Thursday, December 29, 2016

Queen's Christmas 2016 Message

 Would you like to hear what Queen Elizabeth had to say about inspiration in her Christmas message this year?  I have her speech here for you! 
Let's hear it for "small acts of goodness" and Queen Elizabeth!
God save the Queen!

How are you all doing these days? Trying to get your ducks in a row, like me?  Good luck with that! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

East End Royalty!

EastEnders has been a long running TV show in England since 1985.  The East End of London is considered to be quite "common", and the show is set with many working on the market stalls where they sell food or clothes.  I watched the very first episode of this show and have watched it off and on since 1985!  Not sure what happened on the Christmas episode this year, but in years past, you had to count the murders!
Anyway, I was listening to a sermon on a church website that I like to visit. (It is the church in Eastbourne in England, All Souls Church, you may visit their site just here!)  In the lunchtime carol service from Dec. 14th, it was mentioned that the actor, Danny Dyer who plays the landlord of the pub called "The Queen Vic" on EastEnders had recently been on an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and that it was an amazingly good show to watch.  Hey, guess what, I found it...

It is an hour long show but it is well worth watching, I promise! (And there are a few cockney rhymes in the show: brown bread means dead and a bit of a bunny, that means a talk. (A bit of bunny means  bunny rabbit and pork which rhymes with talk.  Well, it does in an English accent, anyway!)  

  SPOILER ALERT:  I am going to tell you what happened...

Danny Dyer was amazed to discover that he is descended from royalty!  I think "gobsmacked" is the word that would fit here.  This episode was from the end of November of this year and was much discussed, many saying it was one of the best things that they had ever seen on TV.  Danny Dyer is a very likable bloke and quite funny, I think that must be why everyone liked this show so much.
P.S.  I remember Danny Dyer from " Prime Suspect", with Helen Mirren, that was his very first acting role. (Yes, I have watched a lot of British TV shows over the years!)

OH! And remember the gecko with the English accent from the Geico TV ads?  That is the voice of the actor Jake Wood, "Max Branning" from EastEnders!

Also, please forgive me if I have worded anything about London's East End incorrectly.  I am trying my best to convey why it was such a shock for the actor to realize his royal connections!  I am an American and I have no airs about me, I promise you!

(My photos above are from Leather Lane Market in Holburn, in London...and I will have to tell you more about Holburn in another post!)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Last Christmas"

Our son is spending a few days with us for Christmas and he brought us some songs that he had recorded, most of them he had written but one of them was a cover of "Last Christmas."  Today, we learned that George Michael died on Christmas day. 
You already know my admiration for singers/ songwriters.  
George Michael sang the lead for this song when he was with the group, Wham, and he was also the songwriter.
So many we have lost in the music world in 2016.
May he rest in peace.

Friday, December 23, 2016

White Christmas "The Drifters" - Bill Pinkney

Guess what, I have been listening to the song "White Christmas" by the Drifters all this past week and I have been happily humming it.  Reading more about it, I have discovered that yet again, I have found someone that I want to call your attention to, Mr. Bill Pinkney of the Drifters.

Willie "Bill" Pinkney was born August 15, 1925 in Datzell, South Carolina.  He began singing at a young age in his church choir where he developed his love for gospel music.  Before he began his singing career with the Drifters, he was a pitcher for the New York Yankees sandlot team. During World War II, he served in the Army and was awarded a Presidential Citation with Five Bronze Stars for bravery at Normandy and Bastogne.  When he returned to the USA after World War II, he met up with those who would become the other members of the Drifters. 
A note my reading recently about the Battle of the Bulge (research for my post about the American St. Nick), I read that the "colored" troops were only used as back up personnel but during the largest and bloodiest battle by US troops during World War II, Eisenhower ordered all available men into combat. 

Bill Pickney died in July 4, 2007 in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he was scheduled to perform at the 4th of July celebrations.  He not only performed right up until his death but he also offered encouragement to young people in their musical endeavors.  He worked on legislation protecting the music and reputation of musical groups, known as the Truth in Music Bill or the Bill Pickney bill.  "The Truth In Music Bill was created to protect the artists from Identity theft
and to protect the Consumer from being mis-led to believe they are seeing the legendary artists that made the hits songs famous - when in fact they are not."

