Thursday 12 March 2009


There is a problem: one of my greatest delights, as you may well have picked up, is listening to music. Now, one can do that at any time at home. It must be control-freak Heaven. You select the recording, you choose the volume, the time of day, stop for a call of nature or a cup of whatever. There is something quite different, however, about actually going to a concert Hall and hearing a live performance. And there is the problem. I have, as we speak, been going to concerts for 69 years. This means I have heard a very great deal of music and a very large number of musicians. I don't set out to be critical but, inevitably, the critical faculty is pretty well honed and, without formally setting out to compare and contrast, I find that that process occurs automatically. The result is that I am, too often, underwhelmed and, thus, faintly surprised and even embarrassed by the enthusiasm in the audience around me for a performance that has struck me as being two cheers, not three . Not only embarrassed: ashamed, too. What gives me the right to be that judgemental? I am not a professional musician nor a professional music critic, come to that, but there it is; a feeling of been-there - done-that has come over me and swept away my innocence and wonder at more than a handful of the concerts I attend. I shall have to challenge the inner 40 year old to rediscover the miraculous joy that comes with the exquisite liaison of art and artist.

Now I come to think of it, there may be a hidden advantage in the dilemma: at least the inner and the outer age seem to be in the same place in this regard. I have been talking to a clinical psychologist/analyst about what she sees as the problems of the "last stage" of life. In some ways it was quite chilling to think of myself in those terms, but also very interesting. While my intellect was enjoying the discussion my inner self was listening from its own perspective.(Cloud Cuckoo Land?) I am very used to my usual conflict between the self that is as it was at 40 and the deteriorating external 75 year old shell - as you will know only too well if you have been keeping up - but to hear a woman in her fifties talk about it as a recognisable phenomenon in the psychological world was quite a complacency stopper. After a while, it seemed to me that a good way to resolve it, anyway for me, would be to go along with the instincts, the wishes of the inner me, which cannot be identified particularly by chronological age,( although, I do go on about 40, that's true). The lady was not concerned, really, with solutions, anyway not then, and it wasn't until I got home that I noticed neither of us talked about What To Do About It. The answer, if there is one, must be simply to accept the physical realities of age and carve them in to one's way of being in the world.

Anyway, physical or not, I must not let usage get in the way of simple pleasure in what has brought me joy and solace all my life. It is a bizarre thought, though. At your age, do you have any idea that it is possible you will come to be bored by your erstwhile most intense experiences? No, nor did I. Any more than I foresaw that I wouldn't be able to hire a car, apply for most jobs, run down an incapacitated escalator or do the splits when I reached my current age. But I didn't foresee the new joys, neither: a delightful freedom, and a sense of the ridiculous that I was much too po-faced to acknowledge when I was younger. (There are more, but I can't rush through them all just now.) Heigh Ho. I've taken to re-reading some books,too, silly when you think there can't be all that time left and there are so many books I haven't read even once, yet. But I think I must see it as the same as listening to music; one certainly listens to some pieces times without number so why shouldn't one treat books in the same way? What do you think? Is there a time when there just isn't room to take in anything new? No.

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