On tour ...
Our singing group, 8+1, had an adventure today, singing in a venue far from our more Clyde-based concerts. An invitation through one of our singers had us driving north on a glorious morning, along Loch Eck, up Loch Fyne side, over the Rest and Be Thankful road through the Arrochar Alps, up the terrifying Loch Lomond road to Crianlarich, and east past Ben More and on along ever-diminishing roads to Fortingall, in Perthshire.
The photo shows the attractive church where we sang, with its neighbouring tree (yes - it's all one tree). Modern expert estimates put the age of this yew tree at between 2,000 and 3,000 years, although it may be a remnant of a post-Roman Christian site and around 1,500 years old. Others have suggested an age as great as 5,000 to 9,000 years. This still makes it one of the oldest known trees in Europe.
You can read about its strange formation and lack of a central core here - it now looks like a circle of lesser (though still pretty huge) trunks round a hole. The area immediately surrounding Fortingall has a variety of prehistoric archaeological sites including Càrn na Marbh, a Bronze Age tumulus. Place-name and archaeological evidence hint at an Iron Age cult centre at Fortingall, which may have had this tree as its focus. The site was Christianised during the Dark Ages, with the yew already full grown, perhaps because it was already a sacred place. A recollection of 1804 noted that "the boys of the village" had damaged the yew "kindling their fire of Bealltuinn at its root."
While we were preparing for our concert, a constant stream of visitors came and went, although none of them formed part of our audience. We sang our usual variety of music, including the earliest harmony (a Kyrie trope), including some music from the Scottish court and ending with The Parting Glass arranged by Mr PB, the "1" in 8+1.
Lovely drive, lovely people, a lovely afternoon. A late dinner meant I could avoid most of the singing in the Eurovision Song Contest, and I think I'm glad. The only good that could possibly come of it would be to persuade people that Brexit is A Bad Think because it stops all these nice Europeans from voting for the UK song.
I can live in hope ...