What is he on about now, you ask? Well, put simply, the healing power of music… The Aurora Orchestra, playing Beethoven, Bruch – solo violin Nicola Benedetti – and Berlioz, all conducted by Nicholas Collon.
I experienced a profound and healing catharsis from this concert at Snape on Thursday night. The very first chord of Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus started it. My wife glanced at me disapprovingly thinking I was laughing at something. I was actually trying to suppress a violent emotional reaction; a feeling of coming safely home after a long and distressing period away.
The effect continued through the Bruch violin concerto, superbly played by a very glamorous Nicola Benedetti in a long orange dress. But the climax – in all senses of the word – was Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.
The Aurora Orchestra specialise in playing pieces from memory, and this they did with the Berlioz. Most of the musicians, with the exception of the cellos, double-basses, harps, and tubas, were able to stand, and in standing could better express themselves in moving as the music took them. The whole process was wonderfully visual; theatrical almost. This was heightened by the two harps being brought forward during the second movement and placed either side of the conductor’s podium. During the third movement, the four bassoons occupied the same position, with two military looking side drums either side of the stage for the subsequent ‘March to the Scaffold’.
Other details entertained as the music progressed. One of the lady violinists, also very glamorous, was wearing (as I learned later) Christian Louboutin shoes – with bright red soles and very high heels (at £400 a pop). I noticed with amusement, that she surreptitiously removed them as the harps were being brought forward, playing the rest of the piece in bare feet … One of the cellists was enjoying the music so much that he had a broad grin on his face for much of the time. The conductor, with long wavy hair, bounced and bobbed, and the the principal clarinettist really jazzed up his solo in the last movement. And they were all so young … in contradistinction with the audience, overwhelmingly of the ‘third age’.
It really was a ‘fantastique’ climax to the concert. As the applause died down, the various members of the orchestra hugged each other in the joy of having produced such a truly wonderful and uplifting performance. And I was moved.
Oh so that’s what it means! A man with a casual disregard for the truth is voted in to power by 0.2% of the electorate. He is given to making wild, extravagant, and empty statements - two weeks ago: “The chances of no deal are a million to one!” This week: “A deal is touch and go …”
He heads a minority government, and closes down parliament to prevent debate on the issue of Europe while denying that that is the reason for doing so. How stupid of me not to have understood before!
Still, his favourite book is The Iliad – or is it The Odyssey? Anyway, whichever it is, it's nearly three thousand years old and he reads it in Greek so he must be ok … Wait a minute, didn’t they say that about Enoch Powell?
Beam me up Scotty …
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that there is no limit to human stupidity.
When I was a student ‘doing’ the Greek Islands in the summer of 1970, I met a man who insisted that air travel was magic. “How else”, he said, “could an aircraft, made of metal and weighing more than 300 tons possibly get off the ground?” I was studying physics at the time, but I decided not to go over the simple principles of aeronautics with him, concluding that he was happy enough in his delusion; his disbelief in the reality of flight was harming no-one but himself, and that hardly at all.
The ‘Flat-Earthers’ I’m guessing that most people would, likewise, dismiss as harmless lunatics. The Neo-Creationists are somewhat more problematic. ‘Answers in Genesis’ is a website devoted to the belief in the literal truth of the Book of Genesis, that the universe was created in 4004 BC, and man and dinosaurs co-existed on Earth. These people become dangerous when their beliefs subvert the teachings of cosmology, evolution and geology in our schools. Fortunately, they are generally only found in the southern states of the US of A.
But what really worries me, really worries me, is the determination of our new Prime Minister to take this country out of the EU deal or no deal. Even Gove, Blow-Job’s attack-dog, admits, after the revelations in the Sunday Times today, that a ‘No-Deal’ will be a ‘bumpy ride’ … Really?
I take a number of pills for my health, one of which, is to control my blood-pressure. If there are shortages of this medication after a ‘No-Deal B*****’ and I die as a result, will my family be able to sue the British Government for gross incompetence? Are they (the government) really determined to risk the lives and livelihoods of the more than 60 million people in this country for this madness?
Leave the bloody EU by all means; the people voted for it (although the vote was only advisory), but I am a democrat and I will not resist. But risk shortages of food, fuel and medicine? Really? Are they actually prepared to do that? This is stupidity of a level that will make future generations catch their breaths in utter amazement.
How many times have we heard it? “In any negotiation you must be prepared to walk away, otherwise the other side will not believe you are serious.” This is 24 carat, weapons-grade bollocks.
For many years I was responsible for bringing home mainly export sales contracts for a very profitable manufacturing division employing more than 100 people. If I had walked away from a large customer it would have left a gaping hole in our manufacturing schedule, people would have been laid off, profits would have slumped, and I would have been fired.
When it’s serious grown-up business and livelihoods are involved, an agreement must be reached.
A major book clear out has revealed many books I never knew I had, including a number by John Mortimer. These include some excellent interviews of the great and the good (and not so good), and of course a number of Rumpoles.
John Mortimer was a practicing barrister and QC, and famously acted for the defence in several obscenity trials. I recall seeing a clip some years back of a debate at the Oxford Union on the question of the law on obscenity. Mortimer spoke against, and I think Michael Howard spoke in favour; he was certainly present.
