Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Communion of Saints?

I referred the other day to the circumstances under which I fell off my donkey – realised the truth that lay behind the liturgy I was involved in, the prayers and music which had become familiar because I was a church musician. And perhaps you could argue that I was thus affected by music – which yes, I believe to be God’s highway, a powerful agent for conversion. But I believe there was more to it, and that this “more” has continued, alongside music, to inspire and develop my own spiritual journey.

The picture is of George Douglas, once Dean of Argyll and Provost of the Cathedral of The Isles and an extraordinary person who introduced me to the Episcopal church as more than a setting for my singing. Nowadays I don’t find myself looking for octogenarian Victorians, but I think much of what he embodied for me is still important in bringing people to God. So what are these qualities that I consider more effective than pew papers?

OK. Integrity. Certainty of faith. Prayerfulness. Self-knowledge. And hand in hand with that lot, humility, kindness, conveying the awareness that here is someone whom life has not always treated gently but who has turned his/her own experiences to an advantage in helping others. And above all that the sense of other, the realisation that this is someone who has experienced God, who continues a relationship with something beyond the senses in the quiet of prayer and meditation.

Such people are not necessarily in the conventionally-pictured mould of sainthood, but when it comes to the Communion of Saints they are a part of it here on earth. There are lay people who come close, but I’m of the opinion that unless someone has the disciplined lifestyle which allows them to develop, they’ll be like the rest of us – distracted, well-meaning but failing, part-time saints who “could do better”. That’s why I don’t like to think of the clergy of this generation filling their time with paper-work, creating lovely liturgies for their dwindling flocks while pushing less tangible pursuits to the sides of their lives.

Just like the rest of us, in fact.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The birds have flown ..

Blackbird chick
Originally uploaded by Mac44.
High drama in the garden. Yesterday John took this photo - very, very carefully, pretending to be doing something else, no flash - in which you can just see the black eye of the blackbird chick nearest the front of the nest. The other was neatly spooned in behind it - they were getting too big for their accomodation, I imagine.

And this morning the nest was empty. No flutterings and squeakings, no coming and going every five minutes as both parents worked to keep the food supply going. We'd just been remarking on the responsibility of having a nest out there, and now I was picturing Albertz on an early marauding raid, chicks thrown out by a contemptuous paw ... and then I saw the male, anxiously watching from the hedge on the other side of the garden, and below him one of the chicks, sitting in the grass. Later it had gone. Have they learned to fly? Or was this the first time, landing only feet from the nest? How long does it take a chick to be truly airborne? I hope they've made it to somewhere more secure.

Wherever they are, I'm feeling the empty nest syndrome all over again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Can't see the books for the trees?

There’s been quite a conversation going on over at Kelvin’s blog about more than what the Episcopal Church produces in the way of downloadable liturgies. It boils down, I suppose, to whether or not people are put off a church if they have more than one item of reading matter to cope with in a service – or if they have problems finding their way around a liturgy book. And then there’s the side issue of the proper use of clergy time.

Rather than burst into personal reminiscence on someone else’s blog, I thought I’d do a bit of ruminating here, in my own space. And that’s all this is – not a criticism, not a battle-plan, but a thinking session.

So. Think back. I wasn’t always a Piskie. I was brought up in what might best be described as liberal/sceptical Presbyterian surroundings, with a Hebrew scholar in ancient clerical collar as a great-uncle and a father who had been so sickened of church in his youth that he would describe himself as a buttress rather than a pillar of the kirk – good for other people, but not for him. The transition for me was provided by music, by singing Byrd and Palestrina in the Cathedral of The Isles – and being taught to cook by the aged Dean, George Douglas, who talked while I skivvied for his eccentric culinary activities.

The first time I sang Evensong for a week in our quartet, The St Maura Singers (still going strong and giving a recital in the Cathedral on 30 September) I was lost. Every service was a time of anxious thumbing through the prayer book, checking where the music for the Mag and Nunc had hidden itself, worrying about where the Psalm was in the green (plainsong) psalter, trying not to let the anthem fall on the tiled floor in front of the choir stalls for all the world (all five of them) to see. By the Criteria of the Cumbersome Bookies, I should have been put off for life. Remember – at this point I’m a heathen, only there for the music. But I was fascinated. I used to borrow a copy of the 1929 Prayer Book and read it. The language entranced me, and the power of having all these words for every occasion was revelatory. I would read Compline to myself, aloud. I was well on my way to being a Piskie groupie – all without any real faith in what was on offer.

