually, sometime down the line, I got my opportunity. Ticket in hand I found myself in the theatre.
It did not disappoint. Loved the songs, loved the staging, the characters. Everything.
And since then I've seen the show about seven times, including once at the Jersey Opera House, a most excellent amateur production a few years back by the Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club. They were amazing, and the best thing was a few of my friends were in the cast. Perfect.
Now, don't worry, I'm not going to go on endlessly about the show, or the film, or the (very long - five 'volumes') book that it's based on. I've read it by the way, and it's a classic!
But just to say, Victor Hugo, the French poet, novelist, and dramatist had started writing the tome in the 1840s but the book LesMisérableswasn't published until 1862. It's based on events which had taken place around thirty years previously.
Hugo had apparently walked the streets of Paris during the June 1832 rebellion which is the culmination of the novel. He saw those barricades. But the novel - considered one of the greatest of the 19th century - is not just about the conflict and unrest in France over the decades preceding 1832. It's a narrative on poverty, and injustice, and social and class division. Its themes are philosophical as well as historical.
Hugo was not just a writer but also a politician and he had very strong views on issues like social injustice, he was opposed to the death penalty and in favour of freedom of the press, among other things. And this, ultimately, got him into trouble.
When Louis Napoleon, Napoleon III, seized power in France in 1851, he established an anti-parliamentary constitution and when Hugo openly declared him a traitor the writer had to flee the country. He moved first to Brussels and then to Jersey.
Unfortunately he was expelled from this /my lovely island for supporting a local newspaper that had criticised the Queen of England, Queen Victoria. So Hugo moved just across the water to another Channel Island, to Guernsey, where he and his family settled at Hauteville House in St Peter Port. The writer lived in exile from October 1855 until 1870 - and by the way, you can visit the house even today to see how he lived.
It was while he was in Guernsey that Hugo created some of his best work, including completing LesMisérables. It delights me that this classic was written quite close to my home!
Anyway, back to the stage production. And all I'm going to do is share one of the fabulous songs from the show. Hard to choose, so many great tunes but this is one I've selected for you today, sung by the amazing Josh Groban.
Oh, and if you're wondering - I'm posting this today because Victor Hugo was born on this day - 26 February - in 1802.
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I'm the Communities Journalist, so part of my job is to engage with our local community and help people to share their stories. Not just to contribute to 'news stories' but to share their life experiences and talents.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic BBC local radio stations across the British Isles have been highlighting the good that is happening in communities through a campaign called 'Make a Difference'.
Every day we hear about people who are making their world, their communities, better places. Initially it was just really a response to the impact of the pandemic and to highlight how people were helping those who could not get out, and those assisting directly in response to the pandemic restrictions we are living under.
Now it's extending beyond that and we love to hear from people who are just helping others in all sorts of ways, helping to make the environment better, coming alongside those who need help. We've had stories about fundraisers for charities that are struggling to survive in these Covid19 days. We hear about those doing beach cleans, we highlight jobs that are in caring roles. As well as the ongoing direct response to the pandemic - charities and individuals offering food parcels, clothing, and general day-to-day help to those who continue to be affected.
I'm sure I'll talk a lot more about this down the line ... but it has got me thinking about my life.
What do I do to 'make a difference' to the lives of others? I'm not talking about saving the world, inventing something that will change the course of human history or intentionally setting out to be an inspiration.
I'm just talking about the kinds of things that our 'making a difference' people do every day.
Reaching out a hand of friendship, caring enough to smile at someone (even with a mask on), picking up a phone to chat to someone, dropping them a message on social media, doing a little kindness that will bring a little joy to another.
There's a song by the fabulous Barbra Streisand which, I think says it all. It's one of my favourite songs. I love the sentiment that we can all be 'ordinary miracles' just changing the world quietly, not drawing attention to ourselves, even by sharing our efforts and stories on the local radio station.
Enjoy and be inspired!
Change can come on tiptoe Love is where it starts It resides, often hides, deep within our hearts And just as pebbles make a mountain, raindrops make a sea One day at a time change begins with you and me Ordinary miracles happen all around Just by giving and receiving comes belonging and believing
Every sun that rises Never rose before Each new day leads the way through a different door And we can all be quiet heroes living quiet days Walking through the world changing it in quiet ways Ordinary miracles like candles in the dark Each and every one of us lights a spark
And the walls can tumble And the mountains can move The winds and the tide can turn
Yes, ordinary miracles One for every star No lightning bolt or clap of thunder Only joy and quiet wonder Endless possibilities right before our eyes Oh, see the way a miracle multiples
Now hope can spring eternally Plant it and it grows Love is all that's necessary Love in its extraordinary way Makes ordinary miracles every blessed day
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Well - it's a song from one genre which makes it into the popular charts.
In the USA there are so many different music genres, all popular in their own right - I'm thinking blues, and country and western, jazz, bluegrass, R+B, soul, funk, techno ... etc etc ... you get my drift I'm sure!
