Saturday, April 19, 2014

Childrens books 7

Continuing the series of inappropriate kids books.  I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Childrens books 6

Continuing the series of inappropriate kids books.  I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Childrens books 5

Continuing the series of inappropriate kids books.  I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Childrens books 4

Continuing the series of inappropriate kids books.  I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Childrens books 3

Number three in the series of kids books you might not have spotted before





I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Childrens books 2

The second in a series of childrens books you might not find in your local bookstore!





I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Childrens books 1

Number one in a short series of posts containing heart warming children's books you might not find in the shops ...


I can't remember where I obtained the image, it's been on my hard drive for years and I came across it when doing some tidying up.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wedding day singing

I haven't been posting much here for a while and the last thing I wrote was in relation to singing at the funeral of friend and fellow cathedral choir member Alistair Fulton, so it's only right and proper that I should now mention that today finds the other end of the spectrum and I will be singing at the wedding of friends and fellow cathedral choir members Fraser Pearce and Jane Gibson!

All life is here.

Choir music today, and there is lots of it, will include pieces by Louis Vierne, Charles Wood, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Henry Walford Davies, Howard Goodall, and Eric Whitacre (and more but that's all I can remember).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Alistair Fulton

I'll be singing at the funeral of my friend Alistair Fulton today, in the choir of St Mary's Cathedral where he also sang (standing right next to me for a reasonable chunk of that time).

Singing in such a choir you get to attend more than your fair share of weddings and funerals, and even though you mostly don't know the happy couple or the deceased person (delete as applicable) they are usually emotional occasions so that's when, despite it being a choir of amateurs (in the true sense of that word), the professionalism kicks in and emotions are put to one side in order to get the job done. That job of course being to be a part of the team (clergy, servers, organist, conductor, choir, etc) who make the event happen and facilitate whatever spirituality or other feelings the people in the congregation are having. Whether the individual choir members feel that spirituality too is secondary, but discussion of that is for another time.

Much is made of the fact we sometimes sing on the radio ('Scotland's most broadcast choir' is the phrase regularly bandied around) but that stuff's just icing, today is the real thing.

Today will be difficult, but it will be done because Alistair was not only our friend, but he was one of us, and it'll be done because it's our job.



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of 2012

It occurs to me that I didn't post a review of 2011 a year ago. Perhaps at the time I was suffering from the trauma of my approaching 50th birthday, but no matter the reason for last year's aberration it's now time for a review of my 2012. I didn't post here much during the year so, although some of what I'm about to mention has already been aired publically, more trivia than usual might be new. That newness doesn't necessarily make it interesting, of course, and since this Blog is probably more designed as a vehicle for me to get things off my chest occasionally, this latest in my series of year reviews is a chance for me to sit, think, and remember what the preceding 12 months held for me, so I apologise if this post holds no interest and if that's the case please feel free to surf to somewhere else more interesting for the moment!

As ever what follows is a bit of a stream of consciousness, in no particular order other than as things occur to me while I type. And doubtless I'll have missed things which, if they involved you, I apologise for not mentioning. It doesn't mean they were any less enjoyable or important, it's just that my memory is a bit suspect sometimes!

Going back a bit beyond the 12 months, towards the end of 2011 I got my beloved motorcycle back on the road after a year and a half and my big plan, possibly THE big plan of 2012, was to do a grand tour of the UK on it, partly visiting friends around the country in the process, including (in absolutely no order of precedence, just roughly clockwise round the island) Elgin, Turriff, Morpeth, Newcastle upon Tyne, Ripon, York, Lincoln, Cambridge, London, Reading, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Wells, and the Lake District. So how many did I manage to visit? Well, just York if the truth be told, and that was only because I was singing in the Minster as a representative of RSCM Scottish Voices at a service there! Maybe next year I'll get round a few more of the others. That's not to say I wasn't using the bike, I did use it to to and from York, and managed to get private secure parking in the Minster Yard while I was there - it's not what you know it's who you know - and used it pretty much year round to and from work and for a few trips around Ayrshire and Argyll.

On the downside regarding the bike, last week I returned home very late from a day of socialising in Edinburgh at a friend's 50th birthday lunch/drinks followed by seeing The Hobbit (don't bother, it's shit!), and about 10 minutes after I got into the house, around 1am, having heard a bunch of drunks in the street as I got home, there was a loud bang outside which sounded exactly like an 1100cc BMW motorcycle hitting the deck. Yes, the drunken bastards had kicked my bike over, witnessed by a neighbour, and legged it. The offside mirror is trashed, and since that incorporates the indicator, it's a three figure sum to replace it, so for the moment the bike's been moved to work where it's parked in a secure compound out of danger's way, and I'll get it fixed in due course.

