Turn! Turn! Turn!

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

Here we are in the middle of the August Bank Holiday weekend and for me it’s time to take stock. As we say goodbye to the summer and look forward to the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ now seems a good time to look back and look forward.

There are a couple of points in the year I usually tend to do this, to take stock.  The New Year always comes with a list of good intentions.  Spring is a good time to check to see if there’s anything still on that list I can possibly achieve and what can I do before everyone goes on their summer holidays.

The August bank holiday usually brings with it a fresh impetus after the summer break to give it a good go before Christmas.  Even at my great age I still like to enter September armed with some new pencils, exercise books, possibly a new satchel too.

Except this year everything has been different… and its been different for everyone.

The New Year started with a list which included the desire to record an orchestra in Prague and release a new album in time for a spring theatre tour.  Everything went to plan. Prague was cold but beautiful and the orchestra was terrific, the album was ready in plenty of time and the theatres were selling well. Then the world changed.

As a family we went into lockdown early.  With parents in care and a new granddaughter we decided not take any chances.  The first few weeks were strange, the empty streets made you feel like you were living in an apocalyptic film.  I used my daily fitness allowance to go to wave at the new addition to my family. Sunday nights became family zoom quiz nights with the kids joining in from various homes across the country.

I’m not sure when the novelty wore off. The zoom family meetings were good but after a while it made you realise that nothing beats hugging someone you love. Then I lost my dad.  I wrote about how much that hurt at the time; how the need for social distancing has been almost unbearable as my 96 year mum had to deal with losing a husband.  All that at the same time as not being able to have the love and comfort of her family at such an awful time.

Losing yourself in your work can often help when there are difficulties in your private life but this time there was no work. All gigs cancelled, theatres closed, recording studios shut.

Then out of the blue I got a call from BBC Radio Wales.  With all sport on hold a gap appeared in the schedules for a Friday night.  The previous summer I had presented a series of shows called simply ‘Classic Songs’.  Would I be able to come up with a similar series for 12 weeks, possibly longer?  As I look back now over these last few months in many ways producing that show every week has been one of the bright lights in a few very dark months.

The idea behind the show was very simple.  Find and play classic songs from any era, any genre and chat about them. That meant I could play Frank Sinatra and Black Sabbath, ABBA and AC/DC. Right from the start I put the call out for anyone listening to get in touch and share their 3 classic songs and if possible let me know why the songs were so special to them.

What I found was that people chose songs not purely on the chords, melody and lyrics but more often because of a time, place or person. Songs can be great time travel machines.  If I hear ‘Jeepster’ by T-Rex I’m back in the school disco at Manselton Junior Comp, if I hear The Eagles I can taste Hamburgers from Whites or Greens, the big Swansea hamburger joints of the 70’s.

Often people would choose songs that reminded them of their parents, the mum who always played Country and Western or the man who loved listening to Fats Domino with his dad.  Family holidays to France listening to the Beach Boys, the heartache of being in love as shared by Lady Gaga in A Star is Born.

12 weeks turned into 16 weeks and last night was the last the series.  In the end I decided that the whole show would be made up of the classic song choices from the listeners.  After I put them into a special folder on my computer I found out I had over 5 hours’ worth of music and only a 3 hour show. Tough choices had to be made. Each song told its own story but also reminded me of the strange weeks of lockdown and how the show had helped me survive.

This weekend marks a very big change in seasons for me.  Sadly, a number of weeks ago my friend Chris Needs passed away.  It came as an incredible shock for us as friends and colleagues but also to his devoted audience. I was asked to look after the show Monday to Thursday because I already had the ‘Classic Songs’ commitment. Here comes the change, from Monday I’ll be looking after the show full time for the month of the September at least.

Over the past few weeks, its felt like I’ve been getting up to speed, learning the ropes, meeting the regular contributors and the regular tunes. Although everyone has been very supportive and very welcoming the responsibility to try to keep an institution running has felt very real. 

My job has been to respect Chris’ legacy but also to try to move the programme forward. Bit by bit, show by show I’ve felt more confident.  This week I felt a real breakthrough as I got to chat to more and more listeners.

Doreen was back with news about her cat Smokey.  It now seems Smokey will give kisses in order to get treats and has been heard to say ‘Mama’.  We are now hoping to get video evidence for next weeks show. 

Doreen from Merthyr walking her cat ‘Smokey’.

Sandra gave me the history of her 16 hamsters, Sue named each of her 30 cats and Colin and I talked about his wife Maureen behind her back because she goes to bed early and he stays up late to have the odd night cap and chat to me on the radio.

The song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!‘ is based on Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven’

That was written over 2500 years ago!!!

It might seem as if the world will never be the same again. Some things lost will never return but we will get through this.  Let’s try to be kind to each other, hold each other up because seasons come, and seasons go, and none last forever.

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