Monday, 14 May 2018

Paradise Regained…

So let extend thy mind o’er all the world,
In knowledge, all things in it comprehend.

It was an email from my good friend Paolo that did it. Not directly, of course. Just a little nudge; which, in turn, morphed into a diminutive, but nagging, suggestion; which, gnawing at a widening area of brain-cells, wouldn’t let go. Thirty minutes later, I had changed into some light walking trousers, a thin T-shirt, and a medium-weight fleece. (Although the only marks in the sky were man-made – the number of planes travelling over Tysoe having seemingly increased in the last year or so – the Met Office warned of northerly twelve mile-an-hour winds: making seventeen Celsius feel like fourteen.)

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A designer who was also an engraver…

I hope, dear reader, that you may be one of my descendants, but I have only three children, my grandfather had six and as I write a German aeroplane has circled round above my head taking photographs of the damage that yesterday’s raiders have done, reminding me that there is no certainty of our survival.
     If you are not one of my descendants then all I ask of you is that you love the country as I do, and when you come into a room, discreetly observe its pictures and its furnishings, and sympathise with painters and craftsmen.
– Tirzah Garwood: Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood

After three extended, extremely leisurely and exhaustive visits to Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship (English Artist Designers 1922-1942) – Compton Verney’s latest wondrous, desire-indulging display (of everything from the smallest hand-carved print-stone to a documentary on a now bomb-ruinated mural) – I had already discerned that much more time would need to be spent there (at least to produce this ‘not a review’); but that, even then, my absorption and adoration would, could… never be quenched. In fact – apart from experiencing, in the flesh, Janet Baker singing in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (which I am fortunate to have so done) – I had quickly grasped that, as a resolute atheist, this is quite probably the closest to any divine being (albeit as evoked by the most tempting graven images) that I shall ever come. The thought of its absence – as with Moore Rodin, at the same venue – although amplifying my attentiveness – rapidly causes my vision to blur.

This, then, is more a personal response than a review. Especially as – never having seen Ravilious’ watercolours in the flesh before – I was initially too overwhelmed to delineate my reactions. What I will say is that we are immensely fortunate that such a wonderful facility as Compton Verney exists (and on Tysoe’s doorstep, too) in which to exhibit them: and I would, therefore, encourage everyone based locally to go (at least twice: there are so very many riches on show) as soon as they are able. You may not see them in the same way, the same light, as I (which is, of course, A Good Thing); but I guarantee that you will find at least beauty… – as well, I hope, as a personal connection that lingers for a very long time afterwards.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A double whammy (of hits and histamine…)

Two migraines at once is a massive achievement:
Like banging your head on the wall, then the pavement.
One stems from the nerves that are totally frizzled;
The other from food that I shouldn’t have sizzled.

Please click on the two ‘Poems’ tabs, above, for more of the same (and even more of the different…)!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

What air’s from home…

Sometimes – and sometimes more fittingly than we may care to observe… – Mother Nature schedules her tasks and happenings more fruitfully and frequently (and therefore with much more granularity) than simply the succession of seasons obvious to even the most imperceptive of eyes. Waking late, yesterday morning, my habitual appraisal of the front garden, and the youngish oak which stands sentinel over it, revealed a large selection of cleanly-broken twigs on the green verges beneath, scattered by the recent sharp winds (harbingers, it seems, of yet more of Winter’s cold, unforgiving, grasp; and its reluctance to depart – despite Spring puncturing the jackstrawn turf with the tiny xanthous blooms of narcissus and primrose; and the local finches’ songs, above, swelling with Summer warmth…).

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none…

Until this musical year (because my health has become both a priority and a burden), on one Tuesday each month – and throughout that long day – you would have found me sat in Stratford ArtsHouse, behind the Orchestra of the Swan’s remarkable cello and double-bass sections, laptop or iPad (and keyboard) on my lap, basking in the splendour of their talent and sound: as they rehearsed for that evening’s concert; whilst I started to make notes for my ensuing review (despite frequent, extended drifts of concentration: when either those notes would be left untouched; or the score I was following would be left unturned).

