Getting the black off my nose

I believe that today’s titular phrase indicates a surrender to one’s curiosity – something which is supposedly unhealthy for those of a feline persuasion.  I have rather a lot of curiosity and do surrender quite frequently (but rarely meow) – hence (a) my penchant for BBC4 documentaries and (b) being doomed to the life of a dilettante.

Even when walking (or cycling) around, curiosity is often my master (or mistress) and I feel the need to explore side-streets and possible alternative routes.  This is particularly productive in a big city like London, where all manner of hidden delights can be glimpsed while the greater mass of humanity can be avoided.  The only potential downside is that I found it difficult to stick with a single street, or a straight-line, for more than a few yards.  This will, of course, prove to be a very useful habit should I ever pick up a “tail” – but is much less helpful for anyone with me hoping to learn the route from, for example, the station into town.

However, this post is much more literal than the preceding paragraphs might suggest.  My nose is currently possessed of a sizeable black mark (near the bridge), and sadly these is no way for me to get it off.  For the avoidance of doubt, I have not accidently disfigured myself with a permanent marker (a very proud boast for a felt-tip pen, and not one I suspect that would hold up to fact-checking on even a modest geological timescale) nor have I finally surrendered to the current vogue for the tattoo and chosen my nose as the target for the inky needle(s).  No, the black mark is a rather impressive bruise from the nasal injury related in my last post – but to even quite detailed inspection it looks like I am not very good with a face flannel, soap and water.  If it, as it may, evolve to yellow or purple then it may look less like unremoved grime – or at least like more colourful grime.  However, otherwise I fear I am playing a waiting game here.

Anyway, this latest example of unintended self-harm did give me a new idea for how to monetise this blog – as frankly, it has yet to make me so much as a brass farthing (which, as my father will tell you, would need to be joined by 47 of its friends before I even had as much as a shilling! Or 5 shiny new pence for those born after decimalisation).  I feel that GofaDM could sell a cardboard cut-out of our hero – possibly life size and probably stripped for action, though with sufficient “coverage” (Speedos?) to spare the blushes of both myself and the readers – on which subscribers could keep track of my injuries.  It could also sell a variety of stickers or transfers (in little sachets) indicating different types of damage to my bod.  It would be somewhat like a Panini sticker album or those part-work magazines – perhaps a free paper-cut could be offered with the initial cardboard cut out to sweeten the deal?  Over 52 weeks, purchasers could build up a complete picture of a year’s worth of injuries to a somewhat clumsy middle-aged chap.  Surely that would be more exciting than very slowly building either a boat or a book full of dodgy photos of current ball-kickers?  And this could just be the start of GofaDM “merch” (as I believe it is known to the cognoscenti).

Freeing my inner gymnast

As exclusively revealed on GofaDM (well, if I’m honest the more mainstream news outlets didn’t seem terribly interested), I have modified my rigorous fitness regime to have more of a gymnastic bent.  This is despite a number of obvious disabilities that make me less than ideal gymnastics-fodder – in particular, my age and height.  Sadly, even when both younger and shorter, I was not known for my movement-related grace – in fact, I have generally taken to grace as a duck takes to quantum theory (OK, may be not quite that well, a duck can at least say “quark” – or a pretty good approximation thereto).

I must be something like six weeks into this new regimen and so I felt it was time for some sort of progress report.  Despite the unpromising raw material (viz, my middle-aged body) I do seem to be making rather good progress towards quite a range of pretty impressive gymnastic manoeuvers.  I don’t think Nadia Komench or Louis Smith have anything to worry about (actually, Nadia may as a web search reveals she is rather older than me) – but the whole project is looking less like an impossible (and, frankly idiotic) dream and rather more like it might actually happen.

