Yes, I remember Hoy.

Hoy m 24-11-2014 21-58-10

A lazy summer’s day,
crossing a stream
below a clump of trees,
knee-deep in ferns,
we heard (but did not see) a golden oriole.

It seemed to be saying
“Put the radio on ”
in lovely lilting liquid notes
“Please put the radio on “
over and over again
“Please please put the radio on “

no sign of irritation
no note of ennui

no hint of weariness

such a sweet song
such a gentle tone
such a calm, sweet nature.

And now
all Anna has to say is
“Put the radio on “

to make me laugh
to lift me out of a dark mood
to make me remember
the sounds of summer
and the feel of  happiness,

Hoy m 24-11-2014 21-58-10

Music Makers

According to William Congreve, music hath powers to soothe the savage breast . The white piano below is soothing savage breasts in the Scottish Arts & Antiques Centre.
Last  Sunday afternoon.
Nocturne Op 9 No. 2.
According to Chopin’s lover,  Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (aka George Sand ),  “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved “.
They went to Mallorca together but alas alas didn’t find the one happiness in life there.
Or anywhere.
Jane Stirling, daughter of the  Laird of Kippendavie, was the other important woman in Chopin’s life.
She supported him emotionally and financially in his last years.
He dedicated a couple of  his Nocturnes to her.

DSCN1960 mnWhat’s a sitar player doing in Sauchiehall Street?
Glaswegians stop to stare; some even stop to listen to this usually 17-stringed instrument although its name comes from the Persian sehtar meaning three-stringed.
After its popularity in the 50s because of the playing and teaching of Ravi Shankar, the sitar was taken up by George Harrison then incorporated in the Beatles range of instruments ( ” Norwegian Wood”, “Within You Without You”, “Tomorrow never knows” ).anna 7  A woman playing the bagpipes! Whatever next?
She was playing a pibroch at the Waverley Station corner in Princes Street, a spot favoured by bagpipers although at Festival time, they can be found (and heard ) in any available doorway.Embra eoilLike this one.
Reminding  passers-by of Scotia’s past glories.
Unlike the lady piper, this piper has gone for the full Highland military regalia – the horsehair sporran, the white hose tops, the buckled belt, the glengarry….
In the First World War, there were 2,500 pipers whose task was to be first over the top, leading their regiment towards the enemy trenches.
1,000 were killed.
The bravest of the brave.

em bAgain at Festival time in Edinburgh you can find street performers like these two – the one-man band and his unadored but adoring assistant.
The servile clown and the narcissitic  performer are a common duo (in life as on the stage): Beckett’s Pozzo & Lucky come to mind;  and Fellini’s Zampano & Gelsomino.
In   La  Strada,  Zampano ( the circus strong man played by Anthony Quinn) is supported by Gelsomino (the circus clown, played by Fellini’s wife, Giuletta Masino). Symbiotic relationships.
Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is commonly found in children  (Krusty in The Simpsons, isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs).
The white-faced clown originates from the performances of Joseph Grimaldi.
And as for the comic-relief red nose….? Who knows.festttA young blue-shirted quintet in Edinburgh’s High Street find a site with good acoustics outside St. Giles Cathedral to play their mixture of  classical and modern.
They were very good.em 8A musical trio in a Lanzarote bar play quiet Canary music I was hearing for the first time.laz cbv” O when the saints…”
A Portuguese band in Dundee who played lively music  from the 60s and 70s.
They  moved from town to town – Glasgow  to day, Edinburgh tomorrow.
They were good musicians and their music brought a vivid touch of the Mediterranean to  Scotland’s grey city streets and squares.
Note Desperate Dan in the background.



