Dear friends wherever you may be, Solstice Greetings to all and sundry!
As I grab a brief moment to sit here listening to a truly stunning violin recital by the inimitable Piotr Jordan, recorded and streamed live last weekend at the French Protestant Church of London, I’d like to try to reflect a little on the current state of things, but a deeply affectionate Yasmine has just emerged in front of the screen, like a cat on a newspaper, urging me to serve the food that I just left gently simmering away, so I must to that, but will try to return to typing before the sun sinks fully behind the icy peaks out the window.
Here's a link to Piotr's recital in the mean time...
Absolutely sublime violism from the one and only Piotr Jordan...
Well sunset has been and gone and sadly it’s a little too hazy in the south-west to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn for the first time since 1623, but the crescent moon is waxing, dinner thoroughly taken care of, and I’m back.
A couple of nights ago (before the rear springs on the van snapped and left us somewhat stranded for Yuletide - that's another story altogether) we were parked up by the church at Castéras as the sun set, and before I’d read anything about it in the newspaper, we saw two planets incongruously close to one another, in perfect alignment with the crescent sliver of the setting new moon, hanging above the full chain of the Pyrenees.
It was quite a remarkable sight, and if you happen to be somewhere with a clear sky to the SSW in the next day or two you’ll see them come so close as to likely appear as one enormous star, just above the horizon around sunset, but no-one is quite sure how close they’ll come to each other, as the last time it happened, no-one with a telescope was looking.
I trust you’re all keeping your wits about you and some kind of human contact, however “remote” that may be in this darkest of seasons. We’re approaching the very fulcrum of the Yule and imminently the days will start to get longer for all of us in northern climes. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, keep up the good work with what you’ve been doing, with the exception of Mr. Bolsanaro.
I have now finished the violin recital and have moved on through a fantastic set of Balkan selections and beyond from Dunayska Kapelye to The Pulborough Players, in the same church as part of the same concert series and featuring some of the many facets of the wonder that is Piotr Jordan. There really is so much fantastic live music being played into telephones in empty rooms this festive season. I just hope someone gets to hear it.
A private audience with Dunayska Kapelye...
In fact, speaking of new music which has just been released, The James Patrick Gavin Trio - Live at The Welsh Chapel is a beautiful thing, as is "When the Lights Are Bright" the new album from Beth Porter's band Marshes (formerly Beth Porter & The Availables). Click on the links and you will be lured into lush string arrangements and glorious music galore. Also, for any of you who've ever enjoyed hearing the Djukella Orchestra performing "Borders", The Undercover Hippy, the lyrical genius behind that and many other songs has designed a t-shirt that you may well want to model... Just click the above link to get your hands on one.
It seems that despite all the bluff, bluster and perhaps even other words beginning with b, the crooked cabal of cronies masquerading as a government in the country I call home have managed to hightail it to their country hideaways mere moments before it became apparent that a new strain of the dreaded lurgy means that everyone else is now going to have to stay where they are and abandon the patriotic family Christmas celebrations they’d been encouraged to believe were an inalienable right mere moments before that.
It has been rather one of those years all around, to be honest, but you don’t need to look as far as Taiwan, or even Greece to realise that it’s not beyond the wit of man (or indeed woman, as the case may be) to organise things in such a way as not to give the appearance of wild improvisation by rank amateurs. I always question the records where wonderful saxophonist and famed exponent of free-jazz, Ornette Coleman decided to play “free jazz” on trumpet and violin, two instruments he is not known for being able to play (for good reason, I might add), and wonder whether a five year-old learning to play the oboe, or even a cat feeding itself into a mangle could also on these terms be considered free jazz.
It seems we have a “free-jazz” government, and a cabinet of amateurs, and surely an amateur cabinet is nothing more than a box, and Dominic Spaffings went off in a sulk with that some weeks ago. It seems the only one who is home by Christmas, is Mr Eye Test himself. Thank heaven for small mercies.
To make such a fuss about how banning Christmas festivities would be “inhumane” after nonchalantly cancelling Diwali, Hanukkah and Eid just seems so lazily exceptionalist, in this of all years where thanks to the vast eruption of humanity prompted by the wanton murder of George Floyd by a gang of police officers going “viral” on the internet (that’s a phrase which doesn’t seem quite so cool this year, eh), they’ve all been frantically paying lip-service to Black Lives Matter at the same time as stirring a culture war which surely stinks far too much of the lingering Trump to be any use to them now, but then they do seem to be making it up as they go along.
When the lockdown of Rochdale, Burnley, Bradford and practically every part of Britain with a large Desi community was announced the night before Eid, who among them gave a thought to the folks who’d bought new clothes, laid on huge spreads for the planned feasting and booked non-refundable tickets to visit loved-ones. With just a couple of days warning and perhaps an iota of consideration, all this chaos could easily have been averted.
The nonsense about following “the science” as though science were some illusive beast akin to the Gruffalo, rather than the simple exercise of deductive logic available to any layman as a truly inalienable right, has worn woefully thin, as time and again, vast sums of public money is doled out to private companies owned by the spouses, friends and associates of prominent politicians, for grandiose schemes which consistently over-promise and under-deliver, and often fail to deliver anything at all.
The very same people who sold us “the big society” whilst imposing savage “austerity” on all public services and fostering a hostile environment in order to save the public purse pennies, are now squandering generations of current and future tax-payers’ money without a penny reaching the public at all. It’s a travesty.
It’s Churchill you think you are, Mr Bojo I suppose, if your dreadful book is anything to go by, but I’m afraid you’re starting to look rather more like Chamberlain in all but stature.
As for the state of things across the Atlantic, at least we hear less of what Herr Drumpf thinks from day to day (even moment to moment) any more. Well I suppose some folks do, but I’ve not been tuning in to those channels.
It’s a refreshing change, but I worry that rather like in the UK (if it’s still anything but a sick joke to call it that), the “opposition” party has been so thorough in eviscerating itself to rid the body-politic of the upsurge of popularity and support amongst the young and disenfranchised these past few years, inspired by radical leaders their parties would literally do anything to thwart, that it may not in the end be too concerned about opposing the idiotic corporate culture which landed us all in our current situation. I suppose we shall have to wait and see, on both sides of the water.
So please pardon my fierce rant, and allow me to leave you with this hymn to fraternal feelings and goodwill to all, featuring the full-cream Djukella Orchestra led by the marvellous Dominie Hooper and recorded back when such plurality of voices was permitted in public or indeed private places. Apologies for my own wild attempts at improvisation at the beginning. I soon checked myself and the assembled voices conjure some tasty chords for your listening pleasure. Dedicated at the time to the dearly departed Charlie Roff, it goes out to all those who've been snatched from us prematurely.
Dominie Hooper & The Djukella Orchestra - The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
With much love from the back of the van and all the best wishes for a positively delightful 2021.