I have to say that training to be an elderly gymnast is a lot more enjoyable than the standard weight training or running used by others.  It is also seriously hard work, but does rather usefully lead to a degree of obsession and hence regular practise and steady progress.  It also tends to avoid the use of heavy weights (other than the author) and so I think is generally less stressful for my joints and is continuing to improve my ability to apply the adjective “lithe” to myself without the need for it to be accompanied by a phalanx of heavy irony.  The process has not been entirely injury-free – though on both occasions it was the same part of me (an uninvolved part) that has taken the punishment.  As has been mentioned before, I am very gifted in the nasal department in that my nose, not unlike a pier, sticks out half a mile – and on two occasions my hooter has taken a glancing blow.  Once from above and once from below as I have failed to take account of its degree of protuberance from the remainder of my face.  Still, such contusions can only add to my rakish charm!

Far more pain has been incurred while indulging in apparently far safer activities – mostly in the last 24 hours.  I’ve already mentioned my plan to become a virtuoso pianist by following Mr Hanon’s exercises and yesterday I decided it was time to tackle number three (of 64).  Before this, it advised I play exercises one and two non-stop, twice – an activity I had only previously attempted in the singular.  Oh, the pain!  I would have thought all the hanging from walls and bars would have beefed up my fingers, wrists and forearms for a solid five minutes of continuous play.  Not a bit of it!  I am now even more impressed by concert pianists who can play without a break for tens of minutes.

I have also previously alluded to my propensity to insomnia.  As well as the usual issues of my brain racing with wizard wheezes for this blog which prevent me from sleeping (so, yes, this blog is therapy), I also have tendency to self-harm once asleep.  This harm, which usually takes the form of an attempt to tear one or both of my arms out of their sockets, usually wakes me up eventually.  Last night, I excelled myself such that within 90 minutes of retiring my to bed I had tried to unscrew both of my hands at the wrists and my head at the neck.  This process did rouse me before its completion, so I am not writing this post as some sort of poltergeist.  Nevertheless, my wrists are still rather painful – and I didn’t even obtain any (conscious) enjoyment from their injury (nor, lest you were wondering, was any alcohol involved).

Talking of insomnia, last night I went to the Nuffield to see another sufferer: Robin Ince.  He is a very amusing chap, but if you thought I was prone to digression you ain’t seen nothing yet!  This man could digress at an Olympic level – and does, he must have started dozens of times more anecdotes than he finished.  I get the impression that his gigs end when the management turns out the lights and throws him out (rather than due to any lack of material or audience enjoyment).

This was supposed to be a short post, so I really better try and try to reach some kind of conclusion.  One pleasing side-effect of my gymnastic training is that I seem to be becoming significantly more ripped (as I believe the young people say) – as well as more flexible.  There is a serious risk, if this continues, that I might have a six pack (and not just of artisan ale).  This could be helpful for my putative plan to become a stripper, as I believe such a thing is very desirable to some.  Then again, all manner of strange quirks of the physiognomy are considered attractive – why, for example, are visible cheekbones so desirable in a man?  And when did this interest start?

Anyway, for me the only downside of the training is a mild degree of obsession.  Last Sunday, strolling through Southampton Common with my parents, I found my eye drawn to the children’s play area which had some excellent bars I could have used for a bit of practise (and I am technically a child – and had my ‘rents there to prove it).  Sadly, they were being used by “proper” children (think I would count as a “vulgar” child) – and I felt it may be impolitic to chuck them off.  I shall have to try again at night, or when the little ones are safely locked-up at school.  The downside for everyone else, is (a) me banging on about it and (b) me showing off my new skills at any (and every) opportunity.  No piece of street furniture will be safe from molestation if things go according to plan!

Self-Obsessed

Clearly, today’s title could have been applied to the vast majority of the 463 posts which proceeded it – but, for once this is not all about me.  OK, if you insist, at least some of it isn’t about me and it was inspired by another.

