Saturday, April 04, 2020

Letter From Springtime England Amid Covid: Allan Thompson

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Amidst the hurly-burly of the Covid-19 disaster, a good friend from the green fields and valleys of ole England writes to me after some years of solitude. No, that's not true. He's been writing to me very often, so I asked if I could post one of his private mails on the blog. He agreed; Allan Thompson always does. So here goes, a short but refreshing description to brief us Singaporeans about the situation in suburban England.
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Dear Andy,

Glad to hear you are well and coping with the restrictions. We are having deliveries of vegetables and food generally. We both exercise at home a couple of times a day and I go for a long brisk walk every second day around the village which is quite spread out so it is easy to keep clear of any cyclists, joggers and other walkers.

It is good to hear the Spring birds singing while most people are closeted and not making human noise with traffic and machinery and loud music. We are permitted half an hour outside for exercise each day and are permitted unlimited fresh air in our gardens. 
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We have a small garden and make full use of it with vegetables, flowers and herbs. The blossoms on the flowering currant bush attract all varieties of bees which make a soothing buzzing sound like an insect orchestra, and the birds sing loudly each morning to awaken us. 

It is pleasant when the sun shines but there is still a keen edge to the breeze which is forecast to change direction at the weekend and bring higher temperatures. 

I will be going for an extra walk in an hour's time and hope to tell you more about Springtime in England.


I have just returned from my brisk walk around the village and I feel invigorated from the exercise. Not too many people around: three people jogging separately, a pair of cyclists, a lady riding a Clydesdale-cross work horse, two almost-empty buses, one or two essential delivery vans, and a few very sensible pedestrians keeping their distance. 
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On the negative side: an elderly man balanced on top of a tall, rickety wooden step-ladder, hosing down the plastic corrugated roof of his car-port. If he falls and injures himself, that will mean an ambulance and possibly hospital treatment when the National Health Service is working at full stretch already. 

There are too many idiots thinking they can flout the Government's advice, including the far-too-many private cars on the main roads making non-essential journeys. 
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On a brighter note, it was lovely to see the cherry trees in full bloom and daffodils thrusting their golden heads towards the sun, while the wild birds sing their cheerful songs in the trees and hedgerows. Many people, including us, are taking advantage of the fine weather to plant vegetables, prune shrubs, and do some weeding. 

Ours is a fairly small garden but it is enclosed at the back so it is very private and is protected from late frosts by high wooden fences and bushes. We also have a small polythene greenhouse where Mary grows vegetables from seed and later in the Summer it is full of tall, bushy tomato plants which usually give us a good crop.

Well, I must go out and prune some more hydrangea branches.

Keep well, old friend. 

Allan Thompson.
'Out of Town' by Max Bygraves: Allan Thompson's song that uplifts him.

Spring songs - hmm. 

There is an instrumental called "Spring Is Near" by The Outlaws which came out on a 1961 single on HMV. (NOT the later country supergroup of that name, but the British guitar group produced by Joe Meek). 

"Spring! Spring! Spring!" from the film, "7 Brides For 7 Brothers". 

Allan Thompson
I've also cheated by Googling songs about Spring: 

"Younger Than Springtime" (various artists have done this); 
"Spring Fever" (Elvis Presley); 
"Spring Rain" (Pat Boone); 
"Suddenly It's Spring" (Frank Sinatra); 
"Spring" (Serendipity Singers). 
"Out Of Town" (by Max Bygraves remains, oddly enough, one of my favourite uplifting songs.)
Elvis Presley sings 'Spring Fever' from movie, 'Girls, Girls, Girls' where springtime is adequately and pleasantly dramatised.

Images from Google.

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Thanks Andy for sharing your personal correspondence. It's certainly nice to have friends near and far, and to hear about their everyday activities especially during these challenging times.

Do send my regards to your friend too, and remind everyone to stay safe and fit; for with the coming of spring brings the promise of healing and recovery.


E. SUNG said...

Thanks for sharing.
Really nice to be enjoying the fresh air in the suburbs!
Would love to be out walking but no gardening for me.


What a nice read especially during this period with the impending lockdown here.
Oops, my apologies. I ought to use the correct term, 'circuit breaker'.

Allan's piece is as lovely, refreshing, colourful and sweet as the flowers, birds, garden and
the road with houses (cottages?) lined on one side as depicted in the photos that accompanied it.

So vivid is his narration that I swear I could've inhaled a breath of spring as whilst reading. And I actually felt transported back to the good ole days of yore.

