Saturday, 30 December 2017


On Boxing Day - Tuesday 26th - we watched Big, on a 'free with the News of the World' DVD in our holiday home, and enjoyed it. I saw it when it first came out, and not since, but it has stood the test of time. Unlike the News of the World.


On Thursday 21st December we all watched Parkland on the digibox, a historical drama about the killings of John F Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, done in handheld documentary style and with an impression of historical accuracy without putting forward any particular theories or spin on the facts they present. I thought it was pretty well done (not least the hospital scenes, which gave the film its name), and we all enjoyed it.

charity carols with morris folk choir

On Tuesday 19th December Morris Folk Choir sang carols at Dalston Junction station in aid of Women For Refugee Women, a charity Anja is associated with. It seemed to go fairly well (although I couldn't hear ourselves very well), and although it didn't seem very busy we raised around five hundred pounds. I was playing the guitar for most of it, rather than singing, which was a change, but I got on alright, I think; I did practice quite a bit; it was the most sustained stretch of public guitar playing I'd indulged in since university.

There's a photo here that choir member Sarah posted on Twitter.

dressing gown

I am officially old. Not because I turned fifty this year - though I did - but because I asked my wife for an item of clothing as a Christmas present.

But the fact that while wearing it I feel like a Jedi - a cosy, cosy Jedi - means I am also officially twelve.

(An old university flatmate recently wondered where my old dressing gown from those days was. I realised it was - still is - the one hanging on the back of the bedroom door. I thought then that it probably wasn't too much of an extravagance to replace it, over thirty years later.)

Saturday, 16 December 2017

school photo

This is my sixth year class photo:

pistols for two

On Saturday I finished Georgette Heyer's Pistols For Two, which I enjoyed.

Friday, 15 December 2017

star wars: the last jedi

On Thursday 14th December - the official opening day, I think - Maisie and I saw the 5.30pm 3D showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Barbican cinema 2. It wasn't bad.

les miserables

On Thursday 14th December, while doing Christmas cards, I watched the second half of the film version of Les Miserables - I'd watched the first half a few months ago. It was very well done, as well done as it could have been, with good performances, but it was quite intense, being long and sung all the way through, and I'm not that keen on the musical itself in the first place. It's one of those musicals that re-uses the same song or tune within it, and that always seems unimaginative to me. I saw the stage musical in my first couple of years in London, and I thought it was alright; I thought the same about the film, really. It doesn't encourage me to read the book.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

douglas adams and the internet

People *will* keep saying Douglas Adams predicted the internet with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but he didn't. If he predicted anything, it was the CD-ROM. Remember them? #thingsthatannoymedisproportionately

Fixed, finite in size, closed system with no external link beyond itself, editions rather than continuous live updating. Encarta Encyclopedia CD-ROM.

(Jon W replied to this note posted on FB that he predicted the kindle, and that's closer to the truth.)

Friday, 8 December 2017

mahalia, christy and bryn

Doing some sorting out this morning. Unearthed some handwritten sheets from university days where I'd worked out words and chords for some songs (back in the days when you had to work out words and chords for songs, unless you had the time and money to track down and buy the sheet music (sometimes the words might be on the tape/lp, but not that often).

I've recycled most of them (because of course you can get everything online these days), but I have held onto my transcribing of Christy Moore's 29-verse version of Little Musgrave (which my flatmate Graeme had on a home tape compilation) - coming not-very-soon to a folk club at a safe distance from most of you (I had worked out an accompaniment involving just C and F, which was slightly different for the two different verse tunes, but I probably won't bother with that if I ever do sing it). Here's that version by Christy Moore.

I also worked out a version of chords (and had a brave go at deciphering all the words) of Mahaliah Jackson's He's My Light, which I haven't heard for years. You can't fault the lad's taste, but you might question the realism of his ambition. I was able to sing it pretty accurately (it turns out) in the kitchen just now, but I can't imagine I'll be singing that in public any time soon, or ever. I've held onto the chords and words all the same (I can probably google the words, and find out the words for that line I never managed to work out). Here's the marvellous Mahaliah.

And I also kept my working out of What Kind Of Love Is This?, a lovely song by Bryn Haworth. It's from Wings Of The Morning, which is a lovely album that I haven't heard for a long time either. Along with Larry Norman, Bryn Haworth was the first Christian music performer I heard albums of that I thought stood up as good music in their own right.