On Friday, I caught our Prime Minister talking on the news about the situation in Crimea.  I am under few illusions that I am as egocentric as the next man (even when the next man happens to be a rampant egomaniac), but even I would have struggled to start quite so many sentences on the subject of the Crimea in the first person.  In the majority of cases, it wasn’t even the first person plural – no, Mr Cameron prefixed most the sentences I heard with the word “I”.

This started me thinking that perhaps, despite the evidence of this blog, I am still insufficiently self-obsessed for a career in politics – or at least one at (or near) the top.  Whilst the last 400 years have generally seen a move away from an earth-centred universe towards a heliocentric one and finally one which lacks any kind of centre at all (and, indeed, makes the whole concept meaningless), many politicians seems to have placed the centre a lot closer to home.  I suppose the clues were there to be seen…

Anything which might be considered a success, howsoever caused, is claimed as proof of the correctness of the path being taken.  Only this week, the Business Secretary congratulated the government for Hitachi moving its rail division HQ to the UK.  I notice he (and his predecessors and colleagues) talk to the press much less rarely to take the rap when a large corporation leaves the UK taking its jobs with it.  In fact, if things go wrong there seems to be a general hierarchy to the excuses – you blame the previous government, failing that the international situations (out of our control, mate) is a decent backup and failing that you blame something like the weather (or, as I heard this week, I think a corporation – rather than the government – blamed the timing of Easter for its substandard performance.  How foolish of the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE to fail to consider the impact of its work on corporate results in the 21st century).  Actually, the current government has – on occasion – taken a rather novel approach to deal with the disastrous economic and social consequences of some of their policies: they have decided that things going so badly actually supported their plan and proved it was the right thing to do (presumably, had things gone better they would have abandoned the policies in question and issued a grovelling apology?  Or perhaps, the government – like me – grew up watching Paul Daniel’s Bunco Booth, and unlike me took it as a model to be followed?).

I think a lot of these problems arise from the unfortunate human habit of believing that one is right.  I am afflicted by this particular malaise myself – but do have the benefit of being extremely fickle in my opinions.  So much so, that I have been known to start a sentence with one opinion and finished it convinced of the completely contradictory one.  I often only discover what I think by listening to what I am saying (never wise) – this seems to be particularly true at work where I seem to do some of my best “thinking” by flapping my mouth in public.  I do go to some trouble to seek out views that are not my own, particularly if they are articulated by someone with some skill in cogent thinking and explanatory power.  It is usually, initially at least, irritating to find someone can argue a viewpoint you disagree with and do so convincingly – but it does tend to lead to a more complete and balanced understanding of the issues.  I would give honourable mentions here to Roger Scruton (a philosopher with whom I share almost no political common ground but whose Points of View are always full of insight) and Victoria Coren-Mitchell (who both in Heresy and her Observer column always manages to come at an issue from a new direction).

Problems can even arise if you doubt your own rightness and refer to others.  I once arrived at a meeting very early indeed (about 6 hours) as a result of an error of this type.  I was the secretary to the meeting and wasn’t quite sure when it began, so checked with the chairman.  He confirmed my belief – and so we both arrived incredibly early.  It later became clear that his information had, in fact, come from me – and so I had, inadvertently, checked with myself!   Even checking with many others can go wrong, I well remember a situation where a particular part of a market design was believed to be so poor that anything would be an improvement.  After many, many hours (and £s) of work, a new design was produced and everyone was able to agree about one thing: it was MUCH worse than the thing it was intended to replace.  The dear old Coalition seem to have fallen foul of much the same issue with its change to student funding – it would seem that not only is it rather unpopular (especially with the young – though luckily they tend not to vote) but it also seems to be even more expensive that the system it replaced.  Since its sole benefit (so far as I can determine) was to reduce costs, this seems to have been somewhat of an own goal.  I am beginning to wonder if when you have a system that everyone can agree is so bad it can’t be made any worse, the last thing you should do is try and change it – “Do Nothing” really is always an option and often (I suspect) to quickly rejected.  I fear our whole society, and government in particular, feels it must be seen to be doing SOMETHING (anything!).  Again, I am guilty of this myself: feeling guilty if I’m doing nothing (and now feeling guilty about that guilt.  Arghh!).  Perhaps it is time to embrace indolence and finally realise my ambition to become a flâneur.  Well, it’s either that or take my self-obsession to the next level and run for office!