Thank you Allan and Andy.

SWEE LENG said...

Hmm... what kind of response are you expecting?

All I can think of is this:

Oh To Be In England

O, TO be in England
Now that April 's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom'd pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That 's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning


Dear Andy,

I just remembered that when I was 15 years old, I had a poem published in Stranraer High School Magazine, 1958, called "Arrival Of Spring". I was so embarrassed to be writing about something so non-macho (macho was not in current use way back then) that I submitted it under the pseudonym "A Spectator". Here it is in all its original corniness:

The blue-tinged slopes, the moss-bound trees,

The chanting birds, the searching bees.

The creepers round the age-old bark,

The willow spreading shadows dark.

A brook flows here, a wren lands there

On a patch of woodland bare.

It's now that Nature has her fling -

For Winter's past and this is Spring.

In spite of writing that corn, 1958 was also the year when I won the prestigious Lyall Memorial Prize at school with an essay called "The Return" which was loosely based on the death of James Dean. My prize was One Guinea's worth of books selected from Collins Publishers pocket editions catalogue. The books I selected (and still possess) were the complete works of Robert Burns and two volumes by O. Henry.

That's all (enough?) for now.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

You write so well, all the bees are attracted to your pot of honey.
I feel ashamed of my own writing when I read your well expressed stories.
You write anytime you wish Allan.


Many thanks to my friends and readers too for their immediate comments.
I think Allan could've have had lots of books published now if he hadn't come to Singapore in uniform.

He has written nearly two dozen articles for this blog. Just click his name under the content page and you'll get all his contribution. You can't miss him. He looks like Mr Putin.


facebook chats said...

Thanks to Andrew, Belinda, Sui Pang and Ann for LIKING this post on Facebook.


Wow blooming flowers and spring songs... love if we can listen to some.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, they are on the blog Sui Pang. Thanks for writing in.


Dear Andy,
Thanks to you and your followers for all their kind words about my quirky contributions to your Blog. As you know by now, I regularly recall events from days of old (should that be daze of old?) and jot them down for you to edit and illustrate with most appropriate pictures and songs.

I hope that all your fans will come through this terrible time safely, and it is thanks to you that your contributors have a platform from which to air their views and entertain us all.

God bless,


Bring us all back to our growing up years.
Walkin' down the avenue, up the street,
So nice and relaxed way of life...


Allan Thompson sounds familiar.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, he's written about two dozen pieces for this blog.
You can check Allan on the CONTENT column.
Thanks SL for your contribution.
And Richard too, an old music friend.


Was just reading it.
Very tranquil reading.
Seems to describe an old England in spring that seems to have disappeared but happily still exists in this topsy turvy times.
Guess he lives around a small village or town.

Yes, I eard the birds sing and the smell of fresh blssoms with the occasional wafting of cool breeze.

(Reminded me to check on an old English friend to see he was OK. Yup, in self isolation.)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Not a poet myself, here's one I remember during the lovely Literature classes not too long ago:

William Blake, ‘Spring‘.

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,—
Merrily merrily,
To welcome in the year…

facebook chats said...

Freda Hanum:
That's an inspiring springtime in England, can feel the freshness of greens and sounds of birds chirping... wonderful indeed.

Andy Young
Freda, I see the poetry in your writing. Cheers!

Hiroshi Deguchi
I can still recall one spring day in England when I wen into a Wimpy Bar for lunch and got a job there as a waiter on the very first day i went up to London from Devonshire. The England spring, everything was looking up. It was back in 72.

Andy Young
Yes, Hiroshi, it's always the looking back at yonder days. You are quite a traveller, aren't you? England too!!! Wow. Nothing like experience during a visit and the important stay where you meet the folks around. Thanks for sharing your experience

Stephen Han
Lockdown is good for people living in the country side with garden.With the serenity one can smell the scented flowers and enjoy the chirping sounde from birds and other insects

Andy Young
Hi Stephen, thanks again, one of the bastions of the blog and this FB post. Yes, lucky Allan with his countryside surroundings. Appreciate your own description of a springtime frolic. Cheers.

Andy Young
Ah you kindly people, without which my FB connection would have crumbled a long time ago, thank you so much for your presence during this very unstable and tumultuous times.

Grateful indeed to FREDA, HIROSHI and STEPHEN and others who have contributed.


Lovely springtime I enjoyed when I was doing a course in Watford, UK IN1979.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hey Peter thanks.
Tell us more about Watford.
Should be interesting.
Anyone else too, welcome to relate your stories about England or any other place?

