Author Archive

#showertune: ‘ophis le serpentaire’ by vincent geminiani

remember nostalgia?

boring, wasn’t it (like this overlong post)

given that i’ve come to the end of the project that had been keeping me from reflecting too much on the future, how old i was getting, or the fact that life was steadily moving on and becoming serious without me being ready, at the moment i’m coping with the terror of these realisations by means of romantic remembering.

as i’m sure you all know, nostalgia literally means home sickness [from the greek νόστος (homecoming) and ἂλγος (pain)], and was originally coined in the 17th century to describe what was thought to be a serious medical condition. the condition was also referred to as mal du pais or mal du Swisse, due to its apparent prevalence among Swiss mercenaries who (emotionally and physically) pined for their Alpine homes whilst fighting on the various lowlands of what are now Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

isn’t it interesting that as well as the fact that homesickness is no longer thought of as either serious or ‘medical’ (except perhaps in extreme cases, where it probably be counted as a symptom of wider mental illness), nostalgia has come to mean a wistful remembrance of/longing for the past? what was about place, has become about time.

despite the fact that my studies and understanding of history have (i hope) been usefully guided by the notion expressed in the famous opening line of The Go-Between by
L. P. Hartley – “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” – and that both ancient experience and modern physics point to intimate connections between time and space, i think something valuable might have been lost in the transition expressed by the shift in the colloquial meaning of nostalgia.

however globalised the world becomes, however easy travel and communication become, i don’t think, as humans, we can have story without also locatedness. as such, i feel it is not only necessary to talk about how great all the 60s/70s TV programmes that i used to love as a kid were (for it is these that have recently exercised my nostalgic juices), but also to speak about Edie and her house.

Edie was my next door neighbour growing up. She was a short, brash, thick-black-frame-spectacled, late-sexegenarian cockney, ensconced in our small, remote corner of West Cornwall. given her passion for London, she should have been more out of place, but she embraced the difference like a fish not only out of water, but sunbathing.

the porch that had been added onto the front of Edie’s otherwise-identical-to-ours house was filled with Mills and Boon books, piled high flat on their sides. she called everyone ‘babe’. before I was deemed old enough to have a house key, when my mum was at work, i used to go round to Edie’s after school. we didn’t talk that much, but when we did, i practiced charming her in the way i liked to do with adults.

her lounge was dominated by a thick, white-tassled rug which carried on its back a gilt-legged, glass-topped table with a scalloped edge. she sat in a high-backed green armchair, positioned so that it shielded the wooden TV cabinet from the afternoon sun. i sat to her left on the rug and placed my orange squash on the table, matching the fluting around the bottom of its glass tumbler to the curves that ran the table round. always.

we used to watch Countdown and 15 to 1 together, and then she’d put on children’s programmes for me and retire to the kitchen table to drink tea and smoke. despite the fact that it killed her Tom, smoking was Edie’s favourite hobby. that and cards. and erotic novels. sometimes we’d play cards – she taught me stud and draw poker, brag, cribbage, rummy, whist and even bridge and newmarket. some of the games we played properly, some of them she just explained to me because you can’t play them with two.

mum would usually get back mid-Blue Peter, but on some days she’d be late. at home, the once firm no-TV-during-meals rule had been relaxed in about 1990. the downside was that mum insisted on always watching Neighbours, then The Six O’Clock News, then Spotlight (shonky local news). as such, i liked the days when she was late – Edie didn’t care for the news and let me watch Thunderbirds while she smoked.

very occasionally mum would call Edie to say she was going to be unusually late, and ask whether she could make my tea. it was during one such occasion that it was suggested that at 6:30 we watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on BBC 2. i didn’t know what it was and had never ventured to watch it at home, but was immediately transfixed. Edie told me that she’d watched it when she first got a TV in the 60s, and that she liked the dark-haired one (Napoleon Solo played by Robert Vaughan). Edie was never really one for too many details – surprising, given the books she read.

