Friday, 4 August 2017

pre-wedding advice

I've thought a few times recently about this thing I once said in an email nearly twenty years ago, and this evening I managed to unearth it, preserved in a document in a folder copied from computer to computer over the years.

It was written after a rather civilised stag night, a meal out, at which we were asked what one piece of advice we'd give to our groom-to-be. I didn't say anything very satisfactory on the night, but this is what I said subsequently within a longer email. It is along the lines that I remembered, except possibly shorter (I fear I have grown more long-winded as I have got older), and I think it is probably still what I would say, were I called on to give 'one piece of advice'. I shall leave it as it was, except to remove the name to protect the innocent.

"I felt very strange when I realised that I was the 'old hand', marriage-wise. In fact it made me restrain myself from giving you one of my serious one-sentence pieces of advice, because I didn't want to make things very heavy. ('Give and take' is the true cliche which I did mention.) But I'll give it to you now: 'Love and commitment is an act of will'. There will be many days when you are in the company of a woman who is more beautiful, or more charming, or more witty, or more intelligent, or more sensitive, or more caring, or more funny, or more sexy, or more spiritual, or more 'on your wavelength', or basically more attractive in one of any number of ways than your wife-to-be. But you must enter into marriage, thinking, 'Yes, I know there will be days like that, and I have made my choice and my commitment in that knowledge. And it is my choice and my commitment that my love for my wife-to-be is and will continue to be different from and beyond the love I will feel for or give to any other person or thing, for the rest of our lives.' And believe me, it will be different and beyond. And it will be very good."

people power at the imperial war museum

On Saturday 29th July Bethan and I went to a paying exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, People Power: Fighting For Peace. It was okay.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

peace and joy

Peace and joy are twin blessings of the gospel; as an old Scots preacher put it, 'peace is joy resting; joy is peace dancing'.
- FF Bruce on Romans 5, IVP Tyndale commentary (1963 edition)

Saturday, 29 July 2017

an american in paris

On Friday 28th July Bethan and I went to see An American In Paris at the Dominion Theatre. It was good in general, and the dancing and staging were excellent.

Friday, 28 July 2017

maigret goes home

On Saturday 22nd July I finished Maigret Goes Home by Georges Simenon. It was okay. I suspect it wasn't a typical Maigret novel, but I could be wrong. (It was short, as usual, but not a procedural, which I think they usually are.)


On Saturday 22nd July we all watched Joy on DVD, one of the bundle of DVDs that Maisie bought at Cex recently (possibly primarily because it starred Jennifer Lawrence). We all enjoyed it fairly well. A based-on-a-true-story of triumph over adversity, although there was rather more adversity than is my preference in my entertainment.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

mean girls

On Friday 21st July, after a takeaway from Aftertaste, we all watched Mean Girls on DVD - this was Maisie's end-of-term treat evening. It was a pretty good film.

hue and cry

On Saturday 15th July we all watched Hue and Cry, from Bethan's box set of Ealing films. It was okay as a film, but the best bits were definitely Alastair Sim being Alastair Sim, and the scenery of post-war, Blitzed London.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

what was lost

On Friday 3rd June 2016 I finished What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn, which I liked a lot.

stowaway to mars

On Tuesday 6 December I finished Stowaway To Mars by John Wyndham. It wasn't great. One of his early ones, written in 1935 under one of his earlier pseudonyms, John Beynon.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

dead of night

After the church barbecue at Calum and Jan's on Saturday, in the evening when we got home we all watched one of the films from Bethan's Ealing box set - Dead of Night, a portmanteau horror film from 1945, most famous for the ventriloquist's dummy story.

I wondered how scary it was, with Maisie in mind, but it was only a PG, so we watched it, without permanent scarring it seemed. The dummy story was certainly the most unsettling, but all the stories, and the framing story, were pretty good, and the thing as a whole stood the test of time pretty well.

Interesting to see on the Wikipedia entry later that Martin Scorsese listed it in the 11 scariest films ever, and that the circular nature of the framing story - which ended as it began - inspired Fred Hoyle's steady state model of the universe.


