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Overwhelming climaxes

  Fri 24th February 2012

I was down the Council offices today, "normalising", in the word of the investigator who was sitting in my front room on Monday, my "situation". I had to bring present proof of my indebtedness, and confirmation that I have actually been paying rent, it being a Brian Clough arrangement (cash in envelopes, no receipts; part of me wishes we met at Forton Services to hand it over).

For proof of the former, I hardly knew which letters to select from the two-inch thick file of them on the table over there. I chose an historical and a contemporary example of the genre, both of which have [Oh fucking hell, there's been a heartfelt Balkan moan from the floor below. Stefan's probably had a wank] -- both of which have the tone of an ineffectual bully. I chose one from July 2010, saying that I will be taken to court within fourteen days and another from 30th January this year, reducing that limit to a week.

It's a debt collection agency. They've bought my debt at a discount, and the stressed, harrassed clerk who delivers these mock frightening letters to the printer is being paid 15K a year to meet "targets" in an air-conditioned office lit by flickering flourescent lights, more interested in her part in the empty dramas of female dominated workplaces.

I always answer debt collectors' letters; I never reply to their phone calls. I keep copies of everything, in both directions. I offer five pounds a month--my pre-noon daily drink budget--in polite and blank prose. I thank them for every letter, however red the ink, safe in the knowledge that a court would look sympathetically at my propertyless situation, with an income that the HMRC after a bit of fiddling certified recently at 7375/year.

I bumped into my old music teacher, Edward, who took me all through my ABRSM exams, playing by sight my piano piece that was a juvenile arrangement of a Scottish reel. I had just discovered, in Walter Piston's peerless textbook on harmony, that Schubert once modulated, in a single chord, across a bar line, from C major to A flat. That's very rare. Piston cites it as a signal towards the end of what musicologists call the Common Practice Period (which never was).

I was coming up to my exams, so I copied it, an epigone after a Master, to go from B flat to G flat in my arrangement of The Blackthorn Bush. I still remember that class. Edward, concentrating intently on the briskly energetic tempo, jerked his head forward as we lurched to G flat, thinking "Fuck! Six flats! And only a // pause to do it in!" ("//" means a pause of short but indefinite duration). I was hoping he'd ask me where I got the idea of modulating down a major third in order to sound more learned than I was (nothing new there) but I can't remember him asking me.

We stood in the queue together, chatting. I'm going to Glasgow in early May to get pissed and hear the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra play Bruckner's Seventh. "Overwhelming climaxes," it promises on the orchestra's website. I'd love to ask him along, but I didn't, stifled with the embarrassment of not knowing whether I now know him well enough to suggest several hours together. It wouldn't be awkward on my side. He's a lovely man and I've got a great deal to thank him for, which I never say for fear it will sound awkward in its expression.

6 comments

Comment from: jonathan [Visitor]

That first sentence ‘… normalising my situation..’ reads like the opening of a Great Forgotten Eastern European Novel. Actually your whole life at the moment reads like a Great Forgotten Eastern European Novel. That is meant as a sincere compliment, by the way.

Fri 24th February 2012 @ 23:42
Comment from: [Member]

Thank you! I must say, you don’t feel any different once you’ve been normalised. I sort of expected to be standing at a jauntily-elbowed angle at a bar talking to someone called Dave or Bill about the best routes round Glasgow (assuming of course that Junction 12A Westbound on the M8 is still closed).

Sat 25th February 2012 @ 13:12
Comment from: [Member]

at least Stefan isn’t defiling your socks.

Sat 25th February 2012 @ 13:15
Comment from: [Member]

He’s getting nowhere near my knicker drawer.

Sat 25th February 2012 @ 13:19
Comment from: young at heart [Visitor]

i can’t imagine that in the real world we would ever meet……… and having had an hilarious catch up read I think I can honestly say it is a priviledge to be able to walk with you on your journey through the power of blog!!

Mon 27th February 2012 @ 09:28
Comment from: [Member]

Don’t rule that one out YAH! I am a widely-travelling man and a Louise Brooks haircut and tales of romantic adventures are a big draw for me!

Mon 27th February 2012 @ 09:47


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