Francis's Christmas Newsletter 2019

 

Greetings

Welcome to Francisís thirteenth electronic Christmas Newsletter. As usual, I donít buy cards, but make a charity donation.

 
Quire at Burnt Ash Methodist church
Quire at Burnt Ash Methodist church
Kathryn holding hosehorn
Kathryn holding hosehorn
Band instruments
Band instruments

West Gallery music

London Gallery Quire continues to flourish. Our membership is steady at around 30, and after a period of imbalance between male and female singers we are now reasonably well balanced. Our bassoonist, one of the four remaining founder members from 1997, is due to leave us soon when he moves house. Our resourceful Assistant Conductor, Kathryn, came up with a possible but somewhat unconventional way of filling the gap in our ensemble (see illustration). However, we have chosen a more conventional solution; one of our clarinettists is mastering the bass clarinet to fill the gap.

We no longer rehearse at St James Garlickhythe. There were two many clashes with other Wednesday events, and the minister kindly offered us St Michaels Paternoster Royal, which is just round the corner. This church is an improvement in some ways, with better lighting, but the very resonant acoustic means that to start with members complained that they couldn't hear what I was saying. So we made a bargain. I will remember to speak slowly and clearly. And they promise to desist from chatting during rehearsals.

Sales of my edition of Henry Playford's The Divine Companion on the internet have gone better than I dared to hope. I am now contemplating another self-published edition, this time of all the parish church music of John Bishop. No, not that one, John Bishop (1665-1732) organist of Winchester Cathedral. Watch this space.

Brussels bridge
Brussels bridge
St Nicholas Church, Ghent
St Nicholas Church, Ghent


The Game of Go

I have more or less given up attending tournaments where there are several games in one day. My powers of concentration are letting me down, so that I lose too many second and third games. But the European Go Congress still suits me, as we play only one game per day in the main tournament. I had a splendid time in Brussels this summer. As always, I took plenty of time out to explore. The most fascinating visit was to the Museum of Musical Instruments, which must surely be unparalleled in the world. And I took a trip to the mediaeval city of Ghent. The highlight of that trip was seeing the van Eyck brothers' famous painting The Adoration of the Lamb in St. Bavo's Cathedral.

In a moment of wild enthusiasm I had volunteered to act as tournament director for the Isle of Man Leo Phillips Go Festival, which was to take place a week after the European Go Congress. I had been looking forward to it, as it is my favourite of all go events. But owing to an indisposition (mentioned below) I had to withdraw at short notice. The festival seemed to manage quite well without me. Who needs tournament directors?

The Wanstead Go Club is looking up after a thin time last year, and we have some promising youngsters at last, though our average age is still probably nudging 60. There'd be 8-10 of us on a typical Thursday evening.

River Eden
Auxerre
Saint-Seine l'Abbaye
Saint-Seine l'Abbaye
Subsidence at Semur
Subsidence at Semur
© Guardian photo
© Guardian photo


Holiday

For our annual holiday together Judith and I went to Burgundy for a week, after which she had a commitment with the Paris Quakers, and I was to return home. We had two nights in Auxerre, an attractive mediaeval city, followed by four nights in Saint-Seine l'Abbaye. That's a small village, whose main claim to fame is that it is near the source of the Seine.

The highlight of the trip for me was a visit to the site of the Siege of Alesia, where there is a dedicated museum. Having read about it during Latin lessons at school (Caesar's De Bello Gallico Book 7 if you want to look it up), and found it a gripping yarn, it was fascinating to have the story thus brought to life some 60 years later.

And the lowlight was a canal trip. In the usual way we both like boat trips. But this one, an hour each way, entailed half the time in a long straight tunnel, and ten minutes at either end going purposelessly up and down in a lock, just to show us how locks work. Hmm.


Other activities

The idea of a surgeon coming towards my eye with a sharp scalpel caused me some anxiety, when I showed up at Moorfields Eye Hospital for a cataract operation. I needn't have worried. The operation was quick, painless and successful, and I've now had both eyes done. Thank you, NHS. If you are contemplating such a procedure, it's OK.

I've also experienced physiotherapy for the first time; once again, I was impressed. I came back from Brussels with a severe pain in a leg, which rendered me more or less housebound. The doctor prescribed pain killers. But the physio immediately diagnosed sciatica. After four visits, entailing exercises and massage, I was pretty much cured.

In November I was present at a meeting of the local Green Party, where we discussed election strategy. We cover five constituencies, and in mine (Chingford and Woodford Green) the MP is one Iain Duncan Smith (Conservative) who has a slim majority over Labour. I had met the Labour candidate, and put forward the idea that we should stand down in my constituency to give her the best chance of unseating him. He is a hard Brexiter, and she is a Remainer. Partly as a result of my input the decision was made, and reported in the national press.

The Guardian newspaper then sent a reporter to interview Judith and myself, as they were featuring various marginal constituencies. The relevant article appeared in their December 2nd edition, accompanied by a picture of the pair of us. In the event, a Liberal Democrat split the Remain vote, and IDS scraped back in.

I continue to wrestle with the Japanese language. I despair of ever mastering all those kanji, or ideograms, and am concentrating on improving my speaking and listening skills with weekly classes at International House in London. I don't know how much I am improving, but I enjoy the challenge.


Family

Judith is still working on the French Quaker archives in Paris. "One more visit, and I shall have done all I can." We'll see. And she continues to be in demand for British Quaker committees, courses, and Friends' business generally.

We visited Florence for a holiday in 1968. Judith has been developing her interest in art, most recently returning to Florence for a week-long guided tour, just the 51 years later.

Sam and Lizz have moved back to their home in Cardiff. Sam now works as a digital marketer for a firm offering on-line postgraduate medical courses to overseas students, and seems to be enjoying the work and delivering the goods. Lizz is preoccupied with caring for her aged invalid father.

Happy Christmas to you all!

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