Perchance to dream

I should perhaps start by stating that I have no real reason to predict my imminent demise: though I shall leave you, the reader, to decide whether my toes will soon be turning up and my clack rattled.

Looking at the weather forecast, I could be swept or blown away today: a particular concern given my rather high surface area to mass ratio.  I’m also struggling to shift some form of cold-like infection from my lungs – and yesterday’s cold snap, brief though it was, did little to help – but I’m not expecting this to carry me off.  Similarly, there is no reason to believe that the multiple cuts to my right hand incurred attempting to form chilli-chocolate truffles (or Frankenkugeln as I have named them) with a melon baller are life threatening: merely annoying.

Nor am I planning to indulge in any unusually risky activities in the near term.  I will not, for example, be sharing a photo of my sweetheart with any trench-mates while claiming that we plan to be wed as soon as this war is over and I return to Blighty/Omaha, probably before Christmas.  I may be an idiot but I am no fool…

No, the primary intimation of impending mortality was the decision of my rather tired brain, bouncing as it was between insomnia and hypnogogia, to flash my entire life before my (closed) eyes.  Well, I say ‘my entire life’ but large chunks had clearly been forgotten beyond recall and some rather curious editorial decisions had been made about the memories that were retained.  A largely uneventful walk home from Honor Oak Park to Crystal Palace in the early 90s was given far more screen time than it justified while more major life, and interesting, events were rather rushed through.  The replay also took place in an order far from chronological: which was somewhat confusing to me and would have been incomprehensible to any other viewer.  I shall not be allowing my subconscious to write, edit or direct my life story!

My actions in many parts of this showreel were frankly mystifying to the current me, but were true (insofar as any memory can be thought of as true) records of past events.  I was struck by how useless and unworldly the young me was: which contrasts rather unfavourably with the young people I know today.  Other memories suggested a stronger strand of consistency in the self than I usually recognise: despite overcoming much of my original programming, I have changed less than I sometimes like to imagine.

In popular fiction, such a flashback – poorly constructed as it was – should be an almost immediate precursor to the sweet embrace of death.  However, in my case, I have had time to get up, eat breakfast, carry out some work for my employers and now write a blog post and still seem to be numbered among the quick.  Either this is another oddly vivid and detailed – and very dull – memory being recalled or this veil of tears may be stuck with me for longer than I was expecting.  In the latter case, I can only apologise for raising your hopes…

 

Transience

I have reached that stage in life when the last of the famous faces from my childhood are shuffling off their mortal coils.  At some level, this does feel somewhat as though my childhood itself is dying – though, in other ways, my inner child remains strong and vital.  Perhaps surprisingly given my current incarnation, it is not the loss of the musicians of my youth that affects me but people from the television and radio.  In my quondam days, music was little more than background (so far as I can recall), the main elements of my life were books (mostly speculative fiction), radio comedy and the television – mostly watching shows that will not have stood the test of time (and which I shall be careful not to re-watch to preserve the pleasures of my youth unsullied by the greater discernment of my middle age).

It was a few weeks ago that we lost Peter Firman, the last of the founders of Smallfilms, whose animated treasures were such a highlight of my early years.  This drove me to YouTube to seek out the first episode of Noggin the Nog and the Tales of the Northlands in which he starred.  This pre-dated even me – I must have seen rather later repeats – but even after more than 40 years it was so familiar and I had never forgotten Graculus.  I’m sure everyone has fond feelings for the television of their early years but I feel there was something particularly special and charming about the work of Smallfilms that later generations were denied.

Of course, with YouTube in front of me and my brain soused in nostalgia, I couldn’t leave it at just watching Noggin.  Eventually, I found myself watching one of the weirdest cartoons of my youth: Ludwig.  Adult me was unsurprised to discover that it was the brainchild of a Czech animator but I did find it much more luridly coloured than I remembered (probably because we only had a black and white television).  For those too young to recall this odd treat, Ludwig was some sort of admixture of an alien, Inspector Gadget, Loki and a classical music-loving egg who arrives unannounced in a forest and disrupts the life of its inhabitants.

