Thursday, December 24, 2009

Review of 2009

Well the choir of King's College, Cambridge are on the radio performing Nine Lessons and Carols right now as I sit here starting to type this, so it must be time for my third annual review.  How was Lay Clerk's 2009?

A bit mixed, to be honest, but then again such is life.  Much of what occupied my mind throughout the whole year concerns another person and according to the unwritten rules of Blogging which are solely in my head, I choose to keep that topic to myself.

Another unwritten rule is that I won't Blog about work, so apart from saying that I'm still enjoying it and we continue to be as busy as ever, I'll leave it there.

On the subject of work, a close friend was unfortunately made redundant at the start of the year, a victim of the worldwide economic situation, and for a few months went through a difficult time during which I hope I was there to offer what little support or help I could, and thankfully a new, better job was secured after a while.  Onwards and upwards.

I still sing with Glasgow Chamber Choir, mostly enjoying it but sometimes having to fight against my inner dislike of certain types of choral music.  On the whole it continues to be good fun, good musically, and a good bunch of people.

In 2009 my presence in the choirstalls at the Cathedral occurred more frequently and more regularly, and more or less every week I sing Choral Evensong on the Sunday, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

In about May the administrator of RSCM Scottish Voices, which was started the previous summer, resigned, and I was subsequently asked to take over that role.  It's been an interesting 6 months, most but not quite all of it interesting in a nice way.  I've registered a Domain name for the choir, but haven't yet got round to uploading the website which is sitting on my laptop.  In truth, this is mostly because I've forgotten how to go about having multiple websites hosted together but kept separate, since it's been such a long time since I did anything with any of my sites.  At some point I'll get the finger out and do it.  And if anyone familiar with creating and uploading websites to 1&1 using Microsoft Frontpage is reading this and wants to remind me how easy it is, I'd be obliged!  In the meantime I've also started a Blog for the choir, which is linked from the sidebar on the left.  If any RSCM Scottish Voices members are reading this for some reason, and they fancy having a go at sometimes adding choir-related content to our Blog, email me.

In May I sang with The Biggar Singers in an enjoyable performance of Morten Lauridsen's piece, Lux Aeterna, which involved about a hundred mile round trip every week to rehearse.  The choir's conducted and accompanied respectively by two members of Glasgow Chamber Choir who live down that way, and my few weeks of excessive travel pale into insignificance when set against them doing it every week coming to Glasgow.  And indeed two other GCC members travel from Dumfriesshire every week to rehearse!

A personal high point of the year was when I was asked to sing the tenor solo in a performance of Stainer's Crucifixion on Good Friday in Paisley.  My initial reaction upon being asked was "no thanks, I'm a chorister, not a soloist" but when I thought about it, knowing that I can actually sing the notes if not necessarily perform them as a "proper" soloist would, I thought why the hell not.  And so I did.  And it went well.  First time I've ever had my name on a poster! I have no ambitions to be a soloist, and while I'd possibly say yes if asked again, equally I am not at all bothered.

I paid another visit to Paisley later in April, but this time to the Paisley Beer Festival, which was most enjoyable and having been there two years ago is likely to become an annual pilgrimage, albeit I missed last year as I was in Calfornia.  I only went on one evening, but a fellow Cathedral chorister, Neil, took holiday from work and went every day.  Now that's dedication!

In July four of us from Glasgow Chamber Choir, having coincidentally and enjoyably sung solo parts together during a recent concert, decided to get together and sing together some more.  We've met twice so far, it's as much a social event as a musical one, and despite some (hopefully tongue in cheek) remarks from another couple of friends about "the elite group" it's just a bunch of friends singing, drinking and eating together.  We've performed together under the name The New Quartet in public once, a few days ago in a branch of a bank for charity, but who knows whether we'll do it again or whether it'll stay purely as a social event. 

After a break of 29 years, I met up with former schoolfriends at a wee reunion in Motherwell in April.  It was as though we'd only had a break of 6 months and we all got on great again.  An unexpectedly tremendous evening.  Another one, on a bigger scale, is planned for next year when it'll be 30 years since we left school.  And I foolishly offered to co-ordinate it.  It shouldn't involve much more than a few emails though, so should be OK.

On the subject of school, there is a sobering time in one's life when one's schoolfriends start dying.  In August Kenny Stewart was the first of us to go. Admittedly the lovely, intelligent, caring person Catherine Fellowes died in a tragic diving accident soon after we left school, leaving her massive potential unfulfilled, but Kenny is the first to die without having an accident.  He was one of my closest friends at school, and despite us having some differences in later years, you can't take away the fact that we grew up together.

In July RE and I made a weekend trip to the north east of Scotland to see friends, Stephanie and Martin, and to have a wee tour about.  It's an area of the country I happen to really like, and it was good not only to show RE round it, but to catch up with old friends at their barbecue. I've known Stephanie since the mid 1980's when she was a student at Glasgow University and joined the Cathedral Choir, so she's probably one of my oldest friends and although we don't see each other terribly often, it's good to catch up when we can.

In August my brother, his wife and daughter moved back to Scotland. They've been living abroad for about a dozen years, first in Dubai and then in San Diego, California.  For some reason they decided to come back to the Scottish climate, and it's great to have them here.  My niece, Jess, has joined the Cathedral Choir trebles, and seems to enjoy it I'm glad to say.  I was immensely proud to be asked to present her with her surplice at Evensong when she passed from being a probationer to being a chorister.  They hosted a Halloween party in October (on the 30th, funnily enough!) and the fact that they live in a castle (yes, really) made it all the more spooky!  Great fun.

