Sunday, September 11, 2005

Last Night blues

This is really a response to John's comments on the 'Still Here' post. I started writing it as a Comments reply, but it was getting too long!

John, please don't worry AT ALL about thinking of New Orleans, as I've been thinking of it very much myself, as have we all in the UK. Something I find upsetting from this distance, though, is that we don't know what is really going on, or why. We rely entirely on news reports that may give an accurate picture, but equally well may not. Clive Davis (see link in blogroll) has some interesting remarks on this subject. Personally, I find it sobering to think that if the disaster in New Orleans had been the result of a terrorist attack, not a hurricane, the administration's response might have been very different...

Last Night of the Proms 2001 was a total washout. Sadly, it's also the only one I've ever been to!! I don't know what else they could have done at the time; the shock waves hadn't even begun to die down and the conductor was American (Leonard Slatkin). I didn't find the event itself either appropriate or memorable - I can't even remember what they played, except the Barber Adagio, and it was only four years ago. Still, nobody was in the mood for the usual sing-song, that's for sure. Yesterday, though, when Paul Daniel remarked that the season had begun at 'a difficult time for London' - ie, just after the Tube bombing - the Last Night was, ironically enough, what we needed in order to start feeling positive once again about who we, collectively, are.

We're not as good at that here in the UK as you are in America. We mostly accept, and value, all the official stuff about diversity - 'our strength is our diversity', and such like - and there is a great deal in this (it beats the hell out of its opposite!). For the most part, we're a successful multicultural society, at least here in London. But actually our strength is not our diversity. It's the unity formed by our diversity, which is slightly different. There aren't a great many traditions to celebrate this. Normally I run a mile from 'jingoism' - one reason I've never been to a Last Night of the Proms except for 2001. But yesterday, I enjoyed it without cringeing, probably for the first time ever.

A few Last Night confessions:
I don't know the words to Land of Hope and Glory, or the second verse of the National Anthem;
I DO know the words to Jerusalem, but mainly because I love the film 'Chariots of Fire' so much;
These days I get a lump in my throat watching 6000 people loving every moment of a piece by Elgar;
I slightly object to all the local folk-song sing-songs that have sprung up as a recent addition via rainy open-air events - why not 'On Ilkey Moor B'at' 'at', 'London Pride' and 'The Keel Row' while we're about it? Where will it end?!?
I feel sad watching it, but that's mainly because it means it's the end of summer;
I normally loathe counter-tenors, but yesterday I thought that Andreas Scholl was the Best Thing Ever On Earth!
Last but not least, I missed the Korngold and the Lambert because I was finishing the first draft of Novel No.2. Yes!! It's done! Now the REAL work on it will begin...