Gideon’s bible

This week has seen the return of that annual ritual, the Budget.  I find the budget rather uninteresting, but also deeply annoying.  It strikes me that if something needs adjusting in the economy it should be done, and if it doesn’t then it shouldn’t – but instead we seem to save up a whole series of unrelated tweaks and announce them all in one go once a year.

The Budget ends up being a strange admixture of changes driven by tradition and ideology.  So, it seems to be vitally important to fiddle with excise duties on an annual basis – and also usually a good plan to move tax thresholds and interfere with pensions.  Each Budget also offers an important opportunity for chancellors to make the tax system even more complicated – just in case there was a risk that someone actually understood it.

The Budget is also the chance to announce changes to income tax – usually to either raise or lower the rate for the very rich.  Lowering taxes for the very rich is unlikely to attract many votes (the über-rich are not terribly numerous, though very influential) so I assume is driven by ideology or with an eye to future party funding.  Raising taxes on the rich may be more of a vote winner, but perhaps is less conducive to future party funding (or lucrative consulting jobs for ministers when the political gravy train hits the buffers).  In either case, changes need a strong dose of ideology as no-one knows what tax rate would maximise tax revenues from the seriously rich – I believe there is some certainty (maybe a sigma or two) that the value lies between 30% and 75%, but nothing better than that.

The other platform provided by the Budget is to announce a combination of increased spending and/or cuts – though usually these have already been announced and are nowhere near as new as the Chancellor would have us believe.  I have a rather serious problem with announcements of either type, as they all seem to suffer from a common failure of understanding.  Chancellors of all political stripes seem to believe any problem can be solved either by throwing more money at it, or throwing less money at it.

If you throw more money at a problem, the money will certainly be used but usually with minimal impact on desired outcomes.  There is a form of financial Parkinson’s Law in action whereby costs expand to consume the money available.  The most powerful segments of any organisations being funded will take the lion’s share of the money and grow bigger and more powerful.  Sadly, power rarely lies where you want the money to be spent.

If you throw less money at a problem, despite what many think, organisations do not tackle waste and become more efficient.  Instead, the most powerful segments of the funded body will devote all their energies to protecting themselves and their empires and will instead ditch activities they consider to be peripheral.  Sadly, these peripheral activities are probably the very ones for which the bodies exist and which represent their most important outcomes for UK plc.

These last two paragraphs are true for organisations whether funded by public or private means – though, on the plus side, privately funded organisations may eventually go bust (unless prevented from doing so by the State, yes I am talking about the Banks).  I always feel that when my employers start eliminating biscuits from meetings (a meaningless cost-saving activity) it is time to seek employment elsewhere – and I assume that other savvy employees think similarly.  Cost cutting is, thus, an excellent way to weed-out the competent, go-getting portion of your employee-base while retaining the dead-weight.  I do wonder if something similar applies to nation states – and austerity is an excellent way to “fix” net migration by selectively disposing of the more economically-valuable portion of your economy whilst simultaneously encouraging the more sensible potential immigrant to seek another destination.  Are we deliberately turning the UK into the B Arc of Golgafrincham?  Well, we do seem to be turning into a service economy – though my phone does remain staunchly unsanitary.

Anyway, time to turn from Budgets in general to the most recent offering.  This is dear old George (née Gideon) Osborne’s fifth attempt at a budget, and despite all the evidence he does continue to believe that he has the common touch and knows what matters to we members of the lumpen proletariat.  After singeing his fingers with the pasty tax and static caravans, he has now turned his attention to beer and bingo.