The story of what changed all that isn’t relevant here – suffice it to say that I fell off my donkey at Dean Douglas’ requiem mass and have never been the same since. But ever since then, in choirs and as a member of a congregation, I have been accustomed to juggle liturgy books, leaflets, music for settings, music for anthems and occasionally two hymnbooks if the music was not on the same page as the words of a particular hymn. And I was never alone in this – a choir of children aged 6 – 16 coped fine, and came back for more, often without any background in our church at all.

So what has changed? Are we really worrying about the effect on seekers of no church background? Or are we thinking about visitors from another church who have no real intention of staying with us and who are bound to make comparisons with what they are used to? Because if someone is really drawn to Episcopal worship, what they are used to when they finally fall off their donkeys will be part of the experience – and no fiddling around with making things more convenient is going to matter two hoots.

There’s more I want to say about the role of clergy in helping the donkeys, but I think that’ll have to wait for another time. So I’ll confine myself to a final observation. When I returned to teaching English in 1982 after a break of 8 years, I found that pupils expected much more in the way of handouts and spoonfeeding than I had been used to in my first post. They were unwilling to look stuff up for themselves, preferring to be given reams of typescript which they could then stuff into a folder. To the end of my career I resisted this as far as possible, knowing that if pupils made the notes for themselves they would be far more likely to recall what they had written. Indeed, I often suspected that they wouldn’t really read handouts, and frequently returned them in a relatively pristine condition at the end of the course.

Maybe there is a generation who indeed can’t cope with a book or two. Me, I can’t cope with bits of paper – a glance at my desk proves this. Besides, no-one ever prints alto parts on service sheets.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A photo question and a bird in the bush.

I need a friendly geek. Today I was sent a photo as part of a text message to my phone (Sony Ericsson K6 10i). I want to transfer it to my computer, and thence to my blog. However, sending the photo anywhere does not seem to be an option, bluetooth or otherwise. Any thoughts, out there?

Meanwhile, in the unwired world of my garden, there is a blackbird's nest. Maybe that should be a blackbirds' nest, for there is a male, a female and what seems to be a largish baby - though as said nest is deep in the heart of an ancient Weigela and I don't want to disturb the birds I can't really tell if I'm seeing the baby which I can hear cheeping, or if its mum sits on it when at the nest. I find myself walking past and peering without looking interested - absurd, really. The birds seem unbothered by us - presumably used to our comings and goings. It's quite exciting, really - and of course rather late in the season. I hope the kid makes it. I shall be keeping a weather eye open for Albertz* from next door.

*Actually a female cat, named by the footie fans before they ascertained its gender. It has much to live down.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A salute to the French Exchange

And then it rained ...
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
More memories shared with old friends - not of forty years' standing, admittedly, but veterans of the School French Exchange experience. We met today for lunch and a laugh; the DGS French Exchange no longer exists, but ran for many years, several of which were under my command and my wobbly French.

It's an interesting thing about shared adversity that hilarity is never far away. My years on school trips to Brittany were memorable partly for the rather odd establishment in which we stayed, a Routier of good home cooking but an execrable taste in wallpaper and careless disregard for the state of the rooms. Memories of folding metal bathroom doors, of crawling over beds which so filled the room as to leave no floor to walk on, of strange furry bedspreads which reminded us of Chewbacca and of a tower of trainers erected to support the mobile phone charger - we laughed immoderately, not just today but also in medias res. If you landed in such circumstances on holiday, you'd be looking for a change of hotel, but travelling with a bunch of weans seems to blunt normal sensibilities and replace them with a pioneering indifference.

I couldn't do it now, take a bunch of kids to France and be their mummy for ten days, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world - and I'm sure my French benefited hugely. See arguing with a bank clerk about the validity of a group passport? Nothing like it for enlarging the vocabulary. In fact - try it and see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Three sheets to the wind?

Summer's lease
Originally uploaded by Mac44.
What a joy to have a visit from an old friend! You blether all day, and then you get them to fold your washing (see pic).This particular pal and I go back - aaargh - over 40 years and I never knew he was possessed of such domestic accomplishments.

