The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, 30 December 2013

Eleanor Louise Borneman Henry, 1926-2013

Today we had the memorial service for my grandmother, who died last month. Each of us was asked to read out a piece we had written. This was my contribution:

Those to whom my grandmother gave the most cannot be here today. She always knew that they wouldn’t. The people with whom she shared her greatest gift are long dead, and even when they were alive they were unable to thank her. Often they could no longer speak, or remember who she was, or who they were themselves.

Week after week, my grandmother went into the buildings where these people were kept, and she shared with them the most meaningful gift God had given her: the gift of music. People who barely made an intelligible sound between one of her visits and the next would raise their voices and sing. It was here that my grandmother's voice, too, was most clearly heard.

In Luke's gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying: “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

My grandmother always believed in that resurrection. May she have her reward.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Just askin'

Is it my imagination, or has the meaning of "just sayin'" shifted over the years? I could swear it used to mean something like "There are conclusions to be drawn from what I just said, but I'll leave you to draw them":
"Cassie looks so happy. She says she's finally found the love of her life!"
"That's the third love of her life since June. Just sayin'."
Whereas now it seems to mean something along the lines of "I am a jerk":
"Cassie looks so happy. She says she's finally found the love of her life!"
"Cassie's a dumb slut who doesn't know what she wants. Just sayin'."
Has anyone else noticed this, or have I got it wrong?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Western Haiku: A Collection

Three of my haiku (or should that be haikus?) appear in this new collection from Nottingham-based independent publisher Dagda Publishing. The hard copy is available on (yes, that's a self-publishing site, but I didn't self-publish the poems -- someone chose to self-publish them for me. Which is totally different, I guess), and the e-book can be bought from Amazon UK and Smashwords (choose the latter if you're outside Britain or just think Amazon are evil). 

I don't get any money from sales, just a sense of satisfaction -- and 50% of proceeds go to Scope, a British charity for disabled people. So give it a try! 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

My HMV story

It must have been in April 2001. Chris had asked me to stop in to the big HMV on Oxford Street and buy the new Snow Patrol album (Snow Patrol were still kind of cool back then). Perhaps as I came in, I noticed that the store was a bit busier than usual, but it didn't bother me. I'd only be in there for a moment.

Except that by the time I'd found the CD, the number of people in the shop had at least tripled. Most of the crowd looked to be under 16. The air was filled with shrill cries and the sound of stomping feet. I had no chance of getting near the tills, and the exit wasn't looking too likely either. So I bolted down the stairs and through the swinging glass doors of the classical section. 

The well-dressed men behind the sales counter were looking at the ceiling as if doubtful that it would hold. 

"What's going on?" I said. 

"It's the group from that reality show," one of them replied. "They're giving their first performance today." 

I browsed through the classical recordings until the noises from above suggested that the mob was dispersing. It was time to pay, but I felt embarrassed about using the classical counter just to buy a Snow Patrol record. A budget-priced CD caught my eye: The Sofia Recital. That sounded pretty interesting, and it could make my purchase respectable without too much harm to our bank account. 

"Excellent choice," said the shop assistant. "A real masterpiece." And he was right. 

That's how I accidentally attended Hear'Say's first in-store (a boast now guaranteed to impress precisely no one) and first heard Sviatoslav Richter (an experience that should impress more people than it does). 

I won't really miss HMV, the chain. In recent years most of its branches devoted less and less space to music, filling up with DVDs and games instead. And less and less of the music they did stock was outside the mainstream. It's like they tried to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and then discovered that the lowest common denominator preferred to buy its CDs at Tesco. 

But if the Oxford Street shop goes, I will miss their classical section and the helpful and knowledgeable staff who worked there. And I wonder where they will find a job that uses their knowledge now.