I’m always going to write some posts around your forum comments and then I forget. So let’s see if I can remember long enough to catch up a little.
. . . while reading tonight’s post [Chilly singing] I was humming the Gloria from Faure’s Requiem and was going to recommend Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna as I feel they have similar airy, light, and joyful qualities. Then I realized I was humming the wrong song. :/ The Lauridsen (and the Faure, for that matter) are still worth the recommendation.
I love the Faure but . . . Good old YouTube. I’m listening—first to Lux and then to the Songs of the Roses that Diane in MN mentions later in this thread—as I type. I’d never HEARD of Lauridsen. I’m so ignorant.
Although I could have done without the banner ad: How to sing, really sing. Breakthrough method releases your unique voice. Watch free video here!
I’m only interested if it involves chocolate and champagne. And I’m a little worried about the escape clause provided by that ‘unique’. *
Speaking as someone who’s seventeen, I always write drafts by hand – but that’s actually because I’m a really good typist. When I write things by hand, I can write one sentence and think of the next, then write that sentence while thinking of the next, and carry on. If I try to type a first draft, my fingers catch up to my brain and I get stuck.
YES. EXACTLY. I AM EXACTLY LIKE THIS. I TYPE A WHOLE LOT FASTER THAN I THINK. And it’s like falling off a cliff when you reach the end of your thought and your fingers are still whirring away wanting something to do.
It’s true that I write the blog straight on the computer—it would be way too much like work if I didn’t—and I start other stuff on the computer a lot more than I used to. Still. Paper is the real deal. Paper doesn’t disappear at a (usually mysterious) keystroke. And I have more little notebooks (spiral preferred, so they lie flat) with pretty or striking or tactile covers than any four people need. I tend to write drafts in pencil, but I take notes in ink, and I just like the process of an old-fashioned fountain pen gliding across the page.
Though I also just like paper–I usually type up the draft, then print it out to make edits and then type those in… But most people at school with me think this is insane.
When you win the Nobel Prize for Literature you will have the last laugh.
How many people are there in the Muddles?
Do you sing with piano or organ? I only ask because I am part of a group which can run to twenty or more and we gather in homes (those belonging to folks with parking not entirely filled with snow) where the living-dining-kitchen areas are one glorious (or not) space.
I know that kind of space is rarer in the UK, but we make do.
Both piano and organ, but mostly piano for rehearsal. As long as there’s an accompanying instrument I don’t think it matters that much till the next concert is getting close. There are something like forty Muddles members on the books but I would have said we rarely have more than twenty-five at practise, and we were about fifteen last week. I know. I think about this. So does Gordon, because I’ve spoken to him about it. But it’s unlikely anyone has a drawing-room big enough if all forty of us showed up—and since I’ve never managed to sing at a concert, possibly the last couple of rehearsals or so everybody turns out. Except the superfluous first soprano who is going to the opera, unless she has flu or a deadline rendered intolerable by said flu, and doesn’t go to the opera either.** My murky fantasy is that we start a splinter group of oh, twelve or so.*** There are lots of living spaces that could hold a mere twelve—including Third House’s sitting room. Mwa ha ha ha ha. I would throw in use of my cheap portable electric keyboard free.
Susan in Melbourne
I find that commercial and public interiors in the northern hemisphere are kept unnaturally warm in winter. [In the UK] I moved between hotels, restaurants, meeting rooms in universities, public transport, and everywhere I was too hot. On arrival in a new hotel room, I’d rush for the window to fling it open, and then to the heater to turn it off. A colleague who has recently moved back to the UK from Australia was telling me that she and her partner just had to leave a restaurant recently because it was too unbearably hot.
WHERE? This sounds like America to me, not frigid chilblained England. I acknowledge that I’ve been too hot occasionally, like in the Heathrow hotel room where Peter and I saw the original CSI for the first time (this was long ago) the night before flying to the States. And there are still, I believe, criminally insane stores that leave their front doors open to the street and blast the entry with the best their central heating can do. And anybody can have a Bad Wiring Day when the on switch gets stuck. But generally speaking . . . I like pubs with open fires, and then I want to sit next to them.
