In need of a hive?

These past few days, Bs have been playing a rather significant part in my life.  For those of you reading this post in person, I am clearly referring to the letter B, rather than to the social insect – however, I assume that most serious readers will have hired a decent Shakespearean actor to read the blog aloud to them, perhaps with their breakfast kedgeree (well, it offers that additional gravitas that GofaDM, if not deserves then certainly needs).  Effectively, in a nod to Sesame Street, today’s post is brought to you by the letter B.

With the second letter of the Roman alphabet uppermost in my mind, the little grey cells started a-whirring.  If Spears were to produce a version of their best-selling board game tailored for the ventriloquist community, presumably the letter B would be worth significantly more points than in the standard English version of Scrabble (whilst G would be lucky to score a single point).  Gut, I gigress…

The last few days I have been enjoying many of the musical offerings of the “main” Festival – and there have been a lot of Bs involved.  Bach, Bartok, Beethoven and Britten have all been performed for my listening pleasure – and have all been excellent.  The standard of classical music I’ve seen from the EIF over the years has been consistently very high – either down to their standards or my skilled selection (you decide).  As is so common with B (especially in this blog), S has also been in close attendance – a pair of Schus – “bert” and “mann” – plus Symanowski.  There was also some Mozart and Tippett – but they are harder to fit into my selected paradigm.

I have once again been reminded of what a stunning pianist Piotr Anderszewski is – apparently, according to another concert-goer, he is a bit of a dish too!  I’ve also had my first exposure to Britten’s War Requiem – rather appropriate in this centenary year – which is a very powerful piece.  As a result, I learned that I do not give good “interview” having been harrowed both emotionally and physically (the upper circle of the Hall of the House of Usher – as I insist on calling it – has the best acoustics but minimal legroom) for 90 minutes – so I hope my incoherent response to the piece is safely languishing on the cutting-room floor by now.  I presume I was picked out as I am so relatively youthful compared to most of the audience at such events – in fact, whenever I see empty seats at an otherwise sold-out event, I do worry that the seat holder has passed beyond the veil between booking and attendance.

I’ve also noticed that mobile phones are far more likely to go off inappropriately in a classical music concert at the Queen’s Hall than they are at a comedy gig.  Is this down to the difference in age or social class of the audience?  Or is it the terror of being picked on by a comedian?  In an episode of White Collar, Mozzie has a device which can block mobile signals over a modest area – assuming this is not fictitious, I’d have one deployed in every entertainment venue.  Actually, I’d quite like to open a cafe/cake shop where not only is there no wifi but all mobile signals are blocked as well. It would act as a welcome haven from the desperate pace of modern life and offer a brief respite from the electronic surveillance of our lives.  Can one purchase lead wallpaper, I wonder?  Or would tin foil be enough?  I feel an experiment coming on…

Looking back over this post, it does have rather too many “gags” that only work if read aloud – so, let’s have a final one.  So full of Bs has my week been, that one day I even had lunch at a restaurant named The Apiary.  Speaking of which, am I the only person who wishes that apes were kept in a beeary?

Quotable, moi?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been going to the Nuffield Theatre to see Tonight at 8:30 – a sequence of nine one-act plays written by Nöel Coward.  They were presented in three groups of three and the first set really did start at 8:30 – subsequent batches started at 7:30, I think due to audience pressure for an earlier finish which I can’t see Nöel approving (but perhaps he was more keen on an early night than I imagine).

I’ve enjoyed Mr C’s songs for some time, but this was my first exposure to his plays.  I enjoyed most of them – preferring the comic ones to their more serious siblings, though one of the latter was the basis for the film Brief Encounter.  Pleasingly, characters were often terribly brittle and terribly witty (I hope you read those last words in an appropriate accent) – but there were also a couple of unexpected working-class themed plays.  In several, characters break into song for no particularly obvious reason – prefiguring Mamma Mia and its ilk by a good 80 years – but generally I feel they hold up very well and remaining entertaining.  On the subject of predicting the future, in one play a large cast of characters largely ignores one another to converse with characters-unseen via the telephone – admittedly, this was a landline but it did go to show that technology changes people far less than we like to imagine.

