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.

But later on Friday, when it became obvious that the way ahead was some kind of Tory arrangement with the DUP, it turned more unpleasant. British media, columnists and Tweeters really got stuck in on what this unpleasant lunatic fringe party was like. What was most striking to me, however, was that the vast majority of the anti-DUP Tweets and links I saw weren't related to corruption, possible terrorism links, political incompetence or ineffectiveness, or NI Assembly implications, but to their socially and religiously conservative views, views similar to historic Christian beliefs. Even Christians were expressing their disgust and horror at these fundamentalist, misogynistic, homophobic creationists.

I felt very aware, however, that however much I might differ from any particular members of the DUP (and sadly I have no reason to disbelieve the kind of quotes and behaviour that were being cited), I fear many of those writing about or commenting on the DUP would not see any difference that mattered between me and them, and would apply the same terms to me (I guess that Christians agreeing with these criticisms either thought naively that of course they didn't mean Christians like *them*, or that they too abhorred their fellow Christians who had such old-school views and were being rightly described). There's not much room for nuance - we're just different shades of black. Think Sunday is different, think abortion is wrong, hold to what we shall call the historic understanding of what the Bible teaches about the role of women in church leadership and matters of sexual behaviour, think God made the world. Things like these used to be pretty much mainstream evangelical belief, but it is on the one hand decreasingly so and on the other increasingly unacceptable in our society (and, gradually, in the evangelical church) for anyone to hold those views. Tim Farron's hounding about his views on sexuality and then abortion, and his recanting of both, were brutal and salutary.

I decided on Saturday night that I would take a break from Twitter for a few days, because I expected things to get worse, not least because the next part of the new American serial dramatisation of The Handmaid's Tale was going to be on on Sunday. I'd already had a few weeks on Twitter - when it was coming in the US and then when it came here - of people seeing it as a documentary prediction of what evangelicals would like the future to be like, and adding fuel to the fire of an atmosphere of increased hatred of evangelical Christians; and I expected people to cross the streams for some DUP/Handmaid multiplication. (I haven't read the book yet; I've seen the older film, which I didn't much like.) It's really rather upsetting how many people hate Christians who are in the category I would be placed by them.

And a couple of things just on the general political points. Firstly, while all the GB coverage I was seeing was like people discovering monsters under a rock, the DUP is not actually a lunatic fringe party in Northern Ireland, but the largest party with increased seats and vote share. How do the Northern Irish view the DUP? As the newly-attentive GB does? Or something more nuanced? I don't believe they are going to turn out to be the monstrous bogeymen so many people seem to expect.

Secondly, it is possible to do business with people whose views are diametrically opposed to yours on particular issues, and it is possible for those people to be good and decent people who can be worked with (it is of course also possible for them to be thoroughly unpleasant, which can also be true of people you completely agree with). The DUP themselves offered a perfect example of that, as it happens, in the NI Assembly with Sinn Fein, as we were reminded earlier in the year when Martin McGuinness died and there was much coverage of how he and Ian Paisley had worked together (and some unexpected tributes to Martin from Ian's family members).

And it happens at an individual level in the other direction all the time: no major, mainstream GB party has, for example, a position on abortion which pro-life Christians would be anywhere near entirely happy with, but every party has pro-life Christians who are voters, members and elected representatives of that party. British Christians are political pragmatists, and just as they know there is no perfect church to join they know there is no perfect party to join.

(Interestingly, Sunday's Red Box political email from the Times said this: 'The Sunday Times reveals she [Arlene Foster, DUP leader] has a 45-point bucket list focused on health, education and infrastructure. Some fear the Tory party could become "toxified" if it bows to hardline DUP's demands on abortion or gay rights, but no such measures are currently under consideration.' Health, education and infrastructure.)

But there seems to be an increasing number of people who think that such Christians should not be members or elected representatives of respectable parties, and that is troubling and depressing.

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.

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.

Monday, 15 May 2017

laser eye surgery

So it became apparent as the doctor spoke to me that today's pre-op appointment for laser eye surgery was actually an op appointment for laser eye surgery.

(- 'Do you have any questions?'
- '[realisation dawning]... When will I have the surgery?'
- 'In about five minutes.')

(At my eye test earlier in the year it was apparent that the right lens had really clouded over and the sight had really deterioriated; I hadn't realised it until the eye test. This was not unusual, apparently, after lens replacement, and just needed the clouding lasered off; the optician wrote to my GP to refer me to the hospital, which they did.)

