Apple carnage

Yesterday, I went up to London for a little theatrical fun.  Partly because this may soon become trickier with rail strikes on the cards, but mostly because Southwest Trains were offering a special offer fare: £12 return rather than the usual nearly £40 (I could also have taken some children for £1 each, but I lack my own and felt that abducting someone else’s would probably cause problems down the line†).  Southampton may only be 50% further from London than Sawston, but rail fares are approaching 200% higher – so this was quite a good deal (or the normal fare is quite a poor deal – and, on balance, the latter statement may be the more apposite).  The special offer does not include access to the services of TfL, so in the spirit of thrift I chose venues within easy (for me) walking distance of Waterloo.

I started at the National and a matinée of George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem.  This was huge fun – a comedy from more than 300 years ago, written by a man who was both destitute and dying, which is still laugh-out-loud funny.  I can’t even manage that today, whilst enjoying both good health and reasonable economic circumstances.  It also boasts some decent female roles – something many a more modern piece lacks.  The Olivier has a number of advantages as a venue, including excellent sight-lines which allows one to go for a cheaper seat without loss of amenity.  Even better, it’s economics do allow a play to run with a larger cast than my usual more fringe or regional haunts permit – and, very pleasingly, the production ran to five live musicians (for the avoidance of doubt, they were not discussing the football).  Finally, the refreshing of the NT’s public spaces – whilst incomplete – does seem to have made it feel rather more welcoming, which I think may be down to improved upholstery.  This did lead me to wonder if we, as a society, have under-estimated the importance of the upholsterer’s art?  Another possible future career for the author?

I then strolled up to 10 Greek Street for sustenance and to pick up some more recipe and cooking tips.  It seems I may need to experiment with passion fruit curd – assuming I can find the ingredients – as its partnership with Gariguette strawberries is simply divine.  Given the limited offerings in the typical supermarket, I may be stuck pairing it with an Elsanta (who, I presume, is the Spanish counterpart to our Father Christmas).

10GS is very handy for the Soho Theatre where I took my second dose of theatre for the day.  The production of The Harvest by Pavel Pryazhko had been recommended by one of my fellow “actors” (actually, he really was an actor) at the Glass Menagerie Playdate (he played Jim, and I’m still not worried).  Screen-based entertainment is often preceded by dire warnings as to its likely content, just in case you are unable to handle infrequent, mild slapstick (to choose but one example).  However, this was the first time I’d seen warnings when booking tickets for the theatre – though they were just as weird.  Before booking, I was warned that this production contained “large amounts of feathers and fresh apples”.  Is a phobia of fresh apples widespread in the populace?  Are apples, like nuts, prone to send the unwary into anaphylactic shock?  Suffice it to say, I was expecting apples – though was prepared to be disappointed – but the show certainly delivers on the apple front!  They are there in quantity both in wooden crates and hanging by strings from above: the last time I saw so many apples in one place was at Cam Valley Orchards (one of the things I miss following my move to the south coast).  According to the play, these were Queen Reinette, also known as Reine de Reinettes or (confusingly) King of the Pippins – this suggests both an unexpected degree of hemaphroditism and a surprisingly close link between Madame de Pompadour and Peregrin Took (one for the geeks, there).  For practical reasons (as will become clear), I would say that the apples used in the production were Bramleys – I suspect sourcing the number of Queen Reinette would have been a challenge (and significantly upped ticket prices).

The play is a pretty dark comedy, and whilst things start happily enough as time goes on an increasing number of the apples are bruised.  Later, apples are entirely destroyed in a number of increasingly violent ways.  One can sometimes forget what a visceral experience theatre can be (even when the viscera in question come from the fruit of Malus domestica) – certainly when compared to screen-based entertainment – and sitting in the front row I jumped more than once and was struck by a few flakes of Bramley (though was missed by more complete examples) – and could certainly have grabbed a few “windfalls” to take home (some residual sense of propriety just about held me back).  Once again, the Nuffield’s outreach had done me proud: the play was well worth-seeing and at an hour long didn’t overstay its welcome and meant I was delivered back to my coastal eyrie at a reasonable hour.  I must admit I am now very keen to source a Reine de Reinettes – and they do keep well (both according to the play and subsequent internet research by yours truly) – but I fear the illusion of choice offered by our supermarkets will deny me my fix.

† Weak pun fully intended.

