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Ulster log: Recalling season in the sun with a first love

By Eddie McIlwaine

An article in the paper claims that people of a certain age never forget their first love. Tell you this - I'll always remember mine. She had deep brown eyes, so loving and soulfully gentle when I was the subject of their gaze.

I was young and our summer rambles over Carnmoney Hill were for us alone. We lay in the long grass on the summit, her head on my shoulder and my arm caressing the smooth curve of her back.

Our song was Seasons In The Sun, with lyrics by poet Rod McKuen, the first anniversary of whose death I've just commemorated.

At night in bed she snuggled up to me under the blankets and when the wind blew during a storm I drew her even closer and offered words of comfort, to let her know I would protect her from the elements. It was a true love affair. Even in winter when the snow fell we continued our romps over the Hill, blissfully ignoring the biting cold, warmed only by one another's company.

When workaday demands kept us apart, I survived in the knowledge she would wait for me to return, sustained by love and trust. Sadly, this relationship was not to last. As the years passed I watched her fade away in the grip of poor health. The inevitable happened one afternoon as the sun was disappearing behind a rain cloud and I found her lifeless body in a meadow at the foot of that hill where we had let the world pass us by.

You see, my first love, my faithful pal, was a Cocker Spaniel called Tartar. I buried her ashes in a secret grave on the summit, near the grassy knoll on which we used to rest after our climb to a kind of heaven I've never been able to find since in the company of a pet. As I grow older my visits to her grave grow fewer. But she's always in my thoughts and perhaps we'll meet again in a hereafter season.

In his heyday, McKuen had a Cocker called Sue, which he described in one of his books as the four-legged love of his life.

A snippet from Seasons in the Sun, which always reminds me of Tartar and made him think about Sue, goes like this:

We had joy, we had fun

We had seasons in the sun

But the hills that we climbed were just seasons

Out of time

Pixie goes lightly in footsteps of Audrey

One of my great disappointments was that Audrey Hepburn, memorably singing Moon River in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, never made it to Belfast. She was due a visit here in the early Nineties as a representative of Unicef after retiring from an acting career, only to be struck by illness and dying in 1993 at only 63.

Now singer Pixie Lott is taking on the Hepburn role of Holly Golightly in the stage version of Tiffany’s, which is now touring everywhere including Dublin in June prior to a West End run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. So far no Belfast date has been agreed.

Based on Truman Capote’s book, Breakfast At Tiffany’s is set in New York in wartime 1943. Fred, a young writer from Louisiana, meets Holly, a vivacious good-time girl with whom he falls in love. But Fred is poor, and Holly’s other suitors include a playboy millionaire, so it takes her a while to return his feelings.

Pixie says: “I am so excited to be playing Holly Golightly — the role made famous by Audrey.”

How a high flying lord had his own church seat

St Catherine’s Parish Church, built in 1712 before man learned to fly, is today traditionally linked with the Royal Air Force.

The base is no longer known as RAF Aldergrove, however, as since the Army moved in to share the camp the name has been changed to Flying Station Aldergrove.

This little place of worship is attracting attention since I wrote about a concert there this very night with King’s Chorale and clarinet player Gillian McCutcheon and including Canon Sam McComb as compere. 

Airmen are still in residence in what is the only civilian church in the United Kingdom to be within the boundaries of a military establishment.

One of St Catherine’s most distinguished members, the late Lord Jim Molyneaux of Killead who died a year ago at 94, served in the RAF during the Second World War.

The Molyneaux chair in the choir box was presented to His Lordship to mark his distinguished career as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and his association with the church. At one time he was the only man in the choir.

Gather to hear the sound of spring

The Spring Gatherin' which made pipe music a hit in Belfast a year ago, is coming back to the Ramada Plaza on Friday, April 8, and Saturday, April 9.

And this time as well as the pipes and drums, flute, silver and accordian bands will be taking part.

Director Colin Wasson says "people power" is making a different kind of melody essential to the occasion.

There will be a one-off concert on the Friday and the Saturday will be devoted to performances by bands like Ravara Pipe, Coleraine Fife and Drum, Kellswater Flute and Cahard Flute and many others.

Tickets on sale at the Belfast Tattoo Office, Fisherwick Place and on line at www.springgatherin.co.uk or tel: 028 9031 9319.

Chance to be a cool cat on stage

With a little bit of help from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Peter Corry is planning to stage a youth version of Cats at the SSE Arena this summer.

So auditions for the musical will be taking place soon for what Peter says will be one of the largest and most ambitious youth productions ever put on here.

Cats is based on a tale by T.S. Eliot of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. It was first staged in 1981 when its big song Memory became a hit.

Auditions (18 years and under) are on April 1 and 2 at the SSE Arena and will be conducted by Peter, musical director Ashley Fulton and choreographer Fleur Mellor. Email: admin@performbootcamp.com

Concrete facts on a modern hymn

Horn-player Alex Miller who is still making inspirational music in the Belfast Temple Band of the Salvation Army at 85, has confirmed for an inquiring log reader that there is indeed a hymn called God of Concrete.

"It's in the Sally Ann songbook," says Alex who has been blowing horn in the Temple band for 69 years.

The piece was written by a Richard Granville Jones who was educated at Cambridge and after serving in the Royal Navy became a Methodist Minister in 1950. He wrote the lyrics after attending a Methodist youth conference which complained they had no modern hymn to sing. It was set to music by his friend Frederick Clarke.

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