Sunday, September 19, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever and Strawberry Moments

The Fab Four

Found myself looking through some old music last week, whilst looking for singing material for an up and coming concert I'm performing in, and rediscovered a battered old Beatles Song Collection Book, that I've had for almost forty years. Flicking through the pages and the songs, which included some of their greatest hits, Get Back JoJo, Something, Eleanor Rigby, Can't Buy Me Love, Michelle, Eight Days A Week and oodles more, the classic psychedelic Strawberry Fields Forever jumped out at me. 

At around the age of eighteen, I sang with a pop group called The Anteeks, and we gigged in Workingmens' Clubs around the Potteries, Birmingham, Blackpool and Manchester areas, filling gaps between  games of Bingo and excited exclamations of 'House' and 'Ee are!' It didn't matter to me that it wasn't the London Palladium, but a Conservative or Railwaymen's Club in the grime of the Potteries, there was a change of costume for each entrance. There were five of us in the band and our fee of £18 was divided accordingly between the 5 of us and the VAN, which amounted to the princely sum of £3 each. My day job netted me £12 per week, and almost every penny of that was spent on costumes and make-up for the gigs.

The bridge carried the railway track of the Potteries Loop Lane.
Brook Street (now Century Street) in Hanley, Staffordshire (Potteries area), UK c. 1890

During this trip down Memory Lane, I remembered that Strawberry Fields Forever had never been part of our 'Beatle Set', and I was therefore less familiar with its lyrics and its history. This piece has often been attributed to both Lennon and McCartney, but it was actually, written and composed in its entirety by John Lennon. Apparently, it was inspired by his memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army Children's Home called 'Strawberry Field' around the corner from his childhood home in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. It had been intended to feature on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band (1967), but was released as a double A-side with Paul McCartney's Penny Lane instead.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Album Cover 1967

Whilst possessing psychedelic rock genre qualities, the lyrics are undoubtedly nostalgic. Lennon was going through a period of change and distraction in his life; his first marriage to Cynthia Powell was crumbling, and he was using an increasing amount of drugs, particularly LSD and Cannabis. Lennon said he felt different all his life. Shy and self-doubting, he was either high or low and said of this song, that it was psychoanalysis set to music. One of the most obviously nostalgic lines of the song is 'Nothing to get hung about!' which was directly inspired by Lennon's Aunt Mimi's strict orders not to play in the garden of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied,'They can't hang you for it!'

John Lennon and his 2nd wife Yoko Ono

From Strawberry Fields Forever and nostalgia, I got to thinking about Autumn... as you do! Well Autumn is a nostalgic time of the year, and its here, earlier than usual, just as I can still feel the chill of the snow and frost of last Winter! Whilst I loved living in a Christmas card world for a spell,  it now seems as if I fell asleep for a while and missed the last train to Summerville. However, the severity of last year's winter has apparently encouraged a bumper crop of fruit this year, Apples have been falling from the trees throughout August, almost as if the branches were too soft to take the weight of the burgeoning fruit. This problem has caused consternation for 'conker' sportsmen throughout the UK, as the fruit of the Horse Chestnut tree has been falling before realizing  the  maturity that serious 'conkering' competiton requires.


My brothers, Martin, Marcus and myself would head off, every Autumn, with wellie-ringed legs, jam sandwiches and water, to 'Joey the Swan', a magical woodland place of swamps, serpents and conkers, We fired missiles; branches, stones, whatever we could lay our hands on, to strike and bring down those lime-green alien sputniks into a soft spongy submission. Once through the protective spiny peel, and beyond the coolness of the white sticky pith, we would marvel at the pristine perfection of each and every  horse chestnut. Then the conker of all conkers would finally grace us us with its presence; the one we had been searching for all day, and holding it and our breath between filthy fingers and thumbs, we beheld this magnificent 'conqueror'; a supreme champion in waiting, that was more than adequately armoured for whatever opposition and combat happened to cross its path. It would soon be dangling dutifully defiant, from the end of a knotted bootlace, after being vinegared and baked; prepared to 'conker' to the death,  lesser specimens, one after the other, in the schoolyard, the following day, cheered on by a baying crowd of short pants.

I call these memories of childhood, 'Strawberry Moments', simply because, to sink our young teeth into a strawberry, at that time, was a rare occasion, and one to be savoured.

      A 'Strawberry Moment' in Lahinch two weeks ago


Love at fifteen......

Love at thirty......

Love at forty.....

Today, no deuced fraises*......

Only game, set ..... and tears.

Maureen Walsh  June 2010 ©

fraises - French word for Strawberries

And from 'Strawberry Moments' to Strawberries and Wimbledon. You wouldn't need to be a member of MENSA to cop that this 'snatch' of poetry was more than likely written in or around the most famous tennis tournament of them all. It somehow sets the tone of Summer for me, not that I get to watch it as I did before I entered into the institution of marital bliss, which more or less coincided with the start of my 35 year love affair/sleep-over with Ireland. I somehow just fell out of the 'Must Watch Wimbledon' and 'Must listen to the comedic antics of cricket commentators on BBC Radio 4' psyche when I floated into an Irish lifestyle.

