Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Friday, March 20, 2009


People go through two basic stages of life - young trying to be older and older trying to be young. (Daniel Neal)


HOW I BECAME INVOLVED WITH A MERRY WIDOW - and how I acquired a title.

A few years ago Jean and I had a holiday at Evian on Lake Geneva. We were staying in a big Centre which attracted a lot of young people of different nationalities. One day I was approached by a German woman who explained in broken English that she and her friends had been listening to me playing the piano. Apparently they were musicians and they wondered if I would like to play with them. Of course I readily agreed and we fixed a time for our get-together.

The three of them would be in their 50s, she played violin and the two men cello and clarinet. Language was quite a problem, but we got on well together, and the music which was the grand hotel type sounded fine. I discovered that her late husband had been a professional violinist, and every year they had holidayed at Evian, along with the other musicians.

Frau Hamza (I can’t recall her Christian name) was a “touchy feely” person and a bit eccentric. She kept saying “thank you, sir” and “excuse me, sir” to me and of course I told her that she was to call me John. So, for the rest of the week I was “Sir John”!!!

One morning she and I were practicing together, making up a programme which the group would perform on the final evening of the holiday. When we had finished, she said to me “Kom to my house,” - she meant her room - “I vant to give you cuddle.” Wow!!! That WAS a shock! I don’t think I said anything for a moment, and then the penny dropped. She had used the French word “cadeau”, she had a gift for me! It was a CD by her late husband’s group The Georg Hamza Ensemble (2 violins, cello, bass, clarinet, piano and drums), and included 3 of his own compositions.

So I didn’t get a cuddle, but at least I was “Sir John” for a few days!


The “Total TV Guide” magazine publishes letters from viewers, and the following, which appeared in the 14-20 March issue, was the Prize Letter of the week -

“Being a dog, I don’t watch much TV. However, I loved Five’s Mr and Mrs Wolf. I’m a basenji, a breed dating back to 3,000 BC, and I really respect my wolf ancestors. I also admire Shaun and Helen for their courage in getting up close and personal with those wonderful beasts. I’m not able to bark, but I was able to howl along with them. I hope we get an update soon.”

The sender was Kindu Kodi (plain Cody to the rest of the pack), Macduff, Aberdeenshire, and the Editor had added “Cody’s owner Lesley Farrell has asked for the £50 prize to go to BARK, a charity that re-homes dogs.”

Yes, Lesley is our youngest daughter and this photo of Cody I took last year.


I’ve been remembering again my childhood in the tenement, and thinking how fortunate we were.

The houses were in good condition and kept in order, and all the neighbours got on well together. Behind the building there was the back court, then the wash houses, and behind them a big washing green. Bordering that area were the 12 garden plots.

Some time ago I wrote 2 haiku about living in the tenement -

childhood memory -
waking to the sounds and smells
of gaslit breakfasts

imagining ghosts -
we run past the coats hanging
in the unlit hall

I also wrote 2 haiku about being in church. It’s quite astonishing to recall that, from our seats in a side gallery, Rita and I couldn’t see the minister! Can you imagine children sitting for an hour and a quarter staring at the people in the opposite gallery? It was the custom in our church for the choir to sing an Introit at the start of the service, and when I was very small I couldn’t see where the music was coming from, and decided it was the angels singing!!!

a weekly routine -
in church the sermon begins
Dad gives me a sweet

the sermon ended -
a low whisper from Dad
“we won’t be long now”


The rest of this week’s EIGHTY PLUS has quite an international flavour - a painting, a poem and a piece of music. I like them all very much, particularly the little poem.

This silk painting “Tinh Yeu”, by the contemporary Vietnamese artist Phan Quoc Hung, refers to the story of two young lovers who had to flee because their families wouldn’t allow them to see each other. Since their lives were being threatened, a kindly magician came to the rescue by turning them into two beautiful swans. So they were saved, living as swans during daytime and as humans during nighttime.


The following was written by the Chinese poet Li Bai (701-762)

You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.


Finally, the music clip - “Korobiniki” by Alexander Zigankow is played by the Russian domra player Natalia Anchutina, with the German pianist Lothar Freund.


Before finishing I must report that during the week ending Sunday 15th March my Wise Men Say blog had a record 139 hits!!!


No comments: