Friday, 30 September 2011

I'm not a fan of X-Factor but...

There is some good in everything... a heart warming clip from the Australian show. All things work together? Especially the responses from Ronan Keating on and off camera plus love the excerpt of 30 Seconds To Mars playing in the background as the judges' votes are lodged.

P h/t The Wedlocks

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Why does my heart feel so bad?

Blackie - from birth circa 1995 to 27th September 2011

Dear Lord, thank you for Your creation and for our Blackie.

Thank you for bringing her into our lives and the joy that she gave us.

Thank you for the home, comfort and security we were able to share with Blackie.

Now as we say goodbye help us to remember the joy and warmth we feel for her as we wipe away our tears.

Earth to earth, dust to dust...

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


Listening and watching the moment Lexie says goodbye in Monarch of the Glen...

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Monday, 26 September 2011

Aircrew training 10th Jan 1941 - Books

Dad's bookcase and some original books in my music room
Entry number four from my father's wartime journal covering his thoughts on Bomber Command aircrew training during 1941. Dad was both very well read and a collector of books. Am pleased to say I am now custodian of the wonderful gems he discovered. Earlier posts from his journal:
Entry 4 - January 10th

The day has drawn, once more, to a close. No flying today. We managed to get to get the evening off in Didcot and arrived back rather late when we adjourned to the mess, which made us even later. I received an extremely good letter from Beryl (his younger sister) and another from Mrs Peach who is still worrying over Jack (Jack Lavers enlisted with dad and, after the war, became the family solicitor).

This evening my thoughts, prompted from some unknown source, made me think of my collection of books at home. The main theme was actually concentrated on what should become of them in the event of my death. It seems such a pity that so many volumes collected with unwonted pains and energy should now be of no use to anyone.

With books I have spent so much of my time that my soul is held between their musty leaves. To me, perhaps, in some frustrated way they have been the outlet for unbounded love on my part. I lived with them and now the mere sight of them fills me with pleasant memories of more happier times when I was free to browse, at my leisure, on the intellectual fare provided.

I have heard Robespierre proclaim his fiery, wonderful exposition of liberty, equality and fraternity in the French Revolution. Seen his proscriptions and the tumbrils full of condemned men and women the next day. I have been at the side of Napoleon in his campaign in Northern Italy and marched with Wellington in the Peninsula. Macaulay, Allison, Adam Smith Gibson, Shakespeare have all provided me with their philosophy and works and added to works of countless modern authors have given me spiritual meat and drink for the past five years. What will happen to them when they no longer have one beside them who cherishes them as though they were his betrothed? Perhaps my people will realise what they have meant to me and say of those faded and stained books,'there lies his soul, his mind, all of him that was best and that which we counted most dear'.

Douglas George Banks 1920 – 1989 written in 1941

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Stages of Faith...

Things you see on a church bookstall that make you ever so grateful your mobile has a built-in camera...

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Making the Last Night special...

On 15th September 2001 American conductor Leonard Slatkin led the BBC Orchestra in a dramatic rendition of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings at the BBC Proms. This was a change to the usual program of exclusively jingoistic ditties that is the regular fare at the Last Night of The Proms. Some questions readily arise:

  • Was it the proximity to the tragedy of 9/11 that made it so spine tingling?
  • Does the music carry such gravitas in itself that has made it one of the most popular classical pieces?
  • Was it because the Proms broke with traditions held since inception to invite an American to conduct the Last Night?
  • Was it the interpretation that Leonard Slatkin brought to the piece being an American and therefore relating more strongly to 9/11?

Furthermore, are we prepared to embrace the deeper notion that Barber, when composing his Op.11, sensed that this moment would arrive, when, one day, his piece would become a majestic incarnation, even though he would have clearly been unaware of the detail and extent it would be able to provide such succour to body, soul and spirit years later?

It is safe to assume that being present in the Royal Albert Hall at the time with the additional ambience and audio dynamics was definitely preferable to the somewhat diluted intensity of viewing on TV. Regardless, many, including myself, watched transfixed, sharing this special moment simultaneously, yet our experience was both tempered by production decisions and would have been spoiled by a disturbance such as a telephone call.

