Spooky Goings On

I was going to call this ‘Unexplained Happenings’, but I didn’t think it was much of a grabber, so ‘Spooky Goings On’ it is.

Firstly let me just start by saying I have never seen a ghost, and I haven’t met anyone who can prove they have seen a ghost. Secondly even if I can’t explain an event that happened to me, does not necessarily mean that it has ghostly connections.

The events detailed below have no explanation, apart from where stated. Some of the happenings I witnessed myself, others I was told about, and I will point this out where applicable. Most of the events took place in ‘Salford Royal Hospital’ in (surprise, surprise) Salford. It was originally called ‘Hope Hospital’, but someone in their wisdom decided to change the name it has been known by for decades, confusing everybody in the process.

I worked at Hope Hospital from 2004 until 2011 for NHS Professionals. NHSP would provide staff to cover auxiliary shifts left vacant because of sickness, holidays or fluctuations in seasonal changes (or times when wards have more patients than usual). I worked on every ward except Maternity, I was offered a shift on Maternity but I turned it down. I did a lot of day shifts but preferred and worked more night shifts, when most of these events took place. I have given each event a broad heading and some events might be linked.

Children 1

I was working a night shift at Hope Hospital on the H2 ward which dealt with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), basically lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe. Myself and another auxiliary were making sure the patients were all comfortable. We came to an elderly lady who asked us “What time is visiting ?”.

We said “Its 2pm till 4pm and 6pm till 8pm. Why do you ask ?”.

She then asked “Are children allowed on the ward ?”.

I said, “The nurse in charge prefers them to be over 12. Any younger and it is down to the nurses discretion”.

The elderly lady pointed to the floor between the four beds and said “Who allowed those children in here?” The auxiliary and I looked over and of course there was no one there.

The auxiliary turned white as a sheet and said “Please Alice, don’t say you can see children over there please?”.

But the elderly lady was adamant, “They are over there playing with each other. Can’t you see them?”. We couldn’t. When I got back to the nurses’ station I asked one of the nurses why the other auxiliary had turned white as a sheet at the mention of invisible children.

“The story goes”, said the nurse, “that if a patient says they can see children that aren’t there it means that someone on the ward will die. And it is never the person that sees them either”.

When I came back from my break at 4am, I was told by one of the nurses that a lady of 98 had passed away earlier.

Children 2

I was doing a night shift on L5 and while sat at the nurses station at 12:30am one of the male patients let out a very loud scream. As we ran into the bay, the male patients bedclothes were on the floor. When we asked him how they ended up on the floor, he said the children pulled them off. He was informed there were no children. He was adamant; they were in the room hiding behind the curtains.

At 2:30am he let out another scream. Again his bedclothes were on the floor, and again he claimed it was the children hiding behind the curtains. I sat in the bay from then on and the bedclothes stayed on the bed and on the patient. But before the shift was over another patient had passed away.

I was told a month later a male patient in the same bed as the first one complained about children again taking the bedclothes off his bed. Once someone was sat in the bay again the shenanigans stopped. But before the shift was over another patient passed away again in conjunction with the story.


Voices 1

I was doing a night shift on L6, which at one time was an elderly ward, when I did a shift on there it was a renal ward (all things liver related including dialysis). I was in the ward kitchen doing tea and toast. I heard a voice behind me; I still don’t know what the voice said. But I went to the door of the kitchen looked out but there was nobody there.

So I went back to doing my tea and toast, and I heard a female voice whisper my name. I shouted “Right” and went to the door, again there was nobody there. I even went down to the nurses’ station to see if anybody had shouted me. Everyone replied no. Also the station is at the other end of the ward to the kitchen. I popped on to L5 next door and again no one had shouted me.

So, despite feeling a little uneasy, I carried on with the tea and toast. When I heard my name whispered a second time, I thought sod this for a game of soldiers and quickly took the tea and toast out to the patients.

Throughout the night I had to return to the kitchen for various reasons, but didn’t have any other problems, nor did I on future shifts I did on the same ward.

Voices 2

This incident took place at our last house on Barnsdale Road. I was in the kitchen and the television and radio were off. The house was deathly quiet and three times I heard my name whispered by a female voice that I didn’t recognise. After that I made sure the television and/or radio was on at all times, to make sure it drowned out any weird or strange noises. After that one time I didn’t hear anything else, but to be fair my music was always on loud so it didn’t get a chance.

Objects 1

This incident involved a clock. I was doing a night shift on K1, which is a dermatology ward (to be fair the easiest ward to work on in the entire hospital). The hardest part of the shift was putting creams and ointments on those who couldn’t do it themselves, fortunately most could apply their own so apart from doing observations, there was very little to do. It was the shift where the clock goes forward. At 2am the hands of the clock started whizzing around quite fast and settled on 1am. At the time no one knew why it had happened. I later found out the ward were trialling a prototype clock that sets itself wirelessly. So thankfully that was explainable.

Objects 2

This incident took place at my sisters’ house. It was shortly after my nan had died. From my nans house, my sister had got the print of the ‘Haywain’, which hung on the wall above the fire. She also had my nans hideous carriage clock that she got for working for ‘Green Shield Stamps’. We were sat in my sister’s front room chatting about my nan and having a bit of a laugh. When all of a sudden the picture fell off the wall and hit the carriage clock and breaking it. In fact the carriage clock was broke beyond repair. The picture on the other hand was fine and not damaged at all despite the fact it was well over 30 years old. The strange thing was that my nan hated the carriage clock and we joked that it was her way of showing her displeasure that we still had the clock.

Now for the spooky bit. The string at the back was intact, the hook in the wall was not damaged or weak, and my sister said it had hung there since they moved in.


My grandfather on my mums side died in 1967, ironically a year before I was born. My nan visited his grave on a weekly basis and often talked to him and told him she missed her morning cups of tea in bed, which he always used to bring her. One day, a few months before my nan passed away, we were down at my nans having Sunday dinner. We were all talking about nothing in particular, when my nan said that John (my grandfather) had visited her during the night, brought her a cup of tea, sat on her bed and chatted to her. At first, even though we didn’t say anything, we all viewed it a bit sceptically. But the more she spoke about it, the more it seemed to me that it had really happened. Maybe it hadn’t happened, my nan was 80, perhaps her mind was a bit clouded and she thought it had happened. My nan was always very sharp witted and I for one wouldn’t of thought she would make it up. A few months later, December 31st to be precise, my nan passed away, perhaps johns visit was to let her know her stay was nearly over and they could be reunited again after over 20 years apart.


It would be very easy to fob these off as supernatural experiences. But to be fair the stories about the children being seen and people passing away could be just coincidence. A lot of coincidences that’s for sure. As for the voices I would love to be able to find a reason for why I heard them, unfortunately I can’t, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t any supernatural reasons for them. I also think my sister’s picture wasn’t secured properly. It is very easy to be cinical in a world that is full of cinical people doing cinical things. We sometimes forget that life can be full of unexplained things. It isn’t always black and white, the grey areas sometimes outweigh the colour.

Until we meet again.

Be nice to yourselves… and each other (Jerry Springer).

Neil Beattie.


The Aftermath Of ‘The Gold Ring’

Here we are again as we canoe down the river of life, we find a strategically placed lily pad which is my blog. Thank you to the people who like my blog and the reckless fools who choose to follow me.

This piece came about because I wrote a blog recently, a short story called ‘The Gold Ring’ basically about a ring my granddad bought in 1939 and how 50 years later I got mugged on a bus and never saw it again. The blog took longer to write than normal, mainly due to the emotional subject matter. This is also coupled with the fact that I still feel incredibly guilty and responsible for what happened. Perhaps I shouldn’t, both my grandparents have passed away, so to be blunt they can’t judge me no more. And to be fair, up until I wrote it down I hadn’t really given anyone’s feelings any thought except my own.

It was only after I’d written it that I started to wonder how other people connected with the story must have felt at the time and after. Of course, to me they would have been, and were, very sympathetic. But it would have been interesting to hear the secret conversations, the conversations had when I wasn’t in the room, or when I’d gone to bed. The secret thoughts that no one dared speak in my presence. Where my mum and dad disappointed? Did my nan feel I’d let her down? And did my sister hate me even more than she already did because I’d upset everyone? Unfortunately these questions will remain unanswered as the people involved are not going to divulge their thoughts on the matter.

