Sunday, 24 July 2011

Winding down and mixed emotions

On Thursday 21 July I spent what will my last day in the office for some time, managing to nudge various matters forward for my colleagues to take further in the coming few months and noting how the consciousness of limited time can give added impetus and energy to a task. It was a rich, full day and ended quite late as there was a meeting of the church governing council that I needed to attend.

Giant talking flowers stalk the streets of the City as I make my way to the Tube.
Perhaps that meeting just went on too long...

I left wondering how the next weeks and months are going to be and when it is that I will notice the first glimmerings of energy for work. I am in this odd place where I feel and look healthy, but am about to be made significantly unwell for a concentrated period of time. I have spent my life avoiding white-knuckle rides but here I am, waiting my turn on one of the weirder ones. A day at a time, I keep telling myself.

Friday 22nd saw me engaged on some more tasks, this time from the comfort of my armchair, the laptop warming my legs. I finished a translation of a Latin memorial inscription and did some research on the 17th-century individuals named in it, as well attending for the last time in a while to a new photocopier leasing contract (grrrrr), an insurance claim and some outstanding points on a lighting installation. I delivered my last timesheet and that was it, for the time being.

Today, Saturday 23rd, we have been at the small annual reunion of a group of my wife’s schoolfriends. We take it in turns to host this and today were in North London, the journey taking us along the Westway, the Euston Road and through Islington. The smooth white and green form of the hospital was a significant landmark on the outward and return journeys and I craned my neck to look up at the floor where I will be confined in just a short time. We had a wonderful lunch of various barbecued meats and cooling salads, as well as a tart of peach and redcurrant resting on a cool layer of crème patissière that our hostess had made. Somehow the French name conveys more of the smoothness of this creamy, vanilla-laden ambrosia than does the English title “confectioners’ custard”, which smacks of taxonomy rather than taste. What is it about the French?

I mused again on this question this evening, as I watched the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra give a thrilling, colourful and organic performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, televised from the Proms. Calling the orchestra by its French name, l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the work by its original title, le Sacre de Printemps, further underlines the allure of that great country. All the players looked très chic and the Korean conductor, Myung-whun Chung, was spellbinding, taking the players from a haunting whisper to raucous, pounding energy with a steady control.

These are good things that have happened in the world today.

Sad indeed though has been the wicked and calculating destruction of young life in Norway by a man who lays claim, we are told, to Christian beliefs. Jesus said “By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Labels can be such rubbish, can’t they, especially when they are stuck on the wrong item?

Amy Winehouse, too. May she rest in peace.

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