once i’d been given reason, and courage, to watch one old programme that i didn’t know, i started to watch more, and it turned out that there was lots of 60s/70s TV that i loved: Mission Impossible, The Avengers, Ironside, The Prisoner, The Saint, Hawaii 5-0The Invisible Man, Batman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the list goes on and on. soon enough, i was videoing these programmes and watching them the next day instead of the kid’s crap.

when i was 11, my mum gave me a key so that i could let myself in when i got home from big school. i was pleased for the flexibility – i could get out of my uniform straight away for one thing – but i missed going round to Edie’s. sometimes i’d go anyway. that was fine with her.

one of the things i now realise about the TV programmes that i discovered because of Edie was that almost all of them contained the kind of music that i now love: Lalo Schiffrin, Quincy Jones, Morton Stevens, Jerry Goldsmith, Walter Scharf, Henry Mancini, Alan Moorhouse, Alan Hawkshaw, Alan Parker (all the Alans), Ron Grainer and many more gave these shows their edge by means of jangling brass, running baselines and rasping drums, often all at the command of deliciously strange time-signatures.

today’s #showertune doesn’t come from any of the programmes above, or any at all as far as i know, but it is beautifully evocative of precisely the right mood and sounds to me like bits of all their soundtracks blitzed in a blender and served over french ice.

as such, it’s dedicated to Edie Collins, who eventually moved back to the South East and is now probably dead.

it’s Orphis Le Serpentaire by Vincent Geminiani

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#inspiringquotations: number nine

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“I’m thinking of taking on twelve new employees, would that qualify me for a small-business loan?”

>Jesus

#academix: the dr’s (first) book

today on QVC, hot off the press:

Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology by Susannah Cornwall (a.k.a The Dr)

as well as being a fascinating examination of the issues raised for Christian theology by the existence of intersex conditions and the experiences of those that have them AND a devastating critique of essentialism with regard to gender, sex and sexuality within Christian tradition, it is also:

… a way of looking knowledgeable at relevant seminars (if carried visibly), a superb hiding place for a hip flask, small gun, snack, bag of drugs, usb stick/microfilm, smaller book and so on (NB hardback only. the shape of the object should be carved into 3/5s of the pages in order to create the hidey space), an excellent levelling device for tables, chairs, beds (and more) with uneven leg-lengths (one needed per uneven leg. see youtube video for instructions & walk-through), an ingenious ‘space keeper’ for a shelf, a useful tray for a human baby or small pet (please note – again, only the hardback is recommended for this application), a serviceable child’s hat (1.open the book to the middle. 2.place on child’s head.), a sort-of hand fan (here, you’ll need the ‘give’ of the paperback), a solar-powered non-torch, and a rigid cuddly toy for a naughty child.

with so many functions, it is an unbelievable Christmas bargain at only:

>c.£50 in hardback and c.£15 in paperback in the UK
>c.$30 in paperback in the U.S.
>c.CDN$30 in paperback in Canada
>c.R1,000 in paperback in South Africa
>c.S$33 in paperback in Singapore (from eBay.sg)
>c.¥9,360 in paperback in Japan

at these prices, why not try to collect them all?

remember, only a finite amount will ever be printed.

—————–

The analysis is almost as sharp, and the implications as far-reaching, as the author is vital to the discourse – Andre Romelle Young, PhD

Yuk. Don’t read thisJan Moir, Daily Mail

I usually struggle to know what to get The Duchess for Christmas; that won’t be an issue this yearSir Jimmy Savile (speaking in 2002)

The fundamental solution to the problem of loss of suctionSir James Dyson

One more giant leap for mankind – Neil Alden Armstrong (NB not from moon)

#showertune: ‘qualified’ by dr. john

1001, 1002, 1003

oh, hey there, i wasn’t expecting company. i was just doing my daily work out – wednesdays it’s arms and back. ohh, that’s a deep burn. i can barely lift my right arm (‘cos i did so many). i don’t know if you heard me counting, but i did over a thousand.

