Life, and its vicissitudes have threatened to overwhelm me of late.
And it is summer, which I’ve always believed is for summering in.
But a new friend recently lent me such support and uttered such lovely words of encouragement in my ear, that I am inspired once more…so grazie mille Antonella.
This post is a not -so – little journey through my musical past and present, because I am rarely happier than when listening , singing or dancing to music.
In fact, sometimes it feels so good it seems almost illegal.
And previous readers of my posts may have noticed that most of my Blog titles are also song titles.
As the song says : ‘ Music was my first love, and it will be my last. Music of the future, music of the past’.
‘I hope you don’t mind, that I put down in words’ …now where have I heard that line before?
The first poster on my bedroom wall was of The Jackson Five.
I had seen them on Top Of The Pops and been captivated.
A very young Michael spun on his Cuban heels, smiled and fizzed for the camera and seemed to me to be possessed of something that very very few people ever are.
I was only about 6 or 7 myself, but those beats permeated my soul.
My love of music was born.
This was the era of the house party, and my parents were in the vanguard.
Saturday nights in summer were spent hanging over the bannisters with my brothers, listening to the chaotic- and sometimes bewildering- din of grown-ups at play, all set to the most fantastic soundtrack.
The Beatles and Dusty Springfield, ( to whom my aunt paid weekly homage with an enormous beehive ) The Rolling Stones and Donovan. Fleetwood Mac and Marianne Faithfull.
My parents were somewhat divided on the merits of The Beatles versus The Stones, with my mother preferring the former and my father the latter, although both were played at full volume in our house, and on repeat, if there was a new favourite, such as ‘Hey Jude’.
I come from a very musical family by any reckoning.
My maternal grandfather played the cornet and trained at The Military School of Music at Kneller Hall.
My father was in a band for my entire childhood and an amp and guitar stood permanently at the ready in the sitting room.
My mum sang like a nightingale, all the time, all around the house and both my father’s sisters played every musical instrument under the sun between them, including the accordion, the piano and the harmonica.
Both aunts were church organists too, one of them always in residence whenever we went to church, so there was never a time that my life did not seem set to music of one kind or another.
Aged 8, I remember one of my aunts asking me to sing some notes for her while she sat at the piano one day.
Having been able, without any training or thought, to give her the required ‘ A’ and then ‘D’ when asked, I was informed I had ‘ perfect pitch’ -whatever that meant.
This isn’t something that I can be particularly proud of, since at least 1 in 3 of us have it, we have just forgotten that we have, or don’t remember unless tested!
I like to think that this lovely gift comes to us from where we were before we arrived here; a simpler and purer place where music is given the highest value and honour, and where we all sing in celestial choirs.
For I know of no greater pleasure than catching hold of a new tune and starting to sing along to it, quite instinctively. It lifts the soul like nothing else.
So I absorbed all of this musical influence, even having some guitar lessons myself and having a go at The Faces ‘Maggie May’ on my dad’s electric guitar – although I wasn’t very good, my talents lying elsewhere!
The first single I ever bought was Nilsson”s ‘ Without You’.
Wildly popular, breaking records for the weeks spent at Number One, I played it to death in my bedroom, though it hasn’t stood the test of time for me and I wouldn’t choose to listen to it now.
My dad, never one to mince his words, referred to him as : ‘that whining moaner’.
Worse was to come.
For at 12, I fell for my life-long passion- David Bowie.
I remember the night I first beheld him.
Top Of The Pops again, on a school night.
In an extraordinarily tight multi -coloured jumpsuit, his carrot hair coaxed on end, his arm slung around Mick Ronson as he sang ‘ Starman’ , he was launched on the nation.
I was, and remain, transfixed.
He caused quite the stir at school the next day, with the classroom divided into those who thought he was the second coming ( me ) and those who just couldn’t see the point of him at all.
My dad belonged in the second camp, although came around circa ‘ Space Oddity’ with the admission that it was ‘ not a bad song’.
Possibly the only cool thing I’ve ever done in my life, was to buy ‘ Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ as my first album.
