Posts Tagged ‘Mozart’

The Tuesday evening here of the day over there of the US Presidential election, at Watford Colosseum I see the Czech National Symphony Orchestra performing Dvorak‘s New World Symphony – you czech-national-symphony-orchestra-natalie-cleinknow, the one with all those old world immigrant folk melodies woven in.  Also featured is his Cello Concerto, the dramatic Natalie Clein soloing, which I enjoyed immensely when the cello was to the fore but was less keen when the composer chose to turn it up to 11 – I’ve got a full orchestra big bass drum’n’all and by God I’m gonna use it! – something that also, to these ears, spoiled the New World, and maybe a problematic predilection for some nineteenth century composers.  It still deserved more than the barely half-full hall they got.  With a raised stage and not much of a rake to where we were sitting it was slightly disconcerting to not have a minimal view of that full orchestra behind the string section, even when at full blast.  I hardly ever see classical music live but always find it amusing to watch the percussionists hanging around waiting for the odd triangle tinkle.

vaultage-early-nov-2016scribal-2016-novLocal words and music

The first Scribal Gathering after the Brexit vote the audience felt flat, unbelieving, devoid of energy.  Scribal Gathering the day after the Trump presidential victory was a vibrant what-else-can-you-show-me? affair, with interesting first timers (hey, a strident flirting with finger-style rendition of Come together), Taylor Smith keeping up the developing Scribal tradition for featured duos of one half thereof being ill – no probs for Michell Taylor to solo – and a lively and colourful set from featured poet Tina Sederholm, including her Prediction (“I’m sorry / but you have just given birth / to a poet“) and her contribution to the self-help industry, Let your dog out (try this YouTube link for a taste).  Then the surprise treat of a storming end: two blues, a John Martyn song and ‘a bit of gypsy jazz‘ from Bella from Cardiff – great voice, great guitar – who was, it seems, just passing through.

Next day’s Vaultage saw a welcome extended set of striking originals (“It takes its toll, toll, toll“) from co-host Lois Barrett and what was probably a first for the Vaults bar, a rendition of a Take That song among the originals from the hard rocking solo John Michael Davies; decent song that,  Gary Barlow’s Back for good.

don-giovanni-on-tour_83486aDon Giovanni

Friday and – I’m no opera buff, but, joy of joys – it’s touring Glyndebourne at MK Theatre.  Doing Mozart!  A La Dolce Vita era Don Giovanni, no less.  The set was a strikingly clever cube – revolving, expanding, contracting – adapted as the action unfolds.  As always with Glyndebourne there’s the energy, fun and fine detail of the party scene, and while it has to be said I wasn’t the only one who thought the second act went repetitiously on a bit, the conclusion – the Don’s scary comeuppance and his descent into the fires of hell was nicely done.  I appreciated  how at the start the splendid orchestra broke straight into the overture without the indulgence of the conductor having to arrive to customary applause – why? they haven’t done anything yet!  I was strangely disconcerted when the surtitles (‘subtitles’ in English projected above the stage) suggested someone was effectively singing, “I am strangely disconcerted by what you say“.  Self-proclaimed opera-phobes: give Glyndebourne and Mozart a try; you never know – it happened to me.

After all that I needed a week to recover.

monsignor-quixoteMonsignor Quixote

Really enjoyed Graham Greene‘s late novel Monsignor Quixote (1982).  Here is a great novelist and chronicler of his times having fun in his old age with the themes – faith and commitment to a cause or belief – that dominated his life’s work.

Set in post-Franco Spain, Don Quixote, a Roman Catholic priest upgraded to Monsignor by a stroke of luck and to the disgust of his bishop, and a godless Communist ex-mayor who inevitably becomes Sancho (though it’s not his name), embark on a road trip, a modern reflection on the experiences of the priest’s namesake in the Cervantes’ seventeenth century Spanish novel, Don Quixote, whereby his tired old horse, Rocinante, becomes in Green’s hand, a knackered old Seat 600 (a Fiat 500 made under licence in Spain).

