Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (Reformation Day service, St Anne & St Agnes)

Bach Service for Reformation Day. A service to celebrate the 490th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. J S Bach: Cantata Ein' Feste Burg ist unser Gott BWV 80. Sweelinck Ensemble dir Martin Knizia.


IP Address.02 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the Second

In which are discussed Treasure, Architecture, Birthdays and Pies. A Trumpet is Sounded, a Collie Exercised, and some Logbooks are Scrutinized by a Daughter of the Aristocracy

Friday, 24th August 2007

... So there we were at Ingestre Pavilion. A certain amount of unloading and unpacking took place and very excitingly Becca conjured up, from the depths of her car, a huge quantity of delicious Abel & Cole stuff. I'd actually been consulted on this but naturally had forgotten, due to my gnat-like attention span. So it was a lovely surprise all over again.

It was Deb's birthday and spending it travelling was a bit sub-optimal, despite doing all the usual breakfast- and present-jollity in the morning. This often happens to poor Deb: almost fifty years of observation, however, have convinced me that very few people have their birthday on the right day.

So, anyway, given the birthday and the drive and everything, the idea of low-effort but delicious food was highly welcome. I seem to recall that it involved pies: pies are, frankly, good. Pies bought from Abel & Cole are jolly good. Pies are good with wine. Beer and pies: that's good too. Pies - very nice they are. I trust I have made myself reasonably clear on this Matter of the Pies? Goodoh! Nice dinner, thanks Bec.

You can see the Pavilion's floorplan at the web page I mentioned before. Suffice it to say that, like so many houses, this one's heart is in its kitchen/dining room, a really snug and welcoming space that feels tucked away, because of its position and the trek that gets you to it; but the Pavilion's crowning glory is its living room, a spectacular double-height octagonal affair which pretty much takes your breath away at first sight. It has amazing tall windows and bookcases, niches that make you speculate about installing (or being) a statue, huge paintings, a rather glorious chandelier: the works. It's painted a stunning deep red and there's a first-floor gallery across one side. It is not an understated room.

There's something extremely satisfying about the design of this whole building, the restoration and new parts of which date from 1990 (like Martha). Once you accept as givens the original portico and the need to fit in behind it a set-piece, massive double-height living room, then everything else seems to fall logically into place. The remains of the original building have only small rooms, at two levels, either side of the huge arch. Similarly but on a larger scale you can fit another four rooms, one per floor per side, flanking the living room like wings and echoing how the small rooms flank the arch. Access and drainage routes must dictate a lot of the rest: it all seems perfectly obvious and logical when I look at it now but I bet that's only because a clever architect has been so inventive. So in the original right-hand rooms are the main door, staircase and landing and in the left, two bathrooms. The larger, new rooms either side of the living room have bedrooms up and downstairs on the right, and on the left have the kitchen downstairs and above it the third bedroom. It sounds so simple but it's brilliant. Among the side-effects is the snugness of the kitchen - by the time you're facing down the dining table you've been through five or six spaces, including the magnificent living room, and turned through 360°. Another is the wonderful gallery: it looks like an architect's spectacular conceit till you realize that it's the only sensible way to get across to the left-hand side of the first floor. Without it you'd need a second staircase or you'd have to spoil the living room and its relationship with the portico and garden by sticking a corridor in between, or going (horrors!) round the outside. Or whatever. I am sure that the architect contemplated hundreds of solutions but it feels as if there only ever was this one perfect design just waiting to be discovered, the only one which really fits. Very very clever stuff.

One useful result of all this is that you have a relatively accessible house, because you can get to a bedroom, a bathroom, the kitchen and the living room, all on the ground floor. Hence our being there! Yay, and woo, forsooth.

It should also be noted that the living room and particularly its gallery have a more-or-less built-in effect should you happen to have a trumpet about your person, to wit: the desire to play the said trumpet in the room and its rather nice acoustic; and especially to play it off the gallery. If you're not a trumpet player this could perhaps have escaped your notice, but the fact is that if you take a modern Bb trumpet and extend all the slides as far as possible, then hold all three valves down, then you're pretty much down to D and you can pretend it's a baroque trumpet and you're Michael Laird. Admittedly there are certain flaws in this, for example that it's not a baroque trumpet and, more seriously, that I am not Michael Laird. But you have to admit that there's something a little appealing about fake eighteenth-century playing (however ridiculous) in a fake eighteenth-century room (however sublime). I think my "The Trumpet Shall Sound" was especially moving and so, clearly, did the fleeing family and dog.

Still on the subject of trumpetism, but in a slightly less building-appropriate way, I seem to recall quite a long and amusing session during which Martha played pop tunes from her iPod and Lottie accompanied them on my trumpet. This was better than it sounds and was actually highly entertaining. History does not record whether the electronic device or the brass instrument were on the gallery, though it would be nice to think that one or the other was... but there I had better leave it before it turns into another "isn't Tamsin gifted?" blog (or log) entry and we need to give out wax-lined paper bags to sensitive readers.

You see, one of the great joys and great irritations of Landmarks, sometimes simultaneously, is the logbook. The Landmark make a very clear statement about what it isn't for and this is cheerfully ignored by many. At its worst it's a horrid braying competition and/or whingerama. How many Landmarks you've been to, how talented Colin and Tamsin are: they did a lovely play for the villagers (such simple, warm, appreciative folk), and here's a little watercolour of the building - Tamsin painted it between bassoon practice and finishing her Plutarch translation. This place isn't as nice as the Bath Tower. This place is nicer than the Pineapple. Why haven't they got a special balsamic squeezing attachment for wholegrain crumpets? And so on. (And yes, thank you, I am aware that I tread a fine line with these criticisms.) I've even seen a logbook with a very slow-motion row going on between repeat visitors, complete with b*tchy comments on others' entries: actually quite disgraceful.

At the other extreme the logbooks can be fantastically interesting, fun and informative. Fortunately, Ingestre's tended in this direction.

A particularly fascinating thread concerned a treasure hunt, which had been set up early in the pavilion's new life and has been kept going, with many additions and amendments, ever since. Clearly anything which risks damage to the building and contents, or injury to visitors, is to be discouraged, and strenuous efforts have been made over the years, sometimes with the guiding hand of Anne Andrews in evidence, to keep the hunt clear and sensible and to make sure that it doesn't get silly with people trying to look in foolish or potentially damaging places. As Anne points out, the Landmark Trust is likely to stop the whole idea pretty sharpish if it looks like it could cause trouble.

The treasure hunt instructions have grown and evolved in an impressively organic manner over the years, with modifications, commentaries and overviews, even schisms. This all attracted the attention of a certain Lottie who spent long hours poring over the several volumes of logbook in the hope of being able to specify a Universal Catholic Fully Canonical Version of Absolutely Everything. I'm pretty sure there'd be a dissertation in it for the keen researcher.

Armed with all this knowledge Lottie set off and, with only a glitch or two (and some completely accidental sabotage from me, oops) had pretty soon found most of the clues. The treasure itself evaded us a little longer (partly due to my "help") but was eventually captured and it is this that you see in the photo. There was some very nice stuff in there (excellent beer thanks!) and, as required by the Rules and Procedures, we took some stuff out, replaced it with some other stuff, and left a note. All excellent fun.

I think that's pretty much it for the first day. I know we had the Mad Collie out for a pleasant evening walk up the lane at some stage but most of the rest is a bit of a blur, albeit a happy blur.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (Mayda Narvey, St Anne & St Agnes)

Monday, 29 October 2007

Mayda Narvey, cello. Marin Marais: La Folia; J S Bach: movements from Suite No 5 in C minor for cello; Walton: Passacaglia; Britten: Suite No 3; Luis de Narvaez: Guardomo los Vacos.

Marin Marais was a very accomplished gamba player working at the court of Louis XIV, Mayda Narvey tells us. La Folia is a set of variations on a popular tune, Les ? d'Espagne, where "?" represents a word I didn't catch. Come to think of it the "d'Espagne" isn't that certain either. The good news, though, is I'm pretty goshdarned sure about "Les". Phew, eh? Anyway, it was very pretty.

Before the Bach 5th Suite Narvey explained a bit about how the fugue worked, principally that the fugal effect was invoked in the clever writing, rather than spelled out in double-stopping as you might expect. Whatever - the Bach was great. She has a lovely church-filling sound. I especially liked the Sarabande, where I've scrawled "beautiful, flowing, amazing quiet control" so there you go.

The Walton was brief, brilliant and complex. I wish she had played it twice, as she told us Rostropovitch did at its world premiere! I felt I needed to know the passacaglia tune to follow it a bit better.

The Britten has a wonderfully mysterious start, and is yet more complex than the Walton, so I do feel seriously short of signposts. Actually, neither of these pieces is a perfect choice for a single performance to a higgerant audience, to wit: me. When I am at a concert like this I so wish I had the score sometimes! I think this partly reflects that I am rubbish listening to music so I need help. I am going to compensate for this, I think, by getting CDs of these works. Then maybe I can overcompensate and get the music too. (If challenged I can always claim it's for Martha.)