And so it stays, played by me still, in my car and at home. In several formats, from vinyl to download, my favourite album of all time.
And I only have to hear those sweet opening riffs to be turning it up and singing every word.
For I know them all.
. ‘ Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly…’
And this will be played at my funeral ( sorry kids! )
So these were ‘ The Bedroom Years’.
Driving my parents crazy, though my mother showed great taste in not minding Randy Crawford’s ‘ Street Life’ belting out of my window daily. She still says it reminds her of me.
And I discovered George Benson too. My dad didn’t like him much either, complaining that he just doodly – da da da-ed up,and down the chords. He did like the fact that I had followed in his footsteps with a great liking for Rod Stewart and The Faces. ‘ Every Picture Tells A Story’ still being one of my favourite albums.
Luckily for his ear drums, I then went to boarding school, where the sounds of Mike Oldfield’s ‘ Tubular Bells’ sent us to sleep each night, though I couldn’t stand them!
I was too busy honing my early love of Motown and Soul music through the wondrous tones of The Isley Brothers, whose ‘ Summer Breeze’ was an anthem that year, and which will forever remind me of long lazy days spent by the river Wey with my best friend and bunk mate, Lesley.
Like all true loves, soul music is forever for me.
I played this just yesterday, and it is as fresh and clean as the day I first heard it, with lyrics so evocative and tender that if you haven’t got a ‘ smile waiting in the kitchen’ or ‘ curtains hanging in the window, in the evening, on a Friday night’ or ‘ cooking, on a plate for two’ you are apt to feel quite bereft.
In fact, on a Friday night in July, this song can still make me cry. And that is the mark of a truly great song.
So I turned 16 and discovered Funk.
There was a great little club in our tiny home town by the name of Frenchies.
It became so popular, that its fame spread nationally, attracting a very cool and diverse crowd.
They had fabulous visiting DJ’s, including the legendary Greg Edwards ( now a Facebook Friend, funny how life goes…I used to listen to his radio show as a teenager, whilst in the bath ahead of a night out! )
Specialising in Funk, Soul and Jazz, with a little Northern Soul thrown in, I had found a new home.
Every Sunday night we were there, and I became part of a little travelling group of Soul revellers known as ‘ Frenchies Funkfinders’.
We were on a mission to spread ‘The Funk’ via the likes of George Clinton and his ‘ Funkadelic’ Parliament, alongside Randy, Joe Sample, Maze, The Olympic Runners and of course, George Benson, whose version of ‘ Nature Boy’ remains as another anthem of my youth ( and is mentioned in my Blog: ‘ All You Need Is Love’ ) .
I have already written in a previous post about my discovery of The New Romantics and The Blitz Club, so I won’t repeat, but will refer the keen reader back to said post : ‘ London Calling’, for details of that era!
Some of this back catalogue I find dated now, although I do still like a bit of Spandau Ballet when the mood is right. I’ve always liked Tony Hadley’s voice.
Following on from this era, I entered what I can only refer to as an ‘ existential ‘ phase.
Coinciding with my first flat-share, I was introduced, by people much more avant garde than I will ever be, to Joy Division, Nick Cave and their ilk.
Not being one to usually enjoy wallowing in the darker side of life, this phase didn’t last very long, and on days when nothing but the sounds of nihilistic depressives filled the flat, I found comfort – as I always have – in my beloved Tamla Motown.
When it became time for me to have my own family, I never let a day go by that was not filled with music in some way, even if that music was sometimes ‘ the wheels on the bus’.
I like to think – and indeed, I hope- that as my parents did with me, that I may have helped to influence and shape my children’s musical tastes.
From putting on their own little singing shows ( East 17 being an early favourite with my eldest ) to trotting into Woolies to purchase their first records and CD’s, my three have always demonstrated as strong a love of music as I do.
All of them are involved in music and one is a professional drummer.
I like everything – as long as it is the best of its kind and it gets to my feet, heart or soul ( and even, more rarely, all three.)