They drink a lot as they venture – sometimes perilously – along, debating one another’s allegiances and beliefs, increasingly acknowledging their common decency.  As well as arguing against the tenets of each other’s beliefs, they discover a shared scepticism of their respective institutions and dogmas that have clouded their hopes and aspirations.  The priest is pleasantly surprised by what he reads in the Communist Manifesto, has more time for the mystics than the rigid moral theology of his textbooks.  The places they pass through all have their lessons.  There’s a lovely running joke of their drinking to the health of the Holy Trinity – come on, you remember: the father, son and holy ghost – and short-changing the holy ghost with only two and a half bottles of Manchegan wine.

Behind the humour there is a seriousness and a rueful anger concerning how life should be lived and enjoyed, but it never gets in the way of the fun.  Though the mayor still prefers ‘Marx to mystery’, no-one wins, both are changed; the atheist in me can easily live with that.  It’s also subtly educative along the way. To say it ends poignantly is an understatement.


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WNOWNO MOF2I’m sorry, I see that logo and just think: wino.

Last time I saw the Welsh National Opera I was dipping a toe into Wagnerian waters with their Flying Dutchman, which was set on … a spaceship in outer space.  Not great.  That was a few years ago, but you can’t go wrong with Mozart, can you?  No, not really.  It was fine, glad I went – for all the spareness of the set, it was a nice spectacle, fine ensemble playing and voices, some fine melody lines and a real orchestra.  Still comes as a surprise to me how rhythmic Mozart can be; had a good beat.

The WNO Marriage of Figaro started off all Brechtian with the main performers just sauntering on with the lights still up, ‘doing’ their stretches and other prep stuff, which has a certain charm the first time it’s done.  Then there was the shock of them singing in English – a first for me.  I didn’t like it; still had the sub-titles over the top of the stage, because it remains difficult to actually hear the words being sung, but where you could some of the rhyming was treacherous.  And I was thrown by the wedding coming in the third act of a four act opera, and, to tell the truth, didn’t have much of a clue as to what exactly was going on in the forest in the fourth, given they were all in black cloaks and distinguishable only by the colour of their masks as the intrigue unfolded.  Should have done some homework.  No, really: I had a good time.

Mrs Hemingway


There are four Mrs. Hemingways in Naomi Wood‘s beautifully constructed novel Mrs. Hemingway (Picador, 2014), though no actual marriage ceremonies feature in the action.  The cover’s a superb piece of book design – subject, period, delicate visual balance: great job.  And what is inside is up to it – a lovely, compelling piece of work.

Mr. Hemingway is writer Ernest Hemingway.  If it were a movie you’d say starring four women and featuring a man.  You don’t get inside his head, but, of course, it’s more than a bit part.  On one level you could say it’s a case study of the old chestnut: how come strong intelligent women fall for selfish bastards?  But there are plenty of good times, and this is no hatchet job.  Nevertheless, from the time when he and Hadley got together in the ’20s to the distressing end with Mary nearly half a century later, he never spent a single day as an unattached single man.

It’s Mrs.Hemingway number 3 – fellow war correspondent and writer Martha Gellhorn, the one who was able to get over him – who, at the house in Cuba, in 1944, is allowed a judgment:

He sat down by her; his T-shirt smelled of the cocktail.  “What can I do for you, Marty?”  His words were gentle now.  Poor Ernest.  He had never loved another more than he himself was loved.

But it was still her who describes him, in August in Paris later that year, during a caddish episode that does not show him at his best:

A man stands with his hands deep in the garbage cans.  Somehow, among the empty wine bottles, broken wooden crates, slimed scraps of food, Ernest still has the air of a man in touch with the gods.

