New Years Eve 2009

My iphone flashes up with a text message. From across the steamy bathroom I manage to read, “… am saddened you shan’t be joining us … ” before I sink my head below the waterline and start worrying about whether or not we’ve made the right decision not to attend our friend’s New Year’s Eve event.

He and his partner are hosting a party this evening, you see. It’s the first party they’ve hosted for New Year. It’s the first time me and Significant Other have been invited to someone else’s New Year’s event. It will be very special for them – their first new year together – and the menu will be reliably spectacular. There are party games too. On that basis it should be the perfect new year event. Given that someone else is cooking, this particular event will demand little effort on my part, and will guarantee scintillating company, good food and a bit of fun afterwards. Lovely.

And yet it’s also an event we’ve turned down, our reason being we’d prefer to be doing “the quiet thing” tonight.

This is a joint decision, naturally. We both quite fancied having a night in – Significant Other is considerably less keen on New Year’s Eve celebrations than I am – given that we feel now in the holidays as though we’ve been with other people all Christmas (we haven’t, it just feels that way).

Needless to say, I feel like a shit. A nasty, lazy, anti-social shit.

There are plenty of times when our friends have driven over to see us of an evening – at least ten occasions when they’ve driven over for New Years. My head rises breaks the surface of the bath water. My inner parent shouts out: This year it feels like we can’t even make the effort to return that same effort. Tut tut.

Sometimes I loathe SMS.

Grumpy Old New Year came to the rescue however when I watched it earlier this afternoon.

In it a collection of middle-aged (some older specimens who we’re sure have had work done) decimated the New Year traditions.

Parties were analysed: agonisingly long and drawn out events all heading towards one single goal – midnight – which only presented the thorny dilemma of when after the big bongs it was permissable to leave for home. Was it better to host an event or attend one? What to do when cornered by a bore. Was it OK to take your own food and a chair. And, most important of all, what exactly were we marking and how do you get home afterwards? In conclusion it seemed this contrived celebration threw far more dilemmas and irritations than it opportunities for fun. Best give it a wide berth.

These are, of course, all hideously shameful excuses masking the truth about how I quite like to mark New Years Eve. No wonder for my part in the turning down our New Years invitation, I feel like a shit.

Despite most people understandably dismissing New Years Eve as an inexplicable construct missing a suitably embarrassed architect and intelligence urging me to do the same, I find the opportunities presented by a quiet ushering in of a change in year irresistable. Like appraisals, I rather enjoy the chance to reflect on things. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have anything to blog about (I’m well aware some may challenge whether I have anything to blog about anyway, thank you).

Anyone driven by seemingly pointless and unachievable goals is often reminded of the benefits of stopping to consider exactly what it is they’ve achieved. It’s certainly more realistic than the other tradition at this time of year of making shallow promises for the future, the sole purpose of which is to quell the inner critic at not having achieved enough.

That period of reflection doesn’t need to be long and drawn out. It doesn’t need to be accompanied by a massive orchestra or a breathtaking fireworks display. It doesn’t need to be a painstaking review of the previous twelve months.

It just needs to be a simple nod to the past twelve months, which in my case just so happen to have been a very good twelve months, thank you to everyone involved in that. It should also involve a mental note of how I might avoid this year’s little errors next year – I must use my left hand to operate my iPhone and adjust the height of my monitors at work to avoid RSI. All of that should be done in an office all cleaned up ready for a new year. After all, a clear desk means a clear mind.

Then it’s a glass of sparkling wine masquerading as champagne, an opportunity to peer at the fireworks from the south bank of the Thames followed by the same late night movie and bed. There’ll be no jumping up and down, no screaming “Happy New Year!” when Big Ben strikes midnight and no party poppers.

We’ll just usher in 2010 in a low-key way. I rather like that proposition. And I hope that’s OK with everyone – especially our friends whose party I hope goes with a bang.

Gosh, New Year is a troublesome time.

Proms 2009: Prom 51 – Brahms Violin Concerto Joshua Bell BBC Symphony Orchestra

After Friday night’s Proms experience, I was more than happy to remain at home for this particular Prom. Unlike those who insist the only decent listening experience is in the Royal Albert Hall, ten minutes into the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Haydn’s Clock Symphony, I was reminded why listening at home is theoretically a nicer experience.

There are no crowds, air temperatures can be maintained at an optimum level and the sound mix on the radio is perfect. This is a live performance optimised for a radio broadcast. Consequently, assuming the performers are tip-top then the complete package will be perfect too. Perfection added to by the ambience provided by nearly 6000 people who have trekked across London in the searing heat and occupied their little bit of territory in South Kensington. I sprawled out on the sofa and turned the levels up high.

My personal bookmark for Prom 51 was Joshua Bell’s performance of Brahms’ Violin Concerto. I’d looked forward to it all day. After Isabelle Faust’s Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and the daring (some still reckon foolhardy) execution of Tchaikovsky’s fiddle concerto, how would Joshua Bell deliver the Brahms? And would he make it alive from the auditorium if he did anything other that what the audience expected from this popular work.

