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Now that the work is dying down before Christmas I am going to attempt to get myself back into some kind of regular timetable for my writing. It’s strange how much greener the grass is on the other side of the fence. When there is enough time to work for myself I worry about my finances, and when I have money trickling in I worry that I do not have enough time to do decent stints of writing. Of course, I imagine that a chunky commission would sweep all this grass gazing aside, but we shall have to wait and see whether one arrives or not. Even with the commissions I have on the go at the moment I am waiting for one thing or another to fall into place before I can truly get going.

I managed a little work on The Three Kings yesterday, and am intending to have another decent run at it today. Once I have my approach to the three different characters worked out I think that it will be finished in fairly short order. Although there are other pieces lying around at the moment, this one needs to go to the top of the pile, for I sometimes find it difficult to come up with fresh ideas when arranging, and I know that this will slip down my list of priorities if I do not get it done now.

This evening the choir of St. Mary Abbots will give the final live Sweet Was The Song of 2011, in its piano version, the next excitements after that being the various broadcasts on Christmas Eve. Talking of broadcasts, I probably should not bite the hand that feeds, but I was utterly bemused by the programming on Radio 3 yesterday afternoon at about 5 o’clock. They appear to be putting out some mish-mash of music and words which borders on the bizarre and I find intensely annoying. Even when one works out what is going on (extract of music, actor speaks over the top, extract of completely unrelated music, actor speaks and so on) it continues to grate, as does the ‘where are we going next?’ policy of zooming from Penderecki to Black Sabbath. I like to think that I live a musically eclectic life, and have no problem either with the Polish avant-grade or Ozzy’s motley crew (or Mötley Crüe, for that matter, although they should have stuck with John Corabi), but it is hard to think who this programme is aimed at.

No doubt this is considered bold and experimental programming in some corners, but it is an hour and a half long, and it takes something when you have to look it up on the webpage just to find out what they are trying to achieve. I rather lost patience when they played the opening of Shostakovich’s 8th String Quartet, as desolate and dark a work as there is. I adore this piece and view it as close to sacred, so to sit there in agony waiting for somebody, even Sheila Hancock or Tom Hallander, to wade in over the top of Dmitri’s suicidal despair was too much. Sure enough, in came the poetry and I switched off. Good luck letting them know what you think, though, for the Radio 3 forum was ominously discontinued some months back. A cynic might wonder why.

The O’Neill household is nearly ready for Christmas now, presents wrapped and small Christmas tree (made out of music manuscript – nice!) on view. I look forward to the oven arriving later today, of course (can you hear my sarcasm?), although they have until 12 before I am on the line to them once more, no doubt to find out that “it’s not on the lorry”. Tune in tomorrow to see if we shall have turkey or bread for Christmas lunch.

I am starting to relax a little after the Advent rush. It always takes time to reeducate my brain into slowing down, perhaps even more after its recent knocks, but I found time to watch a film yesterday and play three rounds of Dominion, and am really looking forward to doing similar things for the next few weeks. There will be hefty shifts of writing too, for I do not view it as ‘proper’ work.  For the moment at least, though, and oven aside, it promises to be an enjoyably stress-free period.

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