Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coronavirus. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Rattle and Elder step up to shout

Many thanks to everyone for your fantastic response to yesterday's post. Keep yelling!

We shouldn't underestimate the quiet and devoted behind-the-scenes beavering that is taking place on behalf of the music world: missions that hopefully will start shouting in due course, but may not have done so yet. I am getting the impression that there are spaces to watch...

Today The Guardian is carrying an open letter from Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Mark Elder regarding the plight of British musicians of all genres. You can read the whole thing on the site, but here's a taste of it:


There are so many pressing problems to solve in the UK that it takes courage even to mention the desperate situation of classical music in the time of Covid-19.
There’s a real possibility of a devastated landscape on the other side of this; orchestras may not survive, and if they do, they may face insuperable obstacles to remain solvent in our new reality. What we write applies, of course, to all types of music, not just classical music which is our area of expertise. Our music is essentially a live experience and requires all the participants, performers and listeners alike, to be in the same room together. What we may do individually over the internet in these months is all well and good, but the living core of our work is a live communion, a sharing of space, art and emotion which is both vital and healing.
This healing will become ever more necessary in the coming time as we attempt to bear witness and understand what we have all gone through. In such an existential crisis, the realisation of our shared vulnerability will surely change and deepen our relationship to all the arts. In our own field we are asking ourselves; how can we get back to live music? How can we give our audiences the courage to gradually return?
More immediately, how can we maintain musical continuity when orchestras are silenced? And how do we nurture a generation of young musicians whose prospects look bleak just as they embark on a career in this ever more uncertain world?...

Meanwhile (not directly related to the above), I promised some music on a regular basis, so here is something I heard the other day - live via my phone while in the middle of Richmond Park, surrounded by greenery. Wood magic from Schumann, and Fauré's Cello Sonata No.1 - Steven Isserlis and Mishka Rushdie Momen at the Wigmore Hall. Please watch it on the Wigmore's own site and do make a donation if you can. I was horrified to see that one of the concerts the other day had raised a grand total that was well under £100, and I'm sure we can do better than that. https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/live-streams/steven-isserlis-cello-mishka-rushdie-momen-piano

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Don't just sit there..."

"Don't just sit there. DO something!" The line is a popular comedy feature because of its usual subtext: the person addressing it to someone else hasn't got a clue what to do themselves.

A lot of us are just sitting there at the moment, wondering what the heck to do. We do what we can on a daily basis - taking care of the family, cooking, cleaning, shopping where possible, attempting exercise, trying to get on with any work we're lucky enough to have. I'm measuring out the weeks in the fabulous streamings from National Theatre At Home, each available for seven days from Thursdays. Tom is practising Paganini and catching up on 60 years of reading (I just gave him some Nabokov, but now can't get him to put it down and go to sleep). The cats are so well combed that they look ready to win rosettes at the Somali Cat Club Show, except that it had to be cancelled.

But there remains the deep and frustrating desire to do something positive; to make a difference in this bloody crisis; to make it all go away, or at least cheer other people up a little bit.

We each revert to type under stress, while work habits also become accentuated because they make us happy through their familiarity. Yesterday I felt happy because I had virtually a normal working day. I corresponded with an editor and a PR person about an article, selling an idea to the former, then telling the latter that I'd to do an interview (over Zoom). I started transcribing a recording of another interview, had a phone conversation with someone I'm consulting with regard to the story of a forthcoming opera libretto, watched a documentary from which I can learn about that topic, worked on a largish recordings-related project and on the side took part in a super Twitter discussion about how to conduct Tchaikovsky. And I combed Ricki, of course (Tom does Cosi). Normality makes one feel better. But of course, it is only a millimetre deep; any of this may vanish at any moment. As for personal tendencies, when things are difficult, I hide. I hole myself up in my study (back at college, it was a practice room, if and when such things could actually be found) until the danger has passed...

