Staying forever young - Myfanwy still has the power

Big Dave, my pal from Linlithgow near Edinburgh is curating an anthology of events that have had a musical impact on individuals from Cadenza and the Edinburgh Bach Choir. I said I would do one. I could have chosen Abide with Me at Wembley or You'll Never Walk Alone at Anfield. I went for Myfanwy in my back garden.

One evening in 2014, sat in the garden, looking over to Cartworth Moor, I listened to Myfanwy. An episode in Radio4’s Soul Music series. A podcast during which guests talked about pieces of music that were important to their life story. The final contributor in Myfanwy told of his intended trip from S. Wales to Hereford via the Rhondda in October 1966. They stopped for breakfast and saw a mountain move. Houses and a school were in its path. Slurry and water crossed the road. They started digging. He found a hand, an arm and then a dead little girl. After 48 years he was still heartbroken and cried and so did I. The last line of the song goes, ‘So give me your hand, my sweet Myfanwy, For no more but to say "farewell".’

Myfanwy is a Welsh song of unrequited love. It is warm and melancholic and stirs up feelings of loss and grief. Loss of the Welsh landscape to coal-mining. Loss of many miners in pit explosions and in 1966 the loss of 28 adults and 116 children to an Aberfan spoil heap.

The song was a favourite with Ynysowen Male Voice Choir. Formed in 1966 the choir raised money for the Aberfan disaster fund. They sang at the 50th anniversary, 2016. The last entry on their website is 2018.

I joined New Mill Male Voice Choir in 1994 when my mother was dying. The MD, Len Williams, was a retired Welsh Opera tenor who taught us Myfanwy. A lot of music was emotional just then. Twenty years later it hit me again and it still does. Along with another favourite, Abide with Me, it is sad but more of a comfort nowadays.

It is thought that Joseph Parry composed the music to a poem by Richard Davies. Published in 1875.

Myfanwy is for everyone who has lost someone and it pretty much does it again in 2020.

Radio 4 podcast

Male Voices

Old guys in lockdown week 5

These are my raggy tulips.

I had to save them from the child bride who left them literally to rot in the back yard following several weeks water logging. I must have missed out on the drainage holes.
So I took them down to the bottom deck to join the wild flowers, and they have thrived.
But, they are a bit raggy. Upright of stem, openly proud and beautiful yet shy and scalped round the edges.
A bit like me really.
And a bit like this week's coffee/pilates/thursday meet. I muddled the codes. Bob took 20 minutes to join us. He's bought a treadmill - I wonder how long he will take set it up. Derran and Greg had some concerns about my tulip thoughts - droopiness and dead-heads. Greg's limericks on the theme, 'There was a young man from Slawit', were hilarious. (publish later when I have them)


Ann Treneman from the Times, April 18, has a recipe for gardening. (1) Sit on a step and talk to the cat/dog/robin. (2) Declare war on weeds and do one small patch a day. (3) Plant a few seeds and don't worry how to do it 'right'. (4) Sit and draw a flower or a plant. (5) Have a cup of tea and let your thoughts roam.
  Yes I get some of this. We weed once a year. After the spring offensive it's pointless as everything is so overgrown. I've never done 'right' gardening. My drawings are quick and stylised. It's beer and roaming.


The childbride is into zoom pilates, except her ipad demands an OS upgrade before it will let her have the app. Having experienced all my programmes not working following an OS upgrade, I am loathe to help out with zoom. So she does her exercises from the imac.

Download your upgrade
Forward maybe, back likely
It ends in circles


I've had a sheltered life. I always thought 'trannie' was someone who enjoyed wearing women's clothes. 
Stuart Maconie in Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North, 2007, Ebury, informs me it refers to a George Harrison devotee who sits and empties his brain a lot. Come to think of it what about a Dracula nut?

I'm going to stop complaining about younger people with their victimhood, bleating on about veg and dairy and slagging each other off on social media. They are the ones who have to sort all this lot out when it's over and then get the business and political will lined up to deal with climate change. David Attenborough said so. So it must be right. 
  The men are discussing just this. It's pretty clear they agree though they are concerned about my chippings and whether they take spin. The wheelbarrow is a great touch.


Even in lockdown time still passes - where does it go?

On my pile of stones.

Radio4 this morning had a guy on talking about several different sorts of time. Clive H, a New Mill bass, will probably tell us more. The bloke did say the space created by the pandemic in our lives enables contemplation of our mortality. He described this as serene. So another moment of epiphany maybe. Or just an older person like the rest of us.

Andrew is home, not sure for how long. He enjoys darts, so we are in training. Watch out, 'importance of being an Alan' (a reference to Two Guvnors, the MD of New Mill Male Voice Choir and the Friday boules annual darts match), bandits about.


Our boulesmaestro, Dave Talboys recently let his achievements in lockdown be known. Considerable they are. 

My small mammal real estate, wonky birdtable which is not squirrel proof and bug hotel make pallid comparisons, albeit utilising stuff lying about unused.

