Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Restored Organ

"And what do you do?"

"I sell antiquarian books from a farm in Sussex."

"Oh, lucky you! That sounds wonderful."

At this point, I always wonder if I should shatter their illusion and tell them my job actually involves sifting through thousands of manky, charity shop rejects in search of a small number of gems, whilst trying not to gag at the overpowering smell of manure.

I've had enough of this place, so I'm leaving.

I'll be moving to a new farm shortly. It's drier, cleaner and I won't have to contend with bulls, mud or surly, limbless people.

I went to set up some shelving in the new unit this morning. I was only there for an hour, but during that time over 20 horse-drawn carts went past. Had I stumbled across a clandestine Amish community in the heart of Sussex?

It felt particularly disconcerting, as only 12 hours earlier I was here:

I went with my wife to a concert at the Royal Festival Hall, where a choral piece by Neil Hannon had been commissioned to show off its newly-restored organ.

My wife hates organ music, but likes Neil Hannon. I love organs and Neil Hannon, so I had to go.

We used to feel so at home at the South Bank, but my wife and I now feel as if we're in Bladerunner ("The adverts have moving pictures!"). Our psychogeographical map of London is 15 years out of date.Where's the Wimpy Bar?

The concert was a mixed affair. The highlight was Vaughan Williams' sublime Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and a very moving performance of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind by Neil Hannon. I'm not a big fan of hymns, but this arrangement was beautiful:

I wasn't as keen on Neil Hannon's own composition, which sounded like a pastiche of Philip Glass and John Adams. The libretto was very witty, but like most minimalist music, it relied too much on repetition rather than development.

It's a pity, as Hannon is one of the most gifted songwriters alive. When he allowed his own voice to come to the fore, in the final movement, the music was far more successful.

I enjoyed the concert, but the best part of the evening was simply being able to go out with my wife and meet a friend. During the last few years we have been held hostage by our oldest son's condition and our world has shrunk. We haven't even bothered renewing our passports, as it seems like an unnecessary expense.

I find it hard to believe that I once went off to Chile on a whim.

In Chile, on a whim and a bicycle.


Nota Bene said...

We went to see an opera written by Neil Hannon last year...not so very good, because when he sticks to what he's good at, he's sublime. So do the books smell of manure as well?

Steerforth said...

Thankfully they don't. They're protected on the far side of a very large barn, with a good suply of fresh air from the Downs that blows that manure smells in the other direction.

Lucy R. Fisher said...

"Antiquarian books on a farm in Sussex": a cosy converted stone barn, surrounded by hayricks, duck ponds and baby lambs. (Apparently you can still find Wimpy bars in South London.)

Rog said...

I could put up with a bit of adversity at work but Bulls would be a deal breaker for me.

I was in the Festival Hall not long ago to see, er, Sandy Denny's last concert with Fotheringay. Who knows where the time goes.

Canadian Chickadee said...

I'm sorry that things weren't working out at the location where you were, but hope that the new location will be far more successful for you in every way.

I really sympathise with your feeling that your world has shrunk. I felt that way for about ten years, dealing with a lot of issues to do with my parents. I woke up one morning with the thought, "Even prisoners get time off for good behaviour." But perhaps I've already told you that in previous posts. If so, sorry for the redundancy!

I do hope that things will settle down and be less stressful for you in the months and years to come. How is your other son doing? I hope well.

Thinking of you and sending love and good vibes (hopefully), xoxo Carol

Steerforth said...

Lucy - Yes, that's the image the springs to mind. My last place came quite close to the ideal, but I had to leave because of the waste collection facilities! I went with a heavy heart.

I think there's still a Wimpy Bar in my home town of Tedington too, but I don't know if they still do a 'Bender in a Bun'. It's probably all sub-MacDonalds now.

Rog - You'll be telling me you remember the Skylon next.

Carol - The other son is the polar opposite of his older brother and has made me realise that perhaps I'm not the worst father in the world.

Erika said...

Physical worlds shrink and friendship groups change when you have to live with physical and/or mental ailments. I get the whammies of ailments and Best Beloved has to live with my constraints. Thank heavens for books!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

London has become a foreign land, so you may as well save on that passport renewal Steerforth. You are not alone in feeling it has become like a Bladerunner landscape. So glad you are feeling fit enough to go out again though and you both managed to have an evening's much needed sabbatical from T. May the good times roll more often.

Steerforth said...

Erika - Yes, books and a good boxed set of DVDs!

Laura - Let's hope, for you as well after your recent trauma.

Chris Matarazzo said...

Speaking of Vaughan Williams and popular music/classical crossovers, have you heard any of Tony Banks' orchestral suites? Pretty good stuff... Very heavy Vaughan Williams influences in spots... Melancholy stuff, but some real beauty in spots.

Steerforth said...

Chris - No, I haven't, but I will investigate as I have a secret penchant for early Genesis - the days when every track lasted for at least 10 minutes and had a flute somewhere in the song.

Sasha said...

Re the horses and carriages, I'm wondering if you're near the Darvell community? They are down that way... I haven't looked at your blog for some years now (due to my circumstances, not your writing!) and so glad I've remembered it. Have spent a lovely, leisurely morning unearthing your gems of posts... lots of laughing but feeling for you too. Thank you so much for your splendid posts.

Steerforth said...

Sasha - As the husband says at the end of 'Brief Encounter' - "Thank you for coming back to me". I don't think it's the Darvell Community - they're quite a distance from here, but perhaps they fancied a day out.

I hope that your time away from the internet wasn't due to any unpleasant circumstances.