Quick, easy, painless, sight restored to tip-top condition. I love the NHS, and the lovely French doctor pinging away at my lens with her laser like some extraordinary video game. I could hear clicks in my head as the laser made good contact with the material.

Funniest thing, as always, is signing a surgery consent form which you literally can't read because of the drops in your eyes.

Funniest thing for me, that is. Funniest thing for everyone else was the fact that I went all the way home with the '*this* eye' arrow felt-penned on my forehead.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

the social network

On Friday 5th May Maisie and I watched The Social Network (which I'd recorded only the night before, though I had recorded it before on the old digibox and never seen it) - we both enjoyed it. It was very well done, for such a talky, plot heavy film (Aaron Sorkin scripted). Again, one wondered how close to the truth it was, but it couldn't be too far away from it, being the story of very wealthy living people.

action in arabia

On Monday 1st May - bank holiday - we all watched Action In Arabia, another DVD Maisie had given us for our anniversary, from a big reissue series of mostly minor films available cheap at Fopp. As with the Mr Moto film, it was short, and straight in and out, and rather better than we'd expected - certainly better than Mr Moto. George Sanders in particular added a bit of natural class to this wartime propaganda movie.

think fast, mr moto

On Saturday 29th April we all watched Think Fast Mr Moto on DVD, which Maisie had given to us for an anniversary present. It wasn't bad, and certainly rather better than I had feared it might be (although the representation of Chinese and Japanese characters, often by Western actors, not least Peter Lorre in the main role, was 'of its time', shall we say), but not good enough to make me think it worth going to Fopp to pick up some of the sequels which they also had there for £3. It was just over an hour long - a B movie, one presumes - and was striking in the way that it plunged you without explanation straight into the story and then just stopped once it was over, which may have been for necessity and, again, of its time/status, but I wish more modern films still did.

a quiet passion

On Tuesday 25th April I had the day off, as well as Bethan, and during the day we went to the Curzon Bloomsbury to see A Quiet Passion, about Emily Dickinson, which was pretty good, even though it was a Terence Davies film.

Friday, 5 May 2017


On Monday 24th April Maisie and I watched Oblivion, the science fiction film starring Tom Cruise. It was pretty good, and had some interesting ideas and reasonable internal logic, though towards the end it rushed through plot unfolding for the sake of action scenes, and I'd have rathered the former.

Thursday, 4 May 2017


I recently came across a little notebook with some bits and pieces in it which Maisie had said when she was wee, which I'd never transferred to the secret blog.

Here's something I saw today which she said to mummy: 'Me and daddy are going to be book-writers when we grow up - would you like to be in one of them?'

It pulled at my heart when she said it, as it does today. I hope that she manages to fulfil all the ambitions that she has.

Friday, 28 April 2017

the unimposing creator

Astonishingly, the Creator seldom imposes himself on his creatures. It requires attention and effort on our part to 'remember your Creator,' because the Creator slips quietly backstage. God does not force his presence on us. When lesser gods attract, God withdraws, honouring our fatal freedom to ignore him.
- Philip Yancey, Rumours of Another World.

I read something very recently - annoyingly, I can't remember where, I'd thought it was this book, which I'm still reading, but I can't see it - to the effect that if God had wanted to force us to believe then Jesus after his resurrection would have appeared to Pilate and Herod rather than the disciples.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

morris folk club - april

Bethan and Maisie came with me for some of Morris Folk Club on Tuesday evening, but left at eight without having heard me sing, lucky them.

By myself I sang Come By The Hills, Kishmul's Galley; Seth and I (with a rare outing for my guitar) sang Flower of Scotland; and our group sang Three Craws as one of the choir group songs. I think they all went fine.

Friday, 14 April 2017

1 peter; 2 peter and jude

On Sunday 19th February I finished the IVP Tyndale commentary on 1 Peter by A F Walls (introduction) and A M Stibbs (notes). It wasn't great; one of the least satisfactory Tyndale commentaries I can remember reading. It felt a bit less analytical and a bit more sermony/daily-Bible-notesy than the series usually is. The introduction wasn't bad, though. The current IVP Tyndale 1 Peter isn't the same book.