As a sometime beer drinker, I did wonder what his headline measure would mean for me.  As a man, I am given a suggested weekly allowance of 28 units of alcohol – and if I choose to take all of this in the form of beer at a relatively modest 3 units per pint, I would find myself £4.85 richer every year.  I’m afraid, were I a woman, this boost would be a mere £3.64 and given my modest drinking habits (and foolish consumption of wine and spirits) I will be luck to clear an extra 50p.  Not quite the giveaway the newspaper headlines (both good and bad) suggested.

I must admit I have no interest in Bingo – I think that I blame it (quite incorrectly) for the destruction of so many cinemas (well, it tended to use old cinema buildings in my formative years, creating the unfortunate association).  I must admit I wasn’t even aware there was a bingo tax – but I suspect reducing it is not going to have a large financial effect on very many people.

Nevertheless, some in Mr Osborne’s own party seemed to think these two changes were the most important things to be announced in the budget.  Sadly, their crowing about this seems to have back-fired rather spectacularly.  I had always assumed that such measures were designed to provide a fig-leaf of good news behind which to hide the entire forest of bad news contained in the rest of the Budget.  If this was the good news, which seems to have gone down like a lead balloon, how bad must the rest of the Budget been?  I have seen some suggestions that new pensioners are to be encouraged to spend their pension pot on fast cars – rather than frittering it away on an income for their declining years.  I presume this is an attempt to defuse the pensions time-bomb via the medium of road traffic accidents – which is certainly a bold initiative and bound to be more fun than spending one’s lifetime savings on the cost of a nursing home or one way trip to Switzerland.  So, unless pensionable age continues to recede from me, I could be the proud possessor of a shiny red Ferrari in a mere 20 years time!  Not really a dream of mine, but I suppose someone has to prop up the Italian economy – and it would be churlish of me to try and live forever bleeding dry anything that remains of the State in 2038.

More hip (hop) than I realised?

I have never thought of myself as being particularly hip, rather more square if anything (though as the famous 80s newscaster Huey Lewis taught us, these attributes are not necessarily mutually exclusive).  However, a few recent events have made me wonder if I am inadvertently becoming slightly hip.

A few weeks back, in that London, a chap who if not actually gay certainly took sufficient care in his dress and appearance not to embarrass himself in such company (I fear I may be veering into stereotype territory here) complimented me on my shoes.  Before I describe this praise-worthy footwear, I should perhaps mention that I have an aversion to dark coloured footwear on my feet – I’m fine with it on the feet of others, just not my own.  I do not own a pair of black shoes but an impractically large proportion of my shoes are (mostly) white.  For formal occasions, I rely on tan shoes – the lighter the better.  Anyway, the shoes in question are suede brogues in a shade of duck-egg blue (for suitable duck) which I rather like (especially as I acquired then on the cheap), but are rather impractical in our climate – particularly as experienced at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014.  This is not an issue that I recall Mr Presley mentioning – though I am just as keen as he to keep people from stepping on them.  Once again, let down by popular music…

Only this week, a very attractive young lady approached me with a recording device to elicit my opinions on the subject of rap music.  Sadly, my knowledge is this field is rather limited – I believe a quiet ocean (or, if you prefer, a silent C) is involved – and I felt unable to decide whether “classic” or some newer genre of rap meet with a greater degree of my approbation.  Still, it was kind of her to ask an old codger.

It was also this week that an Italian asked me whether I had lived in Italy.  Apparently, my pronunciation of Italian patisserie was so good that I could be mistaken for a native.  Obviously, the ability to obtain cake in other languages is a key (and very cool) life skill – but in this case, it did massively oversell my facility with the Italian language (which is almost non-existent,  I can read a little especially if related to power stations and that’s about it).  Lest you are starting to think that I am naturally gifted with languages, I can assure that this is not the case.  My Italian pronunciation comes courtesy of Messers George Frideric Handel and Nicola Vaccai coupled with the hard work of my singing teacher to undo the effects of my Latin schooling so that I can better render bass arias for an (as yet non-existent) audience.

