Sunday, January 9, 2011
The current issue of the (British) Prospect magazine carries a fascinating article about the various stresses to which inter-cultural marriages - and divorces - are subject. We all know about the difficulties Swedes or Finns are likely to have with ebullient Latins. Not so well-known are the vagaries of national systems within the EU. The French legal system emerges in a particularly insensitive light – assuming, for example, that wives will always be able to return to the labour market (despite having been absent perhaps for more than a decade) and insisting always on children being shared week-in week-out (even at the age of 3).
It is Saints who are causing some tension between this particular north-south pair. End of last week was the name-day of Ion here (John – also my father’s name). Our friend Olteanu who died in November was a Ion – so we visited his grave on Thursday (or at least D did – I gave up after an hour of trying to find it). And she duly bought and passed on to a stranger some food – as is the habit here in celebrating such anniversaries. I tried to explain that the Church of Scotland (in which I was brought up) doesn’t do Saints – and therefore name-days. And, in any event, I had rebelled against (the minimalist) religion at age 15 and am therefore clueless about the whole set-up. My clumsy attempts to try to try to understand why John the Baptist has 2 days - the first apparently for his death; and the second for his life – caused the usual tensions! And what, anyway, is the English for his status – forerunner, prophet, vanguard??
More positively, D and I had started to talk about the possibility of establishing a modest Foundation which might ensure support and publicity for what Ion valued – as an NGO activist here. Apparently his widow has also had some discussions about this – so hopefully we can come together not only within Romania but with his various friends in Europe.
And that reminded me that I have not resolved the question of how I properly fix my father in community memory in Greenock. About 18 months ago I had some discussions with the curator of the Watt Library and McLean Museum there – of which my father had been Chairman for many years. I had started with the idea of a lecture series in the Greenock Philosophical Society (of which he had also been Chairman) – but felt that this would not have a large enough impact; and was latterly considering a suggestion from the indomitable Kenneth Roy of Scottish Review of an award for Scottish youth with the Institute for Contemporary Scotland. As well as publishing Scottish Review, ICS organises such high-level awards as Scot of the Year. Clearly association with a body will have a larger impact – but it all needs careful consideration. The discussions are caught in a special note I prepared and reproduced as a blog tribute. I have only been involved with one such memorial idea – when the widow of a senior (community) education official struck down in his prime set aside a small fund for a few of his friends and colleagues to administer. We decided to make an annual award to the community group which had succeeded “despite the odds”. This led to visits, meetings and publicity which certainly kept his memory alive.
In my google searches I came across first the website of the church in which my father served as Minister for 50 years; then a nice collection of photos of my hometown (even some shots of the McLean Museum) and the superb landscapes all around it
And finally a nice site on less well-known Scottish painters which included a neighbour of ours in Greenock - James Watt - one of whose paintings the family bought for my father and which has now temporary residence in a Brussels supurb.