If someone says to me "DO something", I write, because that's my profession and represents the best of what I have to give. If you are a musician, you'll want to make music, for exactly the same reason. If you are a doctor or nurse, you will want to step up to offer your best in that department. Perhaps I am a hopeless idealist, but I think people have a natural instinct to want to help when times are tough.  That makes it depressing to see the negativity with which so many cynical misery-guts  are greeting artists' efforts to do something.

If musicians and musical organisations are giving free performances online, it's not because they are committing the evil of "self-promoting" (dear American readers, you'd be amazed to hear that a certain strata of Brits regard this as the worst of cardinal sins, rather like "being in trade, darling..."). It's not because they are trying to undercut everyone and make it impossible to earn a living henceforth because this extraordinary patch is how it's gonna be forever and forever more amen. It's possibly partly because some organisations are publicly funded and have a type of moral obligation to make their work available to the public in some form. It's also a matter of musicians staying in shape, because performing is an art in itself and it's easy to fall out of the habit, the adrenalin, the resilience.

But generally, it's because they want to do something. To give something. To give their best. Anything from a live recital - Igor Levit's regular house-concerts on Twitter are among the most popular around - to playing on the balcony for the Thursday evening Clap for Carers...


Alexandra Dariescu and Andreas Flor at home in London


Indeed, you can browse the internet and find a live broadcast of chamber music from the Budapest Festival Orchestra, or Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason playing the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata in the family home (that was wonderful), or Fenella Humphreys giving a violin recital from her front room after getting the audience to choose her programme via a Twitter poll, or the Royal Academy of Dancing offering Silver Swan ballet classes for the longer in tooth, or the live concert the other day from the Bavarian State Opera in which Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch performed Schumann's Dichterliebe to an empty theatre, which was fabulous but heartbreaking ("Music without an audience just isn't the same," Kaufmann commented to the camera afterwards).

Yes, there is a glut of stuff; yes, it is often marvellous; no, it is no substitute whatsoever for attending the real live thing in a performance space shared with the performers and 500-3000+ other people. I don't believe the digital option is something we should expect to become the be-all and end-all forever, even though the virus danger needs to be much reduced before we can think of safely attending mass events again. No, it's simply the Thin End of the Wedge, and we all know it, but we hesitate to say so, either because we're trying to be terribly positive about things, or because we are bloody terrified. Neither is a reason to malign people's intent in providing this material.

If you object to people giving their work away for free, you are correct that of course they shouldn't have to. It is well known that streaming is daylight robbery in terms of proportion of income that goes to the companies versus that to the person actually providing the material, i.e. the artist. The artists should be able to earn a decent living from their work; it is scandalous that they do not. And it's usually not their fault - they've been got over a barrel and been forced to sign away their rights (small person versus big company: 'twas ever so). Ditto writers; since the Net Book Agreement, which set the price of a book, was done away with, incomes have plummeted and the only way is down.

However, streaming on the internet in times of crisis is an issue on its own. This is a period in which household incomes are shattered and in some cases completely non-existent. Ordering your colleagues not to do free work in case they find that people get used to it and expect it forever is really not the answer (not least because it is already too late).

May I suggest something constructive?

There are a number of crowdfunding platforms online which are suitable for musicians and writers. On Buy Me A Coffee, you can ask patrons to contribute the price of a cuppa after enjoying your work. Patreon enables (I think) people to offer you a chosen amount every month. GoFundMe seems easy to use, is efficient, lets you set a target but keep whatever funds are raised even if you don't reach that amount. And there are of course many more. I recommend that musicians offering free streaming could set up an account on one of these and encourage those who can to contribute as large or small an amount as they wish. I recommend, too, that those with the means could offer as much as they can to support their preferred artists.

On a larger scale, the big companies - the National Theatre included - present a request for a donation with every streaming. Most theatres, festivals and concert halls that have had to cancel their performances will offer you the option of donating your ticket price to help the company and its artists to weather this blast, and if you feel able to do that it is a very, very good thing.

