Wednesday 1 January

My last blog ended with a reference to news that Graham Maule had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer. This blog begins with news of Graham’s death on Sunday 29 December.

I first met Graham Maule at the LAST NIGHT OUT events of the Wild Good Resource Group of the Iona Community but never really began to know him until we shared a room in Iona Abbey during a Music & Worship week in 1998 in which Marty Haugen and I were the guest musicians. It was days before Graham ventured out of his room. His colleague John commented that he didn’t travel well!

I recall one evening when we drank, talked and laughed into the night … in fact there were several such evenings in his Edinburgh apartment too. This evening was during the annual Greenbelt Festival, a tented gathering of some 30k Christians. That night after a late evening worship session we retired to my tent which was always the largest and relaxed in the way we always did. Clearly we must have disturbed the sleep of nearby campers as one child approached with a request from her father to be quiet. That request came from a Cabinet Minister of the Scottish Government! When the sun rose the following morning Graham was found comatose half in – half out of his tent. It was difficult to see whether he had made it to the toilet or not. Later that morning I bumped into the esteemed Minister and apologized on Graham’s behalf but it seemed that he knew Graham and graciously understood. Still later that day I was taken to task by the leader of our group who had assumed that it was I who had caused the uproar and been the source of some pithy expletives to the child.

Many stories will be told of Graham both before and long after his funeral. His time with cancer was mercifully short and so most will have more positive memories of Graham than those of his colleagues, friends and family who cared for him. We will also have the recordings of his tenor singing voice. Most at ease in Scottish folksong he laid down some beautiful tracks with the WGRG and friends of their purpose.

As I type, and for the last few days his death has made my heart heavy. Barely a week will pass without my use of music with which he will have had some part in the creative process.

Tomorrow Ross, a mutual friend of Graham’s, will join me in Tampa having travelled from Glasgow prior to joining his family on a trip to Key West Florida. It will be good to light a candle for Graham at the same time as the funeral.

Christmas celebrations at St Lawrence went well. It could easily have gone pear-shaped as so many of the choir were either unavailable or ill. At the penultimate rehearsal before Christmas one singer fell badly in the car park and another became ill while she was there. In addition several sopranos would not be available. In the event I managed to entice singers from other musical groups in the parish to join us for the midnight Mass and it all went super-smoothly. At the start of every Mass I usually introduce some of the music to the people. It was a great surprise to see Val, a friend from Sheffield Cathedral days in the congregation with her son, Simon. After Mass she came up to me with tears in her eyes … my arrangement of Silent Night has that effect on folk!

The Pastor had kindly enabled me to hire another musician to cover me so that I could rest between the 4pm Vigil Mass and the Midnight and then again to lie in while the 7.30am Mass proceeded. I was then back the following morning for the three remaining Masses. I went home briefly and then joined Val with her family for a Christmas meal.

On what we Brits call ‘Boxing Day’ and the following day I relaxed and general pottered about the house. I needed to prepare for a spate of Airbnb guests. I declined one who wanted to spend almost a week from Christmas Eve and I even declined a neighbor who wanted to lodge his mother at my house! The booking on 27 December was for 4 persons who turned out to be a couple and their two mature daughters. Apart from the opening introductions I only ever saw the father who had a penchant for fine wines and rums. They were ideal guests.

On Monday 30 December I went kayaking and had the wind in my sails until the cable on my mirage drive (Hobie owners will understand) snapped and I was left at the mercy of the wind. Since it was blowing me in the direction I wished to travel it was no problem. However when I decided to return I had to abort use of the sail and paddle instead.

On New Years Eve my muscles ached after the strains of the previous day. I went into work for a few hours before playing a bilingual Mass at 5.30pm. While at work another couple who had stayed with me a few weeks earlier returned for another few days. Following this I went to a local party at which I was to offer frozen margaritas made with my Margaritaville frozen drink maker machine. Many who laughed when I first brought it to the pub were full of admiration once they tasted my potions. I had arrived at the party without a coat. The wiser locals had dressed for harsh florida winters and I was taught a lesson as the temperatures plummeted to 63f.

The party finished at 10pm and although tempted to join a few at the pub I decided that bed was wiser. I had two Masses in the morning and then a meeting with a musician colleague. Later that evening I joined friends and work colleagues for an annual bash. It was a great end to the toughest part of the Christmas Season. The rest would be downhill.


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