as most of you are probably aware, yesterday i had the mark back for that big piece of homework i did (the one that meant i had to take september off blogging). anyway, suffice to say that it turned out ok in the end.

lots of love and thanks to all of you who supported me and helped me through.

i hope you’ll grant me one day of self-endulgent celebration, and as such, today’s #showertune is Qualified by Dr. John

(NB. rejected options included
Dr. John – Baldhead, Dr. John – Make Your Own Bed Well and
Dr. John – Morgus The Magnificent – all genuine tracks)

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#inspiringquotations: number eight

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“You’d better bloodywell not be recording this. I might be hammered, but I can still kick your lights off”

>Mary Whitehouse

#showertune: ‘the truth’ by handsome boy modelling school

well, weld, welm

what do we have here? it seems that Advent Sunday really lived up to its billing, by seeing the advent of a whole new era of global relations. i haven’t experienced that many days following which i was aware that the world had profoundly changed:

> 9th November 1989
> 11th September 2001
> 4th November 2008

… but although yesterday will likely not go down as one among of them in many people’s minds, it probably should. thousands of pieces of raw intelligence data chronicling the American empire’s thoughts on/responses to the world as it stands – totally undeniable, totally unedited and made totally available.

even as an advocate for truth, justice and accountability, it’s difficult to know quite how to react to such an unveiling. it really is an apocalypse of biblical proportions – the beast laid bare.

while some of the initial headlines are not exactly of the sort that will astonish many people:

> the Russian government has links with organized crime
> a member of the British royal family made some inappropriate remarks
> the closing of Guantanamo has been a mirky process
> Afghanistan is a political mess

… plenty more shocking truths will no doubt surface as a result of the data leak.

in the meantime, today’s showertune is The Truth by Handsome Boy Modelling School feat. Roisin Murphy & J-Live
(i know we already had Coffee Cold, but this tune just seemed to apt to pass up)

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#faithseeking: ramping steals thunder

gratings |||||||||

like the prowling, critical-thinking lion that he is, bounder, london socialite, baby-faced intellectual and super-sharp minded blogger Ramping (of rampingandroaring fame) totally took the thesis of my Advent reflections from yesterday to task.

as such, i throughly recommend that you all temper my somewhat dour thoughts with his:

why you should get drunk, eat as many mince pies as you can and snog someone at your office party …

#faithseeking: on not learning war

adventageous

it’s a cliché for church people to bang on about how Advent is a season for sober reflection on the world and for pondering judgement, and how awful it is that (despite the calendars) most people skip it and jump straight into the high-spirit of Christmas festivities – boo consumerism, boo Coca-Cola, etc. however, despite it often coming across as snooty and somewhat sour, there is a point to this kind of grumbling.

our nativity: a Peruvian holy family, tiny toy animals & Rod & Todd Flanders (as shepherds, not Jedi)

just like how the celebration of life and bounty at Easter only really makes sense when preceded by Lenten fasting, so Advent properly contextualizes Christmas. moreover, given the way that most of us in the West live in relative plenty (from a global perspective), and Christmas will likely mean even more luxury than usual, it is perhaps more important than ever for the Church to take the discipline and witness of Advent seriously.

judgement, however, is not something that many christians find easy to reflect on. unless (as tragically some do) you take sadistic glee from the idea of some sort of fiery after-life torment awaiting the impious, then perhaps, like me, you tend to think of it as one of the more troubling aspects of the christian tradition.

magicians journey from the East (the TV)

what helpful sense can we make of judgement if we wish to reject the idea of God as a giant, bewigged Lord Justice poised to slap down his massive gavel and pronounce as many people guilty as possible and then punish them horribly? (and yes, i am aware that judges don’t really use gavels, but it’s an undeniably evocative part of the social imagination.)