Okay now, are there any filmmakers out there?  I wish someone would make a movie about him!   Wouldn't you go to see it?  I would!  As always, no matter what this man accomplished, he just seemed like such a nice man, and honestly, that is what matters the most to me.

Now, my friends, will you have a white Christmas?  We won't in Georgia, the expected high will be 70 degrees! 
Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The American St. Nick - Richard Brookins

Image result for free images of st nick

During World War II, it was the idea of an American soldier. Harry Stutz to bring joy and happiness to the children of the town of Wiltz, Luxembourg by having his army buddy, Richard Brookins, dress up as St. Nicholas and give out presents and sweets to the children at a party.  This was done on Dec. 5, St. Nicholas Day, in 1944.
The last time that the people of Wiltz had been able to celebrate was in 1939, so you can be sure that this was very special to the children and to all the townspeople. They have remembered it to this day.
The story of how the American St. Nick has been honored is the subject of a book called, "The American St. Nick" by Peter Lion.  Richard Brookins, the soldier who dressed as St. Nick, first went back to Wiltz in 1977 and has been back several times since.  They even have a statue of St. Nick...but the one there has an American army helmet in his hand!  I just watched a documentary on this on PBS and in case you didn't see it, I think it will be repeated the day after Christmas, so look out for it. You don't want to miss it! It is just very, very well done, I loved every minute of it, right down to the music.  You may find much more information about it just here.
You know, it might seem like such a small dress as St. Nicholas for children...but if you go to that link that I gave will see for yourself, it is a miracle what a small act of kindness can do.  
Merry Christmas, everyone! 

World War II Foundation

Monday, December 19, 2016

Best Selling Christmas Album? ELVIS!

This year, there are too many elves and not enough Elvis!
The best selling Christmas album in the USA is by Elvis Presley, released in October, 1957.    It was his fourth studio album and his first Christmas one. Titled "Elvis' Christmas Album", it featured eight Christmas songs and four gospel songs. 

This is the playlist:

Side 1:  1-  "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" (written by Lieber and
               and Stoller, the same songwriters that wrote "Hound
               Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock.".  
              2- "White Christmas"  (written by Irving Berlin, who was
                                                not pleased by this rendition by Elvis,
                                                 and tried to have it banned on the
               3- "Here Comes Santa Claus"
               4- "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
               5- "Blue Christmas"
               6- "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me"

Side 2:   1-   "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
               2-  "Silent Night"
               3- "(There Will Be) Peace In the Valley"
               4- "I Believe"
                5-  "Take My Hand, Precious Lord"
                6-  "It Is No Secret"

I can understand that Irving Berlin might have been a bit upset by the treatment of "White Christmas", but Elvis was not the first one to sing it arranged in this way.  The Drifters had a hit with the same song on the R&B charts in 1954 and 1955 and it sounds very similar. (You might remember it from the movie, "Home Alone".)  Elvis must have liked the Drifters' version!  (Besides, Irving Berlin should have realized, a Southern boy like Elvis would not have known a white Christmas and it makes sense that he might like to sing it in a tongue in cheek manner!)

As for the rest of the songs, the hymns and the gospel songs...I believe that you can hear the sincerity in Elvis' voice.  It comes across loud and clear to me, even though this was recorded almost 60 years ago.
"Silent Night" and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" were arranged by Elvis Presley.

Oh! I do have more to say about these songs!  (You do know how much I like to tell you about songwriters.)  That will have to wait until another post!   

Of course, you know I found the entire album for you on YouTube.
Enjoy!  And thank you, thank you very much!

Since Elvis has the best selling American Christmas album of all time, we need to be hearing more of his songs on the radio other than "Blue Christmas".  By the way, the world wide sales of this album is 15 million!  