Robin, you obviously mostly inhabit private spaces rather than communal ones, and I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be burning fuel at the greenhouse-layer-thinning rate that commercial premises seem to be doing. Yours is the more realistic experience of the real (chilly) world outside.
Indeed. This is why my laptop and I crouch by the Aga in the kitchen. It’s not because my office is still full of stuff waiting to be doodled and I can’t bear to go in there with all of it staring at me reproachfully†. It’s because I get COLD in my office. At very least I’ll turn the central heating on and I’ll probably dust off the electric fire and open it up too. If I’m sitting by the Aga, if there are penguins in my office I don’t care.†† Also, there’s the hellterror. The hellterror does not truly grasp the concept of GO LIE DOWN yet, and her big crate lives in the kitchen. The Aga system is not popular with hellhounds, whose favourite bed, as I’ve told you, is in my office†††, but Pav will grow up. Or maybe I’ll just rope her feet together.
^ Also: token footnote. So no one complains about the lack of footnotes.
Seriously? You have very demanding readers if they’d complain about a lack of footnotes
DEMANDING. TOTALLY. VERY DEMANDING. MY READERS. THEY ARE.‡
* * *
* Nadia is a little cynical about poor old Dido. Drama queen, she says. ‘Remember me’ indeed. —I’ve always liked Dido although I agree that topping yourself because your boyfriend dumps you^ is not a healthy, balanced reaction. But—I’ve gibbered about this before—your attitude toward a piece of music changes spectacularly—unrecognisably—as soon as you start developing a relationship with it by trying to perform the sucker. However inadequately.^^ So I’ve been engaging with Dido on a whole variety of new levels as a result of trying to sing her. And it may be entirely the wrong kind of courage, but it does take courage to do yourself in. I think there’s some steel there—and some anger. I’d like to get that into my performance, cough cough cough, with the despair and grief.
Purcell is Radio Three’s composer of the week. Today we had Dido. The presenter went on rather about the recording he’d chosen, and I have loved the soprano in other roles and agree she has a fabulous voice. And when we got to the famous Lament, for which no stop has been left unpulled, I’m all: STOP FRELLING WHINING YOU MAUDLIN COW.
^ I don’t find his offer to defy the gods and stay very convincing. Just by the way. Aeneas the creep. Aeneas the faithless. All he is is a pretty pair of biceps.
^^ Which is about as much explanation and excuse as anyone needs in answer to my craven question, why should mediocre amateurs even bother? This is why. Because performing widens and deepens your understanding of a major art form. Your brain and your emotions are not limited by your technical skill. Horizons beckon. Angels+ whisper. Doodah doodah.
+ Or supernatural being of choice. Djinns. Fairies.#
# Out hurtling hellhounds today I saw a van. Gremlin Landscaping I read. I blinked and looked again. Gemini Landscaping. Okay. That’s better. I don’t think I’d hire the first guy. But I think I may have a creating-my-own-reality problem.
*** Assuming SATB, four part music, there have to be at least eight of us because I’m not singing all by myself. If there are second sopranos we have to be at least ten.
† Believe it or not, all you amazingly, astonishingly, superlatively, supernaturally patient people, I’m still turning the frellers out at about two a week. Or I was, up till the last fortnight when there was too much generalised illness in this household and I lost the plot for a while. But I should be starting up again next week. But you are all aware of the refund button on the side bar of this blog? Not only is there no disgrace^ to asking for a refund . . . remember that some day in the fuzzy distant future WHEN I’VE FINISHED THE BACKLOG Blogmom will put up a doodle shop where the refund button is at present and you can reorder. We will be taking commissions at a strictly-enforced rate of about two a week.
^ The disgrace is all mine+
+ Including my continuing failure to knit square squares which means the rose and pawprint requisitions are still in the aaaaaaugh stage.
†† As long as they clean up after themselves.
††† And this was true before the arrival of the hellterror.
