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Elinor, our younger daughter is self-isolating until Christmas Eve after being contacted by ‘Test and Trace’.  We think she may have been near someone, who has since contracted Covid-19, while she was at the hairdresser’s in Norwich on Thursday 10th December.  She is physically well at the moment.  Richard and I have no need to self-isolate as yet, because Elinor has no symptoms, but are being very cautious and have limited our journeys to necessary shopping.  Elinor is so unfortunate!  She had not left our house and garden, except for one walk round the lanes when she didn’t see a soul, for five whole weeks and the one time she went further afield the result was self-isolation for ten days!  She suffers from chronic anxiety, so goodness knows whether she’ll have the courage to leave the house ever again!  She is very unhappy and depressed and desperately needs a hug which we can’t give her.  We completely understand that we must limit our contacts with other people until this pandemic is under control but the damage all this isolation and lock-down is doing to so many people, physically, mentally and financially is unimaginably great.  My elder daughter Alice, who has Bi-polar 2 disorder is also having a very hard time stuck in Sheffield, unable to see her friends or visit us.  Her husband is unwell at present and is needing a lot of care.

The only thing that has been keeping me going through this year is music.  I’ve not been able to concentrate for long enough to get much enjoyment from reading and I can’t seem to string more than a few words together, either speaking or writing.  My memory is dire and my arthritis is troubling me a lot.  Music has been a balm to my soul, though it often causes me to cry.

I have selected a few pieces of music to share with you that have made me laugh, made me smile and even caused a tear or two.

This first video was shown me by Elinor some time ago and many of you may have seen it already.  I hope you enjoy it.

I have always loved listening to music that tells a story or is so descriptive that if I close my eyes I can be transported away from the here-and-now to another world.  This next piece of music is best listened-to with your eyes shut so that you aren’t distracted by anything.

I have long been an admirer of Bill Bailey.  He is an accomplished actor, musician, comedian and extremely knowledgeable on many subjects.  He has also just won the latest Strictly Come Dancing Glitterball prize with his partner, Oti.  A very versatile man!

I think most of my British readers will recognise this next piece either from the original Dick Barton radio series or from the Mitchell and Webb ‘Sir Digby Chicken Caesar’ sketches.  It’s called ‘The Devil’s Gallop’.  It came on the radio the other week while I, along with a few other impatient drivers, was following a tractor and a couple of heavily-laden lorries on the A143 on the way to Diss.  It made me laugh.

Just before ‘The Devil’s Gallop’ was played on the radio I had been entertained with a similarly blistering, breakneck piece of music.  How many key-changes can you hear in this one?!

I have been listening to the St Martin’s-in-the-Field Thursday recordings of Great Sacred Music for some time now.  There are three or four pieces of music, usually including a hymn, and a narration in-between each piece by Rev. Dr Sam Wells.  I have found these performances so soothing and comforting!

I recently bought some new Christmas music recorded by the Choral Scholars of the University College Dublin.  The first track is a wonderful rendition of In Dulci Jubilo written by Matthew Culloton.  You may find that if you keep listening after this track all the others on the album will be played for you!

The whole collection of songs on ‘Be All Merry’ are fabulous but I thought this next recording of theirs spoke to me so clearly about how I am feeling this Christmastide.  I hope you agree with me.

I hope you have enjoyed my selection and that you also, can find some solace and happiness in listening to music.

I wish you all as Merry a Christmas as it is possible to have in this troubled world of ours and that we can all meet again in the New Year with hope in our hearts, God willing.

Happy Christmas everyone!