On Thursday 13th April I finished Michael Green's IVP Tyndale commentary on 2 Peter and Jude. It was a solid, sensible little commentary; interestingly, it still seems to be the current one, though it's quite old (a lot of my IVP Tyndales - as these two - are picked up secondhand so are not the latest version); perhaps he revised it at some point along the way.

Both these commentaries, of course, read in relation to what we're studying in our house group Bible studies. (Next up, Romans; have a number of commentaries to choose from on the shelf already, not sure whether to go for John Murray's old one or FF Bruce's IVP Tyndale (also old); Tim Keller's done a more popular commentary on it recently, I have noticed.)

now you see me 2

On Friday 24th March in the evening I watched Now You See Me 2 on DVD with Maisie (she'd bought it new recently); it wasn't great, even more preposterous than the first one (throughout one is disbelieving that these tricks/illusions/stunts/feats are doable in the real world of the film rather than just things created to look good on screen, which for me undermines the whole essence of the film) and more pointless. Maisie enjoyed it rather more than I did.

one chance

On Monday 27th March I watched One Chance, the Paul Potts biopic, with Maisie. It was quite good - pretty straightforward and warmhearted, which was fine by me.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

hoovering music

I appreciate the irony of singing 'I want to be anarchy - no dogsbody!' while I'm hoovering in the toilet, but it's an irony I'm at ease with.

Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees also came up in my hoovering headphones. It took me many years to notice the quiet cry for help in the middle and end of that none-more-strutting anthem: 'I'm going nowhere, somebody help me.' It's really very striking.

author pen-names

Twitter fun of the day was 'Your author pen name is the name of your childhood pet and the name of the thing you are terrified of'.

J K Rowling's was Thumper Smallspaces, which I rather like.

I worked out my own would be N A Darkheart.

(N A Myown-Darkheart, to give it the full double barrels.)

Friday, 7 April 2017


On Thursday 6th April Maisie and I watched Divergent in the afternoon. It wasn't bad, although its underlying premise is as preposterous as when I read it in the book; I enjoyed the film more, perhaps because I had less time to think about the preposterous premise. (I'd read the book when Maisie got it, as a vetting pre-read, and it was fine, though in fact she says she didn't finish it in the end; I read it on the train back from Aviemore, where she'd bought it.)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

morris folk club - march

At folk club on Tuesday I sang Ophelia's Song (a setting of some of what Ophelia sings while mad in Hamlet, which I know from Jane & Amanda Threlfall's version) and Billy Taylor (there are a hundred variations on this song, this version was the one which Malinky did). They went okay.

Best of all, though, I got to sing Sweet Nightingale (aka The Birds In The Spring, this version also from Jane & Amanda Threlfall) with Ginny, and that went pretty well. I always particularly enjoy singing duets with Ginny, as not only does she sing beautifully but I think our voices go well together (they do in my head at least; I can't guarantee what it sounds like in the real world). (I pretty much always enjoy singing duets with anyone from the choir, of course, which is full of people with lovely voices, so that in itself isn't remarkable.)

Full set list here.

Friday, 24 March 2017

the smiths

Thinking of every Smiths song I like, there isn't one I wouldn't prefer with Morrissey's vocals taken off.

Monday, 20 March 2017

what would an atheist do?

I've started reading Rumours Of Another World, by Philip Yancey. Here's an interesting early paragraph:

'No society in history has attempted to live without a belief in the sacred, not until the modern West. Such a leap has consequences that we are only beginning to recognize. We now live in a state of confusion about the big questions that have always engaged the human race, questions of meaning, purpose, and morality. A sceptical friend of mine used to ask himself the question, "What would an atheist do?" in deliberate mockery of the What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) slogan. He finally stopped asking because he found no reliable answers.'

Saturday, 11 March 2017

the comforters

On Tuesday I finished The Comforters by Muriel Spark. It was her first novel, which I'd never heard of before seeing the list of her novels on Wikipedia a while ago, in relation to doing a page for Not To Disturb, which I'd never heard of before seeing and buying it. In fact, given what a notable novelist she is, there were a surprising number of novels I'd never heard of, below the big hitters.

I enjoyed it rather more than I'd expected, for a first novel I'd never heard of from a big name, after not being impressed by Memento Mori, which is one of the big hitters. I liked the quirkiness of it, especially the idea of the character who felt she was in a novel, in itself not unheard of psychiatrically, and her relationship with the novelist she could hear typing; that wasn't fully resolved or explained, but that annoyed me less than similar effects in Memento Mori and Not To Disturb. It was plot-packed, some of it I think deliberately daft because of the 'in a novel' theme. (I guess the title is a reference to Job's comforters, but if it is I don't get it much.) So, certainly my favourite of hers I've read apart from The Prime. (Her novels are not very long, which also makes me happier to give others a go after ones I've not been so keen on.

