Before I write to the title, just a quick word in praise of the Guardian Weekly: it arrives a week or two later than in the UK, so the minimalist sports coverage is a bit out of date, but the reflective thought pieces work all the better for the lapse in time. Daily journalism consists mainly of telling you what is going to happen tomorrow, then what is happening as it happens, then what did happen yesterday. A high proportion of the pieces in the GW are more analytical and reflective, and all the better for it. This week I particularly enjoyed:
- a summary of a US thinktank (The ‘Commonwealth Fund’) report, concluding that the UK is the only one of 11 leading industrialised nations where wealth does not determine whether you receive high quality healthcare or not (just as Andrew Lansley is further dismantling the NHS)
- the ‘grey crimewave’ – the number of 0ver 65s charged with weapons and drugs offences has more than doubled in the last four years (Mags Haney’s mates)
- A cathedral for our times – Austin Inverleigh’s short joyful tribute to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia
- Armageddon for Trees – Tracy McVeigh’s fuller report into the destruction of the rainforest in Kalimantan through (mainly illegal) logging – an issue which also affects Cambodia
- A profile of Matt McCormack Evans by Kira Cochrane – he is writing from a feminist political perspective about male use of pornography in the US and its effect on ‘normal’ relations between men and women: goodness knows what he would make of patriarchal Cambodia where prostitution and pornography are widespread.
But to the music! You may recall that I have joined a choir which sings at a Mass held here on a Saturday evening. Last night, we had a couple of numbers which were new to me and I was unable to pick up the melody well at the rehearsal. We were struggling with the verses of one of the songs – We are the reason – when someone, a woman of course, suggested that it would sound better if the men sang the verses on their own. That worked OK in the confines of Atti Loo’s front room, but when we tried it during the Mass, we were ‘well found out’. I don’t think the congregation were impressed. Our singing as a choir, as befits the occasion, is characterised more by enthusiasm and volume than exact diction and pitch, but maybe all four of these qualities were lacking in the men’s attempt this week. For our penance, we are to do it again next week.
Sunday evening (5th December), our choir, led with a light touch by Atti Loo, performed at a Christmas fair at one of the Phnom Penh restaurants (Le Duo). Emmanuel, Who Would Send the Baby?, The First Noel, Silent Night (with successive verses in English, French, Filipino (Tagalog) and Khmer), Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World.. with Jingle Bell Rock, Give Love on Christmas Day, Deck the Halls, and Perfect Christmas. Lots of words about frosty mornings etc. I originally said I could not go, adopting my favoured ‘bah humbug’ approach to all things Christmas, especially if they occur before the 24th December), but pressure was applied and I could not find a decent excuse so I found myself saying ‘yes’, hoping to stand at the back and hide my doleful expression when required to sing ‘Jingle Bells’ . This would not be easy, given that I am the tallest member of the choir. However, the other members of the choir are so full of joie-de-chanter and general good humour, that despite my normal behaviour and even with a lifetime of practice as a Grumpy Old Man behind me, I could not help being strangely enthusiastic.
It’s a Christmas miracle.
Here are the other members of the choir before performance (not a very good photo.. sorry!) and a much better photo of the stunning female cast after the performance!