People often ask me: do you enjoy writing? To which of course I reply hell yeah. Well, I just say yes. However, when people ask me if I would like to write for a living I usually reply no. I don’t feel I have dedication or commitment to write full time, I tend to find distractions very easily.

While I still harbour dreams of publishing an e-book on Amazon (oh yes indeedydo). I often wonder how long it would take to finish it. My problem is that I get lots of ideas, and will furiously write (or tap away) until half the story is down. And after leaving it for a day or two, when I come back to the story I’m usually, by then, bored and can’t be bothered to finish it.

This of course presents a problem. The Gold Ring is a case in point. The story is a true story, and I must have told people it hundreds of times. I even told some family members the story a couple of Saturdays ago (at Games Night). I got half of it written down and then basically couldn’t be bothered to finish it. I haven’t worked out yet whether it was couldn’t be bothered or just didn’t want to. I ended up forcing myself to finish it, which wasn’t a very pleasant experience. Once its written down obviously I feel good that I’ve finished it, but it’s just the forcing myself to finish the piece that I have started.

The odd thing is that when I do the more structured and simplistic ones about music, they are easier to write because I know most of the stuff I write is not open to debate. Yes I throw in my own views here and there, but otherwise it’s pretty structured. So because my own ideas are freer flowing perhaps that’s why the anomaly occurs.

Anyway I thought that this would only be a short one. But I hope you have understood why sometimes my blogs will take longer than others. It probably means I’m just having an inner war with myself, which always happens and are very frequent.

Well that’s all for this time. When we meet again on this road we will be in the structured territory of music so see you then.

Until then be nice to yourselves and each other (Jerry Springer)

Neil Beattie.

Do You Hear What I Hear (Part Two)

Hi all. Welcome one and all pull up a stool and order whatever takes your fancy from the bar that is my blog. Thank you to the brave souls who take the time to read my posts (especially the last one) and the reckless souls who decide to take the path less travelled and follow me. The last blog took longer than expected mainly due to the subject matter being an emotional one, and it always dregs up the old feelings of guilt and how I felt on the day in question. I will be doing a piece about my way of writing which I hope some of you may find illuminating, and again it’s only my opinion and nobody else’s.

Anyway on to lighter things and a list of my favourite groups and/or bands in no particular order. In ‘Do You Hear What I Hear (Part One)’ we looked at my favourite male and female performers. And now in Part Two we look at my favourite bands, a little of their history and my favourite songs by them. If I only like a particular era of a bands existence I will say so. Some song titles may contain bad language, and if you listen to any tracks listed a lot of them contain bad language so you have been warned. The song titles expressed are the bands views and not mine, to me a song is just a song, there are exceptions which I will mention if need be.

So let’s kick this mother squarely in the groove and get rolling…

4abbc62707f3cAll About Eve were formed in 1984 when Julianne Regan (former journalist, bass) met with Tim Bricheno (guitarist) and Andy Cousins (bass) in a three piece band called The Swarm which later became All About Eve. After initial early success the band split in 1993 only to reform in 1999 and their last gig was April 30 2004. Although Regan has said never say never she feels that All About Eve are dormant now and everyone has moved on to other projects. The only other release from AAE was the double CD collection entitled ‘Keepsakes’, which consist of the singles, key album tracks, unreleased rarities and newly recorded songs. In total they released 16 albums (4 studio, 7 live and 5 compilations). I became aware of them in 1988 when Regan and Bricheno were being interviewed on the Spence MacDonald Evening Radio Show, I entered the competition and won a copy of their self titled first album, signed by Regan and Bricheno. I then bought their next two albums ‘Scarlet And Other Stories’ and ‘Ultraviolet’.  I wasn’t very impressed with ‘Ultraviolet’, apart from the track ‘Mine’, the album was a disappointment compared to their others. My favourite songs are ‘What Kind Of Fool’, ‘More Than The Blues’, and ‘Martha’s Harbour’.

hqdefaultAmateur Transplants was originally Adam Kay and Dr Suman Biswas and in 2002 start creating comedic and sometimes very offensive parodies, contain very strong language of popular songs and putting a medical slant on them (with 10% of the royalties going to McMillan Cancer Research). They shot to prominence in 2005 when their song ‘London Underground’, based on the song ‘Going Underground’ by ‘The Jam’, got large spread exposure on YouTube because of a flash animation video that accompanied it. It has since been downloaded over 4 million times. They have so far released 6 albums (4 studio and 2 live). Suman Biswas has since gone back to working for the NHS as an anaesthetist and released a solo album in 2013 entitled ‘Still Alive After Amateur Transplants’. I became aware of them when I saw a fan video for the song ‘Paracetamoxyfrusebendroneomycin’ loosely based on the tune ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from the film ‘Mary Poppins’. Adam Kay still tours extensively as Amateur Transplants. My favourite songs are ‘Anaesthetics Hymn’ (based on ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler), ‘You’re A Paedophile’ (based on ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt, and ‘Careless Surgeon’ (based on ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael).

1art of noise 3The Art Of Noise were an experimental synthpop group formed in 1983 by Gary Langan (engineer/producer), J J Jeczalik (programmer), Anne Dudley (arranger), Trevor Horn (producer), and Paul Morley (music journalist). Various band changes followed, Horn and Morley left in 1985, and Langan left in 1987. Dudley and Jeczalik still performed as the group until finally calling it a day in 1990. Dudley reformed the band in 1998 with Horn, Morley and Lol Creme (guitarist) to record a new album, but officially dissolved again in 2000. The Art of Noise released 16 albums in all (5 studio and 11 compilations). I became aware of them when they released ‘Close To The Edit’ which on the B-side of the 12 inch single had a 25 minute track that included ‘Beat Box’, ‘Moments In Love and ‘Close To The Edit’. They created many collaborations as well ‘Twang’ with Duane Eddy, ‘Paranomia’ with Max Headroom, and ‘Kiss’ with Tom Jones. The best album to cover the Art Of Noise is ‘The Best Of The Art Of Noise’ released in 1988. My favourite tracks by The Art Of Noise are ‘Dragnet ‘88’, ‘Moments In Love’ (the full 10 minute version), and ‘Paranomia’ featuring Max Headroom.

avenged_2Avenged Sevenfold are an American heavy metal or nu metal band formed in 1999. The band, abbreviated to A7X, consisted of M Shadows (lead vocalist), Zacky Vengeance (rhythm guitarist and backing vocals), Synyster Gates (lead guitarist and backing vocals), Johnny Christ (bass guitarist) and Arin Ilejay (drummer). Ilejay replaced long time drummer and founder member James ‘The Rev’ Sullivan who died on December 28 2009 following an overdose of oxycodone, oxymorphone, diazepam, nordiazepam and alcohol. As well as being drummer and providing backing vocals, Sullivan also contributed full songs that he had written for the band. After The Revs death, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater joined the band to complete their fifth album and tour until Ilejay joined on a permanent basis. Avenged Sevenfold have released 9 albums (6 studio, 2 live and 1 video). I became aware of them when a cousin of mine played me ‘Afterlife’ and a YouTube video for ‘A Little Piece Of Heaven’, after that I was hooked, and have liked them ever since. My favourite tracks by Avenged Sevenfold are ‘Afterlife’, ‘Girl, I Know’ and ‘Seize The Day’.

