Lois Strachan – Singer/Songwriter

2020 – A Retrospective

Lois and Fiji

2020 is now almost over and I’ve been reflecting on the year that has been.

My year got off to a great start. I had planned three main projects to move me forward in my business. Those intentions were to release my audio book, complete a marketing show reel for my speaking business, and to totally revamp my website.

Then COVID-19 happened and, like everyone else in the world, my plans changed.

At a first glance, it would appear I achieved little this year. While I’m about 75% through the show reel project, I’m only 33% of the way through the recording of my audio book, and my website revamp hasn’t even started. To be honest, I was feeling pretty dismal about my progress.

Then I attended a seminar facilitated by Lesley Callow and she got me looking at my year completely differently. By challenging the way I was thinking, Lesly got me to focus on what I had achieved. More than that, Lesley also got me to acknowledge that I hadn’t been celebrating my successes because I was so busy beating myself up for not having completed the tasks I had set myself. And suddenly my year looked very different.

Sure, I may not have made the progress I had hoped on the three projects that had been my focus when the year started. But I had achieved a large number of other wins instead – I’d published the second edition of my book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way, which I hadn’t even known was a requirement for me to release the audio book. More than that, wit the work I and my ARC Team (Advance Review Copy) did prior to the launch, my book became a No1 bestseller in two Amazon categories for at least 5 days (it might have been more as I had stopped tracking the ratings).

Like most speakers I’d been forced to shift my business online and, while I had perhaps not done as much speaking as I might have wished, I’d grown my online speaking skills significantly.

And I’d been busier with my music than I’d been in many years – doing 4 lockdown gigs on Facebook Live, and performing for several conferences, and fundraising events. And I’d been a feature artist for an arts festival run by Artscape Theatre. Shifting my music online had been remarkably easy!

There were many other smaller successes that happened during 2020 but those were the ones that I’m most proud of. So even in small ways I’ve continued learning and growing through the crazy year that has been 2020.

We can’t know what 2021 will bring, but it’s almost time for me to start setting my intentions for the coming year. And, whatever those intentions are and no matter what the year throws at me, I’m confident that I will continue moving forward.

Huge thanks to Lesley Callow for transforming my perspective of the last year. If you’d like to find out more about the work that Lesley does, you can contact her on lesley@e2lifecoaching.com

Shift Online Art Festival 2020

It was such an honour for me to be asked to participate in last month’s Shift Online art festival hosted by the Unmute Dance Co from Artscape Theatre. I’ve been impressed by the online performances shown on the YouTube channel throughout November. They have featured some talented artists from across Africa and the world and, of course, from here in South Africa. So it was really special for me to be asked to contribute to the festival.

There were two segments focusing on my work. The first was a mini-documentary that was premiered on Sunday, 29 November, which featured videos of me talking about my work as a singer/songwriter, author and motivational speaker.

Themba Mbuli, Creative Director of Unmute Dance Co, was responsible for putting the content together into a mini-documentary, and he did a really great job.

Here’s the link to the mini-documentary: https://youtu.be/l50KD6d8f5o

A second segment was released on the penultimate day of the festival, Wednesday, 2 December and featured me talking about how I wrote one of my songs – Here Be Dragons – and a little about how I play keyboard. Also featured in that segment was a solo performance from Lone Loh.

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/f0CUpXmC0J0

I can’t even begin to think of how challenging it must have been to produce a month-long art festival online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full respect to Themba Mbuli and his team at Unmute Dance Co for such an amazing show! And congratulations to all the artists for their creativity in adapting their art to an online space.
PS: Don’t think that the festival is aimed solely at persons with disabilities – we are artists first, sharing our art with you. Our disabilities are just a minor part of who we are.

PPS You can also hear the first paragraph of my audio book on the mini-documentary.

Digging into the Musical Archives – My Signature Song

the image shows Lois playing guitar and singing into a microphone

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I began posting some of my lyrics and writing on my blog. Okay, I know I missed a month or two, but I think I’ve been pretty good about digging into my archives and sharing some of my writing with you.
Here’s the last set of song lyrics for 2020. This song – Misconception – has become something of a signature song for me. But I have no idea why.

