Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Shock-headed Peter

Our Victorian forebears would have been completely mystified about the proposal to make it illegal for us to smack our children, for what was inflicted on theirs makes smacking seem like a caress. I don’t mean just being sent up chimneys or down mines – that was only for the children of the poor – but also the punishments that middle- or upper-class children might suffer when they stepped out of line.

The only interesting relic I have of my childhood is a battered copy of an English translation of Struwwelpeter, with the wildly inaccurate subtitle Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures.

It tells of appalling things that happened to naughty or merely foolish children: Frederick, who was cruel to animals, was savaged by his own dog; Harriet played with matches and burned to death; Augustus wouldn’t eat his soup and died slowly of starvation, while Robert went out with a red umbrella on a windy day and was never seen again. Most frightening of all, when Conrad’s Mamma was out and he sucked his thumb, the “great, long, red-legg’d scissor-man” came crashing through the door and snipped it off, then did the same to the other one. I must have been given this book when I was about six, and it says much for the happy security of my childhood that although I was a nervous and timid little boy I don’t think I was at all terrified by the truly dreadful pictures.

One of the stories strikes me today as being very salutary: three little racists torment a “woolly-headed black-a-moor”, singing “Oh! Blacky, you’re as black as ink” and so on. A neighbourhood giant called Agrippa remonstrates with them but they take no notice, so he “foams with rage” and dunks them in his “mighty inkstand”.

“The black-a-moor enjoys the fun” and a final picture shows him marching perkily along while the three boys march behind him:
Quite black all over, eyes and nose,
And legs, and arms, and heads, and toes,
And trowsers, pinafores and toys,
The silly little inky boys.

So perhaps the bloodthirsty Dr Hoffman's heart was really in the right place, though many doctoral theses have been written about his castration complex and the phallic symbolism of his themes.

I shall write in a later post about a version called Struwwelhitler.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Banning the “sport”

“We intend to eradicate this cruel, barbaric practice”, said a civil leader. More than 80% of the public supports an outright ban, and the government is on the way to outlawing it. But there are many who say that banning it will destroy a way of life and cause thousands of job losses, and that it’s an urban versus rural issue which many townspeople simply do not understand.

It is true that it originated before the birth of Christ and was popular in England, along with bull-baiting with dogs, for hundreds of years, but nowadays we are much less interested in it; few people enjoy watching two cocks fitted with sharp spurs slash at each other until one is dead or dying.

In England cockfighting was forbidden by Queen Victoria, but it is still legal in two American states, Louisiana and New Mexico, though there is a renewed effort being made to wipe it out altogether. However, there has been a petition to Congress, inspired by Gamefowl Breeders Of The U.S, to legalise it throughout the country, asserting that legalisation would “bring in millions of much needed tax dollars”. This is an argument which must be very attractive to the present administration.

Thursday, 25 November 2004

Which one is he, then?

It has been brought to my attention that even some of my literate, cultured, sharpwitted readers are having difficulty keeping up with the news from Ukraine, where there is headline strife and the possibility of worse to come. This is not because the situation is particularly complex, but simply because we are used to discussing world leaders who have nice crisp names like Blair or Bush, and while we could manage the World War II two-syllablers - Stalin, Churchill, Hitler - the troubles in Ukraine are requiring us to remember which protagonist is the one to cheer and which the one to boo-hiss when they are both called Viktor and both have surnames beginning with Y containing a joint total of SEVEN SYLLABLES.
But Other Men's Flowers is The Blog That Makes Everything Easy, so pay attention and don't fidget:

Viktor Yanukovitch is the official winner of the election for President, but this is disputed by the supporters of the opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who say that the poll was fixed, while the still acting President Leonid Kuchma is keeping a low profile, as well he might, and the situation has been complicated by the arrival of dear old Lech Waleska (pron. Vawensa) of Solidarity (or Solidarnosc), who addressed the vast crowd in Polish.

Oh, and the colour of the revolution (opposition) is ORANGE, while the other side favours BLUE and WHITE, which are also the colours of the Ukrainian football club Dynamo, but Dynamo fans are wearing orange because the club is owned by the unpopular Kuchma supporter Grigoriy Surkis.