It was only last week that we lost Jacqueline Pearce who played Servalan and Blake’s 7 and made such an impression on my pre-teen years.  Looking back, she was an extraordinarily strong female character for late 70s science fiction and rocked a rather unconventional look for the BBC of that era.  I can’t help wondering if she bears some (perhaps quite a lot of) responsibility for whatever feminist credentials I actually possess as she was an early example of a powerful woman (Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation, no less) with her own style – and it would be a very brave (and probably short-lived) character who would criticise her for it.

The deaths of these famous folk, many of whom are forever young in my memories, has helped to highlight the temporal distance from my childhood.  The feeling of having lived too long (in some ways only – no-one needs to stage an intervention or keep me away from sharp objects) has also been occurring more frequently of late.  I often find myself in front of the bathroom mirror of a morning thinking, “What, again?!”.  I think this is mostly down to the repetitions of life, and especially the need to constantly service the meat puppet which I have still failed to transcend.  I mean you feed it or shave it or wash it (or whatever) for the nth time (for large n) knowing full well that you’ll just have to do it again in a few hours/days.  By 52, there are certain activities that one has done too often to the same fleshy envelope and I find myself wanting some novelty.  Sadly, the technology does not exist for a full body transplant and I think I’m too old – and lack the inclination (and the wardrobe) – to transition to another gender.  I suppose I could get a tattoo or a piercing – but I am as inconstant as the wind and don’t really trust myself to want to keep the same image/text/hole into the medium (let alone the longer) term: I suppose I could have it somewhere I can’t see but that might rather defeat the purpose.

As well as the “What, again?!” moments during my brief, daily, dalliance with a reflecting surface there are also the “Not you again!” moments.  When I was young, I was more than happy with my own company – I guess my novelty value had yet to wear off – and while I had friends at school never really interacted with them outside the school grounds.  In many ways, this broad approach to life continued to my mid twenties and the introduction of alcohol into my life and, more significantly, my bloodstream.  I would then go to the pub with friends, have people over for dinner and occasionally cultural activities would be introduced.  This was broadly how my life continued into my forties, enjoying having a social life with friends but otherwise living a solitary life with cultural activities generally enjoyed alone.  If I spent a whole weekend with other people, I would have fun but be glad to return to my own space and company: though for a brief period would miss the stimulation other people provided.

At some stage, while living in Cambridge, I started going much more regularly to events (mostly classical music concerts and comedy gigs) at a small number of venues – something which started by accident when I went to see a friend of my parents whose orchestra was playing in town.  I enjoyed myself and the West Road concert hall became a regular haunt.  This meant that I tended to encounter the same people on multiple occasions and so got to know them.  However, it is since being in Southampton that this process has really taken off.  I can now have dozens of friends I see regularly around the city and can rarely leave the house without bumping into someone I know.  It is a lovely thing to be able to go out and expect (without planning anything) to meet friends: though it does rather eat into my reading time.

I think that my friends are becoming a much more important part of my life.  It is not entirely clear why, perhaps I am finally maturing emotionally?  It is not impossible as, relatively recently, after reading still falling by Sara Hirsch, I started to understand why people might want to enter into a relationship with another human: better late than never, eh?  I think I may have said this before, but think carefully before you read poetry: you never know how it might change you!

However, my preferred theory is that I am now bored of myself – I have lived with, what is conventionally thought of as, the same person for more than 52 years and the honeymoon period is definitely over.  I now find myself dreading having to spend a whole day – or worse evening – with only myself for company.  It’s fine if I have work or something else constructive (or which I deem constructive – which is not the same thing at all!) to do, but if I am free of responsibilities the prospect of being stuck with myself is not as appealling as once it was (more appalling).  Could this be an explanation for GofaDM?  Is it all a terrible attempt to escape my own company by inflicting it on the unsuspecting internet?  Does the fact that in recent months I have had loads of human contact, including more hugs on some days than the preceding four decades had delivered in total (I assume my childhood was hug-rich, but sadly cannot remember whether this is the case at all), mean that I had less need for this blog and explain my recent neglect?

