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Doyle from Dublin to China


Composer Roger Doyle is currently visiting China as part of an Irish cultural delegation. Wonder what sounds will eventually emerge as a result of that excursion. In the meantime this seems an apposite moment to resurrect the guest post by Roger – especially given today’s date.  The piece first appeared here on Saint Patrick’s Day two years ago. As this blog began around Saint Paddy’s three years ago, this also seems a fitting time for its end.  The blog was a means of sharing some of my delight in living in France; that period of my life is now finished, so must be the blog. But for now let’s revisit a different past.

I can’t think of a better way to mark St Patrick’s Day than by reproducing (with permission) the following piece by my cousin, award-winning Irish electro-acoustic composer, Roger Doyle.  Inspired by the breadth of Ulysses, Roger Doyle worked for nine years on ‘Babel’, a celebration of musical language in all its diversity. This magnum opus was released on a 5-CD set in 1999.  Since which time, Roger has not ceased to explore and revel in the varieties and possibilities of sound. And his achievement has been marked by awards and prizes, including the Prix Magisterium de Bourges. Now for his own thoughts :

I read James Joyce’s Ulysses in my mid-twenties as a music student in Holland. It remains to this day  the book that has impressed me the most, in its vast ambition, its sheer technique, its humour and its range of stylistic invention.
In music there is Stravinsky, born in the same year as Joyce, who shares all these attributes.

Roger Doyle (centre) during this period, Rathmines, Dublin. Left: Olwen Fouéré.

I became involved in theatre in my late twenties as an actor. Friends of mine would hire Players Theatre in Trinity College over the summer, as it wasn’t being used then by the students. We would sit at a table in Front Square shouting  ‘Lunchtime Theatre!’ This was amateur drama, and very thrilling to be part of. It was the summer of 1980.
I was asked by Peter Gowan and Ken Warren, who ran the Cogitandum Theatre Company, if I would adapt the ‘Sirens’ chapter of Ulysses for the stage. I jumped at the chance, as it is known as the most musical chapter in Ulysses.
The action takes place in the bar and adjoining restaurant of the Ormond Hotel at four in the afternoon. Two flirtatious barmaids serve drinks to a group of men who begin to sing various songs. One of these men is Blazes Boylan, who will shortly leave and call in on Molly Bloom when her husband Leopold is out. They are having an affair. Leopold arrives at the restaurant, overhears the singing and Boylan’s voice and hopes not to be seen – helplessly knowing what his wife and Boylan will be up to later. He writes a secret semi-pornographic letter to an unknown woman ‘Martha’ as he orders his food, just as, by coincidence the aria ‘M’appari’ from Flotow’s opera ‘Martha’ is sung in the nearby bar.
A lot of research had to be done to find all the sheet music of the songs sung in this chapter. I started in Kevin Street Library, but even they were unable to help me with tunes like ‘Love and War’ and ‘Goodbye Sweetheart Goodbye’. No-one seemed to know a thing about ‘Love and War’, but I eventually came across one line of the melody in a book about Joyce, so I added the chords and completed the melody.
Niall Montgomery was a well-known Dublin architect, poet and Joyce expert in those days. I mentioned to him the problem with locating ‘Goodbye Sweetheart Goodbye’. One day as I arrived at rehearsals I noticed an envelope pinned to the notice-board with my name on it.