All clear now? Carry on, then.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Watch out, Columbia SC

Yes, well, in the previous post I set out to report on a clever plan devised by an American religious organisation to enable their adherents to gain political power, but when I started to write about their target – South Carolina – I got sidetracked into going on about dining cars and Eartha Kitt. I shall start again:

The project is called Christian Exodus and if you find what follows hard to understand their website explains it in some detail. They believe that the US government under President Bush is committing atrocities by being soft on abortion, allowing the discredited theory of Darwinian evolution to be taught in schools, celebrating sodomy, and planning to outlaw the preaching of Christianity.

They are not at all pleased about this and have devised a strategy whereby, rather than spending resources in continued efforts to redirect the entire nation, they will redeem States one at a time. As they quite rightly point out, “millions of Christian conservatives are geographically spread out and diluted at the national level”. Therefore, they will concentrate their numbers in a geographical region with a sovereign government they can control through the electoral process.

What they are doing is moving thousands of Christian constitutionalists to specific cities and counties in South Carolina through a series of emigrations, believing “the values of this state to be very similar to the values held by our membership”.

The first move will begin when their organisation has 12,000 members, who will be “encouraged” to move to a selected city and county. “That number of activist émigrés, when combined with the present Christian electorate, will enable us to win the city council, the county council, elected law enforcement positions, and elected judgeships. We will then be able to protect our God-given and constitutionally protected rights within our local community.”

They reckon to move thousands into South Carolina by the end of 2008 and then start their political campaigns. This is only Phase One, of course; as migration proceeds, city, county and then state will fall, probably by 2016, and at that point there could be secession from the Union.

I can see several ways in which this plan may run into difficulties, but in a nation where, according to an opinion poll in the 1990s, 3.7 million people say they have been kidnapped by extra-terrestrials, anything is possible. It would be wrong for a foreigner to comment, but for the British there is some resonance with the 1980s misdeeds of Dame Shirley Porter, the "homes for votes" scandal, involving selling empty council houses and flats in Tory marginal wards to the professional middle classes and forcing the homeless to live outside the borough. But that of course was illegal, whereas Christian Exodus is presumably not; you couldn’t charge hundreds of thousands of migrants with gerrymandering, though the organisers might be at risk.

Monday, 22 November 2004

More brief encounters

Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty-nine…Boy, you can gimme a shine
I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo
I've got my fare and just a trifle to spare
You leave the Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you're in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham an' eggs in Carolina

I think I remember reading once that it should be ….ham and eggs in “Carolina”, because that was the name of the dining car, not the state which split into two in 1729, but I can find no confirmation of this, though if there had been a dining car so called it might have looked like this.

Then again, it might not.

Talking of the state, Eartha Kitt was born in South C. and had a pretty rotten time there. I knew her before she was famous; at least, I went to see Katherine Dunham’s dancers in London in the early fifties and read later that she had been one of the troupe. I also saw her after she was famous, as the star of a variety show at a huge cinema in CROYDON, for God’s sake. I’m not sure Orson Welles was right to say that she was the most exciting woman in the world, and it would be an exaggeration to say that these encounters played a major part in my life, but later I did go several times to see her in New Faces, a film of an American musical.
(There used to be a simple test for sophistication. You just asked the question Which would you rather be: kissed by Marilyn Monroe or bitten by Eartha Kitt? )

She had the finest diction of any singer I have ever heard, with every consonant perfectly in place, and sang rather well in several languages, unlike, for example, the boring Joan Baez who always sounded exactly the same, in whatever language she thought she was singing.

For news of Eartha in 2007, go here.

I realise that I have drifted away completely from the important matter I intended to discuss in this post, which actually has nothing at all to do with dining cars or Eartha Kitt. It will make the post too confusing if I start covering it now, so I will stop here and start again in my next post the day after tomorrow, unless some more urgent topic supervenes.

Saturday, 20 November 2004

Opinion poll

Here are the results of a poll based on face-to-face interviews carried out in the south of England over three weeks last month:

Question: How do you feel about being called “colleagues” rather than “staff”?

