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Slightly Odd

Harold Marshall on left, Pollock Castle Reservoir 1941

Slightly Odd

Harold Marshall, Pollock Castle Reservoir 1941

I love music. A wonderful heavenly gift for which I give thanks. My dad played the Hawaiian (steel) guitar rather well. He played in the army during WW2. As a boy I had guitar lessons with the same teacher who taught him. I found it hard going though and gave it up. A mistake! But I still love music. You should hear me singing in the shower; I’m sure you would be impressed. It sounds marvellous to me.

I’m a bit odd. I know this for sure because my lovely wife Barbara tells me so from time to time. My thinking process isn’t normal, she says and she’s always right so it must be true.

Me, 1967 - wannabe Paul Simon?

I like to be different. If something’s fashionable it guarantees I won’t wear it, do it, repeat it, or listen to it. At school I made a career of it. I enjoyed being peculiar, different from the crowd (being the only latter-day saint helped). I was a young adult in the Swinging Sixties but never liked the Beatles because everyone else did. My thing was the folk scene. Folk song, I thought, was genuine, natural, authentic grown-from-the earth music. Not, as it seemed to me then, the posturing, prancing, deafening performance of the pop world, nor the ridiculously artificial, ultra trained voices of the classical world. It was the Good Life for me with wooly cardigans and soil in my finger nails (metaphorically, not literally, my interest in gardening came much later). I was an art student specialising in craft pottery, so naturally I grew a beard. Who was I fooling? I was just conforming in a different way.

For several decades now, my go-to music is 1930s and 40s big band and singers like Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee — music I wouldn’t have gone near with a bargepole in my student days. Yet my top duo of any period is Simon & Garfunkle (Bridge Over Troubled Water is the best pop song of all time). My favourites also include Victorian songslike On the Road to Mandalay and Leanin’ sung by traditional baritones like Owen Brannigan. I still like sixties folk and folk-rock like The Watersons and The Seekers. Oh, and I’ve learned to like the Beatles! If I continue the list with mediaeval plainsong, classical guitar, Debussy, Elgar, Vaughn Williams, Paul Robeson, you may agree with Barbara that I’m a bit odd. I like to think I like any music of quality, but that would not be true. I enjoy many of the arias, but I can’t take a whole opera. And Barbara never converted me to ballet, which she adores and I find utterly boring. So where is this leading? Your guess is as good as mine!

Well, we change don’t we. I’m not the same person now as I was fifty year ago. Barbara helped. She taught me to appreciate operatic singing, classical choirs, Abba, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Cleo Laine and a host of others that would have passed by narrow-minded me. But change doesn’t just apply to music but clothes, food, hobbies, politics, personality, and, of course, religious faith. It seems to me that a Christian is committed to change, which is another name for repentance. President Nelson explained that repentance is not so much a single act but an attitude of mind, a lifestyle. My faith now is different than fifty years ago and I hope, like my music, it’s deeper, wider, more inclusive, but like my music, not yet complete (ballet?). It also seems to me that a Christian will always be out of step with the fashions and ways of the world — in fact just a bit odd. So, from one odd person to another: enjoy the difference!

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