‡ However there is no footnote shortage today.
It’s southern England in the middle of March and it’s snowing. And the wind chill factor is something like minus eight hundred and twelve.* What’s the opposite of a meltdown? I’m having one. I am not willing to PUT UP WITH THIS WEATHER in the south of England in the middle of MARCH.** My crocuses, daffs, hyacinths and hellebores have SNOW on them. And the wind? Not only does it try to push your teeth down your throat should you be so injudicious as to open your mouth—in shock—to breathe, it makes Wolfgang rock on his (elderly) suspension as we speed toward Sorgumlea and Nadia and it lifted one of the Wall Man’s neatly stacked bricks and threw it at my greenhouse—crash! Bricks are heavy, you know? And their glide ratio is not good. But a brick still levitated off the pile, flew up into the air and whanged down on my greenhouse.
The Wall Man hasn’t been here in about four days—it’s been raining till it started snowing. So not only is our wall not being finished, but the WIND comes through the gap into my garden galloping like a jousting knight—GET OUT OF THE WAAAAAAAY. Pavlova was nearly tossed over the opposite wall onto Phineas’ lawn.***
Generally speaking however Pav doesn’t care. The hellhounds care. Make it stop or we’ll stop eating (again). I also hate picking up crap in this weather: you have to take your gloves off. For most of your average [sic] English winter fingerless gloves, especially the kind with the little fold-over mitten end, are perfectly adequate. I suppose if the evil aspect of winter is going to hang around more I will be forced to learn to adapt to picking up crap with my gloves on.† I took Pav with me today—now that the daylight is getting loonger†† in the afternoons again there’s a perfectly good hurtling opportunity post-voice-lesson before we return to familiar territory—and since as we know she only ever craps at home and when ordered to do so by the hellgoddess, the taking off of gloves was not going to be a problem. But it was so COOOLD that she managed to hucklebutt the end of the lead right out of my numbed fingers—she’s mostly figured out how long her (extending) lead is, just as the hellhounds did at her age, and watching her hucklebutt in a tight zigzag pattern is better entertainment than most West End plays. But she misjudges occasionally. Today when she got to the end the handle just rattled straight out of my failing-to-close non-grip. Oops. Loose frelling hellterror in the middle of vast edge-of-town park and sports and playground area with lots of lovely people and other dogs to meet. Hey, Pav, I said casually. She looked at me. Pav, come, I said, and knelt, which is one of those cheating-but-whatever-WORKS recall tricks—and she came to me instantly. Noble Pav. Fabulous Pav.†††
I finally made it to Colin’s Monday tower practise tonight too—I was thinking that in the last few weeks I’ve had a sick car, a sick husband, a sick dog‡ and a sick me. It’s not surprising my life is even more ramshackle than usual. But Nadia had dragged me through the first two pages of Vedrai, carino‡‡ and then offered me my first Schubert.‡‡ ::Beams:: This because I wanted to sing something cheerful, and this is one of those spring-it’s-spring-la-la-la-la songs even if it’s called FRUHLINGSGLAUBE for pity’s sake and is (duh) in German. So I was feeling all chirpy and upbeat and it isn’t snowing hard, the roads are clear. Although the South Desuetude tower has to be the coldest place on earth, if I hadn’t gone Niall would have kidnapped me off to Old Eden and those cranky bells in this rotten weather? Nooooooo.
Maybe if I sing FRUHLINGSGLAUBE with feeling it’ll bring the season on a little—?
* * *
*Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin or Icicledoolally, I don’t care. Cold. Very frelling COLD.
** Cue every (old) person who has ever lived in southern England telling me about ice-skating every winter in the 60s. I don’t care. It’s not the 60s any more.^
^ For which I am very grateful. I did not enjoy being a teenager. At all. You know that so-called joke about locking kids up when they turn 13 and letting them out again when they turn 20, so that parents, other authority figures and random adults are spared the whole teenage thing? Sounds good to me. As the kid. I’d have been great locked up for six years as long as there were sufficient supplies of books, chocolate, a piano, what in those days would have been a ‘stereo system’, a (large) sketchpad, a dog or dogs at my feet and a (walled) field out back with two or three horses in it (horses are herd animals: you should have more than one).+ I’m getting all wistful just thinking about it.
