We’ve had a marvellous whole day (two nights) at Lightning Ridge and loved it, but must move on, to where we don’t quite know. We did an excellent Black Opal tour with a dozen people in a small bus. The big steps were a struggle for us both!
Over the duration about 4 hours, an English (Lancaster) driver both entertained and informed us, as we toured a lot of the “camps” and other notable things in this strange place. I’m very tired and can barely type. This fatigue is becoming a major problem for us both. We’ve got over 200 photos but I haven’t time to process images and write about things we have experienced.
We did receive daily entertainment both afternoons at 4:30 pm by Mel and Susie, who joked, sang, delivered poetry, and did comedy, with audience participation. They are Melanie Hall and Susan Carcary. They work all over Australia, and do school workshops, and so on. They are also adjudicators at Folk and Yarnspinning competitions. We enjoyed them very much. They have a web site at: http://www.melandsusieontour.com.au/
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Hello and welcome from Bill and Glenyce Leithhead, from Glen Waverley, SE suburb of cosmopolitan Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria, Australia. This ‘sticky’ Header was used in 2016 as part of a Blog, recording our caravan journey as a round trip from Melbourne to Cairns and back, from July 13th, to between the middle and the end of September. We aimed to escape the cold southern winter into the warmth of the tropical northern Queensland dry season, and to see more of this wonderful country of ours. It was an excellent trip, but too tiring to keep up the Travel Blog, so I ditched it. But I’ve left this part in.
And so our lives continue on … we both turn 80 in 2018, but try to keep going in the face of arthritis and other challenges to our well-being ….
My wife Glenyce and I were watching a TV show which involved a personal parting under war-time pressure. The background tune was “There’s a long, long trail a-winding”, and I very, very often heard this in my early childhood. It triggered almost uncontrollable sadness, and I smothered a sob – not very successfully, and from the corner of my eye I saw Glenyce glance in my direction.
During a TV break she spoke in a very caring way, which is a little unusual. She asked me what was troubling me, and I couldn’t reply, and escaped into the toilet. When I came back, sitting in a different room, she came up to me and caressed me, which is unusual, asking me again what was going on because I was still tearful. I couldn’t put it all together and give an explanation then, but over the week I’ve figured it out, more or less, and in bed last night I raised the topic.
It’s to do with my feelings that I belong to a generation which is dying out, and, of course, some time my turn will come. That doesn’t concern me at all, but I want to leave a written record of what it has been like being Bill Leithhead, with my childhood experiences, career, marriage, children and grand-children. I’ve had some unique experiences, – nothing dramatic, but a wartime small boy, exposed to a social stratum and milieu which are passing away.
My mother was a dance-band pianist, and I grew up in the Western Australian town of Kalgoorlie with the WW2 going on. An only child, I was often taken along to musical events in which Mum played, most often with a drummer and saxophone. Other times she just played the piano or her piano accordion alone, surrounded by people singing the old songs, especially from the First Word War, but including popular music of those wartime days. These have been imprinted into my brain.
I was often tucked up in the parked car, listening to the tunes. Many of these were very sentimental, dwelling on parting, loss and destruction and the ever-present figure of death in the shadows. The local newspaper was always full of maps with arrows and symbols such as the Swastika and the Rising Sun, as well as the US and English flags – and others, of course.
A week later I opened up on this topic in a chat in bed with dear Glenyce just before we were going to sleep. That’s because I had had enough time to work out what was going on in me. I’m still not sure, but it’s to do with the feeling that knowledge of the reality of those past times is painfully nostalgic for me. My generation is dying out – I see friends die out each year.
And another major factor is the music of today, or rather the general type of popular music played ever since the rock-n/roll revolution, coming down to just rock and metal, and such-like, brought in by the advent of the electric guitar. Most popular tunes up to the late sixties at least had a melody, and were not so monotonous. But now, all I hear is rather simplistic music with only a few notes in the “melodies”, and a lot of repetition. That’s in general – there are exceptions of course.
