I wouldn’t want you to think that most days are a veil of tears which I struggle to make my way through with wrists intact, but yesterday was particularly good. This is despite some rather poor planning by the man in charge (me, for those in any doubt), which meant an insane amount of racing around and meals hurriedly grabbed. So frantic did things become that I was forced to use the car in the evening, and worse than that to parallel park it. I think this is my first attempt at parallel parking in the current millennium – and it is not a skill that improves through benign neglect. Still, in fewer than 100 manoeuvers the car (I’m not saying how many fewer, but it was fewer) was acceptably close to the kerb – and my ability to achieve better positioning by use of the steering wheel and the forward and reverse gears was becoming a significantly less random proposition.
So, given the unnecessary stress caused by poor planning, and the concomitant rushed eating and need to utilise my limited abilities with a motor vehicle, why was yesterday so good? (I hear the voices in my head ask). Well, there are three main strands which made it such a good day which spanned a range of the Arts.
We start in the world of literature, well books anyway. I finished reading the final 60% of the latest Harry Dresden novel by Jim Butcher. This series is unlikely to trouble the Booker panel (many other literary prizes are available) but are great page turners. I was introduced to them by the library and now own most of them – which just goes to show what an engine of economic activity your local library can be. Almost all the books I own have been bought thanks to an introduction by my local library or via the joy of browsing through a real bookshop – recommendations from online bookshops are entirely useless (perhaps because the internet believes I am a pensioner as discussed in an earlier post). Cold Days has really started opening out the mythology which means I need a new fix – though I fear Mr Butcher has yet to write one. Still, patience is supposed to be a virtue – and a card-game for the solitary without access to a decent book.
Strand two took me to the theatre (come on, with my addiction you knew it was coming) and back to Downstairs at the Hampstead Theatre. Hello/Goodbye was absolutely brilliant – really funny and it also made my cry (though many things do that, including some members of the allium family) – and did make me wonder why drama in the theatre seems so much better than so much that makes it onto our TV screens? Is it the live nature of the thing or just being able to avoid layer upon layer of commissioning editors and focus groups slowly crushing out the creative spark? I also remain amazed at how cheap off West End theatre is – this cost me a mere £12 (which you can pay for the cinema these days) and had I gone a few days earlier it would have been a mere fiver. I suppose there were only four actors and relatively modest set (though it did have a fully plumbed sink and a working hob, kettle and toaster) – but even so, with only 80 seats the economics must be very challenging. Based on the ticket, I think I should be thanking the late Peter Wolff whose Theatre Trust seems to have provided some support – a jolly decent thing to do with one’s surplus cash.
Strand three was music in Cambridge and involved the desperate race back from Swiss Cottage by tube, train, bike and the automobile. The CUMS Symphony Orchestra gave a stunning programme including Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the Stokowski orchestration and Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto. The only painful thing about CUMS is that as I age, they never do – each year those reaching their early twenties are replaced by those still in their teens in an orchestral take on Logan’s Run (though so far as I know, the leavers go on to living long and fulfilling lives) allowing the orchestra to remain eternally young.
A good book, an excellent play and the day rounded off by some great music – what more could any chap (or chapess) ask for? The whole day was even pretty budget friendly given strategic use of my Network Card.