I dedicate my song to four people who celebrate their birthday today; two of them very close friends and two Facebook friends. First, I wish a happy birthday to my best friend and allotment buddy, Brian Moorehouse. Brian has been a great help to me and the best of friends since I married Sheila and have lived in Haworth. Next, I wish a happy birthday to my Singapore friend Chand Mantani. Chand and I became Facebook friends for many years and she travelled thousands of miles from Singapore to my home in Haworth to visit me several years ago. I also wish a happy birthday to Facebook friends Mary Duggan who lives in Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary, Ireland, and Jane Farrell who lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. We hope that you all enjoy your special day, and thank you all for your friendship.
My song today is ‘Dream a Little Dream’. This is a 1931 song with music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt. The lyrics are by Gus Kahn. It was first recorded in February 1931 by Ozzie Nelson. A popular standard, it has seen more than 60 other versions recorded of the song. One of the highest chart ratings was by ‘The Mamas & The Papas’ in 1968 with Cass Elliot on lead vocals.
Other versions of the song have been performed by many notable singers like Frankie Laine: Ella Fitzgerald: Lois Armstrong: Nat King Cole: Dean Martin and Doris Day.
There have been many a man and woman I have come across in my life who may not have ever considered themselves being a ‘dreamer’ whenever they slept at night, but once they met the person with whom they instantly fell in love, strange things started to happen to them on a night when they closed their eyes in bed. All you people out there who have ever been madly in love will know immediately what I mean, and I will not need to spell it out, whereas all those readers who have never been in love but who dearly yearned to be, will also be acquainted with the romantic and passionate dream sequence I allude to. Dreamers of their Mr. or Mrs Right will have either placed an imagined face on the body they desire or may have borrowed a face from a past love who they regretfully let go or lost, or perhaps imagined a face of a lover they have yet to meet.
My dear late mother was an eternal dreamer. Her dreams started and never ended. When we were growing up in West Yorkshire, my mum had but one dream; to own a country cottage dwelling with roses around its front porch, and a donkey eating the grass outback. But being married to a miner, and the mother of seven children (of whom I was the oldest), the most she ever aspired to was a rented council house on a West Yorkshire estate.
Each Sunday when we walked the road to Mass in Cleckheaton or during a mid-week when we walked the road to see a film at the Cleckheaton Picture House (cinema to all you under 50), we would pass my mother’s dream cottage. The cottage was situated halfway down ‘New Road’. Prior to the ‘Second World War’ awfully expensive houses started to be built down both sides of the ‘New Road’ and continued to be built when the war had ended. These expensive properties were lived by wealthy middle-class occupants whose occupational and positions in society were higher in the ranking than teachers and lower in social status than high court judges. The houses down ‘New Road’ provided homes for consultants, surgeons, solicitors, barristers, doctors, mill owners and other people of rank and wealth. Standing in the centre of these (then) modern mansions of red-brick construction which were each fronted with huge wrought-ironed gates, was one small Victorian cottage which was considered by its wealthy neighbours to be an eyesore that lowered the tone of the area. To the passer-by, I would have to say that the small Victorian cottage that had been constructed in stone, did look to be somewhat out of time and place, positioned in the centre of its red-bricked neighbours which screamed out the opulence, power and wealth of their owners.
To my mother, the small Victorian cottage was no eyesore but her dream house, and it would remain so for the rest of her life. Each time she walked past it, knowing that the owner was no spring chicken, she would look for a ‘For Sale' sign in its front garden. I once asked her why she hoped to see it for sale when she must know that she would never have enough money to buy it? Her reply was, “I am not hoping to see a ‘For Sale’ sign, Billy. That cottage is my dream home. I was meant to live there. If it was sold before I ever managed to win the football pools and have enough money to buy it, I could never own it!”
The small Victorian stone cottage was the oldest dwelling down ‘New Road’. My mother was to set her heart on one day owning the property. This was her dream; a dream she knew deep inside that she would never wake up to. Yet, such likelihood would never become reason enough for her to stop dreaming her dream for as long as she lived.
