A passing of two remarkable souls

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Dear all,

I’m afraid it’s a sad blog from me today but I hope one that also pays tribute to two people who had quite an impact on me.

I sadly lost a schoolfriend two weeks ago, Shel Frost. Shel died at just 27 of cervical cancer, a very cruel and painful experience. Yet I think of Shel and smile in spite of her untimely passing as she was a remarkable person and someone whose attitude to life could be a lesson to us all. I was struck at the montage of photos showed at her funeral just how that smile was always there from the word go! She really did light up a room and injected a real sense of feel-good into people’s days. Even during her illness, I never once heard her complain about her lot and she of all people had the right to. She continued to be more interested in what everyone else was doing and did whatever she felt she was still capabale of doing rather than focussing on what she couldn’t do. Her positivity was extraordinary. She also went further and sought to publicise the problem of smear tests being refused to those under 25 and the consequences to help others in the same position. Her appearance on ITV’s This Morning brought tears to the eyes of anyone who knew her or anyone watching it for that matter. The news that she had died came just one day after the news that another of my schoolfriends, coincidentally a very close friend of Shel’s, had given birth to a new baby. I think that frames just how sad and how wrong losing a schoolfriend at that age really is, but as I say I will always think of Shel and smile and in her short life her sense of fun and care had a profound impact on those around her.

She was cared for wonderfully at Katherine House Hospice in Stafford and I would ask that you consider donating through this page: https://www.justgiving.com/WeloveuShel

At the other end of the age spectrum, I’ve not long got the sad news that Glen Mason has passed away at the age of 83. I am proud alongside my regular touring to do some work for a charity called Live Music Now which involves playing music in care homes, special needs schools, hospices and hospitals among other venues. I’ve always enjoyed this work but one care home residency had a remarkable impact on myself and my colleague Nic Zuppardi. We were told one of the residents at a Surrey care home that we were to play in for eight concerts was an old singer and actor and quite a star in his day – Glen Mason. He still had the smile but was understandably as a result of dementia slightly incoherent. How reintroducing him to his music changed all that. Below is an extract from a blog I wrote about the residency about Glen:

But most moving of all was the impact on the legendary Glen Mason. Glen was a singer and actor in the 50’s and 60’s and quite a big star in his day and is one of the residents in the care home. The residency was supported in fact by the Musicians Benevolent Fund who look after Glen. He is always full of smiles and warmth but sadly he is not always overly coherent and isn’t always aware quite what’s going on. After the first week we went away and learned an old hit of his called What’s Cooking Baby (see Glen singing it in a film in 1960 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z3xk3Gkyuo) which we played at the second concert. Glen recognised it and by repeating the same line a few times we got him to sing along and he enjoyed that though it made him very emotional afterwards and us too for that matter. We learned a couple more of his songs through the residency, the real hit being Glendora which was his biggest hit back then and his favourite. He sang along very enthusiastically with this one and as the weeks went by needed less and less prompting. He seemed so happy and joyful at singing again as it was obviously still such a big part of him as was being a showman. He loved the attention as his songs were played and enjoyed it when I stopped singing and left a verse to him which the residents also really enjoyed. At the very end of the residency, we sang Molly Malone which had also been very popular with the residents through the concerts and Glen sang his heart out. I went and sat next to him on the last chorus and sang with him and I’m not ashamed to say there was a tear in my eye.

Glen changed my life and I always think of him. That could be me one day, needing some young whippersnapper to bring out the performer in me again! He looked so happy and fulfilled as a result and I take great pride that we made his final years that bit more enjoyable. Bless you Glen, I’ll never forget you.

I suppose I feel that both these remarkable people brought one primary emotion into my life – joy. They are great examples of how smiling, being positive and taking an interest in others can really make everyone feel just that little bit better. They were fine embodiments of that and I’ll always remember them both.

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