Sunday, 1 May 2011

Jacqueline du Pre

The bee in our television continues to busy himself nesting, or making honey, or whatever he thinks he's doing. There's now a sort of brown waxy lattice work forming inside the hole. It looks a bit like ear wax. Heaven knows where this is going to end. A swarm of some sort? A scene from a Hitchcock film?

I'm currently in Muswell Hill having lunch in a "British" restaurant. Quite what is British about a chick pea burger, I'm not sure. Quite what is nice about said burger is also a question I struggle to answer! They're playing the greatest hits of Paul McCartney, which is making me feel a bit queezy. Ebony and Ivory. The only song ever to rhyme "keyboard" with "oh Lord." Ghastly!

I spent the morning in yet another cemetery in Hampstead Garden Suburb. This one is across the road from the crematorium I visited at the end of last week. It seems to be a primarily Jewish resting place and it was incredibly calming to wander through the graves in the sunshine - and at times very moving. Jewish culture seems to place a greater emphasis on the people left behind, rather than platitudes about being safe in the arms of Jesus etc. It feels much more personal to read "sadly missed father of x, brother of y and wife of z." Sometimes there are great long lists of names.

The shock today, however, was stumbling upon the grave of Jaqueline du Pre. I had no idea she was buried up there and found the experience of finding her purely by chance incredibly unsettling. Du Pre, in my opinion, remains by far the greatest 'cellist, if not one of the greatest musicians, of all time. She inspired me as a child and continues to inspire me. I cried as a teenager when she died and still have the press cuttings that I carefully stuck into a book. "Beloved wife of Daniel Barenboim" the grave said, and I'm sure at one time she was. The top of the grave was a bit mucky, and I'm not ashamed to say that I went to a tap, got some tissue paper, and washed and wiped it clean. I felt a little pathetic doing it, but it felt like the least I could do to thank her for her interpretation of the Elgar 'Cello Concerto.

May 1st, 1661, and Pepys and co continued their journey to Portsmouth, stopping off at Petersfield, by all accounts to play bowls. He doesn't say what time they reached Portsmouth, but described it as a "pleasant and strong" place. He was considerably less impressed by his lodgings at the Red Lion, ending the day's entry, "merry we were, but troubled to have no better lodgings." I know how that feels!

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