Books Culture History Judaism Music TV

Saturday Review 5 – Mary Queen of Scots (Book); The Last Survivors; The Harris Hotel; Macbook Air (2018); The Magic of Boney M

Book – Mary Queen of Scots – Antonia Fraser – 7/10

51Z6vHoRLJLGiven the recent film Mary Queen of Scots – Woke Movie of the Year  I thought I would read this biography by one of my favourite writers – Antonia Fraser (her book on Cromwell was very influential in my life!).  This is a superb book – although Fraser is clearly biased in favour of Mary (perhaps because of her Catholicism!)…but then I have to admit that I was biased against Mary (perhaps because of my Calvinism?!).   Fraser’s book on Mary is the one that made her reputation as a great historical writer – and deservedly so.  It is full of detail, analysis and I think quite fair.  In fact she has made me question my own prejudices and given me a fair more sympathetic view towards the tragic Mary – who seems to have been more sinned against than sinner!   I thought this wee detail was fascinating!

Two letters are directed to the cardinal of Lorraine, one containing the suitable, if somewhat priggish sentiment: ‘Many people in these days, mon oncle, fall into errors in the Holy Scriptures, because they do not read them with a pure and clean heart.’ Curiously enough, one of the letters is actually addressed to John Calvin: but there is no evidence that the letter with its solemn, childlike invocation, ‘Christus filius Dei te avocet, Calvine’, was ever actually dispatched and it seems extremely improbable that it should have been more than a youthful exercise, the original inspiration for which remains obscure.


TV – The Last Survivors – 8/10

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This is a wonderful and moving BBC documentary – of the kind that the BBC at their best do so well.   It is a look at the holocaust through the eyes of the few survivors who are still alive today.   What struck me most was the quite dignity and depth of character amongst the survivors.

“Anyone who’s got a roof over their head and food in the belly – forget the trauma”!

“There has to be a God, despite what we experienced.  We just do not understand….but that is what faith is.”

“Sight seeing tours to the salt mines and to Auschwitz – that really offended me”

I contrast this with the pop psychology displayed by one of their daughters, insisting that they should cry in public and let it all out.  – most of the survivors did not want to cry in public…why should they?

Hotel – The Harris – 8/10

We visited the Harris Hotel last weekend for the Harris Conference – Revival, Renewal harrishoteland Reformation in Lewis and Harris   All I can say is that I would highly commend it.  Apart from the beauty of Harris, the Harris Distillery and the North Harris Free Church all being on the door step – this is a family run hotel which is warm, comfortable and with excellent food – and a great whisky selection.   Worth going to Harris for!

Technology – MacBook Air (2018) – 9/10

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A thing of beauty!

I changed my computer this past week – I hate the hassle of doing it – its worse than moving house!  My laptop is what I use at home, at work, on the train and elsewhere to do my writing and this blog and to record Quantum.  I am not a techie at all and so I need something that is powerful, clear and simple.  The Macbook Air is great for that and so I was happy to move to the latest model.  So far I have not been disappointed.  The screen is incredible and the sound much better than the previous version.  I hate the fact that there are no USB outlets and so I have had to buy an adaptor  – and also that because of cost I downgraded from 500GB to 250GB – which just means I have to use Dropbox and other online storage systems more.  But I am very thankful for this wonderful technology – may I use it be the glory of God.  (Unusually for a Mac I found that the latest version was £250 cheaper on Amazon).  This time I also bought an excellent protective plastic case….


Album – The Magic of Boney M – 6/10

This is a kind of guilty pleasure.  I know that I should not really like a 70’s/80’s pop/disco band but I love this album – or 50% of it.  I sometimes listen to it when I am walking to work – as it is a good pace setter.  They are such an unusual band.  There is also a strong Christian influence that comes through – not least in songs like Mary’s Boy Child or The Rivers of Babylon.

The song that makes me smile the most is Rasputin….its catchy, corny, bizarre and has hilarious lyrics.  “Ra, Ra, Rasputin, lover of the Russian Queen, There was a cat that really was gone; Ra, Ra, Raputin, Russia’s greatest love machine, it was a shame how he carried on”!  Don’t knock it until you have heard it – but be warned the tune will be playing round in your head all day!


Saturday Review 4 – Our Culture, What’s Left Of It; Graham Norton; Brexit- A Love Story; Leonard Cohen; The Newport..




  1. Agree with you 100% on the dignity of contained suffering – neither expressed nor restrained emotion (some things are just TOO BIG to express!) should be shamed. Everyone’s suffering is their own. And sometimes different at different times, as well. We saw enough of that with the treatment of the Queen over the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and I was on her side then.
    Also a bit of a fan of Antonia Fraser – if you want to see a historical stereotype thoroughly opened up and viewed from the other side, but without sensationalism, try her history of the Gunpowder Plot.
    I’ve often thought about the two Royal Tudor cousins – Elizabeth was exceptionally lucky in her Ministers, and blessed with exceptional wisdom in choosing them, possibly as the result of the hard school she had grown up in which included her mother’s murder and her own abuse (definite, but extent will never be known) at the hands of a stepfather, then the precarious years with various powerful men and her own sister alternately trying to exploit and kill her.
    Mary’s upbringing was definitely more sheltered, thanks to the decision to evacuate her to France and the powerful protection of her Guise relations. She emerged a lot more trusting and with a strong romantic streak – and I doubt she had been much trained in the more brutal aspects of statecraft, since her intended destiny was as a meek, fertile Queen of France with little impact on politics. (She was further unlucky in the unexpected accession of a hostile mother-in-law to a very different role.)
    And instead of the loyal Ministers Elizabeth had, who knew their own survival depended on hers, Mary had treacherous, greedy and feuding old-fashioned nobles many of whom thought their own claim to power at least as good as hers and most of whom were only too happy to collaborate with England the moment anyone said boo to them.
    Royalty, with its inherent vulnerability to assassination and long-term nominal child rule under whichever Regent can kill off enough rivals, has never done well for Scotland and again England has been lucky to have a lot fewer examples. If you can manage to preserve your independent Scotland from the ascent of an “elected” autocrat like Putin is, and Trump wants to be, you will probably do better without Her Majesty’s “heirs and successors” – and I say that as a Royalist down here.
    Sorry to bore on again – God’s blessing on you and your ministry, through the Holy Spirit.

  2. Ah! Bony M. Didn’t they look gorgeous, and sound great.

    When I compare them to the likes of Ariana Grande and their pornographic lyrics and displays there is no comparison.

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