Wings Of The Morning was probably the first Christian album I bought (on cassette); I haven't bought many since (though of course I have plenty Christian songs which are not considered 'Christian music', not least in the folk, bluegrass and country sections of my collection).

The Christian music world remains largely a mystery to me, and seems dominated by 'worship music performed at a gig with a live audience' (performed/played audience/congregation, gig/service - don't get me started) rather than music artists recording actual songs. I don't know where to start, and amn't very motivated to start anyway. Perhaps I should ask my colleagues...

who really wrote the bible

According to Amazon UK, Harry Styles wrote the Bible. Amazon have him listed as the author of 517 books of all kinds.

I was looking at that ESV listing on Amazon for some reason, and there it was... I think someone has supplied a name (perhaps others are used too) for the author field for books without named authors. Perhaps an internal joke that's gone external, perhaps someone's last day...

his girl friday

On Monday evening we all, with granny, watched His Girl Friday - second time for me. It's a great film. So fast talking. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell are great.

Thursday, 7 December 2017


On Saturday afternoon - after a morning at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, and before we went to The Diner for a meal - we all (including granny) went to Odeon Covent Garden to see Wonder, the film of the R J Palacio novel, which Maisie and I had both read and enjoyed. Maisie was keen to see the film, and it was well done - we all enjoyed it.

morley chamber choir - music for advent

On Friday 1st December Maisie and I went to see Bethan and Morley Chamber Choir doing their O Magnum Mysterium - Music For Advent concert at St Mary Aldermary. Laura and Lientjie were there too, and came back to ours after. It was a range of short seasonal pieces from across the ages, unaccompanied except for a longer Bach cantata at the end. It was good, and I enjoyed the Palestrina (the earliest piece) the most.

morris folk club - november

November's Morris Folk Club was on Tuesday 28th. I sang two Corries songs, Roving Journeyman (which I hadn't done before) and Jamie Raeburn (which I'd done at Sharp's before). They went fine. The full setlist is here.

the suppliant women dressing room reading - five 'single women' novels

I had the idea that we might be spending quite a bit of time hanging about in the dressing room at the Young Vic during the two-week run of The Suppliant Women. In amongst talking and checking social media and watching the monitor, I thought I might (without being too anti-social) get a bit of reading done, of books that wouldn't need too intense concentration and which I could pick up and put down; and I thought it would be interesting to try and read on a 'single women' theme from among the novels I already had. And so it was that I read five novels in two weeks, my most productive reading fortnight for a long time.

On Wednesday 15th November I finished Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926); on Saturday 18th November I finished Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means (1963); on Thursday 23rd November I finished Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey (1947); on Friday 24th I finished Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, by Winifred Watson (1938); and on Sunday 26th November I finished Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie (1979).

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

the suppliant women - twitter

Some things I learned from my saved Twitter searches on #thesuppliantwomen, #suppliantwomen and 'suppliant women':

- almost everyone in the results who reviewed or saw The Suppliant Women thought it was very good, unreservedly, and such results (along with results from people in or associated with it) formed 98% of the results;

- some people are ready to undertake and encourage boycott of or protest against something in a way which would have the greatest, negative, impact on those who you would imagine they think they are supporting;

- some people think that theatres' volunteer community projects should weed out anyone who is or wants to be an actor, because letting them work for free is exploitative;

- some people think that theatres' volunteer community projects should weed out anyone who is middle class, because they are not real or proper members of the community;

- it is in many cases better to imagine that Twitter doesn't exist and so you have never heard that opinion from that random person you don't know (and spend no more time thinking about it - and certainly not replying to it);

- it is far too easy to spend time and emotional energy thinking about the 2% of tweets that should be dismissed and not the 98% that should be remembered; this is to be resisted. Here's to the 98%!

the suppliant women - sat 25 november - final day

On Saturday we had the last two performances of The Suppliant Women. They seemed to go well.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

the suppliant women - fri 24 november

Second-last evening performance of The Suppliant Women last night. Seemed to go well. Michelle came, and enjoyed it. We are very aware that the end is nigh; there is a mixture of being sad that this great experience is nearly over, and if not gladness then at least a sense that next week we this massive consumption of time and energy will be over and we will return to friends and things neglected. We awake to find that Christmas Day is a month away...