Having said that I fill myself with a feeling of ennui, current me is way more interesting and entertaining company than past mes.  I really wouldn’t want to be stuck in a room with teenage or early twenties me – in fact, in many ways I’m not convinced that we are the same person at all.  Just because I share some faded and distorted versions of his memories, his genotype and a decayed version of his phenotype does not mean we are the same person.  This does lead to the thought that “future me” will disavow “current me”: though will be stuck with a lot of written proof of his existence.  I suppose everything is transient (though no-one has yet seen a proton or electron fall apart – so far as I know) and we should try and enjoy it, and the self doing the enjoying, while it lasts – and not worry overly much about the judgments that will be made by our future selves (they will always lack a certain perspective).

Without me

This post will enter dangerous new territory to consider a world without the author.  The whole ethos of this blog is structured around the centrality of the author to his own little world and the implicit assumption that this view is shared by a wider demographic.  The unexpected number (i.e. the fact it exceeds zero) of visitors to my digital domain has only worked to reinforce my opinion that my life, ramblings and bad jokes are far more important than could be justified by a more reasonable, objective measure.  The last post (not the Bb bugle call, but the post whose production directly preceded this one when viewed from the light-cone of the author) has proved alarmingly popular: though I would explain this by reference to its sharing be a young(er) person, rather than by ascribing any particular merit to it.

I cannot be alone, among those who have accepted that they are not (and would not wish to be) immortal, in wondering how the world (and indeed, the wider multi-verse) will muddle along without my presence.  I strongly suspect it will be fine (or at least largely unaffected for good or ill – fine might be overstating matters given recent current affairs) when the long awaited decree absolute in the divorce between me and my mortal coil is finally granted.  I have worked hard to ensure (OK, have wandered through life in such a way) that any ripples that I make in the pond of existence have minimal amplitude and soon dissipate.  The odd pub, cake shop and cultural venue may notice a brief dip in income but I like to imagine that they will survive my demise.  Though, frankly, once I’ve paid by obols to Charon and taken my terminal boat trip, you’re on your own folks!  My responsibilities (and insomnia) will be at an end!

Obviously, as part of my departure I shall be establishing a series of amusing (hopefully, flaming) hoops for those who wish to inherit my billions (currency to be confirmed) to jump through.  I fully intend for my will and funeral to be as far from plain vanilla as I can legally accomplish: is a tontine still possible?  I want them to be discussed for years to come as simultaneously a high and low watermark in the art of dying.  I want Hollywood to be fighting over the 18 certificate movie rights!  I want outrage in the Daily Mail and the Socialist Worker!  Actually, I’m making this sound rather good: I may have to fake my own death just to enjoy my funeral and the reading of my will.  I knew there was a good reason for moving closer to the sea!

You may wonder why GofdDM has suddenly taken a turn to the macabre or morbid. Others may, long ago, have decided that beneath the shallow veneer of self-obsessed whimsy it is darkness all the way down.  I couldn’t possibly comment on this theory, but am quite pleased that you might imagine that anything at all lies below intellectual shallows displayed in this forum.  However, there have been a couple of recent events which have made me realise that elements of my life continue without me.  Also, the previous post considered my position if a huge proportion of humanity were to be wiped out, so it only seemed fair to consider the position of the rest of humanity if it should (contrary to all natural justice) be that me that bites the bullet!

earth without me

The earth without me – spot the difference!

A much earlier post established that one of my nicknames appeared to by living an existence independent of me – and I like to imagine that this has continued.  However, this was merely a world 2 object (to mis-use the work of Karl Popper) and recent events relate to world 1 objects.