Inside was the sheet music to this very song and a note from Niall. He was fantastic – I don’t know how he found it.
Joyce structured the Sirens chapter like a piece of music. It begins with an ‘overture’, which looks confusing at first glance, because you get snippets of the text, phrases and parts of sentences that are difficult to follow, being out of context. They read as gibberish for the first few pages. The gibberish stops and the chapter continues normally. As you read through the chapter it slowly becomes clear in small ‘deja vu’ moments what had been going on. Just like an overture in music, all the main themes have been stated briefly in snippets.
In order to make the ‘overture’ work in a theatrical environment, I placed it about half way through the drama, so that for a moment it seemed as though bits of the play were repeating themselves in fragments, to the audience, followed by bits that would appear later. I had a sound linked to each fragment too – a passing street carriage, the banging of a tray of china down onto the counter, a line of a song, the clock striking four, a tuning fork being pinged, Boylan’s squeaky shoes etc.
I directed the show and played the blind piano tuner at the beginning and end of the play. To enhance the overture aspect I played bits from all the music that was to appear in the play at the beginning and again at the end as a kind of ‘underture’. Joyce has the blind piano tuner returning at the end having forgotten his tuning fork.
As is generally known, Leopold Bloom talks to himself silently. This has become known as the ‘interior monologue’. How do you do this theatrically?
I hired a recording studio and we recorded Ronan Wilmot, who played the part of Leopold Bloom, speaking these passages to himself on tape. On stage you saw him responding with amusing facial expressions to these musings, heard intimately through loudspeakers.
Another interesting theatrical problem had to be solved – Bloom and his crony Goulding eat a meal in this scene. We managed to get Solomon Grundy’s which was then in Suffolk Street to sponsor a steak and kidney pie and a plate of liver and bacon for every performance. I collected these meals before each show, walking the short distance to Trinity College, arousing much curiosity from passers-by. There is nothing quite like watching two actors eating a hot meal on stage only a few feet from the audience in a small theatre.
We ran the play for 2 weeks at lunchtime and it went so well we extended it to an evening show with an interval.
I blush as I read Fintan O’Toole’s review in ‘In Dublin’ magazine:
‘The Sirens is an evening of sheer delight, both for Joyce lovers and for those previously frightened off by the elitist pretensions of the Joyce industry. As only a musician could, Roger Doyle opts to plumb the soundscape of Ulysses instead of palely imitating its action as many adaptations have done. Human voices, singing and speaking, the tap of a blind man’s cane, the tinkle of pianos, the clopping of horses, the hum of a tuning fork, sniffles and farts are all woven into the dreamy warmth of the Ormond Hotel. Treating the original with intelligent affection rather than grovelling awe, Roger Doyle has created the spirit of Ulysses superbly and created a hugely enjoyable evening’s theatre. In a fine cast Ronan Wilmot as Bloom and Isobel Mahon as Miss Douce contribute most to another success for Cogitandum’s summer season’.
Miss Douce was one of the two sexy barmaids and Isobel Mahon went on to play the part of
Michelle, the barmaid in the TV soap opera ‘Glenroe’ years later. Ronan nowadays runs the very successful New Theatre in Temple Bar.
After the play closed I sent a copy of the script to the head of Plays, Drama and Television at the BBC, and received a polite note of refusal. This adaptation has remained at the bottom of an old box ever since.

Roger DoyleWith thanks to the author & The Blackrock Journal, where this piece first appeared.

© Roger Doyle 2000-2012

More news of Roger’s latest work HERE.

And even more recent news (posted on 16 August 2012) HERE. And again, HERE.

Roger – that’s Professor Doyle to you, ahem! – has more news (here). Catch it if you can …

Hark, the herald whaaat?


Christmas is a time when everyone’s busy. Obviously, really.  Shopping, cooking, more shopping, eating, more eating –  and that’s without taking into account the varieties and degrees of  friction that manifest themselves in every family home at this time of year. So this is a season when I can feel grateful for being a temporary person. At least I can opt in and/or out of almost anything. And therefore relax a bit.

But not being a great one for inactivity, all that relaxation can rapidly become too much of a good thing. So I am pleased to announce that I shall be busy this Christmas. Which, on the face of it, is a good thing, isn’t it? Er, well: depends … Lest you become alarmed, I hasten to explain that I myself will be not only engaged but also having a whale of a time. Others, alas, might be seeing things differently. Some might even regard my endeavours with horror (there are always philistines in our midst, are there not?). Actually, quite a lot of people might interpret the scenario as horrific: a ‘horror story’, you – or they – might even say.

‘Horror story’?