Staying forever young - inspiring older role models

Wild flower

Lovely spring bluebells,
Ringing mournful curly girls,
Don't pinch 'em, love 'em.

Captain Tom Moore is brilliant, and he must have a brilliant machine behind him, including no less than Michael Ball.
  One note of caution from a cynical ex-NHS worker. I hope he and his team have some control where the money goes, otherwise it will get swallowed by a big black hole.
  Anyone know how the money is being used?

(Donations are going to the NHS Charities Together coronavirus appeal, which is raising funds to support NHS staff and volunteers during the crisis by offering mental health counselling, providing food and wellbeing packs and covering for travel costs, among other things. - See more at:

A Sense of Ending - a Julian Barnes novel adapted for a movie. Sadly the novel is one of my 50 page failures, along with Hilary Mantel and others.
  The movie is great. Like The Mule it depicts epiphany in an older male. Events precipitate reflections which result in action. In The Mule the events are Clint Eastwood's relationships in real time with members of a drug cartel and the policeman tracking him down. He returns to the family, sits with his dying ex-wife in hospital and reconnects with daughter and granddaughter. Finishing in jail, at least his family knows where he is.
  In A Sense of Ending the events are in the past and unreliable, but powerful enough for Jim Broadbent to think again about the importance to him of his ex-wife, daughter and grandchild.
  It's like what David Bowie said in the titles at the top of the show. But, if you want the scientific explanation, clic here.
  There is a good quote from the film. 'History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.' 'What you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.'
  Whatever we have done or think we have done, there are still chances to be happier with ourselves, with those we choose. The virus might physically restrict that, but ...
    Or, from Second Marigold Hotel 'There's no present like the time.'


Staying forever young - lockdown week 4

forever young poppies and bluebell

The first wild poppies and bluebells. We bought one bunch - not sure where the others came from.

forever young stones, real estate and tulips

There are two rogue tulips. I have a habit of rescuing some of the childbride's bulb castoffs, so I'm guessing I planted them in the wildflower patch. Along with rogue daffodils. They had baby hedgehogs on TV recently, so I built a bit of real estate, but I fear it's too small. Something might crawl in there. 
  The stones have changed. Higher and more difficult to build. It's a skill.


Much like the other weeks. Media harassment of ministers and advisers in the name of holding the government to account. This weeks topics: PPE scarcity, care home neglect and when and how is the lockdown going to end. And then some more from care home providers and specialist wonks.
  Maybe things have been a bit slow, but nobody goes to work to mess up. We are unaware of some of the other forces at work in addition to the obvious. Hancock melted down. The frequency of ums and era is up, along with overlong answers and prevaricating statistics. You wouldn't do it.

I wouldn't. Guilty. But pretty good at letting other people look after us. Or that's how it feels. It's actually called isolation or lockdown, depending whether you are Tom or me.


A barrel of Saltaire Blonde on offer from Holmfirth Civic this week. Yes, but 36 pints have to be drunk within 3 to 5 days of opening it. Bob from our pilates/coffee/zoom/thursday meet suggested I phone a friend. I'll fill a few bottles for the kids. Andrew will like it - he's still in lockdown on his own, but I managed to fix him up with Netflix which pleased him.
  No news on the tadpoles. They haven't grown much and, unless they've gone deep, there are not many left.
  The buddleia cutting is hanging on.
  I thought I heard a swarm of bees or wasps yesterday. I'm told it was a drone.

Greg's wife Pauline is sewing for England - head gear and gowns for the care homes. Brilliant apparently except the language has been alarmingly choice. The sewing machine is on the blink and needs supplementing by hand. Greg is another pilates/coffee/zoom/thursday meeter. Last week he thought everyone would go back to the way they were. Now he thinks commuting might change, given the success of conference software. He might be on to something.


The Holmfirth Oxfam bookshop has a table just as you walk in. A layer of different books, fiction and non-fiction and it changes. A great selection and attractive. A young lady is responsible and looked discomforted by my complements. I bought three just before the lockdown. Phonetics, The North and Radio 4 to add to my garden birds, Classic FM and stoic philosophy. Should keep me out of mischief.

Staying forever young - some more 2020 senior moments

Leaving water tap running - twice. I'm not going into detail, but my bathroom carpet got a soaking from which it has more or less recovered. Daughter Louise was less than sympathetic "serves you right for having carpet."

Knocking over a glass of red wine - a small one.

The childbride put ear drops in my eye. Olive oil. I thought it stung a bit. It's supposed to be steroid, but now I can hear out my right eye. Won't be getting syringed any time soon.

Check out my wonky bird table, twinned with my bug hotel - side effects of the crates that the firewood arrived in. I have broken the plastic tray since this pic and need to fashion a replacement. There's plenty of wood.

The childbride has washed the cricketers, but she says they really need a paint overhaul. Another lockdown job, if I've got the appropriate stuff - acrylic latex apparently.

