I’ve never told anyone this before, but this is the new, glasnostic, publish-and-be-damned me. To set the scene – though there’s probably more scene than story - I was in a jazz club that I used to frequent in Paris. It was underneath a bar called ‘Montana’ in a street off the boulevard St. Germain. I had invited a colleague who I knew was a jazz freak, and he had asked if he could bring his thirteen-year-old daughter because she was taking piano lessons and he wanted to try to interest her in jazz. The club’s regular pianist was a great guy called René Urtreger and he was playing some Thelonius Monk. René once toured Europe with Miles. (That’s not relevant to the scene-setting, but some might find it interesting.)
Anyway, Daniel goes up to the bar to order some drinks, leaving me alone with his charming daughter. Now, my conversational capacity with young teenage English girls is limited: with French teenagers it’s virtually non-existent. So I ask her if she’s enjoying the Monk and she says she is. I’m about to start on the weather forecast when René starts to play a piece I know and love, and I say, partly for her education, partly showing off, ‘Ah! Blue Monk’. And she says, quietly, ‘I think it’s Crepuscule with Nellie.
Imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury being told by one of his flock, ‘Excuse me Arch, but I think you’ll find it’s twelve apostles, not ten’. What do you say when corrected in your specialist subject, to which you’ve dedicated a lifetime – and a heap of money - by a French female adolescent?
You say ‘But of course’, of course.
It’s happening! The paperback is happening – or at least it looks like it’s about to happen. Those good folks at Amazon are announcing the forthcoming release of Riviera Writers Two – which is the same as Riviera Writers One but with a new cover, a ludicrously reduced price and my name at the top instead of squeezed in as an afterthought at the bottom.
After all, no one could doubt the integrity and efficiency of the great Amazon Brain Forest – why, aren’t these the same people who send you sticker books with the stickers already stuck in, and tell you they don’t have a particular DVD - then, when you’ve been out and bought it in a shop, (remember them: S-H-O-P-S?), send it to you and charge your card?
Anyway, this is the NEW cover.I don’t know where you stand on the commercial exploitation of bloggery but I’m also going to try to put it on my profile if I can handle the html bit. How about that? – WORD didn’t put a wavy red line under ‘html’...
Canary Island Discs 2 It was the autumn of 1960 and I was living in Sydney. I didn’t know anyone and was much more shy than I am now. So life was what the French call Metro, boulot, dodo – commute, work, sleep. I was alone from 5pm one day until 9am the next, and - with the exception of playing football for Greenwich on Saturday afternoons – all weekend. The friendly glad-handing Aussie in the tourism commercials is an extinct species in Sydney.
I noticed in the Morning Herald an ad about a concert by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. It sounded interesting at first – I’d heard of them, and, having spent the previous three years in a small town in New Zealand’s South Island in which the National Orchestra performed one gig a year, felt I should take advantage of the opportunity. The only problem was that there was some guest conductor I’d never heard of, and he was conducting a programme of his own works. Not very promising, I thought - but better than going home to my bedsit in Manly, where my landlady laid out the breakfast trays the previous evening, so that by morning your breakfast was covered in ants. (I used to squash them in a ring around the side of my plate as a gesture of disapproval, but then she asked me if I had a problem about ants in my food, because they were quite harmless. She came from Papua, New Guinea and apparently thought that ants added a healthy shot of protein to the morning Wheaties.)
So I went to the concert – and still haven’t recovered. The name of the composer/conductor was Aaron Copland and the piece of music that changed my life was Appalachian Spring. It says so much to me: America, spring, wide open spaces and starry skies that you rarely see in crowded, light-polluted Europe. Although I owned it as a 33rpm and then as a CD. it’s one of those works - like the 1812 Overture - that should be he listened to live, and preferably in the open air. I watch out for it every year when the summer Proms programme comes out, but it’s never there. But I can tell you, Plumley, Lawley or whichever adverb runs it now, that if Appalachian Spring is not on my island, I’m not staying for the next eight records. I‘ll do a Steve McQueen and jump aboard the next passing inner tube.