There aren’t enough songs about just ‘being’ in love

A few years ago at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, I heard David Francey say that there are lots of songs about falling in love, and there are lots of songs about falling out of love, but there aren’t many songs about just being in love – the joys and the heartaches, the ups and the downs of it. I think he’s right; I can’t think of many love songs that celebrate long-term marriages (Stan Rogers’ ‘Lies‘ is one that comes to mind, and it’s one of my favourites). And I think this is a shame.

Musicians aren’t the only ones who neglect this theme. TV writers also seem to believe that stable long-term relationships make for boring TV. At the end of Downton Abbey season three, when Matthew Crawley was killed off due to actor Dan Stevens wanting to leave the show, I read that creator Julian Fellowes had expressed an opinion that a happy marriage didn’t make for particularly exciting television. It seemed that, having brought Matthew and Mary through a long and tortuous route to finally getting married, he was happy to kill Matthew off so that once again Mary could be ‘on the market’, making for enjoyable tension and uncertainty on the show.

Sunday was the season seven finale of ‘Heartland‘, and we have the same scenario, with long-time couple Ty and Amy (whose relationship has been the central story line of Heartland from the end of the first season, and who have been engaged for a season and a half) once again running into speed bumps, and not getting married as perhaps the majority of fans would have liked to have seen. I’ve even heard the view expressed that Ty and Amy’s marriage would have meant the end of Heartland, because ‘where would the show go after that’? What? Would Ty and Amy really stop growing and learning after their wedding day?

I honestly can’t understand why TV writers take this view. Do they really think there are no enjoyable story lines to be found in the joys and vicissitudes of a lasting marriage? Well, if that’s really how they feel, I have five words for them: For Better and for Worse. This much loved comic strip by Lynn Johnston ran for 29 years and took its readers through the story of the lives of John and Ellie Patterson and their kids. In the earliest story lines, John and Ellie were a young married couple; later they had their children, and we followed the ups and downs of their lives together, told with humour and honesty in a way that kept people coming back for more. And I haven’t heard that the strip’s popularity suffered at all for it being about a stable long-term marriage!

Seriously, do writers and musicians and TV producers really believe that there are no interesting story lines in long-term relationships? Do they really believe that there’s no drama in showing couples and families facing the challenges that make long-term relationships so difficult, and coming through them successfully (or, sometimes, less successfully)? Where does this come from? Is it, perhaps, the notorious instability of show-business relationships?

Years ago, author Larry Christensen said that marriage is like pioneering, in that true pioneers experience two things: hope and difficulty. Marriage as pioneering? Now there’s an interesting thought! Perhaps it’s time for writers and musicians and TV producers to take on a new challenge; how about exploring the possibilities of portraying long-term love – what David Francey referred to as ‘just being in love’ – with all its hope and difficulty? How about it, creative artists? Are you up for it?

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‘The Enigma Of Nic Jones: Return Of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero’

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I’m really looking forward to seeing this:

Nic Jones is a legend of British folk music. His 1980 album Penguin Eggs was widely acknowledged as a classic and he was poised for international stardom – but a near-fatal car crash in 1982 changed his life forever.

The Enigma Of Nic Jones: Return Of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero tells the story of Nic’s determination to sing again and his return to the stage 30 years later…

…The Enigma Of Nic Jones: Return Of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero will be premiered at the How The Light Gets In Festival on Saturday 1 June as part of BBC Four’s partnership with the festival, with filmmaker Michael Proudfoot introducing the film.

Read the rest here.

Apprehension

I’ve been challenged a number of times by members of my family to go and see the newHobbit1 Hobbit movie before dissing it. Fair enough; I will.

However, Ben Witherington has seen it. Here’s his review; it confirms what I expected: no longer the children’s story Tolkien wrote, too much Lord of the Rings read back into it, too much violence, too much development of characters not in Tolkien’s story and too little development of those who were, etc. etc. In a response to one of the comments he mentions ‘…the interminably battling which never really results in anything… either the defeat of some particular evil group or any serious loss to our heroes. It is indeed like a video game’.

Todd Hertz has also seen it, and in his review for Christianity Today he writes:

‘The divisive issue is not omissions, as is often the case with adaptations; in fact, all major events of the book’s first six chapters are fairly depicted. The issue here is that Jackson has made wholesale additions that make it all feel less like the book and more like the darker cinematic journey Jackson took us on not long ago with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. And that seems to be exactly Jackson’s goal.’

I also note my review of Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ movies (written several years after I first saw them, after I’d had time to consider), in which I explained why I thought they were ‘deeply flawed’, and my initial reaction when word of the Hobbit movie came out (at that time, we were only expecting a two-part production!).