But what is it about people one has known over so many years? As far as I'm concerned it's to do with ease of communication, with trust, with expectations (or lack of them) and with putting shared concerns into perspective. There's leg-pulling, honesty, and a lack of bullshit. And today I had the added joy of a shared aversion to those who would murder the English language and to over-scrupulous attention to Health and Safety regulations.

And we laughed. And laughed. And we were not three sheets to the wind.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bananas about ScratchBoards

Listen to this!
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Well, who'da thunkit? You can get a tune out of a banana skin - with a little help from technology. As promised here, Ewan brought home four ScratchBoards, and - also as promised - I provided the banana skin, having first eaten the banana. The results could have made a suitable soundtrack for a scary movie, and I can authoritatively pronounce that if you roll up the banana skin to which you have attached the crocodile clips which are in turn connected to the ScratchBoard which is connected in its turn to your laptop ... you get lower notes. There. That was worth waiting for, wasn't it?

I believe it's all to do with resistance, and that you don't need to confine yourself to banana skins. What I can tell you is that the skin of a banana - particularly if it was somewhat ripe to begin with - does not last long under such rigorous testing, and soon disintegrates into a particularly smelly, slimy mush.

But it was fun.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Small attendants
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
It may seem strange to illustrate a post about a wedding with a picture of two small children, but the very young attendants at the wedding I've just returned from were such a feature of the ceremony that this lovely vision of them let off the hook seems appropriate. The wee boy, incidentally, should hereafter be known as Frodo - he did a great job with the rings!

It's been a lovely day. The weather defied last night's predictions of rain, and instead gave us gentle sun and no wind. The church looked wonderful - more pics when you click on the above - and the service was beautiful. This was my first experience of the marriage rite I've been involved in debating the past two synods, and I have to say that the practice of it far exceeds any of the arcane quibbles of the liturgists. And the hymns! I've never seen these words before, but the new words about marriage and commitment, sung to folk tunes, complemented the mood of the liturgy perfectly.

Donna the bride came into church to the music from a movie - "The Day after Tomorrow". Mr B at the organ performed the miracle of turning a DVD soundtrack into a piece of organ music which worked amazingly well. (I don't know how many people knew it was a disaster movie, but no-one blinked). And later, much later, she and Paul did a cracker of a first dance which had us weeping with mirth.

It was great to meet up with some of my former pupils - and to see what lovely adults they've become. Even if dancing the quickstep makes me feel I've dislocated my femur ....

Friday, July 20, 2007

Faithless funeral

Another first today. My first secular funeral. I couldn’t help noting that some of those present were people I’ve seen at other funerals, where they complained at being subjected to religious rites when so many of the people there were not religious. I suppose they were quite content today, in so far as one is content at such reminders of mortality. I merely feel bleak. Today’s ceremony was like a longer version of a retirement do – the kind held in the school library during an extended interval. And yes, it was good to hear of the various personae of the person who had died – the anarchic student, the gifted and enthusiastic teacher, the terror of latter-day miscreants, the supportive friend.

But then? Well, then the curtain was drawn, with agonising slowness, in a silence in which no-one stood and no-one prayed and there was no music. Presumably that was a metaphor for what the non-religious felt was happening. The End. And then there was cheery, boppy music and we all filed out. We had been laughing at reminiscences, but now we were silent.

So did I start moaning? Well, maybe just a little. There’s no point, really. Did I say a prayer? Not really. It was difficult – I felt like Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius : “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.” Do I have a conclusion? Maybe. It’s this. I think humans need God more than 21st century people care to admit. They need hope, and light and comfort – and yet these days they choose to face the dark alone. It’s like rejecting the possibility of a hand to help you over the river, or the candle lit in a dark place. But does that mean that the hand, the candle are illusions? That they’re only there if you look for them? This begins to smack of the tree in the desert that no-one has seen (was it Berkeley?)

I can’t work through to the end of this line of thought, because I’m not sure that thought works all the way. But I know that for me the joy of a life well lived is inextricably linked with the faith in what we are in relation to creation, and to what I know as God. So I’ll reach for the proffered hand and look for the light – and be glad that right now the clouds have lifted and the sun has appeared.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brainless twats, anyone?