When the Victorian cottage was first lived in, approximately a century before I was born, it would have stood alone in its own rural setting with its nearest neighbour being no closer than half a mile away. Then, during the 1940s, the demand for new red-brick houses of large size grew. Clean and modern dwellings were sought to house the better classes who worked with the lower socio classes of their towns, cities, and non-rural communities. Land was relatively cheap at the time, and demand for all type of housing was high. It mattered not if the houses built were estates dwellings to rent by the working-class families or were larger and grander houses for the wealthier private occupier. The speculative construction companies in the post-war building boom saw a good opportunity to cash in as the pre-war dilapidated housing stock needed to be replaced. Land was being bought up at a rapid rate by the building construction companies.
At the top of ‘New Road’, a brand-new council estate for rented tenants was built, where my family lived. Bordering this area and stretching one mile down the ‘New Road’ to Cleckheaton, expensive modern houses were built to occupy the rich, the up and coming, and the successful. The type of new dwellings built down both sides of the ‘New Road’ made the small Victorian cottage stick out like a sore thumb, and so the building constructor sought to buy out the then owner of the small cottage that sat within an acre of its own land. The owner, who was a spinster, had been born in the house and had never lived anywhere else. Having no siblings, he had inherited the house when her parents died. She was a lady in robust health and when first approached by the building contractor to sell her property for a good price, she refused outright. Even when she was reapproached with a sum that was reportedly far greater than the then market value of the cottage, she still refused to sell.
She had inherited the small cottage from her parents, as they had from theirs, and she told the building contractor that it was her home and that the only way she would be leaving it would be in a coffin. The new developers had planned to buy her house and land, demolish the small quaint stone cottage, and build in its place half a dozen red-brick modern dwellings for their upmarket buyers.
One day, as we walked back up the ‘New Road’, we passed the small cottage on the right. As usual, my mum remarked, “One day, I’ll have a cottage just like that, Billy, with red roses around the front door porch”. Of course, I knew that mum, who struggled as a rule to meet the weekly rent never would have the money to own her dream cottage. The only way her dream could have possibly come true was if any of her seven children won the football pools. Had any of her children done so, the very first thing we would have willingly bought with the winnings was mum’s dream cottage!
Now, here’s the strangest of things. Even though mum knew she would in all probability never have a cottage of her own, she never gave up dreaming her dream. As she often told me, “Before your dreams can come true, Billy, you must first dream them!” Even when she looked at her cottage, it was never with eyes of envy of its owner. My mother was far too charitable and unenviable a woman to think thus. Mum would have derived constant pleasure from the cottage’s presence simply knowing that it stood there and was happily lived in by the owner who had been born there.
I have often considered if there is any significant distinction between having a dream and having a driving purpose in one’s life? I have always believed that if we continue confidently along a parallel course of our dream, we will eventually come to live the life we imagine. As G.K. Chesterton once indicated, “At the centre of every man’s existence is a dream.”
I have always believed our dreams to be our unspoken day thoughts, the seedlings of a future reality not yet grown to fruition. Like any person who has been both good and bad throughout their life, thank God my dreams have always harboured the better part of me and have left the worse of me by the wayside. Because of both accident and medical circumstances, I have faced threat and uncertainty many times of not seeing another sunset. Because of many years of being unable to walk, and having to endure severe arthritis, and being ill, I have had my fair share of dreams and nightmares during a lifetime of nights and days. I am eternally grateful, however, that I always lived through my medical ordeals, and I have no doubt as to why such outcomes came about. To overcome my medical nightmares, I dared to dream, and dream again, and again. In my dreams, and in my life, whilst I may seem to have coped through my own strength, I know that strength can never originate in loneliness. In my dreams, as in my life, I know that while I believe in God, self, wife, family, friends and neighbours, that I will never walk alone however frightening or perilous my path may be.
I wish I could convey to every person who faces any medical problem or unhappy event in their life, that it makes no sense to try to deal with everything on your own when there are thousands of good and loving people in the world who are willing to share with you your worse moments and walk with you along your final journey. If it is understanding of the situation you need, all you need do is to talk, and someone will listen. If it is the touch of another, all you need do is to hold out your hand and someone will hold it. The person who helps you may be your God, your spouse, your partner, your siblings, your family, your friends, your neighbour, and even the very next person you pass in the High Street.
Love and peace