Watching on video now does not have the same sense, it certainly triggers recall but it is not of the moment. However, sometimes the corollary may apply as we consider whether some performances take on greater significance after the actual event as time passes as the cache builds from word of mouth. A reflection of the earlier oral traditions, perhaps?


Monday, 12 September 2011

Ten Years After...

Yesterday (Sunday 11th Sept 2011) I was privileged to musically assist my buddy Rob Halligan at one of the events happening on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Because of the extra security in Grosvenor Square for the BBC live transmission of the afternoon memorial ceremony meant I landed up having to be between the inner 'secure' area and the great outside. So I was only able to watch, from a distance, over the hedge or through the door of one of the BBC outside broadcast trucks whilst being unable to traverse either security cordon. Ironically this restriction then enabled a wider perspective on what was happening all around the square, both being able to witness the various protests and 'unrest' along with hobnobbing with the police and media personnel. At times there were some unusual juxtapositions, for example there was one period when what protestors were shouting through a megaphone blended with very audible music from the Radio 2 Hyde Park concert whilst the Thoresby Colliery Welfare Band brass band deftly played Sir Edward Elgar's sublime 'Nimrod' as the guests were gathering.

Prior to the service Rob was on the media interview 'treadmill', his responses encompassing the virtues of grace, forgiveness, hope and redemption giving the broadcasters an opportunity to explore a sea change in thinking partly fueled by a sense of 9/11 'replay' fatigue. And all this under the shadow of the massive eagle atop the foreboding American embassy to the West. Even the programmes presenter, David Dimbleby, felt some optimism replacing the usual entrenched views when chairing an intriguing Questiontime on 9/11 the preceding week.

Another of the concerns expressed by various commentators is that the repeated showing of films of from that day would inflict pain on grieving relatives all over again. However, whilst sharing one of those precious cuppa moments with Rob yesterday he said that it isn't the footage that gets to him, it is often music that's the trigger to bereavement symptoms. Some songs, some bands and even music that is not Rob's taste all have a powerful effect. Nowadays when there is such a close correlation of news footage and a typical Hollywood blockbuster perhaps we actually become inured to reality once it is repeated so many times?


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Isle of Wight - seeking sanctuary World War Two

The next episode from my father's wartime journal covering his thoughts on Bomber Command aircrew training during 1941. This day he reminisces about his home, the Isle of Wight, with vivid, literary images of vantage points that I can readily place as I, too, explored the same places of my birthplace just over a decade later. Previous posts from the journal:

Entry 3 - January 9th

At the moment I am about to go up on my first night flight. Today has been very fine, for January, and the night augurs well for the trip as the moon is already up delineated against the clear, cloudless, frosty sky. We went up this morning, as well, for a 3 hour cross country so today I shall feel I'm a real airman.

The long sojourns in the crew room today were broken up by thinking of the Isle of Wight. The saying that 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' is all too true as far as I am concerned with the Island. For too long I had been abusing it, disdaining it, now, at last, the memory of the home town recurs to me like a vision of paradise (Dad lived in Lake, a village between Sandown and Shanklin).

So vivid are these impressions, culled from the all too short periods of leave, that by now I can smell the tang of the salt laden, sea-weedy air that impinges on the back of the nostrils and permeates the system like a draught of nectar. I can feel the ridges on my arm as I lean over the guard wires on the cliff and stare happily at the slight, oily swell and the tumbling frothy tide breaking spasmodically on the brown sands below.

Away on the left is the symmetrical curved hump of Culver Cliffs, its regularity broken only by the outline of the fort and the wireless station with its aerial and obelisk. It sweeps up and over and ends in the sheer white cliffs which tumble into the sea. The white cliffs end suddenly and emerge as another strata of red sandstone which throws the whole setting into a remarkable relief. Just below us stands the pier with its pathetic broken back, the remnants of which are revealed by the ebbing tide. The whole scene is remarkable by its throbbing quiet broken only by the screech of a seagull or the shuffling gait of an aged couple taking a constitution which has become a ritual to them.

