Monday, 10 May 2010

Baroque 'cello

Gordon Brown resigned at 5pm today and I feel strangely unaffected by the news. I suppose I never really saw him as a prime minister. He was like that supply teacher at school that you laughed at and ignored until the real teacher came back. Getting rid of him is a bit like clearing out a wardrobe, and finally chucking away that threadbare coat that saw you throught the good times but ultimately stinks of mothballs.

I’ve just returned from St Olave’s Church, where Graham Fawcett spoke with great wit and wisdom about Pepys in 1660. It’s great fun to go to his lectures armed with the knowledge I’ve accumulated since beginning my Pepys odyssey. I occasionally felt like one of those irritating people who laugh at Shakespeare comedies. Graham would begin to read a passage, I’d know what was coming, and titter a little to myself, somewhat thrilled that he’d found something as amusing as I had. Graham's lectures are about comparisons. Like this blog, I suppose, he compares what happened in 1660 with what happened 350 years later. He pointed out today, for example that in April 2010, Brown had gone to the monarchy to ask if he could dissolve Parliament exactly 350 years after Monck had gone to Parliament to ask if we could un-dissolve the monarchy.

We were treated to some delightful music played on a baroque ‘cello. It started off wonderfully, but as the poor guy began to scrape his way through some unaccompanied Bach, playing with a bow which looked like it could have fired arrows and the ‘cello gripped perilously between his knees, I couldn’t help but wonder how much nicer it would have sounded on a ‘cello with a spike and a modern bow. These were, after all, inventions which were designed to improve the sound of the instrument! I've heard it said that less capable musicians either learn to play the viola or head towards the fringes of music. Some "specialise" in modern music because you can’t tell if they're playing out of tune and others play early music on "period" instruments so no-one can tell if they're playing out of tune. That said, it was an absolute joy to hear him accompanied by the superb organ at St Olave’s.

If you have a chance, and you’re a fan of Pepys, go to the last two lectures. It only costs £15, and you get food and wine thrown in. More information here

Fiona called today. She’s just been to New Orleans. The place sounds exactly as I’d imagined it; cocooned in a colourful and glorious time-warp. She talked about jazz and people dancing in the streets, of dogs on leads made from pieces of string, and a general atmosphere of tolerance and openness. She said it all felt a bit like one of my films which made me want to jump on a plane and go there. She also talked about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and how she’d bought a book filled with images of the catastrophe which made her weep because suddenly she was standing on the very streets where everything had happened and was finally able to get a sense of the scale of the disaster. I suppose I had the same response when I saw Ground Zero for the first time.

Thursday 10th May 1660 was important for Pepys because it was on this day that he found out for certain the Nazeby would imminently sail across the North Sea to pick up the new King of England and transport him to the land of his birth right. This news had Pepys staying up until the wee smalls, writing letters and making plans. In other news, Montagu’s son Edward appeared on the boat, and was immediately sick. Nice!

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