Category Archives: SA

A life well lived

IMG_0460IMG_0459We are living in strange and unusual times. Life is not what it was and will probably never be the same again. COVID-19 has turned things upside down and we have had to adjust the way we do things. It has been a hectic week. We’ve been busy getting packed up for our journey to our new home in Saskatchewan, while making arrangements for our children, who will not be journeying with us, although our son is coming to Saskatchewan later in the summer.

Added to this was the sad news earlier this week that my Uncle Billy passed away. Today (Saturday) he was laid to rest in Orkney. I would have liked to have been there, but even if I lived there now, COVID restrictions would have meant that I couldn’t have anyway. Under normal circumstances, the church would have been packed out, as he touched so many lives and had been involved in so many aspects of community life.

Uncle Billy was a large part of my life and it is hard to put into words what he meant to me. Although we moved away from Orkney in 1994, he always stayed close in my thoughts. It was always special catching up with him on the occasional visits back ‘home’. He will be deeply missed by those who loved and knew him, but he leaves behind the legacy of a life well lived.

As well as being my uncle, Billy was my first boss at the Post Office, my bandmaster at the Salvation Army, a fellow Rangers fan, and many other things. He retired during my time at the Post Office, but that didn’t slow him down. He continued to be involved in many different things in the community. There are too many to mention, but some of them included a continuation of his life-long involvement with the Salvation Army, volunteering at the local MS hyperbaric chamber, sailing his model yacht, and continuing to play the Last Post at the local Armistice Day parade. He performed the latter for over 60 years. His dedication to local life was recognised when he was awarded the MBE, receiving this award from the Queen. He was also recognised by a motion put forward in the Scottish Parliament, in September 2009, by local MSP Liam McArthur, which read:

That the Parliament notes the decision by Billy Stanger MBE to step down as bandmaster of the Salvation Army in Orkney after 35 years in the role; acknowledges the unstinting service that he has given to the Salvation Army since he joined as an 11-year-old boy in 1943; welcomes the fact that Mr Stanger has made clear his intention to carry on playing in the army band; looks forward to Mr Stanger’s cornet playing inspiring crowds attending Armistice Day parades and other occasions for years to come, and expresses relief that the evening of music at the Salvation Army Hall in Kirkwall on Sunday 13 September 2009 far from represents the last post by Billy Stanger.

Retirement gave him more time to be involved in the lives of his family, who were the first love of his life. He and his wife, Isa, had five children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I could try and count them up, but I wouldn’t want to miss any out and get the number wrong. The top picture in this post is from their Ruby Wedding in the 1990s, before we left, and that was their family then. In the ensuing years it has grown a fair bit, many of them born since I left Orkney. Billy didn’t play favourites with his family and was able to share his love with them in equal amounts.

I have lots of special memories of Billy. One is from the second photo above, which was taken in Toronto in 1998. He and Isa, along with other family members, plus one friend who is an honorary aunt in the family, came over when Pamela and I were Commissioned and Ordained as Salvation Army Officers. We were touched by the fact that they all came over to share this special time with us. Another memory is from Glasgow in 1982, when Billy led the SA Kirkwall band playing Divine Communion at the morning meeting of the Scottish Congress. It was a proud moment for us all and it remains one of my favourite pieces to this day. Yet another memory is from Glasgow in April 1984, when Billy took my sister and I to Ibrox to see Rangers beat Celtic 1-0. Bobby Williamson scored the winner with a spectacular overhead kick and Jimmy Nicholl got sent off in what was his last game for the club. There are also lots of happy memories from working with him at the Post Office. He was a great boss to work with and was probably too lenient on many of us, especially considering how young and foolish we were at times.

Music was a big part of Billy’s life. As well as being involved in the musical sections at the SA, he was involved in a variety of community musical groups, including the local operatic society. In the early 1980s I played briefly with him in a brass quintet put together by John Jones, which was lots of fun. Recently, while packing up our stuff here I came across a CD my dad sent me from 2008, when Billy was the guest on a show on Radio Orkney, sharing some of his favourite music and the stories behind why he picked the particular ones he did. It is a great listen and just showed how eclectic his taste in music was. My only complaint is that the show was too short! I’m sure there was much more that he could have shared.

