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Wensum Column: Fakenham writer Jim Harding discusses music and war memorial

In his weekly column, Fakenham writer Jim Harding discusses his thoughts on musicians and wonderful war memorial displays...

I was not always a fan of Bob Dylan. The Beatles were more immediately striking to me. Things changed when I got to Sydney.

Particularly when I travelled to New Zealand by ferry across the Tasman Sea. It was a wretched trip with awful weather but the soundtrack, dominated by Dylan’s music, really caught my imagination.

Flowers on Fakenham Memorial
Flowers on Fakenham Memorial

Perhaps I’d grown up a bit by then. Young people in their twenties were very much influenced by the power of his lyrics, which spoke to me and my feelings at the time with genuine passion.

I slowly built up a stack of his recordings and have never really lost touch with these ideas and suggestions which carried with them such significant messages.

When I finally returned to England I was ‘over the moon’ to learn in October 2016 that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I never thought that was a possibility for someone generally recognised as a popular songster.

The award suggested why, with these words, amongst others: ‘for having created new poetic expression within the great American song tradition.’ I was thrilled.

I mention this bit of history now because my family knows of my attachment to Dylan and the collection I’ve built up over the years. On Father’s Day just recently, my middle son presented me with Dylan’s latest tape, something very different from to earlier compilations.

To be honest it was difficult to make the connection. From his ‘angry young man’ stance, which had so attracted me, this collection is, for want of a better word, ‘dated’. Most of the choices are love songs, many of which I recognise from an earlier era.

And to be honest, Dylan’s voice, for various reasons, has not really stood the test of time. Other great crooners, such as Sinatra, managed to carry on with style into their seventies. The same can hardly be said of Dylan, even though I still enjoy the kind of sadness that envelopes the numbers he has chosen to celebrate. And how touching that a son should recognise the influence that this amazing man had on my ‘growing up’ years. To be honest it was difficult to make the connection.

The combination of music and words, as others have discovered, can be very influential and powerful. This latest tape is called Fallen Angels and a few of the numbers that may be familiar to you include ‘Young At

Heart’ ‘All The Way’ ‘All Or Nothing At All’ and ‘It Had To Be You’. It was produced by the improbably named Jack Frost. and I’m slowly growing to like it, although I suspect it will never rival those early tracks that pleaded with certain parts of the world to stop bombing each other to smithereens.

As a minor, though occasionally significant, member of community group Fakenham Area Partnership, I have always kept a close eye on the town’s war memorial, centrally situated in the market square. Certain dates draw much of the local population to gather around it, such as the annual Remembrance Day Parade or when wars have been raging and many troops from the area have been involved.

During the warmer periods of the year, wonderful flower displays decorate its steps, and regular watering is carried out by local volunteers led by Jamie Francis and his sons. Just recently I’ve noticed flowers on both sides of the memorial and spoke to FAP chairperson Janet Holdom about their well-being.

She told me that the flowers come from Dell’s Nursery in Sculthorpe who have been suppliers for many years. The same business provides flower baskets to decorate the front of shops and businesses around Fakenham. These, too, are all kept regularly watered right through until September. It’s a community effort worthy of everyone’s respect.

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