There are plenty of charities, such as Help Musicians UK, which will be massively grateful for donations and provides grants for musicians in financial trouble. You can help in all kinds of ways, and the latest is your very own Tasmingram to say it with music: Tasmin Little is offering musical video messages specially recorded for you, in aid of Help Musicians UK (it's £35, the same cost as a nice bouquet - more details here).

As for those individuals who disparage all internet music on the grounds of No Free Performance and No Internet Presence, please contribute a donation to everything you hear, watch or read, and then you won't feel so bad. Indeed, you will feel that you did something worthwhile - and quite rightly so.



Sunday, March 29, 2020

A change of clock

A green parrot in the park, wondering why it's so quiet
It is a sign of our digital obsessions that I accidentally wrote that title as "A change of click" first. Ticking off the tock, "British summertime" begins today, so everything is an hour later than you think it is. This will be nice for the cats, who might be surprised to find they're agitating for feeding time on schedule instead of way in advance. But it remains dangerous for me as I have a computer-conference at 9.15am Brussels time tomorrow. At breakfast today Tom put on the first Brünnhilde-Siegfried scene from Götterdämmerung, and the Rhine journey, and if that doesn't wake me up, nothing will.

I should have been travelling to Brussels today - little more than two hours by train - and there meeting colleagues from all over Europe and having dinner with a wonderful violinist whom I know so far only through her playing and some Facebook messages. Anyway, here I am instead in my study, in my warmest winter pully and joggers, wishing I'd had my hair done, my piano tuned and a wine conditioner cabinet installed before all this mess blew up.

I'm amazed by the resourcefulness with which our locality is dealing with it. The supermarket was functioning sort of normally a week ago. Now they have put in place a supremely efficient queuing system. They calculated they have a capacity of 70 shoppers at a time. As one exits, one more is allowed to enter. Everyone queues outside, 2m apart. The deep trolleys have vanished and there is only a small supply of the shallow ones; an assistant is on hand with disinfectant wipes and cleans the trolley handle before passing it to the next person who comes in. There is no close queuing at the checkouts and the shelves seem relatively well stocked, although certain lines have been discontinued. They encourage people not to go in in couples to shop for one household, but they will help solitary shoppers to their cars with their bags. They have my applause for figuring all this out so fast and making it work so well.

The other day we took a government-approved-one-exercise-walk-per-day in Richmond Park (we are extremely lucky to live 10 mins stroll from it) and were fairly shocked by the behaviour of cyclists in there, out in their gear with rap blaring from wherever they keep it, riding several abreast, causing log-jams by the pedestrian gates and creating quite some hazard to families with young toddlers trotting along in front of them (in case you are reading this in a sensible country that has proper official divisions between cyclists, cars and pedestrians: we don't, and it's a problem, but nothing is ever done about it properly cos no magic money tree etc etc.) Police vans were out, observing, and that evening it was announced that cycles are now banned from the park. It is pedestrians only, unless you are a child under 12 in which case you can bring your little wheels. The place feels safer now. Whatever happened to the lycra lads?

Yesterday I watched a TV programme for the first time since the lockdown began - a documentary about the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan (highly recommended, btw). I think I'm finding it hard to watch or listen to anything that depends upon people being together, working together and creating together - which is virtually everything. I do not mind being solitary-with-husband-and-cats, and I like the peace and quiet, but my goodness, the situation shows us how much we take for granted the way we all interact simply because that is how human beings function, and how society functions. And if it is a small comfort that after this nobody will ever be able to say again "there is no such thing as society", it is a cold comfort too. Why does it take a pandemic to make people recognise this?