It’s the song I’ve played most often in 2020 – for the World Sight Day Dinner for the South African Guide Dogs Association, for the AfriNEAD conference, for the Shift Online Ability Arts Festival at Artscape Theatre, for the Disability Summit by the Cape Chamber of Commerce, and for one of my lockdown gigs.

Listen to the song here: https://www.loisstrachan.com/music/

Misconception

Little miss Carli packed her bags and headed for the sun
She left her home in a country garden, waved goodbye and now she’s gone.

Chorus:
heading for those city lights
Where the lights they are so bright
little Miss Carli, where’s your body going to lay down for the night.

She left the harbour, bound for somewhere; she hopped on the nearest boat
She had some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five-pound note

Chorus:
Heading for those city lights
Where the lights, they are so bright
Little miss Carli, where’s the party, tonight.

she went to the place where all dreams come true
And the streets are paved with gold
Now her misconceptions are all she sees
As those city lights grow cold.

She took her songs and played them for someone who took her for a ride.
Now she plays her guitar on any street corner, waiting for those lights to shine

Chorus:
Waiting for those city lights
Where the lights they are so bright
Little miss Carli where will your body find refuge from the night.

Little miss Carli packed her bags and headed for the sun
she left her home in a country garden, waved goodbye and now she’s gone…

Final Warning and Another Song

the image shows a book cover, with Lois hugging Fiji and the text A Different Way of Seeing (second edition): A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way

Today is the start of my birthday month – my birthday is actually 14 November and I’ll be turning… well, a year older than I am right now. This month I want to share a very special song with you, from out of the archives of songs I’ve written over the years.

But, before I do, I just want to give you a warning that today is the final day you can get hold of the Kindle version of my book, A Different Way of Seeing (second edition) at the special introductory price of US$1.14 – from tomorrow the cost will go up!

Here’s where to buy it: https://www.amazon.com/Different-Way-Seeing-second-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B08L1VFYS9

Now, back to the song lyrics…

the image shows Lois singing into a microphone

This song isn’t finished. It doesn’t have a tune. I’m not even sure if I hear it as a guitar or keyboard song. But, nonetheless, it has always been a song that I’ve really liked the feel of.

Hope you enjoy reading it – if you have any ideas of where the song might go next, please feel free to share them with me…

TUESDAY’S CHILD

Cross my palms with silver
Cross my palms with gold
Cross my path, my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

She moves through her history, leaves the past behind
She’s impulsive, vivacious, and quick with her smile
Gypsy woman, born wild and free
She answers to no-one

Temperamental and daring, she speaks her mind
She lives for the present, cares nothing for time
She puts all the might-have-been’s out of her mind
Leaves all the Could-have’s and should-have’s behind

Cross my palms with silver
Cross my palms with gold
Cross my path, my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

Verse 2???

Cross my palm with silver
Cross my palm with gold
Cross my path my Tuesday’s child
And we’ll go on

Bridge:
Could I be like her?
Radiant as the fire
Could I be like her?
Could I be a Tuesday’s child

Could I be like her?
Dancing in the light
Could I be like her?
Could I be a Tuesday’s child

Chorus

Third verse???

Digging into the Archives: Summer Rain

The image shows Lois standing with her guitar

I moved to Cape Town at the start of winter. My impressions of that long ago first winter in Cape Town was that it poured with rain every day – for weeks on end. And it was a very cold, very wet sort of rain. Totally unlike the warm summer rain I had known when living in Durban.

Summer Rain is a nostalgic reflection on the gentle warm rain of my previous home city – hope you enjoy it!

Summer Rain

Summer’s here again
Brings with it the rain on my window.
The air outside is still
Summer rain drifts, cool, through my window.

I know it’s not enough
To sit inside and watch.

Chorus:
Feel it, hear it, taste it, touch it
Believe in the summer rain.
Feel it, hear it, taste it, touch it
Free yourself to the summer rain.

Oil slicks all around
Dance with rainbows on the ground beneath my feet.
The stillness of it all
Makes no sound at all.

The warm mist on the road
Reveals the way to go.

Guitar break – one verse.

Like a summer kiss of grace
The warm rain on my face.

Chorus:
Feel it hear it, taste it, touch it,
Believe in the summer rain.
See it, feel it, hear it, taste it
Free yourself to the summer rain.