1323458190_the-beautiful-south_1_500The Beautiful South was an English pop and rock band formed in 1988 after The Housemartins disbanded. The group was formed by 2 member of the Hull based Housemartins, Paul Heaton, Dave Hemmingway (both who performed lead and backing vocals), Sean Welch (bass), Dave Stead (drums), Dave Rotheray (guitar), and a succession of female vocalists including Briana Corrigan (for 2 albums), Jacqui Abbott (for 4 albums) and Alison Wheeler (for the final 3 albums). The Beautiful South released 15 albums altogether (10 studio and 5 compilations) and sold around 15 million records worldwide up to their split in January 2007 due to musical differences. I became aware of them from their Housemartins days and followed them all the way, and was glad to hear recently that Heaton and Abbott had been writing and recording together in 2013, leading to the release of a new album, and a tour in 2014.  My favourite Beautiful South tracks are ‘36D’, ‘Perfect 10’, ‘A Little Time’ and ‘I’ll Sail This Ship Alone’.

bring_me_the_horizonBring Me The Horizon are a metalcore band from Sheffield that were formed in 2004. The current line up is Matt Kean (bass guitar), Lee Malia (lead guitar and backing vocals), Matt Nicholls (drums and precussion), Oliver Sykes (lead vocals, keyboards and programming) and Jordan Fish (keyboards). Jordan  joined the band in 2012, Brendan MacDonald (rhythm guitar and backing vocals) who has joined them on tour since 2013. They have two former members Curtis Ward (rhythm guitar) who left in 2009 and Jona Weinhofen (rhythm guitar) who joined in 2009 and left in 2013.  They have released 5 albums (4 studio and 1 demo) and before the release of their third album they had reached sales of 200,000 records sold worldwide. I became aware of Bring Me The Horizon in 2007 when I heard ‘Pray For Plagues’ which reminded me of my old thrash metal days in the mid to late 80’s. My favourite tracks of Bring Me The Horizon are ‘Pray For Plagues’, ‘Chelsea Smile’ and ‘Sleepwalking’.

bullet-for-my-valentine--bullet-for-my-valentine-577847_1280_1024Bullet For My Valentine are a Welsh heavy metal band from Bridgend formed in 1998 when the band was known as Jeff Killed John. BFMV consists of Matthew ‘Matt’ Tuck (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Michael ‘Padge’ Paget (lead guitar and backing vocals), Jason ‘Jay’ James (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Michael ‘Moose’ Thomas (drums). The band have released 4 studio albums and sold over 1.3 million albums in the United States alone and a further 5 million plus albums worldwide and are also the most successful act in the ‘Best British Band’ category in the ‘Kerrang! Awards’ with 3 wins. I became aware of them because I found them while looking for other bands of the same ilke and heard ‘Tears Dont Fall’ (both acoustic and heavy) and was hooked and have listened every since. They mentioned recently on FaceBook that they had lots of songs written for their fifth album and now it was just a matter of choosing which songs were going to make it. My favourite tracks by Bullet For My Valentine are ‘No Easy Way Out’, ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ (acoustic), ‘Suffocating Under Words Of Sorrow (What Can I Do)’,  ‘All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)’, and ‘The Last Fight’.

cannibal_photo_2012Cannibal Corpse are an American death metal band formed in 1988. The original line up of Cannibal Corpse was Paul Mazurkiewicz (drums), Alex Webster (bass guitar), Chris Barnes (lead vocals), Jack Owen (guitars), and Bob Rusay (guitars), Chris Barnes left In 1995 to be replaced by George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher taking over the vocals. Bob Rusay was replaced in 1993 by rhythm guitar player Rob Barrett until 1997, he then left but returned in 2005. Jack Owen left in 2004, to be replaced by guitarist Jeremy Turner who left in 2005 when Rob Barrett returned. Cannibal Corpse have released 18 albums in all (13 studio, 1 live and 4 video), there is also 2 box sets ’15 Year Killing Spree’ and ‘Centuries Of Torment : The First 20 Years’. Cannibal Corpse have been together for 27 years and are still releasing the songs of horror and gore. I became aware of them when thrash metal was at its height, thanks to John Peel and his radio show, but then over the intervening years lost touch with them. I rediscovered them a couple of years ago when I was doing some research on thrash metal bands and their name popped up. My favourite Cannibal Corpse tracks are ‘Blowtorch Slaughter’, ‘Hammer, Smashed Face’ and ‘Meat Hook Sodomy’.

Evanescence-evanescence-30515051-1000-800Evanescence is an American rock and metal band founded into 1995. The band consisted originally of Amy Lee (lead vocals, piano and keyboards) and Ben Moody (lead guitar and bass guitar). They were joined in 1999 by David Hodges (piano, keyboard, backing vocals and drums) who left in 2002 as he felt he was leading the band down a Christian path that Lee and Moody were not comfortable with. They were joined in 2002 by touring musicians John LeCompt (rhythm guitar and bass guitar) and Rocky Gray (drums). After the departure of LeCompt and Gray in 2003, session musicians Francesco DiCosmo (bass guitar) and Josh Freese (drums). Also in late 2003 John LeCompt rejoined, Will Boyd (bass guitar) and Rocky Gray. Moody left in 2003, citing musical differences, and was replaced by Terry Balsamo (lead guitar). In 2006 Tim McCord (bass guitar) replaced Boyd, and in 2007 Troy McLawhorn (rhythm guitar) replaced LeCompt, and Will Hunt (drums) replaced Gray. In late 2007 Hunt left, only to rejoin in 2010 to finalise the line up we know today: Lee, Balsamo, McLawhorn, McCord and Hunt. Evanescence have only released 4 albums (3 studio and 1 live) to date but have sold more than 25 million records worldwide. I became aware of them after I saw the video to ‘Bring Me To Life’ and I bought their first album ‘Fallen’ one of the best albums I’d ever heard. My favourite Evanescence tracks are ‘Everybody’s Fool’, ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’ and ‘My Immortal’.

interviewsheaven17Heaven 17 is an English, synthesiser based pop band from Sheffield. They were formed in 1981 as a trio with Martyn Ware (keyboards) and Ian Craig Marsh (keyboards) who were initially in The Human League (with Phil Oakey), and Glenn Gregory (vocals). They never thought they would be able to play live because of their sophisticated studio sound and didn’t begin performing live concerts until 1997. Marsh mysteriously disappeared in 2006, then resurfaced in 2007 and said he no longer wanted to perform with Heaven 17. Ware and Gregory had tried on numerous occasions to get Marsh to return but conceded in late 2008 that Marsh was not a member of the band anymore. Since 2011 Berenice Scott has shared keyboard duties with Ware. They have released 16 albums (8 studio and 8 compilations). I got straight into Heaven 17 from the start, I loved them. I also felt privileged that I got a chance to see Heaven 17 perform live before Marsh left. Erasure toured throughout 1997 to promote their album ‘Cowboy’, and had Heaven 17 as support, I was so excited to see them perform live and they didn’t disappoint including a brilliant version of ‘Come Live With Me’. They are my favourite band of all time and I love their music, ‘pinstripe funk’ they were described as being, which I think fits them perfectly. My favourite tracks by Heaven 17 are ‘This Skin I’m In’, ‘And That’s No Lie’, ‘The Best Kept Secret’, ‘Designing Heaven’ and ‘The Heaven 17 Megamix’.

And now a new section for my music blogs, if like me you are all ‘Frozen’d out, and feel like you can never forget ‘Let It Go’ then this section is for you. The brilliant fact is that so many three word phrases fit the tune, and by changing one word you can change the whole meaning of the song. Thank you to parody creators around the world.

tumblr_mymag6Uyxo1ql7brho1_500Favourite Let It Go Parody At The Moment is the ‘Fxxk It All (Honest Finals Version)’ which is very funny, certainly should not be played while the little Elsa or Anna in your life is within earshot. This version is sung by a German You Tuber called ‘DrunkenSch0k0muffin’. What I like about it is it fits so well with the film part on YouTube. And let’s face it someone was going to do it eventually. The song is basically about a student who decides the revision isn’t working and will just wing the test and hope for the best, knowing that grades never bothered her anyway. If you want to look it up on YouTube ‘Fuck It All Honest Finals Version Full Screen’ ‘Nobrand Cloud’. Well worth a listen. Another one coming soon.

When we meet on this road again we will discuss my style of writing, which may be a short one, who can tell. Then we will look at the other groups/bands that I like. And then interspearsed through other subjects we will look at my favourite songs in different genres. Whether I can or can’t find out the reason a song was written, I will put my own unique spin upon it.

Until we meet again ‘Be nice to yourselves and each other’ (Jerry Springer).

Neil Beattie

The Gold Ring (A Short Story)

Hi all. Pull up a chaise longue and let’s talk about the weather or anything else that takes your fancy while you take a breather here at my blog. Thank you to the people who have taken time to read my blog and the hardy souls who follow me.

