Saturday, 24 October 2009

A Question: Could You Live Without ...?

Of all the modern wonders I wonder which, if any, you would like to get shot of?

1. The infernal combustion engine, i.e. the motor car.
2. The internet.
3. Television.
4. The mobile (cell) phone.
5. The microwave oven.
6. The aeroplane.

Me? No.3 - the TV would be dumped if I was allowed to. What a time-waster it generally is.

Also, the mobile or cellphone. OK, they're handy on a long car journey if you break down, but I managed without one extremely well for 50 years! Now it seems millions of people, especially kids and teens, have one welded to their ears or fingers. 'Texting', with its own micro language, seems to be replacing conversation! Still, everyone to their own likes.

I'd even go so far as to say the aeroplane has caused a heck of a lot of heartache, death and destruction that it might have been better never to have been invented.

Argue amongst yourselves - if you are interested!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Earl Interview on Hundy Mundy

This is a video of a few years ago when Lord Haddington was interviewed by the local Scottish Borders TV about Hundy Mundy.

His farm manager, Richard, did a lot of the preparatory work and is also on the video.

Obviously this is not one of my Flipping videos but one day ... I might get there.
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Monday, 12 October 2009

A Bus Ride and a Rush Hour in Scotland :-}

Today we had to go to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as my wife, Patricia, has to see the lady doctor who will perform the angioplasty in a few weeks.

We drove five miles to Earlston and then took the bus to Edinburgh. Main reason is that I detest trying to navigate around a large 'roundabout' a few miles from the hospital.

I took a few short video shots of the bus ride into the hospital. The interview went well. We set off for the bus back to Earlston where we had parked our little Ford Ka car.

About half a mile from Mellerstain and our cottage I had to pull up. It was the typical rush hour in this neck of the woods....

Billy May's orchestra blares out 'Autumn Leaves' in the background!
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Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Sunday Stroll in October 2009

October this year is beautiful in the Scottish Borders. Breezy at times but the blue skies and sunshine suits me perfectly. Love it like this.

I enjoy wandering around churchyards and suchlike. Some of the gravestones are touching to read. We have some beautiful abbeys, cathedrals and churches in the UK. I've visited many of them over the years. Chester, Salisbury, Canterbury, Lincoln, Norwich, St. Pauls, and Liverpool to name a few cathedrals. Liverpool has a relatively new Roman Catholic cathedral. Unusual in shape, rather like a large tent. Locally and irreverently called 'Paddy's Wigwam'. Inside the colours are breathtaking as the sun illuminates the multi-coloured leaded light windows. Fabulous. Virtually all these buildings are now charging casual visitors before they enter. The upkeep is expensive of course and most people do not object to paying. However, there is no 'enforced' payment - strictly speaking. There is a notice requesting a 'donation' of, say, £5 but this is a ploy to escape the dreaded value added tax (VAT) which would be payable by the church if they were charging a fixed entrance fee. A 'donation' is not liable to VAT. Just thought I'd explain that (the old VAT instruction book still resides in my head!).

Robert the Bruce and Melrose Abbey.

There is a well known story about Robert the Bruce, one time king of Scotland. It probably gave rise to the old exhortation: If at first you don't succeed try, try and try again. Robert the Bruce was in despair, resting in a cave. All seemed hopeless. It was at this time while secluded in this cave that he noticed a spider continually remaking its web. Every time a strand broke, the spider repared it. This was the moment at which he vowed to keep trying to free Scotland from the English.

On his deathbed in 1329, Robert the Bruce asked that his heart should be carried into battle against the "Infidels" because he himself had not been able to go on a Crusade. (Removing internal organs after death was a common practice in those days). His dying wish was said to have been carried out and his heart, in a casket, was taken on the Crusades.

When he passed away he was buried at Dunfermline - minus his heart.

His heart was taken on the Crusades by Sir James Douglas (aka Black Douglas), who, just before he was killed in Spain, hurled it at the enemy. The heart was recovered and taken back to Melrose Abbey where the then new king, David II (Bruce's son), had asked for it to be buried.