I'm indebted to Neil for this wonderful link today. Imagine the joy of reading the news in the vernacular! Imagine the relief of no longer having to teach kids that formal prose was the biz (unless you were indulging in a bit of judiciously-rationed dialogue). Next we'll have regional newsreaders with their own special way of reporting, and visiting foreigners will remain totally in the dark. And the only place where current standards will apply will be London - unless of course it's Walford's day.

But then I realise that it would be even easier to slip into the horrors of slack writing while readers were diverted by vernacular expression. If you read, for example, the fourth paragraph of the story linked to, you'll find that a bus started its engine and released the handbrake - an engaging vision, but not, I think, meant. Cops and brainless twats I can take, but not misrelated participial phrases. Oh no.

Back to the Guardian ...

Update: someone has removed the piece from the site. Commiserations if you missed it - it was a joy.
Latest : You can still read it here, thanks to the Google cache.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Forming a community

It’s good when you sit listening to a sermon on a familiar passage and instead of beating yourself up about the improbability of ever attaining the desired outcome you find yourself saying “Yes! This happens!” Good, but rare. That’s what I felt yesterday, however, listening to a sermon on the Good Samaritan. Firstly, there was the delight of yet another new take on this familiar story – the familiar ones must surely be the hardest? - which filled in some more background to the “bad priest” idea to make us see that it wasn’t as simple as we might have thought. It’s interesting to contemplate that the human interpretation of what God requires of us might prevent us from making the instinctive human response to a fellow-human in need – does the church itself do that to us? Do we use the excuse of our human edifice to justify lack of spontaneity?

Because we had a clever wee link here to the business of what we do in the liturgy at the Peace. Some people don’t like it, for a variety of reasons – it breaks concentration, they’ve already said good morning, they don’t like to get too pally because we’re Scots and Scots don’t do this sort of thing (OK – I made that bit up). And after being told that it’s God’s peace we’re giving to each other, we heard that we’ll be doing it on a regular basis from now on and we’d better learn to like it. (You can tell there’s a bit of free interpretation going on here – I wouldn’t last a day as a parish priest.) It’s a matter, you see, of rethinking who your neighbour is, and loving them. Just like that.

But on Saturday I was at a team meeting for a Cursillo weekend. The very nature of these teams means that, in this case, 19 people come together to prepare to serve others – and to pay for the privilege of so doing. In the case of this team, many of them had never met before the first meeting. Their link was me – every one of them had met me before, and some of them are close friends. But by the end of that meeting, I knew that we had become a family. These people had eaten together, shared hopes and failures in conversation of considerable depth, and had learned from one another. This last took the form of learning how to give a ten-minute talk, and then submitting to constructive criticism of content, structure and delivery – all in the setting of the group. That’s easy for people like me (fill in your own description) but quite an ordeal for someone who’s never spoken in public before.

And by the time we came to the Eucharist, which more or less began with the exchange of the Peace, I watched my team embrace with all the ease and spontaneity that is often lacking in Scottish churches. The barriers are down among these people after 10 hours together. National reserve, inhibition, self-consciousness: gone.

I think it’s magic.

Go here to see pic in original context.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Wee girn

In recent months the people of Dunoon have been fuming at the proliferation of yellow lines along residential streets. Some of these lines seem unnecessary, some create more problems than they solve. But the yellow lines in the photo above are a necessity, as traffic forced by les travaux on St John's Church to use this minor road round the gardens have to make a sharp right on the hill into Royal Crescent, which curves (as crescents do) in such a manner as to conceal oncoming traffic.

In Dunoon we have a long-serving and assiduous traffic warden. Cars are nicked on a regular basis for illegal parking - even for a few minutes. But this council lorry was there, on a double yellow line, for long enough for me to have a near miss crawling round it, curse, go home, unload the messages - and go out to photograph it. But then, the council workmen had grass to cut - or whatever they were up to.

One law for the cooncil, I reckon.

Interesting bedfellows

Having submitted Mr B to the torments of the barbecue the other night, I feel moved to give pride of place to his bon mot of yesterday. Contemplating the level of our involvement in the church, he was heard to observe that it was like participating in the series Rome only without the sex.

