When I listen to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony it does what it is supposed to do. It opens up my mind to the countryside, the noises, smells and sights, and the feel and touch of organic, growing living things. And if they are the right living things the taste as well. I've got tickets for the Choral 9th Symphony in November and looking forward to my first hearing of it live with the RSNO. The soundtrack of The King's Speech brilliantly captured the solemnity and occasion of a King making a speech to the nation at a pivotal point in history by playing the slow sonorous march of the 7th Symphony, which I listen to often in the car. The Fifth is for me in a class of its own; I guess it addresses directly the serious existentialist in all of us when we are confronted with some of life's unforeseen and least explicable tragedies.
But the 6th, the Pastoral has always been deeply evocative of my childhood, and some of its happiest memories of the countryside and farm life which was my growing up environment for fourteen years.
Playing around in the hayshed aged about 9, discovering where Milky the cat had got to the past couple of weeks - in her den with 5 new kittens. By the way bales of hay, those square rectangles of tightly packed hay tied with two lengths of baler twine, were a recent innovation. I remember pitch forks and hay stooks, and helping rake the hay in the hayfield.
Building a grass and stone dam across the wee burn at the bottom of our garden and making a pond deep enough to get soaked in.
Finding a Yellow-hammer's nest and seeing for the first time the Scottish ornithological equivalent of a Faberge, tints of lilac with dark purple traces, the background colour fading to white at the bottom of the egg, three of them nestling in a feathered cup, contained in grass and moss, built into the centre of a hawthorn bush beside the River Nith.
Being chased by a newly calved cow protective of its calf, and showing why it's important for folk walking in fields in the country not to assume that the bull is the more dangerous animal.
Helping Jack Duncan the farmer catch sheep in the field so he could cut away parts of the foot affected by foot rot and put anti fungal powder on. While I chased the sheep he practiced using his wedge in the long grass, hitting the golf ball in fields where it sometimes landed in dung!
Climbing fir trees getting the sap on my hands and loving the smell of pine. I still do and every time I smell it I remember that wood where we climbed and not an H&E inspector in sight.
And for those of you who haven't heard this story - my brother and the farmer's son persuading me to go inside a tractor tyre (I was about 8 and wee at the time) which they proceeded to roll down the hill with me inside, - and people wonder why I see the world from such varied perspectives! It nearly ended in tragedy as a car coming along the road was on a collision course with my tractor tyre trajectory so they bounced me, still in the tyre, over the ditch and into a field where the momentum slowed enough for me to crawl out, wondering why someone was holding my ankles and spinning me face down to the grass.
When I play Beethoven's Pastoral there is as described, awakening of cheerful feelings in the country, as my own memories populate this 200 year old piece of music with images and reminiscences that at the time were formative for who I am. I love and respect animals, wild and domestic, I need to have time and space in the country, recognise most bird sounds and flights, and grieve at the ruining of land and the depredation of natural habitat for so many of the creatures who share our environment.
The strange thing is, I never heard Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony until I was in my 20's, but it has the power to take me in imagination and memory to some of my favourite places in my inner landscape, and in the places where I've lived.
The photo of me at the Echt Agricultural Show this year is a tribute to that summer evening I was rolled like an Orkney Cheese down an Ayrshire farm road!