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Titanic 3rd Class

February 19, 2014

You will be delighted to know that my gramophone player is now in the safe hands of the excellent Mark Gray for repair and cleaning. Mr Gray comes in twice a week to the Gramophone Emporium on St. Stephen’s Street in Edinburgh. A wonderful elderly character, he summed up my gramophone as ‘Titanic 3rd Class’ Not particularly flattering, I suppose, but powerfully evocative. It turns out that it is older than I’d originally thought and probably dates from around 1910 to 1920. When I described to him my musical taste (1920’s / ’30’s dance hall and vocalists, Frank Crumit et al), his nose wrinkled in disdainful pity. One of these moments when I wish I could have come up with some super-arcane blind (pref.) jazz instrumentalist…

Old horn gramophone’s are glorious things and I recommend that you go out and buy one now. It won’t cost you more than many electronic gizmo’s but be careful not to buy an Indian repro (usually the ones with brass horns). What you get is something raw and unmediated. They touch and move you, because you know that there are only a very few steps from the singer singing, all these years ago, and their voice filling your sitting room. I find myself peering down the horn as if expecting to see someone. In contrast, think of an iPod: does anyone still believe that they are listening to a voice or anything remotely human? On an old record, scratches and all, you are transported back to the moment of creation. What they offer, then, is a small doorway to Wonder, a quality increasingly absent in our present world.

One of the more spine-tingling and haunting memories of mine is of hearing the first (1920’s) recording of Tutankhamun’s war trumpets played after a silence of several thousand years. You can listen to it on youtube if you want. Have a tingle.

Things go well in the hostel. Marc is busy outdoors working on the fences and trees with a bit of drystane-dyking thrown in. Dan and Louise are making a lovely job of painting the inside of the hostel. It’s a few years since it had such a thorough job and looks all the better for it. Following the current museums /arts vogue for Curiosities, stuffed animals and juxtaposed such like I’m going to turn the lovely old telegraph box in the hostel corridor into a Cabinet of Curiosities. All the better as an excuse for me to buy more junk. The original 17th and 18th century Cabinets were gruesome and scary affairs, but mine will reflect our more tender, politically correct sensibilities (no stuffed anythings -I promise). So next time you visit, be prepared to be wowed. Dan has already painted the inside of it a rich, dark blue so things are progressing.

Jill and Rachel’s courses are coming up fast and I’m looking forward to them. As I’ve probably mentioned, I’m keen to develop a more arty / crafty focus for the hostel over the winter months so if any of you are keen on running a weekend course from 1st Nov. to mid March next year, just get in touch. I can offer a good deal and the more the merrier.

Things are gradually brightening up on Iona. Today is almost spring-like! The terrible conditions suffered by half the world (it seems) have largely passed us by. Wet and windy -but we’re used to that in the winter. My heart goes out to all these folk who have suffered from this strangest of winters. Nathalie from Quebec sent these photo’s -it’s still down around the minus 30’s and 40’s 0ver there and Anne in Manitoba tells me the same. The photo’s are fun; the situation less so.

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