Allow me to begin at the beginning. This morning, in fact. When representatives of the church I attend near Current Temporary Abode [‘CTA’] in London were out in force this morning, with priest, choir and sidespersons variously singing or rattling collecting tins on behalf of the homeless (which is at least a suitably seasonal charity as well as one with which I can identify). Boss Priest was there sporting his winter-strength cassock, looking saintly – and not a little red-nosed, not to mention blue-fingered. Passing him by unnoticed is never an option on the best of days, so creeping past among the hordes of Saturday shoppers on my way to buy a tin of WD-40 (don’t ask. I might tell you. And in excruciatingly dull detail) was not going to work.  So I pootled up to him and shoved an embarrassingly tiny amount into the tin, with a sickly smirk of self-righteousness overlaying an equally queasy combination of guilt and resentment.

Having exchanged the necessarily brief greetings (brief due to eagle-like priestly eye constantly scoping out further sources of dosh), I tuned into the singing.

Bench end mermaid, Upper Sheringham by John Salmon (Geograph Project 815860)

Mermaid bench-end, Upper Sheringham by John Salmon (Geograph Project ref. 815860)

Singing? Hurrah!  And lo, the church choir – about half of it anyway – was huddled in the porch, muffled up sufficiently to defy any form of differentiation, and giving the old carols some hearty welly complete with obbligato stamping of frozen feet and sniffling of icy Schnozzles. Their reward was to be mince pies and coffee. Mince pies! I hadn’t had one this year. Well, to tell the truth I haven’t had one since Christmas 2007 (I know, I know: such deprivation is truly terrible to contemplate. So we won’t).

Thinking of my stomach as always, I waited for a convenient lull between carols, sidled up to Winifred – the diminutive choirmisstress who is parade-ground of voice, wild of hair and beady of eye – and offered vocal support. She accepted. Hey ho, singing for one’s supper has always struck me as a tad too much effort; but a few minutes’ singing in return for a pair of mince pies (you didn’t think I’d stop at just the one, did you?) seemed a fair exchange. So I squeezed into the available space between a sturdy, elderly soprano and Winifred’s piano, and got stuck into some caterwauling or, more accurately, droning away in the lower register (Gethin, the silver-tongued sadist from the Valleys who was conductor of the Welsh Choir I sang in long ago, made me sing soprano. Needless to say, I couldn’t hit the high notes – imagine if you will the opening notes of ‘Zadok the Priest’, the ‘In Paradisum’ section of Fauré’s Requiem and other similar forms of torture. The result was, mostly, that I didn’t actually sing anything at all. Which might not have been such a bad thing, at that).

Anyway, back to the parish church of my CTA: I duly received my mince pie(s) and coffee accompanied by craic with Winifred and the members of the choir – all delightful people – lovely!

Cromer lighthouse by Stavros1 via Commons Wiki

But they – beginning with Winifred – were not letting me off that easily. Oh, no. For as soon as the session had ended I was nabbed by Herself and, indeed, nobbled by same. Fixing me with a basilisk stare, she invited me to join the choir: between Winifred looking me in the eye and my stomach grumbling for a mince pie, I was trapped. Thus, just to get her off my back and a pie into my tummy, I agreed. Duly fed, watered and feeling more human (relatively speaking), I was given a timetable plus introductions to other choir members before being handed over to Thea (‘misstress of the robes’) who carted me off to be kitted out with cassock and cotta (or surplice). I must confess to being more than a bit miffed by the lack of ruff (this choir doesn’t wear ‘em). But I am making the very best of what is on offer, you may be sure: I shall be accessorising this outfit with black polo-neck sweater, jeans and black knee-length biker boots (lined with the obligatory x 2 pairs of socks): severe elegance with a touch of street-style, dahlings. Clearly, there are sartorial consolations to be gained from freezing one’s arse off in a chilly church while doing corncrake impressions to the greater glory of the Almighty. By God, there must be some compensation …

Un-angelic/cherubic - and not even remotely seraphic - jammie-clad choral singer contemplating heralding Christmas

So picture, if you will, your friend Min toddling off early tomorrow morning, braving snow, hail, sleet and/or rain (this is Britain after all) in order to swell the heavenly (?) chorus. And spare a thought for the unsuspecting congregation, who will now have to endure the full horror of a choir – one already hardly overburdened with musicality – which has now increased to the cacophonous tune of one, very bad, alto.

