Even at the summer solstice the central heating was on. I returned from travels to an empty, damp and chilly house, so promptly turned on two of the big radiators. When you’re tired you feel the cold more.
First journey was up north, for a university supervision. I don’t know why but I seem to have reached an impasse: I’ve done nothing new on the thesis for over a fortnight. I’m not sure what’s happened, but it feels like ennui ~ even accidie (mental sloth). Maybe it’s just a period of discontinuity. These interregna happen every so often. They’re not particularly linked into academic labour, albeit the stress of intellectual effort encourages a tendency (on my part) to drop the reins and wander off.
June has been a reading month ~ and not 100% classical. (Give the gal a break!) I have Erwin Rohde’s magisterial doorstop of a tome, Psyche: the Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks, on loan from the university library. It’s necessary to check some references, if / when I can haul myself back to thesis writing.
But, being away from home, I loaded up the Kindle with a lighter cast of fare, including Peter May’s Lewis trilogy (crime and detective fiction). I can understand why the first two volumes attracted critical plaudits. The action often takes second place to brilliant descriptions of island life in a Protestant church-dominated Hebrides (The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man). The third novel disappoints (The Chessmen). It is readable enough, but for me it displays telltale signs of the tyranny of a three-book contract. By the end of volume two, you run out of writing steam. This is only my personal reaction.
On a more literary front, now ploughing through Trollope. As with Wilkie Collins, I read many of these books when I was young. Re-reading them, as an adult with life experience, high-lights much that was originally missed. The sly humour and cynicism, and the adroit way the Victorians managed to convey the nastier facets of human nature. Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875) should have warned us about corrupt malpractices in the City. here
However, a night at the opera was an indulgence. Amongst the slew of Verdi’s over-the-top oeuvre, Il Trovatore is possibly his most OTT work. Full-blooded love-and-death grand opera, its fanciful story entails a massive suspension of disbelief, and could only happen in opera-land, where fateful coincidences are rife, women are beautiful, men manly and villains mean. Unfortunately, the divas and their tenor leads are not always quite what one feels they should be vis-à-vis their roles, age and size-wise. Of course, you can always half-close your eyes. Plus, all opera singers have memorable and less memorable performances; not every one was born a Callas or a Domingo.
I go for Mozart, Verdi, Puccini; Wagner’s cobbled-together Germanic myths, Die Walküre and the rest, leave me utterly bemused. Why would you want to spend days sitting through the Bayreuther Festspiele? Life’s short enough as it is.
The drama of the operatic stage also requires an ability to act. Few who aim for the great roles can convince. And save us from reedy soprano so-called ‘opera’ singers who won a TV competition. These cut CDs but do nothing else. They can’t read music, they mime public performances and insist orchestras must play in a required key signature, e.g., only in A# major or whatever, because they can’t manage anything else.
|Crathes castle, Aberdeenshire|
Happy days were spent with my only grandchild, now six months old and irresistibly cheerful, although her parents are dog-tired 24/7. (Children do that to you, but it doesn’t last forever. We do regain full nights of sleep ~ eventually.) My idea of ‘family’ is continuity and people who matter, directly connected or not. Not that any of my fifish* Fife relations maintain contact with me. Och, well ~ c’est la vie.
On the return journey, I originally aimed to take a sideways trip into Wales, but my Powys cousin was birdwatching down in Devon ~ a leg too far. It was a shame to have missed him. I’m not that way too often ~ and, for once, time, diaries and schedules didn’t matter. I could take as long as I liked and then some.
On the other hand, I was quite glad to reach home (+ retrieve the deserted cat from her incarceration at the cattery). Driving long distance makes me incredibly fatigued: motorways require absolute concentration. It takes a day or two to catch up with myself.
Otherwise, spare time was expended on DIY catch-up (DIY’s always catch-up) and assorted dreary but necessary tasks. Thank goodness #2 daughter’s back on the late flight tonight, after her three week sojourn with her father. I've only had the cat to talk to for the best part of ten days. I guess life will return to its familiar rut the morn’s morn. All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl: I do wish there was more play and much less work ...