Unfortunately, any plans I might have had for the weekend have been scuppered by fatigue. Yesterday was so bad that I couldn’t get up from the sofa, was approaching the incoherent mumbling stage, and had vertigo and nausea to add to the mix. Nice. Today seems a little better – at least my brain is actually working – but I know that I’m not going anywhere except to move from one seated position to another. Great! I suppose that for some days now, I have been waiting for the inevitable – I had managed a record ten good days, in which I had accomplished a reasonable amount – and then BANG! My brain kindly reminds me that things are still nowhere approaching normal. At moments of fatigue-induced frustration, it is good to remind oneself of pleasing things.
Things that are pleasing
Writing. I wrote an article. I enjoyed the writing. The article explores precisely why there has been so much erroneous gubbins written about aran sweaters, gansey patterns and the like, and will be published in The Knitter. I’ll let you know when. I also did an interview with a far-flung magazine. What is “owl sweater” in Chinese?
Walking. On my good days, I walk with Bruce, in my unbalanced, lopsided fashion, for two or three miles. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a period of immobility to make you really appreciate how nice it is to just be outdoors. It doesn’t matter how rubbish the weather, or how wonky my left side, I always enjoy it, and find each small expansion of my horizons tremendously exciting. I am also enjoying the incidental sociability that comes from having a dog along. One gets to meet some interesting local characters when one is outside everyday.
Leisurely research about the Newhaven fishwives continues. Here are some pictured around 1900 at Waverley station, in transit to the villages of Fife to sell their fishy-wares. They appear to be waiting on what is now platform 11. The one closest to the camera is knitting a stocking, and they are wearing their ordinary workaday garb – woollen cape or shawl, heavy petticoats, arms always bare to the elbows – none of that elaborate gala get-up.
I am making good progress on my current design which I shall resist from calling fish-heid
I was completely blown away by Magnus Lindberg’s Graffiti, which we heard the RSNO and chorus perform at the Usher Hall on Friday. Lindberg chose the Latin of the street rather than the forum for his text, bringing the graffiti of Pompei — in all its witty, banal, racy ordinariness — to sonic life, complete with slang and spelling errors. The orchestral score had something of Stravinsky, something of Britten in it, the only downside of which was the odd jarring moment when I felt that, in reaching for the ancient Lindberg had got hold of the incidental music of A History of the World in 100 Objects instead… but it seems churlish to even mention this when the combined effects of orchestra and chorus were so arresting and profound. Out of the babble of the street rose individual shouts and whispers, as the folk of Pompei spoke of their lost objects, favourite restaurants, personal enmities, chance encounters. Individually, these commonplace – even facile – scrawlings suggest how ordinary and familiar ancient daily life might be – but sung in such a setting, the words became a vocal act of defiance against time and the silence of the grave. The piece proceeds as discrete moments, showcasing contrasts of colour and mood, and listening to it, one inevitably thinks of the excavatory work of archeology and the way in which it, unlike some other historical disciplines, enables access to the everyday lives of the people of the past. It also struck me as a very humble piece of music — making no apologies for the fact that the full story was unavailable, grand narratives impossible, and that the only tale that the past could ever tell would be partial and fragmentary. This might make Grafitti sound like a work of post-modern relativism – far from it – probably the most striking thing about it was way that Lindberg’s music seemed governed by a deep, and deeply consolatory humanism. It was a treat to hear it.
Things that are not pleasing.
*Two privileged young people have decided to get married. Really, who gives a shit?
*In the same week as Cameron’s enterprise advisor celebrated the positive economic effects of the ‘so-called recession’, Local Authorities like Oldham find their resources so diminished by the Government’s swingeing measures that they have been obliged to cut their mental health services by 80%. Yes, that’s 80%. Perhaps those with million-pound mortgages can congratulate themselves on never having it so good, but I wonder how the vulnerable, now-unsupported, folk of Oldham feel.
* Sometimes I feel that Stéphane Denève’s interesting ten out of ten series is woefully underappreciated by its Edinburgh audience. Tom and I are somewhat unusual Usher Hall regulars – I would say that most of the other people in that category are of post-retirement age. On Friday, Graffiti was scheduled for the second half of the evening, and was preceded by a rather old-fashioned and run-of-the-mill performance of Mozart’s twentieth piano concerto by Imogen Cooper. At the interval, I saw several familiar elderly faces necking their drinks, and buggering off before their ears were assailed by the new-fangled twenty-first century nonsense. The hall is usually pretty full, and it was notable how many empty seats there were during the RSNO and chorus’s sterling performance of Graffiti. It really was their loss, because it was, as I said, superb.