A small Borders town


Over 40 years ago, (1967 to be precise) when Lady of the House and I were just engaged, I was living in Watford, and used to travel up on Friday overnight by coach (11 hours!) from London to Glasgow to visit her, and make sure the wedding was still on!

The coach had a few ‘comfort stops’, and the one north of the Scottish border was in a small neat market town. We knew when we had arrived there as we were rudely wakened from our slumber by the lights going on and the doors being opened. We were graciously allowed the facilities of the local hotel, before we headed on our last leg to the arms of our loved ones, and Lockerbie to its own devices.

Fast forward to  Christmas-tide 1988 and we were preparing for the festivities. Son was still at school and Daughter preparing for her passing-out parade at the Scottish Police College the next day.

We had promised hospitality to the young son of friends, who was driving up the A74 (which skirts a number of pleasant small market towns), and my folks who were over from Ireland and were also driving north.

They had all arrived safely and we were looking forward to having a Happy Christmas…..and then we turned on the television and heard what had happened to that little Borders town……………….



One thing I love about coming to look at blogs from people I have never met, (having seen photos of only a few), mostly unaware of your religious beliefs or political persuasion, and not knowing your wealth or position, is that in some strange way I do know you all.

We are a cross-section of our civilisation, making the same mistakes, regretting them, hoping not to repeat them, and with all the same longings and hope for the future, as generations before us.

There are, no doubt, other groups of people with a quite -different set of references as to how they conduct their lives. We might call these references alien, and maybe they are, but at this time, when a great hope can spring from a tiny event, in an insignificant town in a far-away country, to lowly parents, maybe we can hope that in this coming year we can see or do something which might well turn the tide of history (even in a small way).


Singing in Hospital!


Last night, I joined with many others of our Church, and other Churches (in total about 40 folk), to visit a hospital at the west end of Glasgow. The event was organised by the Chaplaincy Centre, and involved dividing into groups and going round various parts of the hospital to sing carols.

You need music of course, and two other groups had a guitar, or, in one lovely case, a set of hand-bells, whilst your’s-truly brought along a keyboard for our group.

The only problem was that the keyboard did not have a stand, and was mains-powered, so at each of the locations (generally in a passageway), we had to find some flat surface to place the keyboard, a chair, and a mains-socket.

As most people realise, all of the above are in short supply in such a situation, as you can’t ACTUALLY push someone out of bed to set the keyboard down, so sometimes it was on a trolley, and sometimes on my knees! Also,  the risk of pulling-out some vital piece of life-saving equipment is always there so we had to do a lot of double-checking before getting power!

What came over to me was that there are a considerable number of people in hospital, all with their individual worries. It is something we only think about when we have to go into a hospital, or see a programme on TV.

In our general life we mostly see normal, reasonably-healthy people, and so it is easy to forget the pain, suffering, and anguish people and families are having to endure on a daily basis, and in an especially-poignant way, at this time of the year.

Does singing and music in general help in the healing process? Well, there is some evidence to show that people who sing regularly, and enjoy music, tend to have a happier disposition and a slightly-better average life. So maybe we did make a minute difference.

But it will be a long time before I will forget the look on some of those poor people. We obviously could say no more than platitudes…you sometimes just don’t know what to say.

Many of the serious cases may not make it past Christmas, but I suppose if we have raised a small smile of joy, or a glimpse of recognition of Christmasses gone past, then it will have achieved something.

‘What about Carol?


 At this time of the year, our Choir (Angelus Singers……check the Link) are involved in Carol services. Thought you might like to know some facts you might not have known about Christmas Carols…you can always throw a few into a lull in a conversation or at dinner-party…:- 

  • Originally a Carol was not a religious song, but a secular dance, often in 3/4 time…..a bit like a waltz
  • The carol ‘In Dulci Jubilo’, when the words are sung as a mixture of English (from the German), and Latin, is an example of a ‘macaronic carol’. The melody can be found in a 14th century manuscript in Leipzig University.
  • The wonderful combination of Charles Wesley and Felix Mendelssohn gave us ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’.
  • The tune of the French carol ‘Whence is that Goodly Fragrance’ later appeared as the rousing drinking song ‘Fill ev’ry glass, for wine inspires us’ in John Gay’s ‘The Beggars Opera’ in the 18th Century. I remember well singing it with the Kirkie Players some years ago!
  • ‘Good King Wenceslas’ originally appeared in 1582, as a Spring carol. It was only about 150 years ago that the 10th Century story of Saint Wenceslas of Bohemia was told. After his father died, he encouraged Christianity in Bohemia, against the wishes of his mother, and was murdered by his brother Buleslav.
  • The Romans used Holly to decorate their houses at the feast of Saturnalia, which occurred in the winter season. Ivy was dedicated by them, to Bacchus from the idea that it warded-off drunken-ness!
  • The Coventry Carol (‘Lul-ly, lul-lay’) is one of the oldest English Carols. The original tune comes from 1591 and was sung in the Coventry Plays of that era.
  • There are several Wassailling Songs. The word Wassail means ‘Keep You Well’.
  • Czechoslovakia has provided a number of lovely quiet carols including the ‘Rocking Carol’, ‘The Birds’, and ‘The Zither Carol’. ‘Infant Holy’ is from Poland.
  • ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’ was written in 1857 by Dr J.H.Hopkins of Pennsylvania, one of very few well-known carols from the USA.


So give a thought, when next singing over Christmas, that the words and music may have had a very strange history.

The Soldier


I watched some of the TV programme last night which dealt with the life of a Guardsman officer on and off duty in Afghanistan, his time on leave, and then his time working at the Barracks.

You were able to see the terrible stresses he underwent in combat against the Taleban; as he saw some of his colleagues killed or injured severely; how he handled the local militia whom he was supposed to help train; the constant close presence of an unseen enemy; the possibility of a sudden painful and violent death; the constant looking-forward to leave back home; the heat; the indifferent food…..all of these became very evident, and most of us would have been unable to handle even a small proportion of the deprivations and fears.

Before he left for his leave, he attended the ‘repatriation’ of one of the young men killed in action. This was a very personal ‘Remembrance’ service. When he did return home, he had to face the boredom of barrack work. Then he was told he was to be ‘mentioned in despatches’ for his bravery, and a short time later he was courtmartialled for some fracas in which he had unfortunately been involved!

Ho can we expect the human animal to be able to handle such a vast range of emotions, fears, experiences etc within a short space of time, and not react somewhat differently to what the rest of us do as a matter of course.

I find war abhorrent, but the reality of our world that sometimes it is necessary, and is carried out generally within an  international framework of laws which can satisfy our natural distaste for killing, by professional and disciplined people who hope to minimise ‘collateral damage’.

We therefore surely should be able to forgive them when they transgress briefly from our norms.