Replies (percentage of sample)
“I think it’s silly” (or variations) 42.86%
“Well, it’s nice, really, isn’t it?” 14.29%
“Pity the pay stays the same” 14.29%
[Don’t knows 28.57%]
[Note: There was no need for statistical weighting by age, gender, ethnicity, political inclination, financial status or other variables since the sample was not random but consisted solely of representatives of the group affected, that is to say Sainsbury’s check-out staff (or colleagues). A total of seven interviews took place, six in the work environment and one in a car park. The interviewer noted in his report that all respondents replied clearly and courteously.]

Making this survey and noting the results have convinced me that only one thing matters about titles or modes of address, and that is whether the persons concerned are happy with them.

Some years ago I was working with a local medical-cum-social charity which announced that its policy was to refer to prostitutes always as sex workers. I had two problems with this: first, had anyone ever asked them whether they liked this? When I first heard of it I thought of old Lucy who (so I was told) used to do it in the recreation ground for half-a-crown, and her likely horse laugh: “Oh, I wouldn’t call it work, dearie”. Second, what do you then call their pimps: sex work supervisors?


Friday, 19 November 2004

Dear old Tony

Most people’s names get longer as they get older, accumulating titles and decorations and perhaps dropping their abbreviated childish names for a more impressive full version.

But Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn became the 2nd Viscount Stansgate and finally Tony Benn, now not even with MP after his name since he resigned his seat “to devote more time to politics”.

How good it was to see the old rogue, interviewed yesterday on Channel Four News, still in cracking form at 79! It was a brilliant idea to get him to talk about Prince Charles’ pronouncements on education and society, which he gently dismissed, and to get him to respond with a few coolly contemptuous words to Chris Woodhead’s toadying comments about them. The discredited Woodhead looks increasingly irritable these days; his hopes of a K must have nearly gone by now and parroting Charles’ Edwardian views is hardly likely to revive them.

Thursday, 18 November 2004

Our lives in their hands

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Sorry, everybody

Since I last looked (yesterday) another thousand messages have been added.

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Sorry, World!

If you tell me you’ve broken both legs and have come out in boils all over, I might say “Oh, I am sorry!” but I am not apologising: it wasn’t my fault so why should I?
If Americans who did not vote for Bush say “Sorry!” they are not apologising, they are just regretting that there weren’t enough of them to ensure that Dubya was consigned to history.
It was a brilliant idea to provide webspace for them to express their regrets to the world, and already at SorryEverybody there are over four thousand illustrated messages (click "gallery"). This is the one that started it all off:

Their respective styles reflect the diversity of America: they are witty, sad, cute, ingenious, subtle, childish, profound, flippant, anguished, philosophical, hopeful, resigned, simple, elegant, or crude. But all of them, I would guess (I haven’t read the lot), are absolutely sincere.
It is heart-warming to read them; we knew all the time, while we were listening to the mouthings of the simple-minded bigots and the arrogant bullies, that Americans are not all like that, but it is salutary to be reminded.
And it is also good to see that the rest of the world has responded appropriately: there are many messages from non-Americans, saying, in effect : Sure, we know it wasn’t the fault of the 49% who voted against Bush. We admire them, and America still has our affection and respect.

(In response, some of the other 51% have set up websites of their own. Most of them, as one might expect, contain mainly illiterate and obscene abuse.)

Sunday, 14 November 2004

Lunching aloft

This is what it was like in 1927:

LUXURY IN AIR TRAVEL: Passengers enjoying a meal while rushing at 100 miles an hour, high through the air, on a journey between London and Paris.

And this was the aircraft. Is that the pilot's windscreen near the front, on top?

A TRIPLE-ENGINED "ARGOSY". Twenty people can be seated.

Nowadays of course, things are quite different. The flight takes a quarter of the time and the whole London-Paris journey twice as long. Bring your own sandwiches.

Friday, 12 November 2004

Bad guy, good guy

Watching Once Upon a Time in the West the other day, I realised that Henry Fonda’s role was as untypical as it could be; I had never seen him as a real baddie before. Good old blue-eyed Hank, for years he played the man you could trust, decent, honest, kind, Mr Integrity. In real life he was a difficult husband to his four wives and a rotten father to Peter and Jane, whose mother killed herself.

