Pieces of Writing. All sorts here. Quite a few travel diaries, some articles, essays, a letter, a quiz, poetry, general fun with words...

A MACABRE BAR

In northern Holland there’s a bar that’s spooky as hell. You descend a flight of steps, beckoned from the street by the unearthly orange glow of a room lit only by flickering candles in orange flecked-glass orbs, which sit round the cavern and on the black marble bar. The bar itself is an enclosed section […]

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School of Rock

Alexa misheard me. I was after ‘Scipio’, a gentle rock/classical track from Sky, but instead I got something a lot heavier, ‘Scorpio’, by someone I also misheard and straight away the track started, a solid heavy rock beat that had me hooked so quickly I left it on. And that’s how it’s been for 40 […]

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Majdanek. or One Red Shoe

Pronounced Mydanek, this is the concentration camp on the very outskirts of Lublin, in east Poland. The fact that it’s so near a city makes it unique, all the other such camps were in remote locations. You can look this place up on Wiki, and learn much more than this account, but I’m just going […]

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Uxbridgisms

A Aerobics.  Chocolate pens. Arcadia.  Idyllic area of slot machines. Alistair.  Someone on the A-list. Aggregate.  Farming scandal. Andante.  Wife of the poet. Anagram.  Like a strippergram but just a girl called Anna shows up. Agnus Dei. Plea to someone called Anya not to go. Alligator. One who makes allegations. B Blister.  Someone on the […]

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Last Night of the Proms. A view from the stage.

Or rather not just from the stage, but a view of the whole day, as a performer involved from the rehearsal in the morning right through to Auld Lang Syne.  2015 will be my 15th LNOP as a trombonist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and I can honestly say I’ve loved every one of them.  […]

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To The Times, 2008-ish

Letter following a Times review of a Philharmonia concert, Bolero was part of the programme. Oh dear, yet another music reviewer who thinks that the conductor is responsible for the music. Why do people dismiss the musicians, the people who actually produce the notes?  In his review, GB says he “liked Salonen’s opening snare drum taps”.  […]

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Beyond the squeaky gate.

The current BBCSO Trombone Section sprang into being on April 2nd, 2011, when Rob O’Neill joined us to fill our Bass Trombone vacancy.  In those days we were a gang of five, one of the fortunate few orchestras to have two Principals, but Roger Harvey retired from the orchestra in December 2013.  He selfishly left […]

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BTS article, 2018?

Article on Composition for the BTS, 2018? In 1972, the BBC held an Open Competition to write the theme tune for the forthcoming Winter Olympics. Age 5, I sent, in red felt pen, an attractive helter-skelter of hemidemisemiquavers, for no particular instrument, with the accidentals after the notes they referred to. So the creative bug […]

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Trial Tips

Having read Matt Gee’s excellent article on Audition Technique in the BTS summer issue, I thought I’d have a stab at writing a few words about the next stage: Trials.  If you’ve followed Matt’s programme, or however else you’ve done it, and a Trial with an orchestra has come your way, here are just a […]

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Such Dutch Days

In 1988 my friend from college Dai Tyler got a job in north Holland. He and I had been students at Guildhall together, in the same year as the late Adrian ‘Benny’ Morris and Ed Tarrant, and quite a foursome we made. Ed and I had already spent 3 years there, and we were joined […]

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The Lisbon Rainbow

The sun beams down on red-tiled rooves And bleached Belem stands like a galleon Yellow trams clang along the front Where custard tarts are served in mint-white chambers A tricolour cockerel stood in a tiny lane On our way up to the battlements in the trees To look out over gleaming squares And distant blue […]

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Plumage

Plumage.  A homage to Plum. He’s been called the greatest writer of English since Shakespeare. Of course it’s a different sort of English from Shakespeare’s Elizabethan genius. They also say that a sign of a great writer is that, if you come across a sentence they’ve written, and it doesn’t feel exactly right, maybe it […]

