Monday, October 27, 2014


... an elderly relatives in a (lovely, friendly, Catholic) residential home, the room had a warm and cheery atmosphere as an afternoon of music and crafts and games was drawing to a close. Tea was over, and supper a longish way off. Dusk was falling. An elderly gentleman began to sing. He started with  "There'll be bluebirds over/The white cliffs of Dover"... in a quavering voice but it grew stronger, and others began to join in, knowing the words, because they belonged to that generation, and the words were simply part of themselves: "The shepherd will tend his sheep/ The valley will bloom again/And Johnny will go to sleep/In his own little room again..."

And when that song was over, some one started another - and then another. Soon we were all singing - residents, staff, me..." On Ilkley Moor bar t'at" (yes, all the proper words: "Tha's been a-courting Mary Jane..." and the rest), and then  "She'll be coming round the mountain..."  with my favourite verse "Oh, she'' have to stay at grandma's when she comes..." and then "Daisy, Daisy" and - this one raised a grand sound "Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner"...and then of course "Tipperary" and "Pack up your troubles..."

The old gentleman sang - really rather  beautifully - "Lily Marlene" first in German and then in English, and reminisced about hearing it in France - "absolutely everyone was singing it" in 1945...

And as I left I found myself wondering: what songs will my generation be able to sing, when we are old and sitting around on an Autumn evening? What will the songs say to us? What will we remember?

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