           Major Walter Clapton Wingfield

Major Walter Clapton Wingfield, a British army major is credited with inventing the game of tennis in 1873. He patented the game under the name of Sphairistike in 1874, basing the name on sphairistike techne which is Greek for the "art of playing ball". It is believed that Wingfield adapted the popular English indoor games such as badminton, squash rackets and court tennis for outdoor suitability. Although the game was known widely for some time under Wingfields patented name, players gradually started using the terms Tennis-on-the-lawn or lawn tennis.

      Ladies Singles Championship 1908 - Wimbledon

Up to 27,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream are eaten at Wimbledon during every tournament.

Strawberries are a variety of the rose family called Fragaria. They are short plants that grow sideways spreading out runners. The ends of the plant stems swell up and redden after the flowers have been pollinated. The actual fruit is the tiny seed embedded in the fleshy strawberry. Apparently therefore, strawberries are not berries. The word strawberry comes from the Old English streowberie or streawbelige. This is probably a combination of the words 'strewed ' and 'berry'. Straw could have referred to the straw that was used (strewn) to keep the strawberries fertile and dry. Animal dung was often mixed in with the straw. The Romans were the first to cultivate the crop, as early as 200BC while the 14th century saw a popularity of growing strawberries in the gardens of French palaces. They were a luxury and poor children would pick them to sell to the rich. Strawberries were considered to be an aphrodisiac; blended into a soup with borage and soured cream they were served to newly-weds at their wedding breakfast.

                       Wimbledon Strawberries

During Shakespeare's time the playwright George Peele in his play The Old Wives Tale, wrote a song linking strawberries with summer and delight.

"When as the rye reach to the chin,

And chopcherry, chopcherry, ripe within,

Strawberries swimming in the cream,

And schoolboys playing in the stream..."

In 1874 sugar tax was abolished and consequently sugar became cheaper. This saw a huge increase in boiling strawberries with sugar to make jam and by the 20th century there was widespread strawberry cultivation in Kent to supply the markets of London.

Strawberries are a source of natural sugar and provide good quantities of vitamin C as well as potassium, which is a mineral essential in our diet. Unfortunately, strawberries rapidly lose their vitamin C after picking.

By mythological association, strawberries were considered sacred to the Roman Goddess of Love Venus, and the Greek equivalent, Aphrodite, as well as the Virgin Mary. The second wife of Henry VIII, Queen Anne Boleyn (1507-36), was reputed to have a strawberry-shaped birthmark on her neck, which some claimed, proved she was a witch.

The strawberry is recognized as representing absolute perfection in the Victorian language of flowers.
Medieval stonemasons carved strawberry designs on altars and around the tops of pillars in churches and cathedrals, symbolizing perfection and righteousness.

Whilst I have never been to Wimbledon, I have had many 'Strawberry Moments' during what seems like a very short Summer! Here's just a few of them.

Giant Swiss Rolls

Space yet Connection

Really like that joke Buffy!

       What happened to your hair Charlie?

        Tai's guardian angel - her mummy!

                  You can't get us up here!

Oh Mum .... For heaven's sake!!!!

                    Do you mind? We're eating!

 'I Love you'!

Could it get any better than this?

And .....FREEZE!!!

                                  Sisterly Love


No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.

That is you can't you know tune in but it's all right.

That is I think it's not too bad.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.

Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.

Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.

It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out.

It doesn't matter much to me.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.

Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.

Strawberry Fields forever.

Always know sometimes think it's me, but you know I know and it's a dream.

I think I know of thee, ah yes, but it's all wrong.

That is I think I disagree.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields.

Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.

Strawberry Fields forever.

Strawberry Fields forever.

Strawberry Fields forever.

If we can somehow remain connected to the child within ourselves, 'Strawberry Moments' might continue through adulthood, well into the 'second childhood' of old age, and who knows ... perhaps even beyond death itself!

Paddy getting by, with a 'little help from his friend!'

Ever eaten a double strawberry? Legend holds that if you break it in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will soon fall in love with each other.

Ciao for now!


Christopher Kelly said...

Keep up the good work mo, lovin the pics, really beautiful!!

Must try splitting the strawberry in two!!

Caitriona Kenny said...

Hi Maureen, I could have called you... went to bed at 2.30am because of the nationalist. Got up this morning to panic from the office and now I've just read your blog... ahhh... bliss.... peace... imagery... imagination... lovely.
I remember my brothers collecting conkers... and another time I remember eating them in Austria, touring around Europe by train in 1991. Thank you! xx

Maureen Walsh said...

Wow, never occurred to me that you could eat conkers. Conker Pie ...why not? I have always been fascinated with them and ACORNS. Still always look for acorns, the fruit of the Oak tree. Always feel that the faeries wont be too far away. The cup of the acorn would be such a useful household utensil in the faery world. Besides that, to give an acorn to someone, is an acknowledgement of undying love. Don't know how or when that fact came into my consciousness, but I like it!!!!! X

Christopher Kelly said...

Conker Pie, Ummmmm!!!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful well balanced piece. With all the nuance of nostalgia but still informative and factual. This was simply a joy to read. One can taste your words aswell as the strawberries!!!
(As a proud daughter, without my objective cap on, I love you and think you are simply incredible xxx)

Eduardo said...

beautiful blog! love the
Strawberry Fields post!