Oh, and if you really do wish to envision it: I’ll be the one at the back, eyeing up the handsome, charming sexagenarian baritone, peering around to see if there are any rude or comical carvings in the choir stalls, and running a poker school during the homily. Got that?

Merry Christmas to you all (aren’t you glad not to be here?), and all the best for the New Year.

Copyright © Minnie at Les Minimes (‘minniebeaniste’) 2009-2011. This content is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this content feed on other websites breaches copyright.

Min(ni)e de Rien – Nice ‘bye ‘bye


Plage, Baie des Anges in high summer

It really didn’t seem possible at the time – a cause already lost, not to be contemplated. I hardly dared hope that this notion might be proved wrong. But it turned out to be true all the same. France successfully performed almost exactly the same alchemy upon me as it did many years ago, when I bounced off to Paris in pursuit of career and independence, thrumming with all the energy, aspirations – and expectations – of the young.
But there you are: this time around, much older, I’ve found myself being treated with much of the same respect as before. And that certainly could not have been predicted.
Now that I’m leaving, I can luxuriantly compute all the many and varied components that add up to this effect. They include the lovely elderly organic market gardener who sells her delicious produce at the Cours on Saturdays. She greets me with a beaming smile before slipping the odd tomato, an extra salad pepper (those crisp, elongated ones – a local specialty) into my plateau and giving me a discount on the lot. The other greengrocer lady, who always stuffs in a bunch of parsley – with a wink and a refusal to charge. The very different, magnificently dignified poultry lady from the arrière-pays, whose eggs are the best I’ve ever tasted, and who when I turned up too late one Saturday morning rummaged through her baggage and emerged triumphant with one, large remaining egg which she proceeded to wrap and hand to me. Again, no charge.

Musée Matisse (typical Niçois trompe l'oeil façade)

They include the handsome newsagent and his growing family (news of the baby is related once we’ve exchanged greetings over a handshake). The verger at the Cathedral and his wife (‘The Keeper of the Shrine’) who mark my appearance with confidences (‘arthritis – a curse!’ ‘Work – hard, but a blessing …’) and kisses.
Then there is the nice doctor, who gave me a free consultation when times were hard – even though I had neither asked nor expected him to do so. There are the many unexpectedly relaxed, helpful and efficient public servants and private sector managers I have had dealings with since I came here. One or two have even bent the odd rule in order to accommodate me, recognising me for the ‘good risk’ that I am (curiously, this only happens to me when I’m living abroad).
There are my neighbours who’ve been inordinately kind and thoughtful (we won’t consider those who haven’t: they don’t count!). From one, famously blunt even among a nation and a city of direct-speakers, who looked me up and down one day with a keen and critical eye then firmly pronounced me ‘très belle’! To another, who taught me how to say ‘m’en bati, sieu Nissart(e)!‘ [‘I don’t give a stuff – I’m Niçois(e)!’] And yet another who, while we were out on a ramble, spontaneously and smilingly complimented me upon being ‘très souple – c’est super, ça!‘ (I’d never considered it, and nobody had said so; but she’s right – it is. Luck be damned! I work at it.)
It’s now clear that I have become accustomed to being treated with respect, kindness, courtesy – things I had become