More cold comfort: we suspect we may have had the virus already. Tom was quite unwell with a terrible three-week dry cough immediately after our South African trip in late January; I caught it and had to drop out of attending the Immortal reward concert to which I was supposed to escort two patrons who had pledged for tickets (luckily they are friends and I can take them to something else, one this becomes possible). I hope that was it, because it would be one less thing to worry about. I know at least 10 people who have had all the symptoms and in some cases been downed for a week or two or more - and of course none of them have been tested for it, because here in dear old Blighty there are only tests if you are in hospital, so actually we have not the first clue how many people have really had this blasted thing, and no way of telling, other than that it is many, many more than the official figures show.

Meanwhile I am going one day at a time. It's all we can do. Today I am going to cook up a little JDCMB treat for 1 April.

Take care and keep well.
x




Friday, March 27, 2020

Springtime for Ludwig?



Under normal circumstances (whatever "normal" means any more), I'd have to pinch myself to make sure all this is real.

It's springtime. All week there hasn't been a cloud in the sky in which one could seek a silver lining. The magnolias are out and each day on my government-approved-exercise-walk I notice the new leaves have advanced another few bright millimetres. The cats are busy catting, aware only that it's sunny and warmish and they have licence to bounce.

'Immortal' has come back from the structural editor. It is 10,000 words shorter, though I am going to want a few of those back. The editor is the same person who worked on 'Ghost Variations', and she did a splendid job with that one, so I totally trust her. I now have 3 weeks to put right 125,000 words and check a number of historical queries - but all the libraries are shut, so that is going to be interesting. The thing is, all my programme notes, spring/summer concerts and travel plans have gone up in smoke, so I have that weird thing called time to work on the book.

And along with the time I have peace. There are no planes. The nursery school over the fence is shut too, and I no longer have to slam my window against the squealing and squalling of its playtime (yes, I am a nasty person sometimes - tough).

There is no traffic on the South Circular. We can actually breathe. It's wonderful.

Meanwhile as of yesterday I think I may qualify for government support, for the first time in my life. OK, I haven't read the small print yet, but I've been making an average living from self-employment since 1993, and any work I have that is related to live performance has gone. Which is a lot of it.

My husband is at home, being incredibly positive and good company, and willing to do a lot of cooking.

I don't have to go into central London and deal with crowds. I don't have to fight my way upstream at Waterloo Station in the rush hour. I hate that so much that it gives me dizzy spells. I don't miss it.

For years I've been grumbling that there are no arts on TV any more. Now suddenly the BBC is going to start broadcasting the Royal Shakespeare Company. And 'Fidelio' from Covent Garden, and the 'Metamorphosis' ballet starring Edward Watson and a whole heap more. On the internet the National Theatre and the OperaVision channel and the Met and the Berlin Philharmonic and the LSO and even the LPO are busy streaming all kinds of archive material at the touch of a button.

I've learned how to make a video, if in a rudimentary manner. Log on to my Youtube channel each day at 5pm for another episode of 'Jessanory' - I'm serialising 'Ghost Variations', because why not.

They renationalised the railways. They did. I can't help laughing (see 'Hungarian Dances' for why).

I'm not eating junk food, because I can't just nip into Waitrose and buy gf chocolate muffins or whatever (they have implemented a deeply civilised queuing system, but you should only go there if you absolutely have to). I am taking care to get enough exercise, so reaching 10,000 steps per day when I usually, totally, don't. And I am so anxious that the weight is dropping off me in any case. So I'm getting in shape quite by accident.

Frankly, it's beyond my wildest dreams.

There is only one snag. We are all effectively under house arrest because any of us may catch the illness. We may die at any time.

And that is so frightening that we are taking care to appreciate each and every day as if it could be our last.

Take care, dear all, and please stay home. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

East wind

We live under the Heathrow flight path. I've been sitting here grumbling about it for 22 years. Plane noise. Plane pollution. Appalling for health, mental and physical. Still, you can always tell what time it is when Singapore Airlines wakes you up at 4.30am with the first arrival of the day.

It's all gone quiet. This, above all, makes one realise that everything is not as usual. Business is closed. The music has stopped. The world has stopped. Words I thought I'd never say: it is too quiet.