Merry Christmas from me ...and Elvis! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Beachy Head

Beachy Head is the highest chalk cliff in Britain, rising 531 feet above sea level.  Rising to the west of Eastbourne, it is a place of great natural beauty.  Sadly it is also one of the top suicide spots in the country.  The land abruptly just ends, and while there are fences in some spots, the majority of it is just open, so you really need to take great care not to go too close to the edge. 

It is a great place to meet up with friends and when we were there in September, we did just that! 

Okay, here is a photo of Richard with his old friends,  Dave and Henry.  (I mean his mates from way back, not meaning that they are old, heaven forbid!)

I know what you are thinking..."Kay, please don't tell me that you only just met Dave's girlfriend, Sandra and you made her link arms with you and kick up your legs as if you were the Rockettes in New York City?"   Well, of course, doesn't everyone?
That's Sarah on the right, she knows me already, she does not look surprised, does she?
Thanks, Sandra, for being a good sport!
(Poor gal, this reminds me of the photo of me with the dog that I had on C's birthday post, remember that one? Where the dog looks like he can't wait to get away from me? Ha!)

See the little speck out on the water?  Let's get a bit closer....

A sailboat!  Isn't it gorgeous and look at that water! 
Hope you enjoyed Beachy Head!    We like to walk up to Beachy Head when we can.  We didn't this past time because our time was limited, but we did the last time we were there.  Can you see the seafront there with the pier in the distance?  That's Eastbourne!
Keep walking, folks! It's easy, just put one foot in front of the other!

Since I am thinking of England, here is some Chas & Dave for you!
Dave & Sandra, Henry and Sarah...Cheers to you, see you next time!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Feeling Blue At Christmas/"Lucky Old Sun"

While many are happily preparing for Christmas holidays, there are also some who feel some sadness at this time of year. Perhaps there is some regret over the past year or it might be the first time that one will have a Christmas without a dear loved one.  We need to reach out to those who have this sadness.

One of my uncles died this past weekend and his memorial service was today.   Thinking of him, I know a song that somehow reminds me of him.  The lyrics of this song is by Haven Gillespie and he also happened to be the same man who wrote the words to "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.".  This would have amused my uncle and he would have said, "Is that right?", with a twinkle in his eye.

This is for Douglas but I hope you like it too.  "That Lucky Old Sun" by Chris Isaak. And yes, I have had this on a post before but it just seems right as a tribute.   (You might have thought I would have "Blue Christmas" on here, but you should never expect the obvious from me!)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Trans Siberian Orchestra/Christmas Cards With Smiling Teddy Bear

Listening to the hold music while I was on the phone recently, I was pleased to hear a song by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an American progressive rock band founded in 1996 by music producer, Paul O'Neill.   Why is it called Trans-Siberian Orchestra,  I know I had to look it up!

"In the 1980's, I was fortunate enough to have visited Russia.
If anyone has ever seen Siberia, it is incredibly beautiful but incredibly harsh and unforgiving as well. The one thing that everyone who lives there has in common that runs across it in relative safety is the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Life, too, can be incredibly beautiful but also incredibly harsh and unforgiving, and the one thing that we all have in common that runs across it in relative safety is music."        Paul O'Neill

You may learn much more about the history of the Trans Siberian Orchestra by clicking just here but one thing that I learned about them is that they donate to local charities in each city where they perform. I believe the figure that I saw was that 13 million has been donated over the years that they have been in existence.

I have a clip from YouTube of the song that I heard on the radio, it is "Christmas Canon" and is Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D major with lyrics and new melodies added.   I think it is lovely.

"I've always believed that music has the power to transport and transform. the original concept of Trans-Siberian Orchestra was how to make music have the most emotional impact. We always try to write melodies that are so infectious they don't need lyrics and lyrics so poetic that they don’t need a melody, but when you combine the two together they create an alloy where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole."

The above is another quote from Paul O'Neill and I couldn't agree more!  For me, when lyrics and music come together perfectly, it is magic.

