Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Putney Sofka Zinovieff

PutneyPutney by Sofka Zinovieff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I approach books that have been 'hyped' with caution. Many of the books I think I should enjoy, admire, devour become turgid feats of endurance. Others, often books picked up on a whim, become page-turning treasures. This is one book that straddles both categories: it came recommended (highly) but I only started reading it on a whim the other day. But then couldn't stop. Literally couldn't stop until I got to the end. It was like a reading marathon, complete with runners' high. To say anything ordinary about the book seems inadequate. It's got depth, atmosphere, plot, twists, ideas and poetry. I suppose if I was to have one criticism it is that it ultimately comes to a rather predictable conclusion, after starting with a boundary-destroying daring that is almost breathtaking. Still, well worth reading. (Approach with caution!)

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Friday, 8 March 2019

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Or, if you prefer, factum Romanis quid nobis bono?

Well, there's the aqueduct. And there's Horrible Histories. I mean, where would HH be without the Romans to make fun of. (I know, I know, they've got - like - the whole of history to have a go at, but still... the Romans are a pretty big part of it. Big enough, in fact, to warrant an entire film all to themselves.

Yes, the award-winning Horrible Histories comes to the big screen this summer (July - named, of course, after Julius Caesar, but you knew that... didn't you? - 26th to be precise).

Here's a teaser...

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Lord, Have Mercy...

It's that time of year again. Ok, it might not be the best music ever written and it might not even be being sung at the service for which it was written, but it's become synonymous with the start of Lent and not just since Roy Goodman jogged off the rugger pitch into King's chapel and recorded what became the stand-out version for many years.

If you want to hear boys today since top Cs then listen to the Today programme this morning. (Lord have mercy on the BBC producer who made these lads do one of the most difficult things in music at five to nine in the morning... in a bloody broom cupboard!)

Personally, I've always preferred girls...


Friday, 22 February 2019

Behinds... at the museum

Twilight at the Museums is an annual feature of February half-term at Cambridge. Museums, churches, galleries and buildings across the city (and beyond) stay open late and let you come and look around by torchlight. And it's free!

There's plenty to choose from, including dinosaurs at the Sedgwick Museum, medieval manuscripts at the University Library and classical bums at the Museum of Classical Archeology. I kid you not. Did you know the latter venerable collection is the top museum in England for bottoms? No, neither did I.

You certainly learn something new every day. And Cambridge is, after all, one of our most venerable seats (yes, yes, pun intended) of learning. And the annual twilight events add an extra dimension of fun to the proceedings, so... next year (I'm afraid you've missed it for 2019) look out here for the programme, and then take your pick.

My one gripe about an otherwise excellent event is that it all takes place on the same day. If only there was some way of spreading the events throughout the week, we could all see a lot more.

As it is we saw (and heard, sung) some of the oldest (and largest) medieval musical manuscripts in existence - in one case, effectively from the time before music was even written down. The world-famous Consolations of Philosophy contain squiggles (called neumes) designed as no more than an aide-memoire to the melody that this famous dialogue with 'Lady Philosophy' would have been sung to 1000 years ago.

A couple of years ago a team from Cambridge University managed through a remarkable feat of musical detective work to reconstruct the music, and so we were treated to a candlelit recital (don't worry, the candles weren't real. The books were, though!) of the oldest music ever written. It looks a lot like this.

Other MS on display on Wednesday looked like this...

And this...

(Note the helpful finger pointing the singer to the next line of music on the following page!)

And then, of course, there were the bums. This one belongs to Venus...

Other backsides - belonging variously to Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Cupid and a host of other gods plus innumerable unnamed Graeco-Roman athletes - are, of course, available.

In a-bun-dance...

And all so attractively lit.

Although if the lighting isn't quite to your liking, they even provide you with torches.

Spot on!
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