Lightning crashing down
Thunder rolls the ground – feels like home
As the storm clouds rise
A pale light warms the sky – brings me home.

The pale grey light of dawn
Makes sense of it all

Repeat chorus to end.

More from the Lyrical Archive: A Song about Abandonment

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When I first wrote this song, I realized something about myself that I hadn’t been aware of – how much I fear abandonment.

It’s not like I’ve ever been abandoned. Sure, like almost everyone, I have lost family and friends along my journey. I mean, the trigger for the song was the death of my mom on my 23rd birthday, which I suppose could be seen as a kind of abandonment.. But, reading the lyrics, I’m left with the sense that my fear goes deeper than that. And I can see how it’s played out in various aspects of my life.

Just as a final word before sharing the lyrics with you, I want to say that the words are symbolic, and are not based on a real event. No-one I know has died in the way described in the song, I promise…

Away

Red was the colour of the single rose you gave to me,
The day before you left
Black was the colour of the night sky when you said goodbye

Then you turned and you walked away
Said you’d be back some day
But that something’s are not meant to be
We just couldn’t see

Gold was the colour that the dawn broke as you hit the road
Blue was the colour of the sky behind that you left behind

Then you turned and you walked away
Said you’d be back some day
But that some things are not meant to be
We just couldn’t see

Some things we are not meant to see, so we can let them be
Some things we are not meant to know, so we can let them go

Black was the night that they found you there, lying there
red was the colour of the blood that ran into the golden sand
And took your life away

And I remember how you walked away
Said you’d be back someday
That some things can never be
I still don’t want to see

Digging in the Musical Archives – The Girl in the Mirror

The images shows Lois singing into a microphone

It may sound odd, but sometimes I don’t know what my song lyrics are about. I find myself studying the words and shaking my head in bewilderment. Girl in the Mirror is one of those songs.

At a best guess, I can see that I may have been questioning my identity after losing my sight – to me it is hard to know who is the reflection in the mirror by the end of the song. And it leads to the question of whether I am still myself or just a reflection of who I was when I was sighted?

Perhaps you see something completely different in the lyrics. That is totally fine with me – songs, like poems and metaphors should mean something different to each of us. That is why we connect with some lyrics more than others.

Listen to Girl in the Mirror, played by my band, tuesday’s child, here – with two additional songs thrown in for good measure: https://www.loisstrachan.com/music/

The Girl in the Mirror

There’s a girl in the mirror every time I pass
Held captive there behind the glass
Who is she? Why is she there?
And I wonder

There’s a girl in the mirror; she looks like me
If I saw through her eyes, what would I see?
Who is she? Why is she there?
And I wonder

Chorus:
Mirror, mirror upon the wall
Is there anybody there at all?
Mirror, mirror upon the wall
Or is my mind simply creating it all?

There’s a girl in the mirror she’s smiling at me
Trancelike, hypnotic I can’t turn away
Who is she; why is she there?
And I wonder

Chorus

Am I creating it all?
Simply creating it all?
Am I creating it all?
There’s nothing real there at all.

Chorus

There’s a girl in the mirror she’s there every day
And as I watch her, she’s turning away
The girl in the mirror turns and slowly walks away.

Digging into the Archives Again: Seas of Time

the image shows Lois on stage singing into a microphone

Here’s another song from my archives – this one is complete but I can’t remember if I ever put it to music. If I did, it’s probably a keyboard song… it just feels that way to me.

It’s a song about the way I experience the process of writing. though it may appear a little whimsical. Especially when I think of the times I sit at a blank computer screen waiting – sometimes for what feels like an eternity – to find words to express what I want to say.

Anyway, here it is:

Seas of Time.

Waves of Words spiral round
A blank page lying on the ground.
Unwritten thoughts catch at my mind,
Washed ashore on seas of time.

Thoughts are tossed through time and space.
Trapped in the mists of this ancient place.
Pictures form as words collide,
And then are lost as waves subside.
As rhythm, structure, form and rhyme
Come sailing in on seas of time.

My ship lies at the harbour wall.
A refugee from the rising storm.
The page lies anchored line by line,
A product of the seas of time.

Another Foray into the Archives – A Fragment of a Story.

