… is unbelievably fun to watch.
Sometimes you just need a rainy evening to remind you that God is good, the world is okay, and it's gonna be alright.
Back in the olden days, I used to make a point of going outside when it rained. Sometimes it was because I wanted to sing loudly without worrying about other people (there's nowhere more private than a rainstorm – all the sensible people are safe inside – plus the rain muffles everything); sometimes it was because I liked how it felt to have my hair so wet that it couldn't get any wetter, and to have the water race down my faces in rivulets; sometimes it was because I felt like there was something magical in a downpour that no one but me had ever noticed; and sometimes it was just for the pleasure of coming back in to the warm and dry. Anyway, that's what I used to do.
Tonight, I didn't go out into the rain – it sort of ambushed me. I was on my way home from football, where I had played averagely and felt frustrated, even though we clung on for a one goal win. I got dropped off a few hundred metres from home and, after walking at normal speed for a bit, I began to notice that somehow I had found my way into a magical raindrop world of beautiful, quiet, insistent wetness. It hit me, dribbled down me and washed away my annoyance and what-have-you. It made me look up and smile. I slowed my speed, turned off my internal monologue for a bit and – the most dangerous thing of all – started to sing. Halfway down Lothian Road, just outside ScotMid. I think other people might have heard me, especially when I did the 'woa-oh woa-oh-oh-ooh' bit from a Sam Cooke song I have appropriated as a hymn tune. I hope they liked it.
And when I got to my front door, I stopped for a few seconds, listening to the sound of raindrops hitting trees (one of my favourite noises) and wondering if I could get back into the habit of wet walks.
About an hour ago, in the Links pub, my leprechaun of a good luck charm of a fiancee (and I) watched Manchester United win the Premier League. For the third year in a row. The same three years for which Maria has been supporting them. She knows no failure; she knows no defeat.
And it doesn't stop there. In world football, there are only two teams which Maria has actually seen in action – Truro City and Exeter City. These are her 'bonus' teams, when in need of respite from MUFC online blogs and youtube videos of Wayne Rooney's gorgeous face. And how did they do this year? Champions. Both of them. Oh yes.
My fiancee is magical. If you wish to hire her to support your club, do be in touch.
The great dichotomy of our times, given that everybody knows we all agree that environmental yadda yadda is the globe’s greatest concern, is how come, now everyone’s on side for planet-saving, nobody wants to vote for the saviours? Why is the green movement unable to make any appreciable dent in a western democracy? Nobody likes politicians, but apparently we like green politicians even less.
The truth is, environmentalists are just not attractive. They’re not winning, engaging, amusing or empathetic. They are ranty, repetitive, patronising, demanding, deaf, weirdly bonkers and smelly. Environmentalists are the nutters with degrees in composting who sit next to you on the bus.
But that’s not their real impediment. The real killer thing is the schadenfreude: the naked, transparent, hand-rubbing glee with which they pass on every shame, sadness and terror. No disaster is too appalling or imminent that the green movement can’t caper and keen with a messianic glee.
This is a real problem. Or, rather, it’s a serious blockage on the road to solving the real problem. Eco-advocates are viscerally unconscionable people. The enormous, vicarious pleasure they get from frightening folk makes them repellent, and they get all hurt when we don’t thank them for it. Nobody wants to trust a future to a bunch of malcontents who plainly have so much of their self-worth and cachet invested in it all going to hell in a recycled handcart.
This isn’t merely a question of presentation, or marketing, or tone, or spin, this is serious cultural blindness and childish arrogance. Green campaigners are a larger part of the problem than jumbo jets and cow farts, and if your children drown in rising seas, or die of thirst or skin cancer, well, you can just blame the Green Brigade for being so crawlingly unattractive.
For the last couple of months, I've given myself a different sort of creative project: to find singable tunes for unsingable hymns.
