We all seem to be looking for scraps of brightness while the world appears to be going to hell in a handcart, but any week that sees the removal of Bernie Ecclestone as the dictator of Formula One gets my support, even if his replacement is a henchman of the leader of the Dark Side Of The Force. Even if no change happens, at least there is the hope of change, and, awful viewing figures and awful racing aside, I have long felt that Bernie’s attitudes towards women, despots and morality have long made him redundant, even if those selfsame views probably now put him right at the cutting edge of political feeling. Well, anyway, he made all of those team owners millionaires, though cannily he was the only one who went away a billionaire, so make of that what you will.
Even my beloved board games have made it into the mainstream. Heavens, if The New Statesman can rustle up an article on how cardboard makes some adults positively quiver with delight when they surely have better things to be doing then geeks such as yours truly really are emerging from our underground dens. On Friday my latest box of review games arrived, which included The Colonists which apparently takes six hours (yes, six hours!) to play. Still, that’s less than I wasted on those terrible Peter Jackson films, and if Colonists turns out to be a stinker (unlikely) I can always drop the box from my office window onto unwanted callers at my door. It also contained twenty two sheets of cardboard tokens to punch out, so I spent a very happy hour pretending they were the eyes of various contemporary villains.
I have been chipping away on my new organ piece, which sounds ok from time to time, and listening to various other bits of music, including the infrequently performed Requiem by Michael (the other) Haydn. The Mozarts, Leopold and Wolfgang, knew and admired this work, and it certainly went a long way to providing the framework for Mozart Jnr’s own fragmentary Requiem some years after. Michael Haydn’s daughter died shortly before he wrote the piece, the only child he and his wife would have, and his character was deeply and permanently changed as a result. We remember so often the dates of musical history, but understanding the people is just as important. In a similar vein I have been reimmersing myself in the wonderful music of Nicholas Ludford, bathing in those warm sonorities and admiring his penchant for textural contrast, his talent for line. In a time when I still struggle with what my own language might be (abundant study this week!) maybe it is a comfort to hear the voice of somebody who knew what his voice was so securely that when the political changes swept across music he had the confidence to shut up shop.
We console ourselves that we live in more enlightened times than Ludford and his contemporaries, but nothing surely could be further from the truth. To paraphrase Larkin’s sweary poem, man continues to hand on misery to man and it continues to deepen like a coastal shelf. For those of us who believe in tolerance and kindness these are depressing times. So what to write?