in addition to my wariness, i also find some satisfaction in the (logical) notion that without judgement there can be no justice. justice, as i understand it, is not primarily about the punishment of criminals, but about that which makes for a flourishing society. those who transgress the boundaries of what is held to represent ‘the common good’, must both be held accountable for their selfishness, quiescence or general dereliction of duty, and offered restoration to and reintegration into the fractured community.

in the same way that justice is about hope for a better future, a future in which the things which spoil the present have been eradicated, judgement is the assurance that, regardless of wealth and influence, wrongs do not go unnoticed, and that there is a mechanism for the realization of our hopes for a better world.

given that there is nothing new about this insight and many other cleverer people than me have thought all this through before, it is no coincidence that the Hebrew Bible lesson for today came from the opening lines of First Isaiah’s vision of restoration:
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established
as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the
God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in
his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of
the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall
arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
(Isa. 2.1-5)

this profound conception of judgement does not focus on punishment, but on arbitration and the establishment of peace. Advent is really about looking at the world, and attending to the reality of its brokenness and partiality, but also finding consolation and strength for the works of mercy and justice that must be done in the idea that arbitration and restoration are possible; indeed, that they define the shape of the future.

my favourite part of Isaiah’s vision is the way he understands a peaceful world as one where people do not learn not to war, but rather where they stop learning war. for Isaiah, unlike Hobbes, the ‘natural’ state is not “bellum omnium contra omnes”, but a world in which if people want to fight, they must first learn so to do. the prophet draws on an aspect of the Hebrew anthropological tradition that understands violence as a corrosive, contagious corruption of, but not fundamental to, the human nature.

in this sense, Isaiah’s words prefigure those of John Lennon. the gaunt, four-round-eyed scouser, is not someone that i would usually celebrate as a serious thinker, let alone a source of religious wisdom. however, as the writings of Karl Marx demonstrate most profoundly, for many people atheism never quite manages to get in the way of theological insight. Lennon made “War is over, if you want it” the refrain of a whiny Christmas song – however, while this sentiment is in no sense out of place at Christmas, it might be that the truth of that line would find its proper home in an Advent carol.

Advent prepares us through its disciplines (such as should always precede a feast) and by calling us to reflect on what manner of world we live in and what manner we strive for, but, most importantly, it shows us that the real mystery of Christmas is that there might be some relationship between a grand, cosmic vision of a God who judges, intercedes for and restores the world (such as we find in First Isaiah) and a small, screaming baby clasped in the terrified and joyful arms of a young couple, huddled with steaming animals beneath an unfamiliar roof in an occupied city two millennia ago.

#inspiringquotations: number seven

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“Every so often there is a face that defines beauty in its era. My brother has just such a face.”

>Edward Jedward

#vidiotic: over a barrel-bench

Country Man
with Monty Buggershop-Hooty

#showertune: ‘you give me what i want’ by laura vane

… and it was all a dream (or was it?)

right, that was #storytime, next up #showertune.

today’s premium cut goes very much out to the one i love (the truest). The Dr is swamped with work right now and struggling beneath the weight of a ton of undeserved crap. however, she is maintaining righteously, and is still the most lovely thing to me.

interpreted (regardless of the original intent) by virtue of an appeal to ‘want’ as being synonymous with ‘lack’, here is You Give Me What I Want by Laura Vane & The Vipertones

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#faithseeking: conversations with hauerwas

and with thy spirit.

Blue (Labour) Steel

for those of you who attend to such things, and more importantly for those who don’t, i would like to draw your attention to the fact that an audio file of the discussion between Stanley Hauerwas, John Milbank > (classic photo) and Luke Bretherton which happened on 18th October at King’s College London, is now available (although unfortunately without the questions).

[thanks to Jason Clark]

in listening, my ears were drawn in particular to:

> Luke helpfully pressing both (but John in particular) on slightly diffuse uses of ‘catholic’, and the political significance of too much of an elision of the term with some abstracted notion of the church that transcends time and place.

> Stanley’s insight that serious writing, of any sort, not just autobiography, is about acknowledging your own death and death more broadly, and is thus thoroughly anti-Liberal.