Friday, 10 March 2017

greenbelt - reflections

In broad summary, I'd say going to Greenbelt last year, my first actual camping festival, was a pleasant surprise in terms of the practicalities (as covered in the previous post, and not least due to having Susannah there to help make it a good experience for us), was rather disappointing and unremarkable on the whole as a music festival (as also covered in the previous post), and was depressing as a Christian festival.

greenbelt - music and events

We were at Greenbelt, Friday 26th August - Monday 29th August last year. This is what I did.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

grinding down

Seven tweets:
It grinds you down that not only do more+more people think you and your church are misogynistic homophobes, but more+more Christians do too.

look, they're Christians like you and they don't believe that; clearly your reasons are misogynistic/homophobic, not theology.

& ultimately those perceptions of what is acceptable within church traditions move out of general use and into legislation.

But it's the personal sense of it that is the hardest, of course, rather than all the large-scale levels beyond you.

as the box within which you and your fellows are gets smaller and more painful, your boxy little heart gets crushed too.

and the gulf of understanding between your heart and those around you gets larger, as the shared starting points get smaller.

[everyone competes to play world's smallest violin for the self-pitying misogynist homophobe; oh poor you]

Sunday, 5 March 2017


On Saturday afternoon (4th March), Maisie and I saw Sing at the Genesis Cinema. It was quite good, and we enjoyed it. It wasn't groundbreaking, but told a familiar story well, with good music and good humour.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

twilight: breaking dawn - part ii

On Monday 27th February Maisie and I watched the last of the Twilight films, Breaking Dawn Part II. It was fine, and not as dull as Part I. Having seen all the films now, Maisie has just started reading the books. I'd guess that she won't be that bothered about watching those films again, unlike, say, the Harry Potter films. I certainly wouldn't bother watching them again.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

morris folk club - february

At the Morris Folk Club on Tuesday I sang four times, unusually.

I sang Three Craws to start with, mainly to teach it (or at least expose it) to the choir: it's one of the songs in the choir's current bird-themed set, and was one of my suggestions. I reminded them that when Fiona and I had led a choir rehearsal she summed up our teaching style quite accurately as, 'We've sung it to you twice - how come you don't know it yet?' But it's a pretty simple song, and it went fine (I wrote a key word from each of the crow verses on my hand so I didn't forget them while I was teaching it).

Then I sang Nathan Jones, which is short, and went fine.

In the second half, Tanja, Ginny and I sang The Parting Glass (in the Voice Squad's three-part version, as we'd done with others in a small group in the choir's drink-themed concert), and I think that went rather well, if I do say so myself.

Finally I sang Making Time, which is the song of Tim's which I'd picked up and meddled with the words to (it was a lovely tune, but he had felt the words were somewhat unfinished and was happy for me to have a go at). It's the fourth time I've sung it in public, also unusually for me - at Morris, then at Sharp's, then at Tooting. People have responded well to it; it's a good song. I sang it particularly last night because it was Tim's last time at folk club before leaving for Devon.

Full set list here.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

a time to murder and create

On Saturday 25th February I finished A Time To Murder And Create, the first crime novel I've read by Lawrence Block. I enjoyed it, and I'll certainly seek out more by him. Bethan had given it to me as a secondhand book present for our anniversary last year (we often give each other secondhand books as, or as part of, presents, particularly if we wouldn't have something physical to give on the day otherwise), and just picked pretty randomly as far as I can see (as they often are), other than being a crime novel. It was an American private detective one, quite old fashioned in style and structure (which I like), though being from the mid-70s it of course had the marvellous improvement upon older novels of being cruder. (To, of course, no benefit in general and to detriment as far as I was concerned. It seems to me that novels in the years post sexual/verbal/thematic liberation (esp 70s) often appear today to be overtly and grossly sexist, and in fact much more so than older fiction. It's interesting that's what we did with our liberation, or what our liberation revealed. This book - from the 70s - isn't a prime example of that, but it put me in mind of it.)