Another fine actor was Robert Ryan, who spent much of his career playing sadistic killers, self-pitying racists and assorted bullies. He played them brilliantly, without insinuating a trace of redeeming charm or humour.
But he was a concerned liberal in politics (“I have been in films pretty well everything I am dedicated to fighting against”, he once said) and lived happily and modestly for thirty-three years with his wife and his three children.

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

First Lines

I described in an earlier post the total lack of imagination which renders me incapable of writing a novel. But I did try once or twice, always to be overcome by a feeling of futility after penning a few depressing sentences.

I have recently been looking at the first lines of some highly successful pieces of writing to see if they have anything in common. They don’t, of course, except that they nearly all captured my interest in one way or another and made me want to read on, unlike my own attempts at opening sentences, which would make anybody want to close the book and do something else.

Here are twenty-five of them. Anyone who can identify (or guess at) the titles and authors of, say, fifteen is an ardent reader and has a good memory. This list wasn’t originally intended for a quiz so some are absurdly easy and others impossibly hard. Anyone who claims to know them all has either read the same books as I have or is a liar.

  • “We’re going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking.
  • The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls Royce Super Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers.
  • Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
  • There were four of us – George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.
  • The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn’t dropped dead at Taunton races Jim would never have come to Thursgood’s.
  • Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots smashed into my groin, and I was off on the greatest adventure of my life.
  • During the whole of a dull, dark and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country…
  • At the first glimpse of light the aerodrome wakes to life. As a matter of fact it never sleeps.
  • For several successive days, the scraps and tatters of a routed army had been moving through the city. (translation)
  • I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. If I call it a novel it is only because I don't know what else to call it. I have little story to tell and I end neither with a death nor with a marriage.
  • Twilight over meadow and water, the eve-star shining above the hill, and old Nog the heron crying kra-a-ark!..
  • It began with an advertisement in the Agony Column of the Times. I always read the Agony Column first and the news (if there is time) afterwards.
  • Madam, I sit down to give you an undeniable proof of my considering your desires as indispensable orders.
  • The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset.
  • Of course, I have no right whatsoever to write down the truth about my life, involving as it naturally does the lives of so many other people…
  • It is doubtful whether the gift was innate. For my own part, I think it came to him suddenly.
  • It is a curious thing that at my age—fifty-five last birthday—I should find myself taking up a pen to try to write a history. I wonder what sort of a history it will be when I have finished it, if ever I come to the end of the trip!
  • It is cold at six-forty in the morning of a March day in Paris, and it seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.
  • I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy.
  • The sky grew darker and darker as the morning wore on. By the time the coffee came round it was like a winter evening, and there were lights in all the windows that looked down on Hand and Ball Court.
  • "I wonder when in the world you're going to do anything, Rudolf?" said my brother's wife.
  • Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork.
  • At daybreak Billy Buck emerged from the bunkhouse and stood for a moment in the porch looking up at the sky.
  • I am going to take you back a matter of four or five years ago to an August afternoon and the race track at Saratoga, which is a spot in New York state very pleasant to behold.
  • "The marvellous thing is that it's painless," he said, "that's how you know when it starts".

  • Answers are HERE

    Monday, 8 November 2004

    Phone company launches foolish and illegal war

    There's no doubt about the winner of this month's Being Out of Touch With World Opinion Prize.
    A company called Toucan, "part of major global telecoms provider IDT", is running quarterpage advertisements with the theme:

    What do BT and John Kerry have in common?
    They both came second.
    And look who came first.
    (uSwitch Service Ratings November 2004: 1st Toucan, 2nd BT)

    I wouldn't have thought it was possible, with one ad, to give your company a thoroughly unsavoury image and at the same time make people feel warm towards our own much disliked BT. Bravo!

    Or are they well aware of the extent to which most of the world despises George W Bush, and this is intended as brilliant irony? Shall we all try to find out by calling 0800 0613535 and asking Toucan's Press Office?