+ I didn’t discover gardening till I married Peter and bell ringing requires other people.#
# And maybe someone could have taught me to knit when I was 12. So books, chocolate, yarn . . .
*** This probably has not improved her attitude toward the whole having-a-crap thing.
† I was younger when I still lived in Maine.
††† It’s always something. With the hellhounds, when they were insane puppies and I wasn’t sure of their recall, when they occasionally got away from me I freaked because they are so fast. I am not joking that they can have disappeared before I’ve finished shouting their names. Fortunately they never have,^ but they could. With Pav, my number-one fear is becoming that she is a dangerous bull terrier with dangerous bull-terrier fighting DNA^^ and people are STUPID. I realise that the Language of Dog is pretty much as complex as any other language but I feel that anyone who lives in an area that has pet dogs—which would be pretty much everywhere in England—ought to frelling recognise the wagging tail, flat ears and belly-creep of the (over) friendly hellcritter, whatever the shape of its profile.
^ knocking on wood here
^^ In terms of bull-terrier jaw DNA, by the time she’s grown I’m not going to be able to pry her mouth open any more. Hellhounds I still can—but they aren’t big clampers anyway, aside from not being wired to grab something and not let go. I am hoping by the time she’s grown I will have less need to pry her mouth open. Today I saw her go for something, and I could see by the way she was holding her mouth closed there was something in there . . . a broken-off chicken thighbone GEEZUM GEEZUM GEEZUM that could have killed her if she’d chewed it up and swallowed it—oh yes, she chews her trophies. I’m having to learn that too—hellhounds mostly just carry their treasures around—Pav, with that bull-terrier jaw, will chew up heavy plastic, for example, which SPLINTERS. Whimper. I will have to ask Olivia or Southdowner what you do when you have to get something out of your puppy’s mouth after she starts biting steel girders in half. Small pocket-sized titanium-alloy crowbar?
‡ And then frelling Chaos decided to stop eating too because the fact that Darkness wasn’t eating was making him nervous.
‡‡ Zerlina, in DON GIOVANNI. Mmmmm Mozart.
‡‡‡ Not quite my first Schubert. Blondel tried to give me the ratblasted Lotus Flower but I hated the lyrics so much I couldn’t engage, even with the protective colouration of the terrifyingly unpronounceable German.
Fiona tried to kill me today.
And after we were stopped, sweating and shaking and trying to drag our adrenaline levels back down out of the stratosphere but ALIVE, and beginning to get our breaths back, she turned to me and said earnestly, Think of the blog material!*
Okay. I’m thinking of it. On the whole I feel a near-death experience is carrying the relentless quest for blog material a little far.
I told you that Fiona and I were playing hooky today. We were going to play more hooky but I got caught in a time warp with a mild but annoying stomach virus and a non-eating hellhound. No, not Darkness—frelling Chaos. WHAT THE FRELL YOU FRELLING FRELLER. Arrrrrgh. I’ve been really enjoying the (relative) straightforwardness of feeding all three hellcritters lately—till Darkness fell off the cliff.** Fiona (this was before she tried to kill me) said that there should be some way to pool the appetites and food attitudes of my bonkers three and then redistribute the result more evenly. Yes. Although the hellterror could eat for England. WHAT IS IT? NO, NEVER MIND, I DON’T CARE, JUST HOLD IT THERE AND I’LL EAT IT. Pavlova’s appetite, bottled, and then judiciously sprinkled over entire kennels full of anorexic sighthounds, would have them all eating their heads off, and she would still be ingesting your All Stars if you don’t walk fast enough.
Anyway. We left finally in enough time to make it to another YARN STORE***.
It was on the way home from this escapade† that Fiona turned the wrong way down a one-way piece of major divided motorway and we saw a flotilla of cars bearing down on us at 70 mph.
