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June 2008 Archives

June 2, 2008

Nigel is 60

Yesterday evening we went to the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh for a most remarkable event: a concert in honour of Nigel Osborne's 60th birthday. Nigel is a man of such all-embracing talent that it's easy to forget what an exceptional musician he is. After being a concert violinist, he became a renowned composer and pioneer in music as healing in war-torn countries. The people who had turned out to celebrate included the Hebrides Ensemble, the Edinburgh Quartet, members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Mostar SInfonietta. And the compere was no less than the incredibly witty Richard Stilgoe, with poems and anagrams for the occasion. He even had the whole audience singing in canon (in Serbo-Croat, obviously) just to cover the scene-changes.

It's a measure of Nigel's popularity that the event seemed to be organised largely by his students, notably Clea Friend. Seven of his students had each composed one-minute pieces specially for Nigel, so this was their "world-premier" - with the Edinburgh Quartet. What a refreshing diversity there was among them, the hallmark of a great teacher. For me, a lapsed oboist, the highlight was the stunning performance by Nicholas Daniel of Nigel's amazing oboe concerto, a work apparently delivered about 10 years after it was commissioned, but was certainly worth the wait. And what a huge treat to hear the aria from Nigel's latest opera, Differences in Demolitions. Michael Popper performed an extraordinarily moving dance (to Bach/Busoni) without ever moving his feet and Ruaraidh, Nigel's young son, played piano and guitar for his dad.

The formal part ended with Sevdah songs from Teo Krilic and friends, with lots of audience participation and scarcely a dry eye in the house. The party afterwards probably went on all night, but Keir and I had to come away, returning to Dunblane inspired and humbled by all that talent. Respect, Nigel, and remember that life begins at 60 ... from one who knows!

June 8, 2008

40 years of marriage - all to the same man ...

Yesterday was our 40th wedding anniversary. Despite marriage being not much in fashion these days, I'm rather proud of 40 years of it - and all to the same man! Keir Bloomer is remarkable in so many ways, and although officially now retired, he is very active as Chairman of Tapestry and still a leading light on the Scottish educational scene. He's come a long way since the idealistic 20-year old student who married me on the last day of our last term at Cambridge University. I'm glad to say he is still idealistic, in a good way. And over 40 years of being seldom apart, he has always been, and ever will be, my best friend, as well as cherished husband. I believe we have helped each other to be true to ourselves, to keep on growing, questioning and exploring.

Our dearest friends Celia and Sheila had laid on a wonderful barbecue in their beautiful garden near Loch Lomond to help us to celebrate. Food and drink taste so much better in the outdoors, especially surrounded by family and close friends in a beautiful setting:


Daughter Helen had her camera along and captured the lovely flowers we'd just been given. Grand-daughter Amy was there too, capturing hearts, minds and limelight. Her Uncle Sandy is brilliant with her: it's a pleasure just to watch them interacting. And our dear dog Bramble was included, so the whole family was together: what a lovely day we had.



June 17, 2008

Touching base, between trips

Just back from Edinburgh airport after a wonderfully long weekend in Tuscany. Based in the lovely Casa del Sole, Camaiore, this was a chance to see Italy afresh through the eyes of two-year-old grand-daughter Amy and daughter Helen. Keir and I (Il nono and La nona) enjoyed a different perspective. Yes we went to the Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, but we also visited the Pinocchio Park (and the superb gardens of the Villa Ganzoni also in Collodi), the zoo at Pistoia, the play park in Camaiore and cycled around the walls of Lucca pulling Amy in her chariot. Considering that Keir was about the only person I knew at Cambridge who couldn't manage a bicycle, I thought it was remarkable that we all survived the Lucca walls without injury, and although the puddles spattered poor Amy she didn’t seem to mind at all. We all climbed to the very top of La Rocca in San Miniato for a great view over the town.

The only downside of all this is that I have to leave home tomorrow morning at 0415 for my return trip to Kili. Were it not for the necessity of swapping Italian holiday clothes for high-altitude trek gear, it's barely worth returning to Landrick from Edinburgh airport. The trouble is that all that pasta and vino rosso has added to the task, and there was really no chance to do any training … I’ve always believed (hoped?) that the most important organ for trekking at altitude is your brain (rather than heart, lungs or legs) but I hadn’t expected to have to put this theory to such a severe test! The Lemosho route I’m trying this time at least has a long approach, but it joins the strenuous, scrambling Machame route. Although I’ve done Machame before, at the time I was an important 8 years younger, several kilos lighter in weight and much fitter. Still, if this ill-prepared pensioner can summit once more, it will prove that anybody can.

So I have no small misgivings, despite the usual pleasant sense of anticipation of any long-haul adventure. I love Tanzania, I am still fascinated by the world’s highest free-standing mountain, and I’m hoping to bring back many and much better photos. I’m taking my new Leica-lensed digital camera and hoping that I’m far enough up its learning curve to dodge many of the mistakes I’ve made before. I look back with embarrassment to my 1999 attempts, taken with a borrowed APS camera(!) This pre-dated the formation of Rucksack Readers and was chosen purely because it was very light, at a time when I was most uncertain if I could carry weight at altitude!

About June 2008

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