Mrs. Hemingway is arranged in four sections, arranged chronologically by wife as each of them picks up the narrative baton, though it jumps around, criss-crossing in time and place within and between those sections, taking in Chicago, Paris, Arkansas, Antibes, Florida, Havana, London and, finally, Ketchum, Idaho, and ranging over the years from 1920, when Hadley first met Ernest in Chicago (which is not the opening chapter), to 1961 and Ernest’s suicide.  It’s quite a story, skillfully and stylishly handled.  “My wives,” he tells Mary, the last wife, who stayed with him longest, to the distressing end, “They have a way of finding each other without me being involved a jot.”  It is precisely the discovery of this aspect of it all that, the author says (in a bonus afterword in the Richard & Judy Book Club edition I read), prompted her to write the novel: “I was swiftly realising that though the wives and mistresses of Ernest Hemingway were enemies, they were also, quite often, friends.

The end – Mary witnessing his physical and mental deterioration – is painful to read:

Sometimes she walks out to the woods: the leaves of the cedar and birch are just on the turn.  fall has come so quickly, and the forest is all mustards, rust and blood.  Having loved its beauty so intensely, it amazes her that Ernest is blind to it now.

Ernest and Hadley in Pamplona 1925

OK, it’s Spain 1925, not Paris, but you get the drift. That’s Hadley in the middle.

This is a tremendous, ultimately sad, novel.  It’s clear an enormous amount of research went into it and, again in that afterword, Naomi Wood admits “… sometimes, in the midst of love letters and torn-up photographs, I felt like the fifth mistress.”  Mary Chapin Carpenter has a song called Mrs. Hemingway; it’s Hadley looking back on her time with Ernest in Paris in the mid-1920s, the time celebrated in A moveable feast, Hemingway’s memoir of those times which was assembled by Mary from his manuscripts and notes, and published after his death.  It’s a lovely piece of work that is on YouTube with an atmospheric slideshow of photographs, mostly from that era, including some of the couple.  Here’s the link; have a hankie ready: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j68s-C1ikO0

Scribal April 2016Vaultage mid-April 2016Another Scribal goodie.  We got a full complement of Roses and Pirates, previously mentioned in despatches minus a cello player, and mighty fine they were too.  The cellist (“Amy Farrah Fowler” said my companion) kicked off with some charming pizzicato and added a lot to the mix, even when, “relegated to percussion” (and I quote a fellow band member).  Three women with some decent songs and stirring harmonies, delivered with humour and zest.

Lee Nelson – the Lutonia poet, not the alleged London comedian – gave us a great set.  We had the Human League’s Don’t you want me completely re-written in sonnet form, which worked delightfully; the recognition of the sentiments re-imagined in a different lingua franca, without any resort to easy laughs (the concept is wry enough), was illuminating.  Lee has published a slim volume giving each track on the Dare album the treatment, so he asked for requests; inevitably someone asked for the instrumental.  Lee, you should get that slim volume a mention on the Dare Wikipedia page.  He’s now working on Abba, and he gave us one of those too.   Highlight of a varied set, though, was the epic 97, a funny and ultimately moving memoir of his father, written in part as a response to a request for something to go in a prime numbers-themed anthology, leavened by beautifully crafted tangents concerning the writing of the piece and other things on the way.  Outstanding.

Mid-month Vaultage saw a fine 30-minute spot to host Pat Nicholson in DADGAD mode.  I knew there was something different about him … he was performing … without a … hat.

Rhyme & ReasonMK HumsRhyme & Reason

The regular Milton Keynes Humanists April meeting was given over entirely to a look at poetry on humanist themes, and an absorbing evening it turned out to be, with featured poets Danni Antagonist (who sold some books!) and Sam Upton in fine form, and members of the group doing their own stuff, reciting old favourites or texts chosen specifically for the occasion.  Of the latter, Abul Al Al Ma’arri, a blind Arab eleventh century poet was something of an eye-opener.  There’s an article by Kenan Malik (The poetry of an old atheist) which is well worth a look, from which this short poem is taken;

Traditions come from the past, of high import if they be True;
Ay, but weak is the chain of those who warrant their truth.
Consult thy reason and let perdition take others all:
Of all the conference Reason best will counsel and guide.

Yup, dateline: 11th century, Aleppo and Baghdad.