Fausse porte, Vieux-Nice by Patrice Semeria

woefully unused to by the time I left the UK. Dammit, I like being addressed as ‘Madame’ (I fear I may deck the first unfortunate who unwittingly calls me ‘dear’, ‘darling’ or – horror of horrors – ‘ducks’). I am at completely at ease in a culture that demands the observation of a base level of etiquette, resulting in far more ceremony and taking more time than comparable exchanges in England. Time well-spent in France, I think – for to me living à l’heure française is simply more productive than the bald brusqueries of les Anglo-Saxons. Here I swan around, almost taking it for granted that I will receive special treatment, tantamount to my being recognised as if I were a genuinely important personage (as opposed to the impoverished nonentity I am in fact). So I am gritting my teeth in the face of imminent loss of this great and generously-granted privilege (all the more so as I am decidedly unsure that I have done anything at all to earn it).
Now that it is time to return (not necessarily for good), I am rather bracing myself for what is bound to be the chilly shock of stepping out of that warm bath of approval I float around in for much of the time.
Still, France has had another surprise up her sleeve: when I left, I was close to hating my own country – certainly full of dislike, admixed with despair and imbued with an overwhelming sense of fear and failure (despite my own efforts to combat them). Here, I have had time to think and reflect, and I find that I do, after all, still love my native land. As much as I love France, which I have now had another golden opportunity to explore – and anyone familiar with this blog will know about some of the many and multifarious delights I’ve seen and heard.
Currently busy with cleaning, clearing out, packing up (and catching up with the Rugby World Cup!), it is a pleasure to allow my mind to pootle about, fossicking for moments such as the ones above. There are so many of these memories to store away with my more tangible possessions.
I am acutely aware that I have been, as I was while living in Paris, extremely privileged while a resident of Nice. This by means of some unfathomable and inexplicable chemistry that means I am, by and large, treated well in France. And it reminds me of the hilarious

Roman arena, Cimiez, Nice by Eric Coffinet

stories told by my parents – tiny instances of those precious absurdities that make life bearable in bad times, and which resonate in the memory forever as they illustrate notions more significant than they might suggest at first sight.
One in particular. When stationed in Aldershot early in the war, the folks were allocated a cook-general named Annie. And Annie would only put her teeth in for guests of or above the rank of colonel. My father, a mere RAMC major at that point, was nonetheless – as was my mother – faced with an Annie complete (and gleamingly resplendent) with full set of false gnashers at all times.  Clearly, Annie had reached the conclusion that the handsome military doctor with his sweet, Irish accent and pretty wife was, rank notwithstanding, worthy of the ultimate gesture of respect. Still spluttering with laughter years later whenever the tale was trotted out, my parents recognised what a great accolade Annie was bestowing upon them, and treated it – and Annie – with enormous respect.
In the meantime, at the risk of sounding like one of those awful award-winners who blurt sugar-coated insincerities at great length, I would like to say ‘merci – merci millefois’ to complex, difficult, horrible, exasperating, beautiful, endlessly fascinating and utterly wonderful France. And to Nice in particular, a place I’d never even have considered living in before but which, thanks to so many of its people, will now occupy a place in my heart per tougiou – and whatever happens to me, long may she thrive: viva, viva, Nissa la bella!
Thus, confidence duly restored (I don’t know how I am going to hang onto it: all I do know is that I am bloody well going to try),  I am setting my face in positive mode and looking forward to going ‘home': to enduring less noise nuisance; to being able to catch up with some friends; to re-joining the local authority gym and – most of all – the central library (as long as it lasts!).
There will be other consolations, I hope. One I know of already: being back will mean I’m able to attend a blogging friend’s book launch.
And, for that, I might even put my teeth in …

Pic sourced from Commons Wiki.

Copyright © Minnie at Les Minimes (minniebeaniste) 2009-2011. This content is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this content feed on other websites breaches copyright.