Here was a refuge – and of the most glorious and comforting kind – away from the daily tribulations and devastations of disability. Here, my increasing deafness no longer mattered; nor my Asperger’s. I was amongst friends – people (impressively gifted ones, at that) who would not judge me, but would treat me as their equal (which I am not) – absorbed in some of the greatest creations (instruments and music) that humanity has managed to conjure up.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

I knew our music would allure him…

Sometime during last weekend, I came downstairs to find The Good Lady Bard transfixed by a recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on Classic FM – a piece much discussed (and played) in this household (as on this blog): especially the difference (on the soloist’s part, at least) between good and bad performances.

This was neither. In a nutshell, it was astonishing – the composure and control of the pianist far excelling any previous experience of this work (and with orchestral accompanists of the same impressive calibre). As TGLB said: even amongst all the virtuoso passages, and the swagger, the performer “sounds like they have all the time in the world”; adding that “they seem so relaxed: as if this is well within their capabilities; that they’re not being stretched, at all…” – and I had to agree. All those dense notes; and what could have been a struggle (or a muddle) rendered crisp, and yet remarkably heartfelt. Whoever was playing was at the top of their superlative game… – but this was not a version either of us had encountered before. I laughingly remarked that, in the more lyrical sections, it reminded me of either Martin Roscoe or Peter Donohoe playing Mozart; however, I was not aware – having listened to many (extremely different) recordings, whilst carrying out research (for the two concerts linked to, above) – of either of them having recorded this.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Look, Ma! No wires…!

I know it’s a little late in the month for an epiphany; but – despite its tardiness in not only time, and some other dimensions – Tuesday morning was the occasion for a rather remarkable and personal one.

I have written on here, before, about my struggles with increasing deafness: particularly my hard-won aural relationship with music and theatre. I have also detailed how – in the process of enabling these acts; of wringing out every single gram of what is left of my hearing… – I have begun to morph into something of a cyborg.

Until Tuesday, all of my efforts had been based around maximizing the amount of sound entering my head through my ears: either via my hearing aids, or with various combinations of headphones and amplification. My latest (and longest-lasting) setup (sans hearing aids) – after much experimentation; and taking into account the recommendations and experiences of those also ‘deaf’ – consists of a pair of AudioMX AX‑05 circumnaural headphones, plugged into a FiiO K5 desktop headphone amplifier: into which itself was slotted FiiO’s Alpen 2 DAC and headphone amplifier (which could therefore also be used on its own outside the house); and into which (finally) was piped (or, rather, cabled) the sound from my iPhone (on which I keep all my Apple Music playlists).

Saturday, 23 December 2017

He knew how to keep Christmas well…

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits, in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!
– Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol

Three months ago, I wrote about my inchoate struggle with food allergies. And then went perfunctorily wheesht… – especially concerning the related battles I ended up fighting as my former fine fettle fell away….

Friday, 8 December 2017

A man’s whole life can be changed by one book…

Dear Ta-Nehisi

I am truly sorry. I did not know. (And had not searched, researched, or inquired.) I did not know the burden you have always worn – and still wear. I did not know what – or how; or why – your eyes bear witness; your mind carries; your heart feels. And I apologize for being afraid – lost in the humid canyons of Richmond, Virginia – when I did not know what it was to fear.

But you loaned me your eyes; shared fragments of your soul with me. And, perhaps, I began to understand. A little, anyways. Thus, even if I make mistakes in doing so, I had to reach out to thank you – as well as apologize. To say thank you for the streams of tears; the laughed recognition of the similar and the dissimilar; the sympathy and empathy. (It is not hard to make me cry, to feel; but this was something fresh, which filled me anew.)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

My colours are as red…

It was as if they were precisely as I had left them: serene shapes bathed in blazing sodium – a tinge flattering of the redwings, particularly as they settled; although the companion fieldfares and thrushes likewise glowed with the radiance painting the village’s warmed brick chimneys (some, like ours, wisped with telltale drifts of light smoke). But now the sunken sun shone westwards – not from the west – although my suspicion was the same: that, perched as high in the skyclad oak as its topmost thin fingers would hold, these returning travellers were relishing this tepid coloration; were making the most of the new winter’s protective evanescent light, of its ebbing eight-hour span.