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Andrew Cowan - CrustaceansDownbeat yet quietly passionate eloquence from a man of low self-esteem who is hurting bad makes for an unexpectedly riveting ride in Andrew Cowan‘s novel, Crustaceans (Hodder, 2000).  Three days before Christmas, on the occasion of his son’s sixth birthday Paul is driving through a snow-covered East Anglia to a seaside town where they and his partner had a caravan and happy times.  He’s talking to his son, Euan, though it soon becomes apparent he is not in the car.  He’s telling Euan all about meeting his mother, first as a student then following her to London, and how he came into the world, about his own unhappy childhood, about the remote father he was desperate to be a better father than, about a tragic mother he hardly knew.

Crustaceans is a heartbreaker.  Part of it is a graphic illustration of Philip Larkin‘s This be the verse (“They fuck you up, your mum and dad …” – that one), part of it is about how two people deal with grief and bereavement.  (That’s not much of a giveaway, by the way, from early on).  One is aware of the randomness and contingency that is a part of living a life, throughout.  It’s a slow build to the awful event at the heart of the driver’s pain.  The end might be optimistic, but you can’t rely on it.

Andrew Cowan is a tremendous writer, an English author who I think deserves much greater recognition.  This is a poignant, vivid, and compassionate novel, which, although presented as a first person narrative, is skillfully delivered with detachment.  There is no wastage of words in its 229 (paperback) pages.  There are many haunting passages of both introspective recall and crystal clear physical description.  The picture painted, for example, of the ultimately derelict workshop of Paul’s chain-smoking father – once a successful large form sculptor – the rusted remnants of unfinished pieces, works on both levels.  This is a book of lamenting that sings.  There are no jokes.  Euan collected shells.

Comings and goings

Busy week, week before last.  Farewell to JL, good man of amusing and amused look, of intelligent cheeky grin, mischievous without malice.  Happened at a big North London necropolis – New Southgate – where the funeral trains used to run to from Kings Cross in Victorian times.  God-free, we went in to the Invisible String Band (The half remarkable question) and came out to Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss (I’ll fly away), with contemplative birdsong and Adlestrop in between.  Remembered, as in life, whenever the Ipswich Town result comes up …

Lau-Nov-2015-A6-Tour-Flyer-1-728x1024And so, Monday evening, to The Stables for Lau, a Scottish three-piece folk and sonic exploration band featuring guitar, keyboards (and loops) and incredibly hard-working fiddle.  Booked on the rave recommendations of a couple of friends -“great live” – without having heard anything beyond a couple of doleful YouTube songs, was impressed but not entirely knocked out.

The guitarist had a beautiful Scottish singing voice that I would have liked to have heard more of, and less of the, ahem, descents into ‘sonic exploration’, or what we in older times would call ‘freak outs’.  Which, it has to be said, they did come out of beautifully, while some complex arrangements were delivered with aplomb and the songs were things of beauty.  Martin with left hand working the accordion balanced on his knees and doing all sorts of things with the right, eyes closed as if in sleep, was a sight to behold.  Didn’t realise until going to their website that the percussive workout that he opened with was accomplished with forks and spoons mounted on a board.

After some earlier mutterings about lemon cake they introduced Lal Waterson’s Midnight feast, at which Martin made more mention of lemon drizzle cake.  Can’t remember who said it – might have been himself – but acknowledgment was made of his literal mindedness.  Without missing a beat: “I believe all poetry is basically lying“.  The music was lyrical.  Unlike Mr Hobbs, was glad I went.

Scribal Nov 2015Vaultage early Nov 2015Two bards and a fine band for the November Scribal and a full set of familiar open mic-ers.  Palmerston their usual immaculate playing and harmonies on great original songs.  American influences but a music hall comic’s performance from Peter Ball with I like to drink, staggering up and down the room, sitting on tables, radio mic in hand, not missing a beat, even when helped to his feet by Stony’s slightest of frame ex-Bard.  Another performance of great charm from Morris side concertina-ist who knows how to pick ’em: obscure Lennon/McCartney (as recorded by Billy J.Kramer) and Booby Vee – I’d forgotten all about I’ll keep you satisfied, and The night has a thousand eyes respectively.  At Vaultage later in the week we whistled along to Chris Wesson’s finely crafted pop songs (only one we whistled to, actually, but … poetic license, you get the gist?) and enjoyed some fine Evs and S&G harmonies on some Pocket Full of Peanuts originals.