I’m not that hip though.  I regularly pass what I presume to be nightclub which offers a night named something like “Angels and Demons” (or “Heaven and Hell”, or “Vicars and Tarts” or something in that Manichean vein).  Among the many delights on offer on these nights are “angle grinders”.  I presume these are there to offer noise and sparks, but I like to think that their inclusion shows a resurgent interest in engineering among today’s youth.  I like to imagine future nights will offer lathes spinning some discs or perhaps a DJ spot from a Makino MC65 CNC milling machine.  I fear this may mark me out as terminally un-hip – though, Hitchhikers fans need not worry about my backside falling off.

Actually, the angle grinder gave me an idea.  When folk prove particularly resistant to absorbing new data using traditional methods, my previous strategy was to write out the information long-hand on a baseball bat and beat it into them (it’s never failed yet!).  We seem to be saddled with a particularly obtuse political elite at the moment, I do wonder if constructive use of an angle grinder could make them more acute?  Yes, after all that, it was all leading to a cheap trigonometry pun.

Dining Alone

Dining alone is considered anathema by many – well, it is when in the relatively public space of the more formal class of restaurant.  So far as I know, little stigma attaches to the single fella (or lass) dining alone in the comfort (or otherwise) of their own domicile – or, indeed, in a fast food joint of the kind that has so successfully colonised these shores from across the Atlantic.

So traumatic can the mere prospect of dining alone be that the internet (that bastion of sound advice) is brimming with suggestions for the terrified solo diner.  I must admit that this particular activity has never held any fears for me, and have partaken of solo meals in restaurants across the globe (well, on at least four continents – which coincidentally, are all the continents that have e’er been graced with my presence).

I embrace solo dining – and as I have probably mentioned before – will always sit over-looking the bar and/or kitchen if at all possible.  This provides a free floor show for the diner (thus preserving his novel for a little longer) and an opportunity to converse with – and even distract (and occasionally assist) – the staff and fellow “bar”-flies.  I have learned a number of new skills and a whole range of interesting facts and fun anecdotes through my activities.

I have come to suspect that places where the staff are willing to interact with me (rather than running screaming from my sight – and more importantly for them, conversational gambits) have a tendency to become favourites (though I may struggle to prove statistical significance to an appropriate number of sigmas for some readers).  I visited two of these favourites as part of my recent excursion to Cambridge – visits which share another thematic link.

When in Cambridge, which thanks to the Interval Study happens exactly every 10 weeks, I try and fit in a visit to Fitzbillies for dinner.  This tradition started (more-or-less) by accident as they start serving early enough to allow a subsequent trip to a concert (or other gig) and have always been able to furnish me with a table at the short notice which tends to characterise my “plans” to dine out.  Whilst it started by accident, it continues by dint of the excellent food and service.  I feel I have written before about just how dapper the Maitre d’ is (or est) – but on this last visit I also discovered that he is very good with small children.  He also remembers me, my usual table and preferred red wine (and I’m sure this is not entirely down to the menu-burning incident).  On this particular visit, I found myself needing a table on a Friday night – and they could fit me in.  Not so surprising perhaps, except that the Friday in question was the 14th – not unlucky, but apparently in February an unusually popular evening to dine out (go figure?!).  Also (it would seem), an exceptionally poor choice of day to dine alone – but luckily I am brazen in my solitude (and was the only diner making this particular lifestyle choice).  Anyway, my main course was particularly excellent and brings us on to the second theme of this post (yes, I am trying to move all my posts into a formal sonata form).