Of late, the National Blood Service has started to send me texts identifying where my blood goes after it has been donated.  To be honest, I’d prefer a postcard – but I will admit that their budget is probably better spend on their core business of blood collection and distribution.  When I say where it goes, they don’t send me the name, address and vital statistics of the recipient, merely the hospital where it was returned to a human host (or, depending on your point of view, first introduced to a human host).  Donation 92 went to Frimley Park – I place the rest of me has never visited – and donation 93 to Stafford (which I have visited but once).  It has been good to see that once it has left its fleshy prison (something which it seems increasingly keen to do given the rapidity with which my lie-down is overtaken by lemon squash and biscuits), my blood is getting out and about and exploring the country.  If only it retained some psychic link to its original home, I could deal with the challenge of too many gigs to attend and only one body to do the attending.  Equally, were it to be given to an EU national (something I would encourage, it would be nice to think a small part of me is living in Paris or Barcelona), could I reverse-inherit an EU passport?  Would any of the new host’s skills somehow rub off on me?  I fear I may have jumped the Lamarkian shark here and will stop before my scientific credentials are completed destroyed.

I am (tomorrow) going off to the Cambridge Folk Festival.  This will be my first, real multi-day festival which is likely to involve a field and mud: though I do feel a muddy field makes a more appropriate substrate for folk music than it does for grime or emo (to name but two).  Wish me luck, I may need it!  I am not camping, but staying in the relative luxury of student halls – and if it all gets too much for me, I can easily retreat into the city and its own cultural delights.  So, I like to think this is very much a halfway house to full festival-going and an approach commensurate with the dignity of a man of my advanced years (though clearly not to me, I have largely outlived both my dignity and my shame by this point.  They have very much played the same sacrificial role in my life that a painting did in that of Dorian Gray).

While I am away, my guitar will be gigging without me.  Interestingly, it has never gigged with me – though today I did use a capo for the first time (and my capo is very fine, a real capo di tutti capi) and learned to bend.  Nevertheless, I am far from ready to take to the stage – unless you wish to clear a venue – so I am leaving it the hands of a far more capable performer.  I feel that it is good for my instrument to get some proper gig experience in -well before its owner.  It’s probably best if we don’t both have first gig nerves at the same time – and I’m pretty sure I can internalise enough stress for the both of us.

So, even while I’m very much alive (or am I?) my possessions and even my very substance are already learning to live without me.  I suspect there is an important lesson here about our own unimportance – even in our own home and as its sole resident.  But I shall leave that for my readers to draw, I’m having fun here in the shallows!

Sobering thoughts

Fear not, I shall not be boring you with tales of my seasonal flirtation with temperance.  Like the weather, I have eschewed the concept of a ‘dry January’, though I haven’t been quite so contrary.  As I cycled to PlayDate on Wednesday evening, I couldn’t help but think that a kayak or punt might have been a more practical transport choice.

No, I shall instead be boring you with thoughts around the terrifying proximity of death.  Fear not, I’m not expecting to be visited by a slender chap with a scythe any time soon – for a start, I’m really not famous enough for my number to be up during the current month.  Cancer does seem to be cutting a rather broad swathe through the famous who have accompanied me through my life to date.  Some had major roles and others were more minor players, but their departure from the stage of life has left me at least somewhat bereft.  I suppose at my age I probably need to come to terms with an increase in players leaving stage left, even those not pursued by a bear.  Perhaps it is a part of human nature (or maybe just mine) but there is more emotion associated with the unpicking of one of the threads from the tapestry of our lives, than there is when a new thread is added.  I keep finding myself reminded of a couple of lines from Lord Foul’s Bane:

Death reaps the beauty of the world–
bundles old crops to hasten new.

by Stephen Donaldson: never more so than this morning, as a TOG of many years standing.

In a mere four weeks, I attain what is considered to be a significant age: with the same score, in a different field, I would raise my bat aloft to a smattering of applause from the pavilion.  However, before we go any further, I should make clear that I don’t feel my age – or what I presume my age is supposed to feel like.  I may not be quite as smooth-skinned as was once the case, my hair increasingly refuses to have any truck with melanin and the accommodation in my eyes has reached the stage where even Foxton’s would be embarrassed to describe it as a one bed apartment, but I am fitter than I have ever been and am suffering from no obvious loss of functionality (and would claim some gains).  I continue to act as I always have done – but now with added hanging upside down.

