Thursday, 1 December 2016

Long Ago and Far Away

As this 'festive' season approaches, far too soon, I am frequently harking back to those days when love and excitement made life so precious.

I have so many memories and yet so few that are glued to my memory bank as strongly as music, dancing, and romance. 

My first girl-friend is still ever-present in my mind, even though she no longer lives in this world. Her name was Stella.  

Stella and I became very close. We danced together, went on long country walks on unforgettable Summer afternoons. Went to many cinema shows and, most of all, spent rapturous hours saying 'goodnight' as the witching hour quietly melted into the next day.  Then a very long walk home, for me!

She was twenty-two-and-a-half years old; I was a little over 16.  New Year's Day 1952 was our last day together.  Next day I wrote a 'Dear Stella' confessing that I'd lied about my age and I could not see her again. A cowardly act on my part, one which has never left my heart and mind.

This song is one of my eternal favourites. It is by a crooner called Dick Haymes, exquisitely performed and perfectly backed up by a superb band. The tempo is perfect for a slow foxtrot, my favourite dance of all.  

19 comments:

PhilipH said...

Dick Haymes had a great voice, smooth as satin and silk. But he was difficult to work with, according to my reading of his life. He had no difficulty in attracting the ladies. He had six wives, not all at the same time, (as far as I know).

DUTA said...

t was not a 'cowardly act' it was a practical one. In those days an age gap of this kind would have caused you both great trouble.

PhilipH said...

Hello Duta, so nice to see you again. Hope all is well with you and your travels. I still feel guilty about it. Conscience doth make cowards of us all, as Hamlet thinks in his "to be, or not to be" soliloquy - and there's much truth in that. Cheers, Phil.

the walking man said...

*meh* Philip having regrets over actions committed 2 years before I was born make no practical sense unless you are using this moment to let go of the negative feelings about those actions.

Snowbrush said...

I've been thinking about ordering some music by Dick Haymes after listening to him on a mixed CD yesterday.

“My first girl-friend is still ever-present in my mind, even though she no longer lives in this world.”

You seem to imply that you are open to the possibility that she’s alive someplace else. It’s so very hard to believe that someone can exist and then, forever afterwards, not exist. I personally find it so hard that it’s a wonder I can bear it, and if that person should be Peggy, I don’t know if I could. It would also be grievously hard to lose you and other bloggers who I’m especially fond of.

“t was not a 'cowardly act' it was a practical one.”

Oh, I agree with you, Philip in that she deserved more than a letter, but you were only sixteen.

PhilipH said...

Hi Mark, thanks for popping in. Hope you are as well as poss in downtown Detroit. Hope you have a peaceful 25th December my friend.

PhilipH said...

Hello, Snowy. Stella died about five years ago. Her husband, Alf, was dying of cancer when Pat and I drove from Scotland to South London to visit them both after some 60 years after my 'goodbye letter' to Stella. Stella developed a form of dementia soon after Alf's death. Lewy Body disease saw Stella rapidly deteriorate and she had to be looked after in a care home. I phoned her frequently but she was in another world and she had no idea who I was. One morning, after about 6 months of her care home stay, I had a phone call from her daughter telling me that Stella had died. I was sadly relieved at this news. Thoughts of this once lovely young lady being now free from the curse of this frightful disease caused tearful relief at that moment.

Snowbrush said...

As I read your last comment, I remembered the song "Stella by Starlight.” I thought it would be an easy matter to go to Youtube and find a good version, but it wasn’t so easy after all because many were jazz instrumentals, others easy listening instrumentals, and still others were vocalists who didn’t suit me, often because they were performing live and the sound quality was bad. I finally settled on the Ray Charles and John Gary versions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qZQGfO0xAA , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kgleq-YP9vE

Although I’m a few younger than you, we seem to like—or at least know—much of the same music, and that brings me a lot of pleasure.

PhilipH said...

Snowy, I think much 'pop' music from the 1940s and 1950s will still be played for many more decades. So many numbers are pure classics in the genre; the Great American Songbook includes Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers to name just a few. Hoagy Carmichael was one of my favourites who not only wrote some classic songs but could also perform them so uniquely "Stardust", "The Nearness of You" and "Skylark" for example.

Of course, it's also the way these creations were performed that made them great songs. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Billy Eckstine and of course the fabulous Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, and Helen Forrest amongst the greatest.

I have so many favourite singers, orchestras and songs that the list would be far too long to list. "Passing Strangers" sung by Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughn has to be one of them simply because it has such nostalgia for me but, as I said earlier, the list is long.

On Youtube I simply used their Search for "Dick Haymes Stella by Starlight" and it produced it quickly. Just typing Dick Haymes comes up with a long list of his recordings.

Cheers, Phil

PhilipH said...

Oh, and thanks for introducing John Gary! I'm ashamed to say that he was unknown to me but he has a lovely voice; I listened to his rendition of "Softly, As I Leave You" as it is such a beautiful song with great depth of feeling in the lyrics.

Snowbrush said...

"Snowy, I think much 'pop' music from the 1940s and 1950s will still be played for many more decades."

Here, one has to go looking for it to find it, so if a person doesn't at least know enough to set him on the right track, he or she won't even know to look for it. I lucked out and was born long enough ago to know so much that has since been mostly forgotten. Of course, every generation is that way, and I doubt that most of them envies their successors. I remember my mother talking about the music and movie stars of the 1920s and ‘30s, and I cared no more about them than she did the ones of my coming of age era, the ‘60s. Looking back, I find that I have come to prefer much from that earlier period. Few young people have the discernment to prefer anything but what is popular with their friends.

PhilipH said...

