Here it is, the shortest day of the year. In NZ of course we get through that before anyone else does. So happy 21st of June, world. Bang on time we are about to be hit with a winter storm – gale force winds, snow flurries, rain. Winter, in other words.
Tucked up here by the fire, tempting to say “who cares?” I don’t really, I like the change of season, I like the fire. I don’t even really mind the cold to be honest. I feel sorry, briefly, for fellow citizens of this planet for whom winter means true misery.
It seems entirely appropriate, given that tomorrow we will be heading for summer, to ponder on the state of ‘things’, and in particular two topics that I reckon might just hold out some hope for this crazy world we have created.
Firstly, music. I don’t understand music from a theoretical sense, but I know for a fact that it is an important part of my life, and seemingly most people’s lives. The international language we all share, whether we know it or not, it seems to me that music is something fundamental to humanity, and therefore a potential source of great hope.
Our interaction with music varies wildly from day to day, but recently I have been lucky enough to indulge in some memorable music experiences. The living legend that is Mavis Staples was unforgettable. At age 77, still touring, still growling about the wrongs of discrimination, still joking with her audience about banana pudding. Fabulous.
I recently attended, at the last minute and at significant cost, a performance of Book of Mormon, in Melbourne, Australia. I was not too sure what to expect from a performance whose basic storyline involves young Mormon missionaries and female circumcision. It was laugh-out-loud funny. The entire audience left the theatre grinning from ear to ear, having been exposed to some of the rudest, crudest lines in the history of musical theatre. Despite that, you just had to laugh. You couldn’t help but feel better about the world. I imagine it is not so popular with the Mormon church, but if half of what is in the musical is true, again, you just have to laugh. I did have a long conversation with the distinguished gentleman from Singapore seated next to me about the absurdity of some – most? – religions, but we agreed that in the end most have a positive influence on the community in which they operate.
On Sunday I went to a ‘Live at the Met’ screening of a performance of La Traviata. It is a brilliant concept, filming an opera performance. I was unsure for quite a while whether it was actually live, and finally concluded it was not but presumably at some stage they do broadcast live. La Traviata is one of my favourite operas, and this production was stunning. Pared down to the barest minimum of set and props, the saga unfolds without any distractions from the music. At one stage I found myself actually gasping, hand over mouth. It was a movie of an opera, but somehow so gripping you could not help but respond to the emotion and drama. At half time a fellow attendee needed a helping hand to get to the coffee counter. Turned out her husband had been a tenor at the Met. The man sitting next to me recommended a performance to download (I’ve forgotten which but it was nice of him to advise me). Little, insignificant human interactions that made the outing all the more worthwhile.
Tonight I was supposed to be at choir practice. Our dear leader has been stricken with a winter illness, and told us all to stay home. It is a community choir; some 50 – 60 singers turn up every Wednesday. “Give yourself congratulations for coming to sing together,” he tells us as we warm up, “Congratulate yourselves on making this your special ‘me’ time.” And then we sing for 1 1/2 hours. Gospel, Dylan, traditional, African, Latin America, Latin, Bee Gees. Anything is possible. There is no audition process for this choir, you just turn up. For a bunch of amateurs, it is good, very good. Serious about singing, having fun in the doing. There is plenty of laughter between the singing. Standing in the middle listening is a treat. You hear it, but you also feel it, somewhere in your body, somewhere in your heart.
The second ‘thing’ at the top of my head today, the shortest day of 2017, is manners. Yesterday at the supermarket, I overheard a mother say to her quite small children “OK, what are the rules for when you are out shopping with Mummy?” Without hesitation, they said “No shouting, no running away, no bumping into people, no asking for things…”
I wanted to hug them all. Such wonderful manners. Such clever parenting. These were not children ruled over with an iron rod, in fear of physical retribution, but budding adults taking their rightful place in the world, with a clear understanding that they share it with other people, and must consider those other people as they go about their business. That Mother should be President of the USA. Is it, after all, good manners that we are all missing? I help the lady at the movies with the bad vertigo, the man next to me gives me a handy hint, we are polite and courteous to strangers and the world keeps turning. We all get to have a good day.
Our Prime Minister has been caught out lying this week. He ‘can’t recall’ details until his police statement is made public. Suddenly he recalls. The Member of Parliament breaks the law and lies about it, the PM lies too and has a bad case of short term memory loss – a pox on all of you. You were voted in to public office and you are just dumb liars with no manners, no respect for us.
It is a long year for me. The likelihood of a recurrence of cancer is highest in the first two years. I can’t wait for this year and next year to fly by, singing, laughing, living well; not having cancer.