Sunday 11 August 2019


Life's wonderful juxtapositions: 

I'm looking out of my window and watching the large tree at the far end of next door's garden throwing its branches and leaves into all manner of histrionic gestures in the heavy wind of an unhappily-timed carnival weekend in Morecambe.

That arm-waving tree raises in my mind the (possibly Blackadder-inspired) idea of a melodramatic actor from the 18th Century, or a 21st Century BBC soap, or a Newsnight Brexit reporter.

I'm doing so while blissing out on the opening minutes of John Luther Adams's Become Desert - a soft-spoken murmur of quiet string chords and bell-chimes. 

I must say that, though I'm meant to be imagining a desert, with JLA's lovely, floating music, I'm much more easily imagining myself lying awake at 5 o'clock in the morning on a Bhutanese mountain relishing a silence blessed only by the fluttering of prayer flags and temple bells. 

Two things arise from that, perhaps:  Firstly, my 'orientalist' dreamery about Bhutan and, secondly, the curious fact that not all music that has an evocative intent always spontaneously evokes in its listeners mind what it's meant to evoke. 

I really don't get 'deserts' from JLA's magical ambient piece. 

And now I'm drifting towards thinking of cowbells in the Austrian Tyrol on a late summer's evening, high above the white-green rivers and the pretty churches and the Spar shops. 

'Tyroleanist' dreamery perhaps, except that I've been there as a teenage tourist with my mum and dad - a long, long time ago, back in the mid-80s - and I heard cowbells on actual Kurt Waldheim-voting cows. 


I also remember being laughed at by a couple on the coach trip for wearing a Hawaiian shirt and having long hair. And how gorgeous the flower-and-gold-bedecked graves were. And the trans hippy guy/gal with the handbag on the lift up to a glacier (like Neil from 'The Young Ones' with lipstick) - a pioneer. 

Ah, and John Luther - thirty minutes in - is still giving me intoxicating bells and string smells. No melodies, just harmonies and long string chords and Sibelius-like brass and very quiet choral aaaaahs and bells, bells, bells. It probably ought to be boring, but isn't. 

Maybe I've not been to enough deserts to appreciate how evocative of a desert this piece is (as you may guess, I've been to none) but, with the tree still overacting in the wind just beyond my window, I'm relishing its Bhutanese/Tyrolean quietness, and the lovely contrast.

And just now, a sudden eruption of soft sunlight has flowed in like a smile. (Not seen the sun for days). 


Should I switch on the BBC News Channel now? Or the Pointless Celebrities special?


  1. Excellent evocative piece. A pleasure to read; bravo!

  2. My advice would be to augment your view with alcohol and stay away from the TV altogether.

    Could you explain why grammitically

    'a unhappily-timed carnival weekend in Morecambe.' makes sense (referring to 'carnival'), but

    'an unhappily-timed carnival weekend in Morecambe.'
    seems to make more sense to my eyes ?

    I'm at a loss.

    1. Well-spotted. I've updated the post. (I think my augmenting my Sunday dinner with alcohol may have played a part in me not spotting that.)

    2. I'm augmenting at the moment! I had a feeling it looked wrong but didn't want to over-shoot my augmented impression. Enjoy the tree.

    3. Cheers! That tree is now toning down its performance to the point of being boring. (Hope it's not reading my reviews).

    4. You'll have to go and shout 'Be less boring!' at the tree. I think swinging a nearly empty bottle of scotch may help.
      More entertaining than telly, and you'll instantly acquire a new reputation in your neighbourhood.

    5. Who's to say I've not got it already?

      And I've just spotted that I wrote: "And just bow, a sudden eruption of soft sunlight has flowed in like a smile. (Not seen the sun for days).

      That was actually my punchline and I didn't spot I'd written 'bow' instead of 'now'.

      (Maybe we need a good, old-fashioned public information announcement from the government: Don't drink and blog!)

    6. I honestly read that as poetic license - as in bow to the splendour and timelessness of nature.
      I liked it.

      That is, until the splendid tree got boring.

  3. Very enjoyable piece of writing, Craig. I've never been able to identify Vivaldi's Four Seasons...they all sound much of a muchness...bit like British weather.

    If Joyce Kilmer was right, then that tree you wrtie about was probably engaged in some extravagent Pentecostalist-type praying:

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
    Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

    A tree that looks at God all day,
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray...


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