Saturday, 11 February 2017

trent's last case (1952 film)

On Friday evening we all watched Trent's Last Case - the 1952 version, starring Michael Wilding, Margaret Lockwood and Orson Welles. It was fine, though not as good as the original book by EC Bentley, which I read many years ago and was very good (it was, as I remember, written to make fun of detective fiction yet ended up becoming a classic of detective fiction). The film told the story pretty faithfully, I suspect, but just didn't have a lot of life and wit to it.

Friday, 10 February 2017

duke's hall - academy symphony orchestra do strauss

On Friday 20th January I went with Bethan's dad to a lunchtime concert at the Duke's Hall in the Royal Academy of Music. The Academy Symphony Orchestra did a programme of three different Strausses - Johann II, Josef and Richard (with a clap-along encore of the Radetzky March by Johann Sr). We enjoyed it.

the fly in the ointment

On Wednesday I finished reading The Fly In The Ointment by Alice Thomas Ellis. I enjoyed the writing, and the voice, but it wasn't my favourite of hers. I'd probably have appreciated it more if I'd read it closer to the other two in the trilogy telling the same story with different narrators, remembering the other views, building the fuller picture of the story. I'm realising I'm running out of her fiction to read; a couple that I have on my 'still to read' list I'm pretty sure I've read already, but a long time ago; and they're so short that it's not difficult to read them again. And I like very much her dry sense of humour.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

she moved through the fair, and the major

When I was looking out information on She Moved Through The Fair (before singing it at folk club - links below), I found out, among other things, that one of the earliest recordings of it (if not the earliest, commercial at least) is the one I've got by Father Sydney MacEwan - and that the piano on that is being played by the Major, Duncan Morison. Recorded in London on Wednesday 18th March, 1936, apparently.

Monday, 6 February 2017

twilight: breaking dawn - part 1

This evening Maisie and I watched Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, another of the cheap DVDs she got at Cex the other day. It's the fourth film of five, the first half of the fourth book. As with a lot of these 'two films out of one book', it was rather slow and uneventful, and not really a film in its own right. Probably my least favourite of them so far; they started relatively well, I thought. Definitely my turn to choose the next film or two.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

iain d campbell

The announcement of Iain D's death on the Free Church website is here.

Donnie Foot's obituary on the We Love Stornoway website is here.

Torcuil Crichton's blogpost remembering him is here.

On the day of the announcement of his death I wrote on Facebook:
I spoke to Iain two weeks ago when he was down in London preaching. He seemed as well as I did.
He was a couple of years ahead of me in secondary school. I look at him, I see me, in some ways.
It is sobering, and food for thought.
I am thinking very much of his family, extended family and friends. And of Iain. It's terrible news.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

the oxford song book

On Tuesday - folk club night - Ginny and I were talking about when we'd first heard folk songs.

The first I heard in the outside world was probably Steeleye Span's version of All Around My Hat (released in 1975, I see). In my home world, Gaelic songs were always around me from earliest times, and also Scottish and Irish folk - I certainly knew of The Corries in primary school (including the fact that we had a tape of theirs), and for some reason The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem stick in my mind - someone must have had their record.

In primary school, as well as learning gaelic songs for the Mod in choirs and action songs (little plays featuring two or three songs, all in Gaelic), for music we sang from one particular songbook which I remembered as being mainly folk songs from the British Isles and America, a small blue book, I thought, possibly called The Oxford Songbook.

My mother confirmed that it was indeed The Oxford Song Book, and pointed me to it here online. The first few pages of the PDF are blank, but it does start to appear, with the alphabetical table of contents coming in at p17, and my goodness, it is indeed quite a collection. My childhood comes swimming up before me.

polyphony down the pub

On Wednesday 18th January I went to Polyphony Down The Pub for the fourth time, but it seems I've never managed to blog any of my visits. I'm not sure where I first heard about it, but I think I heard about it right at the start. Like LGQ and Morris, it was started by someone who wanted something like this to exist, so started it, in this case Kevin O'Neill. An evening of singing polyphony, not as a regular choir and not rehearsing towards a performance, but just singing a number of pieces (which have been made available in advance) two or three times. It's a great thing. And like LGQ & Morris, led by a lovely conductor. Obviously the secret to finding a choir with a great conductor - one who believes you get the best out of people by encouragement, enjoyment and good humour - is finding a choir set up by the conductor because they wanted a choir like that to exist.

legally blonde 2

This evening we all watched Legally Blonde 2, another DVD which Maisie bought at Cex for 50p. I had enjoyed the first one, and Reese Witherspoon was back for this one, but it was nowhere near as good; not as charming or as witty, and a good deal more preposterous. Disappointing, but not surprisingly so.

