Nandyism Scotched


Just read this (from Grouse Beater’s blog).

Grouse Beater

297Mark Frankland – frank by name, frank by nature

It is not often I publish another’s writing in full on this site, in fact, not at all, but I am delighted to make an exception for this letter that appeared in a blog written by Mark Frankland, a man with a conscience and a sharp eye for hypocrisy. As well as writing thrillers, he manages a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. “Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls.” 

Here he writes in answer to the slip-shod Labour leadership contender, Lisa Nandy. She blames the SNP and its supporters for her crassness in stating clearly on BBC’s Andrew Neill Show, that she detests nationalism in all its guises…

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My Organ Project: to ARCO and beyond


It's never too late to be what you might have been (George Eliot) - a display at the Careers Centre, University of Huddersfield

Yesterday I took the practical part of my ARCO exam in St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield, having taken the written papers in Edinburgh a week earlier.

I played three pieces:

  • JS Bach: Der Tag, der ist der freudenreich BWV 605
  • Matthew Locke: Voluntary in A minor (from Melothesia)
  • Max Reger: Melodia in Bb

and did four keyboard tests:

  • Transposition
  • Score-reading
  • Hymn harmonisation
  • Sight reading

(I get the results in mid-February.)

About ARCO

Associateship of the Royal College of Organists is the second of three RCO diplomas and “indicates a standard of professional competency in organ playing technique, essential keyboard skills and interpretative understanding. It also indicates accuracy in aural perception and fluency in those written disciplines (standard stylistic techniques and analysis of performance and historical issues in relation to organ repertoire) which support practical musicianship.”

That’s quite a challenge!

My journey to ARCO

I first took the ARCO exam in 1992, whilst Organist of Worth Abbey, nearly passing it at the first attempt (however, I wasn’t sufficiently prepared for the keyboard tests) and I failed to complete the whole exam within the four years allowed.

Over the years, despondency set in, for a number of reasons, and I gave up any attempt at playing seriously. My technique was good enough to get by playing for services and I became lazy. Before long, I was playing fairly badly.

After moving to Dunblane, I had some lessons with Matthew Beetschen, then Organist of the Cathedral, and although this helped, I didn’t do any systematic practice so, naturally, I didn’t really improve that much.

I subsequently failed to maintain momentum and, due to lack of direction and practice, my playing and confidence took another hit.

A new hope

In 2013, I was appointed Director of Music at Holy Trinity Scottish Episcopal Church in Stirling, probably on the basis of my liturgical and pastoral music awareness and soon realised that I needed to up my game. I met up with soprano Kathleen Ferguson at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for a chat about whom I might approach for lessons. She strongly recommended Philip Sawyer, retired head of music at Edinburgh Napier University.

Meanwhile, I had downloaded the ARCO syllabus to remind myself of what it entailed, not that I thought I would ever reach that standard again.

I began lessons with Philip in February 2014 and thus resumed my journey: my Organ Project.

(I’ll write more about this journey in due course.)

To cut to the chase, Philip’s wise counsel, combined with RCO events and courses and encouragement from many people, especially Elaine, Ulrike and Christoph, my Rector at Holy Trinity, led me to decide to go for the Colleague (CRCO) diploma as a stepping-stone to ARCO. (I couldn’t bear the thought of taking ARCO again and failing it yet again!)

As I wrote in November 2018, “Adults can get very worried about taking exams. Children usually take them in their stride. Perhaps that’s because children are so used to them. Or maybe, as adults, we feel we have too much to lose.”

The Organ Strikes Back

In June 2018, I performed my first solo recital in about 30 years. A month later, I achieved the CRCO and, to my shock, won two prizes.

September 2019 saw my second solo recital in this new journey, which included a number of ARCO set pieces from over the years. I’ve also played in many other concerts, accompanying choirs and audiences and playing solo pieces.

I won’t know the result of this latest assault on ARCO for five weeks but, regardless of the result, I’m celebrating, having reached this stage. (If I’ve not yet reached the required standard I’ll go for it again.)

I was going to say “having reached this stage again” but that would be incorrect as I’ve developed so much since 1992, despite the fallow years. (Or perhaps, as Christoph said, because of the fallow years when, even though there’s no flowering, growth still continues at the roots.)

Here’s to the continued journey

Mendelssohn 2 and several movements from Vierne 1 are my next challenges, along with other pieces from various ARCO syllabuses, which are all worth learning and playing.

I’m loving the journey!


I’m very, very grateful to everyone who has encouraged and assisted me on this journey so far.

You are too numerous to mention individually but you know who you are.

Thanks also to those who’ve supported me without realising it!

How to avoid being party to a huge, vile, cruel injustice.


Some excellent thoughts on what (and what not) to do/say in meetings when something is said which is plainly wrong.

Working Hypothesis

Of course I know, really I know, that the slow process of changing minds and warming hearts cannot be hurried. It is a matter of example and quiet words and funny stories. Sometimes, however, the bossy little girl who still lives within me gets the upper hand – and she finds the  warming hearts and telling funny stories unbearably slow. So, just for her, and based on this week’s news and eves-droppings, public and private, are some useful rules for living.

Never fear asking the idiot question. Others may be unsure of what is going on too. They may be afraid to ask. You will do everybody a favour by being the one prepared to look an idiot.

Never ever be afraid to stop a meeting by pointing out just what it is doing.  Stay polite to individuals, but point out in graphic detail just where they are going and…

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All of us first


As children we have a sense of fairness:
it’s not right that someone should get something while others go without

As young people we have real sense of justice
(despite “whatever!”)

But what happens when we “grow up”?
Do we abandon the sense that we are all equal?