Die entfuhrungWednesday and it’s pain and longing – off we go to the opera.  But you can’t go wrong with Glyndebourne on Tour and Wolfgang Amadeus.  Mozart‘s Die entfuhrung aus dem Serail aka The abduction from the seraglio[Seraglio, by the way, one of those words you hardly ever find outside of cryptic crosswords].

Great orchestra, a rhythmic score, a good-looking inventive set – what you’d expect.  I’ve no great claim to judge the singing – could have done without the coloratura from the female lead, which remains my problem with opera – but it sounded fine to me, the acting and theatrical ‘business’ up to Glyndebourne’s high standard.  The singer playing the character of Blonde – hooped stockings, cartwheeling in glee at one stage – stole the show in the way that the crude mechanicals make the leads look dull in Shakespeare’s comedies; she was great.  The outcome prescient for these time: the transcendence of old hostilities, a retreat from people ownership, the power of love witnessed to bring on change.

One last thought about opera.  This was one of those where the dialogue is not sung, not delivered in recitative.  I can grant that the arias and all should be sung in the language they’re written for, but if it’s just spoken dialogue, surely a decent translation, rather than the précis translation you see on the text screen, would at the least take nothing away?

Night watchAnother book

I dunno.  Sarah WatersThe night watch (Virago, 2006), 500 pages long in the paperback edition, was short-listed for the Booker and the Orange Prizes, but if it hadn’t been a Book Group book, and the prospect of an interesting discussion, I doubt I’d have got into three figures.  But then I would have missed the best bit, which, with a bit of background thrown in, that would have made a fine novella.  I speak of Julia and Helen’s haunting, lyrical walk one night, at the start of their relationship, through the streets of Holborn and among the damaged old churches of the East End.

Because it’s mostly set in a bombed London in the Second World War, comparisons with Kate Atkinson‘s powerful Life after life were inevitable for me.  While Ursula in that is with a rescue and demolition team, Kate in this is with an ambulance unit that takes over from them at the scene.  Life after life very effectively plays around with time – a snakes and one-step-at-a-time ladders affair that gives the breadth of a variety to the outcomes in the episodes set in the rubble and the ruins – and The night watch‘s chronology is unorthodox too.  Kicking off bleakly in 1947 (the first 169 pages), it goes back to 1944 (the main action – 279 pages), and finishes by briefly revealing how all these stories started (46 pages).   One of the characters says:

‘I go to the cinema […]  Sometimes I sit through the film twice over. Sometimes I go in half-way through, and watch the second half first. I almost prefer them that way – people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures.

Not sure it applies to the novel, though.  With a chronological structure like that, if I’d been really engaged, I’d have expected to want to go back to page one and keenly explore it again in a new light.  Didn’t happen; maybe, I’ll grant, it’s just me.

In The night watch we’re out on the margins, back then in another secret world.  Featuring two women, lesbians, linked over time by a relationship with a woman novelist, a probably homosexual young man in prison.  Also to the fore is his glamour girl sister, obsessed with, getting pregnant by, a married soldier.  With a side cast of a Christian Science medical practitioner, a protective retired prison warder (his relationship with the young man is left ambiguous – to me, anyway), a middle class jack the lad conscientious objector.  All damaged people linked one way or another, with maybe glimmers of personal hope for some at the end (ie. the end of the first section).  “We never seem to love the people we ought to,” one of the women says, from the remains of a bombed house.  The women are finely drawn, but I’m far from convinced by the episode that got the precious young man into prison, though, as I say, another world back then.