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SHETLAND 2008

Although we went to Orkney first for a couple of days, this story is only about Shetland and its various islands. It’s inexplicable, but both of us felt an instant connection to Shetland, which we hadn’t done on Orkney. It was to be a runaround five days, and this first day was the only time […]

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Shetland 2011

And we’re off to see the puffins, the wonderful puffins of Unst… Helen Jenkins, June 2011. So…  I’m in the privileged position this year of being allowed to keep the holiday diary.  I’m starting early as we aren’t even out of Cambridgeshire yet, but it’s been a long rocky road to even get to this […]

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Shetland 2016

The view coming into land at Sumburgh airport is one we always look forward to. On a clear day you can see at least as far as the top of the main island, about 40 miles away. I put my arm round Helen, surely pretty uncomfortable for her in a plane seat but a nice […]

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What is Shetland?

Shetland is an open paradise.  A pattern of land and sea, of moors and lochs, of slopes and tarns, of green and blue, where you can see as far as you can see.  It can be a landscape painted in sweeping strokes, or a jagged vista of chiselled rock and crashing waves. It’s a place […]

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Flaounes

Anyone can add to this, or correct it. If I’ve got something wrong, or particularly if you have beautiful words/dishes of your own, do contact me and I’ll add them. Thanks! Flaounes Or ‘What’s Wot?’ On the Food Channel, they started talking about these things called Flaounes (pronounced Fla-oo-nes) and that got me thinking of […]

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US States quiz

20 US States Clooney, but more so. For what reason, O Merciless one? Barack’s scarfaced brother I, of cranial displacement, live here. “Does Derek know?” Bereft  of mineral deposits. Trumpeter Armstrong’s memorabilia. Mary’s memorabilia. Where they keep 8. American boss fires you and me… …but 10. belongs to you and me. In the style of […]

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Azores Diary

On our way A Long Time Ago, we had no idea where the Azores were. But on the back of an exciting holiday in Shetland, where for the first time, we spent our time finding and admiring local wildlife, including otters, seals and a rare sighting of orcas, Helen discovered that the Azores were a […]

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Yerevan

At the beginning of the year, if someone had showed me my diary for the 19th-22nd April 2012 and I’d seen the word Yerevan printed there, I wouldn’t have had a clue what that meant.  Would I have even guessed that it was a place? A conductor, or composer maybe? Or a BBC project involving […]

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Singpaw

(This account, only scratching the surface of this marvellous city is a story based on two entirely separate trips, in 2002 and 2003.) That’s how it’s pronounced, when you’re there. Not the hard, three-syllabled western way, but with a much gentler, oriental seesaw. I first went there with the LPO in 2002, as the second […]

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Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Azerbaijan! What an exotic name that is!  For weeks before going there I was almost boasting about it, as if the name itself would conjure remote possibilities, as it did for me. Maybe it was the word itself, a word with a Z and a J in it, like jazz, jalfrezi or Zildjian cymbals. And […]

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A morning in the sun.

I was in Yangon, capital of Myanmar, formerly known under British rule as Rangoon, capital of Burma.  But today I left behind the gleaming pagodas and everyday city life, and crossed the river to the warren of slums and dusty lanes that form the vast multi-shanty towns of Dala.  Yangon, the noisy, taxi-tootling sprawl that […]

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An afternoon in the desert.

Dubai is dull.  At least in March 2017 it was dull.  It’s a building site.  There are no pavements.  As you tramp along the uneven boardwalks or even edge along by the traffic, all you can see are skyscrapers.  And in between the skyscrapers are huge dusty red building sites that are soon to become […]

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Japan 2018

This was a biggie, one I’d been looking forward to with some excitement. Previous visits to Japan, four I think, had all been as part of more extensive far-East run-arounds, taking in places like Taiwan and South Korea before heading off down to Australia or round to the States.This trip was to be exclusively Japan, […]

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The Diamond of Caucasia

     “Wherever you are in Georgia, you can see the Caucasus”, said Lasha as we drove west. Looking left out of the car we could see the southern Caucasus mountains, and to the right, the more majestic northern peaks, a long snow-topped ridge in the distance. We were on the first day of three travelling […]

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