Francis's Christmas Newsletter 2013



Welcome to Francisís seventh electronic Christmas Newsletter. As usual, I donít buy cards, but make a charity donation. Some of my friends and relations (mainly any who are still off line) will get paper copies of this.

Headline news is that we have acquired a daughter-in-law. In September Sam and Lizz married in a quiet ceremony in Cardiff, attended as they wished by just parents. Lizz has been working in Cardiff for a year with an organisation which gives education to homeless people, but she is now looking for something which will give her more time at home. They preceded their wedding with a trip to the USA, taking in New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Regular readers will know that I myself travel to the USA from time to time, though I didn't this year. I can recommend New York and SF as places to visit.

Judith has finished much of her PhD research in corpus linguistic analysis of Quaker literature of the late 17th Century, and is now writing up her thesis. This is likely to take another year. Her Quaker work still takes her to France from time to time, though she is no longer the appointed Amie visiteuse of the French Society of Friends. And she is ever and anon popping into Friends House in London, and various Quaker centres elsewhere in the country.

In the summer I went to Olsztyn in Poland to play go at the European Go Congress. It is a pleasant enough city, with a well preserved mediaeval heart, and surrounded by lakes and forests. But unfortunately the weather was uncomfortably hot. Playing go in a crowded classroom at the university was no fun, and unusually for me, I dropped out of some of the rounds, as I simply wasn't enjoying it. But there was plenty else to do. On one of the day trips I saw the bunkers where Hitler had his Polish HQ during the war with Russia. Concrete walls six metres thick, and no windows. And I fitted in visits to Poznan and Koszalin, where I have friends.

Last year I reported that the British Go Association had selected me as the British representative for 2012 at the World Amateur Go Congress, held annually in a Far Eastern country. Owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding I had not been told of this until it was too late to make the necessary arrangements. The BGA has now made good the damage by selecting me for 2014. What I don't yet know is where or when the tournament is to be held. It is Korea's turn to host the event, but the Korean Baduk [=Go] Association has yet to announce any details. Once again, watch this space. On my present form I am unlikely to do very well in this event, but the British selection process rewards persistence as well as competence.

Earlier this year there was some possibility that Britain might once again be going to war in the Middle East, in Syria. I was not in favour of this idea, and attended a demonstration in Whitehall opposite Downing Street, carrying the placard illustrated below. When Judith first saw it, her reaction was: "That's putting it a bit strong, isn't it?" Anyway, it seemed to attract attention, amidst all the more shouty placards: "Hands off Syria", etc. I was interviewed for Danish television as a result. When asked by the interviwer (in perfect English) whether I didn't think it was Britain's reponsibility to act, in view of the great suffering being caused, I answered: "Why Britain? Why not send Danish soldiers?" That shut her up. My picture appears to have been tweeted around the world. And the next day, Parliament voted against going to war.

For my sins I have now been elected Honorary Secretary of the West Gallery Music Association, following the retirement of the previous secretary. I am easing myself into the task, which includes taking minutes at Committee and General meetings. I am promoting the the idea of very brief minutes, summarising only decisions generally made by consensus, rather in the manner of Quakers.

And is London Gallery Quire the only amateur choir in the country that is seriously short of female singers? Most choirs cry out for men, especially tenors. At full strength we have six strong tenors and seven basses, with similar numbers in the upper voices. But really we need to double our female singers to achieve a good balance. Anyway, we are keeing busy, and have just produced a new leaflet, and nearly sold out of our CD. There are murmurs about making another.

An old interest has been rewakened recently. In the days when I was associated with the Canonbury Wind Players, now disbanded, I made many arrangements of music for wind octet. Some I know have been downloaded from my website and performed, but never near enough for me to go and listen. But I was able to attend a recent performance of some of my arrangements by Whitacre Winds at Fulbourn near Cambridge. This reminded me that there is more to music than West Gallery, and I have since digitised and uploaded five more of my arrangements. I might make some new ones in 2014.

I was 70 this year. I am as busy as ever, though there is a cloud on the horizon, as I have recently been diagnosed with macular degeneration, which affects eyesight. Not too bad yet.

Wassail to all.

Sam and Lizz
Sam and Lizz signing the register
Olsztyn Castle
Olsztyn Castle
Hitler's bunker
Hitler's bunker
Demo placard
Demo placard