No more tweaking

Posted by Susan Tomes on 3 January 2010 under Books, Daily Life, Musings  •  3 Comments

I spent most of yesterday correcting the page-proofs of my new book and twitching with frustration. My electronic copy of the page-proofs is ‘read only’. I cannot type on it or make any alterations. Any mistakes have to be listed separately and sent to the publisher. It’s a process akin to listening to the ‘first edit’ of a CD once the producer has had his wicked way with all the different takes we recorded in the studio. As I listen to the assembled version, I often have new ideas about how to turn this or that phrase, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The recording session is finished and in the past.

Similarly, as I read my page-proofs yesterday I kept thinking of words I’d like to tweak, adjectives I could improve, things I’d like to say differently or not say at all. But those options were not available: my role at this stage was simply to notice typographical mistakes. When I work on a word document I’m an inveterate tweaker, constantly meddling with the choice of words, so it was a character-building exercise to have to go through a couple of hundred pages in fine detail without once being able to indulge my passion for tweaking.

Perhaps it was good for me. I had to take a deep breath and accept that it was no longer a work in progress: this was what I wrote. It may still be simmering in my mind, but the actual words may no longer dance about on the page. If I want to write something more, or other, I’ll have to do it somewhere else.

New Year’s Day

Posted by Susan Tomes on 1 January 2010 under Daily Life, Inspirations, Travel  •  Leave a comment

time and tide ...

time and tide ...

This new year has found me in thoughtful rather than celebratory mood. So here is a photo of the tide gracefully looping its way along Portobello Beach in the winter sun in Edinburgh, where I spent Christmas.

There is much to look forward to in 2010, and I wish you all a good start to the new year.

Felix Wurman – in memoriam

Posted by Susan Tomes on 29 December 2009 under Inspirations  •  2 Comments

Yesterday brought the very sad news that American cellist Felix Wurman has died, age 51, of cancer. Felix was an inspiring person with a passion for adventure and an extraordinary gift for making friends.

He was the founder of the music group Domus, which had its own portable concert hall in the shape of a geodesic dome. Its members met at the International Musicians’ Seminars in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, in the early 1980s. I was the pianist. We wanted to find a way of making music that was less formal and intimidating than we were beginning to experience as young professionals playing in orthodox concert halls. When we started discussing how to create our own more intimate concerts, someone jokingly said that we should build a portable concert hall.

Felix was several steps ahead of us, then as at many other times. As an American school student he had come across Buckminster Fuller’s designs for a geodesic dome, and he declared that if we were to have a portable concert hall, it must be in the shape of a dome. With typical enterprise and energy he set about building us a geodesic dome. It wasn’t the most practical idea, but the beauty of the white dome galvanised lots of young musicians into helping to make it a reality. Some of the story is told in my book ‘Beyond the Notes’, and is too long to tell here. Suffice it to say that Felix was probably the only person in the world who could have got me to run about in the rain carrying heavy boxes full of aluminium tubes. When things got tough, as they soon did, he rallied us all with his heartfelt cry of, ‘It must never not be fun!!’

Felix had an amazing gift for dreaming up idealistic projects and, even more, for inspiring people to join him in bringing them to fruition. He did it with Domus, and later, when he had returned to America, he did it again with the Church of Beethoven, a concert series he founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ironically, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about it on the day that Felix died, though I don’t think the writer can have been aware of the sad coincidence.

When I knew Felix in the ’80s we didn’t use the word ‘animateur’, but I think that’s what he was – an animateur of genius. He made people want to be in his gang. His love of music, combined with his love of fun, adventure, and the perfect cappuccino made him a magnet for other people throughout his life.

Yule Blog

Posted by Susan Tomes on 23 December 2009 under Daily Life  •  2 Comments

about 3000 calories per slice

about 3000 calories per slice

While everyone is busy with Christmas festivities, this blog is going to sink into a cosy armchair with a slice of home-made Christmas cake and gaze out of the window for a while. Season’s greetings!

A layer of icing

Posted by Susan Tomes on 21 December 2009 under Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

Richmond Park yesterday

Richmond Park yesterday

Richmond Park yesterday was full of children sliding happily on the icy paths. Not on the ponds, though – the ice is rarely thick enough to take a person’s weight. Everyone seemed to be chatting about the Eurostar trains which got stuck in the Channel Tunnel on Friday night and again on Saturday. Two thousand people spent the night in the Tunnel on Friday night without food or water. The reason for the breakdown: trains coming from the wintry conditions of northern France were thrown into confusion by the warmer conditions in the Tunnel. Honestly -  Swiss and German Railway engineers must be laughing at us as they continue to run their perfectly punctual services through the snowy Alps.

In Richmond Park, the green parakeets who made the park their home a few years ago were shrieking as they zoomed to and fro overhead in quarrelsome groups. ‘Oh my god, it’s freezing! Whose idea was it to come here? Get me out of here!’ they seemed to be saying. It reminded me of the fashionable young lady in Erik Satie’s ‘Sports et Divertissements’, who is suddenly displeased with the ocean while she’s out paddling: ‘This is not amusing. Call me a cab!’