Well, here we are – another month has come and gone. It feels at the moment as though i’m in limbo, waiting to see whether i’ll be one of those who loses their job in the Great Purge of 2010/11 and, even if i’m not, waiting to see what other nastiness may come knocking at my door. And yet in other ways i’m having the time of my life: i seem to be doing more and going to more places than in any year i can remember. Uncertainty can be motivating as well as paralysing – in different areas of the same person’s life.
After a summer spent touring art museums and the like my spirit appears to have turned to music – live music that is, something i love because of the uncertainty inherent in a live performance. Even with the greatest of musicians something can go wrong or just go right without going anywhere special. But when things do go somewhere special… what a feeling to be there and hear it happen!
In the past couple of months i’ve heard Central Asian devotional music, attended a day devoted to contemporary Classical composer Helmut Lachenmann and danced in the aisles at a Ruby Turner gig. And much much more.
Probably the highlights, apart from the events i’ve already mentioned, were a recital by Classical trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger at the Wigmore Hall and a performance of Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass by the London Symphony Orchestra. At the LSO concert i was sat behind more double bass players than i could count (need i say more?) and the choir were fantastic. The mass itself felt more like a Slavic pagan orgy than anything Christian.
Now Christmas is approaching (courtesy of the retail sector, it seems to advance on us earlier each year). Although i can feel a wariness about the future dampening down my normal joy at the thought of carols and Christmas trees, it can’t put the fire out altogether. There’s a part of me that is eternally about seven or eight years old, that jumps with joy at the sight of crepe paper decorations, a steel tray of satsumas and brazil nuts, a wrapped present.
Yet of course i’m most certainly not seven or eight years old any more. Nothing brings that home to me more than the fact that my brother – my little brother – will be forty next week. He of the angelic voice (which i heard once again just recently on a tape of us my dad made of as children), sticky out ears and solemn smile.
Time moves on – i’m reminded of a poem by Shelley, The Daemon of the World, with its recurring line:
The magic car moved on
I remember reading the poem for the first time aged about sixteen and being amused at the image of the ‘car’ which i couldn’t help picturing as a ghostly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, even though i knew Shelley was using the word to mean ‘chariot’. I thought the poem was beautiful but the heart of it, its message about the transience of life, passed me by. That car has well and truly ‘moved on’ for me.
My dad’s eldest brother, Uncle P, who has always been the ‘alpha male’ of the family and who terrified me when i was small, is seriously ill with Pancreatic Cancer. My mum says he has lost so much weight he’s shrunk to almost nothing. After much procrastination i finally phoned him last month – but then couldn’t think of anything to say. What do you talk about to someone staring death in the face? How can you talk about future plans to someone who may not have a future? And how can you ask someone what they’ve been up to when you know what they’ve been up to is coping with chemo and lying exhausted on the sofa?
The cliché at times like these is to reflect on how we should all be grateful for our health and not get sidetracked by the little things – like money for example. Which is true on one level but it’s also true that as long as we have our health we’ve got no alternative than to concern ourselves with money. The living must eat and they also need somewhere to eat – not to mention sleep.
So it goes on. Uncertainty and uncertainty. Worry and anticipation. Thrills and foreboding.