Above everything else, Billy was a great Christian example to us all. This was exemplified more in his actions than anything else. The way he lived his life backed up what he believed. Anyone who knew or met him could have no doubt that he had a deep faith. He loved sharing his witness through music, be it playing his cornet or singing in the songsters, male voice choir, or with anyone who would join him in song. He was as comfortable playing his cornet for royalty as he was playing on the streets of Kirkwall. It must have been difficult for him when he had to give up his playing later in life, but he passed on that love of banding to many of his family members, so that legacy still lives on.

Uncle Billy will be missed by many, but I can say without a doubt that his life was one that was well lived. We have sorrow over the fact that he is no longer on this earth with us, but we also rejoice in the fact that he is no longer in pain, as he has gone on to his heavenly reward.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Enjoyed But Rarely Talk About

It seems like forever since I posted anything here, but I think that it might be time to start doing so again. I’ll see how things go and if I can stay motivated enough.

TTT-Big2Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week a different topic is posted inviting the participants to come up with a list of ten things to do with the topic.

This week’s topic is ‘Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About.’ The following are all books that I really enjoyed, but for some reason I failed to talk them up as much as other books.

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  1. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson. Physics was one of my favourite subjects in school, so much so that I almost went to university to study. However, my life took a different direction and the rest is history. This is a great little book that offers an understandable introduction to astrophysics. I really need to read more books like this.
  2. The Samurai – Shusaku Endo. This was the first Endo book I read. I had to write a review of it for an ethics course I took a long time ago. I found it hard to put down and it introduced me to part of Japanese history that I previously knew nothing about.
  3. The Stranger – Albert Camus. I bought this book at Bearly Used Books in Parry Sound on a trip home to Elliot Lake. Then I read it in the car in one sitting, as it wasn’t my turn to drive.
  4. How Soccer Explains the World – Franklin Foer. This is a great read that is about so much more than soccer. You don’t have to be a fan of the game to enjoy it. It truly is a fascinating read.
  5. Imperfect Harmony – Stacy Horn. I received this one from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and it was so much more than I expected it to be. It’s a book about music, community, history and so much more.
  6. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much – Allison Hoover Bartlett. Who knew that a book about someone who steals rare books because he loves them so much could be so engaging. I love books, but nowhere near as much as John Charles Gilkey. This is a great read, though.
  7. 1929: A Crisis That Shaped The Salvation Army’s Future – John Larsson. This is a fascinating look into events that are not spoken about too much. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m glad I gave it a go.
  8. Things As They Are – Guy Vanderhaeghe. Vanderhaeghe is a Canadian master storyteller, who doesn’t get the exposure or credit that he deserves. This collection of short stories is one of my favourites.
  9. In From the Cuithes – edited by Howie Firth. This eclectic collection of writing from Orkney, by a variety of writers, is one of my favourite books, but it’s one I really haven’t written much about. I should really give it a another read soon.
  10. The Search to Belong – Joseph R. Myers. It’s been a few years since I read this book. Although I don’t mention it very much, it really challenged my thinking on a number of things and is worth the read.

There were probably a lot of other books I could have added to this list, but these were the ones that jumped out at me as I perused my shelves. What are some of the books you have really enjoyed, but not talked about much?

Top Ten Tuesday – Numbers (Oct 1)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week a different topic is posted inviting the participants to come up with a list of ten things to do with the topic.

This week’s topic, which seems so random, is ‘Book Titles with Numbers In Them.’ So, here are ten from my shelves with no connection to each other rather than the fact they have numbers in their titles.

