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Christmas songs that aren’t

19 Dec

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when songs from 50-odd years ago get dusted off and Noddy Holder informs us all once again that “It’s Chriiiiiiiiiistmas!” But among these festive hits and Christmas carols, there are some that aren’t actually about Christmas at all. This is mostly because here in the northern hemisphere we associate Christmas with snow and ice and wintry pursuits, even though the chances of it snowing on any given Christmas Day are about as high as Lapwing getting to number one (although they are currently number 13 in the UK iTunes chart, which is respectable). So here are a few songs that you perhaps believed were Christmas songs, but aren’t.

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert from FreeImages

Jingle Bells

What, Jingle Bells not a Christmas song?? But find me any reference to Christmas in the lyrics. Go on, I’ll wait.

The reason you won’t find any is that this is just a song about winter frolics. Yes, it does mention a sleigh, but it’s only now that a sleigh automatically brings Santa Claus to mind. Back in the 1850s, when it was written, a sleigh was a fun way to travel in winter – with a horse, rather than nine reindeer.

Let it Snow!

Again, nothing Christmas-related in the lyrics. This song was written during a heatwave in Los Angeles as a pleasant fantasy of cooler conditions.

Baby it’s Cold Outside

You’re getting the idea now, aren’t you? This mildly creepy song is just about a cold evening, which could be anytime between November and March. It was written for a housewarming party, apparently, and was subsequently used by hosts as a hint to guests that it was time to go.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Yes, it mentions sleigh bells, but probably just the kind of sleigh from Jingle Bells, not the reindeer- propelled variety. This is (yet) another in the “it’s not Christmas, it’s just cold” category.

Ode to Joy

I’d never thought of this movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as being Christmassy at all, but apparently many people do – particularly in Japan, for some reason. My brother-in-law referred to it as Christmas music when it appeared in the soundtrack of Die Hard, but conceded that he may consider it Christmassy because it’s in his favourite Christmas-adjacent film*, rather than because there’s anything Christmassy about it in itself.

I considered including When a Child Is Born in this list, but decided against. It’s borderline. It doesn’t mention Christmas, and reading the lyrics the ‘child’ is either every child that is born (most of the verses) or a saviour who has not yet been born (the talky bridge and the last verse) rather than explicitly being the baby Jesus. But it does mention a star and says “this comes to pass”, which is very biblical sounding, so I’ll allow it.

I’d be happy to tell you which are my favourite (actual) Christmas songs. If you would like that in another post, leave a comment to that effect. Mariah Carey doesn’t make it in, I’m afraid.


* Christmas-adjacent because it is not a Christmas film. Yes, it happens at Christmas, there’s the odd Christmas-related quip and some Christmas music, but the events of the film are not contingent upon it being Christmas. John McClane could have been attending his wife’s office shindig in July and things would have panned out just the same.

Every song on Radio 1

5 Dec

Although I am demographically more of a Radio 2 listener, for the last few months I have been listening to Radio 1 every morning. This has exposed me to a great deal of modern popular music, and I have noticed some patterns. In fact, I have identified a few (a very few) categories that probably 90% of the songs fit into.

Rap/Grime/Drill/Hip-Hop (as if I know the difference)

There seems to be only one kind of song in this musical genre(s), at least among the stuff I’ve heard, and it goes like this:

I used to be very poor.

Now I am very rich.

My wealth and fame give me entry to exclusive locations, the ability to purchase expensive items, and access to many women.

I also swear a lot.

Pop

There’s more variety among the pop offering, and it’s largely divided according to relationship status.

I am in a relationship

You are very attractive.

I think about you all the time.

I enjoy having sex with you.

I am looking for a relationship

You are very attractive.

I think about you all the time.

I very much hope that we will soon be having sex.

Those songs are generally sung by men. The ladies’ response can be split into two other categories:

I don’t know what you’re waiting for.

I think I’ve made it clear I’m interested.

or

Not a chance, pal.

Now get out of my dancing space.

I am no longer in a relationship

There are two categories in this relationship status, too, and there is a pronounced gender divide.

Generally men:

I used to be in a relationship with you.

Now I am not.

The breakup was my fault / I don’t understand where I went wrong.

I am very sad and regretful.