I finished Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day last night, and will make a start on Miss Marple's Final Cases today.

Friday, 24 November 2017

the suppliant women - thu 23 november

Another performance of The Suppliant Women on Thursday. It seemed to go well again. I have reached the moment where there is nothing to add; I have reached the complete routine; perhaps it would be thus now if this run were two weeks longer, until the final weekend.

Nothing to add, except to have further reports on books completed in the time of waiting; yesterday I started Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, having finished Miss Pym Disposes; the rate I'm rattling through it, I might get started on a fifth 'single woman' book of the run tomorrow.

Of course, we have now in reality reached the final weekend.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

the suppliant women - wed 22 november

Back in the company of The Suppliant Women on Wednesday evening. It seemed to go well again.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

the suppliant women - tue 21 november - in the audience

On Tuesday I went to see The Suppliant Women. It really is as good as they say it is.

the suppliant women - mon 20 november

Monday night was the first night of The Suppliant Women's second week. People seemed to come back very much up for it, and it seemed to go well.

Monday, 20 November 2017

the suppliant women - sat 18 november

Saturday was the first Suppliant Women matinee day. Both performances went pretty well, I think, the evening better than the afternoon.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

the suppliant women - fri 17 november

We had our first post-press-night performance last night. It seemed to go fine.

Friday, 17 November 2017

the suppliant women - cast and creative list

I'm going to type in all the names from the Suppliant Women cast-sheet, so that in five years' time when I'm wondering where I've seen this or that person on stage or name in a programme before, I'll be reminded that it was here. Oh yes, I shall say, I was in a critically-acclaimed production with them a few years ago.

The Suppliant Women: Abigail Glasser, Marni Ibrahim-addo, Anjelica Serra, Jennifer-Jane Benjamin, Hsieh Chiao-Lin, Etta Marcus-Pooley, Hana Oliveira, Hermione Leitch, Iris Hobson-Mazur, Janessa Bobby, Jesse Bateson, Kaysha Woollery, Kristen Barrett-Ralph, Kyra Ansine, Laura Fernandes Sergio, Lois Mulvenna, Malinda Smith, Millie Lynch Bailey, Minne Cunningham, Olumide Olorunfemi, Poppy Holmes, Cilla Lafayette Kwabi, Savanna Ayoade-Greaves, Shayde Sinclair, Taryn Eva, Tizeoa Kistoo-Sancho, Toto Bruin.

The Soldiers/Egyptians/Citizens: Denneil Dunbar, Jack Stacey, JD Hunt, Omari Biriye, Neil Penlington, Adrian David Paul, Nick Dore, Raymond Sichilima.

The Citizens: Amy Wells, Chris McGoldrick, Elaine Parsons, Emma Mee, Fiona White, Helen Bachrich, Iain MacDonald, Jane Stephenson, Joyce Abosi, Louise Norman, Roxceina Hibbert, Ruby Wright, David Gregory, Danny Kodicek, Jo Gemmell, Bryony Comley-Ford, Ruth Cassidy, Emmy Broomfield, Helen Monaghan, Noriko Furukawa, Lara Toovey-Roussel, Vanessa Doidge.

Lead actors: Oscar Batterham, Omar Ebrahim, Gemma May.
Musicians: Callum Armstrong / Barnaby Brown, Ben Burton.

Direction Ramin Gray, Music John Browne, Choreography Sasha Milavic Davies, Design Lizzie Clachan, Light Charles Balfour, Vocal Leader Mary King, Assistant Direction Alice Malin.

the suppliant women - thu 16 november - press/opening night

We had our press night / official opening night last night. It seemed to go well.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

the suppliant women - wed 15th november - third preview

Our third preview of the Suppliant Women last night. Seemed to go well again.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

the suppliant women - tue 14th november - second preview

We had our second preview last night. In summary, I think it went well, and better than the first preview.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

the suppliant women - mon 13th november - first preview

Our first preview last night. I think it went pretty well. Our bit was over in a flash.

Monday, 13 November 2017

the suppliant women - tech rehearsal 2 and dress rehearsal

On Saturday for the afternoon tech part 2, the call was revised to 4pm for citizens, and we joined in the tech at our point.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

the suppliant women - on-stage rehearsal and tech rehearsal 1

On Friday evening the Suppliant Women citizens were back in rehearsal; Friday evening was the completion of the first rehearsal on the stage and then, after a break, part 1 of the tech run-through (part 2 of which would be on Saturday afternoon).

