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No-one listens to women

  Wed 2nd November 2016

I don't recommend staying at Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport. I've given it one star on Twitadvisor. Needs must though when one is an impoverished follower of nieuw musiek.

Someone I momentarily came across during my ill-fated PhD was having a piece of hers performed at the Transit festival in Leuven in Belgium. I found a flight to Brussels for £30 return; instead of paid accommodation, I'd have been happy couchsurfing. Trina invited herself along, and paid for an airbnb place; after we split up she said I could keep the studio flat. I couldn't ask Wendy anyone else to come with me as that particular airline wants £110 to change names on the ticket.


Without my chauffeuse, the only way I could be at the airport for an early flight was to improvise a bed there the night before. It was chilly, uncomfortable, and there are endless security announcements all night.

In Leuven, there is nowhere to change money and I was walking around with a hundred and fifty of your useless English pounds. I tried the cashpoint with ever more modest requests until it relented at €30. I bought a baguette, a slab of cheap Gouda -- the sight of which was to become odious to me over the course of the next few days -- and a €3 bottle of wine.

The studio absolutely reeked of a washing powder which -- I think I have understood the Dutch correctly -- is dangerous to asthmatics, gerbils and the elderly. It persisted all weekend and rubbed itself everywhere.

This was not starting well. I had no credit on my phone, I'd left my EU/UK mains adapter at home, and there was no note from the studio's owner about internet access. I felt glum, but the plonk achieved the desired effect and I slept for fourteen hours.


Saturday; and If it's Atonal, it must mean an Unlit Concrete Underpass. Lauren Redhead, with her aptonymic hair dye, had a première piece in which two conversations were going on at either end of the keyboard; a more timid interlocutor was interjecting the odd comment in the middle, before acquiring more confidence. Later, I sat outside a pub, De Metafoor [sic], and heard a girl, who was rattling on one-sidedly to her friend, say "people talk too much sometimes." Conversations can work well between friends even when they are quite unequal. Thus it was in the Redhead piece.

Then Michael Finnissy, who was having a bit of a birthday Festschrift, had one of his pieces where he twists diatonic folk music so far until he gets impatient with it and rips it apart; I really have enjoyed his music for decades now.

Ferneyhough's piece was disappointing, a jumble sale of notes. It sounded like a workaday piece by a journeyman, rather than a thrilling work by the master that he is when he's given time and resources. A shame too, because the title, Quirl, describes one of the sexiest things a woman can do, with or without her clothes on.

Then another piano, for the best piece on the programme, by the Portuguese composer Patrícia de Almeida, who did her doctorate under Finnissy. Her Vacuum corporis hominem tem esse memento was a demanding feat of co-ordination with the other (the co-?) pianist Ben Smith, which motored along like a techno-charged Art Tatum, a joyous blizzard of energy fuelled with rhythms of the Charleston and football chants. It would have been better last: Luc Brewaeys' pieces couldn't hold me after that.

What might seem a disparate programme was connected in a most unusual way: all five pieces were scored for Piano and Air Conditioning Drone with a stipulation that the grey noise of the air conditioning system is to be played throughout and unto the beginning of the next piece.

Quatuor Diotima had not only the best shoes of the weekend, glinting constellations against dark leather matter, but the most exciting piece I heard -- Alberto Posadas's Elogio de la sombra, which sounds nothing like its title, with various extended techniques -- one of which demanded playing con sord. and then bowing across the mutes, which made a weepy snoring sound. It was driving, passionate, and involving.


In the evening I upped the average age at a free techno night with an all-female DJ line-up called No-one Listens To Women. The music was excellent but the naive young crowd were a downer, texting and standing around talking in the middle of the dancefloor. I'm not going out dancing with young people any more. They've no idea of dancefloor etiquette. I got asked for rugs a few times. In the eyes of young people, I've graduated now to Old Weirdo Who Might Have Something On Him.