I had a problem with some of the prose too.  There’s a lot of blushing, some of the romance strikes me as a bit close to Mills & Boon at times, and the word ‘queer’ seems to innocently, old school, be employed a fair number of times; not sure if that’s meant, and why, or not.  What I said about Andrew Cowan at the top of this piece, not wasting words.  What is one to make of:

  • He was opening the tin of ham as he spoke; turning its key over and over with his great, blunt fingers, producing a line of exposed meat like a thin pink wound. Viv saw Duncan watching; she saw him blink and look away.  [Is that meant to indicate some sort of sensuality?] [27.11.2015: Have to admit after the Book Group discussion there is some relevance to this, harking back to events in 1941, but even then I’m not convinced by the image].
  • cameras flashing “like bombs” [Really?]
  • His nails were cut bluntly, but shone as if polished. [So what?]
  • He went to the armchair and sat down, unfastening the top two buttons of his jacket … [Surely the wrong way round?]
  • A strand or two of tobacco came loose upon Duncan’s tongue … [it’s a problem with roll-ups, true]
  • [and what exactly is meant by …] the empty yet bullying expression of people who have settled down for a night at the cinema …

I’ve got others, all jolly unfair no doubt.  Then there’s:

Julia pulled on a broken stalk. ‘ “Nature triumphant over war”,’ she said, in a wireless voice; for it was the sort of thing that people were always writing about to the radio – the new variety of wildflower they had spotted on the bomb-sites, the new species of bird, all of that – it had got terrible boring.

Now, I would have been interested in that.  Enough.






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LFG GOT 14La Finta Giardiniera

Going to the opera it helps to know the story.  When, like one of those Shakespeare comedies, it’s a tale involving hidden identities, you can still get lost, though.  Glyndebourne on Tour‘s production of the young Mozart‘s La Finta Giardiniera did it’s best to help with some very distinct costumery for all the characters and I did pretty much keep up with what was going down.  Always helped, of course by the surtitles, the lyrics projected above the stage as they are sung (as opposed to subtitles on the bottom of the telly).  These are another reason it’s better to be in the circle than in the stalls (less strain on the neck looking up and down), as well as you get to see a lot more of the theatrical ‘business’ going on all over the stage that is always such a bonus in a Glyndebourne production, and if you’re near enough to the front of the circle you get see the orchestra too.  La Finta Giardiniera is a tale of loves thwarted (misunderstandings, the small matter of a stabbing, mixed messages, that sort of thing) and then unthwarted.  It was still something of a surprise, though, when the words “All men are bastards” appeared on the surtitles.

In between the losing and the regaining and realignment, we have love as source and cause of madness, the visual metaphor in this production being the cast physically tearing down parts of the civilised urban edifice that was the set, which was simultaneously falling down around them and being lifted away to reveal the wild forest behind.  When a scenery malfunction meant this didn’t quite happen as planned (it got stuck) it took nothing away – became almost a bonus, in fact, an I-was in-the-audience-when tale to tell – it only added to the warmth of the reception the company got at the end.  Without any of those Bravos! and people getting up out of their seats (as they do) the applause did not flag for as long a time as any performance I can recall.  It was most satisfying theatrically and musically, as well as being great fun.  There were no standout voices in the small cast – all seven sang beautifully (not that I can bring any technical knowledge to the table) – and the orchestra were superb.

Young MozartIncredibly Mozart wrote the music for this, his first opera, in his late-teens and even a classical music pleb like me was fascinated, could hear it was bursting with ideas that would see later fuller fruition.  And while we’re on fruition, there’s a reason that title La Finta Giardiniera doesn’t get translated.  Even Babelfish doesn’t try.  All I’ve found trawling away have been The pretend garden-girl, The false garden-girl and The phony gardener – none of which exactly have a ring to them.  Not that she exactly gets her hands dirty.  Just saying.

Scan JungMeanwhile, back in the tub …

I’ve been slowly working my way through my 1978 Picador paperback of Man and his symbols (1964), a book, it says on the cover, ‘conceived and edited by’ Carl Jung.  I say slowly, because I’ve been reading it in the bath.  A word about reading in the bath: you really shouldn’t.  Especially with new books, which swell up like some weird chemical reaction, and never, never, ever with library books.  However, Man and his symbols is one of a number of books I’ve bought over previous decades that have survived house-moving and other assorted charity shop culls that I have never actually got round to reading and as such, are – never mind slightly foxed – desiccated to the point where a little bit of moisture in the air is not going to harm them.  Falling asleep and dropping them into cooling water is another matter – a real danger here, as it happens – but my conscience is clear.

