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.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

st paul's cathedral

On Monday 29th May - bank holiday - we all went to St Paul's Cathedral, our first time there as tourists. It was interesting. The galleries above the Whispering Gallery were closed, but we got year tickets by gift-aiding, so we can go back. Bethan didn't come up to the Whispering Gallery, because of the height, but apart from that we did it pretty comprehensively.

diary of a wimpy kid: the long haul

On Saturday 27th May we all went to the Genesis cinema in the morning and saw Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. It was okay, though probably a bit young for Maisie now - faithfulness to the series she grew up with was a big part of it. The kids from the first batch of films were too old now, so they'd recast the kids - and the parents too, so Alicia Silverstone was the mum (reminding me rather of Becky in appearance). Mark Kermode thought it was terrible - I didn't know this in advance - but I didn't, although it was full of implausibilities that annoyed me (not least the abandoning of so many of their possessions on the road, the kind of detail that always keeps nagging away at me for the rest of a film).

(Afterwards we went to Nando's, then got a bus to Stratford and rode hire bikes in the Olympic Park, and had tea in the velodrome, my first time there.)

sharp's folk club in may with morris

On Tuesday 23rd May I went along to Sharp's Folk Club, along with a few others from Morris Folk Choir. We were planning a visit instead of a rehearsal, singing a couple of songs, but Michelle wasn't able to come in the end, which had an impact on how many came along, and our readiness to sing something. In the end we decided to give Chickens In The Garden a go, and it went okay, though I was playing the guitar (a decision only made once we'd got up to sing it) and I took it rather fast, but that may have helped.

Ginny, Tanja, Elise and I did do one of our small group songs, Little Birdie, and that went pretty well, I think, since we had the three parts of the harmony present. Then in the second half Ginny and I sang Sweet Nightingale, and that went pretty well too.

Friday, 30 June 2017


I once realised I was walking around with one trouser leg untidily turned up from when I'd been mopping the floor *the day before*.

Actually, you know what, it wasn't even the next day: it was Monday at work, after Saturday mopping. I'd been to church twice in the meantime.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

tim keller on romans 1:18-32 and epithumia

The word [in verse 24] that the NIV translates 'sinful desires and the ESV renders 'lusts' is epithumia. Literally, it means 'over-desire', an all-controlling drive and longing. This is revealing. The main problem of our heart is not so much desires for bad things, but our over-desires for good things, our turning of created, good things into gods, objects of our worship and service.
How should God's people respond to these verses [verses 18-32], and the dark view of humanity they give us? .... [Thirdly,] we are to read these verses in light of 1:16-17, knowing that we do not need to fear God's wrath because we have received his righteousness. This gives us both the humility and the freedom to ask: What idols could be, or are already, jostling for position with my Creator in my heart and life? This passage prompts us to look for places where we are envious, slanderous, disloyal, lusting, and so on. These things are the indication that we are worshiping an idol; that something other than God has become our functional master. And so we need to ask: What would it look like to depend on my Creator in this area? How would I love and feel and live differently if I praised my Creator at that point, rather than serving a created thing? That is the way to turn our epithumia, our over-desires, into simple enjoyment; not serving as slaves what God has made, but appreciating them in praise of God in his world.

- part of what Tim Keller says on Romans 1:18-32 in his book Romans 1-7 For You.

Monday, 12 June 2017

the election, the dup and christians

I stayed up for the election on Thursday. As I've said before, accurate election polls took the fun out of staying up, but Twitter has put the fun back in. Once again people disbelieved the exit polls and they turned out to be almost exactly right; but the individual details of how it was right were fascinating as they rolled in; and Twitter was full of information and entertainment (if you were following the right people), and the opportunity to back-and-forth with friends.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

last night

Another awful terrorist incident last night, not far away. So sorry for the lives lost and affected, and impressed by the speed it was dealt with by the police.

There's a chance that I might die in a road traffic accident - and a much, much smaller chance that I might die in a terrorist incident - on my way to church today, or work tomorrow, or folk club on Tuesday, but I will still go to church and work and folk club. I will, as usual, look both ways when I'm crossing one-way streets and give second glances to unattended packages, but I won't spend a moment worrying about or fearing either of those life-ending possibilities. Because, honestly, what would be the point of that? :-)

Thursday, 1 June 2017

morris folk club - may

It was Morris Folk Club on Tuesday (30th May). Singing with pleasure all evening, of course, including songs by the choir and songs by everyone. But songs I sang by myself were Intro (by Ariana Grande), Where Two Hawks Fly (by The Corries) and (best of all, of course, since I prefer our duets) The Death of Queen Jane with Ginny (the version Karine Polwart sings, with a harmony of our own devising).

I thought I'd like to sing something by Ariana Grande, if I could, and when I listened through the songs on My Everything, which Maisie has, the lovely, short opening song, Intro, was most appropriate, so I learnt it. (It was short enough that I sang it twice.) I didn't give it much of an introduction, as I was afraid I might get a bit emotional (I really am turning into a bit of an old softy). There will always be very bad people, there will always be good people, and there will always be music. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

(Maisie doesn't actually have many CDs - she mostly listens to Spotify on her phone and laptop. The Ariana Grande was a December present, which I think she put on her wishlist because a friend liked her; she certainly hasn't listened to that CD as much as, say, her Adele CDs.)

Where Two Hawks Fly was written by Ronnie Browne, I suspect to show off his range, so you have to pitch it carefully. I made a hash of it - too high - when I sang it at Sharp's several years ago (on the night I first heard Morris Folk Choir, trivia fans), but it went okay this time. The other two went pretty well too, I think.

Full set list here.