Saturday, 9 November 2019


The belfry was crowded and the bells were half-muffled. I left early.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Is 61 Old?

In a few hours I shall be 61. Life has changed over the last 20 years: cancer* and divorce aside.

I celebrated my 40th by arranging an ad hoc choir to sing Evensong at Peterborough Cathedral; this was followed by a meal. Several people who came to that 'do' have died.

I was planning to do a similar thing for my 50th but I was having a rough time what with one thing and another. I went to dinner at a friend's house with my then wife but I didn't enjoy it.

I cannot recall my 60th - I don't think I did much. Usually my birthday falls during the week at school when we put on a play: every 2 years it is a musical so I am very much involved. This year the play is later in the term but there is still a rehearsal tomorrow which I shall be at: it will be another 12-hour day.

Is 61 old? Well I get home and just don't want to go out. Now that it is darker and colder at night I certainly don't want to go out. I am currently watching two episodes of House each evening. I then check my email and go to bed by 10. If there is something good on the Comedy Club on Radio 4 Extra I listen to that but I nod off at 1030 at the latest.

I feel old. I want to retire. I hardly make a difference anywhere anymore. The world has changed and the values society holds are not well aligned with my own. 'Twas ever thus, I suppose.

* sorted out I hope - I'm under regular review.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Do I have any friends?

I have one significant person in my life - this person make my life worth living. Other than that I appear to have few friends - it seems.

I suppose it depends on the definition of a friend. I can absolutely confirm that I know several people who have been extremely helpful over the last few years by taking me to hospital (and home again). I also have a musical friend who I can call on: she and her husband would do all they can to help me.

I was touched by the 2 visitors from work who came to see me in hospital, last May, and grateful to the chap who travelled 45 miles to see me. I phone him occasionally and we know we go back a long way and how we are linked.

I have some friends on Facebook although I am not on there to create a long list - I have about 15.

What I mean is that I seldom seem to get any emails, texts phone calls or letters from anyone. Even my eldest daughter only gets in touch once in a blue moon: she is very busy, I get that.

Have I phoned, emailed, texted or written to anybody myself? Well, no. So is this apparent lack of friends just a symptom of the way we live our lives these days? Maybe it is.

My main hobby is bellringing but I only hear from people if they want something. "Can you ring for a wedding?" After 46 years of bellringing you'd think I would have a few friends in the field. I don't seem to. If one rings a lot of peals (not that I want to) one gets requests to join in. At local Branch level there are monthly meetings but nobody ever talk to me for more than a minute.

I think I project a "stay away" message to which I have alluded before. Even this blog has few readers; I never get any comments.

I cannot imagine my funeral will be very well attended.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Poor Church Music

I occasionally ring the bells after weddings at my local church. The ringing chamber is right behind the organ pipes which are at the West end of the church.

It has often been the case that the hymns have been played quite dreadfully although today they were tolerable. However, the exit music - Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" was truly awful and I simply do not know how a person can turn up and play it so badly.

I appreciate that the organist may have been old and trying his or her best but the departing congregation would have been shocked.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

David Drinkell R.I.P.

Yesterday was a day of mixed feelings. Earlier I had bought myself a digital organ so I can practice at home so I was upbeat. When I arrived home and turned on my computer it was not long before I saw that David Drinkell has died: then I was downbeat. With social media this news gets around fast but folk are able to send condolences quickly and share their sorrow.

I first met David when I went for Organ Scholarship auditions at Bristol University in 1977: he was in the choir I had to rehearse in a short anthem. They had inserted various wrong notes for candidates to spot. I think he thought this such fun that he almost gave the game away; he was clearly pleased and encouraging when I managed to spot his wrong bass note.

Later, when my sister got married in Peterborough Cathedral in 1978, David came up and improvised before the service whilst I was in the Song School going over the anthem with the choir and Christopher Gower. (At that time the Great manual had a 32' stop which, of course, David explored.)

At university David was known for his improvisation skills as well as his love of Vaughan Williams but he was a really jovial character. His knowledge of organs in the UK was second to none - it was as if he had played them all.

When I toyed with a small desktop music publishing company David produced a few gems for me to add to the catalogue and the photo above used to be on the website along with his biography. Back in 2010 this was what he wrote about himself.

David Drinkell was born in Colchester, Essex, England in 1955 and was organist of local churches from the age of twelve. He studied at the universities of Bristol and Cambridge and is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, Associate of the Royal College of Music and one of the forty holders of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Diploma in Church Music.

In 1979 he moved to the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland, where he was Master of the Music at St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, and in 1988 he was appointed Organist & Master of the Choristers at Belfast Cathedral.

David came to Newfoundland in February 2003 as Organist & Choir Director of the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  He has played or conducted throughout the British Isles as well as in Paris, Norway, New York and Ontario. He is the only organist to have played in all 31 cathedrals of the Church of Ireland and, in 1993, was one of eight Essex-born cathedral organists taking part in the Essex Man Organ Gala at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Shortly after arriving in St. John’s he commenced weekly lunchtime organ concerts at the Cathedral, which are now an established feature of the music life of the city. In 2007, he was invited to give concerts in the Cathedral of St-Pierre and to direct the Cathedral Singers of Ontario on a visit to Norwich Cathedral, followed by concerts in Belgium and Holland.

Although we had not been in touch regularly for a few years I knew that he had moved to Canada as he had sent me photos of his house. He was latterly Director of Music at Christ Church Cathedral.

A kinder more generous and helpful chap one could not hope to meet. He knew the meaning of fun without being silly or unkind. Heaven is the richer and we are the poorer.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Meat Pie

Occasionally I eat at a pub if I am on an outing or on holiday. Twice this year I have opted for a meat pie, at different places: I did so yesterday. This dish was more expensive that sausages and mash which some of my companions had so I thought it might be of a higher standard - sausages are not all that good for one! How wrong I was. The meat was the cheapest available and consisted mainly of fat and gristle. No amount of slow cooking could possibly have improved the meat: I do appreciate that cheaper cuts can be slow-cooked to make them pleasant to eat. I spat out most of the meat as politely as I could.

When I complained I was given a free meal. This was fair as the charge of £10.95 for a lump of mashed potato, a few mixed vegetable and a pie in a dish with a pastry crust was too high. We have far better meals at school.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Adagio in E

On my piano, I have been looking at some organ music I used to play when I was an organ scholar many years ago and later organist at Higham Ferrers (when the older [completely] pipe organ was there).

I happened upon Frank Bridge's Three Pieces and although I used to play the Adagio I saw that I had started to learn (but didn't finish) the first piece in the set Andante Moderato. Well, I don't have an organ to work on at present as my reader will know.

I then spent a good 30 minutes looking at the manual parts of the Adagio in E. Later on I found this video of the late John Scott which shows his mastery of the console. I was interested by some of his fingering to allow access to stops and pistons. Brilliant.