I like Martin Freeman and I like Ian McKellen, so I expect I’ll enjoy their characters. If I’m wrong about the rest of the movie, I’ll be glad to retract my predictions (I was happily surprised about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, though not about the movies that followed it). However, I don’t expect to have to do so.

I love The Hobbit dearly, and when people talk about it in the future, I want people to talk about the characters and the story that Tolkien created. That’s why I’m apprehensive about going to see the movie. But I will go, and I’ll let you know what I think.

Twenty-One Today

On October 24th 1990 I was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Resurrection, Holman, Northwest Territories (the church I had been serving as a lay minister in charge for two years), by Bishop Jack Sperry, Third Bishop of the Arctic. The service was a bilingual one, in English and Inuinaktun, and the Inuinaktun parts were especially translated from the Book of Alternative Services by Bishop Sperry. The only other clergy person present was my father, who had made the long trip from England for the occasion. It was a little different from the formal ritual of the ordination services I now attend at our cathedral in Edmonton; there was no choir, the organ was a chord organ, and after the service was over the pews were pushed into a circle around the walls to make room for a great feast in the little church. The feast was not just for my ordination, I haste to add; it was also in honour of Bishop Sperry’s intending retirement. I was the last person he ordained before he stepped down from his position as Bishop of the Arctic after seventeen years, and a total of forty years of ministry in the Diocese of the Arctic.

I consider Jack Sperry to be one of the unsung heroes of the Canadian Church. He was born in the same city as me, Leicester in England; he served in the Royal Navy during World War Two and then came to Canada, where he took his theological education before moving to the Diocese of the Arctic. He was the missionary in charge at Coppermine (now Kugluktuk) from 1950 to 1969; during that time he made extensive travels by dog team all over the central Arctic, doing mission work in what are now the parishes of Holman, Cambridge Bay, Bathurst Inlet, Bay Chimo and beyond. He learned to speak Inuinaktun, the central or Copper dialect of Inuktitut, with great fluency; he translated parts of the Book of Common Prayer, the Gospels and the Book of Acts, some selections from the epistles, and many hymns and psalms, for the use of the people of the central Arctic. After nineteen years in Coppermine he served briefly in Fort Smith before being appointed as the Third Bishop of the Arctic in 1973, a position he held until his retirement at the end of 1990.

I remember Jack as a down to earth, ordinary Christian; he loved the Gospel and he loved the people of the Arctic, and he loved most of all bringing the two together. He was a man of prayer and a man who knew how to build things with his hands (you had to do that a lot as a missionary in the Arctic). He knew that his first job was to care for his clergy and their families, and when he came to visit us he always made time to play games with our children, draw pictures for them, and talk with them. Episcopal visits in the Arctic always involved staying overnight in the mission house, of course, as there were no roads in and out of most of the communities, and very few had more than one flight in per day. But with Jack, it wasn’t a case of necessity but of vocation; he knew how isolated his clergy were and he did his best to care for us as individuals and as families.

One of the best times I ever spent with him was in the early winter of 1988 after we moved to Holman. I was learning to negotiate a new language and Jack was one of the acknowledged authorities on that language, so he came to stay at our mission house for a week which we spent in intensive language study. For eight hours a day we poured over the few written resources available (most of which he had written himself), and it was then that I discovered that I not only enjoyed language, but I had a pretty good ear for it. But we also visited and told stories, and each night the local people would arrive at our door and come in without knocking, as was the custom, to sit and drink tea with the man who had once been their minister (Holman had been part of Jack’s patch in those nineteen years when he used to travel up the western side of Victoria Island by dog team each winter). The respect and affection they felt for him was quite obvious.

At the time of my ordination I had been serving as a lay-evangelist with the Church Army in Canada for twelve years. I had worked in parishes in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and had served in the Diocese of the Arctic for six years as a lay-minister in charge of two missions, first in Aklavik and later in Holman. I had done some theological study by correspondence but had not completed a full theological degree. But Bishop Sperry’s view was, “Well, if you’re not qualified to do the job I shouldn’t be leaving you on your own in charge of an isolated mission station, should I?”

I will always be grateful for Bishop Sperry’s trust in me. There were other bishops in the Canadian church who did not consider me educated enough to be a candidate for ordination. Bishop Sperry took a different view, and that is why I am where I am today.

As for Jack, he is still alive in a retirement home in Hay River, with his children nearby; I think he must be over ninety by now, and I know for a fact that macular degeneration has made him almost blind. I know this must be very hard for him, as he always loved to read. I will think of him especially today, with a prayer of gratitude for all the good he did in my life. God bless you richly, Jack, and thank you so much for everything.