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This morning was an “if it’s Saturday it must be France” kind of morning, mainly because it is Saturday and I am in France. My playing has brought me back to Puycelsi for what is becoming an annual tradition. It is hot down here and the next day or so will be filled with rehearsals and red wine, but it is good to have a little work/break combination before getting back into the daily grind once more. We are performing Mozart’s Requiem on Sunday. Please do pop along if you are around and I will doubtless corner you and bore you with tales of Mozart’s gambling habits at some point.

The only drama faced thus far was being stopped by the gendarme in the blue lane who opened my bag and asked whether I had more than 15,000 Euro on me. For once I did exactly as I would have wanted to do – I laughed, spluttered “I wish!” and opened my wallet to reveal receipts, bills and travel cards…and 15 Euro left over from Anghiari. Once the chap saw my Mozart score (“Ah, Mozart!”) he let me go. 42 years and the first stop. I must look suspiciously prosperous in my black attire.

Breathing in after the summer break, I took the opportunity to be more productive yesterday, adding dynamics and phrasing to my latest competition entry on the plane, watched by some bemused French ladies. It is amazing what dynamics and performance indications can do to a piece, and it constantly baffles me that composers are so lax in these areas, as if the notes are all that matter. I have recently made a point of indicating, where possible, where a diminuendo or crescendo should end in terms of volume, likewise where it should start and finish. Why, after all, should writers – the good ones – work out their harmony to the nth of a degree and then scribble an imprecise crescendo over the top? It is akin to Boulez getting all rigorous with his serialism and then writing Allegro over the top. Really?

My efforts on the plane have convinced me, as if I needed convincing, that the only barrier I face in writing pages and pages of music over the coming year is me. Without doubt my main task for this next year is to be more definitive in the time I allocate to my writing, but also, by definition, more definitive in my time off. I am sure that Thunderbird will be on far less often this year, also that priorities will shift slightly. Meanwhile other plans sit on the horizon.