As we prepare for the referendum in September, we are challenged to think again about what we want for our country.

Is it right that 1,000 people own 60 per cent of Scottish land? (1)

Is it right that we have record-breaking levels of child poverty?

Is it right that the average lifespan in parts of Glasgow is 57?
i.e. were I from there I could already be dead

Another possibility

logo of the Common Weal: All of us first“All of us first” is the motto for the Common Weal project, set up by the Jimmy Reid Foundation, named after a man who worked tirelessly for social justice. As opposed to the “me first” of neoliberalism, as exemplified by the first-past-the-post pseudo-democracy of Westminster politics, “all of us first” is exploring ways to put these matters right.

These include:

Real equality,
not just some slogan
(Liz Lochhead for Common Weal)

1. Riddoch, Lesley (2013-08-26). Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish (Viewpoints) (Kindle Locations 77-78). Luath Press Ltd. Kindle Edition

Another day. Another bag…

Discarded beer cans collected in a Yes Scotland bag

Yet another bag of discarded beer cans. Not all had been fully drunk: and that’s not the only waste.

Another day.
Another bag.

Another vision?
A new hope for Scotland?

Lesley Riddoch’s brilliant book Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish (Viewpoints) describes Scotland as a garden:

Scots currently inhabit a large, beautiful garden whose owner is busy but can’t trust anyone else to manage it.

As a result, monocultures run riot, dominant plants stifle diversity, native species grow in the shade, climbers are unsupported, soil is exhausted, seeds are blown elsewhere, weeds run unchecked and litter fills corners.

Passers-by admire the backdrop and spot the potential but puzzle over the general lack of care.

There are a small number of stunning exhibits but all in the garden is not rosy.

Somewhere under the weeds the little white rose of Scotland is still alive – growing, budding but never quite flowering for more than a few precious days.

How can it? A competent gardener is needed to restructure the garden from the grassroots upwards.

But the best candidates are always overlooked – the Scottish people themselves. We could inhabit a well-tended, diverse garden, home to foreign exotica, hardy hybrids and flowering, reproductive and distinctively Scottish plants.

But it would take a collective and united commitment of time and effort.
And we are divided.

Some believe Scotland is already a viable proposition, whilst others think the country has large, sick, hopeless urban populations and dispersed rural communities inhabiting barren (looking) land fit only for grouse moors.

Can both ‘sides’ be right? Is there a single verdict on Scotland upon which a majority can agree?

Yes there is. Scotland is already a distinctive nation. But its identity may not derive from the commonly accepted symbols of nationhood. And that’s a paradox worth exploring.

Riddoch, Lesley (2013-08-26). Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish (Viewpoints) (Kindle Locations 206-218). Luath Press Ltd. Kindle Edition.

You can get it if you really want


Read this motivating story about two ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

You Can Get It If You Really Want

Two inspiring men from completely different backgrounds who faced huge challenges. They persevered and made the most of their natural abilities to reach the top of the tree in their chosen careers.

We may not all aspire to being the leader of the free world or a world champion but if we truly want to we can achieve our goals.

We’re all capable of so much more.

But we need to dream…

…and then to do.

Thanks to Nick Oswald (Legends of Sports)

A new hope


I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare, not for woe!
plans to give you a future full of hope.

When you look for me, you will find me:
when you seek me with all your heart.

(Jeremiah 29:11,13 )

Love blooms bright


Enjoying reading the posts at Love Blooms Bright, a blog for the Advent season.

Set up by wonderfulexchange, with guest writers, Love Blooms Bright offers words, images and quotations to help us enjoy and prepare for God’s coming among us.

The contributors are drawn mostly from among the clergy and laity of the Scottish Episcopal Church, with a few friends from further afield.

The blog’s title takes its cue from

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been full of reason
there’d have been no room for the child.

— Madeline L’Engle

I especially love the freshness of Now is the acceptable time – very encouraging for what is, at least in terms of the weather and annual cycle, a gloomy time of year.

And I love the idea of the angels getting back to singing “a tricky Sanctus that Jophiel had been teaching them”.

Do read it. And then continue throughout Advent.

Sic transit gloria funghi

Red cap mushroom set in a field of grass

O tempora, O mores.

So there it was, a beautiful red-cap mushroom, both complementing and contrasting with the grass in which it sat.

The following day we saw it again, this time with a slightly flatter top, but still showing off its beauty for all to see.

And then, just a couple of days later, after heavy rain that was sending cascades of water down the nearby track, we saw the remains of this thing of beauty: only the stem was left.

Fortunately Elaine had taken a photo as a reminderRed cap mushroom set in a field of grass

Homo quasi herba dies eius sicut flos agri sic florebit
quia spiritus pertransiit eum et non subsistet et non cognoscet eum ultra locus eius…
Ps 102 (103):15-16

Young Voices



At the RSCM Scotland Young Voices Festival in Haddington yesterday. 32 young people – the same number who were in Glasgow last year – singing their hearts out.

The singers came from Queensferry (Parish Church), Haddington (St Mary’s), Edinburgh (St Peter’s, Lutton Place), Bridge of Allan (St Saviour’s) and Dunblane (Cathedral & St Mary’s), and for many this was their first time singing at this event or with other singers.

Excellent warm-ups from Susan Hamilton, director of the Dunedin Consort, with inspirational direction by her and Matthew Beetschen, who doubled as organist. Alex Beetschen was the very capable accompanist.

The theme of the Festival was Water of Life, with a wide range of musical styles. I expect we’ll see some of it used in Harvest Festivals over the next few weeks.

It’s all very promising for the launch of the new RSCM Young Scottish Voices. More anon.