    Sunday, 7 November 2004

    Writers’ limitations

    I started serious writing when I was ten, with a very short story called A Cumbersome Carthorse. When I re-read it in later years I realized that the plot was unrealistic, the dialogue feeble and the characterization nil. It barely deserved the 7 out of 10 that I got for it, and apart from its other weaknesses I accepted the justice of a comment which I much resented at the time, which was simply: Handwriting!

    By then I had also realised that I was never going to be able to write fiction. I had become a competent amateur hack and earned a few pounds from a quarter of a million words of criticism, whimsy, and parody, but I knew that thinking up interesting characters, and exciting things to happen to them, and amusing lines for them to speak, would forever be beyond me.
    Even some great writers may recognise their limitations, though few have described them with as light a touch as James Thurber. He knew that he was not a novelist and, further:

    “… Of course, there is always the drama, but that is just as difficult for me. I have tried a couple of plays and I always run into appalling problems. One of these is that my plays are always over at the end of the first act. There is never any reason in the world any of the characters should ever see each other again. Another problem is that although the people I put in plays talk quite glibly, they don’t do anything. They just sit there. I once wrote a whole act in which nobody moved. The expedient of going back over such an act and having the characters shift from chair to sofa and back again, smoking cigarettes, is not much of a help.
    It is also extremely difficult to get characters on and off the stage dexterously. It may look easy, but it isn’t easy. I have frequently had to resort to dogfights. 'I must go out and separate those dogs' is not, however, a sound or convincing exit line for someone you have to get off the stage. Furthermore, you can only use the dogfight device once unless the dogs are total strangers who have been tied up together in the back yard, and that would have to be explained. You can’t explain the relationship of two dogs, particularly two dogs your audience hasn’t seen, in less than thirty seconds, and thirty seconds is a long time in the theatre. The critics would write that the play was a noisy prank which nobody need go to see if he has anything else to do at all."
    The New Yorker, 1934

    Thursday, 4 November 2004

    The morning after...

    Now that all the too-close-to-calls have ended, there are new topics for the commentators to get their teeth into, such as: What has been learnt? and What now? Here are brief extracts from, and links to, three of the best pieces which have already appeared:
    Divide and rule ... for now
    “It's a bitter pill to swallow, but one that should hopefully lead to a brighter future. Bush owns his messes, and now he'll be forced to clean them up. He won't be able to hide behind 9/11 seven years into his term.
    So how did Bush even get this far? By demonising an entire group of people -- gays and lesbians. By cynical appeals to religion. By slandering a true war hero. And, most importantly, by scaring people. You see, terrorists would detonate a nuclear bomb in a major city if Kerry were elected. Only Bush can protect us.”
    Divided nation
    “….four out of five voters who cited moral values as their key issue voted for President Bush - as did the same proportion of those who cited terrorism.
    In contrast, those most concerned about the economy voted four to one for Senator Kerry, as did three in four of those who cited Iraq as their main concern.”
    Demonic nonsense
    “A crucial legacy of the past year is the experience of political engagement that vast numbers of Americans have gained for the first time. Among my friends in the States, who by their own admission were stupendously inactive under Bush senior and Clinton, I now notice a stiffening of the sinews and a sense that politics can be affected by mass involvement. Something has dropped into place - principally, an understanding that if you don't pay attention, a man like Bush can get away with murder.”

    Some of the comments in these articles made me feel fractionally less pessimistic about the future, and the thought that 48% of the voters of the most powerful nation on earth are in substantial agreement with 95% of the rest of the world's inhabitants can't be bad and cheered me up a little.

    Wednesday, 3 November 2004

    Brief Encounter

    Looking up the script of Citizen Kane the other day to check a reference reminded me that a few years ago one of our Sunday columnists was writing about great passions, in literature or real life, and asking his readers which one they thought endured the longest following the shortest contact. This was my nomination:

    Everett Sloane as the aged Bernstein:
    One day back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on a ferry, and as we pulled out there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I bet a month hasn’t gone by since, that I haven’t thought of that girl.

    Tuesday, 2 November 2004

    Big day for His Imperial Majesty

    Today is a religious holiday in the Rastafarian calendar, marking the date of Haile Selassie's 1930 coronation as Emperor Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia.