The programme has Britten's dates as 1685-1750. That's a bit scary actually as I remember I was in my first year of university when he died, which makes me around 276. As of right now I honestly don't feel a day over 200!

Great programme but a bit long if you have a job and are trying to pace your lunchtime time-consumption a bit! However if I were not working I would say more more more please. Mayda Narvey really is a very fine player and this recital was a great pleasure to hear.

Gig-a-Blog™ (Rarescale Flute Academy, St Anne & St Agnes)

Friday 26 October, 2007

Rarescale Flute Academy. Carla Rees, director; Kayleigh Glasper, Rebecca Lee, Vicky Phillips, Rebecca Sparkes. Vittoria: Three Pieces - Jesu Dulcis Memoria, Benedictus, O Magnum Mysterium; Birtwistle: from Duets for Storab - Urlar; Stark Pastoral, Fanfare with Birds; Bozza: Image; Mozart: Overture from the Marriage of Figaro.

Vittoria: interesting flute line-up: bass, alto, two ?trebles (ah, no: a nice flautist from the group tells me the standard flute is just a flute, or perhaps a C flute, but not a soprano, treble or whatever, despite the obvious temptation.)

  1. Very still, wonderful texture.
  2. More movement but not fast
  3. This is the OMM I know from school. It's really beautiful. Embarrassingly, I'd forgotten that it was by Vittoria. Lovely lovely.

Birtwistle: from Duets for Storab -Urlar, Stark Pastoral, Fanfare with Birds

  • As the title suggests, flute duets (duh!) Bleak landscape being conjured. Quite an empty sound with some big vertical gaps. Impressionistic? I'd claim it was, if I felt I had a clue what it meant.

Bozza: Image

  • Solo flute only. Very nicely played. It's about Narcissus apparently. Complex, interesting, beautiful. I've played some Bozza but don't remember it being as sophisticated as this.

Mozart: Overture from the Marriage of Figaro.

  • Four C flutes. Calm(ish) pace, very pleasant.

Quite a short concert, an advertised piece of Handel having been pulled. (They pulled the Handel. Handel ... pulled. Ahaha. Oh never mind.) There is, however, nothing wrong with a concert that runs a little short - like this blogological entity.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Verklärte Mittagspause (Lunchtime Transfigured)

In the City, where I nearly work
Is a short tidy traffic jam with taxis
And cars, cars of a certain quality.
This luxury mini-coach has air-conditioning
For its precious cargo of a few executives;
There are small natty sober vans in brown, black or bronze
With discreet miniature logos.
Everyone looks businesslike, a bit tired,
Perhaps a little grim, resigned to the short wait.
There's no smiling and no joy in this jam.

I see a dirty white Luton, vast among all this dark precision;
In the cab an unkemptly lanky young man cuddles his great scruffy dog, all over the seat and his lap and the steering wheel, with happy abandon and, catching me smiling at them, beams hugely back.

Too-Many-Gigs-a-Blog™ and a Diversion on the Matter of Not Clapping

Too many good things on at St Anne and St Agnes this week! How amazing is it to have access to a lunchtime music setup where I can say that? Sadly, though, it's true - if I go to all three events this week I think it really will get a touch embarrassing at work so I will have to choose, something I am not good at. I am very keen to go to the Reformation Day service on Wednesday. Even though I am a disgusting doubter and not fit etc, I have not yet been struck by lightning for attending a service here, and the last such, er, religio-gig to which I went was fantastic.

I must just make a little emuārs-note to myself not to applaud.

  • Vogel, do not applaud!

Last year I did, breaking every rule in the book. Not the Good Book, you understand (though that too) - I shall come back to this. I absolutely should not have done, especially off my home territory, and am supposed to know better, but some stupid musician/stage management instinct got the better of me when I saw performers going on in silence (duh, Vogel!) and I started clapping on my own like a p*ll*ck. Just for a second, gazes focused on me from all parts, and if people had lasers I'd have just been a pair of smoking shoes stood there on their own. Oops, in a very small voice. Fortunately, others were either also stupid or (more likely) kind, or both, and joined in - so I did not actually have to go and throw myself off the tower, but it was close. And the Supervicar Jana assured me that G*d would probably not mind too much, which was nice of her, and indeed nice of Him, Her, or Them too. I have, nevertheless, felt squirmingly embarrassed every time I think about it and I did for a while wonder if I dared go back there again.

When I say "breaking every rule in the book" I do not, as noted, mean The Book, but the book, which is my friend Dennis H's excellent and extremely limited edition book How to Clap at Concerts. I am very proud that I am acknowledged as the International Contributor in the updated and expanded edition of this very fine and indeed extremely handmade work. Since the "limited edition" was really very limited - about four copies I think - it is fortunate that some of it has found itself onto a webby web page interwebnet thingy for all to read. General Rules numbers 2 and 3 would seem to apply to my misbehaviour at SS A&A. This makes my embarrassing booboo all the worse. Tsk. Fool, Vogel, fool!

The subject of "right and wrong" clapping at concerts (not church services!) is one to which I must come back. I think I have mellowed a little regarding, for instance, clapping between movements, under some circumstances - so I've probably moved a bit leftwards from the stance of Dennis's book and my contributions therein. It's a tricky area though. But last year at the St Anne's service plus this doubt reminds me (again) about Matthew 7:1 (look it up), and I do not want to turn into some horrid glaring intolerant Prommer, so some soft pedal required here, perchance.

To return to the Gig-a-lot-o-Choice™ question, I think I will be spending lunchtime here at the office today, not round the corner at the church, is what it probably means. Sigh.


Ah but - writes our regular correspondent Mr H. Indsight - see comment below.

A weekend of familynosity

Friday, 26 October 2007

Becca has been down in London for the Stringwise teachers' course, and extended her visit, geographically as well as chronologically, to include a visit to my Mum in Chichester. This extremely nice idea has certain logistical implications so I went along to ride shotgun, not that I'd take much persuading.

We left, as we always seem to, a lot later than I meant to. It's tricky - I would far rather be punctual but even if I were packed in advance (ha!) it's still very difficult to get home in the usual fairly dire Friday night state from work and just go straight out again. So I really feel I need to sit down and have a cup of tea... and so on. Of course I hadn't managed to leave work right on the dot of 5.00, so it's all running a bit late already. One of these days I swear I will manage the whole package and nothing will take place even one minute later than planned. Maybe I've even done it once or twice already: I honestly can't remember. This, though, was certainly not one of those occasions and I think it was nearly eight before we left, which is disgraceful and seriously to be avoided. It also transpires that if we are late and eat late then Mum is much less likely to have a good night's rest: I record this here not because I believe it to be wildly interesting to most of my (many thousands of) readers but as a reminder to myself. It's not OK, don't do it.

Anyway, there we were eventually gorn and happily en route. The drive down was the usual sort of thing though we perhaps benefited a little from our lateness, as the traffic was not too bad. Even Hindhead (of which more in a separate piece one day) wasn't too bad, and it was very interesting to see the roadworks, and very good to not be significantly delayed by them.

Mum's house, much though I love it, is not accessible to Becca, the bathroom being upstairs. So it's OK for a visit but not to stay in: we were, therefore, booked into the Chichester Park Hotel, an ex-Ramada now gone independent. On arrival we went there first to book in and dump some bags then round to Mum's for dinner. The hotel is just on the eastern edge of the city on the way out to Westhampnett so it's very convenient for the parental ranch, maybe five minutes by car.

The dinner (vegetarian fricassee from the Cranks cookbook) was utterly delicious, and fortunately not easily spoiled by being left and eaten hours later than intended. The dessert was cosmic - pears in hot butterscotch sauce. Aroooo!

We also had a nice chat and watched some of Martha's DVD of a concert given by the schools symphony orchestra of our great capital city (GCCSSO perhaps?), a copy of which DVD she'd sent for GJ. I may just say that the best places to catch Martha laughing are not during the three out of four pieces that she and the orchestra met with approval and seriousness: and there I had better stop before reputations are impugned, feathers ruffled and the like.

After a bit more jollity it was time to get back to the hotel. I was so exhausted that, having intended to be quite well-organized, I found myself waking, in a state of total confusion, at 3.30. Where am I, who am I etc. Telly rabbitting on, me fully clothed, sprawled all over, but not in, the bed: and so on. I hate doing this as it makes me feel like a drunken businessman and there's one of those labels I'd strongly reject. Oh well.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

We made a rather leisurely start, with one thing and another, and enjoyed the spectacular breakfast at the hotel. It would be quite possible to eat enough to keep you going all day, or perhaps week, and I fear that I came close to accomplishing this.