Anyway, I’ve always been interested in Jung’s ideas, especially his notion of archetypes and the mythic narratives of the collective unconscious, and it would be nice to think these could be seen as having evolutionary relevance in human (and indeed, personal) development.  I’d say the man himself, in the general introduction to his work here, broadly hints at this as being worth pursuing, but I’m not sure the big name disciples who contribute more detailed chapters – M-L von Franz, Jolande Jacobi, couple of others I’ve not encountered before – are that interested, and a lot of von Franz’s concluding chapter, Science and the unconscious – written 60 years ago, when the scientific study of consciousness was in its infancy – is the stuff of fantasy and dead-ends.  And as for the chapter on now well dated modern art, well … extemporize, why don’t you?

So you can say I was disappointed at the vagueness  – phrases like ‘tends to suggest’, verbs like seems employed overtime to move arguments on, and so on – and plain gobbledygook I found here, particularly on the formation of the psyche (whatever that is).  Given the stated proviso that there is no general formula and that each individual has to be treated, um, individually, it just struck me that all this dream analysis is effectively making it up as you go along, a close relation to the psychic’s cold reading techniques, though I’ll willingly concede that it can be useful for some of the individuals involved (like the poor sod singled out for the chapter featuring an analysis – after 35 sessions over 9 months).  And I thought I might actually get out of the bath for the satisfaction of throwing the book back into it on reading this passage, courtesy of M-L – who is good on fairy tales, you can’t take that away – on the subject of The process of individuation (p168):

For example, Jung once told a group of students about a young woman who was so haunted by anxiety that she committed suicide at the age of 26.  As a small child, she had dreamed that “Jack Frost” had entered her room while she was lying in bed and pinched her on the stomach.  She woke and discovered that she had pinched herself with her own hand.  The dream did not frighten her; she merely remembered that she had had such a dream.  But the fact that she did not react emotionally to her strange encounter with the demon of the cold – of congealed life – did not augur well for the future and was itself abnormal.  It was with a cold unfeeling hand that she later put an end to her life.  From this single dream it is possible to deduce the tragic fate of the dreamer, which was anticipated by her psyche in childhood.

Really?  And I’ve always liked the idea of synchronicity, Jung’s “acausal connecting (togetherness) principle“, or “meaningful coincidence.”  I can imagine Douglas Adams coming up with it for its humourous potential, but to use as a significant example Wallace and Darwin  discovering evolution at roughly the same time is pretty desperate, as opposed to Marshall McLuhan’s (remember him?) “it steam engines when it’s steam engine time,” never mind simple, um, coincidence.  I prefer my mate Neil’s rather poetic explanation that it’s the universe giving you a nudge.  Like Charlie Resnick listening to an Eric Dolphy album in the recently read John Harvey’s Darkness, darkness and, in the wake of David Bowie’s new ‘song’, someone saying Bowie once told him as a mod he’d tried to like Eric Dolphy but couldn’t quite manage it, which lead me to dig out that vinyl album bought for a 50p in a Record Exchange many decades ago and give it a spin; and it was good.

Switch on 2014What it says on the poster

Upstairs in the library, as part of the lead-up to the annual lantern parade and the switching on of the town’s Christmas lights, to the strains of ’50s and ’60s pop classics coming from the dodgems outside, all the fun of the wordfair.  And a full-on visit from the Stony Stratford Mummers.  Just as well there were no-shows from five wordsmiths (for the record, for future historians: NB, TK, CT, PB, P) because somehow everyone and everything else was made to fit in.  The oddness of daytime poetry out of school … and given Father Christmas was in the children’s library downstairs, no (well hardly any) swearing, even from The Antipoet, no strangers to Lillabullero.  Some fine contributions from the Cambridge contingent (including the previously mentioned in despatches quiet power of Fay Roberts (not so quiet in harness with The Antipoet)) and ex-Laureate of the Fens, Leanne Moden, who I’d like to hear more of; her mesmeric and action-packed remembrance of shared youthful emo-days and long term friendship celebrated at a gig years later was stunning (I asked, and wish I could remember the name of the band), while her anti-deforestation defence of natural vegetation was a delight.  And so after the ever-willing and magnificent Antipoet out into the lights …

Danni Antagonist sparkles.