But this stuff is churned out in the thousands by talentless dolts who don’t sing, but just “say it”, approximately somewhere near the notes, and often don’t sing but they “yell”. Of course, I’m sounding like the stereotypical old buffer who is resistant to change. I’m in my late 70s, but can play pretty good jazz on the piano – and do the same on the drums, if necessary.
Another thing that’s gone is the idea of singing around a piano, as a family, or friends, or in pubs or clubs. That’s gone, as far as I can see, and that sort of thing was so formative about my whole being, that I absolutely mourn for the cultural loss that I’m experiencing. People just don’t seem to sing together in the way I grew up with – or at least not among my family and friends.
And that, dear readers, is what can render me to tears or a sob, when the triggers happen to be in some TV show or other. I’m stuck with it, but at least I understand it now.
Last Saturday’s party for our Golden Wedding was, I should say, a success, in that everyone said they had a good time. My family said they had a good time. Various friends said they had a good time. I had a good time except for a series of incidents that were anxiogenic verging on panicogenic. (Yes, they are real words.)
But there were moments when my worst fears were realized.
The venue was ready with about 8 large, set tables. making it crowded fro the musos. I was staggering in (with help) with my gear for a digital keyboard, amp, and bits and pieces. Setting up was a problem and I dithered, and misplaced bits, and got flustered. It was quite warm, and my daughter Leanne said “Dad, slow down. Slow down. Your face is red! Would you like a glass of water?” So it showed. Anyway that was finally done, but it was surprisingly stressful. Then the bass and drums arrived, so I helped there.
Let me say that I’m battling against two factors. The first is a life-long depressive illness, whereby I panic to varying degrees and give myself a hard time, verging on suicidal – in fact more than just verging. I know about it, and try to use Cognitive Behaviour techniques to manage it, and it’s much better than it once was. But the depression is still alive and well enough to potentially deprive my wife and family of my existence. Not that I’d care then, being non-existent. but I love them and that would hurt and shatter them. I don’t really want that legacy.
The other is fairly severe spinal arthritis in the lumbar region. Not that here’s anything unique about that, and millions have it, but it’s permanent and continuous, with chronic back pain plus a horrible dead sensation in the legs. After 3 operations, nothing more can be done, so I take necessary pills and struggle along, but it really bloody well hurts!
Pain drains my soul and robs my psyche of its clarity.
People started arriving. We’d stipulated “no gifts, please”, but in came some nice picture frames, bottles of wine, a nice scarf, and so on. I left Glenyce and the daughters to help sort this out, which worked.
BUT, I had written a listwhich I desperately need for a welcoming speech I’d planned, but couldn’t find it!! People milling around, drinking, chatting, and me hunting high and low for this bloody list. Glenyce discovered it on the floor under a chair I’d sat in. Duh!
It was absolute hell missing that list, but I did find it, and my intro went well, I thought.
But I gave myself a bloody hard time over losing it. And it fed into a general feeling of what next is going to happen. As it happens, my older son Peter made an excellent, interesting, humorous speech about us, and everyone cheered.
Then it was time to cut a cake (made by Nicole), and after photos do a bridal waltz, which was OK. and so things went on – I got involved with playing jazz, and so on. But now I remember that I forgot to reply to Peter’s speech. I never did get to that, because the music took off, and after a while people started leaving in dribs and drabs and I had to do the hostly duties.
Y’know, I’d worked out a speech about how we met and how it blossomed out, and how I proposed as a surprise. I took her to lunch in town one day (we both worked near the city centre). I said I needed her help to help me buy something “for the family”, and she was shocked when I took her to a jewellery store and put some rings in her hand to chose from. I had fore-warned the owner, so he was ready for us, and knew what I had in mind.
So it was a really good surprise. It was also a surprise to both sets of parents, because no prior discussion had taken place. My own Mum burnt the veggies due to the distraction. But I didn’t get to do the speech. No great loss, I suspect! It was by no means conventional, and I suppose, verging on the presumptuous.