"Black Douglas" was a sort of 'bogey man' in England. English mothers would threaten their children when they were being naughty. "If you dont behave and do as you're told the wicked Black Douglas will come and get you".

Background music today is J.S. Bach's well known piece "Air on the G-String".

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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Lara Fabian - Sings 'Caruso' (Live)- Love Personified

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Our lives are too short to find every thing of beauty on this earth. If we lived a thousand years I guess we would still say something similar.

I've now found another thing of beauty; my newest love. She has ripped my heart out. Caused my eyes to flood with tears. I am totally smitten, never to recover normality after hearing this heavenly voice singing such a heart-rending song.

Lara Fabian - I love you, love you, love you.

And you don't even know my name. Life is beautifully cruel, is it not? I wonder how many other hearts she holds captive today? Millions I guess.

She's so talented. I'd never heard of her before but found out on the web that she was born in Belgium on 9th January 1970 (she's Capricorn - same as I). She sings in French, Italian and Spanish - also Portugese and German, plus a little Flemish. Sold over 12million records.

And for all you lucky Canadians - she adopted your country and became a Canadian citizen in 1994.

Forgive me Lara Fabian for not finding you until now. I watched a film called 'One More Kiss' last night, about a girl returning to the UK as she was dying from cancer. One of the musical clips in the film was 'Caruso' sung by a good tenor. I searched for this song and found Lara!

I've heard Pavarotti sing it, Il Divo sing it and others - but none, in my mind, can touch the beauty and feeling she imparts in this version. I felt much the same when I first found Jacques Brel singing Ne Me Quitte Pas for the first time. Wonderful - and he was Belgique too!

Monday, 5 October 2009

A Gentleman's Gentleman - Alan Parkes.

I may be breaking some rules (again) by posting this short video because it was produced not by me but by the British Broadcasting Corporation - around 16 or so years ago.

Shortly before we decided to move to Scotland I read a piece in The Times about Alan Parkes. It told how this 65 year old man had left South Africa where he had lived for twenty or more years.

Alan had set up a flower shop business in S.Africa and was successful. However, when he reached 65 he wanted to return to England and retire. The plan was good, except that the ruling government then banned him from taking the money from the sale of his business out of the country!

He arrived in London virtually penniless. He was a well-educated man, a student of architecture amongst other things and an ex-army officer during WW2. He decided to put an advert in a London newspaper offering his services as a butler! He had no experience as one although when he was a child his family had their own butler - so he knew what the job entailed.

He was offered three positions. He took one of them and remained as butler in that same house until his death, aged 84 a few years ago. The 'Times' diary article gave this brief outline of his return to London for 'retirement'.

I was most impressed by the article and wrote to Alan, via The Times newspaper, and told him of my impending plans to decamp from England and go to work for an Earl in Scotland. He wrote back and we became friends via the telephone and letters.

After my arrival in Scotland, having settled in OK, I invited Alan to spend a week or so with us in the east wing of Mellerstain. He was 80-ish at the time. He said he'd love to come for a few days as he had never been to this area of Scotland.

He arrived at Berwick railway station and we picked him up in the car for the 30 mile trip back to Mellerstain. His stay was really enjoyable for all of us. He was one of nature's real gentlemen.

During his stay he told us of his various experiences and employers as a butler. He also had a video tape of a short article on BBC television which I managed to copy onto a blank tape. I have now been able to rip that video onto my hard drive and this is shown below.

The BBC had heard of Alan Parkes being butler at a lovely old house on the banks of the river Thames. The house was being sold, and one of the conditions of the seller was that the new owner would employ Alan as butler. And so they did.

I was greatly saddened when Alan's daughter rang me one evening to say that Alan had been ill for a week or so and had died suddenly. She said that her Dad had often told her of his visit to Mellerstain and of our brief friendship. Pancreatic cancer killed this lovely old chap. Thankfully he had only a short period of illness before he passed away.

I hope you enjoy this little item, and hope also that the BBC doesn't object to my sharing it.


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Friday, 2 October 2009

A Walk to the Mausoleum (and back!)