Last night, I found myself setting next to a lady who was writing a piece for The Times about whether Coward is still relevant to a modern audience.  As we had (sort of) been introduced as she made her way past me to her seat and given my convenient proximity she interviewed me for the piece in the intervals.  Obviously, I was pleased to be considered relevant to a piece on a “modern” audience: amazing what dim lighting can do for a chap!  Luckily, I am more than willing to bang-on at any audience (or in the case of this blog, little or no audience) and so had no difficulty rustling up some opinions which she rapidly attempted to capture in short-hand (or, perhaps, just really bad handwriting).  She seemed pleased with the mini-interviews and said that I was “very quotable”.  So, you may see my name in the Thunderer at some point in the future – the final nail in the coffin of a once august publication.

Very quotable, eh?  Those of you who have mocked this blog, clearly didn’t realise the pearls that were being cast before you.  I have this from a professional writer!  Perhaps my dream of being the Oscar Wilde de nos jours (or at least the Neal Caffery) is not entirely dead.  Weeeee. “Clear!”  Bang. (For the assistance of those who find it difficult to follow my train of thought – warning: it derailed many years ago – you should just have imagined defibrillator pads being applied to my dream).  At the very least, Nigel Rees has to retire one day and I must be a shoo-in for the vacant chair of Quote, Unquote.

Clearly, I will be quite impossible from here on in and my ego is now so inflated that I have needed to widen all the doors in the flat – though that may have more to do with the width of my manly shoulders or my general inability to manoeuvre my body successfully through standard doorframes given my inherited clumsiness (you decide).  I did ponder whether I should continue to hurl my bon mots into the void for free, but ultimately decided I could not abandon you, my adoring public.

How do you feel?

I had grown used to the conclusion of any sporting endeavour being followed by a microphone being stuffed under the nose of the winner.  The poor chap, or chapess, is then asked how they feel – usually before they have had a chance to draw breath, and often before they have actually stopped moving.  The answers are seldom revelatory: after winning, all seem to evince some degree of pleasure in the result and could probably truthfully admit to being rather knackered (though the latter is not often mentioned).  I have yet to hear anyone admit to a deep feeling of existential angst or question the relevance of their recent activity (and the years of training which led up to it).  In fact, it seems to me that we could take the answer to the question as read – and not bother asking it in the first place.

Those who do not win are allowed slightly longer to frame an answer to the same question (basically, they can think while the winner is answering), but sadly this time is rarely put to good use, with the same platitudes being trotted out time after time.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise – we do not, after all, watch (and indirectly pay) the sporting for their searing philosophical or emotional insights or, in some cases, even their ability to string together a coherent sentence.  Equally, we do not expect our great philosophers, playwrights and poets to complete the 100m dash in under 10 seconds – though I fear it may only be a matter of time before such an event is televised for our viewing pleasure.

I’m sure when I were a lad, the athletically-inclined were allowed to be good at their sport and not expected to speak in public (unless they wanted to) – so I think this must be a new ‘idea’.  However, so ‘successful’ has it been that it has not remained limited to the sporting arena – or the much older sphere of the grieving relative.

I’ve just been watching coverage of the Proms on BBC4, and have discovered that soloists and conductors are subjected to the same treatment as our athletes.  As they walk off stage, they are ‘nabbed’ to find out how they feel – and, their answers are only slightly more illuminating than those of the sporting.  Whilst the musical have probably used less energy than an athlete (though in most cases will have been performing for longer), they tend not to be in such good shape, and so they also tend to be somewhat breathless and have not generally spent their recent performance preparing answers to inane questions.

Could I suggest to interviewers that if the answer to the question is blindingly obvious (or the question is clearly inane), then don’t bother asking it!