The bar staff eventually gave up trying to tell people to put their cigarettes out, and the air became more and more acrid. Outside, in the Grote Markt, the atmosphere was of friendly anarchy. Smashed glass everywhere, people sitting around on the pavement, drinking. A group of three young people asked me where I was from, and at 5am I ended up demonstrating batting and bowling actions in cricket to them.



Next day I went exploring. My flat was close to the headquarters of the Brabant Nazi Party during the War. This house, built at the turn of the century, had an additional brick course added when it was appropriated by the Nazis. In a Council decision of 17 July 1953, it was decided to retain the house as it appears as a monument to the suffering of the citizens during the Occupation.


Leuven also houses the oldest college in Europe dedicated to the study of bananas.


In the evening I went to a jazz club; felt sorry for the group. Very few people were listening to them.


I decided to take a different route home and I soon got lost. The night was still and enveloping, and it was a liberating, sensual pleasure, to have no idea where I was going.


I ended up on this housing estate with this avenue of giant cannabis plants.


Back at Manchester airport, 11pm and too late for the train home, I settled down with the other international dossers in upgraded accommodation in the Lufthansa/Swissair backroom of T1. Woke up around 5am and sent Wendy a photograph of a dress I'd seen in Leuven, telling her, quite truthfully, that she would look utterly lovely in it. Just need to find €195 down the back of the settee first.

8 comments

Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

I’m never convinced it’s worth advising twits about anything. They only mess it up in new and inventive ways, like smearing jam on the bedspread, or smuggling George Foreman grills into Travelodges.

I love the wilfully (and suitably) literal thinking that might go into performing Musique Concrète in a Passage Concrète.

Fri 4th November 2016 @ 12:18
Comment from: [Member]

That thread’s a model of division by a common language and cross-cultural misunderstanding. ("Should we expect bed bugs in Ireland?")

And good idea J-P – bit of Varèse would sound well in the underpass!

Fri 4th November 2016 @ 13:25
Comment from: Liverdrawer [Visitor]

The George Formby thing has reminded me that we didn’t have 3 pin, 13 amp sockets at uni - well, only in communal areas. Combined with 4 phone boxes between 200 students, Millenials would swoon. And that was only 1995!

Fri 4th November 2016 @ 21:27
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

When we had the floods in December, and all the electricity and therefore mobile networks went down, there was a total of two phone boxes in the centre of Lancaster still working. A youngster was seen swiping the small screen which tells you how much money you’ve put in. They were absolutely bereft, and there are stories of mummy and daddy driving up from Devon – I kid you not – to rescue the poor internetless lambs.

Sun 6th November 2016 @ 12:29
Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

When I was cycling from Belfast to Dublin recently, we didn’t get bedbugs in any of the B&Bs, but by gum! we got midges, which I don’t think they even ask about on that thread.

Do Americans even have the word “midge"? “Well, it’s kind of like a tiny mosquito that spends its time mooching around heather and drinking Irn Bru.”

Mon 7th November 2016 @ 17:06
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Midges – why do they cling to the Celtic fringe?

Hope you had a great time doing that cycle ride – I had a similar notion to cycle from Larne to Galway. Unlike you, my trip remained on the planning table.

Tue 8th November 2016 @ 08:08
Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

It was good fun, but a bit of a route march towards the end of each day. We were something of a “mixed ability” group, which meant that there were some of us for whom 100km a day was fine, and some of us for whom 100km a day was a real stretch. Hence the pace kept going slow enough that at around 4pm each day we started to panic we wouldn’t make it in time.

I also recommend booking B&Bs in advance, especially given that a single event in Dundalk apparently fills up the whole of, er, Dundalk.

Tue 22nd November 2016 @ 16:30
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yes, I had a similar feeling in Croydon the other night, when I snaffled what was probably the last free hotel room in the town. Quite why the armpit of south London exurbia was so popular that night I’ve no idea. Perhaps there was a conference about roundabouts, or something.

Wed 23rd November 2016 @ 00:06


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M / 56 / 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.

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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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