 The man that hath no music in himself,
nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
the motions of his spirit are dull as night
and his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music

Songs of Two Cultures

Sarie Marais


South African song (Afrikaans)
Nostalgic, folksy song
living in the past,

O bring my terug na die ou Transvaal
Daar waar my Sarie woon
Daar onder in die mielies by die groen doring boom
Daar woon my Sarie Marais

*   *   *   *



Kenya song (Swahili)

Jambo Bwana,
Habari gani,
Mzuri sana.
Kenya yetu
Hakuna Matata.
nchi nzuri,
Hakuna Matata.
Nchi ya maajabu
Hakuna Matata.
Nchi yenye amani,
Hakuna Matata.
Hakuna Matata,
Hakuna Matata.
Watu wote,
Hakuna Matata,
Hakuna Matata.
Hakuna Matata,
Hakuna Matata

Very African,
fun to sing
fun to listen to
 fun to dance to,
living in the present,

Things I Remember From School


Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.


….strange how stuff from school days sticks, resurfaces, acquires new meaning as you grow old(er)……
I find myself humming Schubert’s ‘The Trout’ taught us by Mr. Ronald Center, our inspiring music teacher. As well as ‘ Who is Sylvia?, and  Schumann’s ‘ To France and to freedom two grenadiers/from bondage in Russia were tramping/And bowed with shame and foreboding they came/Where lay Russian soldiers camping...’

And I can still recite  Longfellow’s Blacksmith poem which I still don’t like much but which our very uninspiring English teacher made us learn by heart (as well as  Shylock’s

Signor Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine—
And all for use of that which is mine own. “
which I like more and more – but never got round to finding out what exactly was Shylock’s ‘gaberdine’.
And  she also made us learn Gray’s ‘  The ploughman homeward plods his weary way‘ which I admire now but  found impossibly dull then
and Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’
and so on.
I can clearly remember the context in which I learned all these scraps – the teacher (Miss B, was that a wig she was wearing? Mr C with his long black hair which was okay because he was a musician), the classroom (cupboard on the right side, windows on the left) , the pupils ( Jimmy H who laughed at everything, Grace L who was so tall and so beautiful, Ralph M who couldn’t pronounce the letter ‘r’ and whose father owned the local fish and chip shop), the feelings (anxiety, embarrassment, amusement, interest, boredom):
Jimmy now farms his father’s farm;  Grace went to Southampton; Ralph was killed in a car crash; the teachers…….I didn’t go to any reunions; I lost touch.
But over the years I have kept in touch with the poems and songs  –  the village blacksmith with his strong and sinewy hands, badly-done-by Signor Antonio, the two patriotic Grenadiers, the beautiful Sylvia, the constant ploughman  –  they have all stayed with me,  and in addition I have become aware of  and appreciate the hidden ideas and the skills which created and infused these poems and songs we learnt so reluctantly so long ago…….
And oft, when on my couch I lie/ In vacant or in pensive mood/ They flash upon that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude.
They comfort me.

Getting there

Late afternoon, Boxing Day, in the rain…an oldish guy (in his fifties?), well-fed, not exactly poorly dressed, no dog at his feet,  playing his trombone in the shelter afforded by a city department store against the rain; playing ‘You are my sunshine….’ a few missed notes….

Okay but not enough happening.

I’ve come round to wanting a narrative content in the photographs I take/look at. Not that I’ve moved on from landscapes, portraits, but just that for the time being I like pictures that tell a story that 1000 words can’t.
So this is a beginning: a story: outside a Marks & Spencer store; an oldish guy, not a beggar, playing a trombone for passers-by; a youngish guy, tall, athletic, smart casual, with lights flashing on his footwear stopping just long enough to drop a coin into the old man’s yawning instrument case. The trombonist half turns to acknowledge the donation……

Getting there…The Kindness of Strangers…getting there.