In her defense, it’s a very confusing section of road. I don’t know that particular bit, but it’s in an area where a lot of the old Roman roads have been inefficiently widened, or extra lanes and slip roads have been kind of bolted on without sufficient signage to explain how they’re supposed to be used. It still might have been the end of a beautiful friendship† but . . . Fiona was holding both tickets to tonight’s Steeleye Span concert and even if I’d wrested mine away from her we were still sitting next to each other so whatever. My hair has only turned grey. Not a big deal.
. . . This is now the second time today that Radio Three has played Vivaldi’s GLORIA. What is this, a conspiracy? Has the Muddles’ musical director bribed the BBC to play it as often as possible between now and the end of May in an attempt to make us do some involuntary homework?††† But with last night’s choir practise rather dreadfully fresh in my mind‡ it was very interesting listening to some professional singers who aren’t off the top of the chart super-accomplished, super-super-schooled and super-super-super gifted opera-singer types, but people with voices more like yours and mine and who merely know how to deploy them. Nobody is going to hire Peter Knight to sing Parsifal, but he gets his point across, you know?
Also it was just a brilliant show. It was a brilliant enough show that I’ve had something like six emails from Fiona since she got home suggesting a series of reasons that we go to another concert on this tour. . . .
* * *
* She was very embarrassed and contrite. But I’m not perfectly sure about the contrition. She might have been embarrassed that she missed. No, wait, I’m probably (relatively) safe till PEG III comes out. I’ve told you, haven’t I, that PEG II ends possibly even worse than PEG? Slightly depending on your definition of ‘worse’. But I think I can guarantee that it is not reader-friendly. And I can predict the hate mail. Sigh.
** I can’t wait for the hellterror to grow up so I can get her on the cereal-free kibble too. One of my recurring nightmares is the hellhounds getting into the puppy kibble. Mind you, if it weren’t that the puppy gets it they wouldn’t be the LEAST interested. But she does and they don’t, and it’s bad enough she exists. That she has Special Hellterror-only Food is just not okay.^ I’ve applied to Olivia and Southdowner about when I can put her on grown-up food—it seems to me she still has substantial growing to do but maybe the last burst happens slowly—the only cereal-free puppy food I know anything about is from the same line of rotblasted gold-standard kibble the hellhounds get ONCE a day because I can’t AFFORD it. The way the hellterror eats. . . .
^ Since I’d had no inkling of Darkness being out of my sight long enough to get into anything that could have caused the recent meltdown OF COURSE I wondered if it could have been puppy kibble, but I don’t think so. Also of the two of them Chaos is a lot more intent on snatching a mouthful. Darkness can’t quite bring himself to stoop to real interest—General All Encompassing Appalled Horror and Revulsion is his shtick+, of which pointed accusatory looks at bags of puppy kibble are merely one aspect of a unified tactical assault.
+ ALTHOUGH I had THREE HELLCRITTERS IN THE SAME BED . . . for about five minutes a few days ago. ALL THREE of them LYING DOWN. No, I didn’t get a photo. My gimlet eye was part of what was holding them there, and getting up to fetch the camera would have been counterproductive. In a big noisy way.
It would be nice if they could share some space during the day, but they will always be crated separately and probably not allowed to frolic together unsupervised—at least not if Pavlova keeps all her bits. The people at the pet shop have already started saying, oh, six months old? A small dog could come on heat any time now. SHUT UP, OKAY?
*** Having exchanged Christmas presents first. Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Fiona.^ Hers included a knitting bag that says ‘a day without knitting is like a day without chocolate’. Mine included an assortment of kitchen magnets, my favourite of which reads: I’d like to help you out. Which way did you come in? —Fiona knows me well, you think?
^ Or since Fiona has seen the hellterror. Hey, when did you trade in that sweet little thing for this RAGING MONSTER? —It’s true, Pav is getting to be quite an armful when she’s in frenzy mode. It still hasn’t occurred to her that one of these days I’m not going to be able to pick her up. Remind me to have her crate off the kitchen table and on the FLOOR before that happens.