I’m metablog the eighth, I am, I am.

It struck me that the ever popular metablog strand has not seen any content for a while: two-and-a-half years according to WordPress.  As I’m sure the worldwide howls of protest about this omission will be reaching me momentarily, I decided to act now and throw this hastily prepared and ill thought-out example into the breach.

As I believe was traditional, I will start with the unexpected geographical popularity of a post.  Our ex-colonies over the Atlantic seem to be drawn to Crossrail (a rant where I get cross about the railways in these isles) like cats to the eponymous nip – but for the life of me I cannot see the attraction to those from the US of A.  Maybe it is the novelty value of railways of any form that draws them in?

Whilst on the topic of transport, I can report that my plan to retain a cleaner, redder car has been a success.  Eight weeks in and the car remains almost pristine (the strawberry car) in its new resting place – sadly, it hasn’t moved in that period but another trip to the tip is in the offing and the annual Christmas excursion to see the family (mine, rather than its).

Since eating the flesh of the wascally wabbit last weekend, I fear I may have been possessed by the ghost of Elmer Fudd.  Earlier in the week I found myself reading the label on a bottle of apple juice as wusset (though did avoid saying egwemont wusset).  This infection is spreading, earlier today I found myself saying bwamwey.

I am relieved to report that my lottery prediction was almost entirely inaccurate, though I did get the Bonus Ball spot on!  (If anyone fancies a punt on number 27 tonight, then be my guest).  I can return to my pre-existing beliefs in probability, coincidence and the rather duff nature of the Met Office’s take on the likelihood of precipitation.

I have been forced to further embrace the spirit of Christmas, despite the very real urge to resist the peer pressure.  I have had my first (and second) mince pie of 2014 and more-or-less finished my Christmas shopping without too much pain (and no need to resort to physical violence – still, you can’t have everything!).  Last night, I even went to the Brightside PT Christmas bash – which was fun, though people didn’t engage with the games as much as they might.  I have re-watched Arthur Christmas and I rather think tonight it will be turn of the Muppet Christmas Carol as I attempt to stoke the embers of Christmas spirit within.  I think my inner Scrooge is on the wane.

Spurred on by the success of the Snow Queen, I have even been to another family-friendly play.  As work took me to London on Thursday, I decided to use the opportunity (and funded rail ticket) to enjoy some evening fun and plumped for Treasure Island at the National Theatre.  This choice was driven by its handy location next Waterloo station (good for a relatively early night) but also the somewhat inexplicable availability of a single seat in the centre of the 3rd row for a mere £15 (when all around it seats were £50).  The seat was as close to perfect as one can find at the Olivier, and also allowed a very fast exit in the interval allowing me to nab an ice-cream, despite the substantial numbers of (slower moving) children (and their paying parents).  The production was wonderful and loads of fun – better even than the Muppet version of the tale.  The set (or sets, to be honest) were amazing – there must be vast caverns under the Olivier to store and manoeuvre it all – and there were sword-fights, blood and gore (for the kiddies), laughs galore, an animatronic parrot, far more female characters than Robert Louis Stephenson wrote and a cheese-obsessed Tom Gunn.  What more could anyone seek from a night out?  I think there is a lot more theatrical potential in cheese than is widely realised, should any playwrights happen to be reading..

So, readers can now imagine me as a tinsel be-decked Elmer Fudd with a shiny red car (albeit one without unearned – or wanted – millions of pounds).  It won’t be entirely accurate, but is certainly more festive than the last inaccurate image I offered.


This year seems rather rich in anniversaries – or perhaps I’ve just noticed more of them – though I am still awaiting the JFK, Doctor Who and Benjamin Britten cross-over for which we are so obviously crying out.

Britten, of course, had a productive working relationship with W H Auden through much of the 1930s, so, it is perhaps not surprising that I encountered the pair of them twice over a (long) weekend.

The first encounter was at Turner Sims and covered rather a large number of my interests in a single gig.  We had Britten’s music, the Aurora Orchestra, Auden’s words and the films of the GPO Film Unit – all topped off by the wonderful voice of Samuel West.  I am far more likely to watch a TV documentary – regardless of subject matter – if Mr West is providing the voice over.  I’m not sure what it is about his voice – there’s nothing obviously showy, but it is truly one of the greats.  As a child of radio, I am a fan of a good voice – and that same weekend watching the final episodes of Fringe (a consistently entertaining, if barmy, series) reminded me of what a stunning voice Lance Reddick has (if I had such a voice, I’d be disappointed not to be ruling a significant portion of the earth’s surface).