Today: 9/11


Like all of us, I remember that day a decade ago – where I was, what I was doing on that beautiful, sunny day. But to dwell upon individual recollections of events on 11th September 2001 seen or heard  from a safe distance seems disgracefully self-indulgent given the scale of destruction and grief generated by those murderous attacks . But, of course, that wasn’t all: the world changed that day and the West lost what innocence it had. Vigilance – with its customary corollaries, political, economic and psychological – has become a drearily necessary part of all our lives. And taken up permanent presence in our minds.
Sometimes, though, I wonder if we are applying it properly – so as to safeguard the innocent and preserve our hard-won democratic traditions.  When I read the following passage forty years ago, it was revelatory. How much more important are its lessons now:

‘Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.’
Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies: The Spell of Plato (1945)

A sober argument of fundamental force and importance, presented with painstaking clarity. There is nothing to be gained from tolerating the intolerant for they produce nothing but a fast route into a nihilistic abyss: aut nihil nil nisi bonum. But we might consider why Popper’s words have such impact, and here I’d prefer to let one of my favourite English writers remind us of the possibility of good prevailing over even the most incomprehensibly reprehensible people:

‘There is surely a piece of divinity in us, something that was before the elements, and owes no homage to the sun.’
Thomas Browne, Religio Medici (1642)

We saw plentiful evidence of that ‘piece of divinity’ among the heroes of 9/11, and those whose dignity in loss has proved so impressive since.
Those who perpetrated these acts were – and are – in the dark.  And there is no light in them. They chose to pursue petty and irrational hatreds promoted to insane levels. These they nurtured in tandem with a sense of victimhood (characteristically an excuse for childishness when not used as a spur to constructive action). They chose killing other human beings rather than at least accepting the right of those others to live.  They could have chosen joy and wonder. And they are owed no more respect than any other violent criminals who get off on hatred, selfishness and killing.
Thoughts and prayers today to those who have suffered because of the stupid, vicious and destructive tenets of terrorism – among them, the only son of my neighbours, les Pastorelli.  Monsieur et Madame Pastorelli, whose  unfailing kindness and humour in the face of unfathomable sadness continues to inspire and illuminate the lives of all who know them.

Pic sourced from Commons Wiki.

Note/update: Martin Robb, a clever blogging friend, has included an extract from this post in his own, thoughtful and thought-provoking selection of quotes for that day. It is a great accolade for me. And Martin’s blog is always worth a visit.

Copyright © Minnie at Les Minimes (minniebeaniste) 2009-2011. This content is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this content feed on other websites breaches copyright.

