Welcome to Francisís eighth electronic Christmas Newsletter. As usual, I donít buy cards, but make a charity donation. Some of my friends and relations (mainly any who are still off line) will get paper copies of this.
This year has been marked by no fewer than four globetrots. Conscious of the fact that at my age infirmity could strike at any time, I have decided not to hold back on any travel opportunities.
The first was and longest was to Korea and Japan in July/August. After many years of competing in the British Go Championship, I had finally amassed enough points to be selected as the British representative at the World Amateur Go Championship in Gyeongju, Korea. I followed this with a trip to Japan to visit my many friends there. The full account of this trip which I wrote for the British Go Journal may be seen here.
The second was a trip to the USA for the US Go Congress in New York. It was held at the Pennsylvania Hotel, made famous by Glen Millerís number Pennsylvania 65000. I preceded this with a visit to friends near Boston, and a West Gallery workshop for the local quire. A fuller account is here.
My first cousin once removed Laura Pilgrim decided in her wisdom to marry her fiancť Abdul in an ancient town in Tuscany. Judith and I decided to make the trip our annual holiday together, and travelled to Certaldo by train, via Turin and taking two days. The best part of that trip was the TGV train snaking its way at about one tenth top speed through an Alpine pass. It was in the castle in the old town atop the hill that the wedding, in Italian, took place. We followed our two nights there with another two in the well preserved ancient city of Siena.
An intriguing feature of our stay there was a visit to the cathedral. We were fortunate in that the rare marble floor with many large biblical images, usually protected by covers, was unveiled. Lady visitors whose upper bodies were considered to be too unveiled for a cathedral were required to wear light plastic ponchos, to cover the offending parts. Yet in crypt was an exhibition of Renaissance pictures of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Christ child. We wondered how Mary got away with what was not permitted upstairs.
We especially enjoyed a visit to the local Natural History museum. No interactive displays, videos, placards etc., just exhibits; palaeontology, geology, zoology, botany ect. A museum in the old style.
My fourth globetrot was another visit to Japan, arranged at somewhat short notice. I was invited by the World Pair Go Association to their 25th anniversary Championship in Tokyo. I was not competing, but was there as an Advisor. I think that having acted as Tournament Director for the British Pair Go Championship for over a decade somehow qualified me for this honour. Once again, a fuller account of this trip may be found here. I donít remember being asked to give any advice.
I continue to be active with West Gallery music. London Gallery Quire has had its usual range of commitments. Our shortage of female singers has eased somewhat with the welcome recruitment of some good sopranos, but we are still short of altos. This is a most unusual state of affairs for an amateur choir, as most choirs and choral societies abound with altos, and canít find enough men. And I continue to serve the West Gallery Music Association as Hon. Sec.
On 22nd November, St Ceciliaís Day, I undertook my toughest ever West Gallery assignment. A contact at the BBC wanted WG music for a service to be broadcast on 28th December, Holy Innocents Day. I was given just three weeks notice that the recording session, at Wesleyís Chapel in London, was to take place at all. This was far too late for LGQ to take it on, so I assembled an ensemble from all the quires within travelling distance of London. On the day I had 43 singers and seven instrumentalists.
Negotiating the repertoire took some doing, as Holy Innocents Day in the WG period would have been seen as Popish, and therefore a no-no. On the day the original producer was unwell, and her replacement had rather different ideas from her about what was wanted. We had to move position from what had been agreed, which cut into rehearsal time and ended with me as conductor having my back to the band. And he was something of a stickler for diction; with justification, but it took many re-records to satisfy him. Anyway, tune in to Radio 4 on December 28th at 8.10 am and you may hear the fruits of our labours. (Or listen on BBC iPlayer.)
My practise of taking long walks in and around London led me onto London Bridge within seconds of missing an unusual view of Tower Bridge. A warship had just come through and tied up alongside HMS Belfast.
Judith is now within months of submitting her PhD thesis on Quaker language style in the second half of the 17th century. And as always she is busy with many other Quaker commitments. Samís businesses seem to bounce from potential crisis to doing very nicely thank you with predictable regularity. And he is developing his new interest in writing graphic novels. Lizz has started her own PhD at Swansea University, as well as preparing for A level Art. Watch this space.
I wish a joyful Christmas and New Year to all my friends and relations.