My Spotify playlists demonstrate my eclectic tastes, and I love a mixture of the old and the brand new.
I never make any excuses or offer any defences for the music I love and choose to listen to, and I refuse to be defined by my generation, or what ‘ people like me’ SHOULD listen to.
I am a creature of instinct and go by my mood – or the mood I would like to be in – and if want to listen to Gangsta Rap, Hip Hop, a boy-band ( and yes I do ) or Opera- I will.
The beauty of Spotify ( which I believe To be one of THE best innovations for musical enjoyment ) is that I can listen to these one after the other if I so choose.
But most of all, I go back time and again to my very first loves…
Just this morning I played an old Bowie track, ‘ China Girl’ followed by some Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Van Morrison, Prince ( ‘Raspberry Beret’, a summer favourite ) and, of course, Ella, whose voice is my idea of feminine perfection.
And then, because I had some mundane little domestics to do, but fancied a dance around first ( and my love of dancing is very well known, as described in my Post: ‘Shall We Dance’ ) I put on Michael Jackson’s ‘ Smooth Criminal ‘ which to me, is still dance-floor heaven.
Genius in any art form is timeless.
Music to make us happy, music for when we are sad.
I shall end on the wise words of The O’ Jays ( and actually, this is a great track, might play it in a minute! )
‘ I love music, any kind of music
I love music, just as long as it’s groovin’.
I love music, Sweet, sweet music
Long as it’s swingin’
All the joy that it’s bringing.’
Go put a record on.
Copyright Amanda Hills 2015, All Rights Reserved.
‘ Maggie May ‘ Music & Lyrics by Martin Quittenton & Rod Stewart, performed by The Faces
‘China Girl ‘ Music & Lyrics by David Bowie & Iggy Pop
‘Starman’ by David Bowie
‘ Summer Breeze’ Music & Lyrics by Seals & Crofts, performed by The Isley Brothers
‘ Music Was My First Love’ by John Miles
‘ I Love Music’ performed by The O’Jays, Music & Lyrics by Gamble & Huff
‘ My Song’ by Elton John & Bernie Taupin
‘ Without You’ by Harry Nilsson
‘Smooth Criminal ‘ by Michael Jackson
‘ Street Life ‘ Music & Lyrics by Will Jennings & Joe Sample, performed by Randy Crawford
‘ Nature Boy ‘ by Eden Ahbez, performed by George Benson
Having written about Love the last time round-the biggest topic in the world in my opinion-I needed a break!
And my last post caused me to think afresh, in a rather deep way, on that subject.
In fact, pondering on love sent me back to my bookshelves, re-reading the words other more exalted writers had written.
As always, in matters of the heart, I turned first to Shakespeare and his Sonnets, Sonnet 116 in particular :
‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.’
Very well-known and popular, but no less profound for that.
From there, I took down my anthology of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and turned to Sonnet 43, to gather solace from her beautiful and timeless words :
‘ I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need
By sun and candle- light.’
Still with poetry as my theme ( for it is the language of love and expresses tenderness and the heart’s longings better than any other form ) I opened my treasured book of the verses of WB Yeats.
Never far from my side, this is my favourite book of poetry, by my favourite Irish poet.
What had William Butler to say about love, oh so many years ago?
Many of his love poems were written to, and for, Maud Gonne, his Muse and the great love of his life.
Yeats adored her for her beauty, sweetness of nature and outspoken manner.
This is one of my favourite lines from his poem, ‘ When You Are Old’ :
‘ How many loved your moments of glad grace
And loved your beauty with love false or true.
But one man loved the Pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.’
It doesn’t get better than that, you can feel his love for her all down the centuries.
The point I’m making, is that books have been my comfort and my release, as well as my main source of inspiration since I first learnt to read.
And so, with that in mind, my post today is about my journey through literature and my love of reading.
When I was 5 years old, I made up my mind to be a writer one day.
I didn’t think exactly how that might come about, I just knew in my very soul that reading and words were able to transport me to a quiet place of my own, where no-one could reach me and where nothing was able to intrude. In Yoga, we recognise this as being in ‘ flow’.