Eventually we chugged round to Chateau GJ and, deciding that the logistical challenge of going in was just a touch too great (plus we were not exactly running early by this time) we just picked up the Duchess herself and off we went to our Destination du Jour, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) place at Arundel. This was, as always, extremely good. Among the highlights:

  • Kickoff with a pleasant cup of coffee in the entirely nice café. This is built right over a big lake and sees an incredible number of birds. You could, in all seriousness, have quite a nice time if you simply sat there all day. They feed the birds outside the huge windows and this clearly helps keep things busy out there.
  • Fantastic access - good for Becs and GJ alike though for the latter an extra bench or two and more grab-height stuff would be even better
  • Amaryllis showed up and had lunch and came round with us which was also very nice. David was off doing a guitar course at West Dean College and Isobel was doing something Isobellish - visiting friends I think - hence just Amaryllis.
  • I was pleased that, knowing we were probably coming here, I'd brought my binoculars, but furious that I'd forgotten my camera! I bought a disposable one, which is why there are no pictures yet. Believe it or not I found myself once or twice trying to look at the back of the camera to see what I'd just taken, but it remained cardboardly inscrutable. (Update: Pictures now back and a few pasted in. Those cameras can work quite well under nice bright sunshine but aren't great in the late afternoon in October! Oh well. Still nice to have for memory-jogging purposes.)
  • Nice lunch in the same excellent café.
  • Brilliant boardwalks - fully accessible, great fun, nice design (corners, islands etc), exciting. One is quite short (but still nice) and the other goes on for miles and is genuinely excellent. What it goes through is "one the biggest and best reedbeds in Sussex" - certainly it is most impressive, and the walk is nicely designed with interesting corners, variations in width and so on. It's really superb to walk through. You also pass an interesting building/artwork which is a reed building shaped like a hay stook and containing a camera obscura. The last time we were there we couldn't really see much in the camera despite waiting a very long time, as advised: this time it was shut! But it's a most attractive and unusual building.
  • Becca and I hung around in a hide for a long time hoping to see the almost-promised kingfisher. Sadly no luck: indeed I usually seem to see less from the hides than anywhere else. As Bec points out this isn't unreasonable: the hides look out over the wilder, less regulated reserve rather than the more zoo-like interior.
  • Wonderful "boat safari" - late in the day, just the four of us, amazingly accessible boat with massive ramp up the front like a landing-craft. Slightly scary to get on as the power chair's weight made it dip a couple of inches, but when we got off again the driver had sussed it and it hardly moved at all.
  • The boat is electrically driven and pretty much silent. It's fabulous.
  • We saw a heron stalking water voles,
  • A little grebe swimming very fast underwater, "like a torpedo",
  • Perhaps most excitingly, at the very end of the trip we had an extremely good view of a water vole sitting munching reeds. This was just superb - cute little hands etc. I very much doubt that I got a decent photograph, though.
  • I wasn't previously sure about this, but the boat bloke confirmed that there's no such separate species as water rat - when people say that, they mean water voles. Ratty, in Wind in the Willows, is a water vole. Real rats can swim, but they don't look or live like water voles: a swimming rat is just that. Water voles must suffer from really messed-up PR.

We returned via the hotel where among other things I visited the desk to moan about the smell of smoking in Becca's room. Of course this is not the hotel's fault but that of the selfish swine who did the smoking. I'm finding it a trifle difficult not to think uncharitable thoughts about this behaviour. The hotel were very nice and promised to try some ozone gizmo which might help. What a ****** though. I'd have asked for a room swap but it's clear that we got the adapted room: which of course makes the conduct of the selfish smoking ****** even more ******-like. Thanks and have a nice day.

From there it was a mere hop and a skip round the corner back to our extensive southern estates and Schloss GJ nestling in its girdle of orchards and lakes, erm yes. We had a fantastic macaroni cheese with vegetables and the other half of last night's rosé. Yum.

Eventually we snurgled our way back along to the hotel, where their efforts with the smoky room had made some small improvement. They had also helpfully left an industrial-size air freshener in the room, which is fine as long as it doesn't fall into the hands of some over-excitable person who is going to pump 80m³ of the stuff because they've lost track of reality and think they're in a decontamination scene from almost any science-fiction film ... ahem, yes.

The other grave irritation was that all of the disabled parking spaces were taken. There was a function, a wedding I think, at the hotel and all the parking was very busy: fair enough. Two of the disabled bays had legitimate users with permits: the third was occupied all day by a gigantic boat-like shiny new Chrysler pretending to be a Bentley. Nice personalized registration with "FUN" in it. (Yes, quite, I thought so too.) Astonishingly enough this car was not displaying a permit. First allowing for the very slight possibility that this was a legit user who happened to not have the permit available (and acknowledging that if so they could have left a note) it's difficult to know what to say about the kind of unethical scum (oops) who would do this. I discard them, as Molesworth would say. The hotel were very nice and helpful but could not find the driver so they offered all sorts of car movements and managers' spaces and stuff, and in the end someone just cut the Gordian knot and very kindly said "just park it right there" immediately outside the front door, so we did.

They say that what goes around comes around and indeed my General Theory of the Cosmic Bank of Goodwill™ also sort-of requires this, but I have an uneasy feeling that in some other horrid way the universe seems to quite like unethical pigs, and that this pompous *rse, who parked his horrible fat shiny car where Becca's should have been, will continue to be rewarded - for a lifetime of bad and selfish behaviour - with good looks, health and prosperity. And, indeed, abundant, convenient parking. I suppose it is to be hoped that St Peter or someone is keeping a note and that sooner or later he'll be asked about his CBG balance, but I am not betting on it.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

We got out to the usual mega-fast start (oh I am so funny when being ironical. No? Ah.) and went round to Mum's in a rather miserable drizzle. Bec had wanted to see the sea, though, so we piled in and charged off to Bosham, a place I always find a delight. If you do not already know about Bosham, then:

  • It's a very picturesque little village.
  • It's pronounced Bozz'm.
  • It's on a tidal creek: a very tidal creek.
  • Despite very clear warning signs it is not uncommon for foolish or ill-advised motorists to leave their cars in front of the village for a bit too long. At low tide this is a nice safe roadway and the water is a pathetic little piddle some 150m away. At some high tides, it's pretty much the sea, deep, right on the village's doorstep. We've seen people have to paddle in ankle-deep water to rescue the car, but the pub has a gallery of photos showing vehicles in all states, including with the roof only showing in what appears to be the open sea. It is a source of endless joy to the idle onlooker, I'm afraid.
  • Another pointer to the tides is that all the houses down near the front have very raised doorsteps and/or garden entrances; some have an ordinary door but runners to drop a board into. It is not uncommon to see a front door which ends 12-18" above pavement level, the rest below the door being solid stone- or brickwork. These must be interestingly difficult to live with.

Anyway, we rolled up and found to our delight that there was a very high tide and that the water was right up nearly in the village street. Fortunately it was not threatening houses but another inch or two and we would not have been able to walk along the road that runs behind the first row of buildings. Despite the unpleasant weather this made a very interesting and exciting visit: I don't think I have ever seen the water that high there. I am relieved/disappointed to report that no cars were to be seen floating by!

Having got wet and cold enough we went back to Mum's and had a lunch of truly delicious vegetarian goulash, also from the Cranks cookbook, with rice. Mum also had lovely red-fruit and lemon mousses from the Cook frozen food shop in Sadlers Walk. After that it was time, regrettably, to get moving, me back to London and Becca on her long drive to Manchester. I'd perhaps wisely extended our hotel checkout time to 4pm so after we'd said goodbye to Mum we went back there to finish sorting and packing, repack the car and so on. Bec then kindly dropped me at the station and we went our separate ways. A most satisfactory weekend of familynosity.

Securely does it !

Today I reported, for the fourth time, a locker at Virgin Active's Barbican branch which cannot be locked. The punter thinks they've locked it, but they haven't, because the whole lock barrel can be rotated 360° in the door, and is therefore as much use as if it were made of playdough. With green food colouring in.

Previous attempts to report it have met with the dreaded "I will hand it on to Operations" which seems to translate as:

  • "Abandon Hope An Ting" or
  • "Your Message, My *rse" or
  • "Oops, Silly Me, Pressed Delete" or
  • "Don't Waste My Time You Sad Old F*rt" or
  • whatever.

Perhaps the gym is so busy installing nauseating, patronizing, half-witted cack new signage that it has no spare time to deal with this boring old maintenance and security thing? (That's, like, sooo 90s!) Or maybe they need a new sign which, while meeting the New Corporate Standard, addresses the issue? Yeah, how about:

  • "Honesty Zone ! You Don't Have To Lock Up Here !" or
  • "No-one Ever Steals Things From Changing Rooms, Silly !"
  • "Oopsie ! All Your Stuff Is Gone !" or
  • "Bye Bye Possessions ! You Don't Need Them Anyway !" or
  • "Property is Theft !" or even a nice straightforward
  • "We Might Have Prevented This But Couldn't Be Bothered !"

That should do it nicely.