You know as well as I do that 8 out of 10 hymns have beautiful lyrics but nigh-atrocious, horribly clunky music. It's not just that the melodies are dated, it's that we no longer sing like that – when was the last time Fight The Good Fight or God Moves In A Mysterious Way turned up in church? Exactly, because we can't sing them.
And it's a huge huge shame – these words are our heritage (not to mention being 20 times better than most modern worship songs), and are going to waste. So here I come to save the day …
A few years ago, I discovered by accident that Amazing Grace fits the tune for House of the Rising Sun beautifully, but I was also fascinated to notice how giving the lyrics different melodic emphases somehow brings out new depth of meaning (plus the original context of the tune – the song of a repentant alcoholic – is very appropriate). So that's what I've tried to do: bring new life to old words by singing them anew.
Here are some of my favourites:
Abide With Me
tune: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
How Great Thou Art
tune: Danny Boy
My Song Is Love Unknown
tune: Dock Of The Bay
Onward Christian Soldiers
tune: All Along The Watchtower
tune: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
O For A Thousand Tongues
tune: Blowin In The Wind
God Moves In A Mysterious Way
It Is Well With My Soul
tune: When A Man Loves A Woman
There are a few more too, but I'm winding down in my search now. I find that once I'm on one kind of creative project, I can't really do any others, and I've missed writing – I've not been able to do any of any substance for the last two months. I'm trying to switch back now (working on my story about a school set up to support the children of superheroes)
so I thought I'd mention my hymns before I wave goodbye to them …
Last weekend was my birthday, and a really great one it was too – the kind of day that felt like it suited everyone involved and, in doing so, suited me. Along the way I received quite a bundle of presents, cards and the like, but I wanted to give an honourable mention to our friends the Lockharts, from whom I received a jar of (home-made) Dandelion Tea, and this poem:
Marigolds, by Robert Graves [abridged slightly]
With a fork drive Nature out,
She will ever yet return;
Hedge the flowerbed all about,
Pull or stab or cut or burn.
Look, the constant marigold
Springs again from hidden roots.
Baffled gardener you behold
New beginning and new shoots
Spring again from hidden roots.
Pull or stab or cut or burn
Love must ever yet return.
I find this sort of stuff utterly fascinating, so please come and share in the thrill of discovery with me! Or not, if you prefer.
This is a map of the (indigenous) tribes of Europe, as they were after the First World War – a time when ethnicity and nationalism were of great importance (eg. the Irish Free State, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of self-determination & representational democracy). All good stuff to get into.
Don't you love how Lowland Scots (and most Irish) have been categorised
as 'English'? I'm presuming that this means English-speakers (itself a debatable thing) and not intended to annoy, but it
does show a wonderful lack of tact on behalf of the cartographers.
Click for a larger version …
Who we are is a direct result of who we were: this is my philosophical nugget for the week. A good nugget, and one I am presently putting into practise by writing a song for the World Cup next year – a song to raise England's morale and chances of winning by reminding us of who we are and who we were. Ask and I might whistle it to you 🙂
"This is… a perfect day, Jeeves. What's that thing of yours about larks?"
"And I rather think, snails."
"Oh, yes, sir. 'The year's at Spring, the day's at the morn, morning's at seven, the hill-side's dew-pearled –' "
"But the larks, Jeeves? The snails? I'm pretty sure larks and snails entered into it."
"I am coming to the larks and snails, sir. 'The lark's on the wing, the snail's on the thorn –' "
"Now you're talking. And the tab line?"
" 'God's in His Heaven, all's right with the world.' "
Today is my birthday. HIPY PAPY BTHETHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY to me.
To celebrate, I got up at 3:45 this morning to go out and listen to the Dawn Chorus on a farm near Broxburn with some Jesuits. It's a good thing to do, especially for someone like me who lacks self-discipline but wants to improve and be more Godly in simple things, like recognising birdsong or looking silently at the dawning sun.
We saw a couple of larks do their ascend-dive-ascend-dive thing, and welcomed back to the country birds (willow warbler etc.) that had been in Africa till last week. And now I'm 28. I think I might have a bath.