Nevertheless, my cultural activities of a couple of weekends ago did give me pause for thought (though I shall resist creating a tenuous link to religion, for once).  In the afternoon, I went to see Nuffield Youth Theatre‘s brilliant production of Girls Like That: defying the notion that audiences only want to see people like themselves on stage or screen.  This may come as a shock (so steady yourselves), but I am not now, nor have ever been, a teenage girl – the demographic making up the entire, twenty-strong cast – and nor do I expect my future to hold the promise of teenage-girlhood.  Neverthless, the production was wonderful and those in charge of our television schedule might be interested to know that you can have twenty people on stage (and not so much as a hint of a Y-chromosome) without the end of the days being announced by the final trump (I believe that particular event is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic) and an equestrian quartet.

Before the play started, I was supporting the arts by partaking of a bottle of beer (it’s not that I want to you understand, I see it as my duty in these times of austerity) and, as is so often the case, chatting with the youthful barman.   In my head, I clearly think that I am roughly the same age as your typical undergraduate – just with a more detailed and personal knowledge of the 1970s. – and I have, of course, been a barman.

In the evening, I went to see the glorious Alessandro Taverna (Alex Pub, in English) perform at the pianoforte.  I saw him several years ago in Cambridge (before he was famous, assuming that he now is) and he was just as brilliant as I remembered.  As so often at classical music, a significant portion of the audience were eighty, if they were a day.  As I was musing about finding myself in the lowest quartile (decile even) of ages once again, a terrible thought struck me.

I am closer in age to most of the pensioners in that audience than I was to young James who’d served my (nearly) pint earlier in the day.  Arghhh!

Some mistake, surely?  I suspect the reason this seemed so improbable to me is that my mental age is becoming an ever diminishing fraction of my chronological one.  I think the former may have become ‘stuck’ at some time in my teens.  I made it through 2015 without petrol, let’s see if I can make it through the remainder of this life untroubled by adulthood…

Death and taxes

Before we begin the post proper, I should warn you that the author is feeling rather pleased with himself (verging on smug) and, even more worryingly, seems to be referring to himself in the third person.  The reason for the former will become clear in due course, the reasons for the latter you will have to decide for yourself.

As the title suggests, today’s post will tackle universal themes in an attempt to broaden the appeal of GofaDM.  Working backwards (through the title), in the UK, as the beginning of April looms, we are told that “tax doesn’t have to be taxing” – most recently, so far as I know, by Moira Stuart (unless someone else has captured this highly desirable gig).  For rather more than a decade, the splendid folk of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Personal Tax Service have managed my interactions with HMRC – helping to avoid unwanted interactions with HMP and fines, despite my occasionally erratic approach to the process.  However, for reasons unknown, the RBS have decided to abandon this nice, safe business – perhaps to spend more time on its core business of irresponsible gambling?  Anyway, this leaves me to worry about the future earnings of the lovely people who have been looking after me over the years and to find a new accountant to take over the keeping of me on the straight-and-narrow tax-wise.

I have decided to go local with my new accountants, so rather than a remote presence by phone or mail, I can be a real physical nuisance invading their lives.  Their offices are a mere 5 minutes stroll from my urban garret – so it will be all too easy to drop-in unannounced (though obviously, in an ideal world, I’d prefer to place my card on a silver tray and then be formally announced by a suitably-attired butler).  Anyway, in the sunshine of yesterday afternoon I wandered up the road to drop off the paper formalising our new relationship – thus saving the cost of a stamp and any post-related delays.  As I was already halfway to the Common, I continued on my way for a stroll through managed countryside and to check on the progress of Spring.  The season was making satisfactory progress and so I rewarded myself with an ice-cream cornet for my fiscal prudence and supervisory acumen.  I have decided that in future all tax-related correspondence will be carried by hand (either left or right) on a sunny day, so that the messenger can enjoy a walk and an ice cream – which brings a whole new meaning to having plain-vanilla tax affairs.

