Do you know The Planets Suite? It was composed by Gustav Holst between 1914 and 1916. Some parts of it are very famous. The big tune in Jupiter, (The Bringer of Jollity) has been used for a hymn and as the iconic tune for the rugby union world championships of 1991. I remember Kiri Te Kanawa belting it out on an advertising trailer. I don’t actually remember who won the tournament. It wasn’t England.
Similarly, Mars (The Bringer of War) has been a staple in the secondary music rooms and drama studios. The slushy part of Venus, (The Bringer of Love) has even made an appearance in Wallace and Grommit’s A Matter of Loaf and Death. The rest of it however is probably less familiar. But I would recommend that you sit yourself down in a dimly lit room and listen to the whole suite in one go. Then when you reach the final movement of Neptune (The Mystic), you will have a full sense of the range of emotions and experiences the work represents.
Beyond the planets, we know there are stars. Up in the sky there are millions of stars, silently gazing, watching over us to be a light when darkness is here. Billions have been spent on space exploration yet we are only scratching the surface. But there are plenty of stars on earth. They can watch over us and be our light in times of darkness.
I saw plenty of stars last week. They were stars of the past and now hopefully after being together again, they will be stars of the future. In the photographs which pop up around the article are many of my personal stars. Firstly, I managed to get a photo of the family stars.
But one couple who don’t appear on a photo because we were too busy having a great time, are Peter and Jean. One of our last significant indulgences was on new year’s day of 1995 (it could have been 1994). It’s a bit vague but we were having a couple of pints in the old Hotel Vic when we decided to have some whisky. Then we were gripped by the monster that is Laphroig; a strong peaty Islay whisky. We finished the bottle.
By this time we were having a little chat and stay behind with the landlord who promptly placed another bottle on the table. This was on the house. Oh that monster. We were a little more civilised last Wednesday but we just clicked right back into jolly best friends mode. Through the seventies and into the eighties we supported and helped each other through good and bad times. We shared music, drink and laughter along with Django, their outrageous afghan hound. A lot of water has passed under our bridges since then but we still bounced of each other. We’ve always been able to laugh at ourselves and cringe openly yet somehow proudly at our past indiscretions.
On Thursday there was another gathering of stars. George, Andy and Christine go back to our early drinking days of the mid-seventies.
We often met at The Stanley, a rough and ready Seacombe boozer now long gone. George and I went on holiday to Los Angeles and some years later, Sydney. Then there was that week in Cruden Bay and five days on Lindisfarne. It is this sort of shared travel experience which builds the strong bonds between friends. The bond is still there. Andy and Christine were once married to each other but they are still friends. After a few pints, the banter picked up pace and the laughter went up a few notches.
The actual pub was a bit of a barn. It used to be a supermarket. There were several parents who had just picked their children up for school and gone straight to the pub. Hmmm, not exactly quality family bonding is it? But the pub had a radar key accessible toilet. Needs must.
On Friday, after a day chatting to my old dad, it was musical stars time. Peter and Paula Rainsford, Peter O’Conner, Jane Davvers, Helen and Phil, Alan Johnson and Jules Waring have all been significant stars in my life.
Alan in particular lifted my cello playing to a level I never thought possible. He was a quiet pragmatic teacher with a dry wit that would split granite.
We may have been showing the passing of time but it was just so much of a pleasure to have all those stars under one roof. Every one of those people had given me trust and confidence to help me on my way in the great quagmire of life.
There was only one person missing. She was one my biggest stars. But Eva is now her own shining light somewhere in the heavens.
And do you know what? My bloody chair broke down again.
Fortunately Jules came to the rescue and whisked me off in her old Ka to a nice man in a mobility shop who put the front wheel back on for me.
The journey up and down to Liverpool was smooth. The whole event was memorable. Of course I have stars down here too. My mate Steve up the road and Peter on the Isle of Wight. Plus many more. (See the Kitchen Inspectors post.) Thank-you for reading.