Yet again, superimposed on that vision, I find myself spirited away to the opposite end of the Bay where, sitting on the handrails of the steps on the cliff, I pause to stare at the wrinkled face of Dunnose Head. This old, red-brown cliff has its upper face worn and lined with the marks of denudation its lower part is worn smooth by the erosion of the sea. It stands impassively, brooding, looking out at the ocean, the changeless, yet changing, face of nature. Tufts of grass and clumps of gorse have precariously established themselves, where possible, on the cliff and give a personality unique to itself. A sea breeze ruffles the foliage of the trees beyond it and as I feel its chilling effect I shiver and learn how puny man is when faced with nature. How the grandeur of nature makes man's foolish plans and schemes pall into appalling insignificance?

The scene is changed once again, the air persistent in its claim for recognition has been subtly infusing with its salty tang the soft, sweet fragrance of the country meadows of hay, clover, gorse and trees. The sound of the quiet has changed from the rhythmic lap-lap of the gentle waves to the whistle of the wind in the trees and the passing of a breeze over a full stocked field. I'm looking from the road over the countryside. From the road the terrain rushes precipitously away to the bottom of a valley where a small stream meanders slowly to its ultimate end. A small copse covers the stream's retreat, a bastard offspring of a large wood, distant and barely seen. Beyond, the valley undulates gently up to a height slightly less than my vantage point, diversified by little nooks and rills characterised by the rambling hedges.

The more I contemplated, the more vivid the constantly changing vista becomes. How little I realised, for two years, the true value of those things I then considered commonplace and mundane. Once again that marvellous wonder of nature, the mind, rescues us and restores that beautiful environment.

Douglas George Banks 1920 – 1989 written in 1941


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Aircrew training day two - politics

Day two in my father's journal of his thoughts on commencing World War Two Bomber Command aircrew training. Previous posts here:

Entry 2 - January 8th

The snow is now being conquered by the thaw, but there is probably more on the way. Flying was cancelled today and so there were plenty of opportunities for soliloquising but I'm afraid I didn't feel up to calm deliberation. Still, as Johnny is forcing me to keep up my promise I must, at least, attempt something before he switches out the lights.

I have been arguing tonight on our new world which we are so hopefully promised by our over optimistic M.P.s after the successful conclusion of this present war. To me it seems we have yet to obtain a real grip on the problem. There will be such a vast potential of promise of better things to come that our usual vacillating policy will, in the end, achieve little, or no, good. We shall have to cast all party or sectarian principles aside and strive to obtain the best out of every one of our legislative officials. The ingrown prejudices of maturer years will have to be thrown aside and youth allowed to slip in and command.

All bias against our present enemies must be overthrown and we must co-operate wholeheartedly, both nationally and internationally, to restore and reconstruct the damage that the war has forced on the people. This revival must inevitably be essentially both of a spiritual and material nature. We must appeal to the people's better nature to allow certain powers to enable us to allow this reconstruction and, at the same time, place them in such a state of mind so that they will be able to benefit by such reforms as we will be able to give. Everything and everyone that stands in our way in our path to a fuller life must be swept aside so that nothing can impede the inevitable and irresistible path of progress.

It is also essential for us to deal with fundamental realities so that at the moment we can evolve no theory or ideal is to take its place at the head of affairs. We can work on no fixed plan but will have to deal with the situation in which we find ourselves. As soon as the war ends we can start; a co-ordinated body of youth determined, at last, to give the world a new light to guide them, not disdaining criticism, but determined that nothing can deter them from reaching their goal.

Douglas George Banks 1920 – 1989 written in 1941

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Freddie Mercury Google Doodle

Remembering Freddie on his birthdate, who would have been 65 years old today. A rock genius... am privileged to have worked with both Queen and Freddie.

An official tribute and insight (with a smattering of rude words!) to planet Freddie here.


Friday, 2 September 2011

Back to the Start - Country meets Coldplay

A charming cover version of Coldplay's 'The Scientist' sung by Country Music megastar Willie Nelson as part of the soundtrack for a short film about farmers returning to a more sustainable way of working the land. The film is called: 'Back to the start' commissioned by the the Mexican (yum!) Grill chain Chipotle, official blurb here:
The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.
P h/t Mike Todd