Friday, 23 September 2016


The week has had two or three main themes: toothache, work and culture. The toothache is self-explanatory. My wonderful dentist, who had an MA in English and (I hope) dentistry qualifications retired due to ill-health three years ago and I haven't dared go back. The resulting misery is therefore self-inflicted and therefore deserves no sympathy. And the piercing nature of the pain is a useful counterpoint to the dull throbbing gloom of the more objectionable aspects of being at work – basically anything involving Powerpoint, acronyms graphs and spreadsheets. I'm a literature specialist, not an actuary! (There's also the self-harm pain of being a member of the Labour Party but my thoughts are too incoherent even for this medium and I don't like being abused on Twitter so I'll keep my opinions on that one to myself.

The culture bit is the bright spot. Last night I went to a cinema for a live-stream of the National Theatre's production of The Threepenny Opera, Brecht and Weill's exploration of the effects of poverty and exploitation on those at the bottom of society.

It was an English-language production, with plenty of editing and alteration to suit a contemporary audience, though still set in a stylised version of 1928. It is an opera but it verges on being a dark musical – I'd have coped happily with fewer songs, but the music is astonishing: rough jazzy classical matching the text's determination to confront the classic opera audience with a cold, sharp slice of reality. It's a morality tale which denies morality: the message is that morality is a disguise worn by the bourgeoisie. The poor don't have that luxury and the rich don't care for it. People do dreadful things in dreadful circumstances, and there's no reward for doing good and moo punishment for doing evil: it's a nihilistic, amoral universe in which survival is all that matters…a timely revival.

If I get all my induction speeches written in time (can you tell I'm on sabbatical?), I'm off to see The Gloaming on Sunday: they're an Irish-language experimental, often melancholy folk group, currently on their second album.

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