Friday, 20 April 2012

Message for Waldstein

For many years it was believed that Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 21 in C was named after one of his patrons. It is true that Beethoven did dedicate the work to Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein of Vienna, but it acquired its popular name for quite a different reason.

The composer had a very dear friend called Mr Waldstein. They had both studied counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger in 1795 and kept up a relationship by correspondence for some years. By 1804, however, Beethoven had started to make a name for himself while his friend's career had faltered, and, perhaps through jealousy, Waldstein had stopped replying to Beethoven's letters. This hurt Beethoven deeply, and in the sonata he wrote in that year he included a coded message in the first movement, intended as a gentle reminder.

It was a plaintive melody, GFEDC, DEFGF, and it meant "Oh, Mr Waldstein, why don't you ring me?"

Sadly, there is no record of him ever getting a response.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

A bit of flavour

When staying away from home I used to be an enthusiastic Full English man. Sitting down to make a choice among twenty items, knowing that whatever you have will make no difference to the cost, was a inspiring way to start the day. At a really good hotel you don't even have to choose: you can order the lot, starting, say with two poached eggs and finishing with kedgeree (omitting silly hash browns, of course, nothing English about them). I was once encouraged by a helpful waitress not to regard kippers and black pudding as alternatives but to have them both, before the bacon, fried bread, mushrooms and sausage.

At home all this is too much bother, and anyway is bad for one's health, so over the years I have found simpler breakfasts suit me better. Some of the healthier options are not too bad: a slice or two of a new white loaf, lightly toasted, spread (sparingly, as it tells you on the pot)with salted creamery butter and Patum Peperium,The Gentleman's Relish, Est 1828,  or, thickly, with taramasalata (the kind with smoked salmon in it is good) are quite acceptable.

But looming over the breakfast scene is the horror of cereals. It's not that there is little choice; every supermarket has a whole aisle of colourful boxes, containing fifty varieties of the stuff: some consisting of polystyrene, some of dust with bits in, called muesli, some which degrade to a brown sludge when you add milk, some tasting of straw and some made almost entirely of sugar. There is one called Grape-Nuts, invented in 1897 by C.W. Post, a competitor of Kellogg, containing neither grapes nor nuts. This was part of the Jungle Rations which were given to American soldiers from 1939 and in WWII, as if they didn't have enough troubles: it is like eating gravel.

However, I have recently discovered a way of making a plateful of breakfast cereal almost edible: choose a bland and harmless one and, before you put in the milk (or, better, crème fraîche), add a tablespoonful of lemon curd.  

This will not actually be very nice, but it's not as disgusting as anything else you can do with cereal (like the dreadful gritty buns suggested by the manufacturers of All-Bran).  


Tuesday, 10 April 2012


"Just what we need, darling, do stop and get a couple!"

Easy to see why the poor fellow looks so glum.
They often fall off on the terrible roads but there are few cars so there's very little demand for the things in Azerbaijan.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ten Questions: 101-110

101   The Andean and California are two species of what?

102   What links Louis Armstrong, Oliver Tambo, John Lennon, George Best?

103   What's the lowest prime number consisting of consecutive digits?

104   What is the English title of the old song known to the French as "Les adieux du soldat"?

105   "The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small..." Translated from what language, and by whom?

106   Which country is the fastest-growing exporter of kosher products on earth?

107   How many silloths in an ephah?

108   What is

109   Who is this? Clue: This photo was taken in 1965 when he was in disguise, aged 37. Two years later he died.

110   "The best things in life are free”. Why might chiropodists interpret this as a piece of professional advice?