I've already mentioned my 50th birthday and posted about it at length - particularly my thoughts in the lead up to it - so all I'll say now is that I thoroughly enjoyed my party in February, attended as it was by about 100 friends. One thing I've been very slightly disappointed in, I have to confess, is that having invited former school friends, quite a few of whom attended and most of whom are the same age as me, the lack of reciprocal invitations was striking throughout the year. I commented on this in an unrelated email to most of them and one or two replied that they hadn't had 50th birthday parties, but ..........! Inviting people wasn't ever meant as a quid pro quo, but even so it would have been nice to get even one return invitation!

In January I found myself attending a seminar held at Vodafone's HQ in Berkshire, and was quite impressed at the building and particularly at Lewis Hamilton's Formula 1 car on display in the foyer (Vodafone being a main sponsor of the team). I'm going to the 2013 seminar in the same place so I'll see whether it's still there now that he's jumped ship.

Other trips away from home were to Cheltenham for a training course, staying at the Hotel du Vin across from Cheltenham Girls' College (and a very nice hotel it was too), the aforementioned trip to York, and a weekend in Altrincham at the wedding of friends, all of which were very enjoyable.

I continue to sing in Glasgow Chamber Choir, RSCM Scottish Voices and the choir of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow (who, as I type this, were on BBC Radio 4 this morning singing Morning Worship), and although I didn't join GCC on their weekend trip to sing in Sweden one exceptionally enjoyable singing weekend was spent with the cathedral choir in Beverley Minster in Yorkshire. The music was good, the welcome we received was excellent, the town was lovely, the beer garden across the road was fun, and best of all I renewed a friendship with someone I hadn't seen for years who was unexpectedly there as an extra singer and I'm glad to say we've managed to keep in regular touch since then, largely by text message. In truth, the renewal of that friendship after so long was one of the high spots of my year!  As I get older I realise more and more that friends are exceptionally important parts of our lives, and I count myself lucky to have several very good ones. I won't name names, but you know who you are.

One thing that looked like it would come out of meeting Becca again was a potential reunion of The Marian Consort, the now defunct choir of which we were members back in the 1990's, and to that end I started to try to contact as many former members as I could to see if there was a desire to get together again, even for a one-off social/singing event.  Unfortunately the response amongst those I contacted, although largely positive, fell a bit short of the numbers I'd need to get a viable choir together to sing so I've sort of put it on the back burner for now and will try again soon.  Maybe it'll just be a social event rather than a singing one.

Another real high spot was me getting an iPad, and having had my home PC running virtually 24/7 for a number of years I now find it's only switched on about once a week at most as there's not all that much I can't do on the iPad.  The iPad impressed me as soon as I got it, and I've found no reason to change that opinion.

I've been doing some cycling in the past year, although not as much as I'd like to have done, but in November I bought a cycle carrier for the car so I can now go a bit further afield and find new paths to try so hopefully next year I'll do better.  This was always a plan that my friend Ruth and I had when we got our cycles around the same time as each other, so we've no excuse not to next year!

The reason I bought the carrier was to go on holiday for a week up to Torridon, in the north west Highlands of Scotland, with three friends, Ruth, Kirsty and Al, during which time we cycled, walked, ate, drank, laughed and generally had a good relaxing time.  Plans are already afoot to go back up there somewhere next year around September.

I don't intend breaking my habit of avoiding Blogging about work, and there's no particular reason for that self-imposed rule other than I think it isn't right to do so.  Suffice to say however that although I continue to love what I'm doing, where I'm doing it, and who I'm doing it for, in these financially tight times the organisation for whom I work is about to undertake a merger making a much bigger entity, and at the moment there's a definite air of uncertainty around since no one can be sure where, or indeed if, they'll be working a year from now.  I suspect I'll be safe, but one never knows.  In the meantime I continue to play the National Lottery Euromillions!

Although as I mentioned I still sing in the cathedral choir, in the past year or so I've felt an ongoing decrease in anything I get from services other than the music.  This has gone on to the extent that I now can't quite bring myself to say out loud the spoken parts of the service, although I am in fact thinking them in my head.  I continue to attend and sing at Choral Evensong in the hope that this is temporary, but I don't think I have any control over whether that does turn out to be the case.  I can't explain what's happened, I don't really know myself, and I can only wait and see, and hope that in the meantime my continued presence is accepted.

