24 hours on…….and some fear!

The early hours of Saturday morning, in fact almost all of it, were taken up with trying to absorb the full impact of the terrorist attack at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris. Of course, we have seen it before, it regularly happens in war zones, and it will, no doubt, continue to happen for time immemorial.

However with modern communication we can hear about events within seconds and are constantly updated without pause for thought, so that you feel closer to it, following it in real time.

So it was with some trepidation that we went to the Glasgow Concert Hall last night to attend another one of the RSNO winter programme. We go regularly so never gave thought to our security and repercussions of such a large gathering of people in the ‘second city of Empire’, enjoying wonderful music….but you don’t do you?

We were really looking forward to the programme as we already knew two of the three pieces, and there is always a ‘buzz’ as the amphitheatre fills up. But last night was different. Instead of being almost full, I reckon that it was only one-third or one-quarter full. Now whether or not the poor weather, the programme content, shock, or even an understandable fear, was to blame, I have no way of knowing, but in any case there was a subdued feeling within that audience.

The bubbly, cheerful Music Director, Peter Oundjian, usually bounces onto the stage to the adulation of the audience. This time he was quieter and the applause mirrored his attitude. He very often speaks to us before and during the concert and this was to be no exception, but for a different reason……

He spoke very briefly about the events and was obviously pleased that we had all turned up on such a terrible night and under the traumatic circumstances. He then outlined what would happen to acknowledge the French tragedy……..

The opening piece was the short Langsamer Satz, by Anton Webern. An idyllic love proclamation to his beloved Wilhelmine, it reminds me of a punt gliding down a stream. Unfortunately he never heard it played as it was discovered after his death. It comes to the gentlest of closes and fades to silence over quite a period.

As the silence hung like a cloud, the lights gently dimmed to an almost-complete darkness. There was no applause, as he had requested, and we all sat with our own thoughts and fears. I have to say I felt no anger at that time, only an over-whelming peace and tremendous sadness together.

I don’t know how long it lasted but the lights came up gently, and we proceeded to the second item…but how do you follow such a poignant event? There was no way they could have known in advance about the events or changed the programme but somehow the next item was very suitable….. the Brahms Violin Concerto.

Not everyone who is reading this will enjoy Classical music or know of this wonderful piece. It has many tremendous melodies woven through it, and as it is a ‘strong’ piece requiring a lot of energy from the bow arm of the player, we usually hear it played by a man. But this evening was different…..

On to the stage came a willowy tall young lady called Vilde Frang, with a wistful, almost sad, look in her eyes. She then proceeded to play this piece in the only way a woman would….the violin almost became her child as she taught it to speak, drawing out notes and expressions that we never knew existed. We then saw this child in tears, in joy, jumping about full of the fun of life, and wonderfully happy. It was a joy to listen to, and as I said  in a previous post the lachrymal glands were somewhat active!…But what the hell, I was crying tears of joy and emotion whilst others across a short stretch of water were in anguish, uncertainty, unbelief, grief and pain.

The applause seemed to be a great corporate sigh of relief, allowing us to breathe again. The final piece was the well-known Symphony No 41, by Mozart. Strangely, he wrote his three final Symphonies in the Summer of 1788, while he was in depth of despair over his finances, losing some of his children, his marriage problems and falling out of favour…..yet he managed to rise above his problems and leave us with some of the most remarkable and mind-blowing music from an uplifted troubled soul.

May we hope that those affected by the events of only a few hours ago, directly and indirectly (and I suppose we all are) see some glimmer of hope in the coming Season.

…and the world held its breath!

Can there have been anyone who was not spell-bound on Wednesday night as we watched the successful release of the Chilean miners from their tomb, half a mile underground?

…..from what seemed like disaster to the families with the loss of so many lives, to the knowledge that they were at least alive, but trapped;

….from the possibility that they might be able to be rescued, to the insurmountable problems of getting to them;

….from the technical problems which lay ahead, to the realisation that they might be overcome;

….from the anxious few hundred people on a Chilean hillside, to the hearts of a worldwide audience;

….from the trivia of much of our ‘News’, to the gripping, nail-biting real-life story  of the survival of a small number of human beings;

….from the dark hole of a mine, to the brilliant pictures telling us what was happening deep in the earth;

….from the first tentative thoughts that perhaps might be going too well, to the knowledge that all had worked;

We all travelled far over those days, but none moreso than the miners themselves, their family and friends.

Let’s hope that society also moved along a little, and that the success achieved may show the better side of man’s nature, that saving lives must be better than killing.

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

…..well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration! 


Honda civic

We are parting from our two cars this week. Lady of the house can no longer drive with her eye problems  but the Honda Civic was being held-onto just in case things got better.  However, some months later there appears to be no sign of this improvement happening, and the fact of it sitting at the side of the house was beginning to annoy her, so the decision was reached, and it has gone to a good home! And we hope to see it again, to check it’s not lonely!



Honda CRV

The love of my life, (besides the lady and the family, that is) has been my old Honda CRV with 122, 000 miles on the clock, but still going well. However it was decided that we now needed a smaller vehicle (are we shrinking?) but still liked the height for getting into the car. Consultations with the local garage have brought forth a Nissan Qashqai (We had never heard of it before either!).So having spruced it up for the last time it will be disappearing from our runway this week. The image above is how it will appear to me as it disappears from view.

People say that you should never get emotional over cars, but we have had to admire the mechanical reliability of these two Japanese cars…..British manufacturers….are you reading this! 