† I DIDN’T BUY ANYTHING. No, really. I kept saying to myself, Wall. Remember the wall. Remember the SEVERAL THOUSAND POUNDS that wall is going to cost. WALL. WALL. WALL.
Fiona doesn’t have paying for a wall in her immediate future, sooooo . . .
†† Especially if we were both dead.
††† I almost didn’t go to choir practise yesterday—this generic all-over germ that has recently settled in my stomach is not making my life a joy and my energy level sublime. But they were very glad to see me when I did go since there were ONLY THREE SOPRANOS. THREE? SOPRANOS? WTF? Cheez.
‡ Even though one of us was the director’s wife, who has a nice strong voice and reads music deplorably well, when there’s only three of you, you are each relentlessly audible.
I am so cold. I am SO TIRED of being so cold. I’m at the mews, positively bent over an electric fire—which I have propped up on a stack of knitting books to get the heat source nearer—and I have been for the last hour . . . and I’m still cold. I’m still bringing my geraniums indoors every night, so it’s cold anyway, but Muddles practise for the next concert started tonight* and . . . what is it about little old country churches? And are little old country churches as gelid on the continent as they are here? Or in the Yukon? Or Siberia? Some of us were huddling around one of the so-called radiators during the break, nursing our cups of hot tea and pretending the radiator was actually radiating anything, like heat, and musing about our options. How much higher a subscription rate would our members bear for the sake of better practise space?** We could barely get the words through our chattering teeth. One woman suggested we look forward to summer. Then it turns clammy, I said. Walk into St Frideswide on a hot summer day and it’s like being slapped in the face with a wet fish.*** The woman I walked out with later said that her throat is usually sore by the end of practise, and that she needed to sing at home more. That’s not practise, I said, that’s the cold. I was feeling bitter and freaked out however after Galen, as he declared practise over for the evening, said that he felt that the Gloria was too easy and we needed an extra challenge between now and the end of May. WHAT? I went up to him on the way out and said that this might come as a shock to him but not all of us had ever sung Vivaldi’s famous Gloria before, and he looked at me as if I’d just offered him a tuba when he’d asked for a soprano, pulled himself together with an obvious effort and said airily, oh yes, I know.
On the other hand the Wall Man† has showed up several days in a row. He even seems to be building a wall. But I was out with Pav while he was wielding his trowel—he spends as much time hauling bags of sand and making his cement-mixer go ta-pocketa-pocketa as he does slapping bricks together—and we bonded over being dog owners and how the rest of the non-crittered world thinks we’re barmy. So I’ve decided he was clearly the right choice. So long as the wall doesn’t fall down. Again.
* * *
* We are singing the Vivaldi Gloria, which is, of course, a transcendently gorgeous—one might almost say glorious—piece of music, I love it to pieces, and I’m thrilled to have the excuse to be learning it. But . . . another local choir, with far greater pretensions to fabulousness than we have, as well as a lot more local profile, are also doing it this spring. I even pointed this out and the response was a casual, yeah, rotten luck, isn’t it? —Um. Do we have a death wish or something? The main comment about the latest concert I wasn’t in^ was that it was poorly attended. Given our expectations about audience numbers this is pretty dire. Were there more choir members than audience? Did the audience consist of the caretaker and the caretaker’s dog? And now we’re going to put on something that a better local choir did only a few weeks before us, and will have done so so inspirationally rivetingly that everyone in the audience went home and pulled out their Vivaldi Gloria CD and has been playing it nonstop ever since, and will have no desire to hear a less good small local extremely amateur choir butch—I mean, perform it somewhat inadequately, especially in comparison to recent relistening of John Eliot Gardiner and Neville Marriner and Riccardo Muti and their choirs—? Reality check.
I think we need a new approach to marketing and public relations. I wonder if we’ve tried kidnapping? Or a programme of Marty Robbins’ Greatest Hits?