My mother realised this, and encouraged it, buying me little books to read alongside the regulation ‘Janet and John ‘.
My paternal grandmother, a devoted church- goer all her life, gave me The Children’s Bible for my 7th birthday. Her writing is still on the fly-leaf, another thing I love about books.
This is the very first book I remember as being my favourite. I was obsessed with it, and would avidly read as much as I could each night before I was made to turn out my bedroom light.
It was beautifully illustrated with pictures that completely captured my imagination and I had a particular fascination for the story of Bathsheba.
The coloured plate at the bottom of the page depicted a beautiful temptress in a white robe, immersed in an outdoor pool.
It was obviously on a roof, as there were high trees behind her, as well as a bearded man who appeared to be spying on her.
I don’t know what it says about my seven year old self that I couldn’t get enough of this chapter!
All I remember are the words : ‘ He saw a very beautiful woman and sent to ask who she was. She was Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam .’
These wonderful and exotic stories bewitched me far more than the standard texts set in primary school. I longed to be called Bathsheba!
My first big leap into what could be termed grown -up fiction, came at the age of 12.
By then, I was in Secondary school and studying English Literature.
The riches of F. Scott Fitzgerald unfolded before me- I couldn’t get enough.
I even read the biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald, his wife, and the famous autobiography ‘ Beloved Infidel’ by Sheilah Graham, which chronicled her affair with Fitzgerald and the Golden Era of Hollywood.
I lapped up all the American authors at this point- everyone from Gore Vidal to John Updike and, of course, Norman Mailer, who like me, had a complete fixation on Marilyn Monroe.
As an antidote to all this Americana, and influenced heavily by my maternal grandmother, I also made it my business to read all I could about the Tudors, Medicis and Borgias.
The more grisly and gory the facts, the better I liked it!
Again, my fascination was mainly for a very strong and vivid female character, Lucrezia Borgia.
With her waist- length golden tresses, she seemed to have every man in Rome in love with her- including her own brother.
It was always these less wholesome heroines that I liked the best.
Scarlett O’ Hara, Lucrezia, Lolita and Anne Boleyn won out over Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna every time- although I did have a fondness for Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers boarding school series, which featured a roguish, prank-loving tomboy called Darrell Rivers and her escapades with the brilliant and mischievous Alicia.
Later on, and perhaps influenced by these tales, I was to attend a boarding school myself, complete with midnight feasts in the boot room!
Growing up in a male dominated household with brothers, my forays into magazines began with those august publications ‘ Match’ and ‘ Shoot’.
Along with The Beano, they were sometimes all I could find to read while in the bath.
Then, at the age of 12, I began my life-long love affair with Vogue.
These were the 70’s, and glamazons such as Jerry Hall and Bianca Jagger adorned the pages.
I still like that look almost better than anything- flowing wavy hair, tanned skin and a red lip.
I would save up all my pocket money to buy it, going without school lunches sometimes in order to do so, and I am still a subscriber, finding joy and beauty in its pages, and a different kind of escapism.
Around this time also, I published my own amateur magazine- complete with a Problem Page…a taste of my psychology training to come?
My late teens were the study years- my deep love of classic literature seriously challenged as I spent far too long closeted with Laurie Lee, Dickens and Austen. But I sought relief in song lyrics, particularly those of Bowie and Lou Reed, whose Perfect Day was my favourite to have a good sing to when fed up with studying.
It was the literary critic Cyril Connolly who said that the enemy of good art is ‘ the pram in the hall’.
Once I became a mother, raising my family, my writing and reading for pleasure took a serious nose-dive due to lack of time and sheer exhaustion.
To compensate, I could not believe the joy I took in reading to my own three children.
Tucked up in bed in their pyjamas, rosy-cheeked and adorable from their baths, the light on low to encourage sleep, I was the book Nazi to end them all.