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In my archives I have a stack of files with fragments of stories, poems and songs. No-one else has had the chance of digging through those fragments, but I decided to share one with you today.

It’s the opening paragraphs of a fiction story. And, interestingly, it’s the only one that has a basic plot outline. I had the idea for this story back in June 2014 and wrote the opening paragraphs. Then I drew up a very basic outline for most of the story… except for the very end.

My question for you is this – what do you think is going to happen next, and what genre of book do you think this will land up being?

PS Please remember this is a first draft… and first drafts always need lots of work. At least, mine do.

****
“Hey, Laura! Aren’t you supposed to be meeting people for lunch?”

Laura Michaels looked up from her computer where she was frantically trying to get the month end figures to balance.

Most people, on meeting Laura for the first time, would dismiss her as being “average”. Laura was 28, though she looked younger than her age. Her youthful looks were accentuated by her diminutive size- at five foot, four inches she was the shortest of her female friends, a fact which she had never reconciled herself to. She had a serious face that was quietly attractive until she smiled, when people around her would be amazed that they had not seen her beauty before. Her short ash-blonde hair was at present tucked behind her ears, a habit which she had tried for years to break, but which she always resorted to when she was stressed.

The slight frown that was another mark of her current tension softened into a quick smile as Laura looked across the partition at her colleague.

“Sorry Kathrine, I didn’t quite get that. What did you say?”

“I was just reminding you about your lunch date today, Laura. You are going out to lunch today, aren’t you?”

“Yup, I’m meeting some old friends in town at 12:30. Why?”

“Because it’s getting pretty late. It’s almost quarter past already.”

Laura glanced up at the clock on the office wall, and her smile faded. Briefly her face reflected shock as she registered that it was already 12:15. The shock turned to dismay as she quickly calculated the logistics of time and travel.

“Shit!” she said with feeling, “I’m going to be late!”

It was almost one o’clock before Laura got to the neighbourhood of the restaurant where she was due to meet her friends. She turned off the main road into the sheltered street where the restaurant was, and started looking for parking. For once Laura’s luck seemed to be with her and she found a parking space almost immediately. Sighing with relief, Laura parked and climbed out of her Golf GTi. Locking the car, she slammed the door and set the alarm before tossing her keys into her oversized bag and setting off down the alley towards the restaurant.

Speaking at The Adventure Kids Club

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It’s no secret that I’m nervous when speaking to groups of young children. For one thing, I know I’m going to have to work hard to get them to focus on what I’m saying when all they really want to do is meet my guide dog, Fiji. But it’s also hard to know how well the youngsters grasp the concept of blindness and what it means in my life.

This nervousness probably explains why I actively seek the opportunity to talk to learners. After all, don’t they say the best way to work through your fears is to confront them? In reality, getting to spend some time explaining what life is like for me as a blind person always gives rise to a fascinating conversation between myself and the youngsters concerned. And a recent visit to the Adventure Kids Club in Cape Town was no exception.

My audience was a group of fifty youngsters and a few adult coordinators, who sat patiently as I spoke about my life and then asked a flood of questions, ranging from how I eat, right the way through to what techniques I use to ensure I’m not excluded when it comes to social activities with sighted friends. The Adventure Kids Club is a community organisation set up by Maria Strachan in Ysterplaat in Cape Town. Maria started the group as a way of inspiring and encouraging youngsters from the community, many of them coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. And, in case you’re wondering about the coincidence that Maria and I have the same surname, yes, our respective husbands are cousins.

As often happens when Fiji comes with me to speak at a children’s event, the youngsters had most fun when they got to come and say hello to her, and she loved the attention. It’s always so cute to see Fiji surrounded by a group of youngsters who want nothing more than to give her love and play with her. Only, maybe this time I gave my dog a run for her money on how to hold the kid’s attention – Maria asked me to bring my guitar and play a few songs for the group. Which I did – to an enthusiastic reception. Here’s a short clip of one of the songs I played:

https://www.facebook.com/cdstrachan/videos/10158090119251468/

Ultimately, I think both Fiji and I were lucky that we’d finished talking to the youngsters before the ice-cream arrived – I’m not sure that even a guide dog can capture a child’s attention when facing competition like that!

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