Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

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Monday, August 09, 2004
Here I am, home again and seated at this keyboard once more. I plonk myself down on the old swivel chair almost reluctantly. It's like picking up the threads of a soap opera you haven't been watching: you know that you will be sucked in after five minutes and don't quite want to surrender your hard-won indifference. What brought me back this evening was learning of the death of Bernard Levin.

I remember our old gas fire we had in the 70s. It's a mercy it didn't kill me, that fire. It certainly gave me some memorable headaches when I lay too long on the rug next to it, as I used to after breakfast, reading the Times, having recently discovered that there was a point to this paper-reading my father did. My favourite bit was the double page in the middle where the Times people didn't just say what had happened but what they thought about it. It gradually dawned on me that the columns that made me most joyfully indignant (children love being indignant) about the evils of communism or of apartheid all had the name "Levin" on top of them.

A year or two ago I re-read a column (was it one of several?) that had particularly entranced me when I first read it in front of the fire. It had featured the adventures of a character called "John Cheekykaffir" and, with a sarcasm pretty and poisonous as liquid mercury, parodied the official pronouncements of the South African government regarding the death of Biko. Perhaps some PC virus has germinated in my soul, but second time round it wasn't quite as good as I remembered - or perhaps my desire to believe that having half my life behind me involves some gain as well as loss does not permit anything that appealed so much to my childhood self to appeal equally now. But this holds up gloriously. The chap who provides the link seems to have come across it by way of a discussion of the best flooring for operas, and that is indeed what it is all about.

"The Theatre Royal in Wexford holds 440; it was completely full. . . so there are, allowing for a few who have already died . . . hardly more than four hundred people who now share, to the end of their lives, an experience from which the rest of the world, now and for ever, is excluded. When the last of us dies, the experience will die with us, for although it is already enshrined in legend, no one who was not an eye witness will ever really understand what we felt. . .
Most of those four hundred must be gone now, including the author, who did, despite what he says, a very good job of sharing the experience with us.

Here's some vintage Levin abuse of trendy artists who whip off a production-line caricature of some disliked political leader and then call themselves "dissidents" because not absolutely everyone oohs and aahs like their own circle.

Here he is on the family of his favourite composer:

With the possible exception of the House of Atreus, I cannot think of a line more dreadfully cursed, from generation to generation, than the family Wagner ... To the hideous warp in his own personality he then proceeded to ally the rancid blood of Franz Liszt...
On Anton Webern's Six Orchestral Pieces:
... an average for each item of five plinks, two plonks and a grrrrrr.
On Peter Brook's Mahabharata:
Heroes abound, their heroisms subtly differentiated; beauty draws men with a single hair; miraculous births and magic powers abound; great vows are sworn; honour is honoured; noble renunciations are made, indentities are uncertain; hate and love, lust and chastity, blood and earth, cruelty and forgiveness, faith and treachery - all these clash and mingle, exchange roles, reveal new meanings.

And on dogs:

... a loathsome spaniel (not that there is any other kind of spaniel)...

And here's how I got into blogging before I knew what blogging was:

A few months before I first heard of blogs I went to a careers counsellor. He asked me what I dreamed of doing. I said, "I want to be like Bernard Levin used to be in the Times." Levin used to have a near daily column where he wrote about whatever took his fancy: politics, opera or whatever. "Can I do that and get paid for it?" I asked. His answer boiled down to "Yes and not much," which was spot on...

I won't ever have Bernard Levin's job, but my desire to be like him is undiminished. I wish it hadn't been Alzheimer's that took him.