    One of my young grand-daughters bears his name, though she is no relation, has none of his titles and spells it differently.

    Monday, 1 November 2004

    An Evening of Love Songs

    At the beginning of the twentieth century there were 27,000 cafés in Paris. 150 of them had begun to provide shows where “..audiences came and went at whatever point in the night's entertainment they pleased. Almost any attire was acceptable. Food and drink might be served during the performances, at which the audience commented freely and sometimes participated. The performers had to be aggressive to compete with the smoke, noise, waiters, flower sellers, and buskers”. Such an establishment was called a café-concert or café-conc’ (be careful not to abbreviate it further).

    In my town something similar still flourishes………
    Once a week at a local café there is some kind of show. It might be cabaret, a recital, a jazz concert, a demonstration of belly-dancing or almost anything that people would pay a little to watch. For £10 you get the entertainment and a good simple meal; the performers get a free supper and maybe a small fee, and everyone has a whale of a time.

    Last November the group providing an evening’s entertainment consisted of one distinguished professional singer, one pianist, six talented amateur singers, and me; our ages ranged from eleven to ninety.
    We had intended to present twenty of the greatest love songs of all time (excluding opera), but we found we could only select from those songs which one or another of us was willing and able to sing. But there was still plenty of choice: here were the ones we chose and some notes about them. Each one was supposed to illustrate one of the many aspects of love.

    1 As Time Goes By (Love Nostalgic)
    No-one ever actually said “Play it again Sam”, but when Ingrid Bergmann turned up in Rick’s Bar, of all the bars in all the world, she said to Dooley Wilson “Play it, Sam”, and he did.

    2 Come Into The Garden, Maud (Love Waiting)
    If you take a distinguished poem and set it to magnificent music you can make a beautiful song. If you can do this more than six hundred times then you were probably born in Vienna and your name is Franz Schubert. If, on the other hand, you were born in Ireland and your name is Michael Balfe, then you cannot aspire to this achievement, but you can take an extract from a rather piffling monodrama by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, set it to music and create a charming little song.

    3 Hymne à l’Amour (Love Committed)
    Many marvellous songs depend almost entirely for their effect on the interpretation, but (for example) Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis Presley couldn’t be there, mainly because they’re all dead. But one song of this kind we really had to include, so we cheated and played Edith Piaf's recording of it.
    In 1949 she was in New York preparing for a concert at Carnegie Hall when she heard that the great love of her life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, who was flying to join her, had been killed when his plane crashed into the Atlantic. She had many other lovers and husbands before she died in 1963, but when she sang this song it was always for Marcel Cerdan. (Sung in French)

    4 None But the Lonely Heart (Love bereft)
    A song by Tchaikovsky based on a poem by Goethe. (Sung in Russian)

    5 The Boy in the Gallery (Love confident)In this one the singer knows where her boy friend is and knows that he loves her.

    6 Pretty little Polly Perkins of Paddington Green (Love Spurned)
    All too frequently it happens that the love of a good and honest man is spurned by a proud and ambitious woman, and we all know how that feels. This song tells just such a sad story.

    7 Silent Worship (Love hopeless)
    A beautiful song of really hopeless love. We were half expecting that after that song some small-minded idiot would cry out “Why did you include Silent Worship? You said you were excluding songs from opera and everyone knows that this was originally an aria from Handel’s 1728 opera Tolomeo.” (We had a good answer ready for this: we would have replied “Why don’t you shut up?”)

    8 O Sole Mio (Love Neapolitan)
    A woman called Helen Lawrenson once put in a great deal of international fieldwork on the subject of love and then summarised her conclusions in a book called Latins Are Lousy Lovers. This presumably included Neapolitans but at least they have some nice love songs and this is one. (Sung in Italian)

    9 Frühlingstraum (Love longing)
    Of course we had to have a Schubert song. Its English title is Dream of Spring and it is from Die Winterreise, a cycle of poems by Wilhelm Müller.(Sung in German)

    10 The Foggy Foggy Dew (Love illicit)
    A traditional song arranged by Benjamin Britten.

    11 A la Claire Fontaine (Love lost)
    An old traditional French song often sung by old traditional French men after they’ve been dipping their beaks in the Beaujolais. (Sung in French)

    12 The Man I Love (Love hopeful)
    In this song the girl not merely gives a detailed specification for her future love, but describes exactly what she believes will happen when they meet. One can only wish her the best of luck.