So, that's a very brief outline of my 2012.  Overall the year was neither particularly good nor outrageously bad, but on the whole it was fine for me with one or two stand out bits such as Torridon and Beverley.  I go into 2013, living here in the cold wet west of Scotland with my cat Elmo, with the twin intentions of keeping in contact with good friends, and trying to stay positive about life.

I wish you everything you'd wish for yourself in 2013 and beyond.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas!

Thanks to Ruth for bringing the following to my attention just before Christmas last year with the suggestion that I might add it to my Blog.  Better late then never!

1) No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical).

This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man- made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight.

On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that 'flying reindeer' (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine.

We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the liner Queen Elizabeth.

5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each.

In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second.

Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Torridon update 1

Well the trip up here to Torridon on Saturday went well, taking around 5 hours, and when we arrived we enjoyed lovely chilli made by Al at home and brought with him. And some wine of course!

We failed to get the wood burning fire started, because we couldn't find the kindling we thought should be here, so it was a bit chilly in the evening although there are (expensive to run) electric storage heaters to fall back on.

Yesterday started REALLY wet, but we persevered and did a bit of a hill walk, spotting wild deer within 50 yards of us while we were in the middle of nowhere. They seemed as curious about us as we were of them, and they appeared to quickly realise the only shooting we we going to do was with cameras so we were no threat.  So about five hours in the hills was passed enjoyably, although I was more than a little knackered by the time I reached the car.

Dinner last night was roast leg of lamb, roast potatoes, roast parsnip, carrots, gravy and mint sauce, cooked by yours truly, and the time spent in the kitchen sharing the space with both Ruth and Kirsty who were preparing cheesecake and chickpea curry in advance was well spent.  The roasties in particular were successful, as sometimes they can be a bit hit or miss when I make them, but the use of good quality goose fat helped.

All four of us were a bit tired after the day of exercise and the big meal, which was rounded off with Ruth's delicious cheesecake, so early nights were the order all round.

This morning the weather is pretty atrocious, as I think it is throughout Scotland, and we've enjoyed a cooked breakfast made by me, and we're currently siting in the living room of this delightful wee cottage, killing time until we feel up to going for a drive in the car to suss out the local (single track) roads and see where we might want to cycle at some point.

Oh, and we found the kindling yesterday so the fire Al started yesterday was still just about going this morning so we've kept it topped up and we're all toastie!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Torridon

It's early in the morning, but I'm awake and typing this Blog entry, just a quick one, in advance of heading to a part of the UK I really don't know, which is exciting.

I have a good working knowledge of much of mainland UK, having driven round it for work and on holidays over the years, but the big chunk that is the Highlands of Scotland has remained unsullied by my presence.  Until now.

At half nine this morning my wee Ford Fiesta, full of luggage and food, will have three cycles dangling off the newly bought carrier on the back window, and with friends I'll be heading north on a five and a half hour drive to Torridon, which is pretty much due west of Inverness on the coast.

Young Elmo will be well looked after for the next week in a Cattery recommended by friends and which to my surprise is actually run by two people I know, one of whom I used to work with and the other from whom I bought my current BMW R1100RT motorcycle about 7 years ago!

So I'll be setting the house alarm, and neighbours have been primed to keep an eye on the place, and we'll be doing a bit of light hillwalking, some cycling, some wine drinking and, most importantly, lots of relaxing.

I believe the cottage we've booked has WiFi, so there may be some posts here as we go along. Watch this space.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Requiem

At 7.30pm on Friday 2nd November in New Kilpatrick Parish Church, Bearsden, Glasgow, and again at 7.30pm on Saturday 3rd November in Old Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, Glasgow Chamber Choir directed by Michael Bawtree will give a concert of British Cathedral classic repertoire, including Requiem by Herbert Howells, Give unto the Lord by Edward Elgar, and a Sequence for All Saints by Kenneth Leighton.

Come along to one, you won't regret it!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Arrrrr!

Arr, another year be over, and it be Talk Like a Pirate day again.  Arrrr!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marian Consort revisited

In July the cathedral choir decamped south to sing the services in Beverley Minster for the weekend, and to my surprise and delight one of the small number of 'extras' singing was a friend I knew very well from the 1990s when we both sang in The Marian Consort although we'd since lost contact and the last time we met or spoke was probably 1996.

