Music and Memory

When I was small I lived next door to my grandparents. My grandfather had an old, battered acoustic guitar. When I walked out from our kitchen door, I could cross the driveway and into their living-room within about a minute. I searched the house for him and usually found him in the garden watering plants or in his favourite reclining chair in the family room. Wherever he happened to be, upon seeing me he went to his bedroom and retrieved his guitar.  My favourite times where when he played Spanish folk-songs and pasa dobles. I must have made him play “La Paloma” a thousand times. When he sang these songs to me, I could picture his life on a ranch in Mexico before moving to the US sometime in the mid-sixties. My father used to tell me about the times grandpa would have the neighbours come around in the evening playing music late into the night on the ranch-house porch.

My last memory of him was the same as my first. I went to see him a couple of years ago,  just after his 97th birthday. I found him in his favourite chair, I found his guitar and handed it to him and he played “La Paloma” for me. Somehow I knew that would be the last time. He died later that year. I had a video camera with me, so I need to get up the nerve to find the tape and watch it.

This afternoon I was cleaning my office and found a photo of Grandpa holding his guitar. I looked down at my hands and realised my fingernails are a bit on the long side and it made me realise just how long it has been since I picked up my old, battered, second hand acoustic. The nails are getting clipped as soon as I’m done writing this, the guitar is coming out and I’m teaching myself “La Paloma” in memory of grandad.

For those of you know don’t know the song, here’s a link to YouTube

I’m off to go practice. Happy Sunday.

Writing Prompt: Dreaming in music

It’s the oddest thing. I wake up hearing music in my head every morning. This has been happening for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s “Destiny” by Zero 7, other times it the theme tune for the BA advert. I’m not dreaming scenes or people or events of the day in some twisted montage involving random, twisted, frightening things like circus clowns or hedgehogs having tea in my kitchen, just music.

I’ve decided to start keeping track of the music I hear to see if there’s any correlation between what I hear throughout the day and what I’m dreaming. The most disturbing one so far is “This Never Happened Before” by Paul McCartney. I can’t for the life of me account for that one. Ouch.

It did however get me thinking about music in general. What is it, I wonder, that determines what we listen to? How is musical taste developed?  My Dad was into Bob Dylan, Mom was into Abba. My brother got me into all things involving the Cure, New Order, Siouxie and the Banshees, Duran Duran and The Smiths. By university I was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. These days it’s Cut Chemist, Royksopp, Lyrics Born, Bent, Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. (Having said that Jimi Hendrix has always been there and always will be).

Just for fun, think back to the different incarnations of your music tastes. What sort of memories do they bring up? Think back over your life and your own personal soundtrack. Pick a time in your life and draft a memoir involving music that meant something to you at that moment.

Writing Prompt: Dreaming in music

Writing Prompt: A Friend In Deed

I wandered out of the office on Fleet Street, down the narrow streets behind the Reuters building to the basement sports bar where some of my colleagues were having lunch on a warm Friday afternoon. As I looked around the table, I saw a few unfamiliar faces. There were new departments moving around the building all the time, so it was not unusual to have new people join us now and again. We ate, we chatted and when it came time to leave, we paid the bill and headed back up the stairs and to the busy streets above.

I turned to talk to a friend as we walked when suddenly, I was pulled back with a force that jarred my neck. I lifted my eyes in time to see the wide-end of a lorry wing mirror narrowly miss my head. Someone had just saved me from getting hit at high speed by a white lorry. I turned and there was a new guy from the finance department. Alex Sage, that was his name.

After the adrenaline calmed down and my heart slowed to a dull roar, I thanked him. As it turned out, we had some mutual friends, so we started hanging out, that was 7 years ago. Since then, we’ve hung out in London on a Friday night with our ex-colleagues, I’ve shown him around my fair city of Edinburgh during the festival and even been to Austria with a group of friends for the weekend. It’s funny how you meet people that are going to be important to you.

Think about the people that weave in and out of your life. Although you meet hundreds of people over the course of your life, deciding which ones you’re going to let into your own weird little world is important. Who we let in changes who we are, our friendships define us and if we’re lucky, they make us better people in the end. Although I can credit Alex for pulling me out of harm’s way that day, it’s our friendship that I treasure. He, like those few others I can call true friends, are the people I admire and whose good qualities I hope I mirror in some small way despite my numerous imperfections.

Think about someone special in your life. How did you meet and how is your life (and hopefully theirs) better for the meeting?

Writing Prompt: A Friend In Deed

Writing Prompt: Unconditional Love

For those of you who have a pet, you might know what I’m talking about, but I just realised that after two years of having her, I’m talking to my cat like she’s a person. I turn the key in the lock, wander in after a day at the office. She comes belting down the stairs and instantly wraps herself around my legs. I’ve almost toppled over from her attention, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Once the shoes come off and I’m sure her food bowl is topped up, I settle in. She follows me from room to room until I choose a spot to sit down and stretch my legs, then she pounces on my lap, nuzzling my hand with the top of her head, eager to be stroked.

I talk, just asking her how her day was, not really expecting more of a response than the soft “purr” she releases as I pet her head. Then it’s my turn. I tell her about my day, I download the events and people and process everything. She listens, turning her head up at me and letting out a soft “meow” if my hand pauses for a moment from its task. I continue and I’m calmer.

Although she can’t respond or solve any of the worries I have jumbled in the messy filing cabinet of my mind, she listens and sometimes, that’s all anyone needs.

Most of us have had pets at one time or another. Describe your pet. What kind were they, when and how did you choose them and how do you feel about looking after an animal? How does what you’ve chosen and how you feel about them relate to you as a person?

Writing Prompt: Unconditional Love

I love this old gag…

Nate The Snake
Author Unknown

A truck driver is heading west across the Arizona desert. He
has been driving all night, and as the sun starts to rise,
he feels the need to stop and commune with nature. He pulls
to the side of the road, parks, and walks out into the sage

As he is standing there, looking around at the beauty of the
early morn, he notices a lever sticking out of the ground.
After a few moments, he walks over, walks all the way
around, and then reaches out to grasp the lever. Just as he
does, he hears a voice say, “Don’t touch that lever.”

The driver jumps about two feet off the ground, and as he
comes down, he looks around. No one is to be seen. Thinking
it was just his imagination, he again reaches for the lever.
Again the voice yells, “I said don’t touch that lever!”
Being more prepared, the driver senses the location of the
voice and looks down under a sage brush. There he sees a
small snake.

The driver, in much astonishment, said, “Was that you that
just spoke?”

The snake said, “Yes. I have to keep people from touching
that lever. If the lever is moved, it will be the end of the

The driver, still rather astonished, said, “What is your
name? And will you talk on TV?” The snake said his name was
Nate and that he wasn’t interested in going on TV; anyway,
he had to stay and watch the lever to see that it wasn’t
moved. The driver said, “Look, I will get the networks to
send out camera crews. That way, you can inform the entire
world about the danger of the lever.”

Nate thought that over and allowed as how there was a great
deal of sense to the idea. The driver, true to his word, got
the network camera crews out. They put on broadcasts in
which Nate warned the entire world of the dangers of moving
the lever.

A few weeks later, another truck driver was going through
the area. He was following an oil tanker, and the tanker
sprang a leak. When the driver’s truck hit the slick, it
went out of control, and he found himself headed straight
for the lever. He remembered seeing Nate on the TV telling
about the lever and so he knew that if he hit it, he would
cause the world to end. He strove, with all his might to
maneuver the truck. Finally, at the last moment, he was able
to swerve, but he ran over Nate, the snake, and killed him

The truck driver was heard to say “Well, better Nate than lever.”

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