Three conversations last Thursday morning - are they senior moments?

It is my habit to attend Pilates at the Holmfirth Civic Hall each Thursday morning. Depending on time, a scruffy neck-hole and the contents of our fridge, I variously call for a haircut and take in the butcher on the bridge.
  This week I walked down early, there was a central empty chair at the sparsely decorated barber and I'm in. "What is it today?" asked a lad in T-shirt and shorts who didn't look much older than my grandson. "A number 4 please." Usually, after the sheet throttling and the unveiling of the clippers, the question is "What are you up to this afternoon." For me, hopelessly disorganised with lack of focus, this question simply muddles me up even further. But it didn't happen today. First of all we got onto the clippers. A tall bald tenor colleague in New Mill Choir has a great barber. It's himself - machine and a number 1, every fortnight. He's persuaded me to buy one. So I mentioned this and fair enough the lad gave me a tutorial on what size was a number 4. I told him I had wimped out. I must have a go, maybe in a couple of weeks. Could be senior moment waiting to happen.
  Then my older brother became the topic. He has recovered remarkably from chemo and radiotherapy, except that his hair has regrown curly. The lad was as pleased as punch - and it was genuine. We skirted around the detail and both flanking twosomes went quiet. We finished with how old he was - 19. "Your frontal cortex hasn't grown yet. You're barmy at that age. Brilliant." Whatever possessed me to come out with that, GOK, and it was his turn to go quiet.
  All that in five minutes. £5 for a haircut and a chat.


Then it was a dozen of Yorkshire's finest sausage and two juicy gammon steaks. The butcher I generally see tends to continue wielding his sharp knife, wearing whites, back facing the customer, speaking toward the interior wall, so I am usually served by a lady assistant who is in her prime. Today there was a second butcher who maybe has a closer association with the serving lady than the first. They both helped me out, particularly when I ordered an additional family-sized pork pie.
  "Have you seen the latest on vegan diets?" I asked.
  "You mean they get more strokes?" said the butcher. I nodded and smiled. I failed to mention that it was an observational study and did not imply cause and effect.
  "Whatever happened to a balanced diet?" he wondered. Precisely.
  "Everything in moderation," said the lady assistant.
  They looked at each other and smiled. She added "I'll be having a few drinks tonight, it's my birthday."
  I wished her well. Didn't ask her age. The pork pie was wonderful.


Stretched and a bit sore, I walked back from the Civic, and having crossed the road, noted a familiar battered campervan in the traffic queuing for the village junction lights - not an inconsiderable distance, such is the daily congestion. Tom Ashworth's. He is a member of a hard core from the choir that sets the world to rights over coffee every Thursday morning. I sauntered up to the passenger door and simply stared. Tom eventually flinched. He featured in a recent blog and wanted to add something. "I tried to put something in about aesthetics, but failed," he told me at choir practice. I'm happy not to moderate my blog, but these computers have minds of their own. The traffic wasn't moving, so I thought I'd mention I'd now added his words in. He moved across to open the passenger door - the window mechanism seemed defunct - and I began explaining what I had done as the car in front began to move. I crashed the door shut and Tom tried to get his tank into gear, not without difficulty.
  No matter, such is the daily congestion that I soon caught up with him and we tried again. I managed to get most of what I wanted to say said before more movement, followed by Tom's laboured efforts to get his motor going. We didn't try again, though we could have.
  No horns, no other signs of road rage. Fellow motorists simply put up with two old farts trying to chat through a wide open van door in the middle of a traffic jam.


Two consultations and a staff meeting. All serious stuff, yet also weird if not frankly comic.

Shallilo's garden glimpse - an overture to secular spirituality

I started with one sunflower from one of the shelves outside Aldi. The working bit went brown so I cut it off, first consulting the net. I then got loads of babies, butterfly magnets.
  Supervised by Statler and Waldorf.
  My wildflower patch is doing okay as well.

Roderick Strange wrote again in the Times recently (Aug 24th 2019) - incidentally a great name for a vicar. He quotes Paul Gifford, an Emeritus Professor, 'one may rail against affluence, professional sport, mass travel, consumer society or a culture of instant gratification ... many no longer feel any pressing need' [to ask the deeper questions]. Rod mentions science as an additional force which has pushed religion to the margins of modern life. 'Are we missing something?' he asks. A definition of spirituality is 'the quality of being concerned with the human spirit ... as opposed to material or physical things'. Or as I have tried to say previously 'personal stuff we value which does not cast a shadow'.
  I doubt many would argue with this. Even neurochemists - pleasure is a transient brain event which needs repeating regularly. Rod then says 'The witness of truly holy people helps'. Holy is defined as 'dedicated or consecrated to God' which might not go down well with non-believers like my pal Clive Hetherington, a bass in New Mill Male Voice Choir. In fairness to Rod, he thinks God might help - the notion of God is not compulsory.
  I don't take a stance against this kind of personal belief. Making sense of the world can be a confusing occupation. Clive, and I have some sympathy, would attest that organising belief into a religious movement can lead to feelings of exclusion. 'They' have hijacked all the best moves, including spiritual experience. Clive is sure anyone can have mysterious and awsome personal moments and he suggests scientific discovery is one such.
  Tom Ashworth is another New Mill bass, well-known local author and lapsed catholic. Aesthetics turn him on. A building or a painting are the things that take his breath away.
  There is the idea of secular spirituality. A search to make sense of oneself and one's personal growth, something discussed here on a number of occasions (see Lent). Clive is a computer specialist and enjoys what that science can say about being human. I have always been muddled by religious language, right from Sunday School. I attended church dutifully, a choir and youth club member. Eventually biology at High School and the study of evolution gave me the information I needed to put my thoughts in some sort of order.
  'Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind' by Tom Holland was reviewed recently in the Times (Aug 24th) by Gerard DeGroot. Whether we are paid up Christians or not we are all heavily influenced by history and the part played by religion. Sadly this includes some less than humane episodes, but these also occur in the name of other religions and totalitarian states. Another aspect of being human.
  Holland argues that tolerance and fairness were not much in evidence before Christ. This, for me, is another hijack and DeGroot agrees. Planning, cooperation and looking out for each other were learned on the plains of Africa by the hunter-gatherers, unlocking our brains in the process.
  Us non-believers can be charitable as well as challenging, part of our personal route. Clive and I tend to plough on alone. Neither of us has many opportunities or willing ears to explore these ideas with others (apart from Tom). It doesn't stop us from trying. We won't be doing much about 'professional sport, mass travel, consumer society or a culture of instant gratification'.

Tom and Clive - thoughtful basses