For Goodness sake!

Have the BBC gone bonkers!! Top headline on the news tonight was all about the revelations on the death of Michael Jackson! Good Heavens, get a life!

A pop artist who was highly paid for making his music has had so much anaesthetic for pain killing (caused by his own operations) that he has been poisoned, intentionally or otherwise……is this the most important item to be broadcast from the great British Broadcasting Corporation on its flagship 6 o’clock news?

Did no-one tell them there were other more important things going on in the world?

What to think?

cockpit Lockerbie

The recent release of a convicted murderer, his triumphal return to Libya, the response from the FBI and President Obama, the objections from the relatives of the killed, the non-response from Gordon Brown, the avoidance of a straight opinion from the un-elected Mandelson, the self-assuredness of the opposition politicians, the outraged Press…it all seems to have taken-over our media.

I refer of course to the repercussions over the release of the only convicted person related to the Lockerbie tragedy….I remember the evening well as it is less than an hour from our house by car (about 10 mins air time). The shock at hearing about it was overwhelming, as no-0ne could envisage that anyone would want to do this. Daughter was not long in the police at that time, and probably would have been involved in the searches for bodies if she had been in a few weeks longer.

A prolonged hunt for, and ultimate trial of,  the perpetrators was plagued by suspicions of evidence rigging, and omission of some evidence and police reports. Subsequent investigations into the quality of the trial have not proved fruitful, and probably added to the suspicions which have circulated.

Whatever the rights, limitations and possible wrongs of an imperfect judicial system, the early release of an ill man after 8 years was always going to cause differences of opinions and emotions……… anger at the lack of trans-Atlantic discussions or consultation, sympathy for a terminally-sick man, respect for the relatives of the dead, frustration at the lack of surety about the guilt and ultimate imprisonment, sorrow that no-one may ever know the absolute truth about what happened,  forgiveness (deserved or otherwise), lack of remorse (if it was warranted)…….these have all come to the surface of this very emotive series of events.      

The Scottish Minister of Justice did not seem to have used any of the above emotions in his final statements; he may have thought of them and considered them in his decision. However, it was the ideas of Mercy and Compassion which seem to have been the main element leading to the release.

To my mind, these are personal concepts, and not easily-applicable to a nation-to-person situation. A nation, in the form of a judicial system can release or modify a sentence, but surely the only mercy or compassion which is appropriate is that from the wronged….the relations of those killed.

Had the Justice Minister told us that he had consulted with the known relatives of those poor victims and had had an overwhelming response telling him that the convicted perpetrator should be released on compassionate grounds, then I think must people would have agreed to it.

As it is, he has witnessed the ‘unintended consequences’  principle and, having offended a considerable number of people, the only people who seem happy are the Libyans….with their twisted sense of thanks and gratitude!

….And what  would I have done if I were the Justice Minister. I honestly don’t know. It goes to show once again that there are very few black and white decisions in this world…..I don’t think there is a perfect answer!

It’s tennis..for goodness sake!

As an adopted Scot I am pleased to see that a fellow countryman is doing well at Wimbleton….and yet…all this stupid self-directed aggression and grimacing seems so alien. If the photographs in the newspapers were not titled, and we saw the aggression and expressions in another arena we might think he was part of a mob! What kind of image is he projecting to young people today?

It certainly is not one of gentlemanly behaviour to another competitor. Maybe I’ve missed something but I understood that tennis and many other games are entertainment, and not just a way of earning large amounts of money, or earning glory.

Get your act together, Andy! You have a right to win if you can prove you are better than your opponent, but you also have an opportunity (nay, a duty) to keep it all in context. People will eventually  tire of your shouting and aggression. Children should be learning to treat success and failure as not dissimiliar…failure teaches us to accept that we all have limitations but can improve, whilst success should tell us that it is transitory, and very few leading sportsmen and women don’t eventually lose and go downhill. If one treats success in such an aggressive manner, what will you do when you start losing on a regular basis?

Keep on winning, but lighten-up! 

The madness of football

As a resident of Scotland, within about 45 mins of Ibrox, the Rangers Stadium, I was sickened by the recent scenes in Manchester. There is nothing which can be said to explain or excuse the appalling behaviour of the minority of people who ravaged the centre of the city, and showed a distorted view of the normally-sane Scottish football lover. What an example to the young ones present (why were they not at school?)! And what are they saying to the rest of the world? The injuries caused to police officers, and the appalling video of the attack on one of them, is an insult to the ideals of law and order, to which, fortunately, most of us adhere.

The sooner, that the footballing authorities get some kind of grip on these people (who, incidentally help to pay the inflated wages of football management and players) the better. It cannot be left entirely on the shoulders of the police forces who are already well-stretched.

Perhaps they could start by remembering that at one time football was a sport, and not a reason to produce high emotions, change a genuine opportunity for rivalry, into a chance to hate people wearing a different shirt, and destroy property.

If not, then the next generation will pursue the same path.

Just a little tear….

If you do not know the beautiful lyrical choral piece ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ by John Rutter, see if you can find a copy. It is for a small choir with keyboard and oboe, and it is one of those pieces which transcends time. I did it with my choir many years ago, and it was an emotional event. We had it this morning at the Cathedral, and this, along with the Baptism of a lovely little girl (who gave us a huge grin), was again a moving time.

I find that as I get older, I am less worried about showing any emotion….and having spoken with some others of similar age, they also seem to have no problem. Maybe that is one of the few advantages of aging!