Refusing to read anything that was not beautifully written, my children were brought up on Peter Rabbit and C S Lewis, Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Roald Dahl. Although I did ( and still do ) have a weakness for nonsense rhymes, such as those by Edward Lear and Spike Milligan.
As the children grew, I returned to my studies.
This time, Psychology and Philosophy, as well as spiritual texts such as The Bible ( yes, a return and a staple of my life ) The Quran and the wonderful Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, along with The Bhagavad Gita.
Greek Mythology too.
Immersing myself in philosophical and academic texts was my escape from discussions on who had started which fight amongst my children and the sheer daily labours- and pleasures- of being a mother of three.
I felt that if I could understand how our long- term memory works, and the theories of Aristotle, that I was somehow staving off the numbing of the mind that can occasionally happen as you care for young people.
I hope it has worked, for I’m now a Freelance writer as well as a Psychologist, and in the fortunate postion of being paid for doing something I love.
On a personal reading note, I belong to a fabulous book club, and my enduring love of the classics, as well as an epic love story are well -known.
Only yesterday, a few of us went to see the latest film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s ‘ Far From The Madding Crowd’, one of my favourites of both genres, featuring, funnily enough, another Bathsheba.
Due to a very great friend, I’ve re- discovered poetry too, and even written some of my own.
Yet, as Picasso so wisely said : ‘ Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working’.
Luckily for me, and as regular readers will know, I live on a beautiful island on The Thames, where the Muse is often able to strike due to the complete peace and tranquility.
If I leave any kind of a legacy for my children, I hope it is my love of words, books and ideas, along with kindness and an appreciation for all living creatures.
My bookshelves remain over-flowing, and apart from Brenda, our beloved cat, my books would be the first things I saved in fire or flood ( well, maybe some of my clothes too, since I’m rather fond of those, hence my love of Vogue ! )
For what could be better, in any weather, or any mood, winter spring summer or fall, than curling up with a good book, losing yourself and escaping into somebody else’s imagination for a while.
Copyright, Amanda Hills 2015, All Rights Reserved
SOME OF THE BOOKS MENTIONED: ( In case you feel inspired ! )
The Oxford Shakespeare, Complete Sonnets & Poems
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Selected Poems
The Complete Poems Of WB Yeats
The Children’s Bible, Hamlyn
Zelda Fitzgerald by Nancy Milford
The Great Gatsby and Tender Is The Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Beloved Infidel, Sheilah Graham Westbrook
Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal
Blood & Beauty: The Borgias, by Sarah Dunant
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, CS Lewis
A Book Of Nonsense, Edward Lear
The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali
The Greek Myths, Robert Graves
Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
It was never going to be long before I tried my hand at writing about love.
Those who know me well, may wonder why it has taken me this long.
But sometimes, the subject of love proves difficult to put into mere words, and we are all following in the footsteps of so many revered others, writing about love is not easy.
From Shakespeare to Yeats and The Beatles, most of the songs, plays, poems and books ever written are on the subject of love, because it is the most powerful emotion the human spirit can experience.
Before I write more, I want to say that this particular blog may well be even more personal than my previous writing. It may also be a little longer.
But I believe that we are all here to live and speak our own truth and so, I shall continue to do just that, without worrying what others may think at all.
If, however, you find yourself without any spiritual beliefs of any kind, it might be better for you to stop reading right now and go and put the kettle on. For love is impossible to write about without touching, in at least a gentle way, on our Divinity and our souls.
My daughter, if reading this, as she sometimes does, may at this point, think that I’m going to ‘ sit cross-legged and call myself Willow’ , as she has expressed before in her inimitable way.
But it’s ok Molly, I’m not and my sense of humour and down-to-earth nature will remain intact!
If you’re still with me, I also want to thank two people today.
My friend and fellow dancer, April, for her words of encouragement when I feel that it is too scary to write so openly.
In the Spring, a young man’ s fancy turns to it.
Poets and songwriters are inspired by it.
People throughout the ages have lived and died for it. Even killed in its name.
But what is it, this emotion that takes up so much of our thoughts and time? How do we know we are feeling it?
