Procrastinating as per usual, it is dark. Lights are on, curtains closed and there are Christmas songs emanating from the radio – perfect but it’s only November! Cha cing! No, I’ve never seen that written down before either but, apparently, that is how one spells the sound of money and money is what it’s all about. I have witnessed the mess, otherwise known as Christmas decorations, which began appearing on George Street on the 1st November precisely. A street, today, largely given over to flash drinking establishments catering to the hoards of hen and stag parties which are off-loaded every weekend, no need for any class or decorum; rather a ridiculous castle with lights, at one end, and those familiar silver twigs placed, intermittently, between the parking bays. All that is missing is that monstrosity at the top of Castle Street for which one is charged in the realms of £8 to be dropped from a great height. Fingers crossed or it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas!
I had no intention of discussing Christmas mid-November but, having already witnessed the panic and ensuing trolley warfare in the shops, I came across a statistic jotted down on one of the many pieces of paper, growing, beside me: namely, that one in five people – when asked who was born on Christmas Day – did not know it was Jesus. Jesus! A further ten percent did not know he was born in a stable. Did they go to school? How could one blot the nativity play from memory, supposedly the event which brings out the most competitive spirit in parents today? Won’t be long before money changes hands or is that just being naïve? Am I missing something? Anyway, these figures are courtesy of Jeremy Vine. Reputable source and I like him!
As I have said many times before, life is nothing if not full of highs and lows and none more so than the last month for me. I lost my beloved Pop on the 16th October and, an emotional mess, went to see Tom Odell on the 18th. Well documented, he was superb and the fun we had that night, thankfully, gave me something else on which to focus. Fast forward a week and we were in beautiful sunny Roma drinking Cervaro and riding, on horseback, down the Via Appia! See what I mean? Huge highs and huge lows. Here we were doing something absolutely amazing, ironically reminding me that life goes on. The Appian Way was built in 312 B.C. and those who have trodden its path, over two thousand years and more, are now but grains of sand. The memory of each and every one, however, is carried in the hearts of those they loved and whose lives they touched. In the end, that’s all that matters …
Moving on to Remembrance Sunday, especially poignant as it marked the Centenary of the end of the First World War. The television coverage in the week previous was superb with stories of courage and loss accompanied by old film. I caught the commemorative Antiques Roadshow on the Friday night and realized I had to go to a church service to pay my respects. Have poppies will travel! We joined Becca at the Glenalmond Chapel Service and sang our hearts out whilst also standing to honour the former pupils who gave their lives. The name of each was read out. There were one hundred and fifty-seven, more than the total head count at the school in those days. The nature of man for which there seems little justification, or excuse.
I think I have mentioned poppy warfare before, Becca barely escaping intact as those without strove to steal one of her three! Observe the ladies of the Royal family who wear several pinned together in a bunch – definitely worth emulating but a lot more difficult than it looks without resorting to super glue! Suffice to say, Becca’s ‘bunch’ was perfect. Mine? On leaving the Chapel, we stopped to chat outside and, at that point, I was aware of something falling off – my poppies! As luck would have it, however, a drain had suddenly appeared below me and said little red flowers plunged straight down. How we laughed and I know someone who would have loved that story. He was in our thoughts and tears as we sang the words to the Dambusters’ March …
Yes, it is a cynical world in which we live and there seems little hope for improvement. A final word on poppies and Remembrance: paying for petrol in the garage, I stopped to put the £3 change I had into the collection box and took three poppies in return. The guy behind the desk was astonished and kept asking me to take more. Why? He couldn’t believe I had given £3! Most people, he said, give 10p.
Time for wine, surely. I am depressing myself! A lighter note, then – or, perhaps not. Emma Thompson was at the Palace last week to collect her Damehood from Prince William, as it happened. One can only surmise that things may have been very different had Princess Anne appeared from the wings! Anyway, well documented, the actress was wearing a trouser suit and trainers. Now, I am a huge fan of Emma Thompson and trust that any cinematic experience depicting herself is worthy of my time but … she let herself down! Not the time nor the place to protest one’s individuality – and I am the first to decry sheep! However, we are talking about tradition and respect! Etiquette, even. One has a choice – utilized by John Lennon in 1969 when he returned his MBE (awarded in 1965) as a protest against the Vietnam war. For someone of her intellect, it was embarrassing. Yes, desperate as she may be to be cool and ‘get down with the kids’ … No!
Two words: Noel Edmunds. Beloved by all of an age covetous of a bus pass, he has succumbed to the lure of the dollar and is, reportedly, going into the ‘I’m a Celebrity’ jungle – late – for a fee of £600,000. Harry Redknapp, too, is to be paid £500,000. I am seriously lost for words. At the same time, Matt Baker is cycling his socks off along with a team of kids who are suffering – or have suffered – from all sorts in a bid to raise money for Children in Need! One can only hope for karma – and a knighthood for Matt Baker, an example to us all.
Talking of Children in Need, I woke to the sound of Chris Evans, this morning, and the auction of items for the aforementioned. I feel I should be careful with my wording here but it makes my stomach churn! Obviously, I am all for raising money for charity and those in need but the bids are excessive and flamboyant. Furthermore, the items or lots on offer are torturous for most who cannot afford them – Spice Girls package including meet & greet etc. If I remember correctly, there was a bid of £50,000 – or that may have been for the Dolly Parton package including a trip to Dollywood in Tennessee. Whatever. Who has that amount of excess cash? Shouldn’t those who do be donating to charity anonymously? Perhaps I am just being characteristically cynical? Perhaps they do? Cynical being the word, it was revealed not long ago that Chris Evans was being paid £2million by the BBC and, unhappy at that revelation, he jumped ship to Virgin – for how much? Forgive me but am I the only one who sees the irony in someone of that financial stature receiving praise for orchestrating substantial donations to charity for what, in the great scheme of things, amounts to trivia? One is reminded of the late George Michael … how I loved his music; his lifestyle not so much. However, it was only following his death that his great kindness and magnanimity came to light – all entirely anonymous. His music was always guaranteed a place in our hearts but his true legacy lies in a lesson to us all.
‘What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.’
Little Gidding V, Four quartets IV 1942, Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965)
A quote on the back page of the Order of Service for Remembrance Sunday, Glenalmond College – Sunday, 11th November 2018 – which just hit home!
This is Trish, signing off.