Mike Vickers' Blog

February 21, 2012

Scottish Ensemble – playing way beyond their weight

Filed under: Music, Scotland — derryvickers @ 11:08 pm

The Scottish Ensemble is a group of totally dedicated string players playing in Scotland; but not only Scotland, in England the Wigmore Hall and around the world.  They are directed by Jonathan Morton; not only directed by but actively leading from the front and sometimes from the back view.  They feature old less well known music, often arranged specifically for the strings by Morton.  And they also play new music commissioned by themselves.

This weekend’s concert at the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh was no exception.  Starting with Haydn – Symphony no 44 in E minor ‘Trauer’ (mourning) not the sweet Haydn but with a real bite.  This was followed by a new piece specially commissioned, Wonderful Two – Headed Nightingale, by Luke Bedford, composer in residence Wigmore Hall.  The piece is featured for violin and viola; Jonathan Morton, violin, and Lawrence Power, viola; they start alone and finish alone and the Ensemble in the middle – the strings augmented by French horn and oboe: an altogether excellent piece.  This was followed by a lost pastoral piece by William Alwyn with memories of Vaughan Williams and Delius.

The concert was triumphally finished with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat again featuring the violin and viola of Morton and Power in unison and in opposition in turn reflecting back on the Bedford piece.

The Strings all stand as they play (excepting cello and double bass) and while the audience sit for the performance they almost stood for their applause for this performance.

The Director and team

The Director and his team

At Work

At Work

An Ensemble playing way above its weight.

February 20, 2012

Scottish Independence – an opportunity for a New Jerusalem?

Filed under: History in the making, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 6:45 pm

Straight from Wiki so reasonably unbiased – the New Jerusalem:  ‘Clement Attlee’s government proved to be one of the most radical British governments of the 20th century. It presided over a policy of selective nationalisation of major industries and utilities, including the Bank of England, coal mining, the steel industry, electricity, gas, telephones, and inland transport (including the railways, road haulage and canals). It developed the “cradle to grave” welfare state conceived by the Liberal economist William Beveridge. To this day, the party still considers the creation in 1948 of Britain’s publicly funded National Health Service under health minister Aneurin Bevan its proudest achievement’.  OK the UK had to be bailed out with Marshall Aid but it got Britain on the right road.  Worth a read http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~semp/conflict.htm.  I take pride that Beveridge was a Liberal.

 But where is the SNP’s New Jerusalem: nowhere to be seen – bogged down in the rules of the Independence game – will there be a new Monopoly game for new Christmas.  Far better to have something that will give Scots something to get their teeth into.   Let’s have a go:

Nationalize what’s left from Bank of Scotland and RBS into a proper Bank of Scotland; take over Network Rail in Scotland and nationalize ScotRail (First Bus et al); create a new SNOC; create a new national company for Energy (Scottish Grid, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Electricity, Scottish Gas); bring back Scottish Water under direct government control; set up a new European ferry service.  Socialize the Health Service; rethink educations – cradle to grave; take over the big estates.  Rebuild local democracy, devolve the Police force.  Join the Nordic Council.  Oh and by the way nationalize the Old Firm – Rangers.

It could be said that I am inconsistent – nationalization and local democracy don’t go together.  I think they do; local democracy requires a good infrastructure to support it – let it get on with the scale of things it can does well.  Transport, for instance,  is a necessary requirement for  getting  the common goods to and the specialist goods away – creating the specialist goods is what increasingly local is about: Harris Tweed, Aran cheese.  Likewise I see no conflict in the energy distribution network providing access to the background requirement and the local wind farm or wave power topping up when the wind is blowing or the waves flowing.

It could just be that Salmond is an Attlee.  If he, like Attlee only get five years and put only half of these measures in place, bring it on and be remembered for something far greater than just Independence.  Yes you do need full Independence; Devo Max would be a non-starter .

February 17, 2012

I had a Dream

Filed under: Personal — derryvickers @ 9:34 pm

Sorry, not anything like Martin Luther King’s dramatic and world shattering dream.  It was just before dawn.  I was surrounded by young men, sorry they all seemed to be men, and I realised they were seeking words of wisdom on their future employment.  Why me, I cannot say.

But it made me think: back to my first job on finishing University – that was years ago and we were lucky – we who had graduated – perhaps 20% of the population.  I can recall turning down a number and choosing an organisation called Radio Research Station – a UK Government organisation committed to radio propagation.  In those days worldwide communication has carried out by high frequency radio transmission – no satellites – not many cable either.  HF radio was considered important in the days of Empire – even if Empire was disappearing.  I chose Radio Research Station because they were offering jobs to participate in the IGY (International Geophysical Year) and to go abroad.  I was scheduled to go to Singapore.  But the organisation was somewhat chaotic and although I told them I had graduated and could I start – they never got round to replying with an actual date.  After a couple of months of hearing nothing I ran them up and asked them did they still want me and they said Yes, so I said if I come on Monday next would that be OK and it was. So on Monday I turned up but by then the post in Singapore was filled.  I entered into Ionospheric research and analysing vertical ionograms and this was the early days of use of application of computers and I was hooked.  Computers and IT and their application became my life.  I went from job to job roughly at five year intervals; they included computer hardware design (including on a computer which for a few months was the world’s fastest), applications to publishing (incl Daily Mirror), hospital computing, space applications with the European Space Agency where I work with NASA, Oil Exploration and finally as a consultant with PA Consulting.  And Oh not quite the end, we have our own very small software applications development working with small UK businesses.

Sorry I have diverted; well not quite, what I have tried to get across is that of my working years finding a job that interested has always been easy.  But now it isn’t, graduates are having to work in low level jobs such as supermarkets.  Are there more graduates than before – well Yes but that is not the point.  There is far less work available.  With graduates bursting out of Chinese and Indian universities the competition is enormous.  Jobs are no longer permanent.  Luckily I was never sacked – I always chose to move – to meet another challenge – but I overstate.  It was always the look to do something new – a new experience – perhaps if I had gone to Singapore it would have been different – but then the IGY was only two years.

What can I suggest to the young graduates now?  Well go for what you want to do and press at it.  The first job will be hard to find but don’t go for the wrong job because that is the only one on offer.  When you get the job you want to be enthusiast and work hard, employers recognise enthusiasm rather than people just wanting occupation.  Move on when you are no longer challenged, life’s scope is very broad; get a thrill from what you do.    Think of overseas work, again the world is a big place; Nigeria was an experience well worth having.

Should you be employed or on your own?  Most of my jobs were as an employee and there was nothing wrong with that – the longest was working for PA Consulting Group – 10 years and I worked all over the place and I got my chance abroad, Nigeria, Norway, Cyprus and this was good, meeting different clients and helping to get what they wanted with their businesses.  And now as a small company – this is very challenging – there are no silos, you span all aspects of a business: the work itself, the planning, the staffing and of course the finances.

I realise I have not given much advice and been too egocentric but if I have given a flavour of life’s grandeur (a favourite expression of one of my favourite authors, the late Stephen Jay Gould) then I have succeeded in getting across that while the present times are difficult for the young – don’t give up and go for what you want.

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