Pending that, do you think:

  • I'll get a reply
  • They'll say "I will hand it on to Operations"
  • They'll react positively if I reply "but you always say that and nothing happens"
  • They'll actually fix it
  • They would mind if I put up a page called "How To Steal Things at VA Barbican"
  • They'll explain why it's taken four complaints thus far?

Ah, questions questions.

You're probably wondering why I can be bothered and why I care so much. Er, good question. The short answer is I don't really care - after all, I know which locker to avoid and I know what to look for on other lockers. So am I claiming altruism? Hmmmm ... well sort of, but not really - it's more of a (somewhat OCD-ish) matter of principle. It's a great place to go, for my purposes, but is not cheap to belong to and I think customer concerns and complaints need treating less casually than this. Everyone can see what they ought to do: I mean, good grief, even I, King of the Slobs, was sent on a Customer Service course fifteen or so years ago and can spout the spiel as well as the next nerd. Why they don't do any of this stuff - while rabbitting on about their high standards - is beyond me. I can think of several responses which would satisfy me, but seemingly VA can't. They talk the talk but don't look at the lock. It's sad.

Typography Zone !

Note: I would like readers to be aware that in my suggestions, above, the space between the last word and the exclamation mark is a little trick I rather cleverly picked up from VA's new signage ! I think it adds a sophisticated, light, witty touch to boring old writing word things ! I'm going to use it all the time from now on ! (Or Maybe Just Kill Myself ! Messily ! In the Manager's Office ! Oopsie ! Suicide Zone ! Hahah ! <g> ! LOL ! Byeee !)

Erm ...

Do you think this blogentity sounds just a touch mad and angry? ... Oh well.

Update - 18th March 2008: locker 287 is at last fixed along with all its brothers and sisters, hurrah. Please see "Vogel is nice about a Virgin business again - thousands treated for shock".

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Strawberry Yoghurt - Tesco low fat yogurt - strawberry

Amazingly delicious midrange yog picked up yesterday from the Sons of Satan and their society-destroying outlet just round the corner. Very very nice slightly edgy strawberry flavour, good texture, some evidence of fruit, not too sweet, no bl**dy messing around with aspartame. I have avoided buying this for months while dallying with the products of Losely and other great companies, but actually it's rather good. As in, really rather very good.


A highly palatable Ford Mondeo among strawberry yoghurts, from the local-business-murdering Genghis Khans of retail. Oh, and they have great croissants too, chiz. All lovely and hot and fresh. Mmmm. Avaunt!

Rape of the High Street: 10

Destruction of British Society As We Know It: 10

Flavour: 9

Grelltt: 3

Texture: 8

Probably go around in black helicopters with laser guns, killing small shopkeepers: 10

Night vision goggles: 10

Doh!: 10

Sploorn: 8.3

Fruitinosity: 7.6

Deliciousness: 8.1

Overall: 7.16 for the yoghurt, -10,672 for the societal impact of the shop

Obsessives' Corner

150g pot

135 kcal

20.7 g sugar (23% of RDA - whoops)

Strawberries and strawberry juice from concentrate 12%

Beetroot juice (but of course)

6% of your RDA of salt!

Strawberry Yoghurt - Müller Amoré update

Ha! They have ALREADY caved in and brought out a strawberry one, just in the few minutes since they saw my blog entry. And people claim that the blogosphere has no influence? Ha!

I sure taught them! Eh? Eh?

This would be a link to it, if it wasn't for the Flashtasticness of their site making it impossible to give a link to anything. But I assure you it's there and can be found in as few as 74 mouse clicks. It looks delicious though I could probably manage without the "& French vanilla", even if they weren't insisting that "French" has no capital F.

The only thing is that I am now suffering anxiety attacks about where my nearest retailer is, if the local Tesco (hissssss hissssss demon avaunt avaunt I say) doesn't stock it.

I must get my hands on this yog. Do you think it would be OK if I bunked off work to go and look for it? Mm? Mm??


Anticipation: 11

Vanilla-concern: 8

Overall: 0

PS Hans - I was only joking about the tankers. I won't tell, really.

PPS I think I may now need to eat the Walnut & Greek Honey one, to stabilize my nerves. Then later I can pop round to Tesco's (hisssssss etc) and replace it with the Spanish Orange one, while very casually looking round to check they haven't yet put the Strawberry one out yet ...

PPPS Do you think Tesco's (hissss) would be OK about my just very casually checking through the storeroom out the back? And the lorry? And the depot? Hmmmm.

PPPPS I am coming to realize that there ought to be a specialist yoghurt shop - perhaps even a specialist strawberry yoghurt shop - somewhere, maybe Covent Garden. I must put this to the authorities. My salary could be a minor issue but I am sure they will see reason when they think about the visitor numbers and economic, cultural (ahaha) and health benefits to the local area.

PPPPPS Visiting the Müller website one cannot help but notice that the current Müller slogan appears to be Lick the lid of life™. I cannot decide whether I think this is slightly disgusting, or an act of genius, or perhaps even a slightly disgusting act of genius. Probably the latter. Yes, I really think I quite like it. Now, the von Neustadt family already has a perfectly good motto which is long, Latin, and mostly concerned with smiting your enemies for the honour of family and land, with some subclauses about suppressing peasants in a relatively kindly way. But if we didn't, and we wanted to be a touch more contemporary, I think that one could do a lot worse than Lick the lid of life™. Quite good: delicious in fact.

Strawberry Yoghurt - Müller Amoré luxury yogurt - a non-exist-a-yog-o-blog?™

Great excitement (well, among everyone assuming the Künstlername or non-de-plume Vogel von Neustadt anyway) in the nasty little local Tesco's this morning. (Company Motto: we put your real shops out of business and then feed on the rotting carcass of society muuahahahahahahah, surrender Earthling!)

"Why the excitement, Vogel?" I fail to hear you ask. Because Müller, that Porsche, or at least VW (better models only) of portable pudding design, has a new line called Amoré Luxury Yogurt. It's got cute, quality looking packaging and even comes packed in its 12s or 18s or whatever in pretend wooden trays to help make it look all ethnic and homemade. (The wood in question being from the typical Bavarian tree known as Pappkarton or "cardboard" but hey.) I wept at the thought of the red, rough, loving, peasant hands that carefully placed these yoghurts therein as the Alpenglocken tolled on the Alpenmoomoos just outside the, er, Alpenyogfabrik in, ahem, Market Drayton.

Anyway. This is clearly a classy product and I did several backflips, and a little fonkay dance move I've been developing, in sheer delight at the lovely vision of this new line. Mmmmmmm, sounds lovely, what have we got ... Walnut and Greek Honey ... yeah babay ... Spanish Orange ... yummm ... HANG ON A MINUTE WHERE'S THE STRAWBERRY????

Where is the Müller Amoré luxury yogurt strawberry flavour? What is going on here? Strawberry is BY DEFINITION a luxury flavour, of course there has to be one. You cannot have a luxury line with no strawberry, it's like having a Roller with no cigar lighter (oops simile-puke-alert).

Look Herr Müller. We go back a long way. Ever since we sold your grandfather part of the lower pasture for your first small herd of cattle, back in, what was it, '23, we've kept a paternal, nay patronizing, eye on the fortunes of your tiny dairy and its handful of rosy-cheeked employees. We don't want this to turn unpleasant and we certainly don't want anyone asking too many awkward questions about what the yoghurt tankers carry on the return trip, do we Hans? So GET THE STRAWBERRY ONE OUT NOW AND ROUND TO TESCO'S PRETTY D*MNED QUICK OR THERE WILL BE SERIOUS AGGRAVATION SUNNY JIM.

In the meantime, I am going to teach Müller a lesson for their verdammte insolence by refusing to eat the delicious-looking Walnut and Greek Honey one. I know just how harmful a boycott like this can be - especially from a public figure such as like what I am - but I am going to just tough it out till they cave in and do the right thing. I am strong, I am resolute. I am woman. Or something.

Onwards and upwards!


Defiant Vogel stands alone, spoon in hand, raging against the night sky: 11

Apart from that: 0

Overall: 0

PS It was delicious (see later entries). Bring on the strawberry!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

IP Address.01 – a week at Ingestre Pavilion: Part the First

In which there features a Pavilion, an Housekeeper, some Children, a Baby, a Bizarre Episode, some Access, Messrs Marks and Spencer their Emporium, and Diverse Elements Besides

Friday, 24 August 2007

In August our second week away was in a particularly unusual and interesting location. To recap (you know you want me to), my first week of holiday was just with Mrs von Neustadt and the Mad Collie Gänseblümchen: that was the Splendid Cotswold Week much blogged about here and on subsequent days. This second week, however, was a genuine Week of Mobhandedness during which we actually had the full complement of daughters there almost the whole time, which is quite unusual these days, and makes a very pleasant change.