For once I have been quite busy. Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills and James Courtney wanted volunteers to read and review their short (3000 words) story called ‘How To Kill Your Senator’; naturally I jumped at the chance. I read and will post my review on Amazon as asked when the story goes live. I have now downloaded their book ‘The Dystopian Nation Of City-State: An Anthology: Origin, Corruption And Rebellion’, and although I have only read a small portion I have to say its shaping up pretty good. I also noticed that Alexander Hill wanted his book ‘Unintended Consequences’ reviewing, naturally I put myself forward. I am reading it at the moment, and considering it is his first foray into sci-fi, again it’s also pretty good, and I will send a review to Alex when I’m done. I’ve also been sent a list of books of which I need to choose 1, from LoveReading.co.uk to review.

I’m going to do a short story this time round and the next blog will be the second part of ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’. This short story is about my granddad John, my mum’s dad. I hope you will take the time to read and comment if you like.

The Gold Ring

I never knew my granddad John; he died a year before I was born, in September 1967 aged 56. My mum was probably pregnant with me when he died. This is a story about him and his link (in a way) to me indirectly.

In 1939, after John had got his call-up papers, John Hardman went to a well respected jeweller in Manchester and bought a very expensive and very heavy gold ring. The ring was made from pre-war gold, and of course this was before carats were used to sell gold, which didn’t come into force until the mid 1980’s. John took the ring home and put it into a nice red velvet box with a silk lining. He said to his wife, Marjorie Hardman (nee Crewdson), “When I return home from the war I can look forward to wearing the ring with pride. If I don’t return can you pass it on to the eldest male descendant?”. John was quite lucky in some respects as he made the rank of sergeant major which meant he was stationed in the barracks looking after the new recruits. Also one of his tasks was to break the news to relatives that their husband, brother, father, son or fiancé was missing presumed dead.

So in the box the ring stayed until John returned home in 1945. After that he wore the ring with pride knowing what it symbolized for him. As time went on his fingers swelled, through hard work, and now the ring was on it wouldn’t come off. Like a lot of ex-servicemen John found it hard to hold down, let alone get a job that he enjoyed doing. In the end he became a sales rep for Ovaltine, which meant selling Ovaltine to shops and businesses. He wasn’t a great salesman, but he seemed to make his quota targets each month. So he was depressed and not enjoying life post-war.

One morning John left for work same as he always did, when he didn’t return home at his usual 5pm, Marjorie wasn’t to concerned as perhaps he had some paperwork to catch up with. When John wasn’t at home at 6pm, Marjorie decided to phone his office to find out where he was. The main secretary said that John had not turned in so everybody assumed that he was following some sales leads. At 7pm Marjorie phoned the police and reported him as a missing person, she gave them a description, a few places she thought he may go and then waited. For three days they waited morning, noon and night for any news, but there seemed to none forthcoming.

On the third day there was a call from the police, a man matching Johns description had been found asleep on the beach at Llandudno in Wales. The only trouble was he had no recollection of how he got to Llandudno. John remembered leaving for work and the next thing was he was being woken on the beach by the police. He was taken to the local hospital to have the once over and then taken back home to Manchester. Marjorie and my mum were overjoyed and very emotional to see John looking fine, if a bit dishevelled. The police carried on their investigation in Llandudno asking hotel managers, guest house owners, pub landlords and even the local ladies of the night if any of them had seen John and they all said no. So it was a complete mystery what had happened to him and the three days.

John went back to his job at Ovaltine, but after a while the job of selling and meeting increased monthly targets became too stressful for him and he had to leave. John then got a job at Regent Rubber as a foreman in the spray fitting department; he was such a popular and fair minded man that he was made shop steward for the union. He even got my dad a job there shortly after he had married my mum in 1966. Towards the end of 1966 and beginning of 1967 the headaches John was having began to get much worse. It was decided by Johns GP that he go into hospital for some tests. After an agonising wait it was discovered that John had a large tumour on the brain, a large inoperable brain tumour. It was decided to spend the time he had left at home as there was nothing the doctors could do. John spent the next seven months pushing himself to do things that could of been left to other people, and spent the rest of the time resting or asleep on the sofa, near the fire in the front room. At the beginning of September 1967 John Hardman, husband of Marjorie, father to Peter (d 1957) and Carole, passed away peacefully in his sleep. As his hand slipped off the sofa, the ring that hadn’t shifted since 1946 finally slipped off his finger. Marjorie picked it up and placed it back in the red velvet box with the silk lining and waited until she could give to the next male in the family. Ironically when John passed away, my mother was just starting her pregnancy with me, I was born in 1968.

The story now needs to fast forward sixteen years to 1984. Marjorie took the ring to a well reputed jeweller in Manchester, to have it valued. The jeweller asked my nan “What are you going to do with the ring, if you don’t mind me asking”. My nan told the jeweller “I’m having my grandsons initials engraved on it to give it him for his sixteenth birthday”. The jeweller was shocked and said to my nan, “I understand how much you love your grandson. But you do realise that engraving initials will greatly devalue the ring”. My nan told the jeweller, “I’m not planning on selling the ring. I’m passing it on to my grandson to comply with my husband’s wishes”.  The first jeweller refused to do the engraving, but the second jeweller did it and engraved ‘N J B’. My mother asked my nan several times what the value of the ring was, as far as I’m aware my nan never divulged the given price.

So on my sixteenth birthday I was presented with the ring in the lovely red velvet box with the silk lining. I noticed from the outset it was very heavy. The head of the ring was split diagonally in half, on one side was a criss cross lattice design, on the other side was my three initials in flowing engraved script. I wore it with pride knowing what the ring meant to my deceased grandfather, and anyone who asked me about it would get the full story whether they wanted it or not. Although the ring was a little bit too big, once I got it over my knuckle it would stay in place, but if I was asked to do any manual task I would remove it and put it on my watch chain to keep it safe. I had been wearing the ring quite happily for a couple of years and my nan always smiled when she was at our house and saw that I was wearing it.

One day after finishing college I was on my way home on the bus. I was at Worsley College of Further Education in Walkden at the time doing a City and Guilds Certificate in Family and Community Care. I got the number 10 double decker bus, and as there was no room down stairs I went to sit upstairs. This in itself was unusual as usually I would stand downstairs if there were no seats, but for some unknown reason I decided to sit upstairs. As it was there was a fair few people upstairs so it was okay. As people got off the bus the number of people upstairs dwindled down, until, apart from me, and unbeknown to me there was only two others sat upstairs. One sat in front of me and looked to be smoking a spliff, the other sat behind me and grabbed me around the neck with his arm. I also felt something sharp being held against the back of my neck. He said (I apologise for the language in advance) “Give us all the fucking money you got on you”. “I haven’t got anything”, I replied weakly which was the truth, the last of my money had payed for my bus fare. “You make any kind of fucking noise and I’ll slit your throat”, he growled giving a quick jab to the thing against my neck. “I told you I don’t have any money”, I replied looking at the person sat in front who looked to be getting worried. Then my worse nightmare happened, they spotted the ring and said, “This will fucking do”. They slipped the ring off my finger and were off the bus before I could do anything.

I got off the next stop and went straight to the Police Station. I described the ring to the police, told them what had happened on the bus, and described as best I could the two men. The policeman said, “The sharp thing he had, could have just been the handle of a comb”. “I’m sorry”, I said, “I didn’t feel in a position to argue to toss with him. If he said he was going to slit my throat, I was inclined to believe him”. The policeman said, “The worst scenario is that it is at the bottom of the Manchester Ship Canal. Once they realise its engraved, it’s worthless to them. It’s a male ring to begin with, and secondly it has initials engraved on it. I don’t even think”, he continued, “Any jewellery shops will take it because of the engraving because they are very hard to shift because of it”. He took me out in his police car, driving through the pedestrian areas which he assured me he could do because he was a policeman. He went to all the ‘fences’ (people who take and get rid of stolen goods), these particular ‘fences’ told police whenever they received any goods, the police would take anything reported as stolen and give it back to its rightful owners. We must of visited seven or eight of these ‘fences’ and none of them said they had received one or heard of one on the move. They even visited some jewellers shops they knew would accept ‘questionable’ items; again they hadn’t received one or heard of one about. The police took me home and said if they heard anything about the ring they would let me know, but they didn’t hold out much hope of seeing it again.

