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One gets over-excited.

January 30, 2013

I’m so excited – words that will send Mrs simonsometimessays straight into Pointer Sisters mode. And why am I so excited? Well, we’ll come to that (but don’t get your hopes up). I was going to rush headlong into it but find myself temporarily distracted, recalling how I ever came to know anything by the Pointer Sisters.

Adversity makes for strange alliances, and the simple truth is that it was a Pointer Sisters cassette that was playing as we drove away from a trying family visit. Palpable relief made me receptive to music of a kind I’d never rated highly, which proved to my discredit that my musical taste was packed full of prejudices, but to my credit that I was becoming capable of breaking those prejudices down. At the earliest opportunity I went out and bought the album, Contact, and so fond have I been of it ever since that I’m going to break a private rule and give you a second dose: Back in my Arms.

Another occupant of the car was Mrs sss’s cousin Kevin. Cue The Undertones’ My Perfect Cousin. Kevin is the name of the cousin in the song, who of course is not actually perfect, but is the family favourite. Like our cousin Kevin.

Do you not feel, by the way, that the music that people’s names bring most quickly to mind is unfairly loaded in favour of rock and pop? Perhaps this is because more of our cousins, friends, old flames and current lovers are called Carol*, Valerie**, Mickey*** or John**** than Opus 2, Sinfonia, Allegretto or Rondo. Even when classical music does feature a name in its title, chances are that it isn’t one often given to modern children. Be honest: how many Lohengrins***** do you know? Or Figaros******? Or Fidelios*******?

Which, in a not-entirely contrived way, links to one of the most sublime things that Beethoven ever wrote. Given that he only troubled himself to compose one opera (Fidelio) and had difficulty in choosing which of four overtures should go with it, it’s just as well he got it right. This quartet – Mir ist so wunderbar – starts almost like a round. First one voice, then two, three and four, each beginning in turn with the lovely and simple opening tune, building and growing richer until the point where they blend in an ensemble of melting beauty. It is just about as good as he got, and better than most others ever got near. Turn up the volume, turn off the telly; and if you have a heart, this is the music to warm its cockles.

Anyway, to the reason for all this excitement … I’m reading Ian Kelly’s Mr Foote’s Other Leg.

Attentive followers of these notes will observe that I was reading it a week ago. No, not because I am a particularly slow reader, but because I have different books on the go for different times of day. Mr Foote’s Other Leg is my daily commute book at the moment, and efficient reading is dependent on a number of things.

Remembering my glasses, for one thing. Much though I would prefer that it were otherwise, there is no escaping the fact that without them I can’t read much that is closer than two feet away, unless it is in a font size which would lead to an average 30 words per page. (It’s a moot point which I would choose, given the bleak alternatives: to lose my sight or my hearing, and when I forget my glasses the idea of blindness is a grim one. But in the end I still think that a life without sound would be, for me, a more empty one. Music is what makes the difference. I have images and pictures and many many visual memories that I can re-visit with my mind’s eye – Elton John’s Daniel tells this rather well – but I need music to be outside my head.)

Getting a seat on the train is another factor, or if unlucky in that, at least having space around me to turn a page. This is a chunky, hard-covered book, with nice thick paper and some glossy illustrations, so it needs a certain amount of comfort and elbow room. Several times recently I’ve been standing, pressed into a corner with no chance of using the phone (let alone reading), just grateful for having no beard to get tangled in some other passenger’s faux-fur collar that is trying to make its way up my nose.

Anyway, I find that for a time Samuel Foote was an intimate friend of Christopher Smart.220px-Christopher_Smart_Pembroke_portrait

That’s it: that’s what has got me going. Not much, I admit, to get over-excited about. (Time to follow the word-association route to The Housemartins Five Get Over-Excited, and back again.) I did warn you, though, when I started this blog that it’s just the stuff I think about. The point is, it’s the second time Smart’s name has come up in my reading recently in quite different contexts (I mentioned him a wee while ago on the subject of Serendipity), and I take inordinate pleasure in that coincidence.  Just as I did when discovering that a new twitter friend likes XTC.

Just as I did when hearing Britten’s Phaedra at the Wigmore Hall last Autumn, and learning that it was written with my idol, Janet Baker, set to sing the premiere. What’s more, a large helping of family pride is associated with this: the performance I attended was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and conducted by my brilliant brother Richard. How fantastic is that?

I should probably calm down now. Time to reach for Delius and imagine I’m Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.

  • *Neil Sedaka
  • **The Zutons or Amy Winehouse
  • ***Toni Basil
  • ****David Bowie
  • *****Wagner
  • ******Mozart or Rossini
  • *******Beethoven
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3 Comments
  1. Hee hee – wonderful beard/train image! PS I think we may have posted simultaneously ce soir. Great minds, etc etc.

  2. Not being all that tall makes one vulnerable to these things. I live in daily dread of having my jaw dislocated by an over-animated rucksack wearer.
    I think we did – a sort of Super-blog Summit?

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  1. Beethoven – and I don’t mean the dog. « simonsometimessays

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