Words have sounds and rhythms which reinforce their meaning: ‘flip-flop’ echoes the sound and rhythm made by that particular type of footwear….and ‘thud’, ‘bang’, ‘crash’  etc. are obviously words that echo the sound they represent; words like ‘shuffle’, ‘flutter’ imitate movement as well as sound…..
‘Ping-pong’ sounds even better the other way round      –     gnip-gnop gnip gnop  gni….oops…pick it off the floor…there it is…there, under the chair…
Likewise  the word – SPLASH – is an  ideogram of the event it signifies:
1) The  initial  sibilant  –  S – replicates the hiss of the stone cutting through the air (SSS);
2) then  comes the plosive – P –  as the stone breaks  the surface of the water (SSS – P);
3) the labial –  L –  pictures  the stone gliding under the sutface  (SSS-P-LLL);
4) The concluding – ASH – is the plume of spray sent up by the stone as it disappears into the water (SSS – P – LLL- AAASHSHSH).

‘glides’   has the sounds to suggest after an initial thrust, effortless motion in/on/through water  –     G….. LLL….IDE….SSSSS

and it sounds even better in French:

Le cygne chasse l’onde avec ses larges palmes
et glisse………………

And  finally I remember from my schooldays when we had to learn poetry by heart, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s

” the moan of doves in immemorial elms,
   and murmuring of innumerable bees. “


The Scottish piper whose music either scrapes your nerves or stirs your blood.

The Ubiquitous sheep –
the monarch of  a Perthshire glen
waiting for a Landseer to pass by.

A cu (to give it its Scottish name) grazing.

and kye ( the plural of ‘cu’)  not grazing.

A hare in hiding on St Ninian’s Isle in Shetland where Douglas Coutts, a Lerwick school boy, discovered a larch box containing 28 Celtic brooches and a dolphin’s jawbone.

Two horses in Aberdeenshire which reminded me of Edwin Muir’s eponymous poem about horses helping to recreate a post-apocolyptic  world.

And on the domestic front, a neighbour’s cat I became very fond of – it got run over alas alas

Woof! Woof!

and a Blairgowrie dog that was supposed to be a guard dog but was really a welcome dog.

Finally  a  salmon I caught in Loch Fyne (thereby hangs a tale)  and cooked in Glasgow for Hank and Sonia.

One Day My Prints Will Come (2)

I’d like to pick your brains AGAIN -this is the beginning of a short story –  and the last line….

it’s about loss and change – any suggestions as to what might happen in between?

385330 dog catching ball Dicas para exercitar o seu cão

I am in the garden listening with Kate to someone  singing  on the little radio my mother bought for me last summer from a door-to-door salesman driving a white Morris Traveller. She also bought 4 grapefruit spoons from him which we never use because we’re not really grapefruit people. Too bitter. Too fussy. But mother likes rituals. “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” she has told me more times than I care to remember.
“Would you like me to take your picture?” the salesman asked when she brought out lemonade for us all on the big silver tray with ice cubes clinking against the sides of the crystal glasses in time with her steps. He had unclipped the camera dangling from a strap round his neck even before he asked,  big, black and expensive-looking. “I’ll bring you the prints next time I call, ” he promised.   “No charge. Free, gratis and for nothing.  Now where shall I put you? Over there, I think.”  It was like he was some big Hollywood film producer and we were his actors. “Yes, over there. By that tree, ” and he took  picture after picture of us sitting on the lawn under the apple tree, with Kate jumping  for a ball which he kept throwing up into the air for her to catch and which she kept bringing back to him, dropping at his feet then looking up at him, watching , anticipating  his every movement, poised to go, tense with excitement. “Perfect…Just one  
more…” he kept saying.  ” Last one…wait for it…watch the ball…… watch the ball.. now….that’s it…..perfect.” He had to move quickly after he had thrown the ball to press the shutter button at exactly the right moment to get us all in the picture, especially Kate,  and in exactly the right position.
I think he was a pretty good photographer.
He must have taken at least a dozen pictures before he was satisfied then he drove himself out of our lives.
That was about a year ago.
Since then a lot has changed I think as I switch off the radio. Since then my mother has re-married, my best friend has moved to some place abroad – Kenya or Nigeria – one of these African places, and I have stopped eating. Oh and a 4th thing – the apple tree has gone – some sort of tree disease that couldn’t be cured.
I keep hoping the salesman will pitch up in his Morris Traveller with the  photo of  that day when we still had the apple tree and were all smiling and drinking lemonade.
I’m not banking on it though.

