Books Culture Films Music

The New Saturday Review 6 – The Forge; Living; Rachmaninov 1; The Dark Side of the Moon

The New Saturday Review 6

It’s been a while since I did my last ‘New Saturday Review’ – The New Saturday Review 5- Top Ten Podcasts

So here goes….lots to catch up on.  The purpose of this is to share some of the reading, viewing and listening I have been doing.  It may help in terms of recommendations – or not!  We all have different tastes.  But I do find it helpful to read reviews – sometimes it saves me wasting time and money!  I hope the following will be helpful to you…

 Book – The Forge – Alex MacDonald.

To say I was surprised by this book is an understatement!  Alex James Macdonald is a former colleague of mine – a fine preacher, musician, pastor and now writer.   The JK Rowling/Ian Rankine of the Free Church.   A kind of Iain Rankin meets John Buchan.  For a first novel, the Forge is excellent.  Made better for me that I could identify the places and indeed some of the characters in the story.

It is well written – it does not have the depth of character development or the pace and mystery of Rankine – but it passed the golden test – I kept reading, didn’t get bored and wanted more.

Although not the main purpose or theme of the novel, it is good to have a book which recognises the place of Christianity in Scotland – even in contemporary Scotland.  Here are a few quotes which neither Rowling or Rankine would/could come up with.

Yes, well I suppose at first it was like she and her parents had a good influence on me. I would go to church with them, but it didn’t really have much effect on me, although I know that Mr Leitch, the minister then, was a good preacher. Page: 33

And she would drag me along to St Columba’s Free Church, up near the Castle where George Collins was the renowned minister. She wouldn’t allow me to take things any further, because I wasn’t a believer. But I was just happy to be sitting beside her and didn’t pay much attention to the sermons.’ Dan smiled ruefully to himself. Page: 38

Rory had a lot to think about. He loved it when he could be alone with his Grandad like this and when he opened up about what he really thought. But what his Grandad thought and believed was in direct contradiction to so much of what Rory had been taught in school and now university, and what was flowing around him in the general zeitgeist. He wasn’t sure what he believed, but he felt that the various ideas flowing around him were like the shifting wind, whereas what his Grandad believed seemed somehow solid, like the rock of An Teallach beneath his feet. Page: 139

people standing at the back. Rev Cameron welcomed them all and announced the first Psalm – the Twenty-third Psalm, not the old traditional version, but a modern one that had quickly caught on in the Highlands because it was sung to an adaptation of a traditional tune called Tarwathie. It was a favourite of Rory’s. The precentor stood up and led the praise. His voice was strong and mellow. In his younger days he had been in great demand at local ceilidhs. The LORD is my shepherd; no want shall I know. He makes me lie down where the green pastures grow; He leads me to rest where the calm waters flow.

Well worth purchasing and passing on.  Congratulations for Alex for such a fine first book. I hope there will be more.


Living – Bill Nighy –

Annabel and I went to see this at our favourite Sydney cinema, the Hayden Orpheum (still doesn’t beat the DCA!) one Saturday afternoon.  To say we were emotional wrecks throughout and afterwards would be putting it mildly.  This is such a beautiful and powerful film.

Kazuo Ishiguro is a brilliant screenwriter and his version of Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru (to live) it stunning.  The plot is simple – a dull civil servant, Mr Williams (Bill Nighy) in 1950’s London is told he has just a few months to live.  This jolts him to realise that he has not been really living.  At first, he tries to live a wild life – that just does not work…and instead he ends up devoting himself to a small city project.  And that’s pretty well it.

But it is hard to describe what makes this film so astounding.   The cinematography is superb, as is the understated dialogue, the music and above all the acting of Bill Nighy.  I think he is probably my favourite current actor.   However, for me it is the Ecclesiastes style questioning about the meanings of life – and what it really is to live – which really hit home.  This is one of my favourite films ever.


Stephen Hough performs Rachmaninov1.

This week I went in the afternoon to hear Stephen Hough play Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto in the Sydney Opera House.   The music is stunning (although I prefer his Second and Third) and Hough is an unbelievable pianist.   Here is a clip of him playing some of it from a few years ago.

The other piece was by Erich Wolfgang Korngold- which was interesting but not nearly on the same scale of beauty and grandeur.

A few thoughts.   The refurbished Sydney Opera House is stunning – especially in its acoustics.   I’m always amused at the traditional concert rituals – especially the conductor and pianist going off and on to applause.    I felt sorry for the cymbal player…I think he waited 20 minutes before he got to bang his cymbals a couple of times!   But he is a key part of this wonderful Sydney orchestra.

I was saddened to see more masks on people than anywhere else I have been recently.  People are free to do what they want but this is clearly people living in fear and believing that wearing a mask will stop them getting covid.  It doesn’t.

And it’s becoming quite tiresome having the endless and somewhat hypocritical acknowledgement of country at every event we go to.  If the Sydney Opera House really believe that the land it is built on belongs to the Gadigal people – of whom there are less than 100 in the City of Sydney today – then they should either give it back, hand over legal title or start paying rent.  The rest is just virtue signalling which fails  to atone for the sins of people who are long gone.


The Dark Side of the Moon

Finally, it is the 50th anniversary of this great classic album – which I reviewed a couple of years ago – Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Here is one of the great songs from it – Time.


Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.

Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.

Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown

Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking

Racing around to come up behind you again

The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older

Shorter of breath, and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Home, home again I like to be here when I can

And when I come home cold and tired

It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire Far away across the field

The tolling of the iron bell

Calls the faithful to their knees

To hear the softly spoken magic spells…


More reviews hopefully next week….

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *