Monday, August 06, 2007

Blackberry Parade



I love summer and Shostakovich, not necessarily in that order.

At last in dreary old London, we’ve had a weekend where I can finally dispense with my ubiquitous fleece and run free, albeit not naked – that would be too scary. As I huffed and puffed my way around the secluded section of Hackney Marshes this afternoon, I was passed rather menacingly and several times by a young man on a bicycle who took ages to work out whether or not I was worth harassing. What is that? Finally he passed me for the fourth time and muttered, ‘you look like you could use...’ He was so illiterate he wasn’t able to finish the sentence but I think I know what he meant. I admit my matronly bum is not so grand these days as it has been in the past but I’m not running for anyone but myself.

I did not, however, allow the slight to deter my enjoyment of my daily exercise shuffle, nor the side joy of collecting wild blackberries for tomorrow’s breakfast. This year’s crop has been crap because of the rubbish weather and it’s not that easy to find blackberries at their ultimate ripeness late in the afternoon. Sunday’s not a great day because everyone else has the same idea. The picture offered above shows how desolate the season has been this year. You're thinking that everything you used to count on in Britain lets you down.

And then you get a sunny weekend and all is forgiven.

Summer in London for me has always meant Reggae. It’s a Hackney thing I guess, but when you smell barbeque and the neighbourhood reverberates with lovers’ rock at sunset, you know the season has well and truly begun. I will miss this so much.

Sigh.

And Shostakovich?

Last night after spending the day working industriously, if I say so myself – although I did take a bit of a breakette to catch for about the fiftieth time The Red Shoes over a longish lunch, I settled down to watch The Proms (regular readers - beloved BBC, no questions asked; new people - look here).

Despite my nominal devotion to both classical music and the Royal Albert Hall, I have to say that, for the most part, I’ve had little interest in watching The Proms on television for the same reasons as everyone else – because it’s mostly about Elgar and fucking boring.

But, the National Youth Orchestra’s programme for last night was intriguing enough to draw me in. They began with the contemporary New Era Dance by Aaron Jay Kernis, a six minute masterpiece written in 1992. It crashes its way through the entire menu of urban musical myth, via Gershwin and Bernstein to present day New York; the yellow cab, the subway, clang, clang, clang went the trolley, and all manner of spiritual transportation beyond. It was stunning.

During Prokofiev’s witty and bright Piano Concerto No. 1, led with flirtatious dexterity by gifted young pianist Alexander Kobrin, I began to notice that most of Prokofiev’s generous quota of minor instrumental solos was being taken up by girls. The flautists were spectacular and the girls were all over the brass too.

And then came the finale; Shostakovich’s beautiful seventh symphony, The Leningrad. Almost twenty years ago I visited the Leningrad (as it was still called then) Siege Museum and heard this extraordinary music playing as I filed with other bewildered ‘Intourists’ through the maze of black and white photographs of people who had withstood that horrific time. It was a poignant moment and not one I’ll soon forget. Shostakovich completed this symphony in 1942 and it was even played by a scratch orchestra and broadcast on radio from the besieged city before being transferred via microfilm where it was played publicly for the first time outside Shostakovich’s homeland at the The Proms of 1942.

Poor Shostakovich has been almost as unkindly revised by history as Wagner so it did my heart no end of good to hear this glorious and dignified piece of music played with such controlled youthful passion by young musicians totally engaged with it. You never got the sense that this was earnest, good-for-you music. Sorry but even I think The Proms sometimes comes across that way. If you love harmony, you can’t help but love Shostakovich.

The Leningrad is short on whistles and bells and long on… er… length. I loved seeing the faces of kids aged thirteen to seventeen totally focused on it, despite its lack of obvious dramatic payoffs. It was great to see that the orchestra leader, traditionally the first violinist first chair, was a girl. Less gratifying was that the makeup of our National Youth Orchestra is visibly composed solely of white and ethnic Chinese with a glaring absence of young people from either a black or Asian background.

Why?

As you ponder that question I’ll be washing my freshly culled blackberries. Be grateful I could not find a suitable segue to the handheld computer of the same name. I guess I’m losing my touch. You wish….

19 comments:

Boris said...

I agree, the blackberries are looking particularly poor this year. However this far north, they are just getting into their stride, so a bit more sun and we'll be ok. Just as well as my boys can't get enough of them - we never get any home they just pick and eat. The other great thing "up north" is the bilberries on t' moor. Fantastic free food - what more could you want?

By the way when the elderberries come into season mix with blackberries and apple to make a crumble.

Boris.

That's so pants said...

Hi Boris

Nice to see you, figuratively speaking. There are plenty of elderberries out there but aren't they kind of complicated?

xxx


Pants

Wisewebwoman said...

Ah, the blackberries of my youth, great memories, Noosa.
Here (in Newfoundland) we have partridgeberries, bakeapples (which in other places are called cloudberries, I believe)and wild blueberries and raspberries.
I miss the big juicy blackberries, my mother used to bake them in tarts (along with making jars and jars of jam) and dollop on lashings of whipped cream. Heaven.
However this year's representation clarified by your pic makes it all look rather lean and grim pickings...

R.H. said...

Blackberries are a weed here, a rural nuisance. Among his many casual jobs (for drinking money) my old man used to clear them.
He was doing it in the Dandenongs one time as the social worker army hunted him down for child maintenance. They couldn't find him -then collapsed at the local pub with exhaustion, whereupon the publican roared with laughter: "But he's in and out here all the time!" he said.

I don't understand classical music. I only dig:

Who put the bomp in the bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp
Who put the ram in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong
Who put the bop in the bop-she-bop-she-bop
Who put the dip in the dib-de-dip-de-dip
Who is that man, I'd like to shake his hand
He made my baby fall in love with me (yeah!)

R.H. said...

I blame poor upbringing of course (but you can't keep doing it).

That's so pants said...

Hi WWW

Well, it's free food so I can't complain.

Hi RH

I played cello in my school orchestra and it was quite a buzz as I recall, although we played Percy Grainger rather than Shostakovich.

xxx

Pants

Reading the Signs said...

I would love to see this performed. My son's youth orchestra once played Shostakovich's tenth symphony with that strange "portrait of Stalin".

The run and the blackberries sound good - but the menacing young man no so, funny though it is to read what you said. I am assuming (maybe wrongly?) that he ended by propositioning you, but whatever - the fact that women are still considered fair game for a bit of harassment is a crap, really.

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

Well the marshes are a bit like that. I usually give as well as I get. In fact I once sent a young Turk off nearly in tears with my barbed invective. He dribbled 'and you're stupid' after I called him many unspeakable things. Then he cycled off. They're quite often on bicycles. I do wonder what gets into men sometimes because this guy the other day cycled past me several times. I was ready for him because it was obvious he was going to do something. I agree, it's all a bit pathetic.

xxx

Pants

That's so pants said...

Hi Signs

Well the marshes are a bit like that. I usually give as well as I get. In fact I once sent a young Turk off nearly in tears with my barbed invective. He dribbled 'and you're stupid' after I called him many unspeakable things. Then he cycled off. They're quite often on bicycles. I do wonder what gets into men sometimes because this guy the other day cycled past me several times. I was ready for him because it was obvious he was going to do something. I agree, it's all a bit pathetic.

xxx

Pants

Janejill said...

Pants - how come you managed to create a photo of such splendour from a few unripe blackberries? you did though... And how dare that yob be derogatory? I wish SO MUCH I could line up these pathetic creatures and pelt them with nasty things until they change; then I would make them look after , (in a very nice way), the sick and the elderly for the rest of their lives ; THAT should stop them in their sad tracks. I am just annoyed because I no longer have the nerve to face people like this and tell them what I think; I hope they read this.......(well, you never know)

That's so pants said...

Hi Jane Jill

No one ever said such nice things about my photography when I used a 35mm Nikon. Now I've got the clever little miniature Kodak Mum gave me for Christmas two years ago, no end of praise is forthcoming. I have to say the 'enhance' feature on Easyshare probably deserves some of the credit, but thanks.