Thursday, 9 November 2017

the suppliant women - final rehearsals - first full run-through

On Wednesday evening - last night - the citizens were called for 6pm. First the men had a run-through, with a particular focus on establishing voices for parts. It settled on unison on the bass part, until 'We don't know the answer no', where we split into bass and tenor until 'marriage is always better than war' (with permission to go up instead of down to the unison D of 'but one thing we do know', which for me at least made the note much easier to find, so I was glad of that), and then if we wanted to we could stay on the tenor from there to the end if we preferred, but we had to stick with it to the end, to keep the texture, not swop in and out (I did prefer, and will stick with it).

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

the suppliant women - final rehearsals - Monday

Monday evening was our first scheduled 6-10.30pm rehearsal call, but we got an email during the day to say that for the citizens it was shortened to 8-9.30pm, which was a nice bonus - home for dinner first, then out.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

the suppliant women - approaching the full-on phase

As we were approaching the full-on phase - a full week of rehearsals then two weeks of performances - I was talking over the weekend with Bethan (and Hei Mun) about what the professional theatrical lifestyle must be like.

the suppliant women - fifth rehearsal

We had our fifth Suppliant Women rehearsal for the citizens on Saturday. We were called for ten until one, but released at twelve in the end - the soldiers were kept, I guess for another hour, and I expect the young women were there all day.

Friday, 3 November 2017

guards! guards!

On Monday 2nd October I finished Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. I thought it wasn't bad.


On Wednesday 12th July I finished Thraxas by Martin Scott, which wasn't too bad. It was a slightly odd experience in that it did exactly what I had been looking for - a detective story in a fantasy world - and did it pretty well, fully realised, but I wasn't that keen on the end result.

a day by the sea

On Monday 23rd October Bethan and I went to the Southwark Playhouse to see a rare revival of A Day By The Sea, by N C Hunter. It was a good play well acted.

the suppliant women - fourth rehearsal

We had the fourth Suppliant Women rehearsal for the citizens on Saturday.

morris folk club - october

It was Morris Folk Club on Tuesday. It was Halloween, and nearest Club to Remembrance Day, so a few songs on those themes, and plenty on neither.

I was going to sing Willing Conscript by Tom Paxton, which did tie in with Remembrance Day. I've sung it before at Sharp's, at which point I thought it was a Pete Seeger song, since it was on a CD of his I had and because it's a more or less pacifist song, with the refrain of having to learn to kill 'because I've never killed before'. Not being a pacifist, it provokes double feelings in me: on the one hand, the awfulness of having to teach people to kill other people; on the other, great respect for those who force themselves to overcome that natural aversion in order to do what is believed to be - and often definitively is - necessary for what is right. (I had had in mind to say something along those lines, but I was first up and it was pretty noisy through the curtains in the pub, so I didn't.)

I looked up Wikipedia to see if there were any other anniversaries on 31st October which might be marked by song choices in addition to Halloween or Remembrance Day. I discovered by great coincidence that 31st October was in fact Tom Paxton's birthday - this one his 80th.

I also found out that it was Larry Mullen Jr's birthday. I had had in the back of my mind for a long time that Running To Stand Still was a song that might be doable at folk club; I checked and found that I knew the words more or less (it's only three verses, and I've been singing along with it for thirty years), and I had a couple of days to lock in the one or two it turned out I hadn't been singing right (which is often the way), and I think it came off alright unaccompanied.

The full setlist is here. It is striking how many female performers there were. I said on the night, you could go far and long before you found another folk club singers night where seven women in a row sang (and apologised for ending that sequence).

Looking at my iTunes folders, I think Running To Stand Still may be the 86th different song I have sung at a folk club. I wonder if I'll sing my hundredth in 2018?

Monday, 30 October 2017

the phoenix returns home

On Wednesday 25th October we all went to Sadler's Wells to see the Chinese National Peking Opera Company performing The Phoenix Returns Home. I was glad to have gone, but will be glad not to go to another Peking Opera.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

all out war

Today I finished reading All Out War by Tim Shipman, the political editor of the Sunday Times. It was a well written and very thoroughly researched telling of the story of Brexit, full of sources who were 'in the room'.

