Beyond the Blue Horizon…

It was a typical West Highland winter day: the cloud lay leaden on the hills like an enormous wet blanket, and rain mixed with icy sleet had been falling continuously since the night before. Around about noon, Algy perched in a sleeping cherry tree and gazed at the dull grey sky. Despite the dismal weather, the days were getting noticeably longer and the smaller birds were starting to sing from time to time. So Algy lifted up his own dripping head, took a deep, damp breath, and started to sing too…

…On, on from darkness into dawn,
From rain into the rainbow, fly with me.
Gone, gone all my grief and woe,
What matter where I go if I am free?

Beyond the blue horizon
Waits a beautiful day,
Goodbye to things that bore me,
Joy is waiting for me!
I see a new horizon,
My life has only begun,
Beyond the blue horizon
Lies a rising sun.

Algy hopes that whatever the conditions in your part of the world, you will have a happy and peaceful weekend, and will lift up your head and sing 🙂

[Algy is singing a very old song, Beyond the Blue Horizon, from the film Monte Carlo made almost 90 years ago, starring Jeanette MacDonald. Sadly, Algy was not able to find a video clip on YouTube (no doubt owing to copyright restrictions), but he found this audio recording from 1930.]

As night fell the storm grew stronger and Algy retreated deeper into his hollow in the sand dunes. The wind shrieked and howled outside, and the waves roared as they surged up the beach, so Algy could only doze fitfully at best. Half asleep and half awake, a song he had once heard – Come Down ma Evenin’ Star – kept running through his head, and he dreamed that a glowing star fell into his tiny sand cave, to keep him company and brighten up the darkness of the stormy night.

[Listen to the version of the song which Algy remembered, sung by the lovely Alice Faye in the 1940 film Lillian Russell.]

Algy’s feathers were drenched and heavy with salt; he knew that it would be quite impossible for him to fly. So with a big effort he pulled himself out of the water, and on to the top of the rocking lobster pot float. The rocks were perilously close and he couldn’t risk being swept against them, so he started to paddle vigorously with his wings. Algy is a bird not easily daunted, so to keep his spirts up and block out the sound of the dangerous surf, he started to sing his favourite sea shanty, Hieland Laddie, at the top of his voice:

          Was you ever in Quebec?
          Bonny laddie, Hieland laddie,
          Stowing timber on the deck,
          Bonny Hieland laddie.
          Hey ho, and away we go,
          Bonny laddie, Hieland laddie,
          Hey ho, and away we go,
          Bonny Hieland laddie.

[Algy suggests you listen to this fine version by Matthew Vaughan. The song starts about one minute in, with an introduction by Matthew first.]

Today, many of Algy’s Tumblr friends have been promoting The Landscape Network – a new landscape photography Tumblr which has been looking for submissions and new members of its network. As landscape photography is such a fundamental part of Algy’s adventures, Algy asked his assistant to contact the new network to see whether he might be able to participate. But evidently not everyone likes fluffy birds … The reply was swift but firm:

“Great landscapes, but it’s not really what we’re after I’m afraid, the bird ruins it.”

Poor old Algy! He did feel glum :{  He had never realised that he had been ruining the beautiful local landscapes all this time! So he flew up into an old oak tree and tried not to look too conspicuous, in case there might be any landscape photographers around …

But, fortunately for Algy, fluffy birds do not remain discouraged for very long. He was soon reminded of some lines from Prince Orlovsky’s aria in Die Fledermaus:

          Und fragen Sie, ich bitte.
          Warum ich das denn tu’?
          ’S ist mal bei mir so Sitte,
          Chacun à son goût!

If you enjoy light opera by Johann Strauss, Algy recommends a wonderful and unconventional version of this aria, Ich lade gern mir Gäste, sung by the great tenor Wolfgang Windgassen, from Algy’s favourite DVD version of the opera, recorded in 1972. This is especially dedicated to all of Algy’s lovely German friends :))

Sometimes even Algy is overcome by the odds stacked against him. The wind was strong and, as it was low tide, the seaweed on the rocks was very slippery. It was all too much for Algy! Suddenly he found himself flat on his back. Although he was reminded of a song from one of his favourite old movies, he decided that for a wee while at least he would just lie there and watch the clouds rushing by overhead.

          Nothing’s impossible I have found,
          For when my chin is on the ground,
          I pick myself up,
          Dust myself off,
          Start all over again.

          Don’t lose your confidence if you slip,
          Be grateful for a pleasant trip,
          And pick yourself up,
          Dust yourself off,
          Start all over again.

          Work like a soul inspired,
          Till the battle of the day is won.
          You may be sick and tired,
          But you’ll be a man, my son!

          Will you remember the famous men,
          Who had to fall to rise again?
          So take a deep breath,
          Pick yourself up,
          Dust yourself off,
          Start all over again.

[Algy is thinking of the song Pick Yourself Up, written by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern for the 1936 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Swingtime. You can watch a clip of Fred and Ginger performing the song or their complete dance that follows.]

It was apple blossom time and Algy was in high spirits. The blossom was so beautiful, and all around him there were bees buzzing from flower to flower, helping to make plenty of apples for him to eat in the autumn. No wonder he was happy! So he sang them an old popular song, which first made the “hit parade” nearly 100 years ago: I’ll be with you in apple blossom time …

[This song has been recorded many times over the years, but was especially popular in the mid-20th century. If you don’t know the song, try listening to one of these recordings: Jo Stafford with Nat King Cole on piano in 1946, Elliot Lawrence and his Orchestra also in 1946, or from 1941, The Andrews Sisters, who recorded the song several times. And here is one of the very earliest recordings, by Charles Harrison in 1920.]

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

Algy wishes all his friends a very Happy Valentine’s Day, and recites for them this famous poem Song to Celia, written by Ben Jonson nearly 400 years ago:

        Drink to me only with thine eyes,
                 And I will pledge with mine;
        Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
                 And I’ll not look for wine.
        The thirst that from the soul doth rise
                 Doth ask a drink divine;
        But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
                 I would not change for thine.

        I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
                 Not so much honouring thee
        As giving it a hope, that there
                 It could not withered be.
        But thou thereon didst only breathe,
                 And sent’st it back to me;
        Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
                 Not of itself, but thee.

[For the old-fashioned Romantics, Algy has found an old recording of this old English song, sung by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf many years ago.]