Some of the films were splendidly dated with some of the most stilted “acting” you will ever see, but others were wonderfully fresh: a silhouette animation to sell Post Office savings was glorious (current advertisements couldn’t hold a candle to it – though may well be more successful at selling stuff).  It was a truly great night out – it even offered a special Britten centenary beer in the interval – but provided almost too much to take in at a single sitting.  It was also rather bittersweet as one film was about the coal industry (now virtually gone, but once a huge employer of men), another about electrification of the line to Portsmouth (with many references to the shipyards which had just received their death notice) and Night Mail (when the post was delivered by train).

The GPO was once a staggering organisation – it was heavily involved in the development of radio and made films which commissioned some of the country’s finest artists in the 1930s.  When I was a boy, it still ran the phone service and a bank.  Gradually, successive governments have whittled it away until the current incumbents recently ended 173 years of public service by flogging it off (for well below its market value) – what an ignominious end to organisation which has brought us so much.  Monolithic organisations have their issues (the lack of a second stone, for one), but I wonder if we have thrown rather too much of the baby out with the bath water and will live to regret it (as we have following so many badly organised privatisations over the years).

My second encounter with the Auden-Britten axis was at the cinema, in my second play beamed “live” from the National Theatre.  This was Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art – provisionally titled AB – dating from 2010 with the late, great Richard Griffiths playing Auden and Alex Jennings playing Britten.  The aspect ratio seemed a little odd, but the play and performance more than justified the recommendation that had sparked my attendance.  This is the third play Bennett has written for the National which I have seen, and if he chooses to write any more I shall try and see those too.

Southampton may not have quite the cultural scene of Cambridge – though may be rather better served for the DJ scene (and other young people’s music, much of which is an arcane mystery to an old codger like myself) – but there is still a lot going on locally and it’s a joy when I can be home less than 15 minutes after the (often metaphorical) curtain comes down.

Film club

Not the most popular flavour of Jacob’s once popular chocolate-coated biscuit, but neither mint nor orange would serve my titular needs.

As mentioned in my last post, whilst in Cambridge at the end of September I took in some of the annual Film Festival.  This was great fun, as ever, and allowed my to renew my acquaintance with the Arts Picturehouse, but offered two particular cinematic delights.

Firstly, I saw Othello transmitted live from the National Theatre – the first time I’d been to see the theatre at the cinema.  This was surprisingly effective and does allow you to get extraordinarily close to the action (and the actors!) and I shall definitely use the cinema to catch plays again (it is even cheaper than the original and would normally involve a rather shorter journey).  The performance of Othello itself was staggering powerful and more than worthy of the five start reviews it had garnered.

My second highlight was a British romantic comedy with the rather improbable title of Dead Cat.  This was enormous fun, not the clichéd nonsense that is so often passed off as romantic comedy, and made for a tiny fraction of the budget.  Since I saw it, it has even won prizes (so, it wasn’t just me that liked it).  Sadly, lacking a major studio the film has no distribution deal and so can only be caught at film festivals – today Cambridge, tomorrow Oaxaca.  It can’t find funding from the BFI as it is not appearing at festivals considered “major” enough and can’t appear there due to the lack of funding.  Given the tosh that weekly fills our multiplexes, I can’t help but feel something is very wrong in the way we fund movies.

My local cinema now, the Harbour Lights, is also part of the Picturehouse group, but is somewhat smaller than its Cambridge counterpart.  It does, however, offer the advantage of reclining seats and a balcony with views across the marina which has been a very pleasant place to partake of a little pre-movie cake (though may become less desirable as winter closes in).

At the Harbour Lights, I have enjoyed a rather fine run of films in recent months with my top tip being What Maisie Knew.  My most recent visit was to see Le Weekend which I was amused to see had been given a 15 certificate.  Given its subject matter I cannot imagine it would be of any possible interest to the under 15s, despite the lure of its fruity language and use of soft drugs.  No, the people who should be kept away are the over-50s who might acquire some highly inappropriate ideas if exposed to the movie’s content.  Perhaps the BBFC could use my input for future classification?