Only then you realise...it's east wind. We don't have planes overhead with an east wind. That's when they come in over Windsor instead. It's only temporary.

There is, therefore, a difference between illusion and reality. Our imaginations sometimes run away with us. This will finish, one day, however much it feels as if it won't. The casualties will of course be enormous, and not only from the virus: I am almost more worried about the effects of the stress caused by the situation in which we all find ourselves. Isolation, destruction of livelihoods and panic buying at Waitrose do nothing for health, mental or physical, any more than the planes do. (Having so said, Waitrose mercifully seemed to be settling down a bit yesterday.)

I am trying to be selfish and to count my blessings: I have a roof over my head and I bought an extra pack of loo roll months back when I thought we'd be getting a no-deal Brexit and it would lead to national collapse... But there are musicians, actors, artists of all kinds, who a week ago had a full diary, a healthy income and good management, and it has all gone at a stroke. If it hurts them, it hurts us all, because everything is interconnected, much more than we fondly imagine.

If a virus outbreak proves anything, it is the uselessness of ideology in the face of something that shows the basic truth: we are all human beings and we are all the same when it comes to mortality. That is the bottom line. The virus is the bottom line.

And suddenly 40 years of the UK's dominant political outlook has been swept away in ten days flat. Bye-bye, Thatcherism. What a shame it had to take this to get rid of you.

That aspect is not east wind. It will change the direction forever, and ultimately for the better, if we can just get through to see it happen.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Dear London,

...Good morning. You are my home. You always were. Sometimes I hate you and dream of escaping your grey skies and fume-filled air for...somewhere warm, somewhere pretty, somewhere with sun and orange trees...and never returning. At the moment, though, I love you more than ever.

A couple of years ago we joined a club, one of those spacious, historic buildings where you can sit in absolute peace in the centre of the city, sipping a nice glass of wine and reading the TLS. Like most of these clubs, its doors are now closing for the C-19 crisis, so we went for dinner last night, the last opportunity. We are fine and have not been in contact with anybody suffering symptoms, so this was a reasoned decision and will probably be our last outing for months. I took the train into Waterloo - not empty, but relatively quiet - and walked across the bridge, past Charing Cross and through Trafalgar Square.

There is no upstream overcrowding on exiting the station, no traffic, and only scant bicycles or scooters to knock one over between there and the South Bank; usually the Waterloo main entrance is so appallingly designed, and the streets nearby so mismanaged, that there are 10 different ways you can be killed in five minutes.

The Royal Festival Hall is eerie: most of the restaurants are still open, and sparsely populated by small groups of young people, but the venues are shut. On the way home later, Tom admits quietly to having a "soft spot" for the place (where he has after all worked for 34 years), which is a way of saying it means the absolute world to him, and now it's closed. The bridge is empty of tourists, buskers or sellers of caramelised nuts. River boats pass underneath looking like the Marie Celeste. In Trafalgar Square, the lions preside and Nelson seems to wonder, up there, what's going on. The mood is sober. Outside the National Gallery a young man plays a Celtic harp - a silvery, ancient sort of sound, a fine alternative for St Patrick's Day - and pavement artists are chalking Paddington Bear with his red duffle coat onto the flagstones. I imagine Dame Myra Hess marching up those stairs during the Blitz, then wonder if she had to use a side entrance.

As usual, in London, there are as many different attitudes and opinions as there are people (estimated: 10m). One newspaper has noted that we're all talking to each other on the phone more than usual. The instinct is to huddle together, just when we can't. As the Italians say, we must keep our distance now in order to hug each other later. I've had various phone conversations with friends, three-metres-away chats with neighbours, and some long emails. The emotional range is from basic panic (induced mostly by empty shelves in Waitrose) to basic, relaxed, sit-it-out acceptance and, also, a downright relishing of the opportunity this unprecedented-in-our-lifetimes event gives society to rethink, completely, its priorities, structures and means of functioning.