After the police dropped me off, they came in to talk to my mum and dad. And of course, the worse of the worse, I had to tell my nan what had happened. She was heartbroken, the ring had survived over 40 years in my nan and grandfathers possession, I’d had it less than 5 and been mugged on the top deck of a bus. My parents bought me a ring for my nineteenth birthday but it wasn’t the same, it was very light, but very nice.

I never heard from the police and have probably resigned myself to the fact it ended up in the canal. A few months after the mugging a Victim Support operative came to visit me, and asked me how I was doing. It had pretty much been forgot about by then but I said I was fine. And then he said “By the way if you have some spare time we are always on the lookout for more Victim Support personnel if you are interested”. I told him I wasn’t interested and he could leave now, which he did. Sadly my nan died on the 31st December 1992, she was 80.

When I think back on it now, I still feel I let a lot of people down. Firstly my nan, she gave me the (we assume a very expensive) gold ring in the hope it could be kept in the male side of the family. Secondly my grandfather, the ring had been around for over 40 years where nothing had happened to it and of course what the ring symbolises. Thirdly my mum, who it turns out was against giving me the ring at 16 and wanted to wait until I was 18, if they had waited until I was 18 I may probably still have the ring today. Fourthly myself, perhaps I should of fought harder, but I wasn’t to know what he had held against my neck, and having to tell my nan what had happened was heartbreaking. Finally my own children, the ring would of gone to my son was he was of a sensible age, and so on and so on down the generations it would go.

Well that’s the story of ‘The Gold Ring’ a sad story of sorts with no happy ending. This has been a hard story to write, it has taken a long time, because of all the emotions contained within it. When we meet upon the road of life again it will be read something in a lighter vein. As we have my favourite bands to discuss and my favourite songs in the categories of instrumentals, slow/soft songs, up tempo songs, rock songs and rap songs. They will be interspersed with whatever other stuff take my fancy.

Goodbye for now and see you later.

Do You Hear What I Hear ? (Part One)

Hi all. With the Xmas and New Year festivities out the way, all that’s on offer is tea or coffee and a bit of stale cake. But that aside welcome one and all to the comforting arm around the shoulder and friendly pat on the back that is my blog. Just give you a little rundown of future blogs. This one is about music and my favourite performers of such, my next blog will be a true story about my grandfather John Hardman, after that I will list my favourite bands, and then we will we enter the realms of more controversial subject matter and more stories from my life and other peoples (with their permission of course). But not let’s put our horses before our carts and all that, let’s leave the future to come and concentrate on the present.

I was hoping to get this into one blog but it now will be two. I have rationed myself to picking my 5 favourite female recording artists, my 5 favourite male recording artists. I will do my top 10 bands and/or groups another time I was surprised how many times I had to jig the list about, take names out and put other names in. But at the end of each section I will give a mention to those that are bubbling under. As well as listing the artists I will also reveal my favourite songs by these artists. So let’s kick this mother squarely in the groove (as the kids may or may not say). I would like to say I’m down with the kids but as my partner’s daughter keeps reminding me … I’m really not.

My Favourite Female Artists

sarah_mclachlan_2Sarah McLachlan has sold a staggering 40 million albums worldwide. And has been active in the music industry since 1988 and in that time released 15 albums (7 studio, 4 live and 4 compilation) and 32 singles. I first became aware of her on a programme in Britain called ‘Top Of The Pops 2’, where they show you old clip of old shows on a particular theme. This show was about performances that had never been aired. Sarah was there to sing ‘Angel’ but the song fell in the charts, the guy doing the voice over said to keep an eye on her because she was going to be big. Then she went on to sing ‘When Somebody Loved Me’ from ‘Toy Story 2’ and ‘Don’t Let Go’ with Bryan Adams from ‘Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron’. And by the time she sang ‘Ordinary Miracle’ from ‘Charlotte’s Web’ I was heavily into her music. She is in my opinion one of the best female singer songwriters in the world today. She writes mainly slow tempo songs, up tempo songs are very few and far between. She is phenomenal (and as you know I’m not biased). Her songs convey emotion and seem to touch people and help people through tough times. My 3 favourite songs by Sarah McLachlan are ‘Do What You Have To Do’, ‘Dear God’ and ‘Good Enough’.

044brBjork has sold 20 million albums worldwide prior to the release of ‘Biophilia’ in 2011. And is the Icelandic pop princess who has been in music since 1977 when she was first in ‘KUKL’ and then ‘The Sugarcubes’ before going solo in 1993. Bjork has released 11 albums (8 studio, 1 compilation, and 2 soundtracks) and 32 singles. The soundtracks being ‘Selmasongs’ which was from the 2000 film ‘Dancer In The Dark’ which Bjork played the part of Selma, and ‘Drawing Restraint 9’ which was created for Matthew Barneys (her partner) for the film of the same name. I first became aware of her when she was in the Sugarcubes as I was a big fan, and just carried on following her when she went solo. She has possibly one of the most recognisable voices in music. Bjorks music is mainly mid tempo and electronica in style and she uses many styles and influences from many cultures. My 3 favourite songs by Bjork are ‘Hyper-ballad’, ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘Play Dead’ from the film ‘Young Americans’.

imagesMartina McBride has sold over 14 million albums in America alone. She is a country singer, who has the lilt that all country singers seem to have. She has been in music from 1990 and has released a staggering 20 albums (12 studio, 1 live, 3 compilations, 1 holiday and 3 other albums) and 50 singles. I was aware of the song ‘Concrete Angel’ but only became really aware of her when I returned home from work to find my daughter weeping after watching the video for ‘Concrete Angel’. Martina’s first number of songs stuck to the country theme of difficult lives and bad things happening, but in 1997 she moved more into country pop in the vein of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. Martina writes and records some amazing songs; her version of ‘O Holy Night’ has to be heard to be believed. Martina’s voice is amazing in the accapella part at the beginning and carries that strength into the musical parts as well. My 3 favourite Martina McBride songs are ‘Concrete Angel’, ‘Independence Day’, and ‘I’m Gonna Love You through It’.

download (7)Lily Allen is a woman I’m glad to see back in the music industry. Her first album ‘Alright, Still’ which took its influences from ska and reggae, sold 2.6 million copies worldwide. Allen’s second album ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, had a more electro pop feel, that had sold over 2 million copies worldwide as of 2009. Her new album ‘Sheezus’ sold over 55,000 copies in its first week; she has also released 20 singles. I was aware of Lily Allen from the start and was surprised when she quit music, but excited when she came back with a vengeance. I like the way she doesn’t pull any punches and says it like it is, her involvement in a couple of controversies over the years have laid testament to that. She also manages to sing songs with humour and social commentary like ‘LDN’ about life in London, ‘Everyone’s At It’ about the proliferation of drugs in today’s society, and ‘Kabul Shit’ about the amount of money spent on war when children are being neglected . My 3 favourite Lily Allen songs are ‘Not Fair’, ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and ‘The Fear’.

downloadLindsey Stirling has come a long way since being a contestant on ‘Americas Got Talent’ in 2010 where she reached the quarter finals. Since then she has released 2 albums, her first self-titled album was a huge success in Europe, selling particularly well in Poland, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. As of May 2014 her first album has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide. Stirling’s second album ‘Shatter Me’ sold 59,000 copies in its first week, and she has released 5 singles. By December 2014 Stirling’s YouTube channel had over 840 million views and more than 5.8 million subscribers (of which I am one). Lindsay is a prime example that internet, mainly YouTube, exposure can be good for your career. I got hooked on her dance/classical violin playing and dancing after seeing her on a YouTube video performing a cover of Stings ‘Fields Of Gold’ with Peter Hollens and Tyler Ward. Her solo stuff is amazing, her collaborations are brilliant and her covers are excellent. My 3 favourite Lindsay Stirling pieces are ‘Shatter Me’ featuring Lzzy Hale of HaleStorm, ‘Stars Align’ and ‘Crystallize’.

