Old folk at lunch

Sunday, November 30, 2008

St. Andrew's Day



As most Scots will be aware, today (30th) is St. Andrew's Day. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and St. Andrew's Day is Scotland's official national day, although Burns' Night is more widely and lavishly celebrated. It is a "bank holiday" in Scotland. So I have just hoisted the Saltire of St. Andrew on the flagpole at the front of my house. I encourage others with Scottish loyalties to do likewise. I am also hoping that I will be having something Scottish for dinner tonight. I seem to be out of haggis but I do have some Forfar Bridies in my freezer -- to be had with tatties, of course.

Below is one of the great Scottish patriotic songs. Play the music, read the words and sing along:


SCOTLAND THE BRAVE!

1). Hark when the night is falling,
Hear! hear the pipes are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling,
Down thro' the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping,
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old Highland men.

Chorus: Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland the brave.

2). High in the misty Highlands
Out by the purple islands,
Brave are the hearts that beat
Beneath Scottish skies.
Wild are the winds to meet you,
Staunch are the friends that greet you,
Kind as the love that shines from fair maidens' eyes.

Chorus:

3). Far off in sunlit places
Sad are the Scottish faces,
Yearning to feel the kiss
Of sweet Scottish rain.
Where the tropics are beaming
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for the hameland again.

Chorus:

4). Hot as a burning ember, (This verse is not always sung)
Flaming in bleak December
Burning within the hearts
Of clansmen afar!
Calling to home and fire,
Calling the sweet desire,
Shining a light that beckons from every star!

Chorus

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another poetry night



I got Michael Darby up from Sydney again last night; This time to help expand Joe's awareness of English poetry. Anne was down in Sydney at a conference connected to her work so Jenny came in and cooked us our dinner: Roast lamb followed by trifle. And a very good dinner it was. The menu was designed to fit in with the English theme and I also flew the flag of St George from my flagpole.

Dinner started at 7pm on time but it was a close run thing as Michael got here only about 5 minutes before that. Joe, Sam, Jill and Lewis made up the party. Jill and Michael are old friends.

I have recently had a few minor renovations done so my place was at its best for the occasion. As I usually do, I set the table with EPNS silver and bone-handled knives: Genuine living in the past! I opened the proceedings with a champagne toast: "For St George and merrie England".

Much poetry was read and recited, including a lot of old favourites: Tennyson, Shelley, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Hopkins etc. As the years go by I become more and more impressed by Tennyson. I helped out by doing some of the readings but I get hoarse very quickly these days so I was pretty croaky by the end of the night and retired exhausted at about 10pm. Michael was his usual stentorian self during his readings and recitations and Jenny stayed on chatting to him until about 11pm.

The table conversation was rather rabidly conservative. Lewis and Michael both tore into Australia's Leftists with Jill and I just occasionally chiming in with a few similar remarks. It must have been a contrast for Joe when compared with what he hears in the university environment. Since Joe's own views tend conservative, I think he would have found it refreshing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Some meandering Sunday morning thoughts



Most of what I put up on my blogs is written by others. I suppose I am lucky that I do regularly find stuff that I agree with or find interesting. Every now and again, however, I do put up something that is entirely written by me and today is one of those occasions. And, seeing it is a quiet, relaxed Sunday morning, I am just going to meander a bit.



I was just listening to the superb "Sea pictures" by Sir Edward Elgar (pic above). I am lucky to have a CD on which Dame Janet Baker is the contralto and she does a superb job. The poems Elgar chose to set were drawn from quite obscure poets for the most part and my favourite song is "Where corals lie" -- written by a little-known Scotsman. I was born where corals lie (by the sea in tropical Queensland) so maybe that has a little to do with it. Following "Corals", however, is a song which is set to a poem ("Swimmer") by Adam Lindsay Gordon, a highly esteemed Australian poet. And that sparked the thought that I should have a poetry evening for the more profound Australian poets. I have already had an evening for the Australian balladeers -- Lawson, Paterson, Dennis etc -- at which the inimitable Michael Darby starred, but, much as I love the balladeers, they are not the whole of what Oz poetry has to offer. Writers like Gordon, Kenneth Slessor etc are also in my view outstanding.

Michael Darby is coming up from Sydney in a week's time to give us his renditions of English poetrty so I am somewhat inclined to give him the job of introducing my son to the more profound Australian poets as well. And I may do that. I put on a poetry evening at my place once or twice a year to help fill in the gaps in my son's education. He went right through High School without even hearing the names of such greats as Wordsworth and Coleridge.

On the other hand, is it not a little broad to look at a whole class of poets? Poets are intensely individual. So should I not also have an evening devoted to a particular poet? In one sense I do that every year of course -- on January 25 when I have a Burns Night -- a ritualized celebration of the birth of Robert Burns -- and next year I even have an old Kiwi friend coming up to help with the festivities who does a reasonable Scottish accent. I gather that his Dunedin origins account for that. So I will dragoon him into reading most of the poems.



But in my strange way, there is also a religious poet whom I very much like: Gerard Manley Hopkins. See the icon above (an icon of the pre-computer sort). And I am not alone in that liking. There are actually Hopkins literary festivals in some places. I could of course have an evening devoted to Hopkins in which I did all the reading. There are plenty of his poens that attract my enthusiasm. But while my poetry nights are mainly for the benefit of my son, I like to get a little extra out of them myself as well. So I would rather like to have a Hopkins enthusiast to do the honours. And the obvious enthusiast would have to be a Jesuit -- which is what Hopkins was. But does the Society of Jesus even exist in Brisbane? I suppose it might. I will have to look into it.