I quote one dear friend who sees things in a more positive light than I do, and may have a point:

"The world is entirely reinventing itself! Our utterly corrupted and broken society and planet is forcing us to rethink our ENTIRE way of life... I know it is SO sad for us individually when so much is being lost (especially income ... very worrying), but I just wonder whether this is the moment where the world as we knew it cracks open, and then a new, more human way of existing is forced into existence...I'm not unhappy about the world taking a break ... the human tragedy aside, I can't think of anything better than the planet having space to breathe, and people having a chance to reconnect and reflect and think..."

Income being lost...well, quite. Yesterday, my commissions and engagements dropped like flies, and not like albums (how I loathe that term "x is dropping a new album" - it sounds like trousers, or guano). Programme notes for concerts are not needed if there are no concerts. Two of our planned IMMORTAL pilot performances in late spring are victim to cancelled series and festivals; much uncertainty surrounds major events in other parts of the world as well as closer to home. I am trying to find a silver lining in the truism that this will give me more time to work on IMMORTAL when it comes back from the editor, who hopefully is as able to work alone at home as I am.

The flood of dis/misinformation continues. When fact-checking the news, please read only official and trusted sources, and apply common sense at all times. Remember, for example, that if a virus could simply be flushed into the stomach and killed by warm water, we wouldn't have a pandemic at all. Meanwhile even left-wing commentators are noticing that the charismatic Rishi Sunak, the recently appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, can wipe the floor with the bumbling, bungling, burbling Boris PM. And reading Keir Starmer's articles, I keep wishing there was some way to magic him into Downing Street right away.

We go day by day. We can't do much else.

Hang in there, and see you tomorrow.
x


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

JDCMB: JD's Coronacrisis and Music Blog

I am turning this blog into a diary to chronicle how things are going, because why not. 

I've always had a sense of fragility about life. It's possibly because I lost both my parents and my sister to cancer within a scant few years, the family home was dismantled and sold and the rug under our feet went west in no time. It seemed a measure of how easily one's life can just...vanish. I remember at the height of the mid-Noughties' good times a violinist friend came round to play through a concerto in our front room. The roses were out, the sun was shining, the window was open, we had world-class Elgar ringing out in the company of close friends, and I went to the fridge to find the champagne, thinking: "I wonder how long this life can go on? It's too good to be true."

Perhaps, after all, it was as illusory as I suspected. We declined. Now we're falling. Of course, thinking like that is not remotely helpful, but as programme note writing vanishes overnight, everything closes, the orchestra does...who knows what, because we don't know yet...because nobody knows how long this will go on for...there is a distinct sense of unreality. Anyone freelance at the moment is facing the nightmare of their lives, whatever their field.

One of the most difficult aspects is the uncertainty of how long it will continue. Weeks? Months? The rest of this season? Over the summer? What about autumn? The Bavarian State Opera has just announced that next season it is having, among other things (ELEVEN new productions) Tristan und Isolde with Kirill Petrenko conducting, starring Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros - and qu'est-ce qu'on fait?

An illustration by Maurice Lalu for Tristan und Iseult, 1909
(Don't try this with your friends at the moment)

Yesterday the government gave "advice". It stopped short of ordering theatres, pubs, concert halls etc to close, but recommended that people do not go to them. Twitter is full of conspiracy theories now about why this is, for example "...the Tories' mates run insurance companies and this will give them a get-out clause to not pay up..." I'd treat that with suspicion as if this isn't "force majeure", goodness knows what is. [UPDATE 2.50pm - fact-check here: https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2020/03/statement-on-business-insurance-and-coronavirus/]

We have a basic problem in the UK that, broadly speaking, a) the people do not really trust the government to do the right things, and b) the government does not really trust the people to obey directives (b being a logical consequence of a). That implied social contract went out the window at the last election because we had no credible opposition to elect, and this unfortunately is the price being paid. The crisis shows why we need to elect intelligent politicians who are expert managers in a crisis, who communicate clearly, decisively and sympathetically, and who do not sacrifice good sense to pig-headed ideology: people who can unite everyone when the going gets tough. This seems a distant dream right now. If the government's communication strategy is such a mess, what does that say about the substance of the rest of their "projects"? All we can do at present is...stay off Twitter.