Other female singers who didn’t quite make the list, and my favourite songs by them include Kate NashBirds’, Eliza DoolittleSkinny Jeans’, Gloria EstefanHere We Are’, Christina Aguilera (‘Stripped’ album and beyond) ‘Fighter’, Mariah Carey (the early stuff up to and including ‘Emotions’) ‘Do You Think Of Me’ and Alison MoyetLove Resurrection

My Favourite Male Artists

download (9)Chris De Burgh has been a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist in the music industry since 1974 and has sold over 45 million albums worldwide. De Burgh has released a staggering 34 albums (20 studio, 5 live and 9 compilations) and 59 singles. His first album was ‘Far Beyond These Castle Walls’ in 1975 up to his most recent ‘The Hands Of Man’ in 2014. I became aware of Chris De Burgh when someone in the pub where I worked lent me his first compilation album ‘Best Moves’ and after that I was hooked. What sets him apart from most other singers is his ability to tell a convincing story in the length of the song. He lost his way a bit in ‘The Lady In Red’ and ‘Missing You’ phase, but apart from those two songs the rest have been excellent. My 3 favourite Chris De Burgh songs are ‘Crying And Laughing’, ‘Two Sides To Every Story’ featuring Shelley Nelson and ‘Crusader’. To be fair I could have listed 20 more because his songs are that good and it was very hard to pick just 3.

The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals‘Weird’ Al Yankovic is the king of the parody and the polka, and has sold more than 12 million albums since his 1976 start. Yankovic has released 25 albums (14 studio, 10 compilation and 1 collaborative) and a whopping 47 singles. His first self-titled album came out in 1983 up to the 2014 release of ‘Mandatory Fun’.  I became aware of him originally when ‘Eat It’ (a parody of Michael Jacksons ‘Beat It’) hit the British charts in 1984. And I was reawakened to his genius in 2007 when ‘eBay’ (a parody of Backstreet Boys ‘I Want It That Way’) became a huge YouTube hit with fans swamping YouTube with homemade videos. I do like the fact that he asks artists before he records parodies of their songs. American law states he doesn’t have too, but he does it out of common curtseys, and always does a section in his concerts of parodies he wasn’t able to record. The most famous of these was ‘Your Pitiful’ (a parody of James Blunts ‘Your Beautiful’) which James Blunt was happy with but his record company refused to allow Yankovic to make any money from it, but clicking anywhere on his website used to download it for free. Others that have refused parodies are Paul McCartney, Prince, Led Zeppelin and although Eminem allowed Yankovics parody of ‘Lose Yourself’, titled ‘Couch Potato’, Eminem wouldn’t allow Al to do a video. My 3 favourite Al Yankovic songs are ‘Smells Like Nirvana’ (a parody of Nirvanas ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’), ‘White And Nerdy’ (a parody of Chamillionaires ‘Ridin’) and ‘Hardware Store’ (original song). To be fair again I could have listed another 10 excellent parodies, his version of Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ renamed ‘Tacky’, and his ‘Royals’ parody renamed ‘Foil’ are well worth a listen.

1415317231895_Image_galleryImage_NEW_YORK_NY_NOVEMBER_05_EEminem is one of his names; he is also called Marshall Mathers and the Real Slim Shady. He has been involved in the music industry since 1996, and has sold over 155 million albums worldwide. The American rapper has released 13 albums (8 studio and 5 compilations) from his breakthrough album ‘Infinite’ in 1996 to his most recent ‘Shady XV’ in 2014,he has released 40 singles and made guest appearances on over 60 more with artists like Kid Rock, Rihanna, Busta Rhymes, Dr Dre and Haley Williams among others. Again with this guy I love his no nonsense approach, and ok his lyrics sometimes can be a little over the top, but it works as his type of therapy. He is, in my opinion, the best lyrical wordsmith and fastest rapper I have heard, he also proved that white guys can rap too. My 3 favourite Eminem songs are ‘My Dads Gone Crazy’ featuring Hallie Jade, ‘Love The Way You Lie’ featuring Rihanna, and ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’.

download (11)Jean Michel-Jarre is a composer, musician and composer in electronic and ambient music. He has been involved in the music industry since 1972, by the end of 2004 he had sold over 80 million albums worldwide and was the first western musician allowed to perform in China. Jarre has released a staggering 54 albums (18 studio, 8 live and 28 compilations) and approximately 40 singles. His first album ‘Deserted Palace’ was released in 1972 up to the 2011 release of ‘Essentials And Rarities’. I became aware of JMJ (to his friends) when ‘Oxygene Part 4’ was used as the theme tune to British science show ‘Tomorrows World’, I was then bought ‘The Essential Jean Michel-Jarre’ album for Xmas 1983 and loved it. I love the multipart albums ‘Oxygene’ has 13 parts, ‘Equinoxe’ has 8 parts and so on, they are great albums to chill out and relax too. My 3 favourite Jean Michel-Jarre pieces are ‘Rendez-Vous Part 4’, ‘Revolutions’ and ‘Fishing Junks At Sunset’.

download (10)Gary Moore, who has been involved in the music industry since 1969 and sadly died in 2011 at the age of 58 from a heart attack while asleep. He also happens to be a singer and guitar god. Gary Moore released 41 albums (21 studio, 8 live and 12 compilations), and 53 singles, from his first album ‘Grinding Stone’ in 1973 up to the 2014 release of ‘Live At Bush Hall 2007’.  Moore has performed with greats like B B King, Greg Lake, Phil Lynott, and others. I became aware of his god like status when I heard him play and sing ‘Parisienne Walkways’ which was phenomenal. His guitar skills defy definition as they are amazing and beyond compare. It was a great shame he was taken away from us at the age of 58, a shame and a great loss to music. My 3 favourite Gary Moore songs are of course ‘Parisienne Walkways’, ‘Friday On My Mind’ and ‘Still Got The Blues (For You)’. In my opinion, as a guitar song, ‘Parisienne Walkways’ is only bettered by the Beatles (George Harrison written) ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ from 1968.

As with any list there were some guys that didn’t make it. Here they are and my favourite songs by them Jeff WayneThe War Of The Worlds’, Wednesday 13sAmerican Werewolves In London’ (of which there is an interesting story) and Dizzee RascalBonkers’ and MorrisseyNovember Spawned A Monster’.

When once again we meet on this dusty road of ramblings I will be relating the story of my granddad John and his gold ring. After that I will countdown my top 10 bands. After that we will look at the more controversial subjects.

So until we do meet again bonsoir mais enfants.

Don’t just read about my life, live your own..

Best Regards Neil Beattie

The Xmas One (Part Two)

Hi all. Welcome as we gather round the campfire that is my blog, where you can roast your chestnuts or marshmallows or whatever you fancy. To be honest I didn’t know this was going to be part two until part one was finished. And part one wasn’t published until Xmas Day, but I have been busy with one thing and another. I’ve not even put my review for ‘Silence Of The Sea’ on LoveReading.com yet.

Well on Monday (22-12-14) we finished buying our Secret Santa gifts and getting in the food before the rush, we are having lamb this year instead of turkey for a change. On Tuesday (23-12-14) we were wrapping the Secret Santa gifts and presents for other family members. On Wednesday (24-12-14, Xmas Eve) we got the veg in and the last bits that where outstanding. Finally on Xmas Day (25-12-14) we had Xmas dinner about 1pm and then went to my partners daughters (Dawn) for Xmas tea and Secret Santa gift giving: I got Lynx smellies (deodorant and shower gel), pair of Homer Simpson slippers, 2 t-shirts, ‘Revival’ a hardback novel by Stephen King, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ DVD box set series 1-7, a beeping key finder, a pack of cards with Football Questions on them, a Spirit of 66 mug, and a football mug filled with chocolates. Also lots of drinking and general high jinks. Boxing Day (26-12-14) we watched ‘The Christmas Shoes’ trilogy (The Christmas Shoes, The Christmas Blessing and The Christmas Hope) back to back with only toilet breaks in-between.

My blog today, in keeping with the festive season, is my top 10 Xmas carols and/or modern Xmas sung by popular recording artists. So let’s kick this off with…

Ten Xmas Songs By Popular Recording Artists

martina-martina-mcbride-4791884-533-800O Holy Night I have heard this song sung by many artists Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and even Kelly Clarkson. But far and away the best version of this song is the version done by Martina McBride, but it is a very particular version that is for me. The first verse she sings accapella, then the instruments join in and the song continues. But it is the amazing power in Martina’s voice during the accapella part that is most striking. My favourite carol sang by the only artist that does it justice.

