Saturday, 9 August 2014

The annual stream of consciousness from northern Bavaria

If there's anybody out there, thanks for tuning in. I've been a poor correspondent of late, mainly because I've not felt the need to to communicate with people I'll never meet. Thanks for looking at those pictures of Jemma Jameson and Deauxma, though. I hope they did some good.

This year in Bayreuth is completely solitary. We've done the bourgeois thing: sold one of our flats and bought a house. That wouldn't be so bad but for the conveyancing fees in France which, in addition to forking out for a new kitchen and new electricity, have decimated our savings. Hence I'm here in Wagnerville on my own, scraping enough cash together so we can pay our annual tax bills. Such is life, but thank heavens I'm able to do this; many don't have that good fortune. It's at this juncture, where in the absence of anything remotely interesting to relate, I normally just give in and promise a picture of a well-endowed beauty. That's still an option, but let's give it a few more minutes…

I've decided to put an end to the collaboration I'm currently involved in, here. It's not interesting, at least not for me. That's no reflection on the quality of the work, just the part I'm required to play in it, which is insufficiently interesting. I've asked to transfer to another production. If that doesn't work out, I'll go to South America where I have two offers for this period next year. Either would be fantastic. Life is good.

OK, time for that picture. I'll try to find a Bavarian one, just so there's some kind of link, yer know…


Friday, 20 June 2014

It's that Bavarian time of year, again…

Sure as night follows day, I find myself back in Northern Bavaria, collaborating on an industrial-sized chunk of Wagner's finest pages to be presented to the paying public as part of the oldest music festival in the world, the Bayreuther Festspiele. For those who've never heard of it, Wagner started this annual summer festival in 1876 as a showcase for his recently-completed Ring Cycle. The festival is still going strong today, somewhat surprisingly as the composer advocated burning the theatre down after one performance. Admittedly, he suggested that before the building had actually gone up, but the 'concept' was there: that a performance of this monumental work should be something unique. It still is in certain ways: even though many theatres all over the world now have the resources to mount a decent Ring (if you'll excuse the turn of phrase) a Ring in Bayreuth is always an event, even if they sometimes disappoint for whatever reason.

Outside of work, the environs of the town are a delight to discover and rediscover. I've posted regularly from my hidey-hole at the top of the famed Green Hill over the years so I won't bore you with any other bourgeois, bucolic crap, suffice to say that this year I've bought a bike and ride it as often as I can (oh, stop sniggering at the back). It's good for my mental health and my gut. Compared to Toulouse, cycling in Bayreuth is like jogging up and down Everest so you have to be up for the challenge, particularly around 7.30am when I head out to the nearby forest for a four mile, pre-breakfast warm-up. Not always easy, as it turns out. The joy of careering down steep slopes is tempered by the knowledge you're going to have to travail back up the other side.Roberto Carlos would be proud of my thighs already, though…


Monday, 2 June 2014

Rent asunder

There are things you know exist but seldom address outside of polling stations. One of these is acknowledging how other people live. OK, here's the boring little backstory: Mrs. F and I have finally sold our bigger flat and have bought a house in another good part of town. While waiting for the electricity to be updated and a new kitchen installed we've called on the services of the much-maligned Airbnb (God bless 'em) and are currently living in a little house with a garden until the work in the new place is finished. So far, so tedious, yes, I know etc etc. Anyhow, our little garden has meant that we've finally been able to play host to our friends (who, to their credit, accept no money to be described as such), so we've been having little Frenchy-style apéro-dinatoires, meaning late-afternoon get-togethers over fine wines, olives, jabugo ham and salchichon, cheeses and crème caramel etc. And still the country has zero growth, I know, I know…Nonetheless, you live in France so your walk the walk, right?

Yesterday, we invited some people over. While I was at work in the afternoon, a friend of the neighbour came to my wife brandishing a Yorkshire Terrier, gesticulating that we needed to take immediate care of him and not let him escape (the friend, like the dog, spoke no French. Or English. Or Spanish. Just Portuguese). A couple of days before, the dog had gone off in search of its mistress and ended up about four miles away. The vet located it thanks to the microchip he'd inserted in some part of its anatomy. So the dog had previous and no-one wanted to take any more chances. Mrs. F looked rather bemused until she saw our neighbour wearing an oxygen mask being carried out of their little house by the paramedics. The friend shook a bottle of bleach in my wife's face before running off to join her friend, who was, by now, being shovelled into the back of an ambulance.

When I got back from work at about 4pm I found a Yorkshire Terrier in the kitchen who immediately tried to mount my leg. Upstairs, apparently, was a cat. I'll add, at this point, that the only animals we own are three goldfish, but another neighbour's cat has, thanks to the continued attention of the Fingernails since we arrived here a month ago, now spends 95% of its waking (and non-waking) hours in our house. It's maybe the time to mention that the recent canine addition was also on heat and was dripping around the kitchen and - oh, joy - our adjoining bedroom. Mrs. F was, in the meantime, trying to cook for fifteen people without letting the dog out of the house while fending off its misguided amorous advances.

The guests started arriving and we hooked the dog up to the back wheel of one the bikes with a key necklace. A good time was had by all, the various invited children making one hell of a fuss of Yorkie until the two friends of the bleach-drinking neighbour finally returned a couple of hours later. They neither smiled nor said 'Thank you for looking after our friend's dog, even though it was incredibly inconvenient for you to do so', just picked him up and went into their house. The boyfriend of the hospitalised girl returned later, also saying nothing. Strange.

Mrs. F saw one of the friends this afternoon. Yes, the girl was still in hospital. Yes, she was taking pills. Yes, she washed them down with bleach on purpose. Basically, she tried to commit suicide. Apparently, she failed. This time.

I'm looking forward to moving into our new house.




Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Grigory Sokolov

Last night I heard some piano pieces I'd never heard before: Chopin's Piano Sonata N°3 and a dozen mazurkas. OK, I'd heard them played before, but not by Grigory Sokolov, which amounts to not really having heard them at all. For those unaware of this extraordinary artist who never makes studio recordings and limits his travel radius, he's possibly the greatest pianist alive. A bold claim, I know, but not easy to refute…

Piano fans all over the world beg him to to appear in their countries. Here in Toulouse we get him every year. He lives in Madrid, you see, and the trip here is easy and visa-free. He stopped playing in London when Bliar & Co. insisted he get a visa. He'd been appearing there for twenty years and decided the new hassle was not worth it.

Despite the incredible Chopin - lucid, limpid, transparent and imaginative - maybe the most remarkable part of the evening was the encore section. Sokolov treated us to not one, not two, but six encores (Schubert Impromptus, more Chopin Mazurkas and a ten-minute Mendelssohnian-type creation I'd really never heard before), adding a good thirty minutes of music to the advertised  programme. No show, no fireworks, just brilliantly-performed music from one of the world's greatest artists. One of the world's most generous artists…