Danni Antagonist sparkles.

Leanne Moden in action.  Hard left is the current bald-head Bard of Stony Stratford, and next to him the hirsute bookie's favourite for the position next year.

Leanne Moden in action. Hard left is the current bald-head Bard of Stony Stratford, and next to him the bookie’s hirsute favourite for the position next year.

(Photos above cropped from Fay Roberts’ originals.  You can see Fay in action and a lot more by visiting her website at www.fayroberts.co.uk); you won’t regret it.)

Cryptic crossword clues of a cultural bent

Been over a year since I last did anything like this.  Cryptic clues, this time of a cultural bent, from the Guardian that have tickled my fancy.  What qualifies is wit, zen, bad punning and doh! moments – a certain kind of cleverness.  Take heart: Morse would not be impressed.  First is the nom de guerre of the crossword setter, then the clue and (non-cruciverbalists if you’ve got this far) the number of letters in the answer.  Answers and explanations appear below my photo of a packed Stony Stratford Market Square just after the 280 lanterns had trooped in and the Christmas Lights got switched on and the PA had no chance of carrying The Bard’s recitation of his poem for the occasion (and before the giant snowman went on a rampage).

  • from Arachne: Tom Sharpe employed them (9)
  • from Paul: Director hit the water with last of Bacardi (7)
  • from Philistine: Haven of Love by Status Quo (5)
  • from Shed: Female Ibsen character embracing male one of Dostoyevsky’s (7)
  • from Pasquale: Derek, an artist, establishing wine stores (7)
  • from Paul: As a baby, Victor introduces himself? (8)
  • from Picaroon: Appropriate introduction from Ezra (7)
  • from Philistine: Artist picked up according to girl (7)
  • from Puck: Strictly does it for Rambo – LOL! (8,7)
  • from Picaroon: Folk gathering mostly jeered Mary Poppins? (10)
  • from Brendan: Conduct oneself in original duets from Beethoven, Handel, and Verdi (6)

Stony Lights 2014

Crossword answers:

  • from the pen of Arachne: Tom Sharpe employed them (9): Metaphors (anagram of author Tom Sharpe, whose Wilt books are still some of the funniest I’ve read)
  • from Paul: Director hit the water with last of Bacardi (7): Fellini
  • a beauty from Philistine: Haven of Love by Status Quo (5): Oasis (O-as-is)
  • from Shed: Female Ibsen character embracing male one of Dostoyevsky’s (7): Gambler (Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler)
  • from Pasquale: Derek, an artist, establishing wine stores (7): Bodegas (you know, older males: Bo Derek – the 10) [a very crossword word]
  • Ezra Pound in 1913: quel dude; shame about the politics.

    The poet Ezra Pound in 1913: quel dude! – shame about the politics.

    from Paul: As a baby, Victor introduces himself? (8): Immature (ancient film actor)

  • similarly from Picaroon: Appropriate introduction from Ezra (7): Impound
  • I do like this from Philistine: Artist picked up according to girl (7) Cezanne (says Anne)
  • from Puck: Strictly does it for Rambo – LOL! (8,7): Ballroom dancing (an anagram: the letters of ballroom … dancing about).
  • from Picaroon: Folk gathering mostly jeered Mary Poppins? (10): Hootenanny (hooted)
  • lastly, a very literal one from Brendan: Conduct oneself in original duets from Beethoven, Handel, and Verdi (6): Behave

And I leave you with the light and the dark side of the mighty Antipoet (always depending on where the window is, of course):

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