Generally women:

I used to be in a relationship with you.

Now I am not.

The breakup was your fault and you were very foolish.

I am happy and have no regrets.

So there you have it: 90% of the songs on Radio 1 in a single blog post. This doesn’t cover weirdy indy songs where you don’t even know what they’re singing about (although often they are the men’s “no longer in a relationship” category, I think). It also doesn’t cover Christmas songs, which are starting to creep onto the Radio 1 playlist, and had already conquered Radio 2 by December 1st.

Speaking of Christmas songs, there is an utterly adorable new song about the weirdness and sadness of Christmas in 2020, our reassessment of what matters and our hope for better times. And it has a catchy chorus and a gorgeous video of Glasgow. It’s by a couple of Glasgow teachers called (collectively) Lapwing, and you can listen to here:

Being topical, accidentally or otherwise

19 Nov

One of the worries when you are writing for magazines is that your article will already be outdated by the time it’s published. It takes longer than you might think to put an edition of a magazine together, and articles are usually commissioned weeks or even months in advance. When I wrote my latest article for Christianity magazine about the effects of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns on vulnerable children throughout the world, we were in lockdown. By the time it was published, we were in that beautiful period of semi-normality between the first and second waves of the virus.

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A paean to Peppa Pig

2 Jul

This post is about one of my many niche interests, specifically that gentle satire on the English middle class: Peppa Pig. You might think that this is just a children’s cartoon about a family of pigs but you would be wrong. It is laugh-out-loud funny in its dissection of human foibles and frailty through the medium of stylized animal drawings.

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Esperanto is fun, ĉu ne?

4 May

If you so much as glance through the old posts of this blog, you’ll notice that I have a fair few interests and hobbies, from the domestic to the arcane. There’s crochet, of course (the temperature blanket is coming along beautifully) and baking, which under lockdown has got a bit out of control. I suggested baking some biscuits today and my sister looked at me in horror. “But we’ve already got crumpets, potato scones and flapjack!” I think the problem is that people aren’t eating fast enough 😉

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Life in Lockdown

3 Apr

Here in the UK we are approaching the second week of ‘lockdown’. It’s not a real lockdown because you can still go out for exercise (once a day), shopping (ideally once a day) and many people are still going to work. In Azerbaijan, you now need permission from the government to even step out your door, I’m told.

But still, it’s fairly restrictive, and it has altered my life as I expect it has yours. I’m actually on the third week of lockdown because I’m in one of these ‘vulnerable groups’ and so was able to go the supermarket during one of their restricted hours and wrestle pensioners for toilet paper. Heroism is not dead.

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Bible Hit Parade

27 Jan

I’m a bit scattered at the moment (rather than scatterbrained, as I always am) because I’m trying to learn Dutch for my research trip to Leiden; carry on writing the novel that the research trip is for; organise the next stage of my asylum seekers craft project; pitch my alchemy book to a publisher who showed a vague interest; interview people for an article I’m writing; and do my usual interpreting and translation on top. But I don’t see why I should neglect the poor blog – what’s one more plate?

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A game of patience

5 Dec

The inspiration for this post was my rather splendid new Christmas jumper, which you can see in the photo below. Christmas jumpers have become a bit of a thing in recent years (I know they were around before that, but they were mocked rather than mandatory) and I didn’t have one last year, so I decided to make one for this Christmas.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
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By hook or by crook

23 Nov

Anyone who has seen me out and about in Glasgow recently may have spotted me, hook in hand, working away at a large blue and white object. This is my Christmas jumper which I have been crocheting for what feels like aeons (since last winter, actually, with a big break for the summer) and which I intend to finish before I go carol singing on the 7th of December.

YARN WITH CROCHET HOOKS
Image by Davina Harrison on Flickr

But crochet hooks aren’t only good for giving me repetitive strain injury, they also have a variety of household uses – so much so that I think every home should have at least one.

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Can’t do right for doing wrong

9 Nov

Those of you who follow this blog will know I’m quite into my eco-friendliness. I wrote an earlier post about my efforts to reduce plastic waste in my life, by doing things like using natural materials, switching to solid shampoo and carrying a shopping bag in my handbag. However, as with many things, being eco-friendly is much more complicated than it at first appears.

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