31-Dec-2015 The Year That Was 2015

January  After a hectic and very full and busy December, January was comparatively restful – eight performances, two evening classes, one SWAP-NE songwriters group meeting, car MOT and servicing, three visits from friends, one dental check-up, two medical check-ups, new mattress delivered, visit out to friends to plan forthcoming event, committee meeting for arts week in our home town of Prudhoe, problems with a PC, a new piece of tech gear bought, a trip to the cinema and three restaurant meals… yep, that was pretty quiet for us!
February Eleven performances (including Dunblane Folk Club, our seventh Thank Folk It’s Friday at Woodhorn and two Scottish care homes) kept us busy clocking up a few miles in our trusty Honda Jazz. Add in two medical appointments, two optician’s appointments, three evenings at college, our quickest ever web commission (less than a week from initial enquiry to go live – phew!), day one of recording for a commissioned album project, a trip to the cinema, a SWAP-NE songwriters group meeting and a band reunion from Jimmy’s concept rock days, a bit of printer fixing for a friend, a new bed delivered as well as a new plush office chair for Jimmy in the ‘office/study’ and a whole weekend blanked out to fix Jimmy’s ailing PC… you can see, yet again, we’ve not exactly been idle.
March was a month of ups and downs – packing in nine performances, four visits to the GP doctor, three hospital visits for tests and scans and stuff, one optician’s appointment, a very special day out in Belfast to the Titanic museum and a trip north of the border so Doctor Digital Jimmy could weave his magic on an ailing PC.  It was also a month for cancellations, postponements and letting go of some things. Due to Jimmy’s health issues some gigs had to be postponed (not something we ever did lightly). We also decided to call it a day on the Singing and Vocal Coaching course we’d been attending – it wasn’t delivering what had been advertised in the course prospectus. And, sadly, we said goodbye to SWAP-NE (the Song Writers And Performers group that we’d been fronting) – it had obviously run its course and numbers had dwindled significantly.
April Was the longest month that we can remember – it was filled with things in the diary for most days and, on the days with nothing booked, we spent a lot of time waiting… waiting for appointments, waiting for results. We had nine performances (locally and in the north west), we visited friends and family on numerous occasions, had some guitar work done, attended an Arts Week committee meeting, sorted a few things with a firm of solicitors, watched a super performance by Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby, drafted artwork for a new album, had one doctor’s appointment and by the end of the month we’d had two hospital appointments. By now Jimmy’s health issues were a major cause for concern and we had to consider the impact this would have on our personal and performing life. It was the month when we were officially given the diagnosis that Jimmy had inoperable pancreatic cancer with only months left to live. We made the very difficult decision to cancel all current gigs and not pursue any new bookings. We felt it would be totally unfair to accept bookings in the knowledge that we might have to cancel, and we couldn’t bear the thought of letting people down.
Music, and the people we have met through music, have given us the most wonderful times anyone could ask for.
May – December The following months were taken up with the daily challenges of Jimmy’s cancer. His loss of appetite and weight loss meant he was allowed to eat anything and everything that is ‘bad’ for you in the hope of keeping his weight static (we managed this for the most part), dealing with pain management, visits from our Macmillan Nurse Angela, hospital appointments, decisions regarding whether to have chemotherapy or not and life expectancy discussions (we chose no chemo), dealing with the mini stroke and resultant loss of use of Jimmy’s right arm and hand, and then toward the end the jaundice which had set in and taken over his body. On 03 November his fight was over.

But in the middle of all that there were some wonderful times – and we had a super August. Jimmy had been put on steroids and he was like a new man! Appetite of a horse, mobility improvement and general well being all good. August is a busy month of celebrations, Jimmy’s birthday on the 2nd, our 6th wedding anniversary on the 12th and my birthday on the 25th. And we had fun!


Also we completed the DVD project with Anthony John Clarke which we started in April 2014 resulting in ‘One More Story To Be Told’.

Narration by Jimmy and I play a small part in it too!

This can be purchased from Anthony John’s website.

I promise you won’t be disappointed.


And another also was we were delighted to be asked by Brian Willoughby & Cathryn Craig to design a new website for them and this was completed and live by mid-October.

You might be forgiven for wondering why on earth we would want to be doing all this work – you would think we had enough on our plate with the cancer to deal with but, we both firmly believed that so far as we were able our lives should continue as normal as possible… busy busy busy is how we’ve always been and we enjoyed every moment. We also firmly believed that keeping busy and having a postive frame of mind kept Jimmy with me a little bit longer than any of the medical profession expected.

So that was 2015 and what of 2016? I plan on continuing with the music and getting out to the clubs and also getting back to performing at care homes. We had been sharing our music in care homes for 11 years and can honestly say we loved every moment. We met some wonderful people and it was an honour and a privilege to be able to do this and I have many happy memories. I have missed this.

I have now decided not to blog every week as we had done in the past. The jivacoustic site will remain where all our past blogs can be read.

Facebook – I will soon be changing the name of the jiva Jimmy Val profile on Facebook to my name – Val Monteith-Towler. The jivauk page will remain so anything jiva related can continue on there.

So all that remains is to say Happy New Year to you all and I thank you for your support, help and friendship through this difficult 2015.


20-Dec-2015 Merry Christmas and Macmillan

I’ve been on my travels again! Spent a few days in Jedburgh chilling out and chewing the fat with Anthony John and Julia. Always lovely to be with them. Went along to Leith Folk Club on Tuesday night and it was a grand night. I’d not seen Anthony John at a gig for a while and it was lovely. I’ll be on my travels again next week as I am spending Christmas with my son in his new house. Let’s hope he’s managed to keep it clean since I was last there – I certainly don’t plan on cleaning that cooker ever again!