I don't think it's just me - although these days I'm more than a little surprised that I'm still occasionally a target for unwanted male attention of a sexual nature - don't all women get this?

What I find funny is that having decided to harass me, nutters then circle for quite a long time to work out how exactly to do it. I must at the very least be a challenge. Then they fuck up because I'm always ready for them after they've hovered for ten minutes, making their intentions abundantly clear.

Please don't fret for me. I've never yet lost one of these face-offs. It ain't usually me who goes home wiping egg from their face. The weirdest experience I ever had in this vein was being chased by a very handsome, well dressed young man on a moped in Spain in the middle of the night. He pulled up in front of me and extracted his member, much to my great surprise. I pushed him over and legged it to the nearest taxi stand which I knew was just around the corner. I wasn't all that menaced by it. I just kept thinking 'but you should be out romancing your girlfriend - what is wrong with you?'

It's the great unanswered dilemma of our age - why do some men feel they need to be such prats just because there are women in the vicinity? And why (I'm aware that this makes it the very least a two-pronged question) are some of them so furtive?

xxx

Pants

Janejill said...

Pants - maybe I don't get out enough; I have the odd little thing, but not so much here in deepest Surrey. Maybe I'll be fending them off in Brighton, if I ever get there.(I make it sound as if I am looking forward to it?) Noosa is where I want to be I think; not many yobs on bikes there I think (for now that is)

That's so pants said...

Hi Jane Jill

Forgive me but on the beach in Brighton you are more likely to be knocked down by an army of Elton John-a-likes fighting over a George Michael-lite. Not even I've ever managed to get hassled there.

Noosa as you rightly suppose is a perv-free zone. The men are far too interested in looking at their own reflections in the crystal clear waters to bother with anyone else.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

Melbourne was perv-free until I got here, now there's women fainting everywhere. It's strange, they go to the trouble of showing it off, then get outraged when you put in some study.

Here's a joke I heard on the radio: A Jewish woman is walking through the rag-trade area of New York. A flasher coming the other way opens his coat to show off his doodle.
The woman is disgusted. "You call that lining?" she says.

That's so pants said...

Hi RH

You've not seen me in my sweats - showing out it ain't.

Great joke. You should send to Simon Hoggart at the Guardian (simon.hoggart@guardian.co.uk) for his column.

Once I was running on the marshes and a guy pulled down his duds and started playing with his knob right in front of me. I shouted 'wanker!' at him. He could but agree.

xxx

Pants

kip152 said...

I was with you till you brought up Wagner. Everything I read about him leads me to believe he was a royal dirtbag, regardless of his wondrous musical gift.

That's so pants said...

Hi Kip152

You are right of course, he was not a very nice man. He was a snob and an anti-Semite but probably no more so than most of his German non-Jewish contemporaries. The revisionism I was referring to is the close association his name has acquired with that of Hitler and the Third Reich. Since Wagner himself died in 1883, it is a nonsense. Hitler was a great admirer of Wagner's music and, in turn, Wagner's daughter-in-law, English-born Winifred Wagner was a great friend of Hitler's. Wagner is to a great extent, a victim of guilt by association.

xxx

Pants

Political Umpire said...

Hi Pants. Some loser litigant (in both senses) once stripped off in front of Lord Woolf, when the latter was Lord Chief Justice. He then threw a glass of water at Woolf, who didn't flinch at either action, but simply ambled out of the court as if nothing had happened. Perhaps it was because he's Jewish! (More likely the Wykehamist values instilled at the bar in his day). On another occasion, while he was leaving the court having upheld the sentence against some lag, said lag shouted at him "you f8cking bas0ard!!". Woolf paused and remarked "well, I suppose the bast*rd point's debatable, but I'm certainly not f*cking anything at the moment ..."

Masterful.

That's so pants said...

Hi Pumpie

Raising the bar - as always.

xxx

Pants