The background to this particular jolly is that it was actually organized in response to a particular chronological event, to wit, the 21st birthday of our dear Daughter of Eldestness, the Crown Princess von und zu Neustadt-Wittungsden-Nuertingen-Nissan oh alright alright stop hitting me I'll behave. It was part of Becca's 21st present, by agreement, that we'd have a Landmark Trust holiday, is the point. If you don't know what the Landmark Trust is or does please have a look at their website: they are a truly brilliant organization.

The eagle-eyed reader may be about to raise a Point of Order over the timing, as you will undoubtedly have noticed Becca's 22nd birthday being celebrated near Cambridge some weeks back. Um yes. The von Neustadt family doesn't generally move fast in the booking of holidays and the development of this idea was itself not rapid.

Also, it is probably a good idea to have some time in hand when approaching a Landmark holiday, and here we must touch briefly on a delicate and perhaps distressing matter. Why are you going to need some time? You're going to need some time to sell a few paintings, thin out the silverware a bit, and perhaps see if the Peasants' Collective still wants to buy that parcel of land down by the river for some wretched scheme involving milling. What I'm getting at is that the Landmark Trust is not a cheap holiday. No, no, nono and nonono, indeed it is not. That's not to say it doesn't represent value for money: that's a different kettle of fish entirely. I would happily argue that the price is justified by the quality and novelty.

The actual finding of the property was subcontracted out to the Crown Princess herself as it was she who'd need to be clearest about access. Nor can I imagine that the need for it to be both accessible and collie-friendly can have simplified things too much. However the Landmark office have always seemed very clued-up and helpful on the phone, and Becca was able with their guidance to identify Ingestre Pavilion as a good'un, which is how it turned out.

Now, this blog is going to be a bit of a challenge and you may have to tolerate some inefficiency, inaccuracy, and the like. I didn't keep notes at the time - the evenings seemed quite full enough - and as soon as we got back I was up to my eyes in work and other stuff, so I am writing this a very long time afterwards. This is in contrast to the Cotswolds blog where I had lots of time to write, and then afterwards my work, playing etc was all relatively quiet for a bit, so I got most of that one done pretty quickly. For this one I am having to use my appalling memory more, and you know what that means. (No? Then tell 'em, Tamsin. Ah. Now tell them again, dear, but please don't use those words thank you: it is not big and it is not clever.)

Right, so, Ingestre Pavilion it is. Atypically, it's featured on the Landmark site in some detail, being one of a few that they've pulled out for display. In general, they'd rather you bought their extremely splendid Handbook. But as this one is there in all its glory, I'll not rabbit on about it too much. It's a folly, built as an ornamental summerhouse for Ingestre's estates. Most of the building was removed quite early in its history, leaving just the fabulous classical portico: in 1990 the Landmark took over and put a new - but very very tasteful - building in behind the portico so that it can be used as a holiday house: and a very fine holiday house it makes.

Ingestre is very near Stafford, really just ten minutes from the town. Our journey up was a bit gruesome. Road problems far too boring to recount here diverted and delayed us, and while it was in some ways fun to do a massive cross-country drive through Buckinghamshire, it certainly wasn't quick. It felt like we were still hardly halfway when Becca (who had had an easier and somewhat shorter journey) called to say she was almost there, so she was delegated to go and meet Anne Andrews, the very wonderful Housekeeper for the Pavilion, who lives a mile or so away.

I should mention that Landmark Housekeepers are far from being Mrs (or Mr) Mops who just happen to have the keys for some posh gaff. I mean yes, that is part of her role, but rather a lot more besides and Anne is, for a kick-off, Dr Mop if you please. Becca knows this better than I but I think she teaches for the OU, which already gets her, like, ten million brownie points as far as I'm concerned. And if you were to Google her along with some term like Ingestre or Tixall you'd see that she's quite a high-profile local historian. You'd not want to confuse her with someone whose USP is "pretty handy with a j-cloth" although I have no doubt that she's that, too. She's a big part of how the pavilion is: I'll return to this topic some time.

So while Becca was schmoozing Dr Anne and getting the keys and what have you, we were still chugging up the motorway. We, in this case, denotes Mrs von Neustadt, the Marchioness Loötës, (now the Iarlles Loötës following a Retitling Exercise) the Hound Gänseblümchen and myself: we were Marfless at this point because she was at the "Reading Festival". (I must say that a festival of reading sounds like an excellent idea, much nicer than all this wretched "popular music" which threatens the daughters of the aristocracy with its coarse lyrics and distressingly unsophisticated harmonizations.) There was then a motorway stop which featured nice coffees, pleasant browsing in a Marks and Spencer; a very proud new dad with his gorgeous, days-old baby; and a weird and unsettling thing which happened to me in the Gents.

Ha! That got your attention, didn't it? But no, calm your fevered imagination; it wasn't anything like that. Here's what happened.

Imagine a typical motorway washroom setup. There's quite a long row of wash basins, grouped in fours, and behind that a little low shelf and behind that is a mirror, presumably so you can shave, or admire yourself while washing your hands, or make sure your hair is all lovely, or check out the other cool dudes, or whatever. Just a very average scene: there must be thousands with this setup in motorway service stations and other lovely venues up and down the country. With me so far?

So, there I am washing my hands and, naturally, my reflection is too. I'm preoccupied with the journey and I'm not paying very close attention. I slowly realize that something is strange and I look up at my reflection in the big mirrors and my reflection looks up at me. And just for a second I think I am going to have a heart attack because then my reflection speaks and I don't. And what he says to me is, "this is weird". And just for a fraction of a second I'm flailing on the very edge of a different place, a place where all the rules have changed. This lasted such a very short time but it still gives me the creeps to relive it. I've never felt closer to madness than in that tiny splinter of a moment.

And then the world wobbles one last time and settles back, with a thud, safely on our side of the brink. The panic starts to abate and information starts to flow again and I can see more, my peripheral vision's back, my map of where I am is rapidly redrawing itself, the universe is making sense again. You can pretty much hear systems rebooting and powering up, new fixes being taken, memory being cleared and rewritten. My reflection is smiling and laughing and then so am I. He doesn't even look like me but he's right, it's weird.

OK so you've probably seen this coming but I hadn't, not during that frightening nanosecond of total uncertainty. There's no mirror: there's a double row of basins back to back with a low shelf between them. My reflection was someone else washing his hands; I was his reflection; and we'd both realized, in the same split second, that our Weltanschauung, or maybe just Spiegelanschauung or Badezimmeranschauung, was way, way off.

At the time we (my reflection and I) said that this must happen constantly: but actually I'm not now so sure. Certainly the layout, and the presence of a sort of framing effect round the mirror, encourages it: yet it must require quite a degree of inattention, a failure to look up, some close similarity in movement and height between the two "players" and so on. Further, it must depend on the rest of the room being empty or very quiet, or - even more unlikely - other people mirroring each other's approximate positions and appearance. I don't think it could happen unless most or all of these conditions were met. So no, I don't think it happens often, and I do think that I was lucky - if that's the word for something so spooky - to have had this momentary but very powerful and disconcerting experience. It was kind of fun, but I don't really want to feel quite like that ever again, thank you.

With all this excellent entertainment out of the way it was time to move on. We were well away from London and the traffic was quite busy but not terrible; the M6 Toll was, as ever, a delight, and it wasn't long before we were arriving at the Pavilion. The Landmark instructions for finding it were pretty good, as they usually are, but in any case I'd really nailed it with the satnav (my Precious!) and a quick rehearsal with the ever-wonderful Google Earth.

Becca was of course already there and had the keys and so on. She also had little wooden triangular prisms, like a toblerone shape (though sadly choccie-less), which identified us as Landmark visitors while using the private roads to reach the Pavilion. (Without them, I suppose, the farmer is allowed to open fire.)

Becca had also brought a small but rather brilliant folding ramp she'd borrowed. This would've been useful anyway, but as the power chair weighs 93 tons (you can get a hernia just looking at its batteries), it was really more of an essential. The Pavilion does have three steps - rather gorgeous steps actually - which cannot be avoided in getting in. (At the moment: more on this later.) You can see these steps quite clearly in the photo. Whilst the borrowed ramp wasn't long enough for Bec to drive the power chair up it alone, it certainly facilitated doing it with some extra muscle; and it was roughly the correct length for the single step which remained, to get you from the floor of the portico and up though the front door. (You can almost see the front door in the photo: it is mostly obscured by the third pillar. Imagine you go up the steps and turn 90° right - then you're facing the door.) The other rather useful thing this ramp could do was to get the chair into the back of the Mitsubishi, under its own power, with minimal dismantling: this is a colossal improvement over lifting in a long succession of separate, heavy components. The ramp folds into four, lengthways, so you lose width (though no length), resulting in it being reasonably portable. It's made out of goodness knows what light but strong material (plastics, carbon fibre, etc?) and has carrying handles. It's quite clever.

So there we were at Ingestre Pavilion...

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (LD Frazier, St Anne & St Agnes)

Monday, 22 October 2007

LD Frazier. "I've been in the storm too long" - A narrative of black religious music in America from spirituals to the present day; poetry by Langston Hughes.