  1. Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) – this dystopian classic is probably in my top 5 reads.
  2. Five by Endo (Shusaku Endo) – an enjoyable short story collection from one of Japan’s most revered writers, covering such topics as Christianity, death, and history. If you’ve never read any Endo before, this would be a great place to start.
  3. 1984 (George Orwell) – I first read this in high school in the early 80s and it has remained a favourite ever since.
  4. 501 Must-Read Books (edited by Emma Beare) – a book about books! Sometimes it’s hard to understand why a book makes one of these lists at the expense of others which may be seen by some as better. I put a list of the books included in this book on my previous blog, to see if I could get through as many of them as possible. So far I’ve only read 42 of them.
  5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) – this is the book that first got me into Russian literature and it is also in my top 5 reads. It’s well worth the read and one that I heartily recommend.
  6. The Four Loves (C.S. Lewis) – one of my favourite books, from my favourite writer.
  7. The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson) – Jonas Jonasson is a great storyteller who always makes me laugh.
  8. 1929: A crisis that shaped The Salvation Army’s future (John Larsson) – I enjoyed this book about a turning point in the history of The Salvation Army a lot more than I thought I would.
  9. The Seven A.M. Practice (Roy MacGregor) – I never had to do the 7am hockey practice run, but there were plenty of early morning swimming practice runs, so I can identify with the stories in this little gem.
  10. 11/22/63 (Stephen King) – apart from The Dead Zone, this is almost my favourite Stephen King book. It’s a smartly written piece of historical fiction, with the added bonus of some time travel and plenty ‘what if’ questions.

Remembering

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Today has been a day for remembering. My dad would have been 79 today, so I spent much of the day remembering him and what he meant to me. It’s just over a month since he passed away and the emotions of that and my recent journey home are still fresh in my mind. Today for me was about trying to remember some of the happier times and things that he enjoyed.

My dad enjoyed many things in life. Two things in particular that he liked were music and taking pictures. When I was in Orkney last month for my dad’s funeral my mum gave me his most recent camera and his iPod touch, both of which are pictured above. Both of these items were never far from his hand, especially his camera. He took lots of pictures, something that was very evident in the fact that we found dozens of HD cards when we were sorting through some of his things last month. Wherever he went he loved to take pictures of almost anything and everything as a record of where he’d been and what he’d seen. His love of music was quite varied, although he amassed a large collection of Salvation Army music on tape, vinyl, and CD. When our children were younger they were quite fascinated watching him listening to his music with his headphones on, because he would really get into it in a big way. When I got the iPod I was very curious to see what music dad had loaded onto it. There is a fair bit of SA band and songster music on it, but there is also a huge variety of other stuff too – Paul Simon, Boney M, and even a little U2! One of the albums I was replay happy to see there was one by The Household Troops Band of The Salvation Army, called ‘Blue Book Favourites’. SA Bandos will, of course, recognize what the ‘Blue Book’ is. Growing up in Orkney, our band played a lot of stuff from that book, and quite a few of them are on this album.

I started off today by heading out for an early walk before work. I took both the camera and iPod with me. It was a beautiful morning, so I took a lot of pictures and I listened to the ‘Blue Book Favourites’ as I walked along. It might seem a bit melodramatic to say that it was a very special time, but I don’t really care, because it really was. Some of the pieces I listened to were ‘Star Lake’, ‘The Pilgrim’s Prayer’, ‘Lloyd’, ‘Constant Trust’, and ‘Montreal Citadel’. Some of the pictures I took were of places that my dad had already taken pictures of when he visited here. It was a moving and meaningful start to the day for me.

During the rest of the day dad wasn’t far from my mind and I listened to more of the iPod music at work as well. Obviously I miss my dad a lot and probably always will. I learned a lot from his life and example and hope that I can continue that legacy as I endeavour to be the person that he encouraged me to be.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Meant to Read in 2017, But Never Did (Jan 9)

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a different topic is posted inviting the participants to come up with a list of ten things to do with the topic.