Friday, 3 February 2017

the voyage of the space beagle

On Sunday 30th October I finished The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A E Van Vogt. It was okay. It may be most notable now for the fact that the film Alien is supposed to have drawn on it, sufficiently that I think money had to change hands, but I'd say that's a bit harsh: there are certainly elements and themes from two of the episodes in the book which you can also see in Alien, but I wouldn't have said they were sufficiently distinctive to have never appeared anywhere else or to be copyrightable.

gunning for god

On Monday 5th September I finished Gunning For God by John Lennox, an apologetics book which I appreciated a lot.

the crack-up

On Tuesday 9th August I finished The Crack-Up and other pieces and stories (a Penguin edition) by F Scott Fitzgerald. It didn't take me long; it's a thin volume of autobiographical pieces and some fiction presumably chosen for their autobiographical nature. It was interesting but nothing much more than that; perhaps at the time his being so revelatory was striking (though he's not that revelatory, given what is known about his life at the time, especially in relation to his drinking).

world war z

On Saturday 13th August I finished World War Z by Max Brooks, which I liked a lot - probably one of my favourite reads for quite a while.

the devil wears prada

We're all watching The Devil Wears Prada this evening. While we were settling down to watch it, Bethan said, 'I don't know if I've watched this before.' I said, 'Well, I've seen it. I can't imagine I watched it on my own.' Bethan said, 'I can.' Maisie said, 'I can.' They were, of course, quite right. It is perfectly imaginable. I'm enjoying it the second time, as I did the first time. Second Anne Hathaway film this week; she is good; Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci too, of course.

the four loves

On Tuesday I finished re-reading The Four Loves by C S Lewis on Tuesday. I'd been prompted just before Christmas to reread it, when I remembered and read again a Waterstones interview with Sarah Perry in which she talked about the theme of different kinds of love, in particular friendship love, in The Essex Serpent, and which I found very helpful. This was the article. I'm pretty sure I'd read at the time of her previous book, After Me Comes The Flood, that one of the themes of that was different kinds of love, which had also put me in mind of The Four Loves at the time.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

morris folk club - january

At the Morris Folk Club on Tuesday I sang The Loch Tay Boat Song (from The Corries' version) and She Moved Through The Fair (from Father Sydney MacEwan's version, with Duncan Morison on the piano, from 1936).

I hadn't planned to do The Loch Tay Boat Song, but it was a bit noisy through in the main pub, so the song I'd planned to do was too quiet. It quietened down later.

They both went fine, I think, though I was probably pushing a bit too loud on the former because I was worried about the volume, so it wasn't the best ever.

Full set list here.

'nonsense. she's always looked like that.'

One of my favourite lines about what love is like is near the end of the film of Nanny McPhee (written by Emma Thompson), when Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald) the scullery maid returns, having been transformed into a beautiful lady in the care of Great Aunt Adelaide to the amazement of everyone - or almost everyone.

'Are you sure that's Evangeline?', says someone, 'It doesn't look anything like her.'

'Nonsense,' says Mr Brown (Colin Firth). 'She's always looked like that.'

I am a big softy. And, of course, he marries her.

bride wars

Maisie and I watched Bride Wars on Monday evening while Bethan was out at choir; she'd bought the DVD at Cex on Saturday (for 50p). I wasn't looking forward to it - though I've liked Anne Hathaway in everything I've seen her in - but it was better than I'd expected; it was less nasty and more nuanced than I'd feared it would be.

Monday, 30 January 2017


In October I tweeted, 'Loved ones move into dangerous lands when the restraint of understanding suicide's selfishness & impact is untied by "better off without".' This with a retweet of @TWLOHA's 'Your family is not better off without you. Your friends are not better off without you.', which linked to this article.

In December, in a sequence of tweets, I said:
- Have often wondered when thinking about suicide as a concept becomes 'contemplating' it, and how you recognise the dangerous shifting point.
- Is imagining a suicide note in the same way you might imagine a career-ending, send-to-all email 'contemplating' it?
- Is thinking about methods of suicide in the way you might imagine ways you might 'go on the run' if you had to 'contemplating' it?
- Would such thoughts be cathartic, or do they have to be expressed to be that? Or are they simply signs of an active imagination?