All too often when I do go to the cinema, avoiding the over-hyped blockbuster, the place seems far from full – though this may be as a tendency to visit when normal people are at work.  Nonetheless, I worry that my attendance is not going to keep art house cinema going (despite my economically significant consumption of incidental cake and ice cream).  So, can I exhort the readers of GofaDM to give films whose blocks are far from busted a try – there’s a surprising amount of decent stuff out there, and art house cinema doesn’t even have to be depressing (though it certainly can be, if that is your desire).

Light and shade

I’ve finally decided to produce a home furnishings supplement for GofaDM!  OK, I’ll come clean, I haven’t: though it could be an option if the supply of other ideas runs dry…

The title refers to this past weekend being one of contrasts, for example, while Friday night was spent in the psychedelic company of Django Django, Saturday night was sound-tracked to the more classical strains of the CUMS May Week concert (for the uninitiated, May Week in Cambridge is always in June).  Both took place in an ecclesiastical setting, the latter in the splendour of King’s College Chapel, and both had their percussive elements and were very loud at times.  The latter did not use amplification to achieve this effect: merely a large choir and substantial orchestral forces, including a full organ – at one stage, five cymbals were played(?) simultaneously (and with considerable vigour).  The CUMS programme offered Debussy’s La Mer followed by Hector Berloiz’ Te Deum and allowed me to return to my usual “massive”.  I felt it was particularly important to make the effort to attend as not only were CUMS involved but some of the choir were sourced from my local village college.  As you will discover later (though I had discovered earlier), I did make it needlessly tricky to do so – and Network Rail added their own barriers to success on my way back from the capital – but in the end I made it comfortably on time (in fact, given the extreme wind at my back – weather rather than diet related – I arrived rather earlier than planned).  Whilst I may have attended out of a vague feeling of duty, I was more than repaid by the amazing music on offer.  It was also my first real contact with the Jubilee: we all had to sing God Save the Queen (though only two of the less politically controversial verses, and for my money including a verse which attempts to rhyme the words “cause” and “voice” was pretty controversial) and the Te Deum unusually included its Prelude (not, as you might expect at the beginning) in Liz’s honour.

Earlier in the day, I had taken the train down to London: cycling to the station in sunshine, no less.  As the train rattled south, I spent my time laughing along with the Jon Holmes show on BBC 6Music and playing peek-a-boo with a small, pre-ambulatory child (and trying to work out which of my two entertainers was the more childish).  The child’s minder (mother?) did attempt to distract it with other matters of interest in and around our carriage, but there was no real competition to yours truly.  If only I knew what this strange power was…

I was heading to London to visit the National, but first had to tackle the important issue of lunch.  The regular reader will be unsurprised to learn that I turned to 10 Greek Street, who once again did me proud.  Lunch also produced one of these revelatory moments which occur from time-to-time.  Having swooned at the ricotta parfait on Thursday, I decided to tackle the chocolate terrine this time – and so was forced to ponder the best choice of accompanying dessert wine: hedonistic for lunch-time I know, but it had been a trying week.  The chap behind the zinc bar suggested either madeira or marsala.  As a fan of Flanders and Swann, I feared the results of imbibing madeira that early in the day and so plumped (with a degree of trepidation) for the marsala – a beverage I had only previously used for cooking.  What a marriage made in heaven (or closest atheist equivalent.  Exosphere?): a juxtaposition of buccal sensations that I cannot recommend highly enough!  (I suppose the CofE might object to the marriage given the lack of a Y-chromosome in the married couple, but as they don’t have any Xs either it probably can’t be considered a lesbian liaison).  It is perhaps fortunate that the larder is currently very low on both dark chocolate and marsala – or I might have lost several hours (or days) to sybaritic indulgence.

However, I was in town to indulge my new found taste for tragedy – and, in particular, those where the primary narrative drive comes from a strong female character.  A couple of weeks ago, it was the Duchess of Malfi and on this occasion Sophocles’ Antigone.  Whilst I don’t usually approve of spoilers, as the works are 500 and 2500 years old respectively, I feel safe in revealing that in both cases most of the main cast are dead before the final curtain (purely metaphorical in this case, as neither play made use of a curtain).  Anyway, having taken my seat, it then became apparent that someone else had a ticket for the same one.  Yup, I had arrived exactly 6 days too late (special bonus tragedy, albeit on a very modest scale) – my ticket was for the 10th and my diary confidently quoth the 16th: I presume I must have reverted to hex when I made that particular entry (well, it’s either that theory, or I’m forced to admit that my few remaining marbles have departed my cranium like so many rodents from a foundering vessel in a storm-wracked sea).  The National were extremely good about this – especially given that the incompetence was mine alone and discovered only about a minute before the play started – and whilst there were no seats left, I was able to “prom” in the circle.  The play was very powerful and has much to teach us, even after two-and-a-half millenia (it was also, luckily, relatively short given my previously abused knees).   As a plus, I will shortly be studying the play (though in a different translation) from my OU course: so the day counted as useful homework (though I fear not tax deductable).