^ I didn’t go to the opera either. I was at home with frelling SHADOWS. How many ways can you lose?
Proofreading and errors –
Yes. *weeps* Yes.
I have a feeling [publisher] is trying to get everyone there moved over to electronic copyedits. Before, I’d been doing what you’ve been forced to move to — copyedits done in track changes, then printed out, which meant some of the changes were super confusing and hard to see. I mean, I think I’d still go over the [copyedited manuscript] three or four times, because I’m like that, but the invisible changes made it really important. And now I’ve been hearing others have been getting their copyedits through the emails. . . . Do not want. I will make sadfaces to get my paper with their invisible marks, if I must.
You comfort me. I was expecting your generation of writers—do you compose straight onto a computer? Do you ever, or have you ever, started with, you know, a piece of paper and a pen or pencil?—to have the electronic/virtual/no-hard-copy editing options totally sussed, and to look at people like me+ pityingly and a little impatiently. I don’t even understand what track changes are. Except that they are a ratbag. And if it’s general that they’re confusing and hard to see, if it’s not just me and some random gremlin in my editor’s assistant’s printer, why don’t we go back to yellow stickies and red pencils and automatic hard copy?++
+ Who still have my beloved IBM Selectric I typewriter in the attic, even though I haven’t been able to get parts for her in about eighteen years.
++ You know it’s almost impossible to get red pencils any more? You have to find an art department that sells coloured pencils individually, and raid the red.
** One of them suggested we do it by voluntary donation. Um. I’m not willing to pay more while some other joker who doesn’t mind the chilblains chooses not to . . . and still gets the better space on my money. Let’s hope this isn’t the draft legislation that is put to the vote.
*** I used to ring their bells. You could get heatstroke in the bell chamber, no problem. Of course this does require a summer that includes sunlight and warmth, neither of which were in evidence last year.
† Who is clearly made of strong, cold-resistant stuff
IT IS SO COLD. It is the 24th of frelling February in southern England and when I got up this morning it was SNOWING. Snowing and lying.*
It has not been a good week for peace of mind so I determined to get to the monks extra-early for the Saturday night silent-contemplation-before service prayer so I could have a long enough sit (I hoped) to produce some insight.** In pre-contemplation mode I considered the weather. And took a BLANKET with me. The blanket, indeed, in which I wrap myself up in my own sitting room when I do my Zen Christian zazen thing. There are DRAUGHTS at floor-sitting level, even with an Aga on the other side of the wall, and while I’ve discovered I can sit*** in jeans I’m usually sitting in my dressing-gown, which was not made to keep you warm sitting on the floor with the central heating turned off and the snow falling outdoors.
I was very glad to have a blanket last night. As well as the two cotton turtlenecks, the two woolly jumpers, the leather jacket, the two pairs of socks and the longjohns under my jeans. And the fleece-lined leather gloves. My circulation has always been rubbish—arguably I’m a fidget because I’m trying to stay warm, and not all the hurtling part of the daily hurtles is for the hellcritters’ sakes—and sitting still, I swear the blood all withdraws to my liver and has a party.† And I’m going to be very glad to have my blanket next Saturday morning when I try yet again to go to Aloysius’ frelling early silent prayer service. He says the chapel they sit in is COLD. Where has spring got to? Drinking Mai Tais in Hawaii? What?
* * *
* I thought, okay, get thy tail to New Arcadia tower this morn, they will have need of thee. Like horsefeathers and bulltiddly: they had ten ringers. I should have stayed in bed.
** Nothing like upsetting your own apple cart. I didn’t think I was observing all that challenging a Lent. Evidently the personal status quo disagrees.
