Tag Archives: music

Looking for something in C


The storm has not stripped out the sand, though I think the landslides have been on the move again.  Today was benign but perhaps not quite paddleable – at least, we did not paddle.

Later, what is possibly the cutest instrument in the western world made a reappearance:

the curved soprano sax.  This one has been having a little rest in its case for most of the last eighteen years, but there was its voice again, parping occasionally from lack of practice, contending with the piano and giggles.  While listening, I compounded apple cake in the kitchen, and (enjoying the ironies) thought, Thank God we are a musical nation.

Books and legs


Oh – and choirs and fudge.

Sitting between Salisbury cathedral choir on one side and a powerfully-singing companion on the other was a novel experience.  I squawked away happily under cover, as it were, only to have companion tell me later that he could hear every croak. Sigh.

Then legging it round the city so other companion could get her bearings. And tea. And a couple of happy hours in the Sarum College library. We had it to ourselves, spreading strange items out on tables, crawling about on the floor in the darker corners, reading out good bits to one another, and finding bizarre treasures in the bargain sale box.

My suitcase is going to be heavy tomorrow.

Photo update:  from the Chapter House.  I am usually so wowed by the ceiling I forget to take notice of the Genesis story.

Dark days


Managing the diminishing days requires the exercise of moral courage.  Some possible approaches:

1-caesars1.  Tackle the Caesars.  I could feel Suetonius chuntering at one shoulder, and Robert Graves smiling ironically at the other.  Tom Holland has the same problem as historians writing about mediaeval England: once we have read their stuff, Graves and Shakespeare will always compel our view of Augustus and Richard III (and the rest), whatever the historical evidence.  Lots of goodies in the book though, and very good contextual stuff to help one understand the familiar-yet-totally-alien principles of Romans as they negotiated the huge changes of their times.

2-snowflakes2.  Tackle the snowflakes.  Up the ladder and down the ladder and up the ladder and down the ladder and up the ladder and down the ladder and up the ….

3-theological3.  Tackle theology.  Sitting in the window ‘like the picture of somebody reading’, I frequently found myself sleeping like a baby.  This was due not so much to boredom as to the physical relaxation caused by heavy duty thinking.  Must have something to be said for it – the book is now full of pink notes-to-self.

4-peacock4.  Tackle some gardening, even if it is December.  The peacock orchid bulbs wanted to come out of their horrible cold soggy sluggy compost, and I’ll give them a nice warm indoor start after Christmas.

5-window5.  Tackle some window cleaning, to get the best from what little daylight there is, and any adventitious sparkle humanly supplied.   Eeeee when spiders abseiled crossly out of the corners.

6-exo6.  Tackle astrobiology.  Actually, after McIntosh this was a bit of a stroll,  and I wished it had been updated in view of all the Kepler exoplanet discoveries and new data on Europa and Titan.

7-no7.  Tackle a prejudice.  Mashed swede…

Actually don’t bother with this one.  It’s just as bad as I thought, even with lashings of butter and seasoning.  Should you have the facilities to do so, just give Fluffers some exercise by throwing breadcrumbs up and down the kitchen floor, and put Bagpuss on the television.  The Bony King of Nowhere comes up as fresh as paint.




Full academicals … for added lustre.



clap clap clap clap clap


clap clap clap clap clap


clap clap clap clap clap

(and on).

During the long, long longueur waiting for the Very Important Person to appear, there was time to contemplate

a) how being in a cathedral seemed to impel the organisers to include a bidding prayer, a biblical reading and a hymn, while allowing no provision for the cultural and religious plurality of the graduands and their others

b) how there seemed to be no evidence of faith or religion intrinsic to the ceremony proper, which remained wholly secular, placing both the Christian and secular elements in false positions

c)  how unimaginative and poor the music was – no excuse allowed

d)  hair styles

e)  whether joining in the applause for a lot of persons I’ve never seen before and will never see again was an important act of social solidarity and respect, or the outcome of acceding to gratuitous and hypocritical social blackmail

f)  the transitory magic of sunlight in the clerestory

g)  how to take a screen shot on an iPhone


(ah, here we are at last – the Very Important Person, obviously both brighter and better looking than anyone else)

and h) how easy it is to be heard the full length of the nave (or possibly as far as the West Midlands) if someone is sufficiently uninhibited


clap clap clap


clap clap

And no; that wasn’t me.



This evening friend and I trogged off to a nearby village church for their nine lessons and carols.  Here we were: small stone church, the epitome of English villageyness; a great splurge of candlelight (I counted more than a hundred flames); evergreens, red and silver baubles, ribbons, crib; robed cleric, choir of respectable seniors.  Cosy, yes?

Well, yes. But the singing, more determined than tuneful (and I definitely contributed to the untunefulness) was not a performance but an enactment, and the not very skilled flute, tenor recorder and fiddle gave an edge to the organ music.  Brownie points for having no Rutter and a careful assortment of familiar and unfamiliar songs.  Moreover, the lessons and carols put the government-by-an-occupying-power, the mass infanticide and some other uncomfortable elements (such as sin and crucifixion) back into Christmas.

Radio 3 is broadcasting a lavish assortment of European classical and folk Christmas music today, and I turned the programme on again when I got in.  Suddenly it sounded anodyne.

Gone to the cricket


… yesterday’s one day international at the Rose Bowl.

Our party made its rendezvous with surprisingly little fuss and we were soon marching into the ground with a steady torrent of spectators, eyes apprehensively on the sky.  You think the photos are dark?  The day was darker.