This week’s topic is ‘Ten Books We Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To (and totally plan to get to in 2018!!)’ All of the following books appeared on at least one of my many TBR lists last year. I managed to start a few of them, but none of them were anywhere near finished! I’d like to think that I’d manage to get them read this year, but I hope I haven’t cursed them by putting them on another list like this!

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  1. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto – Mitch Albom. I’ve had this one for a couple of years or more and enjoyed all his other books, so I’m not sure why I’ve left this one unread for so long.
  2. Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina – Michael Casey. It’s over three years since I purchased this book about lectio divina. I really looked forward to reading it at the time, but it still remains unread.
  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay – J.K. Rowling. I got this round about the time the movie came out. I loved the movie, but haven’t picked this up yet. I’m sure it wouldn’t be a long read. Maybe I’ll save it for this year’s Savvy Readathon.
  4. The Complete Robot – Isaac Asimov. I started reading this one, was enjoying it, then got distracted by other books. The fact that it is a collection of short stories means that I’ll be able to pick up easily from where I left off.
  5. A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18 – Joseph Loconte. I received this one a couple of Christmas’s ago and had great intentions of quickly getting into it. Hopefully I’ll do just that soon, especially as it’s a book about two of my favourite writers.
  6. Convictions Matter: The Function of Salvation Army Doctrines – Ray Harris. I’ve started this one a couple of times, but on each occasion I’ve never gotten that far. This will be the year that I keep on going!
  7. The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2) – Stephen King. I read The Gunslinger earlier on last year with the intention of at least reading this book, the second Dark Tower book, before the end of the year. I’d even thought I might get round to book three. Lots of people have told me it’s a great series, so I need to try and get on with reading more of it.
  8. In the First Circle – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I’ve written about my failure to read this on a fair number of occasions. I’m determined to get it read this year.
  9. Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars – Ray Bradbury. This collection of autobiographical essays has sat unread on my shelf for too long. I know it’s one that I’ll enjoy, so I need to read it soon.
  10. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon. I promised my wife that I’d read this one, so I started it last summer. I got to about page 100 and neglected to finish it. I’m not sure why, because I was kind of enjoying it. I’ll try to get back to it soon, although when I do I may have to restart it. I’ll see how much of what I read I can actually remember!

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WWW Wednesday (June 7)

WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Here is what you have to do to participate:

Answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments section the host page for others to look at.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

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I’m currently reading these two books:

  1. Star Wars: Heroes For a New Hope by Mark Waid (Writer), Charles Soule (Writer), Gerry Duggan (Writer), Terry Dodson (Penciler), Rachel Dodson (Inker), Alex Maleev (Artist), Phil Noto (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colourist) , Paul Mounts(Colour Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer) – I borrowed this graphic novel from the library. It contains three different stories, following Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca after the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. It looks promising and I hope to get through it in the next few days.
  2. Convictions Matter: The Function of Salvation Army Doctrines by Ray Harris – I bought this one about three years ago when it first came out. I started it, but never got back to it. So I’ve restarted it now. It will probably take me a little while to get it read as I’d like to complete the reflection exercises at the end of each chapter too, plus it’s not really a book that you can rush through.

Recently Finished:

I finished the following books this week:

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  1. Boxers (Boxers & Saints #1) – Gene Luen Yang. This was a decent graphic novel telling the story of the Boxer Rebellion from the point of view of a young peasant who joins the rebellion.
  2. Saints (Boxers & Saints #2) – Gene Luen Yang. This graphic novel is a companion to Boxers, telling the story from the viewpoint of a young Chinese girl who converted to Christianity. Reading this one right after the first one helped me to understand the story from both sides.
  3. Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth. This was a book I received through Early Reviewers at LibraryThing. It was quite a fairly moving and, at times, humorous read, telling the story of twins from Australia travelling to BC and Seattle on a journey where they discover more than they expected to.

Up Next:

These are the same two that I mentioned last week and are both books that I also received from Early Reviewers at LibraryThing. Maybe I’ll get round to them before next week’s post!

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  1. Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan
  2. Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

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