In fact, on the tenth I was at a matinée performance in London (thinking that I had nothing on!  My diary is going to have to work quite hard to regain my trust), just not at the National.  This was a musical, Jekyll and Hyde, in the much more modest surrounds of the Union Theatre which lies ‘neath a railway arch in Southwark.  This is a tiny venue which meant that you were very close indeed to the action (the theatre is not much larger than my front room) – and it had a larger cast than most of the plays I’ve seen.  I must admit that I do enjoy a performance in an intimate venue – it feels much more personal and nothing important was lost as a result of the more modest budget and staging.

Three tragedies in a fortnight!  My theatre-going has definitely escaped its comic roots.  Is it time to introduce an element of tragedy to GofaDM?  Well, intentionally introduce it – I’m sure many readers already view much of the content (and the author) as rather tragic, but this element has come stealing in like an uninvited guest rather than as a result of considered policy.

Russian bye

After the Jubilee, it’s all change here at Fish Towers.  The last few days have seen my Russian period come to a close: with AA100 you don’t spend a huge amount of time in any one area, and my declining mental faculties must now be devoted to a cultural encounter between Europe and the art of Benin.

The weekend saw the completion of my 1200 word epic on dissent in the string quartets of Shostakovich. This was time consuming and involved an alarming number of re-writes (if only the blog could boast such high standards), but rather enjoyable.  It also provided an excellent excuse to go to Brighton to see the great man’s 13th Symphony Babi Yar – a truly amazing piece of music, and with lots of work for the bass singer: I just need to work on my Russian (and my singing).

By chance, the weekend also saw me finish Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita: a book that had been on my to-do list for a long time (so long, that I have completely forgotten why it was added to the list in the first place).  Despite the loss of context, an interesting and worthwhile read and one that shared themes with my OU study of both Stalin and Shostakovich.  It also generates conversation if you read it in public: many people seem very fond of the work and I can see why it would appeal (I suspect like Monty Python it lends itself to excessive quotation).  So, it was entirely appropriate that last night I saw Collaborators at the National Theatre: a play about Bulgakov and Stalin.  It was jolly entertaining with a surprising number of laughs given the rather depressing subject matter: oppression and death.  It was perhaps fortunate that I was unaware until the interval that the playwright had previously been responsible for the screenplay of a very poor film based on Susan Cooper’s seminal Dark is Rising sequence or I may not have gone at all (to my loss).  I was certainly glad that I’d read The Master and Margarita fully, including the Introduction and all the Notes, as it provided important context for the play.  For example, I knew why so many people were living in one apartment and the importance of the fact that “manuscripts don’t burn”: though I doubt that either piece of knowledge is going to help at the next pub quiz I attend.  

Before heading to the National, I took in this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.  A very different hanging this year which added interest and it was pleasingly free of crowds: my theory that the tourist hoards may have been distracted by either the Jubilee events nearby or the heavy rain seems to have been on the money (or it may just have been coincidence, but I’m going to claim the credit anyway).  The relatively thin crowds meant no celebs spotted this year, though I think I may have seen Sylvester McCoy at the National.  However, I can’t be entirely sure as I was hurrying towards a rather fine slice of carrot cake at the time (one has to maintain the right priorities in life and you can’t eat a celebrity – well, not legally): he may also have been on my mind as I’d been listening to him play the Doctor on BBC Radio 4Xtra the week before.  An under-rated Doctor I have often felt: a victim of almost non-existent budgets and Michael Grade’s insatiable desire to finish off the series, luckily on the radio you can do so much more with almost no budget as sound is such a thrifty medium.

