Francis's Christmas Newsletter 2017



Welcome to Francisís eleventh electronic Christmas Newsletter. As usual, I donít buy cards, but make a charity donation.  

A Cheerful Noise CD
A Cheerful Noise CD

West Gallery music

The London Gallery Quire goes from strength to strength. This year we undertook a major project in recording our second CD, entitled A Cheerful Noise. This entailed two day long recording sessions at a church in West Ham, which exhausted us all. We had a professional recording engineer, who has produced a CD with which we are quite pleased. It isn't perfect, but I believe that it conveys the spirit of the West Gallery genre. It has twenty tracks, following the church year from Christmas round to Christmas. If you want one for £10 + £2 p. & p., contact Peter Harris.

And we have continued to sing services and concerts, and the band has performed independently as a ceilidh band. Perhaps our most noteworthy event was an Accession service at St Mary's Rotherhithe, where we recreated one of the Royal services cut out, or attenuated, from the Book of Common Prayer in 1859. Our service sheet was copied from my own 1770 Prayer book. As so often, we outnumbered the congregation, but reviving the church music of yesteryear is what we are about.

Port Erin, IOM
Port Erin, Isle of Man
River Ina, near Hirano
River Ina, near Hirano
Japanese garden
Japanese garden
Friendship game
Friendship game in national costume
Violin party
Violin party:
Francis, Kikuyo, Keiko

The Game of Go

It was national news that a computer can now beat the strongest professional go players in the world. I was interviewed twice for the BBC about this; once for Radio 2 and once for BBC World Service. Hitherto we have claimed that go was the one game where humans still had the upper hand over computers. Both interviewers were trying to persuade me to say that now that computers have the upper hand that I would feel that there was no point in continuing to play. I emphasised the positive aspect of the development, that we can now learn from the computer and improve our go, and that it will take more than a machine to stop me playing.

Go has taken me on two globetrots this year. Usually I am able to report on my attendance at either the European or US Go Congress. This year was the first time in two decades that I have missed both, because they both clashed with the Isle of Man Go festival. The reasons for the clash are not worth explaining, but my love of the island trumped other considerations. Unfortunately it is going to be difficult to keep this festival alive, owing to lack of accommodation for it.

The second globetrot was to the International Pair Go Chapionship in Tokyo, which took place in December. My pair go partner Jenny and I had amassed enough points over about a decade playing in the British Pair Go Championship to be chosen to represent Britain. The tournament is held in an upmarket hotel. It is more of a jamboree than a tournament, full of ceremony and receptions, in accordance with Japanese predelictions.

For one of the parties we were required to wear "national costume". What is that, if you are English? For previous pair go events in Tokyo I have donned my Morris dancing costume. Jenny thought that academic dress would suit us this time, so we appeared in full Oxford and Northumbria University regalia. Which elicited the remark "Harry Potter" from at least two attendees. We won 2/5 games, and came 25th/32 overall. That may not sound very good, but actually we were pleased to have done that well in a strong field. We beat Chile and Switzerland, and lost to three strong Japanese pairs.

I arrived in Japan two weeks before the tournament, to overcome jetlag and meet my many Japanese friends and relations. The first week was spent with a friend in Hirano, a town on the edge of the Osaka conurbation. It is sufficiently close to Japanese countryside for me to be able to go out and enjoy the Autumn colours, which in Japan are spectacular.

I then took the bullet train to Tokyo, to meet several old go playing friends, and my cousins who for some reason do not play go. After three days in a hotel I moved to the suburb of Asagaya, to stay with another go friend who shares my love of music. Her speciality is Irish traditional music, and with a friend we spent a happy afternoon as a trio. And then it was time to return to central Tokyo for the championship.

Cefalu, Sicily
Cefalu, Sicily
Sicilian Roman temple
Sicilian Roman temple
Mount Etna
Mount Etna


For our annual holiday together Judith and I decided on a conducted tour of "Treasures of Sicily" in September. Sicily is most certainly a fascinating island, with a rich heritage of Greek and Roman remains. I had no idea that Syracuse was second in size only to Athens as an ancient Greek city. A trip up Mount Etna took me to a height where I started to feel breathless; an impressive sight, nonetheless. And always a sulphurous smell in the air, as if the mountain were saying,"I could erupt at any time, you know".

There was some fine coastal scenery, and, as always in Italy, the food and wine were excellent. What somewhat detracted from our pleasure was a rather over-talkative guide, who felt that silence in the coach which took us around was always to be avoided. And we could have done with a bit more down time. But overall it was successful.


I do have a life outside music and go. In May our prime minister called a general election to strenthen her position in the "Brexit" negotiations. The electorate decided that it was better to weaken her position, which pleased me greatly, as I consider Brexit to be a ghastly mistake. My part in the election was to spend a few days in Bristol working for the Green Party in a seat where there was a significant chance of electing a second Green MP. But it was not our year.


Judith continues with her multifarious Quaker work. As I write she is in Paris, giving support to the French Quakers. And she is continuing with post-doctoral research (her subject is the language of Quakers in the second half of the 17th Century), getting papers accepted for conferences and/or publication. Sam and Lizz have moved from Cardiff to London, where Sam now has his first salaried employment, doing digital marketing for a firm publishing educational material. Sam has also published a book, a graphic novel entitled Silicon Heart, about a love affair between a human and a robot.

And so on to 2018; more music, more go, and who knows what else. Happy Christmas to you all!