And then there's the Gospel and the Contemporary Christian Music scenes - all incredibly popular with very successful artists, many of whom may never make it into the 'Pop' download lists but who have brilliant careers, millions of followers and fans, downloads and sales. Radio stations galore playing all types of music.
In the UK it's a bit different, with a much more limited 'pop' scene and fewer opportunities for radio play on our most popular stations, but there's a growing number of online stations playing different kinds of music.
But back to my first thought. Every now and then there's an artist who successfully manages to 'cross over' ... someone from one genre who 'makes it' in the pop world.
I remember seeing her on TV, winning the fourth series of 'American Idol' in 2005. Apparently during the programme run, 500 million votes were cast in her favour and for the final - 37million votes were recorded. That gives you an indication of the numbers of people who enjoy music ... just in the USA ... and why it's possible to be a star there whatever your style of music.
Carrie was just 21 when she appeared on American Idol and she was described as a 'farm girl' from Oklahoma. Musically she came from a 'country' background and although not everyone who wins these TV talent shows goes on to great success, in the case of Carrie Underwood, she's gone on to become a seven-time Grammy-winning country megastar.
Carrie apparently takes her musical inspiration from many different types of music, but she's also released songs and albums with Christian themes.
So today I'm just going to share with you one of the Carrie Underwood's songs that I love - 'Jesus, Take the Wheel'. When I used to present on BBC Radio Jersey it sometimes popped up in my playlist especially on a Sunday morning, but also at other times of the day.
Now if you've been reading this blog for a bit, you'll know that I'm a Christian, and I love especially the first few lines of the chorus of this song ...
"Jesus, take the wheel Take it from my hands 'Cause I can't do this on my own I'm letting go..."
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One of my jobs at BBC Radio Jersey is to co-ordinate and produce what we call the 'Morning Thought'.
It's broadcast at around 0640 every morning ... so it is a bit early for a lot of people ... but it is surprisingly popular, as anyone who has contributed to it may tell you. Many a vicar, church minister or leader or individual who's done a recording have told me that after their 'morning thoughts' have been transmitted they will get people saying 'heard you on the radio!'
Each 'thought' is only about two minutes in duration and it's just an uplifting thought to help ease people into the day. It's sometimes spiritual but not always. We feature people of different faiths, and topics like fair trade and peace, and charities who are maybe marking a significant anniversary or a special week.
The contributors usually record in advance (rather than getting up at the crack of dawn) and since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, when the Radio Jersey studios have been closed, they've been unable to come in to record. But they've been wonderful because they've all learned to record at home on their phones and tech devices, and email the audio to me, after which I'm able to edit and make it ready for the Breakfast Show.
Why am I telling you this?
Well it's because on Monday this week, our morning thought was about the importance of friendship. And our contributor, a great guy called Graeme who leads a church in Jersey, started with one of my favourites songs from my childhood.
Back in the early 1970s I was at boarding school in Kenya. It was one of those schools that had 'houses', Everyone was in a 'house' and there was a system of rewards and punishment for good stuff, or bad things, we did. Points added to the house tally if you did something amazing, points deducted if you stepped out of line. So what you did wasn't just for YOUR own glory, but for the general benefit of the whole house. And if you stuffed up then it wasn't only YOU who suffered but all the other kids in your house. It helped to bond us together, and made us realise the need for corporate responsibility. Oh and of course, it helped to encourage us all to behave ourselves and it kept us all in line.
If you know the Harry Potter books, you'll know all about this. 'Ten points to Gryffindor for...' or 'Twenty points taken away for...'
At the end of the year at one particular school I attended, the house with the winning number of points got a treat ... a chance to see a movie!
I'm sure you get where I'm going with this now. One year my house won the house cup and we all sat down one afternoon to watch 'The Jungle Book' ... the animated movie which had been released just a few years earlier, in 1967. And yes, I really AM that old!
I loved it! I've seen it numerous times since that hot afternoon in the school hall, with black out curtains keeping the sunshine out, and I never tire of it. The tale of Mowgli, the little boy brought up in the wild with his band of animal friends. Based on the fabulous collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, one of my favourite authors and poets!
As I said, for his Monday 'morning thought' for BBC Radio Jersey, our Graeme was thinking about friendship and he took as an example those friendships in 'The Jungle Book'.
And at the start of the piece he actually broke into song and gave us a little rendition of one of the most popular songs from the film - 'The Bare Necessities'.
It's a great tune with fantastic words. and it's sung by the big bear Baloo and Mowgli
Look for the bare necessities The simple bare necessities Forget about your worries and your strife I mean the bare necessities That's why a bear can rest at ease With just the bare necessities of life
It's hard to 'forget about your worries and your strife' I know, but actually there's something in this song about just trying to keep life simple.
But the real reason I'm talking about this is because ever since I heard Graeme singing that song on the recording emailed to me, it's been going around in my head, like an earworm. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not a bad song to have constantly in my brain, but I figure if I share it with you here then I might get it out of my system.
Or maybe not.