It's Thursday, October 1st 2009 and the weather is fine. Beautiful in fact. So I'm off for a stroll to another part of Mellerstain. Neglected by many, mainly because it is unknown to most visitors, and quite a few others.



Part of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto plays gently in the background. This music, like so many other pieces, always relaxes me. As you know, it was used in that old romantic film "Brief Encounter".



I count this film as a classic now. I must have seen it at least ten times and never tire of it. Why is this? Yes, I heard you ask that question; a very good question. Well, Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson are just superb in this old 1945 black and white movie. And I just love old railway stations! Especially this old-fashioned railway buffet, complete with a haughty-ish barmaid and cafeteria assistant; Stanley Holloway as the protective railway porter. It's all so nostalgic for me and many others.



In 1945 David Lean filmed this romantic classic at Carnforth railway station. Filming took place at night between 10pm and 6am to avoid interfering with daytime trains. Carnforth was later reduced to a branch station and gradually crumbled into disrepair.



A project started in 2000, jointly with Railtrack, and about three years later the Brief Encounter Refreshment Room and Visitor Centre opened in late 2003. One fine day I shall make it to this place. Have a cup of tea, or maybe a beer (if they're licensed) and just imagine Trevor and Celia being at a nearby table.


Trevor Howard was not too pleased however. He made many other films of course but he was reputed to be annoyed that Brief Encounter was the film he is always associated with. He's one of my top ten actors, along with James Mason (whose voice is immediately recognised), Richard Burton - especially his rendition of Dylan Thomas's excrutiatingly wonderful "Under Milk Wood".



However, 'Brief Encounter' will grow in stature, imo, as the years go by and movies become ever more car-chase, car-crash, special effects and all the other modern methods of movie making with acting slipping into the background in so many films today.



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A Conversation with some Cattle

Taking a stroll in the gentle October weather I met some friends.

Some sheep, some cattle and some mushrooms. Or maybe they were toadstools?

Anyway, the day was sublimely calm and autumnly; a lovely day for a stroll. And to have a chat with some of my 'neighbours'.


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The background music is part of Rimsky Korsakov's 'Sheherazade' - one of my favourite light classical pieces.
I remember taking my 12 year old son, Graham, to the Royal Albert Hall in 1973 to see the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Sheherazade waspart of the programme played that evening.
On leaving the concert my boy castigated me: "Why did you never tell me about this sort of music before!?" I could see he had been weeping. The music had really penetrated his young soul.
He had albums by the pop groups of those days, like Alice (banal) Cooper, T.Rex and Marc Bolam (quite decent stuff there) and plenty of others. But no classical music.
He's now in his late 40s and has a roomful of LPs and CDs of virtually every classical piece under the sun. Should have spent more time with him when he was a schoolboy. Like most fathers I was far to occupied with earning a living; he's a very forgiving chap, thank goodness. He and his lovely wife have blessed us with a beautiful (now 18 years young) granddaughter!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Wwoof-ing in Canada

Do you know any Wwoofers? Anywhere?

Neither did I until my neighbour, just 4 cottages away from ours decided to become one in April 2009. She is now in Canada and in a month or two will be going on to New Zealand.

Why should a 43 year old midwife decide to up sticks and leave her lovely Flossie doggy with another neighbour for a whole year?

We don't really know of course; her motives could have been many. We think it might be due to stress. Midwifery may well be a rewarding occupation but can, I imagine, also be quite stressful. Maybe she just needed a break; a complete change, doing something new.

And what, I hear you yell, is wwoofing all about? Good question. The simple answer is that it's a voluntary scheme whereby anybody can go and work on organic farms, as an unpaid helper, advisor, worker. All the host farm has to do is supply board and lodgings.

Welcome to the WWOOF program in Canada - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Canada is just one of many countries welcoming wwoofers. In Canada there are some 600 farms that are hosting this scheme.

Would you like to take a year off and start wwoofing? Charlotte did (not her real name) and a girlfriend of hers from Ireland plans to join her in a few weeks from now. I'm sure it will re-charge Charlotte's batteries by the time she returns to her demanding midwifery job in about six months time. We look forward to hearing of her adventures. Her beautiful border collie, Flossie, will also be so happy to see her again.