David Smith Talk

Idle Thoughts of an Even Idler Fellow

With Christmas approaching, and perhaps mindful of the ongoing pandemic, David thought it was a time for thought and reflection on things past, present and future.  However, he clearly wasn’t going to take himself too seriously couching his reflections in the frame of Jerome K Jerome’s thoughts of an Idle Fellow!

David’s take on the past started with his family’s move to Lenzie in the 50s and his daily travels to Hutchie Grammar.  Quickly moving he asked how different things are now and the great questions the modern world raises, as is true of the past, such as where do you come from? why are you here? And, where are you going?  Drawing from St Augustine, he concluded with thoughts on the importance of Faith for the future: ie Faith is to believe what you do not see and the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.  David’s address was richly illustrated with excellent contemporary photos to illustrate his narrative since the 1950s.

A photograph of Lenzie Station with its Signal Box and Station Master’s House, as it looked in 1955, was David’s starting point.  He recalled well his father assessing, with the Station Master’s assistance, the most cost effective way to get him to Queen Street Station for his schooling.  It transpired to be a four month season for the princely sum of nine shillings and five pence; ie 47p in present day cash terms – Wow!  Apart from being a staggering reflection of the impact of inflation since the 50s, what a memory!?!  On reaching town David had his route to Hutchie etched in his memory – the arched roof of Queen Street Station, the big old Post Office in George Square, the Number 105 Trolley Bus (quick to disappear from the City’s streets because of the trolley bus’s reputation as the silent killer despite its present green credentials!), the Citizen’s Theatre, the East Kilbride Dairy HQ and its smells, passing the butcher’s, JW Galloway’s, and on to Crown Street and Hutchie Grammar – where once John Buchan had been educated!

In these times Glasgow was a grey soot stained, dull and dreary place.  However, David recalled that by the 70s and 80s the Merchant City was rejuvenated as investment went into cleaning up places like Trades House, Hutchesons’ Hospital, Ramshorn Kirk and the Old Sheriff Court.  Restoring these handsome buildings to their former glory helped improved the attractiveness of the area.  The renovated City Halls, now the home of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, also contributed to the revitalisation.

This brought David to reflect on the Present and he quoted from Oliver James book, Affluenza – ‘We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.’  A good description of modern society all wrapped in selfish capitalism like a virus – hence the book’s title.  This for David triggered again the three big questions; where do you come from? why are you here? And, where are you going?  Here he asked us how we think about Christmas – the Christian festival?, Xmas? or the Winter Holiday Season?  The commercialisation of Christmas very much detracting from the story of St Nicholas of Myra, 1700 years ago, not to mention the birth of Christ, 2000 years ago!

Here David found himself in the thrall of the insignificance of Earth in the universe, the fact that some 250,000 babies are born every day and the further fact that Christ was born in inauspicious circumstances in a barn, behind a pub in Bethlehem, a remote part of the Roman Empire which we still amazingly celebrate today.  A babe born in humble circumstances who, despite them, was visited by shepherds as well as wise men full of wonder and feared by King Herod.

This historical context led David to repeat the conversation of two young brothers to amplify his conclusion.  One says ‘I don’t believe in God!’  To which the other responds, ‘But you believe in Santa!’- a typical childlike response.  David seeing a parallel in relation to the importance of belief turned to St Augustine.  His message is that ‘Faith is to believe what you do not see and the reward of this faith is to see what you believe’.  Here David’s strong lay preacher Christian faith gives him comfort that the answers to the three big questions raised above are answered and provide scope for optimism for the future.  A very profound conclusion from an Idle Fellow!

At this point David, raised his glass and wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year.  Members reciprocated the toast before being ‘transported’ to their breakout room to continue the exchange of festive greetings.  David is to be thanked for this very seasonal Address.  It brought back memories of the City of our youth, how much the value of money has decreased, not all that has happened is for the worst, and, that keeping the faith is a good way to face the future.

David Smith Talk