Saturday, January 01, 2011
Review of 2010
Well, it's that time of the year again. The fourth annual stream-of-consciousness review of Layclerk's year lies below. If you're a regular reader of this Blog (why?) then you may be aware of some of what's about to follow, if you know me in real life, and particularly if you're a Facebook friend and see my occasional status updates, then you'll have heard a great deal of it, and if you're one of my close friends then nothing I'm about to say will be news. Not that any of it is revelatory in any case.
On the topic of Facebook, and before I get started on the review, I've now developed the deeply ingrained habit of looking at the site several times a day. No, make that loads of times a day! I don't change my status too often, preferring to steer clear of what I consider to be the really mundane, but try to put things which may actually be of some small amount of interest to my friends, of which as it stands today I have 270, all of whom apart from a very small handful are actually known to me in real life and can be loosely considered friends to a much greater or much lesser degree. I know others use the site to add "virtual" friends willy-nilly, but that's not for me. The small handful I've not met are made up mostly of family members from round the world with whom I've been in contact while tracing my geneaology over the years (sharing great great great great grandparents but descended from different siblings for example) and a small sprinkling of contacts I've made through them commenting on this Blog or me commenting on theirs. This latter group can be considered truly "virtual" but one never knows, I may meet them at some point, which would be good because they all seem like good people.
So, 2010, how was it, I hear you ask. Pretty good on the whole, if truth be told.
I still maintain my silence when it comes to work, I don't feel it's appropriate to Blog about it, but whereas I'm still enjoying it and continue to be as busy as ever, the harsh realities of the current world economic climate are such that the dark spectre of redundancies has presented itself on the horizon, an offshoot of a massive reduction in funding from 2011 and for the next few years, however beyond introducing a voluntary redundancy scheme the top person in the organisation (a genuinely good bloke in my opinion, and one for whom I have a lot of time) has said publicly there'll be no compulsory ones so that's of some comfort. Doubtless there will be unavoidable financial economies and constraints, but fingers crossed that I'll still be around once the upturn happens, whenever that may be, albeit a bit poorer because of a reduction in paid overtime.
My review of 2009 mentioned having taken over as administrator for RSCM Scottish Voices, and that's a role in which I continue. I won't pretend it's all easy and plain sailing, and between you and me I put a lot of time and effort into it (which I think is appreciated by the choir members), but it's a very rewarding task which I think I'm performing reasonably well. We now have our own site, at www.rscmscottishvoices.org.uk which mostly contains details of upcoming events and information about the choir, who's who, and how to go about auditioning. The site's still in its early days, but in due course it'll develop naturally, as these things do, and there'll be more to read.
I recently did away with my own website, www.thecathedralchoir.org.uk as I hadn't updated anything on it for well over a year, so now that Domain just points to this Blog and I've saved myself a chunk of money as I no longer need the web hosting package from my ISP, just email and Domain pointing. In the meantime I've transferred a few things over here from the old site, such as the histories of my choirs and my motorcycles, and there are a few other things scheduled for the future. I may get round to replicating the page on my site which sought to recount every pub in which I'd ever had a drink (an ongoing project!) but it's quite labour intensive so it may take a while and be a fragmented version.
Another singing thing mentioned in last year's review was The New Quartet, and although it's still fledgling, and still primarily a social event for us, we have now sung properly in public, in a concert in June in the Glasgow Art Club, which seemed to go down very well. Again, we have a website at www.newquartet.org.uk, but there isn't too much there at the moment apart from some contact details if anyone wants us to come and sing anywhere, and a review and photo of our concert in the Art Club.
Glasgow Chamber Choir goes from strength to strength, and the 2009/2010 season has seen us singing concerts featuring music by William Byrd, Frank Martin and Olivier Messaien in November 2009; various Christmas "favourites" in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Usher Hall in Edinburgh in December 2009; music by William Walton, Jonathan Harvey, Thomas Tomkins, Thomas Weelkes and Orlando Gibbons in March 2010; G.F. Handel and J.S. Bach in June; Herbert Howells, Johannes Brahms and William Byrd in November 2010 and, for me, has seen amazing high points such as Howells' fantastic piece written for the memorial service for John F. Kennedy, Take him, earth for cherishing and Handel's wondefully exciting Dixit Dominus, as well as (for me) low points such as both the Jonathan Harvey pieces, which I've now managed to erase from my mind and can't remember what they were called. I said at the time that if ever anything by Jonathan Harvey was scheduled to be sung ever again in any choir I'm in, even a single short piece in a long programme, then I won't be available for that concert. And I stand by that.
More recently, in fact only a couple of weeks ago, 10 of us from Glasgow Chamber Choir sang carols live on BBC Radio Scotland during the programme Get it On with Bryan Burnett, which goes out on weekdays between 6pm-8pm. It's kind of a request show of sorts, the theme of the evening being set by the presenter and listeners contact the show suggesting tracks that fit the theme, and that evening the theme was their Christmas Carol Concert, so we were in a studio waiting for the general public to decide what we'd sing, interspersed with proper recordings of Bing Crosby, . It was a good laugh, although when I heard a recording of the end result on i-Player I was disappointed that the mics were far too close to us so the blend wasn't great. There was a video taken of us singing one of the carols live, and it's on the BBC Website, in the unlikely event you want a look!
