Thursday, November 10, 2005

44 Scotland St - and a Funeral

It’s a curious thing that McCall Smith seems to enjoy the random adventures of the people at 44 Scotland St and environs more than those in the Philosophy Club. The latter are a bit drear, a bit earnest, a bit too precious even, with the middle-aged main character and her concerns for the young men of Edinburgh (who all seem a bit fey).

The people in Scotland St are more robust, even though one of the main male characters is narcissistic – at least he’s energetically so, and provides some of the high comedy moments in the first novel in the series.

It would be interesting to write a novel in this way, revealing a section a day, no going back, no ability to repair mistakes, no way of getting a character out of a difficult spot by rewriting (Smith’s usual method is just to forget the character!). And the pressure of having to keep up. If I thought a weekly column was an achievement, what about a daily chapter!

Lindsay Crooks
My wife and I went to Lindsay Crooks’ funeral yesterday, a jam-packed affair that almost filled First Church to overflowing. It was a disappointment somehow, if one can say that about a funeral. It Lindsay’s art, which surely, in the end, will be what people remember him for (the photo on the cover of the hymn-sheet of him with one of his cut-out works is delightful, but it’s matched by three of him on the back on the beach). His art and his warmth and ability to make friends wherever he went. Good, solid friends, by the look of it – even those who only had a small acquaintance with him (like us) were struck by his easy and always genuine friendliness. Certainly the friendship angle came out solidly: people who’d known him for years, as friends, were much to the fore. I was surprised that out of that huge crowd no one took the opportunity to speak up in regard to his art – his brother mentioned it in passing, while giving a eulogy (he couldn’t have avoided it) but always, always it came back to the surfing. And it was the surfies who were giving the ‘wake’ rather than the arts community.
seemed almost as if the surfies had taken over (the aging surfies, for the most part – surfing is obviously a sport a man can carry on in through his mature years). There was little about

But the other thing that was disappointing was that there was no preaching, even speaking, from the minister. Yes, he prayed, effectively and sincerely, and we sang a hymn, and Lindsay’s stepson or godson, (I’m not quite sure who he was) sang a very definite praise song, but what a lost opportunity for the minister to speak. I can only wonder if he was cautioned off it – by the surfing community, perhaps (‘they won’t want any preaching; they’re just ordinary blokes, you know?’). Of course I’m bound to be wrong in that. Whoever made the decision, however, it was the wrong one. People’s hearts are seldom more open to listening to words about eternity than when they’re in the middle of a funeral – even I am, and I’ve been listening to eternal words for decades, and hearing them too. It’s a time when the bubble of life is easily burst, and we know – we really, really know – that our time on this earth isn’t eternal, it’s severely limited. In some cases, as in Lindsay’s, far more limited than it ‘should’ be; and in Rod Donald’s – in his case the fact of his dying so suddenly and without apparent cause is even more of a message to semi-deaf ears).

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