Guess what, I just remembered that I read on the BBC today, that due to the popularity of the London Heathrow Airport TV advert, Chas and Dave will release the song "Coming Home for Christmas" as a single!    Isn't that great news!  (Remember me telling you about it, the one with the bears? It now has over 4 million views! Wow, my blog REALLY does influence folks, eh? HA! )  I love Chas and Dave and I am very pleased about this, I hope it will go to the top of the charts!

Just now getting Christmas cards in the mail...but I can show you some that I have received over the past few years. Want to see? Sure you do!  (And these are just a few photos of my cards, I promise you I display every card I receive and cherish every one!)

As you can see, I have them all over the place! (I crocheted the snowflake!)

Now, let me tell you, sometimes you have to look very closely at a card.  Look at that one above, do you see a robin inside the post box taking shelter? And how about the one on top, giving a friendly little wave? Isn't that the sweetest?

  Loved these two cards and I liked them side by side with the teddy bear propped in front of them. (Bear with hearts in front of polar bear card and house with heart card...funny how my mind works, I didn't realize it, I just liked how this looked!)  By the way, I got that little stuffed bear with a potholder with the same material, but the bear didn't have a face...this bothered me, so I stitched his little eyes, and nose and mouth myself!  Whenever I see this little bear, it makes me smile myself, and especially so since I know I brought him to life!

My friends, I hope you are finding something to make you smile, something that will bring joy to your lives.  Music, Christmas cards, one small bear with a lopsided grin...that does it for me!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Lewis Chessmen At The Amazing British Museum

The British Museum is a must see when you are in London.  I never tire of it, there is always so much to see! And wonder of wonders, it is FREE! (There are Plexiglas boxes where you are encouraged to donate money and I do wish that more would do so, it must take a lot to maintain such a great museum.)

"The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture.  Its permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence and originates from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present."

There, you see, I told you, eight million ought to keep anyone interested!

A set of 12th century chessmen were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831.  The Isle of Lewis is in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  The museum kindly had a map showing the location, I have it for you here.  Of course, I know where it is located but only because of my blog!  (Thank you Pat and Graham!)

The chess pieces are mostly carved from walrus ivory and the detail is incredible.  Apparently, at one time the chess board was red and white instead of the black and white that we know today.  If you would like to read much more about the Lewis Chessmen you may do so here and here. 

Now, as much as I love to look at these objects, I can't say that I like chess very much...

I was playing chess with my friend and he said, "let's make this interesting".  So we stopped playing chess.

Ha, ha! That was a joke that I just read today and it has made me giggle!

Below is the entrance to the British Museum, isn't it wonderful?
Hope to get back there soon!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Give Me A Break! (Kit Kat and Toblerone)

Recently, my step-Mom was in the hospital. When I arrived there with my Dad to visit her, I looked around for a wheelchair for him.
(It's a large hospital and I knew it would be quite a walk to her room.)
A young man was walking out the door just as we arrived and when he saw me looking around...he came back into the building and asked if we needed any help.  When he saw my Dad and I told him of our need, he straightaway went around the corner and brought to us the most beautiful brand new wheelchair for my Dad!  Daddy was really moved by this kind gesture.
I knew I didn't have any cash on me...but I very much wanted to give him something! I looked into my bag, and there was a small Kit Kat bar that I had been saving, the very last one that I had brought back from England!  I reached into my purse and said, "Oh, this is just a little thing, but it is a Kit Kat bar that I bought when I was in England. Here, I hope you like it!"
He smiled and took the Kit-Kat!
Hey, it was only a small chocolate bar but it was ENGLISH chocolate and the chocolate from there is very, very good.  Honest!
Here's the rest of the story... when we were in my step-mom's  hospital room later, the same man came into her room ...and he was her nurse!  It is a small world, isn't it?

Oh! And I forgot to say, a few days later, Richard surprised me by telling me that he had found an English Kit Kat bar in our kitchen!
(I must have put it down by the microwave and forgotten about it and it somehow got pushed to the side.) So, it was really the penultimate Kit Kat bar that the male nurse received as a thank you!
P.S.  I always make sure I bring back custard creams and Mars bars from England, they are my favorites!