This was wonderful. LD Frazier is a terrific performer with a really imposing presence and demeanour. I just loved him from the word Go.

I had a tiny moment of disorientation when I read in his biography that he's from Cleveland. Just for a nanosecond I caught myself thinking, "oh, but I thought he was American" before I got back up to speed. Funny really - this cannot be common, even though the biography omitted, unusually, the state, which would've nailed it, even for me.

LD Frazier started very simply, just humming: he's got a very resonant kind of sound so it was more of a superhum, perhaps even a megahum. Whatever - it's very arresting, filling the church with sound. After quite a few choruses like this he moved into actually singing and went through Sometimes I feel like a motherless child and Wade in the water. Forgive me, by the way, if I didn't get many titles or even get them right: we were a small audience and he communicates quite directly and I feared it would have seemed rude to be sitting there writing. (Maybe I should wear a hat with a press pass on it? Hmm.)

The next song was I've got a feeling everything's gonna be alright, in which we got the opportunity, or rather the instruction, to join in. I'm often a bit wary of audience participation at gigs but frankly LD doesn't seem all that likely to take no for an answer so you may as well just go with the flow. I suppose one reason I'm slightly reluctant is that I'm not that good at it - I seem slow to pick the tune up, and sit there wishing I had the music - but this was all pretty survivable.

After the first few songs LD Frazier then did a handful of poems by Langston Hughes, a poet whose work, LD tells us, does much to reflect the feelings of African-American people. He's an incredible performer and he very much made me want to find out about, and read more by Hughes.

From there till the end of the concert Frazier performed songs accompanying himself – forcefully! – on the piano. I’m afraid that I didn’t get the titles. We got to sing along with a couple more too. I was noticing in his biography where it talks about him working with a choir and doing workshops and so on (including some Scott Stroman/Eclectic Voices stuff, and I think more than one Jazz vespers at St Anne’s?) and I was wondering if he ever uses a band, too, and how great it would be to play in it with him. I always feel that if I find myself playing solos (which are always far better than what I manage in real life!) or working out the horn parts, then it’s an indicator of some kind that I’ve “clicked” with the music in some basic way.

And that’s pretty much it – over too soon. I stayed behind for a coffee and a chat with Jana the Superpriest (on Lutherans and music, if you must know – interesting field!) and to say hello to LD Frazier who was very nice.

The only thing that disappointed me about this concert was that the audience felt a little on the slim side. (Not me personally, you understand – that would be just fine.) I seem to recall that it says Judge not, that ye be not judged. in some book somewhere (oh alright it’s Matthew 7:1) so I will try not to be horrid, but I did wonder a little. I don’t go there just for the Schubert or whatever (much though I love it) but because I trust SS A&A to put on an interesting programme, so I want to hear what they think I might want to hear – it’s a kind of symbiosis between their judgment and my ear’s delight and interest. So I hope that the sparse-looking audience was just coincidence and not the classical people staying away, a thought which – while trying to stay off judgementalismness(igkeit?) – troubles me somewhat. However I'm not the judge, I'm not the judge, everybody knows that I'm not the judge, and I must also not make mountains out of molehills, and will shut up now, except to say great gig, more please.

Yay, woo, and other shouts of joy

At last I have finished and posted the piece of writing about Brass Day at the Proms. I can't believe that I have finally got past this horrendous block, almost three months after the event!

Why it should have been quite such a problem to do this, I don't know. It's obviously connected with it being my personal writing, as opposed to my editing someone else's, and the fact that it always therefore gets shunted to the back of the queue. So by the time the job is almost under control and I had time to look at it I was so fed up that I didn't feel like doing it anyway, plus most of my memory had erased itself and my notes weren't that good, so it all felt a bit uphill.

Please note that I'm not claiming that it's a great piece of writing: I am merely noting that I am very, very relieved to have done it, despite its many flaws. Now I feel I can get on with some other stuff a bit more too. I must make a mental note not to take on any more writing jobs like this till after April 11th: in some senses it was a mistake to do Brass Day but I felt that it would have been truly terrible for us not to have commented on it - it really was a terrific event. If you want to read the piece - not that I am suggesting you should necessarily want to - you should probably go to some trumpet thing and look for its News pages and look for a story dated today. It was VERY late last night when I finished work on it!

Onwards and upwards! :)

Monday, 22 October 2007

Weekend - good in parts

As the title may suggest to the observant and alert reader, I felt that the weekend was good in parts. As I have 9 minutes, max, to tell you why (as if you were interested ...) I had better try to be brief.

  • Made some progress with the AccursedBugleNews™ but not as much as I would like and I am still feeling quite stuck with my ****** ******* ******* ******** Proms story. Why this should be so I do not know. A better person would simply have stuck down something, almost anything, on paper and finished it by now. It's really getting quite annoying.
  • Corresponded with another possible AccursedBugleNews™ successor. Worried about whether answering their questions too truthfully would put them off, but cannot avoid it. Have tried to emphasize that my superb ability to get into a mess does not mean that any normal and well-organized person should have the same problems.
  • I spent parts of the weekend feeling concerned about people leaving things. It is selfish and conservative of me and reflects my dreadful inability to cope with change. I mind it, because of its effect on my cosy little world, when I should be thinking of them and saying great, well done, congratulations on deciding to make a change. I may be losing up to two brilliant colleagues (no names, no packdrill) plus I know that someone whom I value extremely highly elsewhere is going next year. In all of these cases I could do with discovering in myself more generosity of spirit and a little less self-interest. Amusingly enough, one possible leaver has asked if I would do a reference for them (answer = yes, and they will get an exceedingly good one as they are a superb colleague). The other leavers are somewhat less likely to require my support in finding new posts! Ho hum.
  • Failed to go orienteering at all this weekend. I am cheesed off by this. The only strong possibility was one on Sunday a fair bit south of London which would have been difficult, but I still wish I had made the effort and gone. And if I had I would have bumped into my mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece there, which makes me even crosser. Gah! I have really, really got to get less pathetic about orienteering. Being this pathetic is just, well, pathetic.
  • My Dear-Wife-Bless-Her is still not all that well. It's getting to be a bit of a ludicrous length of time to have such an alarming-sounding cough and I think it is high time some doctorial-type person did something brilliantly dynamic and far-sighted, like making her better.
  • We went to the utterly fantastic film Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters) at the Phoenix. Strongly recommended. Also, the Phoenix is so wonderful that it makes me want to swear a solemn oath never again to go to a Horrid Modern Fleapit-type Thing.
  • We also went out for lovely meal afterwards (no irony intended) at the New Happy Swan.
  • Nice Sunday lunch "up Millf" and sorted out a couple of problems on Granny's PC. It is such a joy to be working with Windows Vista. (Goak here.)

And that concludes the voting of the von Neustadt jury...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Strawberry Yoghurt - Munch Bunch strawberry yogurt

I must admit that I thought this would be vile: I bought it mostly for the novelty value, finding it terribly exciting that it's a strawberry yoghurt in a strawberry-shaped container. I mean, what could be nicer?

The yoghurt is surprisingly not-bad. It's perhaps a little bit bland and not very strongly fruity, and has a slightly odd aftertaste. I suppose you can't be too surprised to hear that its texture is very plain - since the yoghurt all has to slurped out of a 1cm aperture there's not much scope for lumps of fruit, so what you get is a very homogeneous paste. Astronaut food, kind'a'thing. I have currently mislaid its label which is why there is no list of ingredients, but I seem to recall that stuff like guar gum and other texture-related ingredients seemed quite prominent, so I suspect that the free(ish) flow of the gunge is one of the design issues you don't get in making yoghurt for a normal pot. I wondered if that's what I was tasting?

On the other hand I give them three hearty cheers for not giving in to the kiddie-sweet market and filling it entirely with sugar, and also for not pretending it's health-food and making it taste of aspartame, yuk yuk and yuk.

I am not sure I will be hurrying to buy this yoghurt again, but it's not bad and I certainly do not regret having the bag-worth in the fridge to mooch through.


Perfectly OK, entertaining shape, not outstanding yog

Shapeliness: 9

Plastic-tastic-osity: 10

Child appeal: 7.4

Grelltt: 6

Oversugaredness: 0

Aspartame: 0

Sploorn: 6

Overall: 5

Obsessives corner:

6 x 60g strawboids

Strawberry purée 10%

Each strawboid:

48 kcal

7.2g sugar (12%)

Romeo Alpha clear take off

Red Admiral butterfly departing yellow dahlia at Cragside pauses for final safety checks before powering up for transition to flight.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (Kim Mackrell & Roy Stratford, St Anne & St Agnes)

Friday 19 October: Kim Mackrell cello; Roy Stratford, piano. Bach: Sonata No 1 in G Major; Poulenc: Sonata.

The church seems strangely quiet today - or is it just that I'm uncharacteristically early, having gone round via Barbican Chimes to buy something? No, it does seem down a little.