Next year, in March, Glasgow Chamber Choir will be visiting the Netherlands (Amersfoort and Utrecht, near Amsterdam) to sing with a Dutch choir, St Joris Kamerkoor, and in turn they'll be coming over to Scotland to sing with us in Glasgow and Edinburgh in May. It should be a lot of fun!
Not least, the other singing thing in which I'm involved, and the reason for this Blog's name of course, is the choir of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow. I still sing there at Choral Evensong every Sunday and it's still very enjoyable, musically and socially. We've just released another recording of the choir, a CD called Listen, which is available to buy from the cathedral website. In a few weeks we'll be recording another, this time of Christmas music.
The 30th anniversary of leaving Dalziel High School was marked by another get together in the Electric Bar in Motherwell. It went well, and it was great to see even more people there than had been at the previous one in 2009. We all agreed we should do it annually from now on, so that's going ahead!
The Institute of Advanced Motorists has taken even more of a back seat this year, and as I suggested I might do in the 2009 review, I've quit the local group, coincidentally with effect from the moment this was posted! I won't bother with the details here, but suffice to say I'm not particularly impressed by the people skills (or lack thereof) of some involved in the group. I'll still stay a member of the IAM, just not in a local group. Well, certainly not that group anyway.
The motorcycle, my lovely BMW R1100RT, has been laid up with a slipping clutch (expensive!) for much of the year, but a colleague has now offered to have a go at replacing it for me in his spare time. I just need to work out how to transport it to his house, some 40 miles from work where it's been sitting for months, safely and securely parked.
RE had a significant birthday this year, and it was great to meet one of her sisters from New Zealand when she came over for the birthday celebrations (having already met one sister and her brother, seperately, a while back). Over a weekend the festivities included a meal, a drink/meal/party, and a hillwalk up The Cobbler. I have a significant birthday coming up in 2012, and I only hope I do it as much justice as RE did in organising a whole weekend of events, albeit my significant birthday is bigger than hers!
My fitness quest has had mixed and varying results, but it continues. I was doing quite well, more than quadrupling the time I was capable of on the treadmill, but ran a bit too hard about a month ago and tweaked the achilles tendon on my right leg. Truly horrible memories of the ruptured achilles tendon on my left leg stay with me almost 4 years after the event, and I've been too nervous to go back to the gym until I'm completely happy it isn't going to end in tears! I'm pretty much at that stage though, so I'll be back soon.
One great step forward was getting some decoration done in the flat, at long long last. I managed to find a tradesman who came in, stripped the wallpaper in the living room, prepared the plaster underneath, emulsioned the walls and ceiling, and glossed all the woodwork, all at a very reasonable rate. What a difference! I'm so much happier sitting in it now, without having to look at torn wallpaper (the aftermath of a new damp proof course being installed when I bought the place). So that's now the hallway and living room done, and hopefully next year I'll be in the financial position to have the other rooms done too (after the usual Christmas overspend has resolved itself!).
A real low point was back in May, when my late mum's only sister, my aunt Shirley, died suddenly. Not entirely unexpectedly, but an awful lot sooner than predicted. I miss her. I miss my mum who died absolutely suddenly and completely unexpectedly in June 1996, and I miss their mother, my nana, who passed away in January 2008. But they are now together and looking down on us, along with my niece Rebekah who would have been 20 this year, had life not cruelly been snatched away before she was 5.
That's now over a year my brother and his family have been back in the UK after their years in Dubai and California, and it's still great to have them around, although he seems to have to work away from home for large periods at a time, mostly in Belgium but also in Texas, amongst other places which this year have included Moscow! My niece is still singing in the Cathedral choir, and seems to enjoy it, which is great.
Back in August I was fortunate enough to attend a training course in Cambridge, and since it was two weeks long I was able to stay down there for the middle weekend, and use that more or less as my holiday away this year, particularly as RE came down to stay for the weekend. Great weather (mostly), a great city, and great company made it, well, great! Hopefully at some point in 2011 I'll get away for a proper holiday though. The middle weekend was also when the last of a series of three recordings of BBC Songs of Praise from St Mary's Cathedral was broadcast, on an unrelated topic.
So that's all that readily springs to mind at a single random sitting. I'll doubtless have missed things, and if so it isn't necessarily because they weren't important to me, so apologies if I've missed mentioning something you shared with me.
I'd like to finish this post by taking the opportunity to thank all my friends for their continuing friendship and support, all my family for their unconditional love, all those who read my occasional stream of consciousness here (particularly those who for some reason seem to do it regularly), and not least I'd like to thank RE for being who she is and for all she means to me.