At the very least, Professor Seaton's analysis of the pandemic and his proposals for action should become a required text on the subject. More than that, he should be heading a Scottish Government task force to develop strategy to improve the country's health generally after the pandemic is contained.
I suspect he and I would not be in agreement about politics. I believe an independent Scotland is essential to the creation of a fairer and healthier society which would challenge the neo-liberal and post imperialist values that have marked the culture of the United Kingdom, as Gerry Hassan
rightly points out. The dystopian society described by John Macmillan
does not have to become reality, and both Seaton and Hassan offer considered alternative proposals for change. It is important that neither becomes 'a voice crying in the wilderness' and praise is due to the Scottish Review for continuing to promote their ideas to a wide audience.
Dr Mary Brown
The Bank of England governor suggested the other day that there will be a post-pandemic spending spree. I have news for the governor, in whose chair I once sat on during a visit to the bank on a day when none of the top brass was there – I had a friend who was duty clerk that weekend – and got taken to the holy of holies. In this household, there is an in
-pandemic spending spree – especially on DVDs from the golden age of Hollywood.
Amazon, as always, is a source but eBay is sometimes even better – and cheaper. The only problem before buying is making sure I don't already have what is on offer. I keep a record of all my purchases but what I did not do when I started collecting was to file the dvds in alphabetical order, so even if I already own what suddenly seems desirable, I cannot find it. Also, one thing leads to another. When Christopher Plummer died, it made me wonder whatever happened to Eleanor Parker? She plays the Baroness in The Sound of Music
, who wants to marry him but would never, unlike Maria, have added to the numbers of the Von Trapp Family choir. There are roles which define a career. Parker, a serious film star actor, is not remembered for any of those roles, but for the Baroness, just as Plummer is forever the prolific parent of a musical family and not King Lear, Atahualpa, or for the parts he played at Stratford here or the other one in Ontario.
Plummer does not sing Edelweiss
, which makes all those TV tributes to him featuring the song hard to take – the singer was actually Bill Lee, one of that small group of Hollywood backing singers who came to the rescue of stars required to vocalise. He was also the voice of Lt Cable in South Pacific
. Just as every theatre actor had a Hamlet or a Juliet in them, every film star had to have a musical or a western in which somebody else sang or rode the horses.
But nobody remembers Lee. Marnie Nixon, who is one of the nuns, sang Anna for Deborah Kerr, and is probably the only backing singer people have heard of because Kerr blew the gaffe. She also provided that amazing high note Marilyn Monroe hits in Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend
, one of the film's highlight moments.
All that led to thinking of those stars who could sing, to getting Deanna Durbin's It started with Eve
, a pleasing comedy in which her co-star is Charles Laughton playing an eccentric old gent, a standard Hollywood role which usually went to S Z 'Cuddles' Sacall, which led to The Hunchback of Notre Dame
, a film with cast of thousands judging by the crowd scenes, amazing sets not created by computers, and Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda, the gypsy heroine. That led to being told her finest performance was in The Battle of the Villa Fiorita
– a film I did not see and a hard to get DVD arriving soon – and to acquiring the Rumer Godden novel on which it was based to add to the copy of Black Narcissus
, which I got after watching that recent less than perfect TV version. I already had the DVD of the Powell and Pressburger film shot by Jack Cardiff which Godden did not like. But she did like Jean Renoir's film of another of her novels, The River
, which starred Adrienne Corri – remember her? A celebrated Scottish actress in her day, she is probably now best remembered for A Clockwork Orange
– but we won't go into that.
And so it goes on. I have run out of shelf space, but whatever else this is not going to lead to buying another self-assembly set of shelving. Even in
-pandemic spending sprees have their limits.
My friend is getting on a bit now and one of my main tasks is to take him walking, which I do seven days a week, rain or shine. Exercise is one of the areas he seems to have a lot of enthusiasm for and he is always keen when I subtly suggest to him that we head out. To be honest, it does me the world of good too, so though primarily an altruistic, caring activity on my behalf, it brings fitness benefits for me. Also, we are always bumping into old friends and acquaintances, as well as making new ones. We are both quite sociable that way.
And, please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that in getting on a bit my friend is in any way deteriorating, other than perhaps slowing down a trifle, and then there is the constant asking himself questions and generally talking to himself through his one-way conversations. All of which I realise though, is the natural order of things, as akin to everything associated with maturing and becoming older., tasks which were perfectly within reach or able to be conquered without a second thought progressively become more difficult. I am not suggesting, however, that my friend, to be more precise – my pal, is diminished in any way.
What I really mean is that he is not diminished in too many ways. Our walks are always fun and we try to explore many and varied places across the city, often walking in excess of 10 miles a day, though that is mostly confined to weekends, averaging 7/8 miles on a typical weekday. It is not the walks themselves that bring concern, for when we finally cross the threshold and leave the house, they tend to go without a hitch. Getting to that stage though is a time consuming and frustrating experience. Invariably, as we are heading out the door, there is the 'Oh I better nip to the toilet, before we go', followed by 'where are my glasses, gloves, keys' etc. Then the ritual checking of the back, followed by front door, and not forgetting the windows. I do understand security and safety becomes more of a worry with the onset of age, but more often than not, it just feels like lack of forethought, which the smallest bit of pre-planning would solve.
I can't count the number of times I have just been left standing as he rummages through his pockets in an attempt to find some (less than) crucial item, before finally deciding he is able to comfortably and confidently exit the house. I swear sometimes I wonder if he would make it home were he to embark on a journey without my reassuring presence to guide him through the many (to him, at least) pitfalls of a simple stroll.
Notwithstanding all of this, I do take a lot of pleasure out of our relationship. I get to meet a lot of people through being associated with him. Many of whom I am sure, under other circumstances, would simply pass me by. I am fortunate that, similar to me, he is an amiable, social person and there is no doubt that he has expanded my horizons and experience.
I do have to concede though that, despite much of what I have written, it is not just all give on my part. My friend regularly contributes to the enjoyment on our walks, he is very attentive and we are never short of conversation. However, where he comes into his own is when I go for a wee poo. Without exception, he is on hand to scoop up the mess in those lovely smelling wee bags he carries around with him, before then depositing the mess in a nearby bin.
I mean, as the other friend I live with constantly tells him, I can't do everything!
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