To maximise the chance of the availability of sunny days, it seemed wise not to leave preparing the data for my tax return until the last minute (and winter).  So, given the rather wet and windy weather today in Southampton I have spent the morning compiling all the information needed for my tax return.  This represents a personal best for me, time-wise – hence, a portion of my smugness.  Well, almost all my tax affairs are in order: “the man” has yet to render unto Caeser (or even me) his P11D – and apparently may not do so until the second half of July (I guess these things can’t – or won’t – be hurried).  Still, when it does finally come I shall be ready and, on the first ice-cream friendly day thereafter (though readers should bear in mind I did have an ice-cream on the seafront at Bexhill on Boxing Day), I shall deliver my tax documents to my accountants.

However, that isn’t all.  Oh no!  Not only did I sort out my tax this morning but, for the first time in my life, I took a proper grip on the disposition of my pension.  I rather feared I was over-invested in the UK – and found these fears were extremely well grounded (even more so than expected).  So, time for a little geographical diversification of my risk.  Luckily (though this is no coincidence), I have prepared the groundwork for this using the advice from another bright chap with time on his hands (OK , a bright chap with …) and the excellent advice of John Kay.  Mr Kay’s advice came in his book The Long and Short of It (subtitled “finance and investment for normally intelligent people who are not in the industry”) which despite the subtitle I found very informative (and amusing): it is also, by some distance, the pinkest think I own.

All of this sudden lurching towards financial responsibility was complete by half-past one – and that included time to make and eat my lunch – which explains my cat-like self-satisfaction (however, I did shower in the traditional manner, rather than licking myself clean).  At this rate, I may even be able to pass for an adult by the time I draw my pension – assuming I make it that far (the date does seem to have been receding faster than I’m approaching it of late).

What about death, you may ask?  Well, as part of my pre-cornet stroll around the Common, I took a small diversion and had a stroll around Southampton Old Cemetery.  I have to say that it provides all you could want in a graveyard by daylight (it is positively archetypal), and can only hope that at dusk a mysterious mist (and nothing else) rises from the ground.  A salutary reminder, perhaps, of where all this financial responsibility will lead and a useful counterbalance to my current elevated levels of smug.  But, more importantly, it provided a second unavoidable element of life with which to grace the title.

How it ends

I’m sure many readers have found themselves wondering when my inevitable demise will spare them from further ruminations on my life and times.  A few may even have considered hastening this happy day – which seems a tad extreme as (I assume) no-one is forced to read this drivel.  However, if there is anyone dressed entirely in orange being subjected to this as an alternative to water-boarding then I apologise unreservedly.

Well, I am sorry to report that despite my “career” in forecasting, I am unable to provide a date and time when the author will shuffle off his mortal coil.  I believe this blindness on the subject of one’s own future is not uncommon among those cursed with the power of prophecy – I seem to recall Cassandra was similarly afflicted, and like me, no-one believed her doom-laden visions of the future either.

I have for some time known the most likely cause of my death: bloody-mindedness (mine, though another’s may also be involved) which whilst it may not be inscribed on the certificate as the actual medical cause of my demise will certainly have been the “inciting incident”.  Today, I discovered how I will physically prepare for the end.

Attempting to be a gymnast at my advanced age does mean that from time-to-time attempted manoeuvres go a little awry on the first (or even nth) attempt.  When one’s body is falling through space to an inevitable collision with the ground, I believe the natural response is to assume the foetal position to protect one’s vitals.  I have discovered that I do not do this.  So highly trained am I that I keep my entire body perfectly straight and rigid – a look not unlike that of a fleshy bean-pole – and maintain this throughout the fall (well, you lose points for bending or folding in the wrong place).  I also tend to close my eyes – for, as we all know, what you can’t see can’t hurt you.  (Yes, I know you can’t see gravity even with your eyes open, but it isn’t the gravity that hurts but the impact with the ground occasioned by its operation.)  So, whatever else happens it is reassuring to know that as I rattle my clack, my core will be fully engaged.  My nearest-and-dearest should invest in a full-length coffin as at my point of departure I will be at my maximum length and, unless promptly folded, rigor mortis will maintain me at that size until inhumed (or inflamed).