Mortimer, demonstrating the arbitrariness of the law, was reviewing the methods by which a particular piece of literature was deemed obscene. The job, he said, used to fall to the Lord Chamberlain, who would read the offending passage and judge the level of obscenity by the size of his erection. “But, of course,” continued Mortimer, “As the Lord Chamberlain grew older …” The union erupted into laughter …
I have fond memories of watching Screaming Lord Such and the Savages performing at Eel Pie Island in the early 1960s. Their music comprised good old fashioned Rock ‘n Roll classics, spiced up with a few spectacular stage effects. Such would rise up out of a coffin, and flick his long hair through the flames from a burning cauldron of petrol …
Lord Such became known to the public at large as a result of fighting various parliamentary by-elections, where he stood as a candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party; according to Wikipedia he fought more than 40 elections, rarely polling more than 500 votes.
David Edward Such was gathered to his ancestors 20 years ago, but his legacy lives on. It seems entirely appropriate in these days of high political farce, that ‘Lady Lily the Pink’, standing as a candidate in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, beat the UKIP candidate into sixth place.
The one song I positively remember Lord Such doing was "My Babe", recorded originally by Little Walter in 1955. The lyrics:
"My baby don't stand no cheatin', my babe
Oh yeah she don't stand no cheatin', my babe
Oh yeah she don't stand no cheatin',
She don't stand none of that midnight creepin'" etc
After the first verse, in Such's version, the words became: "My baby she don't stand no ..." The music stopped, and the piano player, in mute and obscene pantomime, indicated with his fingers and mouth what "His baby" did not stand. Entirely unsuited for the "Me too" generation.
But it was a classic rock number, and I also played it with various bands many times. Ironically, I never knew that it was recorded by Little Walter until I looked it up for this post; I'm not sure I ever even heard of Little Walter ... The original can be listened to on You Tube and is rather good.
Sunk in a slough of despondency, I had decided to devote no more time to metaphorically gnashing my teeth over the hardly credible Muppet Show masquerading as our new government.
But … a friend, Chris R, also in despair, has drawn my attention to an excellent piece by Fintan O’Toole in the Grauniad. O’Toole writes for the Irish Times, and was on Channel 4 News last night offering some highly intelligent comment on the ‘new kids on the block’. You can read his piece here:
A brief extract: “Boris lies” is like Jonathan Swift’s “Celia shits”. Have I got news for you? No. Everybody knows already.
His (O’Toole’s, not Swift’s) thesis is that people want to be lied to; they want to be told that Boris will fix it. He has told them that it will all be alright, so they are prepared to suspend disbelief.
That masterful dystopian novel 1984 articulated the philosophy perfectly in the concept of Doublethink – the ability to hold two contradictory, mutually exclusive views simultaneously. God knows what Orwell would make of the current situation.
Then, I received an email from the London Review Bookshop who have just reissued a pamphlet: Boris Johnson, The Beast of B******, A Study in Depravity by Heathcote Williams. I have not read it yet, but I am intrigued: “Dishonesty, hypocrisy, incompetence, violence, ‘remorseless self-promotion’, racism: ‘a ruthless and often cruel ambition together with an elitism and a ferocious temper when challenged’” I blame Stanley Johnson …
The ‘Celia shits’ quotation is from Dean (of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin) Swift’s highly amusing poem The Lady’s Dressing Room which can be found here:
I have a simple message for any member of the Conservative Party who has conspired to bring about this farce: may you live to regret the part you have played in making this country the laughing stock of the entire world …
I am currently researching the writings of a 19th century cleric and JP, whose astronomical theories regarding Silbury Hill and the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury are so absurd, so completely beyond the realms even of science fiction, that in spite of his Oxford MA, I really do wonder whether he was educationally subnormal.
The Reverend Edward Duke was justifying his theory that the ancient Britons had built Silbury Hill – a large conical mound to the west of Marlborough – to represent planet earth, with the twin stone circles (now disappeared) at Avebury representing the sun and moon, and Stonehenge representing the planet Saturn …
Duke had read in a book, Recreations in Astronomy, that the earth is an oblate spheroid – a flattened sphere – and was concerned that people would argue against his designation for Silbury Hill, because a cone was quite unlike an oblate spheroid. He apparently ignored the devastatingly obvious fact that you cannot build an oblate spheroid of the size of Silbury Hill out of chalk and turf …
He said, in justification of his theory, ‘those early astronomers … may not have been quite cognizant of the shape of the earth …’ Quite so.
I was reminded of Mr Duke and his theory when reading the Daily Telegraph today – I do only buy it for the puzzles, but I could not avoid an editorial commendation on the front page:
Mr Johnson believes in B*****, but also in the greatness of this nation and what it is capable of. We urge readers with a vote to support him
I am a patriot, and I too believe in this nation. One of its great attributes is that it supports and nourishes people like Edward Duke and Boris Johnson. I am not at all sure though, that it could survive either of them becoming prime minister …
Yesterday, while walking through the cornfields to the west of Chelmsford – en route to a comfortable pub in Chignal St James – I heard the unmistakable sound of a Merlin engine overhead. Looking up, I saw a single Hurricane flying towards the north east.
The sight was a poignant one, because only the fields, a few trees and the aeroplane itself were visible and I could have been transported back eighty years to when thousands of Hurricanes and Spitfires were intercepting enemy aircraft over Britain every day. The men flying those fighter planes, The Few, undoubtedly saved these islands from invasion.
What would those pilots have thought if they had known what was going to happen to the great democracy, with its ‘mother of parliaments’, for which they were sacrificing their lives every day? A country riven and polarized, that same parliament paralyzed and incapable of decision, and a prime minister in waiting so gaffe-prone, that his minders refuse to allow journalists and the public access to him, in case he makes a stupid ill-judged remark that could cost him the premiership.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs