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The Cape of Good Hope

  Fri 22nd November 2013

To Huddersfield, to be dazzled with the riot of monochrome couture favoured by patrons of the Contemporary Music Festival.

Finances being what they are nowadays, I can only afford to go on the middle Monday, when everything is free. Someone let us down and we were two hours late. We bustled in all a-fluster for the Morton Feldman concert. Long pauses on clusters on celeste, piano, viola and cello, against which the very sparingly-used flights of melody took one by surprise. It was a beautiful, poetic piece, even with its foxing: behind us, a mobile phone beeped; next to him, a girl unwrapped a sweet; next to me, a woman rummaged for ages in her bag for something.

In a different concert hall, lit in the blue used in public toilets where heroin users are apt to jack up, I waited with much curiosity to hear a piece by my former PhD supervisor.

Trina described it as "The Clangers on speed"; I thought it sounded like a toddler playing with a Stylophone. Short, weedy-sounding notes, often preceeded by ones that might be produced by one's finger falling twixt keys, were laid over a kind of electronic continuo. I liked how the two elements were not (to this naive ear) related to each other at all--the very disjunction was interesting. It was playful, unpredictable, and odd enough to confound any pre-set programmatic correspondences.

The other two pieces on the programme can be dealt with quickly as they were dreary rehearsals of the limited sound palette into which electronic music can easily fall: tuned jet plane sounds, white noise oscillations growing to deafening crescendi, a hundred ping-pong balls falling on a table, scrunched-up cellophane--that kind of thing, sounding like selections from a pattern book for a structure yet unbuilt.

In a chilly church I got bored listening to an undoubtedly exceptional singer run through forty minutes of "sacred music". As you might expect, it's very slow and involves lots of ooh-ing in seconds and thirds; during the many silences she stood with that silly performers' rictus of private pleasure derived from the fire exit sign in the middle distance.

Back in the welcome warmth of the University, Christian Wolff's X for Peace Marches involved feathers being thrown down onto us from a height, found instruments, and ensemble members serving us with tea. One of the performers, a fine pianist and a lecturer at Huddersfield, lost the donger from his mallet halfway through, and watched as it rolled off in front of his section of performers.

The last concert we could see, given the early-to-bed trains, was mainly given over to pieces by Dai Fujikura. It was a passionate, love-lorn way to end the day--gorgeous pieces that went straight into me and during which I only lacked a handkerchief to twist. I see that 5 against 4 was there as well but he says very little about the Fujikura.

Trina enjoyed the day, to my relief. Her favourite was the sacred music, but we both agreed on the Feldman.

In Huddersfield's freezing railway station two teenagers in thin sportswear were playing what seemed a hostile, unfriendly game in which a boy with a black eye harrassed a girl. On the train back, the man sitting opposite opened a plastic bag marked "Police Evidence" and proceeded to open several small cafe-style paper tubes of sugar, before tipping them down his throat. I hoped for his sake that sugar was but his gateway drug.

Back in Lancaster, the invite of the year has landed on the doormat. Next Tuesday afternoon, we are to be guests of a wine importer at the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square, where eight producers and merchants will be showing their wines. I can only assume Trina and I have been invited as potential agents, who will enthuse about the wines to others, giving the merchants the kind of advertising which can't be bought.

Trina leapt enthusiastically on the card, urging me to accept immediately. We did so, received our confirmation, and went to find the cheapest way of getting to London.

"Hang on, hang on," I said. "Next Tuesday--that's still November. We can't go, we'll have to cancel," thinking of our vow to remain sober in November, but Trina was having none of it. "We are not turning down an invite from D--- to the flipping South African High Commission. Well, OK then, you stay here and I'll take someone else."

Of course I'm going. This will be my second breach of a sober November, so I am going to give people their sponsor money back--or invite them to send it anyway rather than deprive Women's Aid of a few quid.

I'm a bit concerned how I might react in such opulent social and physical surroundings, to a suddenly available plenitude of drink after after almost a month of sobriety. The afternoon offers the potential for an unlimited number of mistakes.


Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

Glad to know you enjoyed the festival.

In South Sandwich there was a contemporary music festival in the 80s, organised by the University (there were post-Cage, experimental, minimalists, repetitive, improvisators and performers like Barre Phillips, Sputz Ronnenfeld or the early Michael Nyman.

On a different note, that invitation is promising. Perhaps you overlook that sober November and change it for a sober 2014. :)

Fri 22nd November 2013 @ 10:29
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

That’s a good sounding line-up you had. Did the heating bills get too much?

A whole year off the drink Leni? You’re made of stronger stuff than me. I’m climbing the walls, stuffing my face with chocolate, cheese on toast, endless cups of tea–anything to distract from the lack of drink. (One can’t take catnip all the time).

Fri 22nd November 2013 @ 13:12
Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

Yes, a whole year off the drink would be overoptimistic and unhealthy. January perhaps?

I presume that the heating bills you mention above have nothing to do with the monthly invoices I get in the mail as a consequence of my home boiler regular operation to heat my flat in winter. You speak divinely but my dictionary doesn’t explain what you mean when you ask me if the heating bills got too much. Would you be so nice to enlighten me? :)

Fri 22nd November 2013 @ 15:41
Comment from: [Member]

I can hardly wait for one period of abstinence to end: it’s too early to start planning another period of boredom and ratty gloom. I’m only doing this for financial reasons, and were my fortunes to improve in 2014, I would not put myself through any more drink-free periods.

About the heating–I imagine that the bills to keep the auditoriums and hotels warm in the South Sandwich Islands during a contemporary music festival–or at any time–might have been prohibitive. I was just wondering why the festival stopped, if it could attract people of the calibre of those you mentioned.

Fri 22nd November 2013 @ 15:50
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

See, that’s the thing about sacred music. You can only marvel at the sound of cracking from many octogenarian vocal chords as they screech their way through the high notes in ‘Jerusalem’, before yearning for a bout of coughing to mask your own incredulous bout of weeping at the enormous galea that is building within your dome.

Sat 23rd November 2013 @ 04:40
Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

Thanks for clarifying that for me, Looby. The cultural offer in South Sandwich was excellent during the late 80s-90s. There was a lot to see and it was affordable to anyone. Btw, entrance to the festival was free. It prolly disappeared because politics thought culture was not important and therefore, could be cut back.

Sacred music, not my cup of tea either!

PS.- Don’t eat that much to distract you from the lack of drink, please. You don’t want to put too much weight on that sexy body, do you?

Sat 23rd November 2013 @ 08:25
Comment from: [Member]

Chef–"galea” (I learn this evening) is a botanical term meaning a growth resembling a helmet. If you’ve got one of those flowering in your bonce I think one needs to hightail from the Clydebank Over Sixties Choir performance double quick.

Leni: What sexy body?

Sat 23rd November 2013 @ 12:10
Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

Do I need to remind you how hot you looked last weekend in your fashionable outfit, Looby?

Sat 23rd November 2013 @ 17:42
Comment from: [Member]

Leni, your imagination runs at a pitch of creativity that I can only envy.

Sat 23rd November 2013 @ 18:12
Comment from: [Member]

indeed, breaking your month of sobriety with an all-you-can-guzzle buffet is likely to end in… well, a few good tales, anyway!

just add a couple more days in december to make up for it…

Sat 23rd November 2013 @ 21:06
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

Galea - A headache which covers the entire head. Not to be confused with a dhalia of course. Surely you took a medical doctorate prior to art college?

The galea aponeurotica (epicranial aponeurosis, aponeurosis epicranialis) is a tough layer of dense fibrous tissue which covers the upper part of the cranium; behind, it is attached, in the interval between its union with the occipitales, to the external occipital protuberance and highest nuchal lines of the occipital bone; in front, it forms a short and narrow prolongation between its union with the Frontales.

On either side it gives origin to the Auriculares anterior and superior; in this situation it loses its aponeurotic character, and is continued over the temporal fascia to the zygomatic arch as a layer of laminated areolar tissue.
It is closely connected to the integument by the firm, dense, fibro-fatty layer which forms the superficial fascia of the scalp: it is attached to the pericranium by loose cellular tissue, which allows the aponeurosis, carrying with it the integument to move through a considerable distance.

The galea you refer to so loosely, comes from the Roman meaning of ‘helmet-like’ covering… hence the helmet.

Please refrain my friend, from researching any further words using the 1976 pot-head edition of your thesaurus, which surely must have come from a jumble somewhere in down town Antwerp.

Sun 24th November 2013 @ 10:15
Comment from: gossamer beynon [Visitor]

Well, if we’re getting all medical and wordy, Pia mater has got to be the most interesting bit. It’s flimsy and ethereal sounding and once inspired me to write a poem :

Sun 24th November 2013 @ 13:19

I’m with Daisy. I’d have been deeply disappointed to read that passed on the invite. It’s an admirable undertaking but it would have been a wrong-headed decision. You have to be flexible as the situation warrants.

Mon 25th November 2013 @ 04:56
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]
Mon 25th November 2013 @ 14:28
Comment from: [Member]

Chef: thanks for the elucidation, although your definition appears to be copied and pasted directly from one of those ersatz dictionaries of unusual words on the internet, which hardly has the authority of the OED, nor gives evidence of a logophilology derived from reading books.

I must thank you however, for leading me to discover that galeanthropy is the mental disorder in which one believes one is a cat.

Gossamer: never was a blog commenting nickname less appropriate to the subject matter referred to in the comment (what a fucking longwinded way of saying it, but I meant, the disjunction between your pseudonym here and the visceral subject matter of the poem.) I think I’ll stop digging now.

EoPS: Thanks! We had a great time–details available now!

Homer: Thank you, yes, that’s a great article. Lancaster Uni is just the same, even though AFAIK their cleaners are still staff. It’s a shame they’re not properly unionised. A week without cleaners would make being in a University intolerable.

Wed 27th November 2013 @ 05:31

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looby, n.; pl. loobies. A lout; an awkward, stupid, clownish person

M / 60 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

"Looby is a left-wing intellectual who is obsessed with a) women's clothes and b) tits." -- Joy of Bex.

WLTM literate woman, 40-65. Must have nice tits, a PhD, and an mdma factory in the shed, although the first on its own will do in the short term.

There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
Sergei Korovin, quoted in Pavel Krusanov, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic

I am here to change my life. I am here to force myself to change my life.
Chinese man I met during Freshers Week at Lancaster University, 2008

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
James Meek

Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?
Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

I hate the iPod; I hate the idea that music is such a personal thing that you can just stick some earplugs in your ears and have an experience with music. Music is a social phenomenon.
Jeremy Wagner

La vie poetique has its pleasures, and readings--ideally a long way from home--are one of them. I can pretend to be George Szirtes.
George Szirtes

Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
John Whale

One good thing about being a Marxist is that you don't have to pretend to like work.
Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
Mick, The Golden Lion, Lancaster, 21 Mar 2011

The Comfort of Strangers

23.1.16: Big clearout of the defunct and dormant and dull
16.1.19: Further pruning

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63 mago
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the asshat lounge
Clutter From The Gutter
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George Szirtes ditto
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