Of course, each generation tends to live and listen to what's 'hot' on radio and tv as they grow up. Sometimes the 'standards/classics' are resurrected by a well-known artiste, such as Rod Stewart who made two albums about 15 years ago. The first, which I bought, was simply called The Great American Songbook. A year or so later he brought out a second album. In all, I think he produced about 5 such albums.

All Consuming said...

I think of you and Stella sometimes, having read of her before and written to you bout her too. It's lovely that her memory stayed alive I think and co-incidently, on the subject of long ago fine music, I've just done a post myself after chatting to Snow and him realising I like older music as well as Depehe Mode, which I admit I tend to find myself putting up on here a great deal, but day to day I sing all manner of oldies.

"Conscience doth make cowards of us all," - By the Small Gods that's a fact! Xx

Snowbrush said...

“I have so many memories and yet so few that are glued to my memory bank as strongly as music, dancing, and romance.”

I never danced (feeling that I made a fool of myself when I tried), didn’t feel more than an average interest in music, and most of my “romance” consisted of nothing nobler than trying to figure out what I needed to say and do in order to get inside a girl’s or, later a woman’s, pants; and when I did experience true romance, it brought me more pain than joy. I therefore envy you your presumably more innocent memories, and I am very, very glad that I can truthfully say that women are no longer even in the top ten of things I’m interested in.

PhilipH said...

The period 1930 to 1959 was the golden days of ballroom dancing in the UK, especially in England. It declined quite quickly from the early sixties when the loud Bill Hailey and his Comets rocketed across the Atlantic and hammered the last nail into our slow foxtrot and graceful waltz.

I am glad to have been part of that earlier era, where boy meets girl at the dance hall or the local 'hop' in the village hall. It was THE easiest way to hold a girl in your arms simply by asking: "May I have this dance?" - with smiling acceptance being the usual result.

Nothing lasts forever. That's a truism, but during the last 15 years or so we have seen ballroom dancing bloom again, thanks to television programmes like BBC1's "Strictly Come Dancing" and similar "copies" of the format in Europe and the USA, such as "Dancing with the Stars".

We wish you and Peggy a jolly good New Year, and the Moggies of course. I have as little to do with all the festivities that drag on over the Xmas period and I'm glad when it all fizzles out. I always look forward to watching the old black and white film "Scrooge", starring the great Alastair Sim, Bah-humbugging his way through to Xmas day.

Cheers, Phil

Snowbrush said...

A year ago, I wouldn't have had a clue what "moggy" meant, but have recently come across due to my voluminous reading about cats, it not being a word that is used in America. For anyone who wonders what it means, here's a definition: "a mongrel cat, 1911, of Unknown origin, possibly Cockney. Possibly derived from maggie, margie or mog, all short forms of the female name Margaret."

Another cat-related word that I hadn't previously encountered was cobby, which I first came across as a description of the British Shorthair (http://cfa.org/Breeds/BreedsAB/BritishShorthair.aspx), which the Romans supposedly brought with them when they invaded Britain, and which refers to a cat that is short and compact with broad shoulders, a rounded head, and a short tail. Brewsky qualifies except for the short tail, but Ollie and Scully look more like the Orientals in that they're lean and have longer legs, although neither is a large cat.

I so appreciate your friendship, and want you to know that if you and your wife ever want to visit America, we would love to have you stay with us.

BTW, we had an ice storm two weeks and now have four inches of snow and record cold (11F tonight). Neither is at all common here in western Oregon, so it promises to be an unusual winter.

PhilipH said...

Cheers Snowy, and thanks for the invite to see you in Oregon. Very generous of you and 'twould be a most stimulating meet. Sadly, long distance travel, (or even some short ones) is not on the cards nowadays. I arrive at my 82nd day of birth on Thursday and live a very quiet life now, helping to keep my unruly heart from speeding me off to hospital when it goes into overdrive.

I enjoy 'meeting' a few friends, (and there are very few), via the electronic highway and this is my preferred mode of travel. Yes, a lazy old fart I might be - but I have earned the right so to be at my stage of life.

OK, travel is a lot easier than when crossing the North Sea on an aged troopship, three bunks high in the bowels of this noisy lumbering and sick-making ship. Just thankful to disembark each time I arrived at "the Hook" or Harwich. I was young and strong enough in those days; now, I'm old and much weaker - and lazier!

The invitation is greatly appreciated dear chap, dear friend.

On the subject of Moggies: you probably know the collective noun for a group of cats, a "Clowder" or, sometimes, a "Glaring". I consider "Glaring" to be the best term as cats often stare or glare when they look at you. What do you think?

This reminds me of a time when I lived in Hathaway Road, Croydon, in the late 1940s. Walking home one night, through a narrow alleyway between St. James Road and Hathway Road in complete darkness I saw what I thought to be two people ahead of me smoking cigarettes. Bright glowing red spots shining in the night. Carried on walking toward these 'people', ready to do a speedy about-turn. As I got closer I saw there was a cat, sitting on somebody's garden fence, staring down at me as I approached. I have never noticed this ever since. Bright glowing red eyes, like burning cigarettes.

Bye the noo, as my former Scottish neighbour would say. Hope the Inauguration goes off on the 20th without bloodshed.

Phil

A Cuban In London said...

Beautiful melody. Velvety voice, too. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

PhilipH said...

Thanks, CiL.The music is lightyears away from Cuban dance music but I love both. There was a Cuban group of musicians some years ago touring the UK. Fabulous sound; so vital and exciting. Quite an elderly group as I seem to recall. Cannot, for the life of me, remember the name. They were on TV here. Great stuff. Phil.