Nostalgia strikes again.

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.

Even now, at least three tunes press my nostalgia button. These are: “There’s a long, long trail a-winding”, “We’ll meet again”, and “Lily of the Lamplight” (also called “Lily Marlene”).

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.

Falling into old habits

So, I set up this WordPress blog, in a style new to me, hoping that it will encourage me to make entries more often, but I haven’t have I?

At age 77, I’m finding myself very tired a lot of the time, with severe sleep disturbances. Sometimes I’m up all night. Over the Xmas-new year period my wife and I were away at a friend’s holiday house near Torquay, south of Geelong. They’re very agreeable folks to be with and we enjoy each other’s intellectual and political levels. Strangely, my sleep disturbances were minimal, partly because of the use of Temazepam and Diazepam sedatives.

Because I did little but sit and stand and have meals and talk a lot, my chronic sciatica was reasonably controlled, again by strong analgesics such as codeine and Lyrica.

But since we’ve been back home, I just seem to have slumped into painful fatigue. I am hopeful that I can recover from that by slipping back into a routine. I have many things to do to my web site, and minor chores around the home.

But everything I work on upon the computer seems to run into some complication or other, and this is a damned waste of time. And as far as I see, probably millions of people all over the world experience this sort of thing, judging from all of comments in the various forums that are thrown up upon entering the error messages into Google.

And so I push on into the murky mush of sensory experiences commonly called “Life”.

Happy Christmas to all my readers – well, both of you.

I recently started this blog  because in the first place, I do feel quite often that I have something of value to say, and in the second place, this WordPress software had become more advanced, and easier to use, and better set up.

But, I’ve fallen into old habits of mine – a combination of writer’s block, and sheer procrastination, involving the feeling that what I have to say is worthless. So I thought that at least on Xmas Day I would say something.

Xmas Day has always been significant in our family. I suppose this is from a feeling that it “the right thing to do”, plus an appreciation of the value of getting together with family and friends. The religious significance of it was present during my religious years (1952-1965), but even then, not strong. But now I regard myself as an atheist, but with an appreciation if the value of the pagan solstices and equinoxes.

So, here I am, having put digits to keyboard. In an hour’s time Glenyce and I will go to Leanne’s place for Xmas dinner with the whole family. This is usually very pleasant and uneventful, and I will take great pleasure from it, being the Patriarch of the family, as it were.

The gifts are arranged, with the cameras, and other family visit paraphernalia such as food. And so, at 10:45 am, we’ll push off, with our Tom Tom digital guidance system in use, basically for the first time, to navigate to our daughter Leanne’s place in Narre Warren.

Wish us luck!

Yes, I was anxious at the party, with good cause.

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.)

My dear daughter Leanne obtained these wonderful shaped balloons for our Golden Wedding anniversary, bless her loving heart!

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 list which 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!


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!

Performance anxiety at a party?

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.

Bring the day on! Carpe diem!!!

Comfort? – or Art?

london park seats

This article shows design-winning seats implemented in a so-called micro-park in London. I don’t know about you, but those seats look damned uncomfortable.  To me, it looks as though it would corrugate your derrière. And speaking as a 77 year old chappie with broad-based arthritis, those backs would ultimately be painful.

If so, what is it that makes otherwise sensible people be overcome by the cute or artistic side of things rather than comfort? Fashion gazumps common sense.  I’ve watched this all my life – whether it’s clothing, hairdos, furniture, appliances, or garden seating.

Is it just me??