Kirstyandshane-1Fairytale Of New York This is one of those songs that always gets done by someone else on one of the popular Xmas compilations. I’ve heard a version by Ronan Keating and Samantha Mumba with some important lyrical changes. Of course the only version that matters is The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, probably given more importance because Kirsty MacColl is no longer with us. Kirsty MacColl sadly died in December 2000 after pushing her 15 year old son (Jamie) out of the way of a speeding powerboat. On three separate occasions it has been voted number one as the best Xmas song of all time. Since being recorded in 1987, it has charted in ten separate years and you can guarantee you will hear it every Xmas. My favourite modern Xmas song.

4abbc62707f3cA Spaceman Came Travelling I have only heard this song by one person, and that is the person who wrote it, Chris De Burgh. Chris De Burgh was, at one time I suspect, many people’s guilty pleasure. He has this uncanny ability to tell a complete story within a song. Songs like ‘Spanish Train’, ‘In A Country Churchyard’, ‘Crusader’, ‘Borderline’ and the sequel ‘Say Goodbye To It All’ are great examples of his song writing and storytelling prowess. ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ is no exception. An interesting retelling of the Xmas Story. As an aside, there is an author called Erich von Daniken who wrote two books ‘Chariots Of The Gods’ and ‘Return To The Stars’ which say that ancient civilizations like the Mayans, Incas, Egyptians and Aborigines learned there skills from ancient astronauts. Cave paintings from around the world show the same picture of a man in a costume resembling an astronaut’s suit. The song and books are not related in any way but it’s an interesting thing all the same. Another stalwart at Xmas, always played when a sing-along is called for mainly because of the ‘la la la la la la la la la la’ chorus.

BOOK Buble 1Winter Wonderland I was astonished to hear this song had been recorded by over 200 artists including Dean Martin, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and Annie Lennox. The version I like though is by Michael Buble (shouldn’t that be Bauble for Xmas), he sings it in such a relaxed style. The story behind the reason why I like this song is as follows. One Xmas I worked at Macro (a large cash and carry warehouse) in Irlam, Manchester, stacking the shelves and basically helping customers find what they wanted. Being Xmas they play the same songs over and over again, all day, every day. At the same time a popular local radio DJ would play quirky things people had sent in from the internet. Someone (I think it was Bob Rivers, can’t be sure though) recorded a parody of Winter Wonderland and renamed it ‘Walking Round In Women’s Underwear’. I loved the parody and would sing it often. Unfortunately, one day I found myself singing it very loudly while working at Macro. I was reported to the management by either a customer or another employee, firmly rapped on the knuckles and told to sing the proper versions, or better still don’t sing at all. To be fair it doesn’t matter who sings it, it just makes me smile every time I hear it and mostly by Michael Buble (I prefer Bauble). And that was when I realised I would never live my dream of pop stardom?

NewSong_0116_1261375aThe Christmas Shoes This was a song written for the film of the same name by the bizarrely named New Song. If you haven’t seen the film you should. The film is part of a trilogy which also features ‘The Christmas Blessing’ and ‘The Christmas Hope’. The great thing about the song is it tells you the plot of the film. The film is a weepy and it is shown every Xmas on the ‘Xmas 24’ channel (which is Movies 24 for the rest of the year). In fact all 3 films are shown every Xmas. We usually record all 3 and have a night when we watch them back to back, you certainly get through a lot of tissues that’s for sure. New Song and Blake Shelton (a country music star) appear in ‘The Christmas Blessing’ to play a benefit concert for a kid’s housing project. If you get a chance to watch them they are well worth it.

Sarah_McLachlan_29_July_2010God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman An interesting addition this, as like most hymns, it’s been recorded and versioned by numerous singers and groups. My favourite version is by Sarah McLachlan & The Barenaked Ladies. They sing a verse each and then sing the chorus a line behind each other and it sounds amazing. The fact that Sarah McLachlan is my favourite female singer in the entire world of course has nothing to do with it, my judging is totally unbiased. Sarah also released an album called ‘Winter Song’ which contains a couple of original songs and some Xmas classics. Well worth a listen.

tv_bowie_crosby_1126The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth Past meets present, old meets new and elderly meets youth. Another, for me, Xmas classic sang by Bing Crosby & David Bowie. The acting in the video is a bit hammy, but the song is pure Xmas. A perennial favourite of mine, and when I get around to putting together my Xmas compilation CD, this will defiantly be on it.

Frankie Goes To HollywoodThe Power Of Love No band has caused more video controversy than Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Their first song ‘Relax’ caused trouble because it was about gay sex and was promptly banned by Radio One. Their second record ‘Two Tribes’ as well as featuring excerpts from the Public Information Film ‘Protect And Survive’ and a wrestling match between Reagan v Chernenko (which was heavily edited due to violent scenes), the full video could not be shown due to its excessive length. So you can imagine the hype surrounding their release of a Xmas record. The papers were told that in the video for ‘The Power Of Love’, members of the band would be characters of the nativity scene which caused outrage amongst Christians. The single was released and went straight to number one, and when the video was released it was gorgeous. The video showed a low-key nativity scene being acted out in the fore ground and in the corner of each frame was Holly Johnson singing the song. The song is fantastic, the video beautifully low key, another perfect Xmas song and another must have on my Xmas compilation CD.

Bing-CrosbyWhite Christmas Another Xmas classic featuring Bing Crosby (d 1977) (again). The song first featured in ‘Holiday Inn’ in 1942, with Bing in that film was Fred Astaire (d 1987), Marjorie Reynolds (d 1997) and Virginia Dale (d 1994), and it also featured in the loose 1954 remake ‘White Christmas’. In this film with Bing where Danny Kaye (d 1987), Rosemary Clooney (d 2002) and Vera-Ellen (d 1981). White Christmas is shown every year without fail and sometimes even Holiday Inn gets an airing and although both films follow the same plot White Christmas always remains the most popular. There is a video on YouTube (if you can find it) of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas made up of clips of performances of the song he has done in films, Xmas specials and family Xmas specials, well worth a look as I say if you can find it. The song has forever cemented Bing Crosby into the fabric of Xmas.

The Lady Taverners 25th anniversary tribute lunch to Sir Cliff Richard, Dorchester Hotel, London, Britain - 09 Nov 2012Little Town No Xmas list of songs would be complete without Cliff Richard. Cliff could always be relied on to release a Xmas song when it was needed ‘Saviours Day’, ‘Millennium Prayer’, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ and my personal favourite ‘Little Town’. ‘Little Town’ is of course based on the hymn Little Town Of Bethlehem. We know his songs are cheesy, but it’s a nice cheesy. And for me, personally, Xmas wouldn’t be Xmas without at least one Cliff Xmas song being played someone. My partner is a die-hard Cliff fan so Cliff’s Xmas classics will put in an appearance at some point, and I welcome them with open arms.

Of course there are some people who like to use the Xmas song to parody like ‘Jingle Balls’ by The Macc Lads (bottom right), and the equally offensive ‘Try Not To Be A C**t Its Christmas’ by Fascinating Aida (bottom middle). But no-one has gone further than Amateur Transplants (bottom left) who created a whole album called ‘Have Yourself A Sweary Little Christmas’ featuring the wonderful ‘All I Want For Christmas Is Cash’ to the tune of Mariah Careys Xmas annoyance. And I’m sure there are many others. These songs will be played every Xmas for evermore, because Xmas songs make you feel Xmassy.

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Next week I will be doing a blog about my favourite groups, male singers and female singers and favourite songs by said musical personages. Then I will share a story with you regarding my granddad, after that we move into murkier waters. These waters are religion, politics, moon landings, 9/11, and other conspiracy theories and anything that takes my fancy. I will put disclaimers before the controversial ones, but as I said in my very first blog, while I won’t go out to purposely to offend anyone, if I do offend you … then tough. I write how I feel and make no apologies for it.

On that bombshell I shall bid you adieu until our paths cross again.

Don’t just read about my life, live your own.


The Xmas One (Part One)

Hi all. Once again welcome to the bosom of my blog, where a mince pie and a goblet of warm mulled wine can be yours for the taking. Once again thanks to those who have taken time out to read and like my blog, and the hardy souls who now follow me. ‘Silence Of The Sea’, the book I am reviewing for Lovereading.com, I’m still persevering with. I need to do a review within the next week if possible. So I will have to get reading and be quick about it. As is the norm nothing particularly groundbreaking or exceptional happened either at home or work wise.