On Friday evening, while Bethan was at the Royal Opera House with Mary and Hei Mun watching an early Mozart opera, Mitridate, Maisie and I watched Moneyball, which I'd recorded some time ago - a fact-based baseball film. I enjoyed it, Maisie said she did too, though there was (as is often the case) a lot of phone action going on too (mostly playing games, I believe).

Monday, 10 July 2017

singing and intimacy continued

Further to 'I love my choir': we're always - quite rightly - being encouraged to catch the eye of people in the audience when we're singing, both in the choir and when we're singing at folk club (although I still haven't quite worked out, if you're singing a duet or a trio, how much you should look at your fellow singer(s)). But I still find it impossible to do (I feel very self-conscious, and also worry that it'll put me off and I'll forget the words or where I am, and I think it would also feel weird locking eyes with someone as you sing a love song), and continue to sing to the back wall in general, as I have done since solo singing in the Mod and as I do when I'm precenting. Sometimes at folk club I manage to look at a table or just over people's shoulder.

I find it no easier in rehearsing, when we're often asked to do the same; it's often harder, in fact, as it's people you know and can see and are often standing very near (and it's actually no easier with men than women). Again, sometimes I look over people's shoulder, or (as if I'm getting my eyes tested) at their ear, or at their mouth. Looking in the eye is the hard thing. I remember one time in particular we were standing close in concentric circles facing each other and meant to look at the various folk nearby facing us in the eye and I couldn't do it, and said so. G said, 'Too intimate?'; F said something like 'Scottish man' (and there's certainly that); I said to them, and S and A, 'You are all wearing lovely shoes', since of course that's what I was looking at, and we laughed.

Essentially G was right: I do find it very intimate. But I think I'm going to have to push through the barrier and do it more often.

Friday, 7 July 2017


On Sunday I finished reading Silence by Shusaku Endo, which had been recommended in many places, especially once Martin Scorsese's film of it came out. I enjoyed it, and found it interesting and thoughtful.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

I love my choir

There are always interesting articles going around about the physical, mental and social benefits of being in a choir (here are four from the BBC, Cmuse, the Conversation, and the Guardian).

I believe these things are all true. The thing that took me most by surprise, though, was the emotional and in a way somewhat intimate connection you feel when you sing in harmony with other people. I don't think I felt it so much in bigger choirs, where you're singing in unison with your part, or even in a smaller four-part choir; but there's something special about singing in the folk choir in harmony with a small group of people (all or part of the choir), people singing different parts all around you and next to you. I think making an emotional contact with other human beings is generally thought to be a good thing (and while making a lovely harmonic sound to boot), and I should probably not be afraid of that.

In summary, I love my choir and people in it.

Right, back to the computer screen for another four hours...

rumours of another world

On Saturday 1st July I finished Rumours of Another World by Philip Yancey. It was an apologetics book, and I thought it was fine; I didn't find it especially helpful, nor unhelpful. I don't think I will keep it, as it wasn't helpful enough that I thought I might refer to it again, unlike say Tim Keller's books or (although I don't like the way they're written) Lee Strobel's.

morris folk club - june

On Tuesday 27th June we had our Morris Folk Club for June. We had a lower number from the choir than usual, but made up for by the presence of eight or nine folk from The Wrablers. I sang The Collier Laddie and When All Night Long A Chap Remains, which both went fine I think. Full setlist here.

daylight music at union chapel; spies and spymasters walk

On Saturday 17th June, while Bethan went to London Zoo with the Brownies, Maisie and I went to Daylight Music at Union Chapel over lunchtime, then got the tube down to Piccadilly Circus where we went on a guided walk on the theme of spies and spymasters.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

sunshine on leith

On Saturday we watched Sunshine on Leith; I probably enjoyed it most of the three of us. I like a musical, and they were good songs well presented.

Monday, 3 July 2017

to sharp's with morris in june

On Tuesday 13th June I was at Sharp's Folk Club again, this time with Michelle and a good number from choir. It was a good evening, helped by the election result the previous Thursday which made a lot of people there much cheerier than they might have been otherwise. As a choir we sang Magpie and The Birds Upon The Tree, which both went fine. By myself I sang Angel Band (which went okay, though I thought more people would know it and join in than did) and then Tanja, Ginny and I, at Tanja's prompting, did The Parting Glass after a quick practice at the interval. It went okay, though not the best we've ever done it.