Of course, I can’t be sure on the latter. I wasn’t there. But what I heard seemed clear enough.

Ask someone to give cast iron reasons why they’re in love with someone else and watch as they falter, stumbling as they offer joyless justifications for the emotional connection they hold dear to with the most important person in their life.

It’s the same with a brilliant performance. Listen to Joshua Bell’s rendition. Sure, I could list things like: the intonation was spot on; the way he phrased the theme in the first movement was exquisite; the ensemble playing was totally reliable. This would all be cold, uninteresting and pointless self-aggrandising babble. Flagging up anything negativity would achieve the same goal. It’s best not to say anything (which given that this posting amounts to approximately 500 words is stretching things a bit).

Instead, be content with the assessment that Joshua Bell’s Brahms Violin Concerto will definitely deliver – even to those who have never heard it before.

So good, in fact, it leaves me wondering just what mood Bell can be found in when he has an off day or worse, is caught playing one duff note. I’d like to see that – live in HD TV. I’d stay at home to watch it and I’d probably burn it to Blu-Ray too just so I have it for posterity.

After all, perfection isn’t everything unless accompanied by a smidgen of vulnerability, is it? I’m in no doubt Bell copes with off-days admirably. At least that’s the impression I get listening to him on the radio.

Audio: BBC Proms Diary 2009

The arrival of my Proms Season Ticket soothes the stresses and strains of a demanding day

I didn’t get anywhere near the end of my to-do list at work today. Come to think of it I barely moved off the first thing on the list.

There were too many distractions. Too many people asking me how to make this, that or the other work. I lost count of the number of times I had to remind myself exactly what it was I was working on before I was interrupted.

No matter, I thought. I’ll go to the gym. I’ll break the back of my motivation and commitment issues by making the second trip to the gym this evening.

It never happened. I left work too late, the tube train there took too long to arrive, I lost patience and so I went home instead.

And when I got home? What did I discover there?

Something very, very special indeed.

It’s getting nearer

Looking ahead to the beginning of the BBC Proms 2008

Like the rumble of a distant timpani roll, the BBC Proms season nears its start.

I ended up trotting up to Prince Consort Road this evening to drop off the passport pictures for my season ticket, using the opportunity to time exactly how long it takes to go from High Street Kensington tube station to the Royal Albert Hall.

It felt like it was a considerably shorter route, although the journey home via South Kensington confirmed that there’s really nothing in it at all.

It’s ridiculous. The more I look at it in the cold light of day – to be a part of the media industry it seems one has to look at things at objectively as one possibly can – all I am really getting excited by is a great long series of concerts which stretch out over the summer. They’re mostly from the same venue too. There must be countless concerts in the capital and up and down the country throughout the rest of the year too, and yet this particular concert series always sets my heart racing. It’s like Christmas all over again and a completely different Christmas from the Eurovision-related hysteria I always succeed in getting myself succombing to.

This year sees me purchasing a season ticket for the first time. I’d always sworn blind I was a radio and tv consumer, preferring to imagine the interior of the Royal Albert Hall over actually being there. Now I feel as though I want to be a part of it and, it seems, a season ticket is the best way to subscribe.

Roll on Friday and the First Night.

Getting things ship shape and Bristol fashion

Setting up the Thoroughly Good Blog on WordPress for the first time after two successful years on Yahoo 360

Like what you see? I do rather like it myself. It will certainly suffice for now. There’s something so terribly fresh about the design, the title font and this font come to that. I do get so very excited about fonts.  

This is the start of the Thoroughly Good Blog version 2. This posting isn’t the usual kind of tentative start to a blog. You know the kind of mean “I’m not really sure what to do with or what to say but I’m going to use it as a diary … “ Blah blah blah.  

No, this is merely the continuation of a blog which originally started on the Yahoo 360 network. It’s been going for 18 months but the time has come to strike out and provide more people with an opportunity to leave comments. At least, that’s the hope. 

Some people will probably look down their noses and say “Oooh, you’ve left this too late” or “Don’t you think you ought to make it look consistent with the other blog before you start on this one?” 

Possibly. But thinking about it on the way to work this morning, I rather liked the idea of people having the opportunity to have a nose around the place whilst the new blog is being built and fitted out. It’s a bit like having the opportunity to wander around the house you’ve commissioned someone else to build as they build it. I’m hoping the builders will be finished by 15 July, because the 15 July is a big for so many different reasons.  

Between now and then and the foreseeable after, don’t think there won’t be anything to read on here. Don’t think either that the stuff to read on here is a mere repetition of the stuff on the Thoroughly Good Blog on Yahoo. There’ll be bits and pieces everywhere. You will, I’m in no doubt, be totally sick of the words Thoroughly Good Blog come 15 July.