Today’s title is oft given advice, though I have not checked how frequently it is taken (this can be safely left as an exercise for the reader). In most cases, I presume it is an attempt to forestall disappointment or a recognition of the rather short span of a human life and the resultant need to avoid repeats (so, we must assume that Dave – at least – has not taken the advice to heart). In at least one case, that of a previously lit firework, there is a clear health and safety angle – which I like to imagine would be obtuse or even reflex to minimise the risk of cuts. As a (further) small digression, surely “minimise” should be a musical term for converting notes to a length of exactly two crochets?
In the Bible, that go-to work for zoological insight, dogs are supposed to ignore this advice in respect of their own vomit – though I can’t say I have particularly noticed this as an issue. I too have ignored this advice: for a start, as a fool I keep returning to the folly of this blog but, and more relevant to the meat of this post, I recently returned to Cambridge in whose environs I was, until recently, resident.
I had a whale of a time whilst there: catching up with old friends, haunting old haunts and singing old songs. In respect of the last of these, I realised that there exist a substantial body of carols completely unknown to me (I speak of the seasonal song-form, rather than the girl’s name – though in both cases, the range of my ignorance is wide). I also discovered that reading choral music is much harder than music prepared for soloists – you have to fish your musical line out of two lines of song, avoiding muddling the bass with the tenor, and after each printed line is finished there comes the desperate search for where your next line begins (generally further away than expected). I’m also used to my words appearing below the music rather than above. All of which led to a vocal performance on my part that could best described as faltering (and more accurately described as awful). Still, it was great fun and not taken too seriously by anyone – and did provide an excuse to partake of a restorative mulled wine and mince pie (or several).
Whilst in Cambridge, I also took in the cinema, a singing lesson – as a result of which Arm, arm, ye brave! is rhythmically rather more sound (I am now dotting where Mr Handel intended) – and live music from the Cambridge University Symphony Orchestra. Dmitri Shostakovich still has the strange ability to wrest control of parts of my autonomous nervous system away from me, especially in the more motivic sections of Symphony No. 11 – I think it may be the snare drum that does it.
Almost my final act in Cambridge – just before a rapid march to the station – was to pop into the Fitzwilliam Museum for 20 minutes. I asked what I could sensibly do in that rather brief period (I had rather dawdled over lunch and the purchase of Christmas cards), and was recommended the John Craxton exhibition. It was brilliant, his pictures (in various media) of (mostly) Greek shepherds and reapers from the 1940s were particularly fine. I intend to return (look what I did there, the theme within the theme!) before the exhibition ends so I can spend a little more time.
I have a theory about why going back is so much fun. When you live somewhere, you tend to have responsibilities tied to that place and to your nearby home – and so there is usually something else you should be doing. When you return as a visitor, hedonism can be given free rein – you can eat out or have a quick nap in the afternoon without any guilt attaching as you can’t cook for yourself and there really is nothing more important you should be getting on with. I think this may also explain why I think of Edinburgh as “home” as I only go there for fun: perhaps living there would destroy the relationship (like sleeping with your best friend allegedly does?). Nevertheless, I remain tempted by the Athens of the North – and shall be visiting it shortly – and always have the option of returning to Cambridge at some stage as I still own property there (not through design, but as a result of lack of legal competence on the part of Laing Homes). Still, for now there is plenty to occupy me on the south coast: I have yet to see the local sea or the New Forest to name but two items yet to be ticked off in my I-Spy book of Southampton.