As the quote from Andrew Sparrow in the Guardian on the back of the paperback says, 'A superb work of reporting and storytelling... sets a new benchmark for the writing of contemporary political history'.

Maisie had given me the hardback as a present earlier this year, and I was part-way through that when the 'revised and updated' paperback edition came out, so I borrowed that from the library and read it from the start (I had to renew it a couple of times).

Here's the library book:

Saturday, 28 October 2017

the suppliant women - third rehearsal

On Saturday 14th October I had my third Suppliant Women rehearsal, in the afternoon. It was the rehearsal when it all started to feel very real.

the europa report

On Friday afternoon Maisie and I watched The Europa Report, which I'd recorded some time ago. A space science fiction movie of the kind I like - a story closely focussed around the crew inside the spaceship, rather than cgi spectacle and action - and I liked it a lot.

tower bridge exhibition

On Friday afternoon Maisie and I went to the Tower Bridge Exhibition - at least my third time there, Maisie thinks it's her first, which it may be, or at least the first she remembered. It was my first visit since they put in the glass floor sections, I think, which we both enjoyed, but Bethan would have hated. There's really not that much else to the visit - high walks and the engine room - and it doesn't take long.

Our tickets:

thor: ragnarok

During the day on Thursday Maisie and I went to the Genesis cinema to see Thor: Ragnarok, which we both enjoyed. It was a superhero film with a proper, witty script with a proper story and not too much tedious cgi fighting and battles. This was the third in the series, and we hadn't seen the second, which didn't matter, but it'll be worth seeing if it's like this one. You do lose track of the many superhero movies that have come out in recent years, and in particular which are worth seeing or not worth seeing. It was a superhero comedy more than action or drama, and comedy of character and dialogue rather than broader stuff.


tom paley memorial

On Tuesday evening I went to the memorial event for Tom Paley at Cecil Sharp House, which was good to go to. It started at 5 with tunes session and milling about, but ran formally from 5.30-7.30, with performances and tributes from quite a number of people. I was glad to be there.

(It was the second memorial event I've been at; the first was for Simon Jeffes many years ago at St Martin's in the Fields, which we got a postal invite to as we were on the Penguin Cafe Orchestra mailing list. Still the days of post as primary means of communication rather than email and internet, I think. I see from Wikipedia that he died in December 1997 so I guess the event was in early 1998. I most remember from that Kathryn Tickell playing.)

Michelle, Ginny, Tanja and Rachel from choir were all there too - we arrived at various times. We had thought to go to Sharp's Folk Club afterwards downstairs (the memorial event was held in the main hall, and was well attended), but it was full, so we (along with Don and his girlfriend, who had arrived in time for the folk club) went to the Spread Eagle for a drink instead.

newport street gallery - dan colen

On Tuesday afternoon we all went to Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery and saw an exhibition of Dan Colen's work. It was unremarkable.

It was our second visit to the gallery; the first time it was an exhibition of Gavin Turk's work. The gallery is free, and designed to exhibit things from Damien Hirst's collection (I don't know if it's always all stuff belonging to him), which is nice of him; I don't know how it's financially sustainable - there is a shop selling properly pricey artworks, and an expensive restaurant, and I guess you can probably hire it out. The building itself won an architectural award.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

design museum

On Monday we all went to the new Design Museum for the first time (it's half term), which is now in what was the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington. They had a free section, which they didn't used to have, so we went to that but not the paying exhibition. It was quite interesting. The ceiling of the building was one of the most interesting things - they had preserved that from the old building, which they had otherwise knocked down and rebuilt.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

tim jones and the dark lanterns, and the foxglove trio

On Saturday 14th October I was at the Unity Hall on Upper Street, with Michelle and Ginny, for The Foxglove Trio's album launch gig, where the support was Tim Jones and the Dark Lanterns, which of course was why we were there really. I've seen both before, and enjoyed both, and they were both good this time too.

Monday, 16 October 2017

morris folk choir - mall galleries gig

On Saturday 14th October Morris Folk Choir did a lunchtime concert at the Mall Galleries. It went pretty well.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

blade runner - the final cut

On Thursday night and then on Friday morning I rewatched Blade Runner - this time The Final Cut (on a cheap Fopp DVD I got some time ago) - in case I manage to see Blade Runner 2049 on the big screen. It was as good as I remembered.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

male response to sexism

'Don't just oppose sexism & sexual assault because you think of your daughter, but because you think of all women, even ones you don't like.'

