Auld Yins

My main ‘escapism’ is reading books – I’ll persevere with about half the books I start. Last week, I eventually discovered the Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman which won immediate approval – its emotional warmth. I read it through and quickly got the follow up, The Man Who Died Twice.

The setting is an upmarket English retirement village, where four residents, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim meet weekly to discuss unsolved, cold case, murder files. Then the village gets its own real-life murders, and the friends step up as formidable investigators. Unlike my usual servings of Nordic Noir, Osman does murder without terror and misery; his style is charming, clever, even joyful. The heart of his story is its people, their humanity.

Along with beautiful writing, the big attraction of this book is that the four main characters are ‘almost octogenarians’ – whose ‘take’ on life is very similar to my own. Their ‘dominance’ of the story, means that it is mostly told through the emotions of the elderly; for me this feels like an affirmation of my old age. With compassion, the story acknowledges that our ending can demand new levels of courage.

In passing, I thought the plot got overcomplicated – but that doesn’t matter. These books are about the late life self-awareness of four people who share friendship through the task of crime detection. I find it a rare treat to hear people my own age sharing their reflections on what it’s like being old.


When our supply of food or heat or healthcare is threatened, it takes urgent priority over other human needs; these are basics for survival. Which is why the Tory decision to cut £20 a week from our poorest citizens, surprised me; a dire indication of what’s to come. The Glasgow Evening Times carried a story this week about a homeless kitchen which appears every Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays under the Argyle Street railway bridge (Hielanman’s Umbrella). A very ‘Glasgow’ project, it gets no Govt funding – depends on around 50 volunteers and donations from local businesses and well-wishers. It will be interesting to see if the queues under the bridge get longer.


There will be aspects of the transfer to green energy that I am unaware of, but the decision to approve the new Cambo oil field would be a dramatic indication that neither of our Govts take the climate crisis seriously enough – ‘when the rubber hits the road’. The actor/campaigner Peter Capaldi voices his disapproval in the Guardian.


While I sympathise that Newcastle fans endured 14 years of Mike Ashley, it can’t be acceptable that control of their club passes to a man who, it is widely believed, ordered the dismemberment of a journalist. There should be things money can’t buy. Tom McTague of The Atlantic says that the deal is emblematic of something deeply disturbing about the state of Britain.


In the early 1970s, I was a member of the Advisory Group of Youth at Risk. 50 years later, I’m still interested in how we can respond to young offenders without necessarily locking them up. This is a good piece by Margaret Taylor explaining some of the trauma – informed thinking now percolating the system; but we still incarcerate too many youngsters.


I last tasted alcohol exactly 20 years ago. There’s a new Danish film called Another Round, about three friends who decide to stay moderately drunk throughout each day – and record how it affects their performance. I enjoyed this Conversation article about Another Round and personal enhancement through alcohol in general. NB – I’m not going to try micro-dosing alcohol.


I’m revisiting Atul Gawande’s marvellous book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

“The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as part of something greater: a family, a community, a society. If you don’t, mortality is only a horror. But if you do, it is not. Loyalty, said Royce, “solves the paradox of our ordinary existence by showing us outside of ourselves the cause which is to be served, and inside of ourselves the will which delights to do this service.” In more recent times, psychologists have used the term “transcendence” for a version of this idea. Above the level of self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they suggest the existence in people of a transcendent desire to see and help other beings achieve their potential.”