Gold grasshoppers

Posted by Susan Tomes on 31 May 2009 under Daily Life  •  Leave a comment

My whole day has been brightened by a lovely thing my daughter told me. She is studying Classics at university and has been reading the Greek historian Thucydides. Writing in the 5th century BC about ‘the ancients’, Thucydides described some of their customs.

When he said ‘the ancients’, I wonder if he meant people of centuries before, or did he (as seems more likely) mean his grandparents’ generation? It’s well known that nobody can be more ancient than the older generation of your own family.

Anyway, Thucydides wrote that the ancients liked to wear linen tunics and put gold grasshoppers in their hair. As my daughter said, they must have been a bit like me. Well, not the grasshopper bit exactly, but the linen tunics and the gold ornaments, and I suppose also the ancientry. Thucycides added that although the custom of putting gold grasshoppers in your hair had died out in the part of Greece where he lived, the Ionians were still doing it. Honestly, those Ionians! Always the last to catch up.


Posted by Susan Tomes on 30 May 2009 under Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

A friend writes to say that she has been pondering my remarks on Nonfiction and Fiction because of something that recently happened when she was filling in a job application. On the form, she was asked to describe herself as either ‘disabled’ or ‘non-disabled’. Sometimes you can see what motivates such examples of political correctness, but as she pointed out, this one just seems silly. No matter how much we wish to safeguard the rights of disabled people, ‘disabled’ is not the predominant state in society, and if it were, the terminology would have to change. Imagine how perverse it would seem if someone greeted you with the phrase, ‘How are you? Are you non-ill?’

Whatever next? Instead of being asked to tick either the ‘male’ and ‘female’ box on official forms, people will be asked to state whether they are ‘non-women’ or ‘non-men’.

A mosaic of tiny pages

Posted by Susan Tomes on 29 May 2009 under Concerts, Daily Life, Florestan Trio  •  3 Comments

I’ve been putting together a special performing score of my Haydn piano concerto for the Florestan Festival. I’m going to be directing the performance ‘from the keyboard’, and I don’t want to have too many pages to turn. There’s so much else going on in the festival – both musical and non-musical – that I’ve decided not to try and memorise the orchestral score as well as the solo part. But if I use my usual piano part, which has a great many pages, someone will have to sit beside me and turn the pages. I could ask someone to do that, but I’d like to try and have an uncluttered stage.

I’ve been to the art materials shop and bought several sheets of large, stiff art paper and a tube of paper glue. I’ve photocopied every page of the Haydn score and reduced it to a quarter of its size. I now have a pile of tiny pages from which I’ll create a mosaic, sticking 12 little pages on each sheet of art paper. I could have made the pages tinier, but I wouldn’t be able to read them. I’m trying to lay them out cleverly so that the few page turns come at moments when I’m not playing.

Roll on, e-book readers for piano music! Maybe they do exist; I’m not gadget-minded, so I may well be ignorant of something that’s already there. But I’ve never heard of a device which can be placed on the music desk of the piano and used to perform from. Where would it be plugged in, and if it wasn’t, what would happen if the batteries failed during a concert? How would the pages be turned if the pianist’s hands are occupied with playing the notes? Obviously you can’t shout, ‘Turn!’ into a little microphone. Friends have suggested that the tempo of the music could be somehow pre-set into the e-reader, so that the pages scroll past at a relevant speed. But anyone familiar with printed music will know that that’s not going to work. Depending on the density of notes on any given page, one printed page may pass more quickly than another in performance. The scrolling tempo of the pages would somehow have to be linked to the speed of real-time performance, so that if there is some delay, you don’t find that the e-score has moved imperturbably on to page 42 when you’re still trying to play page 36.


Posted by Susan Tomes on 28 May 2009 under Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

We were walking through Richmond Park, discussing various members of the younger generation and their current dilemmas. Should they change their jobs, travel the world, leave this partner or get together with that one? Will the pursuit of their dreams enable them to make a living? We sighed over the difficulty of finding one’s path in life. Where to live, what to do, how to find kindred spirits? What will make them happy?

We rounded a corner and saw a group of people standing respectfully back from something on the path beside the pond. It was a huddle of ducklings, at least twelve of them, nestling close together and ‘peeping’ tinily. Nearby, slightly bigger ducklings hopped merrily in and out of the water, watched over by a proud mother duck. We all stood and watched admiringly. ‘None of these kind of discussions in duck families, I suppose’, said Bob thoughtfully. ‘Can you imagine? “What are you going to be when you grow up, darling?” “A duck.” End of story.’

Calorie Gallery

Posted by Susan Tomes on 27 May 2009 under Daily Life, Inspirations  •  Leave a comment

hazelnut raspberry meringue

hazelnut raspberry meringue

Eat your heart out, pointlessly thin people, for this is a photo of the birthday cake Bob made for me yesterday. Two layers of chewy hazelnut meringue filled with double cream and fresh raspberries. A thing of beauty and a joy forever!