Matthew Parris is somewhat controversial this week, the Times, April 11th:
 'I'm encountering what is for me an almost intolerable level of guff about reconnecting with nature, learning the joys of contemplation, home-cooking, realising how much more there is to life than nine-to-five, putting the rhythm of lovely walks and daily exercise back into life, birdsong etc.'

Hmm, yes it can get a bit twee, but it can also help with lockdown. According to one of my Thursday morning coffee zoom pilates pals, Greg, 'It will all get back to how it was'.

And Matthew agrees, somewhat chilling:

'...  bit by bit, messily and patchily, we return to normal this and next year. The shadow it will cast will not be over attitudes, lifestyles or values, to which our attachment (and in which our inertia) runs deeper than we know. We'll be just the same, but poorer and, sadly, somewhat fewer.'

Hmm, I'm at the stage of future ambivalence.

Staying forever young - lockdown week 3

The latest from the tadpoles. Swimming everywhere now, though I think there are less of them.

I have tried to take a buddleia cutting and despite 3 failures, I'm hopeful for a survivor. It can go in the garden and be a home for butterflies in due course.

The full moon, but not pink.

A pile of stones. Some say an aid to navigation. Others say it promotes extinction of certain species. These stones are from Glenelg just inland from Skye on the west coast of Scotland. If we all took stones there would be no beach. My only defence is there are only a few people up there and odd ones like us. I've spent several weeks up there, walking, doing some Munros - about 12. Last I heard there were 282.

I tbink it's a weed, but nice colours.

A solitary large bee on tulips that have just come out.

Jack and Jill with a new coat of paint that's been left. I suspect it is not the original hue. The thought is that the pot hot water bottle is from Grannie Addy's of Whitestone Lane, Hillhouse. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. It's an heirloom that became a doorstop, until one of our builders dropped it and it broke into two pieces. Now it's a curiosity.

Grandson Jenson's birthday present to me. A briocastle. It's brilliant.

Tom, a bass from New Mill Choir, and I exchanged messages this week, in lieu of going to the pub. We both admit to certain advantages when it comes to the present crisis. He refers to his relatively normal 'isolation', writing and studying. For me it's definitely a lockdown - avoiding people.

The old fart in lockdown week 2

I've noticed unintended consequences from the lockdown. First, cutting my own toenails - apologies to all those foot squeamish people. Thing is, our chiropodist, Andrew, collects great amounts of local trivia which keeps us as up to date as any computer app.
  Second, doing my own hair. I have been doing this now for 3 months courtesy of Rod Gooch from New Mill Choir, but now so relevant. There is an Amazon waiting list for electric cutters through til May.
  Third, talking to people over the phone, on zoom, FaceTime whatever. I usually talk to myself so I'm in overload, fatigued. As I keep saying there is survival value in being grumpy - it's one quality for surviving lockdown.


  My shed  

Gardening was the great pastime for lockdown week 1. Quote in the Times March 28th from Joe Swift, 'Gardening means a lot to me ... It's physical, healthy, therapeutic, hugely creative, sometimes sociable, sleep-inducing and life-affirming'.
  Wow and he goes on a lot more - 3 column inches, finishing with a mangled quote from Voltaire 'In these troubled times, we must cultivate our garden, even if it's just a small pot or two on the windowsill.'
  More wow, but I think he might be on to something.
  Stephen Anderton has a list of essential spring jobs, one of which is cleaning out my shed, and like the grump who had a bath last year, I cleaned it out last year.
 Whilst I suspect we have all had a recent tidying up garden moment, I mostly sit, wonder and drink beer in mine. 


Is anyone else aware of all the futurologists appearing out the cupboard? What is going to change as a result of covid19. Nobody knows but I guess more working together in a number of areas might be on most people's wish list.
  Radio4 this week, Start the Week, had Nick Timothy and Danny Dorling chatting about the relationships between state/government/political policy and markets/business and people/society. Plenty of permutations, remembering that the overarching value at the moment, prior to corvid19, is freedom to do whatever (social and economic liberalism). Harare popped up today to add his three penneth - the contrast between voluntarily joining in say lockdown vs compulsory - and nations going it alone vs a global solution to things such as economies. Bangladesh looks a bit fragile just now.
  Danny Dorling discussed his findings that lots of stuff is slowing down - change well underway before corvid19. The major characteristic of preindustrial life was that nothing changed and the opposite has been true of life post 1830. Population, life expectancy and data to name a few. But how large can the money cake get? Stuff has to slow down. We lead very different lives to our parents, but more or less the same as our kids. We are having fewer children, the number of inventions has fallen, increase in height has slowed and there is no way we can keep track of all the information. Economic growth is much slower. So how does the cake get cut? Right wing vs left wing - well off them/poor us vs totalitarianism.
  Danny finished up by discussing a few freedoms we could do more of. Freedom from fear and precariousness, freedom to have a nice life, freedom from keeping up with celebs. He cites the sales guy who tries to sell him a pair of trousers he doesn't want - neither gets off in these roles. 
  I don't keep up with it all, there is too much, and fairly soon it is not going to matter to our generation. Nice to be thoughtful.