PS - if it's now in YOUR head, sorry. But hope you enjoyed it!
I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a song which brought back so many memories.
First, this version of 'Happy Talk' was released in 1982, the year I left university and started work. It was a time of great excitement and promise - my whole life lay ahead of me.
Second, it was sung by a chap called 'Captain Sensible' - it was an ironic pseudonym because he was far from 'sensible'. He was not just quirky but rebellious. He had set up the punk band 'The Damned' which had been one of the soundtracks to my late teens.
And finally, this quirky song wasn't an original. It was actually a tune and a song from a brilliant musical, a stage show called 'South Pacific' which premiered on Broadway in New York 1949. In 1958 it was made into a movie of the same name and by the 1970s I was listening to the soundtrack and learning all the songs.
Interesting point here - we didn't have a 'South Pacific' LP or vinyl record. We actually had the movie sound track on a reel-to-reel audio tape recording which we played on a tape machine. So I listened to 'South Pacific' accompanied by the whirring sound of the tape running through the machine. Classic.
And I hadn't even seen the film! It was years later, maybe a few years after Captain Sensible sang that song that I would have hired a VHS from 'Blockbuster' ... the video hire shop. It's the way we got to see loads of movies at home at the time.
'Happy Talk' was always one of my favourites songs from the show - it's sung by the character Bloody Mary and that was the nearest I got to using a swearword when I was a child! I knew it off by heart, so when Captain Sensible appeared on BBC Top of the Pops - I could sing along.
And the words I loved the most?
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream, How you gonna have a dream come true? If you don't talk happy and you never have a dream, Then you'll never have a dream come true.
It's nearly 40 years since Captain Sensible released 'Happy Talk' and around 50 since I first learned those words. It still rings true for me.
Be Happy. Talk Happy. Have a Dream! Or maybe ... more than one!
As I said before, in 1982 I was standing of the threshold of life and was at the start of my career as a journalist with all the excitement of what could be. Some of my dreams - personal and professional - have come to pass, others not.
These days I'm nearer the end of my full-time working life but I'm still excited about what might be. Later this week I will start a new adventure, as I leave working for the BBC and go back to being a freelance writer/broadcaster/PR + communications 'guru'. More of that later !
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On Good Friday, as Christians we are remembering how Jesus Christ was crucified on a hill outside of the city of Jerusalem.
It's perhaps the holiest day of the year for Christians, and some people might think that it's strange to call a solemn holy day that commemorates a death a 'good day'.
Lots of deep theological and historical and cultural reasons for that, but for me the 'good' is there because actually it comes a few days before the main revelation of Christianity. Which is ... that Jesus didn't stay dead!
Yes he died, but then he pushed through death, proving that it didn't have to be the end of existence.
By coming back to life he 'conquered' death which means that if we believe in Jesus we also ultimately can push back death. Dying doesn't have to be the end of it all for us. We can be God's person here on earth, but we may also live eternally in the spirit world after we have shrugged off this mortal coil
It's an astonishing thing! Difficult to comprehend, supernatural, but when embraced, an outrageous concept of optimism and hope.
Christians believe that although Jesus lived as a man for about 33 years, including 30 as a member of a family, a working man, followed by three years as an itinerant preacher, teacher and miracle worker and healer in the place we now know as The Holy Land (modern day Israel) ... he actually was more than a man. He was the Son of God, or God himself in human form.
We Christians do believe that Jesus was the best example of a human being that ever existed and we are encouraged to emulate his compassion, love and life of service. We also believe that his death (and ultimate resurrection on the day we call 'Easter Sunday') not only shows his divinity, but also paves the way for us to embrace eternal life ... if we would only believe in Jesus and follow him.
If you've been reading my blog a bit this week you might have picked up that by the time he reached Jerusalem in the final days of his life - the time we call 'Holy Week' in the church - the religious leaders of the day were determined to get rid of Jesus.
There were rumours that people believed that Jesus - the poor itinerant preacher - was actually the Messiah. This was the person that ancient scripture said would be sent by God to save the people of Israel. Not to mention those claims that Jesus could actually be God in human form, or the Son of God. For the Jewish religious leaders this was blasphemy and Jesus' popularity threatened their control over the population.
Ultimately they wanted rid of him. And by the day we call 'Good Friday' they had had him tried before the local and the Roman authorities and he found himself being beaten, a crown of thorns rammed onto his head (an ironic reference to the fact that some saw him as a 'King') and he had to carry his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem, through the crowds, being mocked and taunted and laughed at!
It was a horrible death, bloody and brutal, designed not just to punish the person being nailed to a cross of wood and left to hang until they died, but also to warn those watching that THIS is what was in store for them if they, too, dared to defy authority.
There are many songs associated with this day, some very traditional. But this one and this particular version by the Gaither Vocal Band, always stirs my heart as on Good Friday I once again think about what Jesus did two thousand years ago, and what he's still doing for me today.
No pictures on this video. Maybe just close your eyes and listen to the words.
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