Earlier this month, I did a Twitter poll tweet, and got this result:
- Poll: Ever thought 'I could just step in front of this bus/train and it would all be over'?
56% Yes, doesn't everybody?
00% Yes, a very bad sign
44% No
9 votes

A couple of friends asked if I was okay. To one I said 'I'm ok thx! Often wonder (in so many ways!) to what extent I am normal, & it's nice to be reassured from time to time! :-)'. To the other I said, 'I need reassuring that for many it's A; hope for no one it's B; will appreciate the peaceful souls for whom it is C.'

Not a statistically significant poll, but reassured/glad/appreciative as detailed.

My internal disposition has never been sunny. Perhaps I do think about some things more than some others do. But I think, for me, talking about some things gives them a status or a reality that they don't deserve and they become 'a thing'. (Archetypal male, bottling things up, one might diagnose...)

And also the thought of talking about some things (for me, not in general) has always feel grossly 'me too, look at me' drama queeny, when I know people are properly troubled with such issues and I'm sure I am not in the same way.

I have - as above - often wondered what constitutes 'contemplating suicide', and the distinction between a healthy imagination and an unhealthy intention. Because I think it's something I've thought about a lot but never 'contemplated' in a clinical sense.

I'm not sure at what point one - or one's friends - should worry about it. But I don't think I've ever reached that point. And saying this out loud is probably no bad thing.

Friday, 27 January 2017


On Saturday evening, while Bethan and her dad were at the RFH for Beethoven's Fidelio, Maisie and I watched Thor. We weren't that impressed - just another superhero movie, without much substance but a lot of action, which gets rather tedious and unengaging. Sufficiently unimpressed that we deleted the sequel, which we had also recorded, knowing that we wouldn't fancy watching it.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

newport street gallery; beaconsfield gallery

On Saturday 21st January we - with Bethan's dad - went to the Newport Street Gallery, which is Damien Hirst's gallery. Bethan walks past it on the way to work, and thought her dad would be interested in the building. It's a changing exhibition, I think from his own collection. The temporary exhibition - which filled all the rooms was of Gavin Turk, and was surprisingly interesting, though very much in the modern 'artist as subject' way of things. The most impressive things were the painted bronze sculptures of ordinary objects, like sleeping bags, which were so realistically rendered, though the main thought it prompted for us at least was why he didn't use that ability on more interesting and lovelier things. That choice is presumably saying something, of course. It's a modern well-designed building, well-staffed and free to entry, so that we wondered how it worked financially. There is a restaurant, and a shop with very expensive art in it, and perhaps there's venue hire also.

On the way we also went into the small Beaconsfield Gallery, which we happened to pass, and went back there afterwards for a light lunch. There was nothing particular in the gallery (one room closed, the other some collaborative pottery workshop not going on while we were there), and the cafe was vegetarian and slow, but significant as part of the artistic/gentrification developments going on in the area in recent decades. Never heard of it, but it's been there since 1995!

judges and ruth

On Sunday 22nd January I finished the IVP Tyndale commentary on Judges and Ruth by Arthur E Cundall and Leon Morris (I expect there's a newer version in the series written by others). The Ruth was fine, the Judges pretty good - especially the introduction, which was very helpful on the geography and disposition of the land and the tribes, and related theology and implications.

michael palin diaries 1969-1979

On Sunday 22nd January I finished Michael Palin's Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years. They were fine, but wouldn't have been very interesting if I hadn't been interested in that stage in his career; they're not interesting enough as diaries and writing in themselves (if you know what I mean). I don't expect I will go on and read the next volume. They did make me resolve to read/watch/listen to his output from the 60s and 70s, though.

There were a couple of pertinent passages on the original Common Market referendum which I shall try to put on here, and an interesting para of George Harrison's thoughts on his fellow Beatles, ditto.

Sunday, 22 January 2017


I think all Leodhasachs know Leodhasach men quite a lot like Donald Trump (I think that's part of our embarrassment and shame at his heritage - we know the type); indeed, some of us are even related to a few of them. But we are rarely daft enough to take them as seriously as they want to be taken, or to give them any actual power...