The Marian Consort was an ad hoc choir consisting of friends of the choirmaster who he'd met during his time at various churches around the UK, including Glasgow, Wells and Horsham amongst other places. Between 1991 and 1996 we gathered from far and wide and met for a week each year singing the daily services to a very high standard in the cathedrals of Wells (twice), Lincoln, Norwich, Edinburgh (Episcopal). and Winchester. The increasing workload in organising this annual treat combined with young children meant that it sadly didn't continue beyond our Winchester visit, and although contact between some remained there were some good friendships which seemed to have fallen by the wayside. Some of those friendships still haven't been reestablished as yet, but I'm glad to say one has because of that visit to Beverley!

Reminiscing fondly in the pub at Beverley I was genuinely surprised when Becca pointed out that it was over 20 years since the choir had burst onto an unsuspecting Wells Cathedral, and so the talk inevitably turned to a reunion, so we've been putting our heads together and consulting some others and we think we've come up with a list of most of those who sang at some point over the six years of the choir's existence.

And so yesterday I sent an email to 19 people, asking if they'd be interested in getting together again for a weekend, hopefully next year, to sing somewhere. And of course to socialise, because that was one of the great things about the Marian Consort, we sang to an astonishingly high standard for a choir that only met for a single week every year and although most of that was down to the skill of our choirmaster, part of the reason for it was that we very quickly turned a group of people who didn't know each other into a cohesive body simply because we socialised together and became real friends really quickly. Lots and lots of alcohol, that was the key! Those weeks were genuinely some of the best ones of my life.

Hopefully most of the initial 19 people I just contacted will be up for it, and hopefully they'll still be in contact with some of the other people I named in the email but for whom I don't have contact details, so we can continue to spread the word.

Watch this space.

Oh, and I know there's currently a UK choir called the Marian Consort, but it's unconnected.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shagging in the graveyard

It's been a while since I posted here, real life is once again getting in the way of virtual life.

Every so often I check the Feedjit widget installed on the right hand side of the page to have a glance at where the readers of this Blog are located and what led them here to start with, and recently I've had a fair number of hits from people searching for Glasgow Cathedral Choir.

I can categorically state that although I have indeed sung once or twice in that building I have no connection with what is called Glasgow Cathedral, or its choir.  That's not The Cathedral to which the name of this Blog alludes.  It's relatively easy to work out which is the correct Cathedral if you're so inclined, but I won't bother naming it.

Now there's a good reason why people have recently been searching for that phrase because the UK media has recently carried various stories about how the new choirmaster of that particular place, Iain Simcock (former Westminster Cathedral organist) has been removed from his post after various allegations including, but not limited to, bullying, swearing and sexual activity in public on a grave outside the cathedral (no, really).  I'm not going to relate anything about it all, feel free to search Google for it yourself if you want to, other than to say it strikes me as a complete load of bollocks blown up out of any proportion by a ravenous media who know a good story when they see one.  I happen to know, or have known in the past, or know of, some of the people named and/or quoted in this story in various places (he said, deliberately vaguely), and let's just say it doesn't altogether surprise me.  I'm also not going to get into commenting on the reported description of the choir allegedly by said former choirmaster as sounding "like something dragged up from the Clyde".

As an aside, although originally a proper pre-reformation cathedral when it was built Glasgow Cathedral, next to the Royal Infirmary, is now a tourist attraction owned by Historic Scotland and the only worship there is by a Church of Scotland congregation which is Presbyterian - they don't have bishops.  If you care to look up the definition of a Cathedral you'll see something like "a Christian Church which contains the seat of a bishop".  Glasgow Cathedral is sometimes referred to as The High Kirk of Glasgow, or just plain old St Mungo's (St Mungo being the patron saint of Glasgow, to whom that church is dedicated).

On a related topic, the city of Glasgow actually contains four cathedrals: St Mungo's, St Andrew's Roman Catholic, St Mary's Scottish Episopalian, and St Luke's Greek Orthodox.

Update: in September 2012 both Iain Simcock and his girlfriend were, unsurprisingly, completely cleared in relation to the claims that they engaged in sex in the graveyard. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clic Sargent

Shauna is a good friend of mine, who I've known for almost 30 years.  Last year she and some friends raised money for Clic Sargent by cycling from London to Paris, a wonderful achievement.  The video below is an interview with Shauna as she explains why she did it and what got her involved with Clic Sargent.