> John’s reflections on his desire to ‘win’ and his identification of ‘winning’ with mission.

> The incessant clicking of a pen.

—————————-
anyway, for your instruction, here it is:

#inspiringquotations: number six

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“Most people don’t realise just how much of a burden beauty can be.”

>Margaret Thatcher

#showertune: ‘sunday kind of love’ by etta james

happy birthday to you

happy birthday to you happy birthday dear my lovely friend Siâââââân happy birthday to you

sorry i didn’t wrap your #showertune, but i hope you like it, it’s Sunday Kind of Love by Etta James

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#lexigraph: wintry words

greetings wordwatchers

as the knights draw in and the daze get short, here is a small collection of some interesting words to use over the course of this winter:

boreal: adj. (lit. northern) of the climate or winds of the north; cold
replete: adj. filled (with food)
gelid: adj. frosty; extremely cold
brumal: adj. of or belonging to winter (see hiemal)
hiemal: adj. of or belonging to winter (see brumal)
graupel: n. precipitation of a consistency between that of hail and snow
congelatio: n. frost-bite
immure: v. to entomb; to fortify (e.g. ‘we immured ourselves with duvets by the fire’)
cwtch: [pron. kʊtʃ (rhymes with butch)] n. v. (from Welsh: lit. hiding place) cuddle
perniosis: n. chillblains
squally: adj. threatening; (of cloth) defective; (of weather) stormy, violent
gimcrack: adj. showy, unsubstantial (e.g. ‘their Christmas party is gimcrack’)

#showertune: ‘fortune favours the bold’ by tm juke

tell you what

i don’t know about you, but i feel just brilliant.

at the beginning of last week i felt a bit like i was on the verge of struggling to keep my financial head above the economic crisis waters, but this week, thank you to the lord, saints and all the angels, it turns out that, like Ireland, actually i’ve never had it so good.

what a weight off my shoulders.

i’m yet to get an exact handle on how all the good that i’ve never had it so actually relates to the practical issues of still having less money coming in than i need and so forth, but, psychologically, i have been unburdened.

accordingly, today’s shower was a liberated affair, ably accompanied by Fortune Favours The Bold by TM Juke and the Jack Baker Trio

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#admin: #showertune lives …

Dear You

as you might know, recently YouTube got together with all the major record labels in a huge, boardroomed evil lair and decided that despite the fact that the blogs and other video sharing platforms has been directly responsible for the successes of several now well-known acts, they would make it increasingly difficult for people to embed and share YouTube content that is subject to a copywrite claim (which, with regard to the ‘property’ of the majors, is basically done automatically as part of the recognition algorithms built into YouTube upload).

there was a first phase of this over the summer, which in the end didn’t seem to come to much, however the latest round of spoil-sporting and in-the-foot shooting came into effect last week. as you may have noticed, one of the upshots of this has been that the majority of #showertunes have stopped working.

i did consider burying #showertune in a memorial garden, but to be honest i was furious that not only had she been killed, but her life’s work was now useless, given that it consists of a host of links that no longer give rise to sweet music, but instead just a notice that says
YOU CAN”T DO THIS, YOU FOOL, GO TO YOUTUBE ETC.

the incident made me realise that due to its reliance on YouTube, the #showertunes catalogue (of which i am unjustifiably proud) has always been a hostage to fortune, and that it was all my fault. as a result, i have decided to keep the dream alive, and not only will #showertunes now be hosted on our own servers, but i have begun the lengthy process of uploading all the existing tunes and relinking them to their new homes – hopefully you should already be able to play all the ones currently on the first two RQT pages.

please bear with us as we go about this tedious, but ultimately pointless yet liberating work, and if you feel, given the amount of effort you know goes in, that you should probably get round to telling more of your friends about the magic that happens in this sleepy little corner of the interweb, then we would bloody love that.

thanks ants. thants.

#inspiringquotations: number five

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“Mummy, is it true that we should treat everybody equally?”