Room to move


Late in life I have come to conclusions I really should have reached long ago. That’s very late in life – well, who knows? All I know for sure is thattime’s wingèd chariot’ grows more audible by the day.
Anyway, one of the beneficial side-effects of having ‘fall’n into the sear, the yellow leaf’ has to be Lessons Learnt. Those kind of lessons – you know, difficult ones. The ones upon which I, having committed nearly every error possible to a person of probity and intelligence, am now an expert – albeit self-appointed (is there another kind?).  Because with relocation in the offing, I need to make all the right moves I can.  This’ll be the tenth removal in nine years. So I fondly hope it may be the last, and am trying to facilitate matters by investigating other people’s experiences. I am mining the collective for its wisdom. As it were (even the most cursory shufti at the collective’s track record for sagacity tends to induce nothing but hysteria). In practice, this includes looking around with varying levels of interest – and the odd rude snort –  to observe what other people are getting away with doing.
Thus, the events at a certain location in my native land are proving as compelling and controversial to me as they clearly are to many of my countrymen – and the UN, no less (but we may safely ignore them. After all, we have done so before – and recently, at that).
I note with keen interest that Human Rights legislation is being invoked, and have accordingly looked that up. Well … coogoshlumme, but it could apply to me, me being human and all. Couldn’t it? If rights can only be rights if they are indivisible, it must therefore my right, too, to have a home. To have quiet enjoyment of same (ooh, I wish!). And to have my eccentricities and anti-social inclinations culture tolerated, enabling me to get on with life in my customary unobtrusive manner.
Now, if returning to my native land is an option (it may be), I might be able to settle happily in a tranquil spot.  Tranquility is my main obsession: daytime disturbances combined with sleep-deprivation do not a happy bunny make.  What I require is somewhere remote, but not too remote from civilisation, surrounded by woodland, green fields and the usual flora and fauna. And near water, although not at risk from floods and other waterborne nuisances.
But how to achieve this return to normality (yes, truly: it is no accident that I owned a hard-won home in precisely such a location before disaster began a series of strikes)? First get back there and find a suitable greenbelt site. Then persuade the owner to flog it to me for a knock-down sum. Next I build my ‘willow cabin’ or dwelling of choice. Once the desres has been completed, I apply for retrospective planning permission. Which will be granted. Because otherwise there will be … ructions, with or – preferably – without blinkered bandwagon-hoppers or hypocritical thespians.
Here, fellow subjects/citizens, are my demands: a portion of a field close to woodland (where I can fossick for fuel); a habitable gaff, sustainably constructed; a herb/veggie plot so I may resume slaughtering cultivating same after years in the concrete wilderness; ample statutory benefits so that I may fulfill my basic needs and fully enjoy my culture – so such items as rail-pass, free opera/theatre/exhibition tickets must be included in the package, together with a subsidy to cover the expenses of a cat from a rescue shelter (a pony would be nice; but I am not going to push my luck. Not in the early stages. Later on? Well, I just might …).
I would expect my neighbours to make some – minimal, of course, harhar! – sacrifices in order to ensure that my needs are met: an infinitesimally small price for them to pay for the undoubted and incalculable delights and educational opportunities provided by my presence in their midst. And they should be aware that any criticisms of the predilections forming my cultural hinterland will be dealt with severely. To the extent that the merest smidgeon of a sneer at my devotion to Shakespeare/Finzi/Paul Nash/the Epsom Derby or my approval of high church ritual/gay clergy/women bishops or for that matter any mockery of ‘cut glass’ tones will constitute a hate crime – you have been warned!
In return, I would not be over-using the health service – at least I would certainly do my best to avoid it by preventive means. I would be volunteering as usual, in the hope that some of my skills could be usefully deployed. I would not be using the schools. Nor the roads; not too much, for I would do what I’ve been used to doing for more than 30 years: I’d get on my bike.
And I would continue, as ever, to pay my taxes.

Goodrich Castle copyright Michael Eccles (commons Wiki)

Home – a fixed abode of exactly the kind I want, where I want and at the lowest possible cost: what a lovely thought!
Not going to happen though, is it?
When’s the next chariot due for take-off?

Copyright © Minnie at Les Minimes (minniebeaniste) 2009-2011. This content is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this content feed on other websites breaches copyright.

Bang to rights


London riots 2011, Camden

Like everybody else I’ve been watching London then other cities in England being attacked by hordes of criminals.  Seeing the lunatics not only apparently taking over the asylum but also being allowed to get away with it, again like everybody else I’ve been racking my brain for reasons. I am not qualified to make an informed analysis, besides it is too soon. Although it should now be obvious that the proposed cuts to the police force must not go ahead. Potentially, these spell ‘suicide’ for our country, especially for the law-abiding majority, many of whom have seen their lives changed forever by shock, fear or loss due to wanton destruction.
And two further observations may be made. Firstly, the damage done to England’s reputation abroad, notably among investors (otherwise known as job-creators or employers), cannot be over-estimated given that it is liable to add further damage to an already weakened economy. What price the 2012 Olympics now, not to mention the vitally important tourism industry?  As for local/regional economic damage, it is already far in excess of burned cars and buildings: confidence at home and abroad is all – in any market, as it is in any individual life. Secondly, what has been happening has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, religious affiliation or even class. It is about criminality, based on moral vacuity, opportunism and a society that has succeeded only in teaching its younger members that you are what you have. And what you want, you must grab – by any means. Nothing and – crucially – nobody else matters.