- I tweeted this yesterday, hence its brevity. I could expand on it, but you get the gist. (It's relevant to a current news story, and some men's responses.) A female friend thanked me for it. I said, 'Thank you. Though it's upsetting that we live in a world where a man gets to be thanked for saying something that shd go w/out saying.' - with a quick supplementary: '(you know I'm upset with men of the world, not at all you. Oh, Twitter. xx)'.

applying logic inappropriately?

Here's a bit of an email exchange I had last week, following up a conversation. (I thought it was easier to just copy and paste than try to 'put in my own words' from scratch; hopefully it'll still make sense to me if I read it again in the future.)

From my email: 'I paused at the thought that you couldn't tell what people were thinking, you could only observe what they said and did. .... what, I wondered, was it that made me stop over this fairly unremarkable thought? I think it was this: that I was not applying the same rules to myself as I was applying to other people. That I think of my friend as kind - to take that example - because of what they say and do and how they do it, their behaviour and their words and their manner and their tone (including my perception based on these things that they are genuinely kind and not pretending), without knowing (or possibly even thinking about) what is going on in their head. My friend thinks of me as kind on exactly the same basis; but I have the advantage (or disadvantage) of knowing (or thinking I know) what is going on in my own head. Perhaps I should trust my friend's estimation that I am kind in the same way that I trust my estimation that my friend is kind.'

From the reply: 'think about .... how it might not necessarily be a 'provable' set of criteria that leads one person to think of another as, for example, 'kind' (it might, indeed, be far more subjective and instinctive than that), and how it seems that you might apply quite different 'rules' to how you see yourself than you would to others.'

The idea that one might be trying to apply rigorous logic inappropriately to realms in which rigorous logic is not appropriate, or applicable, or enough, is interesting, as is the idea that one is not applying them consistently. It seems relevant in the context of people and relationships; perhaps it is also relevant in the context of issues around faith.

(It also strikes me that the inconsistent application of rules to oneself and others is also an issue - perhaps a greater, more frequent danger - the other way round, where one might hypocritically hold people to standards which you yourself fail to meet, or assume/think the worst of people's motives and what's actually going on in their heads in relation to their words and actions.)

Monday, 9 October 2017

how they used to vote in lewis

I grew up in the world of Malcolm K Macmillan as the Labour MP for the Western Isles. ... I remember very clearly the routine that people like my father followed on the day of the election. The 7am bus from Portnaguran, almost always driven by the Nogish, carrying a substantial number of mill workers to Stornoway, would stop at Aird Primary School. They would all leave the bus and cast their vote. It was so elegantly simple and such an important act.
- From Matthew MacIver's My Portnaguran column in the October 2017 Rudhach

private eye cartoon - 'not irritating'

Cartoon from 22nd September Private Eye: one person saying to another, 'You're not allowed to find me irritating... I identify as not irritating'.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

on preparing to read melmoth the wanderer

I'm about to start reading Melmoth The Wanderer, by Charles Maturin, which I picked up a secondhand copy of last July (for £3.50, if the pencil price is to be believed) - an Oxford World's Classics edition from 1989.


I always think of my father when I do anything resembling DIY. Yesterday afternoon Bethan and I put a new fence panel up at the bottom of our garden in a space which wasn't quite big enough for it. I don't know if he would have laughed about the bodge job we made of it or been impressed by our ingenuity. A bit of both, I'd like to think.

swallows and amazons

On Saturday evening we watched together the 2016 film of Swallows and Amazons, which we all fairly enjoyed. It was better done than I'd expected, with an impressive adult cast. Bethan's the only one of the three of us who had read the book (a long time ago). Bethan said she didn't remember the spy plot, which surprised me as it seemed pretty central to the film, but looking it up on Wikipedia just now I was surprised to see that it was indeed completely introduced for the film, inspired by Arthur Ransome's own connection with Russia (and building on the idea that the relevant character in the book was based on himself).

Saturday, 7 October 2017

the suppliant women - second rehearsal

The second Suppliant Women rehearsal for the Citizens chorus was on Wednesday evening.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

tim keller - romans 1-7 for you

Today I finished Tim Keller's popular commentary, based on Bible study notes, Romans 1-7 For You. I read it in conjunction with the FF Bruce Tyndale commentary (old edition), while we've been doing Romans in housegroup, as I will now do with the second, 8-14 volume. It was helpful; it was particularly helpful using them together, approaching Romans with two different commentary styles.