I have to say that I'm a fervent follower of the series - and was gutted to find I hadn't recorded the Battle of Philippi because T in the Park over-ran but got it last night - and am now going to devote some serious research to a comparison of the two genres. Only thing is - I fear Susan Howatch got there first - may I recommend her "Starbridge" novels to any of my readers who haven't already devoured them?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

True Grit

This post is dedicated to all those heroes who have ever struggled to assemble a barbecue - see Mr B (left). Having extracted all the pieces from an improbably small box, and laid all the nuts and bolts out on the path, he spent a good forty minutes bent double, cursing the barbecue from hell, before triumphantly declaring it fit for purpose (except for a missing nut).

Actually I think it'll do very well, this wee cast iron job (all of £8.90 at the Coop) - or should do, once it stops smelling so appalling. In the event I had to put an old grill over the smoking iron one, so that our food didn't taste of Whatever It Was, but next time I hope it'll burn off completely and all may yet be well. The dinner, by the way, was delicious - swordfish kebabs marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and paprika: brown and crunchy on the outside and succulent within.

And while I'm celebrating achievement, let's hear it for Morgane: passing your driving test at past 8 months pregnant shows some determination. Felicitations!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A right stoater

Just finished the book I'd promised myself as a holiday read - though in fact I kept being too sleepy on Colonsay to read after tramping over the island every day I was there. But the latest Christopher Brookmyre, A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil, proved to be so enjoyable that I now feel quite bereft - a sure sign of a book enjoyed.

This is a murder story, beginning with the bodies and ending as the police and the amateur sleuth piece it all together. So far so traditional. But the bulk of the story takes place many years earlier, as we follow the killers, the victims and the police superintendent through their school days, from the first day in Primary One to the Leavers' Dance. The episodes from school gradually reveal more about the characters and their relationships so that we can start thinking we see it too - though in usual Brookmyre style it's a complicated story. But in addition to the murder plot there is the wonderful recreation of school life in the West of Scotland, so that I recognise some of the odd expressions my kids came home with - "gemmie" was quite new to me when Ewan first came out with it. I also understand for the first time why boys at dances used to lurk annoyingly along the far wall and march off with each other when they might have been dancing - a mystery for the past 48 years, by my reckoning.

I found the descriptions of life in Primary school rang depressingly and hilariously true *, with the mad heidie and the teachers who never listened to anyone and who were as a result doomed to be perpetually unjust, as well as the horrors of the visits to the toilets and braving the Primary 4 playground when you were in Primary 1, and wondered how much my own kids didn't bother to tell me when they were at Primary school. And the dialogue is brilliant - and very, very real.

And just when you think it's all over, there's a glossary for the non-native speaker. It's hilarious. A choice example (well, two examples):
: An inanimate object as distinguished from a living being.
hingmy : An all-purpose procrastinatory term for that which one cannot quite think of the name of yet. Equivalent of the French truc.

And if you read it and then find yourself indulging in Central Belt expletives in unsuitable company, don't blame me.

*See comments for further elucidation.

Monday, July 09, 2007

After all those years ...

Celebrating the fact of being married (to the same bloke) for 37 years brought some interesting reflections. Not the least of these was occasioned by the wedding photos which we exchanged with Mr and Mrs Heathbank at our celebratory dinner last night. How young we all were! Quite apart from the fact that we actually were young, we looked positively childlike - and no top hats or tail coats could disguise the fact.

I was also recalling the first few weeks in our own home, which felt strangely unreal. Perhaps it was the proximity to my parents' house, perhaps the fact that we kept coming home for a few days and thn heading off again to places like the Cathedral on Cumbrae (a long-term feature of our life together!), but I remember thinking how unbelievably liberating it was to have a place of my own after living at home all through university and the first couple of years of my working life. My own kids left home at 17 and have never actually lived here since - does, that, I wonder, lessen the impact?

Anyway, I had a shot at reproducing them ...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Midgebites and Candlelight

Candlelit church
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Just returned from the second Midge-bites and Candlelight event - a fairly extraordinary concept which actually worked beautifully this evening. The weather was fair - the only shower lasted all of three minutes - and the midges not unduly voracious; the walk round the Bishop's Glen was enlivened by the repeated vision of an athletic chap who ran past us at least three times (can this too have been of significance?); more people seem to have cottoned on to the basics of plainsong and sang Compline to the manner born.

