Sunday, June 19, 2011

more goodbyes

The last song I played on my old Bentley piano. And I wrote it today at the Bentley, for this evening's service.

In the morning the removal men will come & take my faithful friend away to a new life with Owen & Liz Smith & their kids, and I am glad to pass it on to such a lovely family, and to people who will take enormous pleasure from my old piano.

I learned to play on this. My old Gran bought it. I learned to hear chords and to play scales, I learned Bach and jazz on these keys. I worked out my first choir arrangements, first orchestral parts, first band parts sitting here.

I've written more songs at this piano than I can (or should) remember. I've poured out my heart, and laughed, and worshipped and simply had fun.

I thought it was going on Friday; I sat and played the songs I played when I was 16. The first songs I wrote. The songs I learned for school CU. The first hymn I played in school assembly (I'd been playing about three months when I volunteered to do that...) and which I learned so well I can still mostly remember it now, a million years later.

But the removal men had made a mistake, so I've had an extra weekend with my piano, and instead of leaving with old songs, I sat and wrote something new. Much more fitting. This was what I did here. I sat and wrote. Imagined. Felt. Sang my heart.

Thank you Jesus for such a gift.

And whilst I'm at the goodbyes - the drama group that has emerged from our work with older people at church put on a Variety Show on Saturday afternoon. I added a little piece of my own to surprise them - a Victoria Wood-esque number about theatre etiquette. And at the end they surprised me, with a bit of communal singing to express their feelings towards me as I prepared to leave. And of all the things I am doing right now (so many for the last time - last wedding, last Cafe Church) this one suddenly, surprisingly caught me and in its simple direct emotion brought a tear to me eye. Goodness. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

a constant topic of conversation in 1973

I have started throwing out a bin bag of rubbish every day in preparation for my upcoming move to Leeds.  It is surprisingly easy. Or, it was till today.

Today I opened a cupboard, & to my surprise found a bag of stuff I didn't know I had, a bag of distraction. Old school reports. My Oxford Entrance Exam papers. The programme for the Verdi Requiem my school choir put on in April 1979 - the very first thing I ever sang in a choir.

And, gloriously, a note to parents from my junior school headmaster. I record it in full in the hope that some headmaster out there might take heart and still be writing such pieces today.

Dear Parents,
At the beginning of each school year I send out a letter to all parents of first year children. Included in the letter are two paragraphs relating to Personal Appearance from which I quote:-
'In winter girls may wear trousers when travelling to and from school and at playtimes, but we like them to change into skirts or dresses during school hours. Boys may wear long trousers of a sober colour, although in summer short trousers are much to be preferred. Denim jeans are not allowed.'
These rules are of long standing and are responsible for the reputation the school has always had, i.e., of having clean, tidy, well turned-out children.
A constant topic of conversation in 1973 is of the lowering of standards of every facet of life one cares to think of, and it would be only too easy to let our standard of school dress slip.
Recently I have had brought to my attention several breaches of our rules on dress. I will be pleased if parents will take steps to see that the rules are complied with.
Yours sincerely, J Paris, Headmaster.

Notwithstanding the faultless grammar of the letter, please understand that my junior school was in Accrington, Lancashire. It was a common or garden council school. It was not the private establishment that this note would make you believe. I am rather proud to have begun my educational life there, and really quite delighted to discover this note and to find in J Paris, Headmaster a true hero of the anti-Revolution. I say this after taking evening worship wearing my usual jeans, boots & open-necked shirt.

I love - LOVE - the sentence beginning "A constant topic of conversation in 1973..."!

PS - yes, I am the one in the middle of the three amigos enjoying playtime. I'm thinking 1975 or 76. Close enough. I hope you will agree we were clean, tidy, well turned-out children.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

beginning to say goodbye

So I had my final gig with the great Byron Jones Big Band, and it was a blast.

It would be easy simply to say lots of nice things about Byron & his band - and they would all be true. It has been a real joy to know these guys and to get to sing with them has been a genuine privilege. But don't tell them. A big band singer has to be able to walk into the room & show no fear or the game's up... If you can't go in there with the attitude "you guys are lucky to have me here", you can't do this job!

Ah yes, Mack the Knife. Filmed on my iPhone from the back of the hall by Malcolm, who has been impresario for these Newport gigs - and another good friend. Tell you what, I'm in a generous mood - here's another video of me in silhouette in front of Byron's band. Who Can I Turn To.

And then on Saturday it was the turn of the Outdoors Fitness leaving party for me.

Twenty-something guys met at the Bunch for a meal, and then we went on to Clwb y Bont for drinks, and more joined us there.

In all honesty, I just felt a bit overwhelmed.

I have loved being part of this group. Loved it. I've never been this fit in my life! And I've loved being a part of the group. To be so blessed by their generosity and kindness & to have a leaving do like this - it made me rather emotional. I'm just one of the group.  And one or two of them said such nice things to me, things I'd love to record here so I don't forget them, but which actually I am going to keep simply in my rather leaky memory.

And it is beginning to seep in that this time is coming to an end. I am beginning to say goodbye. But goodbye is inadequate; when you are me, most of the time you spend your time being blessed by all kinds of people around you, and so "thank you" is far closer to what I mean than "goodbye".

And realising how much you have to be grateful for is - well, overwhelming.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

for the love of the game

Football - or at least FIFA, its ruling body - is in chaos. Sepp Blatter, newly re-elected president, refuses to see the crisis. ("Crisis, what is a crisis?" was his quote. Sepp, this is. When you are the reform candidate, this is a crisis.

World leaders from Kim Jong Il to - well, Kim Jong Il, have been congratulating Sepp on the manner of his re-election. Unopposed. Just the way it should be in a democratic institution. Gordon Brown was green with envy. One man one vote, that's FIFA. Shame the one man is Sepp Blatter.

The English FA tried to put it off... but they are hardly the whiter-than-whites here. Still, it was good of Julio Grondona, FIFA's senior Vice-President from Argentina, to make it clear that there was absolutely nothing wrong or corrupt about the voting procedure for this election, or for the selection of the host country in the 2018 & 2022 World Cup bids.
"With the English World Cup bid I said: 'Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote'. They then became sad and left.''
Good to know it was all done on footballing matters. Goodness knows what he would've said if he had admitted they had actually let politics into the process. "Yes, I said we had a price - the Falklands, but it was too expensive. Maybe next time?" No hang on, I think he actually did say that. Proudly.

Still, the reforming Mr Blatter will sort that out.


The beautiful game. Russian oligarchs & Arab billionaires running clubs obsessed with vain playboy moneygrabbing oiks. Thank God we have Sepp Blatter. It could be worse.