>Slobodan Milošević (young)

#showertune: ‘more than a feeling’ by boston

do you feel lucky punk, yourself

currently we are seconded to London and on a secret mission which we can’t discuss on pains of what may or not be torture. the reality is, that if you are watchful, you may see us today on the tube, crossing London Bridge or loitering outside Baker St. Tube at lunchtime.

if you do spot us, do come and say high – we’re not above signing breasts or whatever.

in the meantime, why not kick-back in your office chair and waste some more time that you are being paid to work and not read blogs in by cranking up today’s #showertune and engaging in some gratuitous airguitaring and curly-perm-shaking.

treat yourself, it’s More Than A Feeling by Boston

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#inspiringquotations: number four

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“Seal? I’d say sweeter than penguin, but gamier than chimp. Add salt.”

>Gyles Brandreth

#tirednewsflash: headlines

thank you

and now a summary of this morning’s main news headlines at 10s o’clocks:

bong: Cameron denies focus on middle class despite new tax relief in form of book tokens and nectar points.

bong: Robinhood Airport fined over “joke” about ‘rob from rich’ handling policy.

bong: Dick van Dyke ‘saved by porpoises’ after ‘falling asleep’ on ‘surfboard’.

bong: Inventor headlines without prepositions conjunctions, dies.

bong: “The irony is worse than the diabetes” claims Lord Sugar.

bong: “Are Milibands the new Krays?” asks Tory whitepaper. “You decide” it concludes.

bong: Tory-tower riot exposes difficultly of telling students from ‘nots’. ‘Debt hats’ proposed.

bong: U.S. entrepreneur Ira Lend to buy Ireland.

bong: Obituaries “out of step with instant news culture” claims paper introducing ‘predictuaries’.

bong: November sees most recent records since records began.

in weather: Cornwall.

and finally: Sociological study proves children from religious and atheist families actually co-operate better than vice versa.

#inspiringquotations: number three

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“Hey Mister, how much will you give me for this barrel of premium eels?”

>Lord Sugar (young)

#showertune: ‘give me your love’ by the sisters love

Monday’s child is fair of face

so, if you were born today, congratulations, you can feed, sleep and cry safe in the knowledge that you most likely have a easier life ahead of you than the rest of us, and that even if you are properly, properly stupid, you will be able to find work, if nowhere else, in TV, presenting for Pricedrop.tv, QuizCall or ITV1.

speaking of which, wasn’t it great to see that couple captured by pirates and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi both go free? it made me feel good to be alive. a feeling which was washed thoroughly away shortly after when i foolishly broke my ‘never in this (pent)house’ rule and tuned in to watch Take That perform on The X Factor. here at RQT we’d all like to say a big “nob off Robbie, they were better without you”.

anyway, ever had a really bossy and insecure partner who is constantly demanding affection? well, today’s #showertune is a bit like what that might sound like – it’s Give Me Your Love by The Sisters Love

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#RIP: Henryk Górecki

Henryk Górecki: 6th December 1933 – 12th November 2010

with sadness we note the death of one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant composers.

anima eius et animae omnium fidelium 
defunctorum per dei misericordiam
requiescant in pace

Górecki is best known and rightly celebrated for his hauntingly beautiful Symphony No. 3, Op 36, commonly known as A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. the most well known of the symphony’s three movements is the second – Lento e Largo – which contains a libretto for soprano that borrows the words of a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary which was inscribed on the wall of cell 3 in the gestapo prison in Zakopane by Helena Błażusiak (1926-1999), a then 18 year old prisoner.

the prayer translates as something approximating:

Mama do not cry, do not.
Pure Queen of Heaven,
you are always supporting me.
Hail Mary.

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Dawn Upshaw with London Sinfonietta conducted by David Zinman – Lento e Largo (Tranquillissimo)
from Symphony No. 3, Op 36 by Henryk Górecki

#inspiringquotations: number two

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“When all is stripped away, naught remains save duty, courage and love.”

>Helen Daniels