August also saw a return visit to the World Pipe Band Championship at Glasgow Green, with RE, her cousin and his German girlfriend who were visiting Scotland.  It rained.  But it was a very enjoyable day despite the weather.

In September RE hosted one of her sisters, visiting from New Zealand, and I joined them for a trip to Linlithgow, their ancestral town.  It was the first time I've been there, and I can now recommend the Four Mary's pub in the main street.

In a much previous life I was a roadie and mixed the sound for a local band.  All very enjoyable, but in an amateur way.  A friend, Ian, does it for a living though, well, the sound engineer bit anyway, and ages ago I mentioned to him that if he was ever needing some semi-skilled labour (i.e. really unskilled!) then I'd happily come and lift and carry stuff around for him.  In September he called my bluff, and I found myself for two days being a roadie working on the sound crew at the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow.  With three outdoor stages and an indoor venue to be covered, it was hard work, a bit physical sometimes, and a lot to take in, but it was great.  I even ended up twiddling the knobs for one act, while Ian was called away to deal with a change of venue for another group.  All very basic stuff of course, but I'm glad to say Ian trusted me enough to leave me on my own, and I'm even gladder to say I managed to avoid fucking it up!  I'm looking forward to the next time, although I don't expect a change of career is due anytime soon!

The Institute of Advanced Motorists has taken more of a back seat this year, pardon the pun, although I did complete the necessary number of observed runs to continue as a Qualified Motorcycle Observer.  It remains to be seen however whether I'll continue next year.

I've started to get the flat a bit more sorted.  With the benefit of hindsight I realise that when I moved in I wasn't really in the right emotional frame of mind to do the decorating necessary, and as time went on I stopped seeing the faults.  I have now got as far as getting a quote from a decorator, and getting the hallway replastered.  Soon after Christmas I'll contact the decorator again and get him to come and do the business in the living room and hallway.

My general level of fitness continues to improve as I take advantage of the gym a few hundred yards from my house.  I even made it onto a running track with RE a couple of times, but that was very hard going at that time!  In the past few weeks I've slipped a bit, but my main New Year's resolution is to redouble my efforts.  And I WILL do it.

On a fitness topic, in 2009 I did something I never thought I'd do. I climbed a hill.  Not only a hill, but it was in fact a Munro. I've never ever ever been interested in hillwalking, and have been vocal about that opinion all through my life.  But RE persuaded me to try it.  Well I say persuaded me, but not proactively.  I just mean that her influence, unbeknownst to her, made me want to do it.  So she kindly agreed to "babysit me" up a hill.  I'd be lying if I said there weren't bits I didn't enjoy.  I slipped and fell up to my knees in a very cold stream; I slithered and slid my way down what was allegedly a "path"; I fell and staved my finger, but I bloody enjoyed it!  And I know that thousands of people do it every weekend and think nothing of it.  But this was me doing it.  Me who about a year ago looked as though he was about to expire after a very short climb up a set of steps to a scenic viewpoint in the Scottish Borders.  Me who a year ago hadn't taken any form of exercise for God knows how long, apart from when I tried badminton and spectacularly ruptured my achilles tendon.  Me who is a city boy who has always said he didn't mind walking as long as it was on a pavement.  This was me who walked up that Munro.  And it is still me who is immensely proud of having done it, and proud of his friend RE for having the patience, skill and perseverance to help me all the way.  Others may do it more often and with less effort, but we all have different abilities and different goals, and this particular achievement ranks highly for me.

So that's a potted history of Lay Clerk's 2009.  A mixed year, but generally a good one and ending better than it started.  Much of the above was Blogged about in depth at the time so if you've read this post in isolation it must seem pretty sparse of detail, and of course I've missed things out.  Not just deliberately missed things to protect other people's privacy, but simply because things will have slipped my mind.  Something which will hopefully never slip my mind though is to mention the love, friendship, and support of my closest friends, some of whom have been such for the thick end of 25 years, some for only a couple of years, but I value them all and thank them for their continuing friendship and support.  I won't name them, but you know who you are.  Thank you one and all.

Happy Christmas folks!


  1. Your picture seems to have vanished.
    I construct websites with Frontpage and upload them with FTP software from

  2. If you mean my profile picture, I can still see it so I'm not sure what's wrong there!

    I have Frontpage extensions enabled so can't use FTP, but it's not so much the clicking the button to physically upload it I've forgotten, from memory there's something I need to add to the file root which allows 1&1 to differentiate between my separate domains which are all created, uploaded and hosted together. I worked it out when I added a single extra domain, so I'm sure I can do it to make it 3 domains, I've just been too lazy so far!

  3. And I must say it has been great to both see you and sing with you at St Mary's on an increasingly regular basis, pal. thanks for Friendship in 2009 - and I raise a glass to 2010......

  4. I really enjoyed reading your end of year review. Excellent stuff, felt I was there with you.

    Is that really you in the foti? If so I'd be worried if I saw you in my rear view mirror.

    I look forward to following you in 2010 - wherever it may lead.

  5. Chickpea, the very same back to you and TH.

    Barry, thank you for your kind words, and no, it's not entirely me but it does bear enough of a resemblance that those who know me in real life would recognise the similarities. Specifically, the beard and glasses are mine, courtesy of Photoshop, but the rest isn't.