Still, time is ‘russian bye’ and I need to bend my head around the brass-work of Benin (and the arguments for and against its return to Nigeria), which I think should be a good excuse for a troll around the British Museum (the UK’s premier venue for viewing stolen goods) next time I’m in town.  Talking of the BM gives me the idea to begin a History of the Fish in 100 Objects strand here on GofaDM: it’s way past time I started curating my life a little more professionally…

National anthem

My new life as a theatre goer is proceeding apace – of which perhaps more in a later post (if the idea ever manages to jump across the band-gap from draft to post) – but I do seem to have fallen in love with the National Theatre.  I’m even starting to develop a fondness for its neo-brutalist exterior architecture – but that may only be a consequence of association or familiarity.

Anyway, once past the concrete exterior the interior is a joy.  Both the Olivier and the Lyttleton (named for some relation of Humph’s I believe) are excellent places to watch a play: comfy seats with plenty of legroom which all have an excellent view of the stage.  I’ll be able to comment on the Cottesloe on the basis of first-hand (and leg) experience in June.

Each time I have been, there has been free, live music on offer to entertain those that arrive early – and there always seems to be a free seat in the extensive foyer space to sit down and take the weight off my ageing limbs (why do my limbs always feel older in London than in South Cambs?).  They always seem to have an exhibition of interesting photographs as well – so stimulation for both the eyes and ears while waiting for the main show to start.

Regular readers will be unsurprised that my first ever visit to the National, in the dying days of 2011, was not to see the followers of Thespis but to eat.  The complex has a decent restaurant and the tapas-style cafe is rather nice too – with views out across the Thames.  Even more importantly, as I have subsequently learned, it has quite the finest interval offerings of any performance space I have yet attended.  Wonderful interval cakes and blackberry frozen yoghurt – and with their efficient service, you can manage to fit the consumption of both into the break in the dramatic action (well, you may struggle but I can do it comfortably).

However, it would seem that food can act as a gateway drug to the theatre – a fact, other arts institutions might like to consider (assuming that I am typical of the potential theatre going public, which might be a challenging assumption to justify in the face of even mild cross-examination).  In 2012, I have been to four NT productions (so far) – 3 at the NT, and one at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in London’s glittering west end (may not contain actual glitter).  This has taught me that if you do visit the West End, you may enjoy more classical and roccoco architecture but they do charge you extra for the privilege (or possibly, the maintenance) and the aircon is nothing like as effective.

So far my theatre has been rather skewed towards comedy – albeit classics from yesterday and today: The Comedy of Errors (by one W Shakespeare), She Stoops to Conquer (by Oliver Goldsmith – and nothing to do with the fruit of the horse chestnut) and One Man Two Guvnors (originally by Goldoni, but really the work of Richard Bean as I’m fairly sure Signor Goldoni never visited Brighton in the 1960s), all of which have been a joy and actually funny (not something you can take for granted) – but this is not to last.  To support my OU coursework (well, that’s the excuse I’m using), I will be seeing Antigone by Sophocles in June and my limited classical education suggests that if Sophocles was once famed for his light-hearted comedies then posterity has not preserved them for me to enjoy (but you never know what Tony Robinson may dig up – it can’t all be arrow heads and pottery sherds).  A BBC4 documentary I saw earlier in the week also suggested that Timon of Athens may not have an entirely happy ending – though might be quite topical.

However, last night I saw a new play entitled Travelling Light penned (or, more likely, word processed) by Nicholas Wright.  As with some of my recent cinematic viewing, this covered the early days of movies – but for my money (and it was my money, no-one is yet paying me to visit either the cinema or the theatre, more’s the pity) it was worth ten of the much lauded film, The Artist.  The play was lovely, warm, funny, moving at times and leads you to care about the protagonists.  Better yet, I couldn’t predict the ending (and most of the plot after the first reel (scene?).  In fact, I found myself caring rather too much about the “hero”, and spent much of last night fretting about Motl – a rather pointless (and tiring) exercise as he is a fictional character and even if real would now be more than 130 years old (so unlikely to gain any benefit from my concern).

Mr Collins does suggest that an anthem should be sung, and I do realise that this paean to the NT has been written in prose.  However, readers should not view this as a barrier when the phrase to “sing the ‘phone book” has made it into the language: a feat apparently performed by Celine Dion back in 2002 (and to greater critical acclaim than her work on the Titanic).  I feel this post makes for much more promising material for the sopranos and tenors among you than any of BT’s printed output, so feel free to let rip!