I've posted the pic of the church just before everyone came in; I couldn't actually show anyone being bitten by a midge or I'd have used that. The other pics are, however, on Flickr, and can be arrived at by clicking on this photo here.

Sun, rain and midgebites

I've just finished uploading the last of my photos from the Colonsay trip here on Flickr. I chose the one on the right because the intensely blue sky reminded me that it was summer then - let's hope it returns. On the TV News tonight I saw the flooded fields of disconsolate farmers, and wondered if the weather had anything to do with the not very pleasant new potatoes I've been buying, which have pale fawn insides - undetectable when scrubbing - and a strange smell.

This is the first time for as long as I can recall that I've been at home during the first week in July, and I have to admit I was seized today by the sudden notion to book a holiday somewhere with guaranteed sun and heat. In the meantime, however, I'm so glad to have seen this clip on Complete Tosh. I thought I recognised Bury St Edmunds - glad to have it confirmed.

Tomorrow will see the second Midgebites and Candlelight at Holy Trinity Dunoon. If you read this, you're welcome!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Anniversary avatars

I've been horribly infected with the vacuous delight of creating little avatars, thanks to Wee World. And so I offer this one of Mr B - in slightly early celebration of our 37 years of marriage. I'm afraid I couldn't provide a medal for him - or for myself - but medals are understood - right?

I am pleased at this time to commend Kimberly's new image - suitably emerging as she arrives at the end of her first year at HT. Here's to the next 37 years/one year - delete whatever seems appropriate!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Still dwindling after all those years

Today in the Church Music Quarterly I read this:
During this period there have been vast changes both in the social and religious life of the country. Church-going has shown a serious decline and with it has come a big fall in the membership of church choirs ... People will not join the choir because it makes too much demand on their time.
It is useless to pretend that all is well, with dwindling congregations, choirs in danger of collapse, and many potentially keen young [people] being lost to the Church. And it is untrue to say that nothing can be done, for it has been proved again and again in hundreds of parishes that public worship can be vital and can still meet the needs of the day: and further, that good music, though not an end in itself, is a powerful means to that end for which all should be striving - the greater glory of God.
This was written by Sydney Nicholson, founder of the Royal School of Church Music - in 1943. Two things strike me - the obvious fact that it could perfectly well have been written last week, and the slightly less obvious one that life, apparently, went on while the whole world was engaged in a war which must have been removing choir men with depressing efficiency.

When I was a child growing up in a city (Glasgow) where bomb shelters and land-mine-destroyed tenements were my adventure playgrounds, I couldn't imagine how during the war anyone ever did anything except worry, mourn and cower in windowless cupboards (apparently my parents' favourite refuge during an air-raid, though as said cupboard, or lobby press, was in a top flat, I shudder to think what might have happened to them) Obviously they thought there was hope, or I wouldn't have existed at all. Is there, then, the same hope for the church?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Still passionate

To Oban today, for a lo-o-o-ng meeting of the Diocesan Standing Committee. I'm not a fan of committees, but I felt that today's meeting showed the passion that runs behind the workings of our tiny church as we argued over mission and the means to keep going in order that mission may happen. Often we may feel that our churches are dying off, full of grey heads and complacency - but on today's showing I'd say that we're very much alive.

And I think it's a sign of something that we can argue like that and still say farewell with a smile on our faces!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Communicating again

I felt driven to post this self-portrait after being seduced by Gordon into creating myself on weeworld - so this is Wee Me, if you like. I waste enough time online as it is, so I won't be using the site for social interaction, but I had fun putting myself together while I was talking on the phone. (It's called multitasking)

Actually I don't want to talk about that at all. I wanted to explore, briefly, the use of the spoken word as compared to singing in expressing emotional or spiritual truth. I think that Scots in particular find it hard to express certain states of mind because the accent either sounds false (think Gordon Brown trying to please Middle England) or unsuitable for the situation. But if we sing, especially when we are singing liturgical music, we have the tongues of angels. Accent is subsumed into making a beautiful sound and self-consciousness vanishes. That's how it was this morning in Holy Trinity church, singing the Kilbride mass setting (by John McIntosh) - a real hot line, taking us out of ourselves and onto another level.

Another form of communication, in fact.