Thanks for the Facebook chats.

EDDIE ENG said...

Your friend Mr Thompson is no casual ordinary writer. His words are crafted to bring out the best of the English language. Like any consummate writer, he uses the pen like a painter uses the brush to convey vivid images of colours, sound,mood and flavours. The scenery conjured is like a page from Jane Austen's novels.

If I may, his writing should be titled, 'An Ode To Spring'.

EDDIE ENG said...

You have friends far and wide and they come from all walks of life.
Your contacts are phenomenal.
To businessmen, contacts are part of capital.
You made no attempt to capitalise but just to do a social good.
Hormat, Andy.


I would love to contribute to a veteran like you anytime.
Just let me know how??
Your selfless action already had me admired all the way from Melbourne from a while back.
Keep on shining Bro, the music world needs more selfless people like you especially in times like this.

Cedric Collars said...

Hi Andy time has slipped by and I have had the time to reflect on nature's teachings. The COVID-19 had to appear before people could start to remember how to communicate again, be happy with the least of things, recognise their lost human feelings and compassion. Yes as your friend Allan Thompson reflected people are now hearing nature!! Birds chirping, flowers scent and the wonders all around are things people have forgotten or forgot to appreciate due to the pressures of daily living. Yes amidst all of the going on we sadly lost Kenny Rogers, Ellis Marsalis and Bill Withers to name a few. They were the poet's and artists who painted us pictures of our lives in music and songs and with their passing, we can always remember what it was like when their music calmed our troubled minds and hearts. As I sit at my Yamaha keyboards and play songs that the seniors love I feel that the virus will pass but the "Music and Songs" will remain to calm and heal future generations. Yes Andy sometimes this is why we are musicians and dispensers of comfort and calm in troubled times. Stay safe my friends and keep your hands washed and sanitized but most of all keep dispensing the music 🎤🎷🎼👍

Yen said...

Wow. It is so descriptive that I thought I was there. Thanks for sharing. More please.

My home corridor with a few pots of plant is my so called 'garden' but I m happy with it while staying at home during this Covid period.

Wishing all stay well. :)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Jimmy,
thanks for your compliment; coming from a personality like you it means a lot to me.
I'm grateful I could contribute a little.
Do write in anytime.
I think messenger is best.
We can chat from there.
Let's all hope for a better tomorrow.
Slow and steady...


I was in Watford for 14 mths to study printing technology.
It's a small town town abt 2x AMK.
Nice n quiet place abt 30 to40 mins fr London's Victoria Stn.
Was there wif 2 colleagues lived in an old hse wif a garden, paid by coy.
Each of us was paid £25 per day, except Sunday.
That was $75.
Gd money.
Flowers will bloom during springtime.
Nice surroundings.
Kampong like.
People were friendly.
Aft 3 months we bought an old Vauxhall for £500.
It was a fuel guzzler.
With a car we were able to drive to Nottingham, Liverpool, Sunderland, Manchester, Wales, Chester, Preston, Blackpool n some cities.
I love Wales.
Always got lost in Wales.
Can't read their road signs.
Came back in 1980 early winter.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Peter for your interesting tale of your English tour.
I am sure Allan would be glad to read it.
I'll have it posted on the blog.
A Vauxhall is indeed a guzzler.
And you still remember the places you visited.
Yes, Wales is special.
It's easier to read Scottish road signs.


yes Visit UK many times.
My sis lives in Luton.
Last visited in March last yr

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, a beautiful country indeed.
I was on the M1 Highway and stopped by a Patrol car.
Slowing down at the side, the police officer shouted, "Drive faster, you're going too slowly! This is a 110 kmh. zone!"
My wife and I laughed thinking we could have been summoned for speeding.
Thanks Peter.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Cedric Collars Who Writes From Australia:

Hi Cedric,
I asked you for a slice of your cake and you gave me your bakery!
Thanks so much for the detailed and sumptuous comment you provided so generously.
Also for the latest news on the internationally well-renowned music makers who have just passed away.

I cannot thank you enough.


An Ode To Spring

I must also thank EDDY ENG who so willingly contributes to this blog.
Busy as this engineer is, he spares time always to write tributes and anecdotes for us to read.
Eddy is an SG 60's music fan, having attended most of our Silver Strings Concerts on this island.

These two gentlemen have a special way with words.

Thanks to my readers and friends very much for response.