As often mentioned, I am (mostly) vegetarian and there is one key area where the word “mostly” applies and that is with regard to venison.  I am all too aware that my ancestors were complicit in the elimination of all of the natural predators of the deer (and, indeed, introducing whole new species of the browsers to these isles).  As a result, Bambi’s relatives can grow in number, unchecked by predation and are becoming a destructive menace.  As a result, I feel it is my responsibility to eat them whenever the opportunity presents.  I do realise that much the same argument could be applied to anthropophagy, but I have yet to see “long pig” on a restaurant menu.  The venison at Fitzbillies was utterly divine and I thought I was never likely to taste its equal – though in this belief, as it transpired, I was quickly proved wrong.

As a result of geography and the nature of the UK rail network, I returned home for Cambridge via London.  This allowed my to fit in a trip to the Finborough Theatre to see the powerful and visceral Carthage: no mention of Phoenicia, Dido or Aeneas, but an incredible and at times terrifying play.  Theatre going requires a little fuel, and so I managed to sneak in a trip to 10 Greek Street beforehand (not exactly on the way, but close enough).  I was doubly glad that I did.  Firstly, because it was Yanni’s last shift before he returned to Greece and as the barman (probably not his actual job title) he was the employee of 10GS that I have most often distracted from his real duties.  He was also the reason why I have never had to read the wine list, I could always rely on his skill and judgment to pick an appropriate accompaniment to my food.  Secondly, I selected the venison pie from the menu and this was, if possible, even more divine than the previous night’s deer-based eating.  It was also an amazing feat of construction with the delicate pastry totally enclosing the meat contents of the pie, a little like a smaller and much more elegant pasty.  I have absolutely no idea how this could have been achieved – and no amount of dissection revealed its secrets.  Still, I suppose it’s good that there remains hidden knowledge yet to be learnt.

My haunting of the bar – like a latter-day Norm Peterson – also yielded an invitation to the opening of 10GS new sibling – also imaginatively named after its address: 10 Hoxton Square.  This was good fun and did mean I took my first exploratory steps into the centre of hip-ness that is Hoxton.  I found it surprisingly unhip (haw?) – rather more cheap sportswear adorned its denizens than I had been led to believe.  Or perhaps I just don’t understand what “hip” is in 2014?

Stalking a pianist

For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to make clear that I am not (currently) stalking a pianist.  It is merely a literary device to try and attract readers to this post, perhaps permitting me to disappoint a whole new audience.

Despite my earlier denial, I do have a real interest in pianists, largely as I wish to become one.  Sadly, the idea that 10,000 hours of practice will deliver condign mastery of any skill is somewhat overstated – involving as it does extrapolation from a rather small and unrepresentative sample.  Even were it true, at my current rate of practice, 10,000 hours would require me to significantly exceed any human lifespan outside of those recorded in the Old Testament (which may not be a wholly reliable source).  I always intend to practise more, but somehow I never seem to have the time – or if I do have the time, lack the mental horsepower (watts?) to achieve very much.  I have reached the stage where not only do I have to use all ten fingers, but that regularly more than two need to be actively engaged at once.  This is very taxing on the middle-aged brain – I am never entirely sure whether my endeavours are helping to keep senility at bay, or are merely illustrating just how far it has already advanced.

Anyway, I recently found myself seeing the same pianist in two somewhat distant UK cities in a two week period.  Luckily, I think I was somewhat camouflaged by the crowd of other keen piano-fans filling the concert-halls of West Road and Turner Simms – so I don’t think she will have noticed.  As a result, I remain at liberty to pursue my 88-string fetish.

The pianist in question was the excellent Imogen Cooper and, given my butterfly mind, I did find myself wondering whether there is another pianist – just called Imogen or Imogen One – who is wheeled out for less sporty repertoire than Schumann and Schubert?  Cheaper to buy and insure, but poorer acceleration through an arpeggio and would top-out at allegretto.

Yes, sorry, this whole post was to introduce a weak joke about the work of John Cooper, augmenter of small cars that really barrel along (there, a bonus pun for you!).