Here's the book:

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

if I stay

On Monday 2nd October Maisie and I watched If I Stay, a teenage romantic drama, on DVD. Neither of us were very impressed; cliched, unconvincing, not that well written (the Wikipedia article suggests it wasn't well received).

Monday, 2 October 2017

a scrabble variation

Last night we tried a variation on the usual Scrabble rules.

Probably the main weakness with Scrabble is that the luck of the draw can give one person a bad hand for a long stretch (or throughout) and the other a good one.

We have a similar word game, Waddington's Dixit (no longer made, I think - we picked it up in a charity shop years ago), which gets round this problem by having the hands of letters laid out around the edge of the board and the players move around the board by dice, so the same hands are being played by all the players. This is the best feature of that game, but other differences from Scrabble aren't so good.

So last night we thought we'd try to introduce the sharing of hands to regular Scrabble. We set up three hands, visible to both of us, and a dice which each player rolled before their turn: roll 1-2 and use the left hand, 3-4 use the middle hand, 5-6 use the right hand.

So there's no uncertainty about whether you should save letters in the hope that you can use them better next turn; you play the best word you can from the set in front of you (still bearing in mind board position factors, of course); meantime the other player can look at the other two hands for possible words, since there's a 2 in 3 chance they'll be playing one of those hands next go.

The rest of the rules are as usual, except the game is over when one of the hands is cleaned out (or it is agreed that none of them are finishable) and there is no adding or subtracting of the remaining tile values from anyone's score.

I thought it went pretty well, Bethan less so, perhaps because I adapted to the new system more quickly and won... We'll give it another go.

We might introduce a time limit on turns, which is of course another main weakness of Scrabble, sitting around waiting for the other person to come up with their word.

(I shared this on Facebook, to see if anyone else had tried this. We'll see.)

Saturday, 30 September 2017

boudica - the globe

I went to see Boudica at Shakespeare's Globe this afternoon, and it was not bad.

Friday, 29 September 2017


On Monday evening, while Bethan was at choir, Maisie and I watched Gravity from the digibox. We both enjoyed it, though Maisie was (as often while we watch telly) wasn't fully immersed in it as she was playing games on her phone throughout. It was straightforward enough, with little dialogue, that you could easily 'follow' it while otherwise engaged, but I'm sure it's one of those films which are a lot less interesting and enjoyable if you don't immerse yourself and give yourself fully to it and its world. I've half-watched plenty films in my time, I'm sure; I try not to give her too much of a hard time about it too often.

I've seen some good 'alone or almost alone in space' films in recent years. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were very good, and it was impressively done, including the effects.

morris folk club - september

I was at Morris Folk Club on Tuesday. I sang In The Sidings (Cyril Tawney) and Patrick (The Humblebums - one of the Gerry Rafferty songs rather than a Billy Connolly one, about the artist (and subsequently writer) John Byrne), which both went fine. The latter was one of the shrinking list of songs I have done at Sharp's but not Morris (not many left now; the former was sung at Morris's train concert by one of the small groups, but not the one I was in. Full setlist here.

morris folk club - july

On Tuesday 25th July Bethan and I went to Morris Folk Club (Maisie being in Lewis). I sang Whole Wide World (the Wreckless Eric song) and Wild Mountain Thyme (more or less The Corries version, naturally; a gentler version than the sometimes too-much singalong it can inappropriately turn into).

Mandy from choir, who had been unwell for some time, had died at the weekend, so she was much in our thoughts, and a number of the songs we sang we had her in mind. At the end Michelle sang a beautiful version of Your Long Journey. Full setlist here.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

ff bruce on romans 6:15

As the life of Christ was and is characterised by spontaneous and glad obedience to the Father's will, so the life of those who are 'in Christ' will be characterized by the same obedience. 'Love God, and do as you please' is a maxim which, in those who have God's love shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, can only result in their doing those things which please God. To make being 'under grace' an excuse for sinning is a sign that one is not really 'under grace' at all.
- FF Bruce on Romans 6:15 (from my old (1963 edition) IVP Tyndale commentary)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

42nd street

On Monday 31st July Bethan and I went to see 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. We enjoyed it a lot. If there is a finer sight and sound on stage than massed tap dancing, I don't know what it is.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

just to be married

On Saturday 29th July, in the evening, Bethan and I went to the Finborough Theatre to see Just To Be Married, a play from 1911 by Cicely Hamilton. We enjoyed it a lot.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

the prodigal god

On Monday 18th September I finished The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. It's not that long a book - an exposition of the Prodigal Son parable - and I've heard some or all of it in sermon podcasts, but it's a good, thoughtful, challenging read for Christians and non-Christians alike.