A little personal note here: my name, Amanda is derived from the Latin for ‘ to be loved’ or ‘ worthy of love’.Named by my Irish grandfather, I’ve been a hopeless romantic my whole life, and maybe ‘ Amanda’ is why!
My two favourite films are ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘ The Sound Of Music’. Both love stories.
And my favourite songs are love songs, my earliest in this regard being sung by The Beatles, and John Lennon in particular, who I swore aged 5 that I would marry.
My friends in the book club I belong to, cast exasperated looks my way as I suggest yet another love story or anthology of poetry for us to read.
‘ Is it about love?’ I ask ‘ For if not, I’m not sure I’m very keen to read it’ .
But there are definitely two distinct sides to my character.
My father is a very straight-talking engineer and my mother is a poetic soul of Irish descent. Both have influenced me.
I’ve studied psychology and philosophy, finding them equally important and fascinating.
For without the why’s and the how’s, I’ve never been interested, and I always look for proof wherever possible.
Yet, on the other hand, where would we be without the ideals and ideas posed by philosophy?
So, I practice yoga, but I also like nothing more than empirical research and scientific fact, a difficult thing to find when looking into the business of love!
There are many different kinds of love.
Familial, dutiful and unconditional- the love we feel for our children and our parents and siblings.
Platonic, as in the love we have for our closest friends.
Universal- a love I often feel as I look out over a sparkling river on a sunny day or over a sea of rapt faces enjoying a wonderful live performance of some kind.
Then, I can’t help feeling a swell of love for my fellow human beings, knowing that we are all just trying our best, have the same struggles and pains and are in this together.
And then there is romantic love.
The stuff of legend.
How many of us, if we are honest, will leave a better legacy behind than the love we have shown to other people in our short time on earth?
Very few of us will be remembered for some invention that made lives better or for a medical breakthrough that alleviated pain and suffering.
We all don our masks each day, pretending to do very important jobs to cover for the fact that most of us are sleep-walking through our lives and have no idea why we are here at all.
I am here for Love. And I know that for sure. To feel it and show it and not to be afraid.
For I strongly believe that we all have Divine missions to fulfil, and only by doing this can we find any true happiness and peace while we are here in our allotted span.
‘ The greatest thing we can ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return ‘ ( Nature Boy )
We are all capable of love, yet we don’t all achieve it, or anywhere near it.
Not all love is created equal.
Not all love, is love.
Who can forget the famous quote from Prince Charles on the eve of his engagement to Diana Spencer when asked if he was in love.
‘ Whatever ‘ in love ‘ means’ was his unromatic and dead-pan answer, even as she smiled shyly up at him, clearly besotted. I think we all knew right then that the union would end in tears and disaster. At least, watching it, I did. My thoughts were that his heart must have for some reason, frozen, or ( as turned out to be the case ) he must be in love with another. My romantic heart hurt for Diana that night.
For if you can’t be joyful and happy when you’ve asked somebody to be yours, when can you be?
You can see and feel love when you are in the presence of it, for there is no disguise. I went to the engagement party of two dear friends recently where true love was present in the room, and they were not afraid to show us all, so we could share in their happiness. It was wonderful and every guest left feeling enriched.
Marriage does not necessarily involve love.
We’ve all witnessed those couples that sit and stare drearily into space without a word to say on Valentine’s Day in restaurants.
True love has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or anything so trite. It is expressed in the little details of every day, rather than the hearts and flowers and diamond rings of the Big Occasion.
True love is kind and quiet.
‘ It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud’. ( I Corinthians 13:4-8 )
It is patient and never asks what is in it for us, but instead, seeks the other person’s happiness.
Love makes better people of us, because we want to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
Love makes us happy to our very core, so that we laugh at the smallest, silliest thing that the other says, simply because they have said it.
Love makes us tremble with delight at the sound of the loved one’s voice speaking our name. And our name on their lips sounds better than we have ever heard it before, it feels safe in their hands.Silences and pauses are filled with delight, as we both anticipate what the other will say next.