Roy Stratford does excellent introductions.

Bach: Sonata No 1 in G Major (a gamba sonata from the Cöthen years)

  1. Adagio: Sunny, poised. Gets a bit outré towards the middle but all settles down again.
  2. Allegro: Jolly, bouncy. Once or twice I felt a little lost in the piano's stream of semiquavers so I had a moment's trouble following the cello line. I think/hope this was the result of my late night rather than something that Bach or the performers did.
  3. Andante: Sparse yet warm, wonderful.
  4. Allegro moderato: busy - I’m still having some trouble hearing the cello. Hmmm.

Poulenc: Sonata - Written for Fournier in 1949 (or was it premièred then?) says Roy Stratford in another good intro. I like it when the performers chat to the punters. Should it be compulsory? (Think carefully about some musicians you know before answering that question.)

  1. Allegro: Bright, assertive, complex.
  2. Cavatine: Gorgeous long flowing melodies, quite passionate at times. I felt that we got to hear the cello more properly during this movement.
  3. Ballabile: "like a slightly crazy dance" says Stratford and he's not wrong. Almost Keystone-cops-like at times. But rescued from the foolishness by some beautiful melodic writing
  4. Finale: - Jig with "unexpectedly serious ending." Dramatic intro with wonderful cello harmonics: then off we go. Quite intense, driven: I'm not sure I'd call it a jig because it seemed so unrelaxed. But hey. An exciting performance. I am afraid the ending and its unexpected seriousness passed me by a bit: I was quite badly distracted by a strange noise in the church which was somewhat in competition with the music. It sounded a bit like typing but it's more than a little difficult to believe that anyone would actually have been doing so. What sort of ecclesiastical emergency could make you type during a concert? Other theories: piano malfunction (I have always said they have too many moving parts), noise from outside, eccentric audience member doing bizarre arhythmical foot-tapping? Very large mice?? Is it just Vogel hallucinating??? Most odd. Oh well.

Encore: that nice Rachmaninov tune. Erm, yes, which tune would that be? I can't remember but if I do, or look it up, you'll be the first to know. Beautiful.

Lovely concert. These are fabulous performers and Kim Mackrell again did things with harmonics that made me want to run around shrieking with excitement and tension. But the balance did not work for me and once again I am not sure if this is my ears, my choice of seat or what. Since, even as I write this, my tinnitus is giving me merry H*ll (despite the best efforts of Messrs Cave and Grönemeyer on the In weiter Ferne, so nah! soundtrack CD) I am clearly not exactly a reliable commentator on these matters. I do wish, though, that someone with fully functional musical ears had sat just where I was and could comment. (Not literally in the same place, you understand: that would just be silly. And uncomfortable. Next to me would work fine, thanks.) Even so. A well-spent lunchtime of lovely music. And it’s Friday!!

Explanatory textual module: The "something" I was buying oop t'music shop, by the way, was a vocal score for the Christmas Oratorio. I have two of them to do this year, one where I am less scarily on 2nd in the more scary environment of Salisbury Cathedral, and one more scarily on 1st in the very much less scary environment of the Great Hall at Barts, which you can see pictured here. In the Barts performance we also have my dear daughter Loötës playing the trumpet, which is never a bad thing. It gets very boring in the long gaps between the trumpet-rich bits and it is very nice to have a score so you can follow and even tweetle along quietly in the choruses. (Croak-along-a-Johann-Sebastian!) Bizarrely we did not have a score of this great work and it's not always possible to borrow one from the choir. End of explanatory textual module, bleep bleep.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Post–ed Life II

Having considered my ITG life once I have become ExEditMan on April 11th, I now turn to the perhaps more interesting or important area of what else I can or should do with the extra time that I feel I ought to have.

First a quick few caveats:

Caveat 1: I find that I am talking about it as if I am suddenly going to discover that I have, say, 90 more hours spare a week. This may not be entirely realistic. I know that this list is partly fantasy. You honestly do not need to write in and point this out.

Caveat 2: the order of the list is random. Please don't go trying to read anything into it ... there's nothing there to be read in. Maybe I should alphabetize it or re–randomize it some other way? Ah yep OK done that.

Caveat 3: I'm well aware, believe me, of the worry that I'll take too much on, or accept some voluntary role, or just try to do too many things from my list so that even those extra 90 hours can't accommodate them. I really don't want to drop dead from stress quite that fast. And I am not, repeat NOT, signing up for some other voluntary job; not for a long time – possibly not till retirement – possibly not ever.

Caveat 4: the worst possible case is that I'd notice no difference between the before and the after... the ninety hours doesn't even feel like ten minutes, nothing seems to have changed. This would have to be because I'm even more useless and inefficient than I fear, and is a truly horrible thought.

Oh dear, those caveats all seem a bit negative. Here's a more cheerful thought: I ought to have a list like this anyway, for a variety of reasons. And no, not all of those reasons must involve the National Lottery or the Premium Bonds!

Right then:

  • Cars, future of – contemplate.
  • Cheese. See comment by wine.
  • Computers, software - especially creative stuff - music, video, animation, photography
  • Creativity, cooking, do more of
  • Creativity, drawing???
  • Creativity, modelling?? - used to like doing kits etc
  • Creativity, needlework?
  • Creativity, woodwork??
  • Crosswords
  • Culture, general – go to more things we've chosen. Music, art, theatre, cinema.
  • Culture, literature – read some books
  • Dance – learn to do so??
  • Embleton – worry about.
  • Family – devote more time to.
  • Family, history of: family tree, writing things down, Dad, etc
  • Friends, seeing, dinners etc – do more of
  • Gardening??? :) Roses? Orchids??
  • Gym - I'm paying a million quid a year and only use the pool. Tsk.
  • House, decluttering – get serious about
  • House, repairs and developments – get a grip! Oh, and the shed ... gulp ... the fences ...
  • Languages, German – do something with. Possibilities at QM, Goethe-Institut?
  • Languages, other – past saving??
  • London, out of, aim to get occasionally. See also Family, Walking, Places ...
  • Music collection, old LPs and tapes and stuff - sort out, digitize, do something
  • Music equipment - consider fate of old but lovely stuff like Revox deck. Rationalize. What about that patch bay?? Hmmm??
  • Orienteering – go more often. Maybe even get better at it?
  • Piano. Oh dear ...
  • Places, nice/interesting - go to more of. EH and NT membership not currently earning their keep. See also London, Walking.
  • Photography, albums – do them. It is a source of endless shame to me that there's not yet an album with Martha in. This must be rectified, urgently.
  • Photography, archives, digital – get them sorted out properly and keep a cataloguing system going.
  • Photography, camera, SLR – consider getting one.
  • Photography, cameras, older – declutter?
  • Photography, slides – do more sorting out of. Massive resource almost untouched.
  • Photography, training – what would happen if I got some?
  • Singing, choral – do some more
  • Singing, lessons – consider
  • Sleeping - do some more of it
  • Swimming - do more and better
  • Tennis – Martha thinks we should get lessons! Interesting idea.
  • Trumpet, Baroque, what about it? Same goes for cornetto.
  • Trumpet, gigs, – don't do any more! Be selective, enjoy the ones you've got, do them better. 6Ps.
  • Trumpet, hardware, sort out
  • Trumpet, intonation – work on it. Seriously. (What the h*ll is this?)
  • Trumpet, ITG - noted elsewhere
  • Trumpet, jazz – could do with a touch more work (arf arf)
  • Trumpet, Last Post - consider the whole thing, possibly write more.
  • Trumpet, lessons – consider this at least
  • Trumpet, practice – do it more
  • Trumpet, regular playing, good for you it is, the embouchure it strengthens, young Jedi. Consider two possible band offers. (OK so that means it should really be under "cornet": sue me.
  • Trumpet, township, Siyakhula Music Project, Brian Thusi, Nqobile, what can/should I do to help?
  • Video, camera, newer – consider its future
  • Video, camera, old – decide its fate
  • Video, tapes, Deb's teaching – monster sort–out required.
  • Video, tapes, editing – sort out technical approach.
  • Video, tapes, family – monster sort–out required.
  • Video, tapes, that poor woman's memorial service do – edit & finish.
  • Walking, proper, nice, well-organized etc - do some more of.
  • Weight, fitness, health an ting. Get all sorted out and lovely. Weigh 11:4 by Xmas 2008? Ahem.
  • Wine. Not necessarily to drink more of but to know more about?
  • Whisky - see wine!
  • Work, paid – needs further thought. For now, try to find out what a “work–life balance is” and where you can get one. (John Lewis??)
  • Work, voluntary – till further notice do not take on anything new. JUST DON'T DO IT, OK???
  • Writing, proper, organized – do some
  • Yoghurt, strawberry, blogging about - do some more

Well that’s it for now. This is, however, a work in progress and is likely to be updated as and when inspiration strikes, if ever it does.

