Saturday, August 08, 2009

Sleep Tight!

Not a completely current story but one that I just saw for the first time today:

The BBC has been put in the position of defending its choice of 'scary books' for the long running Radio 4 show Book at Bedtime.

The Radio adaptation of Canadian Barbara Gowdy's novel Helpless was greeted with complaints from a number of listeners that the story had made them feel physically ill.

The Guardian's take on Gowdy's novel - called an 'unnerving psychological thriller' and reviewed, no doubt, by somebody who read it in her office surrounded by reassuring distractions and in full light - makes it seem a poor choice for the single listener tucked up in bed beside the radio with a cup of warm Horlicks under the feeble glimmer of a bedside lamp.
The novel has had a mixed reception in the US and in Gowdy's native Canada, where critics are either discomfited or admire this daring attempt to imbue the psyche of a child abductor with shades of grey. Known for inhabiting the minds of unorthodox protagonists - a herd of elephants and a female necrophiliac have previously starred - Gowdy has further tested limits in her exploration of the vulnerability of a child-stalking kidnapper.
I find at the beginning of my 50's that I am less tolerant of sad or disturbing material read or seen in order to give me a thrill.

The thrill, as they say, is gone.

I used to sleep better than I do now. I've also given up cheese before bed.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Pause for Thought

I have a neighbour who’s always building something out back. Like everybody else he’s also thrilled by any break in the Scottish weather. Which means of course that whenever the sun peeks out from behind a rain cloud and we all step outside to marvel at the sight of a blue sky in Scotland, the sound of an electric grinder begins or the smell of creosote starts to waft across the garden. He hammers and saws, he fits and bends, he nails and grinds. And never seems to get called in for tea – I don’t know when the man eats - there’s no break in the din – no respite.

He’s such a ‘doer’ this neighbour of mind. The man is an utter bastion of industry. Mostly on nice days, mind.

No, neighbours are no fun sometimes. People will occasionally come to blows over Leylandia hedges which have started to loom large and lopped-off branches of cherry trees where the trunk of the tree is tantalizingly close to the property line.

Other people are our greatest hope and the cause of our undoing. We are tempted to avoid them – close contact anyway. It’s always safer to be alone, to live alone – to this end people have forsworn marriage and avoided children. To this end folks will maintain a lifelong arms-length relationship with churches and organizations – always casting their vote but never serving on the executive.

At the graveside of one very ancient lady a number of years back, surrounded by her children and foster children, by students she had mentored – by people with whom she had been on speaking terms and folks with whom she had struggled, one of her equally ancient friends leaned over to me after the committal and said: “She was all used up you know”. All used up.

It’s what you do with fuel – and though you might worry about not having enough, it’s what fuel is for - and money, and effort, compromise, forgiveness, conversation.

Sorry that you feel your capacity is being stretched. Your irritation is noted – but community is precisely what these things are for. What on earth did you think you were saving them for?

The audio can be found HERE for a limited time
Pause for Thought begins at 1:09.49 on the audio bar

updated below

The folks in Dumbarton are not out of the woods yet. The Sheriff is to rule tomorrow on the application by the Provincial Grand Black Chapter of Scotland for an Orange March on the 8th of August which would see 37 marching bands and 3000 Protestant marchers in what is a predominantly Roman Catholic town on the West side of Scotland.

The Council's Licensing committee has, I gather, rejected the application at a meeting yesterday. The Provincial Grand Black Chapter has taken it up a step and appealed to the Sheriff.

Our friend Kenny Macaulay, the Priest at St Augustine's, the local Piskie church, says in a tweet today that his congregation is not all that confident that the Sheriff will rule on the side of the angels.

The story is all HERE
and also HERE

I have just heard from Fr Kenny Macaulay that the Sheriff has overturned the Council's decision to ban the Orange March in Dumbarton this Saturday and that it will be going ahead.

Fifes and drums and approximately 3000 marchers on a route which takes them past St Patrick's Church.

This in spite of a policing report which warns of trouble and a decision by Council to ban the march.

story HERE

Pause for Thought

I was speaking at a local Rotary club in Montreal a few years back – a club which had been in the same premises in Montreal West for sixty years. The photographs of the past club presidents were lined up on the wall – wartime and peacetime presidents, boom and bust presidents.

The appearance of a Rotary Club president changes remarkably little across the years – conservatively coiffed hair, a dark suit and a sober tie.

The President from, say, 1940 might magically bump into the President from 1995 on a street corner and exchange pleasantries and business cards, without the one ever needing to say to the other, in the course of conversation: “And oh, by the way, Frank, what the hell are you dressed as today?”

The fly in the ointment - the exception to this rule – is, of course, the five or so years in the late seventies when everybody lost the plot. Who designed those sport coats? Which Scottish Secretary in the Callaghan government permitted Tartan to be used worldwide as a weapon? Where did the inspiration for all those puffy hairstyles come from? What was the message being proclaimed? “I may be a pipe fitting wholesaler but that doesn’t stop me from being a Disco Demon!”

We’ll find the same sorts of gaps or queer half-decades in many of our own personal photo albums – the year or two when we had that wobble. We were teenagers, or, later in life, we weren’t doing very well in our jobs. Our marriage was a struggle and adjustments were in order. We realized that we were getting older and were trying to fight it. We wondered whether we had missed the boat and needed to expand our horizons.

With hindsight we appear vaguely ridiculous but the task was quite possibly a necessary one. Going through one of those patches is not a pretty sight. It’s not a spectator sport.

Some of what we threw away needed throwing. And perhaps we held on to the good core of who we were and still are today. And so we should marshal up a little tenderness.

We came through it. We turned the corner. We endured. We’re better now.

The audio can be heard HERE for a limited time
Pause for Thought begins at 0:22.10 on the audio bar

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My twelve-year-old Step-Rabbit is off at the Scottish Episcopal Church's summer camp in Perthshire this week.

It's the end of day three.

No news is good news.