Christmas is really close now and this year I have not been able to get my head around writing the usual end of year letter which we’ve done for the past 9 years nor have I sent many Christmas cards to friends and family. But, what I have done is to set up a Tribute fund at Macmillan for Jimmy – here is the link to the page jiva Jimmy Tribute Fund and over the next few weeks I will be putting more information in but if anyone wants to add to the page and even donate then please do. macmillan logoIt would be wonderful.

I have never heard a bad word said about the Macmillan nurses and as a charity they need all the help they can get to continue the wonderful work that they do helping people through difficult times.

Here’s a link to jiva’s video of their song Old Fashioned Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone and I wish you lots of love and happiness for next year.


13-Dec-2015 Change Is As Good As A Rest?

They tell us that change is as good as a rest. I might just have to dispute that one for this week… my feet have hardly touched the ground.

Last Saturday (5th) my son, Richard, moved into his own rented property. In the past he’s always shared and it soon became apparent he was short of some essentials – cutlery, pots and pans, iron, kettle, toaster and the list just went on and on. So prior to the move, on Black Friday, active purchasing took place and bang went all my Tesco coupons. But all for a good cause and some good savings were made.

A friend helped him move his belongings in on the Saturday and there they stayed until I arrived the following afternoon – he’d had no time to do anything as he was involved with his Sunday football team and then Cambridge United were playing that afternoon.

We opened the door and it looked like a bomb had dropped – everything was dumped in the front room! And so the hard work began of unpacking, sorting where things were to go and that went on for most of the week. And in the evenings more visits to the shops to purchase essentials we hadn’t thought of.

While he was at work during the day it was my job to clean the house – I’m exhausted. Never done so much housework in one go. As for the cooker well, I have never seen anything so bad. Here is a picture of the cloth after I had Mr Muscled 4 times already.2015-12-09 15.41.31

Black, black, black and greasy. But I scrubbed and scrubbed and whilst it’s not quite sparkling it is considerably better.

But it wasn’t all work. On the Tuesday I drove over to Huntingdon (I lived there for 22 years) and met up with an old friend/work colleague, Joyce, at her knit and natter group. I even had my knitting with me to take along. And we knitted but did much more nattering it was lovely to catch up. You wouldn’t think it had been 13 years since we last met.

One of the special things about being able to talk with Joyce was that her husband also died (3 years ago) from cancer and to be able to talk with someone who had been through it all and understood was so helpful. Thank you Joyce.

I came home Friday and have spent the last couple of days catching up with emails, web updates for Allan Taylor and Anthony John Clarke, dealing with my post and chatting with friends.

Maybe time to put my feet up – no way… more of that in next week’s blog!


06-Dec-2015 Quiet But Christmas Is Coming

A fairly quiet week though I did drive down to Redcar on Tuesday night to catch up with Allan Taylor at the Cutty Wren Folk Club. Allan had only returned that day from a 4 week tour of Germany so there was a lot to talk about. Lovely night.

Thank you to everyone at the club for their kind wishes regarding Jimmy – it reminded me just how many friends we have made through sharing the music.

Earlier in the day I decided a nod toward Christmas was needed – no big tree but a couple of small purple ones instead!2015-12-01 09.26.25

Wednesday I decided  to purchase new net curtains and set about measuring all the window widths and lengths I would need – it’s incredible no two windows are the same (apart from the lounge and main bedroom). So pen and paper out I wrote down all the measurements and armed with this I made my way to Dunelm in Cramlington where they had just the perfect design to go with the decor of the house. Their net rods were not the right size so when I got home I scoured the internet and came across the perfect rods from a company called Woodyat Curtains. Ordered Wednesday at 23:46… delivered Friday at 11:00 – how’s that for good service. And they are super. I have discovered however, through miscalculation on my part, that I have left over two long ones (150cm – 200cm). If anyone could use them let me know and they’re yours for nowt.

Our electrician arrived Thursday to fit the whole house with LED bulbs (apparently they last for 23 years so I should never need to change a light bulb again!) but unfortunately his supplier had got part of the order wrong so he’ll be back to fit the others when they come in. Andy is a super guy if you are in need of an electrician you can trust and reply on let me know and I’ll pass on his details.

A few years ago we played at a care home in the Durham area and we met a carer there called Lorraine Brown. She wrote poetry and wanted to recite to us something she had written about her grandfather – this was it.

I miss my wife the old man said as he sat in his rocking chair
I often sit and talk to her as if she is still there
I miss her being with me, I miss her smiling face
I know she had to leave me to go to a better place

She’s been gone for two years now, alone she left me here
The old man took his handkerchief and wiped away a tear
He kept her photo with him, he kissed her every night
His life was dark, for when she went, she turned out the light

Soon we’ll be together, this time we’ll never part
For even though I am not ill I have a broken heart
He closed his eyes and whispered, I cannot live my life
He prayed to God to take him, to be in heaven with his wife

The old man drifted off to sleep, the dark became so bright
He walked on through a tunnel, at the end there was a light
He knew that this was heaven, he ran towards his wife
She’d waited there for two longs years and now they’d share eternal life

It’s called Eternal Life and she asked if we could perhaps put some music to it… yes, of course we could! And we did a few months later. You can listen to the song here . I listened to it the other day and it brought quite a lump to the throat and tear to the eye. I was so moved by it that, although we’ve not had recent contact with Lorraine, I texted her to thank her for the lyrics and she rang me to have a chat and to thank us again for the wonderful music we put to her words!

The power of music never ceases to amaze… and I’m playing my guitar every day and loving it.