As of yesterday, the Royal Opera House and English National Opera have closed until further notice and the Wigmore Hall has closed until, it says at present, 14 April. Currently awaiting news from more arts companies. There were performances over the weekend: the Philharmonia did the Beethoven 1808 reconstruction, Piers Lane gave a wonderful recital and ENO opened a new production of The Marriage of Figaro, but I'm afraid I didn't go to any of them because I didn't want to sit in my home-from-homes wondering when I will ever see them again and whether this is the last concert/opera/recital I will ever attend, because who knows. I do want to keep on being a voice of reason, because that has long been my role, but it can be difficult sometimes.

I thought I'd do something positive, so I'm trying to start a WhatsApp group for our neighbours. We have quite a few elderly people in the vicinity and it is important that everyone feels connected. Of course everyone is all for it, but it turns out that some of the target members do not have smartphones and don't know how to use WhatsApp...and I realise that I, too, do not quite know how to use WhatsApp on an iPad. Which is embarrassing. One neighbour has a son who's in IT, so hopefully he can advise.

We have never been so connected, in a way: the quantity of work that can be done remotely is fantastic. Instead of taking planes, trains and automobiles to other cities or countries, we can hook up from our computers. We can FaceTime. We can Skype. We can WhatsApp (if we know how). And we have the social element of social media. So this is a major advantage. Nevertheless, there is a staggering quantity of absolute claptrap doing the rounds on social media and it is well worth avoiding. The other day a friend earnestly forwarded me a circular from a supposed medical expert source (unnamed, of course) with all kinds of advice about how not to get coronavirus, every shred of which can be roundly disproved in seconds on a good search engine. People are putting around spurious theories about everything from insurance to crash-dieting, and if we are fond of them we have to try to be kind about it.

Some reality checks are taking placed, which is better. There's been shock at the idea that there is £000 to be made from books, and especially not from China (seriously, some company there published a translation of one of mine, yet I had no contract, no payment and not even a copy of it. They got in touch wanting me to do some publicity, which is how I knew.) There have been falling jawbones at the information that members of most UK orchestras are freelance and are not paid a salary. There has been disbelief at the notion that some seriously famous musicians, having lost all their work in a matter of days, have no financial safety net whatsoever. Looking for a silver lining: we can learn, fast, about actuality versus supposition.

If we need and can face a culture fix, there are plenty of streaming services to bring opera, ballet, concerts and theatre into our computers. This is great. St Mary's Perivale, while closing its doors to its devoted audience, is intending to continue its performances as "virtual concerts" to be live-streamed with no audience. If this situation has not cleared up by the end of May, Viv and I may end up doing the premiere of our new Beethoven show like that.

The things that are keeping me sane are:
-- Tom
-- the cats
-- Kalms tablets at bedtime
-- the bits of work that are not falling through because associated with live performances
-- the Beethoven book is due back from the editor any day now and will need a great deal of concentration. Perhaps this is actually good timing...
-- a new confidence in my own intuition, because it's turned out that my superstition about Mahler 1 being a harbinger of doom was absolutely true
-- certain contents of the wine rack
-- it's spring, the magnolia over the fence is absolutely beautiful and so far we are still allowed to go for long walks in the park and by the river.

It is good to have plans and projects, especially creative ones, and I do have several, but the next challenge will be how to maintain concentration enough to realise them.

So today I will press on. I have to finesse some CD booklet notes and transcribe an interview with a lovely pianist. Tonight we were planning to go out to dinner...we might do it anyway...unless the place we want to go has closed its doors until further notice by then.

I'm going to try to write this blog every day. I don't know how much music there will be, but I'll do my best. Good luck out there.