This is particularly moving for me as Rebekah, who Shauna mentions as being the original inspiration for getting involved in this cancer charity and whose photo features in the film, was my niece, and she would have been 21 last Wednesday.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Even more boys' toys

I celebrated a significant birthday recently, one with a zero, as regular readers may have noticed, and my work colleagues very generously gave me a three figure sum of money as a present. I had thought about buying a Kindle with the cash, but my brother suggested instead putting a bit more to it and buying an iPad 2 which can do everything a Kindle does and much much more. So for the past two weeks I've been getting to grips with the incredible and beautiful piece of technology that is an iPad, and I'm very very impressed with it.

I have to confess that I don't like iTunes, I much prefer Windows Media Player, and so despite having nothing against the behemoth that is Apple I have never bought into their products, except for a tiny little iPod shuffle I bought to use in the gym which then forced me to download and use iTunes for that sole purpose. This then is my first real foray into Apple.

The iPad, a 16Gb wi-fi one (I don't need a 3G one since I can create a wi-fi hotspot with my HTC Sensation Android phone and use the iPad through that if I need to) worked straight out the box, and it was pretty much effortless to set up both email accounts (my personal one and the one for the choir of which I'm the administrator) despite them being IMAP ones linked to Domain names belonging to me so not quite as easy if if they were, for example, Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail ones which are all pretty much fully automated/supported by the iPad. Having already bought an 'iPad for beginners' magazine from W H Smith (courtesy of another birthday present - a voucher for that store) I already had in mind what I was going to do its all the privacy/location type settings and breezed through it all.

So I've now been playing with it for a couple of weeks and the verdict is that it's a frighteningly good bit of kit. In particular I love the way the maps work blisteringly quickly, and selecting the address of one of my contacts and having maps open and instantly show me it (with street view if available) is brilliant.  And despite not being a fan of iTunes, I think I've decided that when it's time to change my mobile phone it's likely to be an iPhone I go for, simply because I can already see how all the Apple products seamlessly integrate with each other, and while I've managed that to a large extent, linking Outlook on my Windows Vista PC with iPad via the iCloud Windows plug-in, the Android phone has been the stumbling block.

In fact, up to now I've seamlessly linked Outlook Calendar with my phone by using Google Calendar as an intermediary (uploading automatically from PC to Google Calendar, and then automatically from Google Calendar to a free Business Calendar App on my phone) but what the Apple iCloud dashboard for Windows didn't mention before I installed it is that it actually deletes your Outlook Calendar and Contacts, and copies both into a brand new folder on Outlook called iCloud which is the one you need to look at / update on the PC. The problem with this for me is that Google Calendar can only sync with the default Outlook Calendar, which is now empty as iCloud has removed everything from it over to their own folder.  So I now have nothing in my calendar on my ophone apart from birthdays if they're linked to contacts.  So I have a choice - either sync Outlook with my phone or with my iPad.

I'm thinking about changing the way I do this because I can sync Outlook with the iPad via iTunes and if I'd known what iCloud was going to do with my contacts and calendar I would never have used it to sync them, but before I uncheck the 'sync with iCloud' box and tick the 'sync with iTunes' one I need to make sure the contacts and calendar now living in iCloud won't disappear, because they're the only copies I have of that info. In the unlikely event anyone has read this far - any experiences/advice/suggestions in that regard would be welcome.

Hopefully once I start syncing via iTunes I can restore my default folders into Outlook and my phone will then once again contain my diary!

Oh, and this is the first post I've written using the iPad, and although they're there as I type this, using the preview it looks like its missed out all the paragraph breaks, so it may be there's a glitch with the preview screen or it may be I'll need to post it then log in from my PC or laptop and sort out the formatting. I already failed to be able to upload an image since I couldn't browse to find it in my camera roll! So, good technology, but has some limitations (or maybe the limitations are in my knowledge as a user).

*Update - yes, it did miss all the paragraph breaks, I had to log in and edit it on the PC, and the image was uploaded during that edit

Sunday, March 04, 2012

He's a very naughty boy


At the start of Holy Week, at 7pm on Saturday 31st March 2012 in St Bride's Church in Hyndland, Glasgow, and again at 4pm on Sunday 1st April in Culross Abbey in Fife, Glasgow Chamber Choir will be performing Handel's timeless oratorio Messiah, with young soloists and orchestral accompaniment, directed by Michael Bawtree.