Post-ed Life I

I feel I should mention - or maybe I'm just reminding myself? - that leaving the news editor job does not sever my connection with ITG: far from it.

Firstly, I'm still a member, natch.

Nextly, I'm still on the board. I was (to my astonishment) elected there and it is in no way contingent upon my editing job. Indeed there's always the faint hope that I might make a better board member once I'm no longer editing. Who knows? I am, for example, a member of a technical committee on which I have as yet done nothing, nada, zilch, nichts and rien. Doing even slightly-more-than-nothing would thus be an improvement, even though I do, of course, recognize very clearly the need to avoid, in the post-editing vacuum, Taking Too Much On and its cousin Regretting It Later.

Thirdlymost, I still hope to go on writing as a conference reporter for as many conferences as I can manage, as long as Gary wants me to. This is a particularly nice job and one I've always enjoyed. (Indeed it's the route via which I came to the editing job. I was a conference reporter for ITG 2002 in Manchester before I took the editing post in 2003.) It's certainly no sinecure - quite demanding in its own way, but, crucially, it has a beginning and an end, rather than my just going home to an infinite stack of guilt. So when I shake hands and say goodbye to my friends and colleagues that's pretty much it for a year.

Lastly, as I have babbled on about elsewhere, I want to do more writing. This is a general ambition and not specifically trumpet-related, but it is not of course impossible that some of that writing would indeed be about the Accursed Bugle and those who bravely sit behind it. I know it's unlikely that I'll ever be writing proper academic journal articles about Weidinger's different mouthpieces or what Gottfried Reiche liked best for breakfast (it was toast and marmalade and a nice cup of PG Tips, since you ask) or whatever, but things like the so-far-unfinished Proms Brass Day article might be an occasional possibility for a news article.

So, I will be out of this post, but not finished with the Guild, not by a long chalk.

Another, perhaps more interesting question might be what I could do outside my ITG life once I am now longer editing...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

On-the-Way-to-the-Gig-a-Blog™ (featuring the Christ's Hospital Band and other fascinating phenomena)

Friday, 21 September 2007, on the way to the Eidolon trio at St Anne & St Agnes.

It was rather fun coming to this lunchtime concert. Just as I was getting close to the church, still a few metres off the Gresham Street junction, a good deal of noise, people and police motorcycles announced that something interesting was afoot. The police bikes stopped the traffic (which I bet was thrilled to bits) and into view hove a marching band. Not just any band, but the band of Christ's Hospital: what was afoot, it seemed, was something along the lines of some ancient right to process through the City of London. Pending looking it up, I'm guessing they do this once a year on Founders' Day, or something, perhaps before or after a service at St Paul's or some other pleasant and impressive venue. On a yet wilder guess, it looked like maybe the whole school was marching: if not, it must certainly have been a goodly proportion thereof (see update below).

Ah yes, I should have said, for readers unfamiliar with the terminology: Christ's Hospital is not a hospital in the general, current sense of the word, but a school. It's a bluecoat school, like the one in Bristol to which I went: indeed the latter, Queen Elizabeth's Hospital, was modelled on Christ's Hospital. So I felt some interest, or sympathy, or something, as they marched past.

One thing by which I was completely gobsmacked as the march passed us was the presence of girls. GURLZ! Girls in bluecoat uniform!! Talk about having your world shaken. And while I had naively assumed at first that this was a new(ish) initiative it is clear from a little reading that it isn’t: the sentence “The first boys and girls entered the School in Newgate in 1552” is perhaps a bit of a pointer in this direction. Ha! – they may have modelled QEH on Christ's Hospital when they opened it in 1590 but they seem to have forgotten the bit about girls, or at least they certainly had by the 20th century, chiz! QEH could’ve been a load more fun, I feel. Sigh, and a very muted arooooo on behalf of the Vogel of ~35 years ago! (Not, I hasten to add, that there was anything wrong with our “Special Relationship” with Red Maids; nor yet with my Special Relationships with Red Maids, La Retraite, Colston Girls, Redland High et al. Indeedy not. But even so …)

Before I leave this troubling yet oddly fascinating topic I should add that the bluecoat uniform for the girls I saw in the march is slightly adapted and it’s an interesting idea. If you haven't already followed a link to see what a bluecoat student looks like, you might want to, but essentially they look a bit like an insane Renaissance lay clerk on day release from the Laughing Academy. Since it already looks like you're wearing a rather fetching long dress one might wonder what girlie adaptations you could possibly do but it turns out it's just at the neck. Traditionally the bluecoat "hi, I'm bonkers - or possibly a time traveller" look is topped off exquisitely with broad, plain, white linen "bands" which are stuck in at the neck and which dangle a bit down your front in an inverted-V shape for a touch of C16 clerical chic.

(Whenever I think about this item of kit I'm seized by a strange urge to chant "I am the judge, I am the judge, everybody knows that I am the judge." Exactly why this is, or indeed whether there are tablets that might help, is data which, I'm sorry Dave, is not accessible at this time. But I digress, yes by Heaven I do digress! I am, like, DigressoMan!! Woo! And now back to your Core Module.)

Well, the girlification of the uniform I saw consists of replacing the linen bands with little lace ruffle things so that - on a brief glance anyway - it looks like they're wearing a little white lacy flower at the neck. I can't quite make up my mind whether this is quite a cute touch or a bit naff, though I think I'm leaning more towards cute at the moment. It would be interesting to know how the historical or traditional precedent works and whether that’s a 1552 touch, or what. Of course I may have totally (as usual) got it wrong and it will turn out that what I saw is actually the special Senior Prefect Ruffles, or it was the Captain of Hockey's Community Award, or the Lacemakers’ Scholarship winner's badge or something. If you know, do write and enlighten me.

The other thing that made me go "uh?" a bit was the sight of a marching or military or wind or something band - a rather good band, actually - leading the parade in bluecoat uniform. Again it might just be that I've bounced into a hitherto-unexplored zone of conservatism in my mind, but this was quite a surprise – QEH just never did this. They did process occasionally down to, I don't know, St George's or the Lord Mayor's Chapel or wherever, but music on the hoof wasn't part of this as far as I recall. The only times I've performed music dressed like that - mercifully few times, I should add - it's been classical and/or religious: sit-down stuff, or maybe stand-up. But not walkabout!

I can't really isolate why this seemed so odd, other than the novelty. I suppose some little voice in me is yelling that they should've at least been marching with crumhorns and racketts and playing something catchy (aha) by Dowland, rather than with saxes and doing Star Wars or whatever. But this doesn't stand up to close examination. In fact it doesn't really stand up much at all ... oh well. I think what really finished me off was that the band had at least one bass drummer, and, being the bass drummer in a military-type band, he naturally had on one of those colourful (mock leopardskin?) apron things that go miles down your front. On top of a bluecoat uniform!! Whatever other problems my elderly perceptions might be having with this whole thing, please don't try telling me that that's anything other than just weird, however you slice it and dice it. Imagine someone wearing, say, a bishop's mitre and a wetsuit, or maybe a police uniform together with ballet pumps and a trilby. Yes, roughly that weird. Ah yes, I've just (as noted before) found it on the school's website - this photo gallery of the event does indeed depict such drummers, along with drum-major-type people with maces, and saluting, and stuff. Definitely weird for an ex-QEH person to see.

As you can no doubt tell I was intrigued by this whole display, so seemingly familiar and yet so different from what I thought I knew. Of course, it made a wonderful spectacle anyway and like lots of other people I stood and watched the procession pass and indeed ate my sandwich crunch yum. With a nice chap who was standing beside me I carried out the Ritual of all the Traditional Statements which it is Customary for Passersby to make to Each Other on such Occasions viz:

  • Well that's not something you see every day
  • Makes a change from the usual lunchtime
  • My word, that van driver seems displeased (or some paraphrase thereof)
  • Well, must be getting back/on/etc (to reword as required)
  • And a very good afternoon to you, sir or madam.

And so saying, went peaceably on my way to the delights of SS A&A's fabulous concert. What a great lunchtime diversion!


I have briefly overcome my essential laziness and looked it up a bit. Sadly I am not de-lazyfied sufficiently to edit this all in, so here's a quote from the school's news page about St Matthew's Day, which is what it turns out it was:

"The tradition of the School's St Matthew's Day (21 September) celebration which stretches back to Christ's Hospital's foundation in 1552, was marked by a thanksgiving service in the Church of St Andrew, lunch at Mansion House and a parade through the City of 300 pupils accompanied by the Band."

- so there we go. A bit more useful than my guesses. The engraving at the top shows the school on its former London site in 1770. Nowadays it lives in Horsham, West Sussex.

And a note:

One day I probably ought to write something about my school days and QEH - but the above is not it, and it would be a mistake to try to discern anything very significant about my secondary education, and my attitude to it, from the ramblings above. Really they are just my reaction to an interesting event, not a treatise on selective education, fee-paying education, charitable education or anything much else really. Caveat lector! :)