If it were anyone normal whose mum had been from Lewis and who was now the US President, we'd be so proud, I think. Indeed, if it had been his sister we would have been.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

'install as normal'

Favourite unhelpful instructions for a while. Took delivery of a new sofa today. Instructions for attaching the feet: a tiny, illegible illustration, and the text 'Turn the sofa over, remove the feet and bolts from the pocket and install as normal'. Got to love 'install as normal'.

(As with a number of recent posts, this is me copying over an old Facebook post before deleting it. (Ditto Twitter.) This one from September.)

new email

That thing when you see you've got a new email come in and you think ooh I wonder who this is from and when you look it's the reminder email you sent yourself twenty seconds ago and had already forgotten about.
I'm only 49, you know.


There is a joke Nirvana t-shirt which has the Nirvana logo but a picture of Hanson.

What I'd like is a t-shirt which has the Nirvana logo but a picture of Bananarama.

(Original line-up, obvs.)

What? Yes, a little lightheaded, actually, but I think I'm just hungry.

perceptive boys

The back of an old Puffin edition of Jane Gardam's A Long Way From Verona indicates that it is 'Highly recommended for girls, and perceptive boys, of eleven and over.' (I know this via Andy Miller on Twitter.)

I could have done with this line for most of my life. 'No, I'm not a big girl's blouse, actually, I'm a perceptive boy.'

Although, obviously, using such a line would have led to quite the beating.

men sought for quest

If you seek bold, reckless and desperate men to join you on your quest, whatever it may be, you would have found such men shopping in Stornoway on Christmas Eve on the supposed one-day lull between Storm Barbara and Storm Conor.

a different corner

I was sorry to hear of George Michael's death at Christmastime. My favourite George Michael song was always A Different Corner (though I know more of the Young Gun lyrics than one reasonably should). It was No 1, I think, but the only time I remember ever hearing it after that when I wasn't playing it myself was while having a workday lunch in a pub with Cathi Thacker and/or Sarah Mayers up in Bletchley. Sarah, of course, is far too long gone.

Here it is on Youtube.

And if all that there is is this fear of being used,
I should go back to being lonely and confused.
If I could, I would, I swear.

Friday, 13 January 2017

nice fish

On New Year's Eve we all got day seats for the matinee of Nice Fish, at the Harold Pinter Theatre. We all enjoyed it.

funny women

I don't need any examples of funny women to prove that women can be funny, because why in the world would I think that women couldn't be funny?

a murder of quality

On Monday 20th June 2016 I finished John le Carre's A Murder Of Quality, which was quite good.

skigersta phonebox and drumming snipe

Here is the Google Streetview of the Skigersta phonebox.

It was here that my granny waited on a particular 1967 night for a call from Aberdeen with news of a birth.

Looking at it, there's every chance that that's literally the same box. Who had a phone in their house then? Even when I was in secondary school I had friends who didn't have a phone in their house. Now it's the rare person who doesn't have a mobile phone, and we may be moving back into a time when people don't have a phone in their house.

That technological development is perhaps shaded by the fact that resources like Streetview mean you can see a 360 degree of that view - and most views in the developed world where there's a road - anywhere you are any time you like. (The view, as I write, is from August 2009. I don't know whether the link will survive changes, but it'll be findable again.)

As my granny waited she was accompanied by the sound of the snipe drumming, a sound she would always associate with that night.

I was familiar with that sound long before I knew this story, and before I knew what the sound was, exactly (it was clearly made by a bird, flying in the dusk or dark rather than daylight). It's made by the snipe's tail feathers. It's my favourite and most evocative sound of my Hebridean years.

Here is a Soundcloud clip which gives a very clear idea of the sound.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

the hobbit parts two and three

On Saturday 15 February 2014 I went in the afternoon to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the only place it was still showing in London that day, one of the Odeon Leicester Square Studio screens.

Texted Douglas about it, but referring to the trilogy really, 'Tries to turn simple children's adventure into prologue to Lord Of The Rings and so delivers neither successfully. I would have enjoyed them both if they had simply tried to make them as separate films.'

On Tuesday 30 December 2014, in the evening, I went by myself, no one else in the family being interested since the first one, to see the final part of the Hobbit trilogy at Cineworld West India Quay. Much the same thoughts as the second. I still may one day get the full three-DVD versions for all the deleted scenes and extras, if they're anything as good as the LOTR ones.

marian keyes

The utterer of the finest opinion ever expressed on BBC Radio 4's A Good Read - 'Nothing wrong with chips' -, Marian Keyes can be relied upon.