Here's what the secondhand copy I read looked like, (in)complete with torn-off corner.

lcm thanksgiving service; the killers

On Wednesday 13th it was the LCM thanksgiving service at All Souls. I only mention it because I was in the LCM choir in it for the first time; we sang Mighty To Save, and it went pretty well; Shantelle ran it, and did well. The chaps were on the tune, so it wasn't too challenging. We're hoping to keep the choir going for more frequent use, which would be good.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

the suppliant women - first rehearsal

Yesterday we had the first rehearsal proper of The Suppliant Women - a first, intensive weekend of rehearsals, but the Citizens only required on Saturday morning.

Friday, 15 September 2017

the suppliant women - preliminaries

On 3 July I got an email from The Young Vic, as part of the Taking Part mailing list, saying they were looking for people from the community - Lambeth or Southwark residents - to take part in The Suppliant Women as chorus members.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

thinking, thoroughness and simplicity; spitalfields

It was suggested to me today that I think of the alternatives not so much as 'thinking too much about things' and 'not thinking about things', but the more positive 'thoroughness' and 'simplicity'. And that I might have a go at trying out simplicity sometimes and see how that feels.

I'm thinking about it.

Later I had a wander around Spitalfields Market and looked at lovely clothes which I could wear if I were a slim woman or a rich, confident man. I am only one of those five things. Still, lovely to look at.

Monday, 11 September 2017

hamlet at harold pinter theatre - andrew scott

On Wednesday 14th June I saw the Almeida production of Hamlet starring Andrew Scott at The Harold Pinter Theatre. (I think it was a preview, nominally.) It was pretty good. (It was my first for a while, and I'm getting round to writing it up now because I'm about to see another one.)

Friday, 8 September 2017

any way you look at it, you lose

If I've understood it right, if you're pro-life and think abortion is acceptable a) sometimes, then you're a myogynist hypocrite, b) never, then you're a misogynist monster.

bust-out brigade

Sometimes I wish I had the secret earpiece some clearly have playing The Go! Team's Bust-Out Brigade as they walk down the street or into rooms. But only sometimes.

ode to billie jo

Bobbie Gentry's Ode To Billie Joe is a grand song, but it's Jimmie Haskell's string arrangement (laid over simply a guitar/vocal demo, apparently) that makes it extraordinary. Just listen to it.

Thursday, 7 September 2017


We had a holiday in Suffolk in the last week of August (from Sat 26th), near Thorpe Merieux. Things we did included: Bradfield Woods (Sunday); Museum of East Anglian Life and Stowmarket (Monday); Lavenham, including the National Trust Guildhall (Tuesday); Long Melford and Kentwell Hall (Wednesday); Southwold (Thursday); and Stow Anglo Saxon Village and Lackford Lakes (Friday). We had a good time.

british museum

On Thursday 24th August Maisie and I went to the British Museum, which was her idea, and we enjoyed.

Friday, 25 August 2017

the unbearability of life

Sometimes life seems equally unbearable whether Christianity is true (because of the implications of accepting all its truths and teachings, unless you simply jettison those things which you find socially awkward or personally challenging, demanding or upsetting) or whether Christianity is not true (because, to adapt the line about democracy and government to express what I have often felt, Christianity is the worst possible explanation for everything apart from all the other possible explanations that have been tried, and if it's not true then life has no meaning, morality or purpose, we just silently agree to pretend that it does).

Not thinking about it too much seems to be the answer either way, and that's no answer.

I expect I'll feel better after a cup of tea.

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.

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)

I feel these things insufficiently, but this is a lovely way of putting it.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Here's the photographic evidence, taken once I'd got home.

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 current IVP Tyndale 1 Peter isn't the same book.

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.

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.

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.

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.