    13 Ochi Chornya (Love admiring)
    An old Russian song called in English Dark Eyes. We had hoped that the accompaniment would be provided by a famous balalaika player who had agreed to fly in for this evening but unfortunately his flight was held up in Tbilisi by a band of marauding Azerbaijanis, so we had to improvise. Our baritone introduced himself as follows:
    I am famous old Russian singer. For many years the Theatre of Moscow and the Theatre of Petrograd were disputing about my singing. The Theatre of Petrograd wanted me to sing in Moscow, and The Theatre of Moscow preferred that I stay in Petrograd. That is why I sing Ochi Chornya for you tonight in Hastings, Sussex. (Sung in Russian)

    14 Send in the Clowns (Love wistful)
    From Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: not the Rondo Allegro with words set to it, but a song from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

    15 Plaisir d’Amour (Love betrayed)
    A French song in which the singer tells how he gave up everything for Sylvie but she left him and took another lover. Not surprisingly, this gives him a jaundiced view of love. (Sung in French)

    16 Greensleeves (Love complaining)
    We didn’t sing this, but told the story of its origin while the melody was played on the piano. There is a fuller version HERE.
    According to Michael Flanders, 1542 was a very bad year for the theatre. Gorboduc was doing poor business at The Globe, and people were obsessed with cock-fighting and bear-baiting and didn’t give a fig for the live theatre.
    But a leading London producer, the Cameron Mackintosh of the day, came up with the idea of putting on a musical. So he hired some top minstrels and acquired the rights to some good tunes, and they started to prepare the production. But they were stuck for a good number to end the first half—a First-Act Closer, as it’s called. The Musical Director tried out some tunes on the virginals but none of them was up to much until they came to this one. The producer listened and said “Verily, 'tis a passing melodious roundelay, but I doubt me an it will get into the charts. Who wrote it, anyway?”. And a voice from the back of the auditorium called out “We did!”. They peered at a large figure in the darkness and asked “Who are you?”, and the reply came back: “We are Henry the Eighth, We are”.
    After that of course they put the number in the musical and it ran for years under the title Don’t Look Now Ladies of 1542.
    And that is why, nowadays, in plays or films set any time between, say, 1500 and 1750, for incidental music Greensleeves is always played. And the royalties go to....Royalty.

    17 Spring Song (Love vernal)
    Most of the songs we sang have words which tell a story or paint a picture, But there are songs which need no words. If you want to describe a really despicable person, you might say that he is the sort of chap who would sell his grandmother to the old clothes man, or you could say that he is the sort of chap who would put words to Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words.
    The one we sang was originally called Camberwell Green, because that is where it was written, in June 1842. Nowadays it is called Spring Song. But what's it got do with Love? Well, first, in silent films when the heroine was tripping dewy-eyed through a cornfield to meet her lover, the pianist always played this. Second, we all know what a young man’s fancy lightly turns to in Spring. (Piano)

    18 Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine (Love tolerant)
    A woman in love with a man of bad character has three options if she wants to stay with him: she can shut her eyes and pretend she doesn’t know of his faults, she can try to believe that she can improve him, or she can accept his failings. The woman in this song takes the third and most sensible course.

    19 What Then Is Love (Love urgent)
    From a Book of Ayres published jointly in 1601 by Thomas Campion and his friend Philip Rosseter.

    20 She Was Poor, But She was Honest (Love betrayed)
    We ended with another sad story. This is a Victorian song, but some may feel that that the injustice described in the refrain persists until the present day.
    It's the same the ‘ole world over.
    It's the poor what gets the blame.
    It's the rich that gets the pleasure.
    Ain't it all a bleeding shame?

    By the time we finished the wine had been flowing freely for three hours so we got a standing ovation, but no-one has yet asked us to do it again.