Liverpool riots 2011

Such an attitude was well-entrenched throughout  the social strata all over the place long before I left my native land: you are what you have materially, and that is all you are, is almost axiomatic. Fine, it’s a free country: if you want to think like that (ie if you’re enough of a blinkered berk to do so), then, er, do so. But be aware that, if you do, then this insidiously powerful prejudice will filter down from you (in your elevated position) and, like Chinese Whispers, be perverted, twisted and – irony of ironies – probably used against you. Crudely speaking, as far as rampant consumerism goes beware of what you wish for – if you get it, others will surely want to take it from you. This may even include your life.
My heart goes out to the families and friends of Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir.  Tariq Jahan‘s dignity and nobility, his sentiments shared by the group of Sikh and Muslim mourners in Birmingham, are unforgettable. England cannot afford to lose such people; it is the government’s duty to protect them. My sympathies are also with those who’ve lost homes and/or livelihoods. I know what that’s like. And I also know what it is like to lose these things due to other people’s ignorance and greed. Such things do violence to us all. So I also know what it is like to feel angry, powerless, frustrated – years devoted

London riots 2011, Tottenham

to fruitless job-hunting? Yup, been there. But channelling this despair into robbery, assault and battery? No. Never. Not even in my wildest dreams or nightmares would it even occur to me – any more than it would to most people in England.
The answers? I wish I knew (I’m a UK taxpayer). More authority? More people obviously need to understand that respect has to be earned, keeping it demands constant effort – and that rights entail responsibilities. Police powers, especially in London, have been reduced – notably since the creepily Newspeak-style change in nomenclature from ‘the Force’ to ‘the Service’. Services only protect people if they’re armed (which might explain partially why I feel more secure in France than I did in England: les forces de l’ordre here are armed to the teeth and those who don’t, er, respect them certainly fear ‘em. Aside from a higher police:members of the public ratio than in the UK, we also have more than 13,000 CRS* plus 17,300 of les jaunes** to deal with riots). England and Wales are further handicapped by a soggy criminal justice system and what must be, judging by the results, some of the slackest parenting in the world.  All of these combine with near-powerless frontline policing to produce what the world has now witnessed. Some have viewed it all with horror, others with grim satisfaction; more with either hand-wringing or anger – each of the latter sub-groups being quick to blame the other.

Looters in Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle, London

But if any of the knee-jerk sneerers, jeerers and blamers out there would care to engage their brains with the real challenges facing us, then they can do no better than to check out a pair of blogs.  They’re both written by people who try to tackle both root causes and results. One is a police officer – and published author – who is a former soldier. The other is a youth worker and winner of last year’s Orwell Prize.
I thank them, I applaud them, and I wish all those in frontline services well – and, above all, safe. And my thoughts and prayers are with anybody in my country who has suffered due to the vicious stupidity of the few. Now, for a taste of what the majority of English people are like, here are alternative views of how they behave in a crisis.
These people deserve better.  So the government must demonstrate beyond doubt they are on the side of of the law-abiding people of England, whose right to quietly live and work in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities has been so shamefully ignored, and for so long. They are the real victims in this, and that must never be forgotten.

Stop press: 15/08/’11 – I took a special interest in what happened in Ealing last week. I lived there before coming to France, and very quickly grew to love it thanks to the variety and charm of people and place. I was horrified to see it under attack, and outraged by the senseless murder of Richard Mannington Bowes.  Eugénie has just kindly sent me this heartening report. The level of positive response doesn’t surprise me one bit.

* Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, anti-riot (principally; they have other functions) brigades of la Police Nationale     ** = slang term for la Gendarmerie Mobile, anti-riot division of  the Gendarmerie (itself a military organisation)

Pix sourced from Commons Wiki.

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'Skrik' by Edvard Munch (courtesy of Commons Wiki)

In his diary entry of 22.01.1893 (written in Nice), Edvard Munch described the emotional genesis of his most famous painting, Der Schrei der Natur (commonly known as The Scream):
I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream through nature.
Here his words are set to music and hauntingly sung by celebrated Norwegian singer, Kari Bremnes.

Inadequately, I add to these powerful artistic testimonials my thoughts and prayers for, to and with the people of Norway.


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