I've sung Messiah a few times before and it always seems to be done by huge big choral societies (of which I am in no way a fan), but singing it in a choir of about 30 singers is a whole different proposition and it promises to be something not to be missed.

Tickets are only £10 (£5 for students) and can be bought on the door or from Culross Abbey in advance for the Sunday concert (if you can't read them already click on the image of the poster to be able to see their contact details - I won't post them here for every Spam-Harvesting low-life to gather!).

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The youth of old age

What follows has been sitting as a draft for a couple of years, and I titled it: sad self indulgent post. I've updated it though, and the end of it was written today.

I typed a post on my 47th birthday in 2009, and the following in red font is the bit I cut from that post before publishing it:

At the start of this post I said I didn't care about my age. When I subsequently typed the words "I will be fifty" I suddenly and completely unexpectedly burst into tears. I have no idea why, beyond the persistent nagging thought, or is it a certainty, that I have reached the age I am with little to show for it. It seems that most, if not all, of my contemporaries, and a hell of a lot of my friends who are a hell of a lot younger than me have what appear to be successful, happy lives, apparently earning lots of money, apparently able to afford nice things and holidays, and in apparently happy looking, stable relationships.

Why can't I be like that?

Time for some (hopefully cathartic) soul baring I think.

I have had a limited number of significant relationships in my life. I was in a relationship, including marriage, for about 12 years. I was in another relationship, including marriage, for about 8 years, and I've been in another couple of long'ish term relationships since then.  In each of those relationships I thought that things were going well, life was good and this was the way my life was meant to be, but in each of those relationships things went wrong and the rug was pulled from under my feet.  I should say though that thankfully I am still on good terms with all of those people.

My working life has been even more limited than that. I have never been ambitious, and I know that was a bone of contention at the time in one of my relationships and a contributing factor to its breakdown, but I climbed the greasy pole over a period of about 13 years in a previous life, rising from being a warehouse assistant via office manager then branch manager to eventually become the area commercial controller with responsibility for 13 branches in south Scotland and Northern Ireland, before redundancy struck completely out of the blue. This was at a particularly bad time for me and coincided with the breakdown of my first marriage, and the deaths of two very close family members (and my cat) within a very short space of time, both far too young to have had life cruelly snatched from them. OK, since you ask, the family members were 4 and 56 respectively.

A few days ago was the first anniversary of the death of my gran, and I visited her grave. She is buried, or at least her ashes are buried, with my grandfather. But I didn't know him. He was born in 1912 and died three years before I was born, in 1959, aged 46, eleven days before his 47th birthday. I knew this fact already, but this is written in big letters on their gravestone. I visited the grave last week and cried for my gran, but I also cried unexpectedly and even longer for my grandad who I never knew, and who never met me and was never even aware of the existence of his first grandchild (me) or indeed even of the marriage of my mum and dad a year after he died.

I think I cried for him because I am now older than he got to be.  And I am now only 9 years younger than my mum was when she died.

My own mortality is staring me in the face. No, make that slapping me in the face. And as I type this I can hardly see the keyboard through the tears. I think this is partially the root of how I feel right now.

I could have made so much more of my life. I could have gone to university but at the last minute decided not to. I've drifted into jobs and made a bit of a go at them. Well, to be honest, done pretty well in the couple of significant jobs I've had. But I could have done better if I'd actually tried and applied myself instead of just cruising through things relying on my natural ability, and I'm sorry if that sounds vainglorious, but as you'll have gathered I'm in the mood right now to be honest about what I feel and think, so in truth I am actually quite bright but haven't bothered using anything like my potential. I've always taken the easiest option. The path of least resistance. And that's why I feel bad about myself. Well one of the reasons anyway.

What I do hope is that along the way I've made, and kept, some good friends. And hopefully there are people in this world who actually like me. I try my best to be a good man, and to do what's right. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, but I am becoming increasingly aware that the good guys don't always get what they want, or perhaps even what they deserve. Maybe I should become a selfish bastard. Maybe that'd work.

No, that's not going to happen. I'm going to continue to be Mr Nice Guy who tries to do right, who occasionally makes an arse of things, who sometimes shoots himself in the foot, and who rarely gets to keep what he wants.

Yes, that's the future.

More than normally, this has been a random stream of consciousness post, but I'm glad I got it out of my system.

