Thoughts at Candlemas

I’ve had a “dry” January.  How very middle-class and sanctimonious, I hear you say.  Then on Thursday I dined with nine ex-colleagues and broke the pledge with an excellent Pinot Grigio.  (Very fresh orchard fruits with a strong lemony zing.)  Naturally during January I felt absolutely wonderful but was it a placebo effect?  People who suspect they are lactase deficient are advised to cut out lactose for a period from their diet and see how it goes.  They usually feel better as a result.  But they cannot really know if the effect is real unless they give themselves a lactose challenge.  So I gave myself the Pinot Grigio challenge on Feb 2nd – appropriately enough, Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day is one of these bizarre US rituals like “pardoning” a turkey before Thanksgiving, the prerogative of the POTUS (President of the United States).  Perhaps this year the POTUS will deny clemency to the turkey.  If this is unconstitutional, it might go all the way to the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States).  Ructions will follow.  Potus-Scotus hocus-pocus.  I meander.

The groundhog, or woodchuck can foretell the weather.  He wakens from his hibernation on Feb 2, and comes out of his burrow.  If the sun is shining and he can see his own shadow, then winter has six weeks left to run and the groundhog goes back into his burrow and goes back to sleep.  If on the other hand there is cloud and rain and he cannot see his shadow, he concludes that spring has come early and he stays above ground.  The most famous groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil who hails from Pennsylvania.  Apparently this year Punxsutawney has six more weeks of winter to run.  Bill Murray and Andie McDowell starred in the 1993 eponymous movie, and I think it may be from the film that the expression Groundhog Day has come to mean something boring and repetitive, like a day you are condemned endlessly to rerun.

I’m wittering on about something inconsequential because frankly I’m despondent about the news.  I haven’t turned my back on it, but I’m rationing myself.  Every time I hear the expression “President Trump” I feel I’m listening in to a futuristic dystopian radio drama.  Currently the plot line involves the attempts of the judiciary to stand up to an authoritarian Commander-in-Chief who has sacked his acting Attorney General for her apparently wilful misinterpretation of the constitution, but who has been further frustrated not once, but twice, by judges.  The C-in-C called one of them this “so-called judge.”  Maybe the judiciary will start referring to him as this “so-called President”.  He doesn’t seem to have patience with people who argue with him.  Apparently he hung up on Mr Turnbull.  (I bet he didn’t hang up on Mr Putin.)

International relations have moved into a new phase of unpredictability.  The only thing that’s sure is this: we aint seen nothin’ yet.  The world is full of walls, fear, suspicion and paranoia.  This news is everyday’s news.  I can’t think the answer is to be found on twitterfeed.

But life goes on and this despondency will never do.  I went to the Sir Alexander Gibson memorial concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday.  It was almost the Katherine Bryan Show.  Katherine Bryan is the principal flautist of the RSNO and a superstar.  She played her own arrangement of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, in a gorgeous red gown, and then Martin Suckling’s flute concerto The White Road (a world premiere) in a gorgeous silver gown.  Ms Bryan, according to the programme note, “is thrilled to wear ROX jewellery.”  As an encore, accompanied only by harp, she played Massenet’s Meditation from Thais.  She played entirely from memory.  Most orchestral players who assume the role of soloist are given the rest of the night off but come the second half, now dressed in formal black evening dress, she played principal flute in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe Suites 1 and 2.  The middle movement of the second suite has a beautiful extended flute solo and I can only imagine Ms Bryan so loves music and performing that she did not wish to miss playing it.

Conductor Peter Oundjian was unfortunately indisposed and the Norwegian Conductor Arild Remmereit stepped in at incredibly short notice.  It could not have been easy to learn the Suckling in a couple of days.  He conducted the Ravel from memory.  I noticed the RSNO remained seated for two of about six curtain calls to applaud him, not once, but twice.  The whole thing was a tour de force. 

I’m not sure whether it was being in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday, or in Dunblane Cathedral on Sunday morning, or in Garvie’s Restaurant in Milngavie with some very charming people on Sunday afternoon, but somehow all the bad news got put into perspective and now I feel ready to return to the task of completing may latest tome, part 3 in the life of the troubled doc.  It has exceeded 100,000 words and grows increasingly apocalyptic.

As for Groundhog Day, I think Phil got it right.  Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.

I’m meeting my ex-colleagues again later this week.  Same hostelry.  Local for me.  Think I’ll challenge myself to another glass of Pinot.

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