This blog looks at my top 10 favourite Xmas toys that I received as a child or when I was older. You may be wondering why I constantly say Xmas as opposed to the other word. This is purely down to my feelings regarding religion, which I’m not going to get into now (there it is again the ugly head riseth) but in the New Year I promise I will use one or a couple of blogs to address it. It is a subject I feel very passionate about and may not be to everyone’s liking, and I do hope will provoke debate. I will also address the reasons, I think, why my views are the way they are. But that is for another time and another place. But as I do change my mind on a whim who knows when I will get round to it, sooner rather than later methinks.

To be honest I couldn’t think of anything exciting to write about other than Xmas toys. I was going to discuss Xmases past and Xmas family traditions but both started and then struggled around the 600 word mark. The toys only have general dates as I can remember the toys, but can’t remember when I got them. So let’s get on with it as time is money (I think)

evel-knievel-stunt-cycleEvel Kenevel Stunt Cycle This was a great toy and I loved it. You got Evel dressed in his trademarked white jumpsuit with stars and stripes on it, and his helmet to match. You also got a red box with a wind up handle on it, and Evels chopper (oo-er missus) motorbike. Evels back wheel slotted into it and winding the wheel increased the revving to a high pitched whine, press the button and off he went into the kitchen cupboards. I used to find it was fun to set him off from the top step and he would fly down, hit a step or two and fall off which was what you wanted to happen anyway just like on TV. I made a ramp in the back garden but it never worked as well as it did in the adverts. Any child in the 70’s was aware of Evel and his spectacular crashes which you would try to recreate with your Stunt Cycle and fail miserably.

download (1)Weebles Playground ‘Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down’, sang the advert. And they were correct the rotund Weebles, because of the big bottoms did wobble but not fall over. I had the playground play set which included 2 seater swing, 4 seater roundabout, 4 seater seesaw and a slide. I think you got 2 Weebles with the set and my mum and dad bought me another 4 Weebles to join in the fun. A toy I had many hours of enjoyment playing with. They were made between 1972-1985, but then they made a comeback between 2004-2006 with Weebleville (I know really???), and then again in 2010 and to the present day.

download (2)100th Issue Of Neo Magazine The 100th issue of any magazine is a major event and usually a collector’s edition and with my favourite mag this was no exception. This was only a few years ago and was my present partner Denise’s idea. Neo was a magazine I loved and still do. It keeps you up to date with previews and reviews of Japanese animation (anime), Japanese films, Japanese music, fashion, cosplay (people dressing up as their favourite anime characters), food and video games. Plus they do interviews with big names in Japan like Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli (Japans answer to Disney) and Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Legend of Zelda). Due to one thing and another I missed the 100th issue when it went on general sale. That did not deter Denise; she managed to get one from Neo’s publishers. And it has pride of place and I still read it as it will be another 70 odd issues before 200. But it did show Denise going above and beyond the call of duty.

download (3)Akai Hi-Fi System As an avid record buyer and music listener there was only one thing I was missing. In the early 80’s my mum and dad bought me my own stereo system made by Akai. It had a stereo radio, dual tape with play/record feature, and a turntable that played 45 (singles) and 33 (albums). No longer would I have to wait for mum and dad to be out before I could use their stereo to play my music, which everyone else hated; Heaven 17, Jean Michel Jarre, and Level 42 sounded better on my stereo anyway. Of course once my sister got one we had battle of the stereos Heaven 17 v Erasure a fight to the death, whose ears would survive. With mum and dad’s help I was able to save up the £80 to get the Akai compact disc player.

n64Nintendo 64 Before the X-Box, PlayStation, and Wii, the greatest console ever born was created, the Nintendo 64. It was a Xmas present bought for me by my ex-partner. But it wasn’t the console that made it; it was the games that I bought that made it the colossus it was. ‘GoldenEye 64’ the best first person shooter. ‘Super Mario 64’ the best free forming platform game. ‘Mario Kart 64’ the best racing game ever. And not to forget the best console game ever created ‘The Legend Of Zelda 64: The Ocarina Of Time’. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or adjectives to go into how great and amazing this game is. Every game I bought was recommended by Future Publishing’s ‘64’ magazine which reviewed the games without bias. And of Zelda they said that if you played it from beginning to end, making no mistakes, would take 60 hours (2 and a half days). It was, and remains to be, the best console ever.

amiga500Amiga 500 Before the N64 I had the Amiga 500 which my ex-partner bought from her brother for Xmas which had 100’s of pirated or cracked games (basically where someone breaks into the code of a game to pirate it). The only game I was bothered about was ‘Sensible World Of Soccer’ (or SWOS as the kids called it). It was the only game at the time that let you manage a team in anyone of 50 countries around the world, only surpassed recently by the excellent Football Manager series. Of which I play a lot. The Amiga 500 situation was cut short when we tried to upgrade it to a 1200. All the chips on an Amiga motherboard are given the names of women Penny, Diane and the irrepressible Fat Agnes. It was a defective Fat Agnes that proved to be my undoing. It caused the chips to overheat and melt various core components and my Amiga 500/1200 was no more.

download (5)Jigsaw Transporter I love jigsaws, they relax me. Separating the straight edges from the others is strangely therapeutic. My partner Denise bought me a jigsaw transporter. It’s a huge big board covered with felt, with flaps that hold the jigsaw in place. The trouble is that jigsaw now seem to be so bloody hard, it now becomes quite stressful completing them. I blame the jigsaw companies, what happened to all the easy ones. I even have a jigsaw called a ‘Wasgij’, where the picture you are creating happened in the future from the picture on the box. Then you have the ‘Impossipuzzle’ which are puzzles with bizarre pictures like baked beans or Dalmatians. But when I complete one you guys will be the first to know. I love it as it whiles away a good few hours while not getting very far.

download (6)Various Thrash Metal Albums We have a lot to thank John Peel for. Discovering the Smiths, the Fall, the Wedding Present and many other groups beginning with the. For me I thank him for thrash metal. Bands playing songs that lasted, if you were lucky, 2 minutes. Bands with names like Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death, Carcass, Sore Throat, and Blaspheme. Eastern Bloc Records was the best record shop in Manchester, you would get all your under the radar music. The first shop to sell dub step, acid house, death metal, grindcore and all the other bizarre boxes they can think of. The bizarre thing is no matter how strange the thrash metal album I asked for, be it Repulsion, Doctor And The Crippens, Doom, or Old Lady Drivers, my nan would go into Eastern Bloc records during the month of December and ask the long haired oik for the album required. My nan passed away sadly in 1993 and is greatly missed. I would have loved to of been in Eastern Bloc Records when she asked for ‘Symphonies Of Sickness’ by Carcass.

stockport-homeStockport County Shirt It may have escaped some people’s attention but I am a passionate supporter of the mighty Stockport County F C, sleeping giants of the Vananrama Conference North. Where they play such luminaries as Colwyn Bay, Guisley, and Barrow. At the moment Stockport County are 8th in the League and play Wrexham (Vanarama Conference) in the Second Round of the F A Trophy. Within the family we do a Secret Santa thing where we write out lists and people then pick them out of a bag and you spend £50 on the person you chose. My partners’ daughter bought me a Stockport County home shirt, which I wear given every available opportunity. When people find out who I support some misguided individuals say who are they? I try to condense over 110 year’s history into a couple of minutes. A brilliant Xmas present all the same.

download (4)Toy Machine Gun Without doubt one of the best presents I ever got. I was about 8 at the time. The gun fired plastic toy bullets, with a refill magazine of toy bullets and a bayonet. On the back of the packaging you got a target for aiming practise. I loved it. I’ve been quite shocked how un-P C toy guns have become. No guns, no bow and arrows, nothing violent accept a light sabre which obviously doesn’t count. When I was a kid you played war and cowboys and Indians. When you were shot you had to stay dead for 10 seconds, then you could get back up and rejoin the battle. You don’t see kids playing it anymore a great shame. But don’t get me started on the horror of inner-city schools, that’s another blog for another day. Suffice to say it was the best present I ever got.

Thank you if you have taken the time to read this blog, if you haven’t, why haven’t you? No doubt we will meet again next week where I shall find another festive subject to witter about. Until then I will be seeing you. Have a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

Don’t just read about my life, live your own.