1 stream

We glimpsed the field of play as if through the low door in the wall

2 door

and claimed our seats early.  The sky loured upon us.

3 early

The Australians won the toss and chose to bat.  It was good to be reminded that cricket is played on a field, not in a box, when one usually sees a tightly foreshortened view on tv.  I had to concentrate, as I very seldom go to a real match, and enjoyed the occasional drama of a nearby catch and an embarrassing run out.  With poor eyesight it was a challenge to pick out what was happening in the middle. Especially as the louring continued. The flood lights soon came on.

4 floods

A September day needs sunshine if sitting still, and this we were denied.  I didn’t quite get cold enough for the ignominy of the blanket stowed at the bottom of my day bag.  The snippets of canned music seemed almost continuous, and is it just me, or did the loudspeakers’ shouting actually reduce one’s sense of being in that short-lived but occasionally powerful community, the audience?  Thank goodness for the big screen though, allowing this dim bulb spectator to catch up on events via the action replays.  What with the cold and a respectable Australian start the crowd was subdued, though we sat near a few dedicated Mexicans and and at one point I recoiled from a hairy horrible dressed in a giant size Snow White costume.  Aaargh!

5 parting

We watched the first few overs of the England innings but then had to go.  The beer and the blue-clad runners in the middle were enlivening the crowd, and we heard howls rising from the bowl as we walked away.  We got home just in time to see England lose.

I glowed gently; it didn’t rain, and my participation in a national ritual has been fulfilled.

Pen and paper


pen and paperOliver Sacks needs no introduction from me.  I was fascinated by the extraordinary ways in which the brain processes music and equally by the ways music models the brain.  An unfortunate side effect of Musicophilia is to make one self-conscious about ear-worms.  Not only am I listening to mine now, I am analysing them, for goodness’ sake …

Paper: an elegy is (to be honest) a bit of a lightweight, but a hardback with a rather charming embossed jacket for ONE POUND, stuffed with I-didn’t-know-that moments, can only be a good thing.  Two I-didn’t-know-thats from the same page (54):  Henry Petroski wrote a monograph on the subject of shelving, and Gladstone seems to have invented the rolling stack.

And finally The Missing Ink.  Again, nothing profound, but the book sprang from Hensher’s realization that he had friends whose handwriting he had never seen.  While enthusiastically debunking the handwriting analysis brigade, he nevertheless is convinced that knowing someone’s writing conduces to knowing more of the person.  From this springboard he takes a short tour of the history of handwriting and the fairly modern mania for teaching specific styles in order to get on in the world.  As one of the Marion Richardson generation, I don’t think it did anything much to generate a distinguished hand.  But when my printer broke, I excavated my fountain pen, put in a fresh cartridge and scribed with some satisfaction.

Many puffs and bloses **


Just back from a performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt (La Nuova Musica) in Salisbury Cathedral. Less of a crowd-pleaser than Messiah, but great to see/hear them really going for it. They (and Handel) seemed to  particularly enjoy the blotches and blains, two words not normally occurring in High Art but dwelt upon here with all manner of ornamentation and flourish.  The frogs got some jolly coverage too, though the darkness was obviously less of a laughing matter.

Triumphal music for smiting and drowning is more problematic, but I guess we are wimps; if we were escaping from a brutal slavery and the armoured personnel carriers were coming to mash us to pulp, I’m guessing we would be pretty pleased to see them sucked down in a swamp.

Anyone who wants to hear the blains and blotches can do so, as the oratorio was being broadcast live on R3, so it should turn up on iPlayer.

** from Charles Causley’s splendid poem, King Foo-Foo

Here is an entirely uninformative image of the cathedral after the performance

Here is an entirely uninformative image of the cathedral after the performance

2 pink

Here is an altogether too informative photo of the cathedral: not only lit, but pink. They tell me it is for a Good Cause … sigh.


Swords out at Sarum


The cathedral was full of candles as darkness fell, and the nobility of France and England lied, swore, manoeuvred, ranted, threatened and chased one another up and down with swords. Death came by violence, misadventure, and treachery, and perhaps by mere excess of spleen.

It was the Globe’s travelling production of King John, part of Salisbury’s arts festival. We managed to arrive early and had seats right at the nexus of the action, so that it was difficult not to duck as the swords clashed and swished overhead. The music was intriguing and all the roles were singing parts. Amazing evening.

(I hope to add a photo or two, probably almost completely black, when I get home later this week.)

3rd June:  a daylight visit to the cathedral, to the excellent Salisbury museum, and night in the cathedral.



In which we learn that Tiggers don’t like haycorns


Once upon a time, long long ago, in a different part of the Forest, I felt it my duty (in a spirit of fair-mindedness) to actually read a book by Barbara Cartland right to the last page, to make sure it was the same all the way to the bottom before I slagged her off in public.  It was; I threw it across the room; and have felt entitled to abuse her novels to the world ever since.

In a similar spirit, I attended the Cineworld live screening from the Royal Opera House:  Wagner’s Flying Dutchman.  Some of the Wagner operas have come in at a killer 6 hours, and no amount of fair-mindedness would get me to go, but this was only two-and-a-half hours to make sure it was the same all the way to the bottom.  The bottom was quite a long way down, for my money, but I did manage to drop off a couple of times, which cushioned the landing.  It wasn’t entirely without redeeming features, but no; on the whole, I think Wagnerites can keep their haycorns.