So now the update as of today, 5th February 2012.  I'm now 50, it happened yesterday and it wasn't painful at all.  At the stroke of midnight I had a large glass of Malt Whisky in my hand - Glenlossie, a present from Ruth - and I toasted myself and my mum & dad, giving thanks for my life and all the good things I have.

Last night I had a birthday party in a pub in Glasgow city centre.  To my relative surprise and delight there were a lot of people there, probably about 100, and corny as it seems I felt a lot of love from a lot of people.  I think I'm well regarded by my friends, and it seems like I have a lot of them.  There were some I've known since first days of primary school some 45 years ago; friends I've known since secondary school between 1974-1980; lots from St Mary's Cathedral, with which I've been associated since 1983; from Glasgow Chamber Choir, of which I was one of the original members in 1994; from RSCM Scottish Voices, of which again I am an original member; from work, and in fact even if they hadn't been invited as workmates I would have invited them as friends - it's that sort of place, which is great; and of course family - my dad was there for a while at the start of the evening, and my brother and my sister-in-law stayed pretty much the whole evening.  There were also friends who don't easily fall into one of the clumsily put together categories I've outlined above, and of course lots of people fall into more than one group (several who sing or have sung in the Cathedral and GCC and RSCM Scottish Voices, for example).  Lots of friends, old and new, and it was great to be amongst them. Laughing with them. Being with them.  All people I like.  And it seems, all people who like me.

I think everyone had a good time, I certainly did, and that was despite me having very little to drink!  I genuinely feel humbled by all the good wishes, and presents, that came my way last night.

So, how do I feel nowadays in comparison with my post in red above?  Quite different actually.  I'm in a much better place, and I'm pretty happy with my lot overall. My fitness has increased dramatically compared with what it was in 2009, and I suspect fitness (or lack thereof) and associated health (or lack thereof) had something to do with the way I was feeling at the time, and the "new" me, while still a way off from my goal, is largely due to the encouragement I've had from Ruth, for which I'm really thankful.  Of course there are some things in life I'd change, I'd be surprised if anyone could say otherwise about themselves, and there are things I still want which at the moment I don't have, but that's the nature of life, and if there's one thing that life's shown me in the last day or two, it's that I have a lot of great friends, and when you have friends then there's nothing you can't achieve.

So, this is a positive post.  I'm content, and in truth right now fairly up for taking on the next fifty years with a positive outlook.

One of the cards I received last night had an interesting message on the front which said:

Fifty is the youth of old age

I am again a youth, and I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Photography

A long time ago I was interested in photography.  I had a (cheap) SLR camera, and a selection of half-decent lenses and equipment to use with it, and I took a fair number of photos, some of which were reasonable quality.

Times moved on though, and I gradually fell out of the photography habit and stopped using the SLR, replacing it instead with a series of compact cameras and eventually with the advent of digital photography with a reasonable SLR-style Fuji S5700.

In July 2008 I took a photo of a fire in a scrapyard on the river Clyde, not all that far from where I live, and because I thought it might be newsworthy I emailed it to the BBC whereupon to my surprise they immediately published it on their news website.  Fame at last!

Yesterday I received a message via the photo sharing website Flickr asking me to contact someone direct by email as they wished to licence the use of one of my photos and pay me a reproduction fee for it.  I initially thought it was going to be a scam along the lines of "tell us your bank details and pay us a small fee and you'll get paid loads" but on searching online for the person who'd contacted me and confirmed that she does indeed work for who she said she worked for (which tied into the legitimate email address she had supplied) I emailed her and agreed that my photo could be used.

And so it came to pass that today on page 4 of the Scotland edition of The Times my photo of The Straw Locomotive hanging from the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow in 1987 was one of the small number of images used to illustrate an article on the 90th birthday of Scottish artist George Wyllie!


I'm still waiting for a form to be emailed to me at some point today so that I can arrange the reproduction fee to be paid, and it'll be a nice surprise because I don't know how much it'll be (although I expect it to be a VERY modest amount!).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to everyone who reads my occasional musings, particularly the small band of regular readers.  May all that you wish for come true in 2012.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cats with thumbs

OK, I know it's an advert, but every so often the advertising agencies come up with a good one, and I happen to like this!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Under my skin

Not something I'd normally look at, but I went to school with Dougie Johnston a LONG time ago, and we used to sing next to each other in the school choir.  He does a lot of work for charity nowadays, and the video below is something he did for the MS Society.

Enjoy.