It means never feeling uncomfortable sitting quietly with that person but instead, feeling a sense of deep deep peace and complete satisfaction.
It means looking up, seeing their face and knowing there is nowhere else you’d rather be, even if it is pouring with rain or you are walking in the bitter cold.
Love means real concern for another person ‘s comforts.
Wanting to make their favourite meal for them because it makes them happy.
Love is never counting the cost of any slight argument or disagreement, but forgiving quickly, because there is nothing to forgive.
True love has no games and no pretences.
It does not diminish over time, but rather, increases and grows stronger every day.
When you love someone, the whole world looks more beautiful because they are in it.Everything lights up, people seem kinder.
It is this kind of love that can and will change the world. For as Martin Luther King Junior said : ‘ Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’
True Love is unconditional, in the same way that love for our children is. It embraces flaws and imperfections, each becoming beloved as they make the loved one who they are.
Love is true understanding, each of the other. It plays no tricks or cruel games, because there is trust, truth and honesty at its heart.It is not to be confused with lust, which is not even a near relative ( although some people do muddle the two . )
Love is missing that person the moment they leave a room or have to go away for a while. Because their smile is the best smile you have ever seen and you will hold it in your mind until you can see them again.
Love is a secret shared by two people but that spreads like wild -fire. First to their family and friends and then to the rest of their world, wherever they go.
For everyone loves those who are in love, and in the words of the famous song from ‘ Casablanca’ : ( another favourite ) ‘ The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by’ .
Love is painful. Nothing of great beauty comes without a price.
A parting from the person you love will feel like centuries, though only days or weeks may have passed.
For love is not logical or conveniently packaged and has no boundaries of age, space, distance or time.
Love is not logical. Yet it is the strongest and most precious gift any of us can give to another.
It can cut through anything and overcome any obstacle, although it can and does involve sacrifices, both small and large. They never feel like sacrifices, because you want to make them.
True love does conquer all. It is the only thing that can.
It is very rare and worth waiting a lifetime for.
Love inspires, inflames and impassions. But it also soothes, quietens, calms and softens. It is the best, and also the hardest thing in the world.
For love is divine. It is how we were created and where we will return.
Once you have found it- if you are lucky enough to have found it – never ever let it go.
‘ There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
‘ Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No-one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
‘ All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need’ .
Copyright A. Hills 2015 All Rights Reserved
‘Nature Boy’ ( Eden Ahbez )
‘As Time Goes By’ ( Herman Hupfeld )
‘All You Need Is Love ‘ ( Lennon-Mc Cartney )
But I have always felt that the unsung stars were the Innkeeper and his wife. They may not have had the best costumes or the most lines to say, but they seemed to me to embody the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, and one that I try to keep.
For they said ‘ yes’ when everybody else had said no and opened their doors so that two people in need could enter out of the cold.
Christmas. Always a difficult season to navigate, and even more so now, when everybody is so time- pressured and rushed, that there seems to be no time to enjoy what should be a period of peace and happiness.
Battling through the festive shoppers as you struggle into work each day, the season itself seeming to start earlier and earlier every year.
Queues in every department store, as you desperately try to think what to buy your father that is different from last time. My dad is always the trickiest on my list, as he doesn’t really want anything!
And isn’t that the point really? Most of us, who are lucky enough to live here in London, in England, don’t actually NEED anything.
‘What do you want for Christmas this year ?’ I hear people ask each other, as early as October. Before we’ve even celebrated Bonfire Night.
I’ve always been clear what I would like.
Everyone who truly knows me, also knows that I want nothing more than everyone I love the best back in the ‘nest’ at once!
I take very much after my maternal grandmother in this, who virtually did a head count each night, and was only satisfied to return to her knitting and her seat by the fire, once all the family were back safely indoors!
But I haven’t had this joy in quite some time, as my eldest lives in Florida and so I have had to adapt. I find it very hard, especially at this time of year.
We are never certain of anything in life except one thing: nothing stays the same.
