If there was ever a time to justify the exclamation, 'That Was The Week That Was', surely it was over the past seven days. The US Election has been concluded, the man-child has been vanquished, but not before bubbling and greetin' in the the spoiled, self-centred, entitled way we have come to expect. Then, before even being able to properly draw breath, along comes the news of the progress in moving toward big pharma delivering a possible vaccine, or even range of vaccines. A week to remember, a week to savour and a week to celebrate.
The most exciting thing for me was not the election. It was not even the possibilities of the emergence of a vaccine. Yes, I was smiling the widest smile possible from Wednesday morning, when the tallies began to change as they got round to counting postal votes across the states. Through to Saturday evening, when Philadelphia was declared. Or, as they say in America, was called. Additionally, I had a very sharp intake of breath upon hearing the news article, proclaiming the possibility of a breakthrough in identifying a vaccine, as I could not quite take on board what I was hearing. But these things, momentous though they will in time hopefully turn out to be in delivering stability and a form of normality to the world, were a mere bagatelle to my highlight of the week.
You see, I got to see my big sister Kathleen. Only for a few minutes and only at her front door, her inside and me a few yards away on the pathway, but all the same, I had the delicious experience of being able to see and speak to her in person. Though it was not planned, it was not entirely accidental either. The day started out as most Fridays have for the past few weeks with me arranging to go walkabout in Edinburgh with my old work colleague (and occasional SR contributor) George (Reid) accompanied by the ever present companion Daisy, my family dog. Our chosen destination was the Colinton Tunnel, an art installation located on an old railway track to the south-west of the city. A fair distance, but from what I had heard worthwhile.
On arrival and viewing the tunnel, some two hours after departing the centre of town, it dawned on me that we had broken the back of the distance to my sister's house, located in Balerno, so on we ploughed with a view to a surprise socially-distanced visit. It was only on coming to her street that it occurred to me that she may not be at home, so with some trepidation I pressed the buzzer and stepped back the requisite two metres. We had walked more than 12 miles, I had to see this through.
Hugh, my brother in law, broke the bad news that Kate had been feeling unwell all day with a migraine. Disappointed, but understanding that I was unlikely to see her, we chatted for a bit and was about to take my leave, when I saw her coming down the stairs. She had heard my voice and didn't want to miss the opportunity to speak. We only spoke for a few minutes, but I did get to see her and I also learned that she, as I do when any sign of illness is approaching, partakes in the cure-all of immersing herself in a very hot bath in an attempt to rid the malady. It occurred to me that it might be a family thing. Some weeks just turn out grand, don't they?
We got the bus back – we're not superhuman...
In these doleful times, there is an overwhelming need for joy, something to lighten our hearts, to lift us from the sloughs. Doubtless, there will be some who will find their solace in life outside the European Union, in a post-Trumpian world, in a quiet zone with loved ones helpfully far away, in Glasgow Rangers. For most, one suspects, these will not be sufficient.
Humans – and particularly Scottish humans – have loftier aspirations. We will look for inspiration in that activity unique to humanity – the creative arts. There will be those who will read great literature (or not so great but deeply pleasurable, like the latest Ian Rankin or Robert Harris). Others will contemplate the rich panoply of painting (Lyon and Turnbull have a cracking website tour, for example, as have many museums). Some, like my old friend Bill Russell, will take up tapestry. Live opera, drama and dance may be largely missing but our screens are awash with filmed performances old and new. The radio waves, enlivened by podcasts, offer so much.
Music, though, provides the ultimate experience suited to our times. From bagpipes to fiddles, saxophones to cellos, quintets to orchestras, tenors to massed choirs, all are there to delight our ears and eyes. With one shocking gap. In popular music, there is no acceptable anthem for our capital city, Edinburgh. Of the limited offerings available, one must discount The Proclaimers dirge about the city streets while applauding their delight in Sunshine on Leith
. Others from The Fall to the Lake Poets are either indecipherable or impenetrable.
Songs about cities are a vital thread in the weft and weave of popular music. There is an alphabetical list somewhere on the internet that is as close to endless as anyone would wish to go. In the US, New York is so good they named it twice, is definitely the place to make it, and has an Englishman as well as fairytales. Chicago is a toddling town, love is left in San Francisco, everyone is on their way to Amarillo, and someone's last train is en route to San Fernando.
In Continental Europe, Paris is loved in the springtime, or April, folk dance on the Avignon bridge, coins litter a Roman fountain, tulips do what they do best in Amsterdam, while opera and pop go wild in Barcelona. In England, they love London as Londoners while letting its bridge fall down, rush to Widdicombe Fair, have long-haired lovers in Liverpool, cliffs in Dover are white and blessed with bluebirds, and even Salford is a dirty old town.
In Scotland, we belong to Glasgow, and enjoy the Northern Lights of Aberdeen. Via the River Clyde we can flow from Leadhills, see orchards in Lanark, hear donging hammers in Greenock, find yachts at Kilcreggan, enjoy Scotland's Madeira at Rothesay, be thrilled at Millport, and journey to Arran. Virgins come down from Inverness, hearts from the Highlands, and a King sits in Dunfermline toun.
Poor old Edinburgh has, as mentioned earlier, the Lake Poets in a bar, the Fall just wanting to be in it, and Lou Reed doing a modern dance in a kilt. And do not mention the reference in that musical travesty, Brigadoon
. Hardly the stuff of dreams. As I used to write for various luminaries in my speechwriting days, this is the Challenge and the Opportunity. We need a Song for Edinburgh
competition. The prize – international praise and distribution. (I have a son in music publishing who, for a consideration, could give it a shove.) The selection panel – a team gathered by Angus Grossart whose name is emblazoned on so many important Scottish donor lists. (Some may doubt he will accept the role but I launched Angus's merchant bank for a fee of £350 several moons ago and he owes me one.)
So the scene is set. Let joy be unconfined. We will have a Song for Edinburgh
, our capital. I might have a go myself. What rhymes with burgh? Aye... right.
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