Friday, 23 April 2021

Green shoots of a blogging spring?

Nearly three weeks since I posted anything on here - partly thanks to having a bit of a holiday (i.e. officially booking time sitting at home rather than doing so for work purposes) and partly through being entirely bereft of opinions and experiences that don't exhaust me, let alone you. Is there any angle to coronavirus, political shenanigans or football's moral vacuum that hasn't been explored far beyond what's strictly required? 

I'm tempted, as always, to serve up yet another extended rant about the multiple horrors perpetuated by this government's behaviour, but what's the point? Both my readers largely agree with me and a party with an 80-seat majority and an unjustified large poll lead doesn't have any incentive to take the blindest bit of notice of anything we say. My own MP blocked me on social media long ago (for asking him about the newspaper reports that he stole £52,000 from his failed company that was owed to the revenue) and will surf a tide of xenophobia to re-election in a couple of years. Nor do I think that he's likely to pursue coronavirus corruption, given his own rather flexible approach to probity. 

Oh well. There are personal pleasures to counter the gloom. I invented the Assam Espresso yesterday - leaf tea in a stovetop coffee maker. It was horrifically unpleasant, but compared with the marking I should have been doing, not so bad. I've also been vaccinated, which is why today I feel unpleasantly like being drunk ('ask a glass of water', as Ford Prefect observed). The trip also took me to an area of town I've never been. If it wasn't for the second jab, I wouldn't be going back there either, but I took the opportunity to check a charity shop for books. Nothing I needed, but I did achieve a moment of whatever the exact opposite of professional validation is: one of my students had donated pristine copies of every single text from our second-year course. Not a single one had appealed enough to be considered worth retaining or re-reading. As you probably know, I'm a small-minded and mean-spirited individual, so obviously I checked for the owner's name but no dice, so the generous donor will remain unheralded. So if anyone needs a copy of the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, DM me for the address. 

Other pleasures include the last few weeks of teaching - while the marking hangs over me like a thundercloud, the students who've turned up for the final weeks have been a pleasure to talk to - I was really pleased that they liked and understood BS Johnson's disassembled novel The Unfortunates, and they tolerated me playing Steve Reich and performing John Cage's 4'33" on the violin with considerable good humour. Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians is 'quite annoying', apparently. Decide for yourself:

The John Cage performance was fascinating - I didn't tell the students anything about it, so all they knew was that the music I'd been playing reflected the cultural moments associated with the novels we'd been reading (I included some 18th-century drink gin songs for Moll Flanders and Tristram Shandy, The Pirates of Penzance for Oscar Wilde and The Rite of Spring to go with Nightwood).* I asked them to switch on their microphones and open their windows, and what we got was coughing, the occasional conversation with other people in their houses, bird song, the squeaking of my bow on the strings, mobile phone alerts, rustling and car engines. I learned that 4 minutes and 33 seconds is a long time to hold a violin ready to play, and they really got hold of the ideas Cage and Johnson were playing with about form, the concept of art and the decanting of the creative genius. Will I try it in person next year? To be decided. 

Anyway, I hope spring is reviving us all in tandem with vaccinations and the reopening of costermongers, beer gardens and wig emporia. I bought a new washing line. The recovery starts here!

*That link is to a real time capsule: Will Self and Mark Radcliffe discussing Nightwood – admiringly but also sniggering like schoolboys – and giving away copies as prizes live on BBC Radio 1. Has anyone else used the word 'apothegms' on the station since?