Help in troubling times

Two of our Working Party chairs, Chris Dowrick and John Wynn-Jones are leading the way in encouraging colleagues to say what they are finding helpful in these troubling times dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Prof Chris Dowrick

chair WONCA Working Party on Mental Health writes:

We are all faced with tremendous levels of anxiety about the effects of corona virus on our patients, our families and ourselves.

Today, I simply want to share with you this beautiful poem by the American environmentalist Wendell Berry: The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

What are you finding helpful in these troubling times?

Dr John Wynn-Jones

chair WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice writes about his favourite 10 albums.

When you try to put 10 iconic records together, you will have to leave some equally influential albums out. My list was long and I still suddenly remember an album that I should have added. I have left out classical music and only allowed one album per artist (otherwise it would have been full of Dylan!).

Some genres are missing, especialy jazz and many apologies to the memory of great Jazz hero such as Miles Davies and Dave Brubeck. Not in order but each one was a coveted piece of vinyl or later on CD.

Please tell me if any of these were your favourites? What next? Favourite paintings, poems and books to come.

To paraphrase the book by Garbriel Marquez "Stuff in the Time of Covid"

Album Number 10 - The Beatles: Abbey Road

Well it’s the last one. How could someone my age grow up, without experiencing the influence of the “Fab Four”. I have chosen, my favourite and their last recording. It wasn’t their last release, because what was to be “Let it Be/Get Back Album” languished in recording tapes until Phil Spector gave it his lavish uncharacteristic (for the beatles) “Wall of Sound“ treatment.

After the tense and unpleasant recording sessions for the proposed Get Back album, Paul McCartney suggested to music producer George Martin that the group get together and make an album "the way we used to do it". Martin agreed, but on the strict condition that all the group – particularly John Lennon – allow him to produce the record in the same manner as earlier albums and that discipline would be adhered to. No one was entirely sure that the work was going to be the group's last, though George Harrison said "it felt as if we were reaching the end of the line". Personal issues remained a problem, however. John privately left the band just before the record’s release and Paul officially declared the end of the Beatles the next April.

It was their eleventh studio album and it was released in September 1969 by Apple Records. The Album was named after the EMI recording studios in Central London. The album and the famous zebra crossing photograph has made the studios the most famous in the world attracting big names and tourists from across the globe. (some of Dark Side of the Moon were also recorded there) The album faced mixed reviews from the press on release but it is now hailed as one of their very best.

During the sessions, Lennon expressed a desire to have all of his songs on one side of the album, and McCartney's on the other. The album's two halves represented a compromise: Lennon wanted a traditional release with distinct and unrelated songs while McCartney and Martin wanted to continue their thematic approach from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by incorporating a medley. Lennon ultimately said that he disliked Abbey Road as a whole and felt that it lacked authenticity, calling McCartney's contributions "[music] for the grannies to dig" and not "real songs", and describing the medley as "junk ... just bits of songs thrown together". For me, the 2 songs that really stand out are those written by George Harrison, “Something” (inspired by the title of James Taylors’s “Something in the way she moves) and “Here Comes the Sun” (written in Eric Clapton’s garden). Both songs demonstrate what a mature and brilliant songwriter he had already become.

Other classics were Come Together, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Oh! Darling, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Because, You Never Gave Me your Money, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. Rather prophetically the last song, “The End” (except the hidden "Her Majesty") appears to signal that it was really the end. So many of us who grew up with The Beatles were in deep shock when the split up. How could they, they belonged to us and life would never be the same again!

The sleeve photograph has become as important as the record itself. Daily tourists, celebrities and media emulate the picture by holding up traffic on Abbey Road. It’s the only Beatles sleeve not to have their name or title on it, but as Apple’s creative designer said “We didn’t need to, they were the most famous band in the world” It was taken at 11.30 am on 8th August 1969. A policeman held up the traffic and they were given 10 minutes to get it done while the photographer stood on a stepladder. The crossing was subsequently given Grade 2 Listed Status.

Shortly after the album's release, the cover became part of the "Paul is dead" theory. According to followers of the rumour, the cover depicted the Beatles walking out of a cemetery in a funeral procession. The procession was led by Lennon dressed in white as a religious figure; Starr was dressed in black as the undertaker; McCartney, out of step with the others, was a barefoot corpse; and Harrison dressed in denim was the gravedigger. The left-handed McCartney is holding a cigarette in his right hand, indicating that he is an imposter, and the number plate on the Volkswagen parked on the street is 28IF, meaning that McCartney would have been 28 if he had lived – despite the fact that he was only 27 at the time of the photo and subsequent release of the record. The escalation of the "Paul is dead" contributed to Abbey Road's commercial success in the US. False news is nothing new. Can we imagine how this would have unfolded with social media now.

Please take a look at this video to bring those memories flooding back