*** That is, cross-legged on a cushion. I did yoga fairly seriously for a while too and while I could (for example) do the splits with what I fondly believed to be a straight pelvis, I never quite made it to full lotus, not to stay anyway. I could sit in half-lotus however and it’s a nice stable base when you’re settled, and you can forget about it and concentrate on your breath. The books I’ve been reading lately insist that you must learn to sit properly—and the accompanying photos are of course of rows and rows of utterly calm and centred-looking people sitting in PERFECT full lotuses with both knees firmly against the ground and their laps perfectly level—and therefore their curved hands are perfectly level too. Well I decided I ought to be able to get my half-lotus back. And promptly pushed it too hard MCKINLEY THIS BODY IS SIXTY YEARS OLD CAN YOU TRY AND REMEMBER THAT and have managed to outrage one hamstring so seriously I can barely sit at all. Arrrrgh. I told Aloysius this tonight and he tried hard not to laugh, but he also said that at the very serious zendo he sat at before he came to St Margaret’s everyone had a different assortment of pillows on which they sat differently with different props and supports. Speaking of good enough.
I was planning to pull some of the comments out of the It’s All Performance. Isn’t It? thread and the Good Enough. Mostly. Sometimes thread . . . but they’re all good, some of them are too complex to cut intelligently^, and it’s also a conversation so if I tried to haul any of it out here I’d have to haul most of it out here. But let me recommend that anyone interested in performance, in the arts, in human creativity and in being good enough should go read those threads.^^
So just a random thought or two to be going on with. I’d like to think EMoon’s and my generation^^^ will have been the last to get really mired in the If You’re Not Amazing Don’t Bother mindset, but that’s probably naïve. But Shalea reminded us of that excellent old adage: Perfect is the enemy of good. Yes. And blondviolinist, who is a professional musician, added that the concept of ‘perfect’ makes her nuts, because it makes it sound as if there is One True Way . . . and there isn’t. She adds: I’m blown away by the rich possibilities for creativity as individual people bring their own imagination and heart to their music. (Or visual art, or dancing, or writing, or….) And someone else somewhere—sorry, I can’t find you right now—quotes Mahalia Jackson: God don’t mind a bum note.
I do have a slight Well she can say that she’s Mahalia Jackson reaction to this last. But all of this (and other comments I haven’t mentioned) point to what I wanted to say further about my own need to believe that I’m allowed to engage with—in this case, music, from the making it side as well as the taking in someone else’s making side, live in a concert, live in your sitting room, on the radio or CD, or Met Live at your local cinema. Performance at any level, I think, changes your relationship to music—broadens it, deepens it, makes you go oh wow in a whole new thrillingly-more-informed way when you listen to your favourite Beverly Sills CDs. For this alone it’s worth trying to play or sing, however badly, even if you have to send your husband to the pub and leave your critters at the other house while you practise. Which, because I am very fortunate, I don’t.#
The other thing—the big thing—is that if you can really ENGAGE with the music—if you can inform it, inhabit it—express it—well, God won’t mind the bum notes, and, chances are, neither will your audience. When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died last year, there were millions of words of obituary about what an astonishing singer he was—a lot of people think he is the greatest lieder singer who ever lived—at least since recording equipment got good enough for comparisons to be made. I knew that. What I didn’t know is that quite a few people also say that he did not have, by nature, a first rate voice. He had a very good voice, obviously, a professional-quality voice, but it wasn’t absolute top value: what he did have was overwhelming commitment and insight, and an unmatched ability (yes I’m a fan) to get inside the music he’s performing, and give it to his audience. Perfect isn’t only the enemy of good, it’s also the enemy of fabulous.
. . . Okay, I want to get to bed tonight, so I Will Continue This Later. . . .
^ At least at this time of night when intelligence is getting a little thin on the ground anyway
^^ Note that if you want to comment yourself you do have to join the forum, but anyone can read the threads.
^^^ I know there are few more 60-pluses out there but I don’t want to drag anyone out of the shadows who doesn’t want to come.
# Peter continues to insist he likes hearing me sing, and the hellterror has mostly stopped erupting when I try. Chaos may still leave the hellhound bed to walk over to the piano and stare at me earnestly—especially on evenings when the high B is considering making an appearance—but he doesn’t make an issue of it.
† As I like to say, probably too often, I’m cold all the time, except occasionally when I’m too hot.