Of course I haven’t stopped eating altogether and I know all about anorexia and bulimia and all that eating-disorder stuff, who doesn’t? Pick up any magazine and there’s an article either on ‘How to tackle obesity’ or ‘What makes your daughter want to look like a stick insect’. It sometimes seems that half the world can’t stop eating and the other half can’t start.
I have to go once a week to talk to Mrs. Hunter who used to be a Modern Studies teacher but couldn’t take it any more and moved into Guidance. She’s about mother’s age, always bronzed as if she’s just come back from 2 weeks in Benidorm. Very intense. She gets more upset than I do when I talk to her. Because I’ve read so much about it I probably know more about what causes stuff like anorexia than she does. I make things up. ” I just hate the way I look, ” I tell her. ” I’d like to look like you. Do you work at it or is that just the way you naturally are? ” She ends up telling me all about herself  while I listen with a sympathetic nod now and again to encourage her when she slows down which I don’t think is how it’s supposed to work out.
Of course I do eat but not when anyone’s watching. I’m sort of  a secret eater.  I don’t have much of an appetite any more but I’m not daft – I know that if I don’t eat I’ll die.
But then we all will.
I fiddle with my radio but there’s nothing I want to listen to so I shout to my mother that I’m taking Kate for a walk and she comes out of the kitchen drying her hands on her apron and hands me Kate’s lead. We saw a depressing film on television around Christmas time about a farmer whose young dog slipped out of  its chain and chased a whole flock of sheep over a cliff. Killed the lot of them. The dog got shot but it was really the farmer’s fault – he hadn’t trained the dog properly, hadn’t made sure it was securely chained,  and ever since,  mother has seen Kate as a potential sheep-killer and warns me not to go near Collithie farm or if I do to keep Kate on her lead.
We don’t go near Collithie. Instead we go in completely the opposite direction,  across the river and the railway line and up the hill to what’s left of some old castle, just an archway really which you can see from miles around on either side. We’re in sheep country again so I put Kate on her lead. Something to do with the chemical composition of the soil gives the saliva of the sheep which graze on this hill a sort of  yellow colour so that they seem to have gold teeth. It’s a funny place. I like it.
I can see someone standing in the archway and as I get closer I hear someone talking. I’m glad I’ve got Kate with me. I let her off the lead but when I get to the archway there’s  no-one there. There’s a cigarette stub on a flagstone and the usual bits of plastic litter  but that could be from weeks ago. Kate sniffs around, pees against one of the stones, sits down and looks up at me, awaiting instructions.

                                                *    *

                                                 * * *

Kate and I sit in the warm sun long after he has gone.
A plane crosses the cloudless sky, high up, heading for Spain. Or Africa.
“Well, Kate, ” I say. “I’m feeling hungry. Let’s go.”

Blow your heart out for passing strangers

We take  up our usual stance outside Marks and Spencers almost directly opposite Tescos, and in no time at all,  from our shiny silver instruments,  we’re blasting out  ‘Good King Wenceslas’  into the cold, clean air  for the benefit  of last-minute Christmas shoppers  (take a quick breath).
I never grow tired of playing  ‘Good King Wenceslas.’  Or listening to it.
I think it’s my favourite favourite. And it’s not as easy to play as you would imagine.
In fact it’s really quite a complicated piece. It consists of five quatrains. Each quatrain has the scheme ABABCDCD with feminine rhyme and internal rhyme.  The unstressed syllable of the fourth foot is abated in each line in favor of a caesura, forming the line into two hemistichs. In the accompanying common time musical score, the caesura is attained by rendering the fourth foot as a half note (or minim), while the last foot of the line effectively becomes a spondee by being realized as two half notes.
Perhaps you don’t really have to know all that to feel happier, better, braver when you hear it (take another quick breath) but a little knowledge never goes amiss.

If one out of every hundred stops to listen and is affected by the music or the message that is all we ask for