Further anxiety set in when I played my first set of numbers with my trio. I had an idea what I’d do, but at the last moment couldn’t find the right music Grrr!!! “Not happy, Jan!”, is apparently an Australian vernacular saying for that, arising from a distant TV commercial of some note,, but it’s how I felt. So I stumbled through some other numbers, but it was OK, apparently. But I wanted it to be brilliant, which wasn’t going to happen. Drat!
BUT I THOUGHT THEY WERE BORING!!
So my well-planned speech was stillborn.
Then a became quite transfixed with anxiety as I sat at the keyboard, with three different people offering me books of possible jazz numbers to play. I hope I chose wisely, but it was hard to please everyone. Look, the musos and singers were well-chosen, good players, good friends, and it all went well. many of my family and other friends hadn’t heard the musical side of me, so it turned out well.
I love all of my friends who were there, and count myself a fortunate man. And I know Glenyce shares my feelings!
But not without the predicted anxiety! And I used no Valium at all – just a little white wine did the trick!
OK , It’s my our 50th wedding anniversary coming up, the symbol for which, we are told by the powers that be, is Gold for 50 married years. The actual date is Dec 11th, but tomorrow we’re having a Golden Wedding celebration, with about 50 people in a nice little venue with a catered lunch and free drinks for all.
Except not free yours truly of course! My do, my pockets. Really happy to do so, and never thrown something like this before, so I’m a bit nervous, although I’ve played in bands for many of these in the distant past, when I did play the drums. OK – really nervous. Like – something will go wrong. I’ll forget people’s names. I’ll make a fool of myself in the speech. I’ll drop my dinner. Spill my drinks
My family’s done everything – venue, invitations, RSVPs, arrangements, decorations, and so on. but I’m still nervous.
Y’know, it’s as though I’m getting married all over again. Ridiculous, of course. I’m a perfectly competent 77 year old man with an academic career behind me, three successful children, four grandkids, and so on.
I’m taking a bottle of Valium with me.
It’s to do with music. Many of the invitees are musicians, all of whom I know and with whom I’ve played many times. I’m nervous that I couldn’t invite all that I know, because there are limits, and I had to make choices. I’m worried that someone will feel left out. God, this is annoying!!
And I’m taking my digital keyboard and amp and stuff, and I’ve got a drummer mate who’s going to all the trouble to bring his kit, and a bass player, and others with instruments and yadayadayada! And we’ll play our jazz and ballads. Some will sing, and we’ll have a bloody good time, as a matter of fact.
But I’m still nervous. There’s always the Valium!
I’ll make mistakes on the piano. I won’t know the tunes and feel like an idiot!! None of this will actually happen, but I’m afraid it will and that’s bad enough. In fact I won’t need the Valium, because I’ll do well, and everyone will have a great time. Lots of people there will never have heard me play at all, and certainly not the jazz stuff in which I’m involved, and that will be quite an experience for them. And me.
All of the musos are characters, and are very entertaining, and really good players and singers. The musos like to jam, too. And this is for people who know nothing about jazz and so on. But that’s why I’ve invited them all there at once, so they can all meet each other. The showbiz group can meet the family, and the family can meet the fungi people, and the family can meet people I went to school with, and the latter will meet some of the whole damn bunch of friends we’ve been so lucky to acquire as we pass through our lives.
I’m nervous, too, because I wonder whether people will mingle easily, and introduce each other, because I certainly won’t have time to. And I ended that with a preposition, which you’re not s’posed to do but I don’t care.
And I’m selfish, because I haven’t even mentioned my dear wife yet. but she’s watching me type this, and if she hadn’t, I might have forgotten about her completely.
Because performance anxiety is so self-centred, isn’t it?! Typical of me. Hopelessly self-centred. Narcissistic. Like all performers, probably.
And that’s OK.
But it’s OK. the day will be good. Nothing will go ‘wrong’, and if it does, it won’t matter. Because life is to be lived, and “is fired at us point blank”. My performance anxiety has gone now, because I feel so much better with Glenyce by my side. (Can’t find a marriage photo on this computer!) And isn’t that what a Golden Wedding anniversary is all about?
I know the anxiety will be there again tomorrow. It’s a permanent companion. Maybe, a good friend.