I well remember the chaos of the run-up to Christmas when my children were all little. At one point, I had three children under 10, a cat and a rather greedy and demanding black Labrador. Madness!
And during this period, with one of them always ill for the festivities and with no chance to escape the house, I used to think that all I wanted was to go to the shops, buy myself something slinky to wear, and go to what I imagined would be a glamorous ‘ office party’, where I would be the toast of the night and dance until 3.
Of course, now that I can actually do this ( well, maybe not the toast bit! ), all I want is those days of chaos back again, with my babies!
I long for the days of school plays and dress up, where my kids decorated the tree, even though I’ve managed to block out the pandemonium and sheer exhaustion, not to mention the countless trips to the shops to replace Christmas tree chocolates and decorations that the dog had either eaten or destroyed! ( If I’m going to be totally honest here, I’ve had to go back twice this year already, as in a moment of weakness, I’ve eaten a chocolate Santa and a bag of coins that were destined for one of the kids. As I’ve said before, I don’t change! )
We’re never happy, are we?
But I have learned a little along the way. And what I know now is this: that everything in life is transient, happiness is fleeting and it is important to live fully in every moment.
I enjoyed ( nearly ) every stage of my children’s early Christmases, and now I’m aware of how precious each Christmas is that I get to spend with any of my loved ones. I never take anything, or anybody, for granted.
Yes, there are a couple of special people in particular that I would dearly love to have with me this year, but I realise how truly lucky I am to have my parents, my other two children and my friends around me.
So many do not.
On this beautiful planet we all live on, there are so many terrible things happening every day.
An atrocity this week that was horrific beyond words.
There are so many lonely people, and folk sleeping rough.
The homeless and the dispossessed among us seem to increase with every passing year.
We can, and must, do our bit, but we simply cannot help them all individually.
Collectively, however, we can do something.
Look around you, in your own small corner of our world.
Is there somebody who may be on their own or lonely this Christmas? Someone who may be feeling sad, but can’t find the words to say so? An elderly neighbour on their own, or a friend whose children have gone to spend Christmas with their other parent? I’ve been there, it is desperately hard. People do put a brave face on you know. Don’t be fooled, take the time to look a little closer.
It really isn’t about the presents under the tree, or serving the perfect Christmas feast, nice though these things may be. It is about being the Innkeeper and his wife and opening your door. Saying ‘yes’ not ‘ no’, making that extra space at the table, offering a spare bed for the night, opening your arms to the stranger or the person recently bereaved.
My daughter works at a stables ( how apt for the Christmas Story! )
She mentioned that there is a Hungarian gentleman also working there with the horses who speaks no English and who may be on his own Christmas Day.
‘ No he won’t be’, I told her. ‘ there is a place at our table for him, if he would like it. ‘
He may not come, but the important thing was to invite him. This is the true spirit of Christmas for me, not the new iPhone or the designer finery.
Of course, we don’t all celebrate Christmas. There are many other traditions and beautiful celebrations for our wonderful diversity of cultures and nations here on earth.
But I’ve always believed that although we may have different paths to follow, we are all trying to reach the same destination.
It won’t be easy. This season, with all its stresses and strains, can bring out the very worst in people.
There may be clashes between the generations, a moody teenager or a grumpy and difficult relative to deal with.
But with some tolerance, goodwill and a large dose of humour, ( and for me, a glass of something sparkly to hand all Christmas Day!) I do believe a safe course can be steered through it all, and enjoyment and love can preside.
So I hope you will find your moment of happiness in this wonderful season, and importantly, recognise it when it comes.
For I’m on a mission to spread good cheer, and to do my own small bit to say we need to stop this endless greed and avarice, and idea of ‘ the perfect Christmas’ and return to what the Christmas message really is about.
I’m happy to say, my children all share the same view and find simple happiness in the silly family games that we play and the fact that we all sit down together to eat, rather than the gifts they may receive ( though they do! )
And so, in the immortal words of Nat King Cole:
‘I’m offering this simple phrase,
to kids from one to ninety-two,
although it’s been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas, to you!’