Culture vulture

The “Arts” worry about being elitist and how to attract the young and/or ethnic (in particular) to partake of their wares.  I was once young, though never very ethnic or elite (and two of these three things haven’t changed), but do now partake of quite a wide range of the Arts – so if I knew how this came to pass (and if – a very big if – my “journey” is a guide to that of others) I could be in line to make a decent living providing advice to the aforementioned “Arts”.  Sadly, I’m not really sure how it happened – as a child my primary activities were reading and listening to radio comedy (though never both, it just doesn’t work).  Pleasingly, both could be done in the warm, dryness of indoors and while prone on my bed.  I do recall occasional visits to local productions of Gilbert and Sullivan – but that was all I can remember of the Arts from my formative years.  Perhaps I just formed unusually late?  It could explain why I remain rather childish…

Actually, not all the Arts worry about being either elitist or attracting the young – or at least, they save any hand-wringing on this score to be performed behind firmly closed doors.  Current popular music (in its widest sense: which seems to be music that is neither classical or jazz and which is of a style once aimed at teenagers) seems unconcerned – and makes few concession to attracting the grey, or even middle-aged, pound.  I feel far more out of place when I go to see such music than I do when I go to soi-disant “high” culture – despite the age gap between me and the more typical audience member being roughly the same (albeit in the opposite direction).  I don’t know why – perhaps it is easier to be the youngest person in the audience than the oldest?  This sounds worryingly ageist – and as we older folk do most of the voting around here, something should be done about it!  Mosh seating, anyone?

Right, that’s the preamble over – let us settle down to the diary-based meat (or TVP) of this post.  As last week drew to its inevitable, but nonetheless welcome, conclusion I spent three successive nights enjoying culture – and this was all at some remove from the science fiction, radio comedy and G&S of my youth.

I started with cinema and Fyodor Dostoyevsky – or at least an adaptation of The Double, directed by Richard Ayoade.  This was my third attempt at Mr D’s oeuvre: a previous reading of Crime and Punishment and an Estonian cinematic-take on The Idiot had gone down rather poorly, not to say painfully (though I did stick with both until the bitter and depressing end).  The Double was rather good – and even contained actual laughs – and at no stage did I wish to leave or be overtaken by the sweet bliss of unconsciousness.

Day two, and we moved west from Russia to Germany and from cinema to the theatre.  An adaptation of Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind at the Nuffield.  This was jolly good, if rather under-attended, and continued the mix of fun and depression.  Whilst the adaptation had clearly updated the play – I doubt mobile phones and laptops figured in the 1906 original unless Herr W was a much better forecaster than I – the themes remained all too relevant after more than a century.  As a species, we seem rather better at technological progress than social.

Day three, and I stayed with Germany – though adding something closer to home to the mix – and moved from the theatre to choral music.  A concert by the Esterhazy Chamber Choir of Parry’s Songs of Farewell followed by Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem.  I’d been meaning to go to a concert of the Brahms for 20+ years – sometimes I can take a while to implement my plans (so if you’re still waiting, do not despair) – but despite the decades of anticipation the piece did not disappoint.  What a stunning piece of music – and well worth the wait to ensure that my first experience was of a live performance!

After this triumvirate of events, I realised that like a true vulture of culture I had surrounded myself – at least thematically – with death (apologies to any readers for which this comes as somewhat of a spoiler, but I feel that after a century I’m allowed to give away vague plot details).  I have become a consumer of cultural carrion.  I think it must be time for some culture with a sunnier disposition, less I become sucked into a black slough (or nearby Eton) of despond.