How wonderful to see the Women’s FA Cup Final on BBC1, showing that progress continues despite misogynistic reactions around the globe. The schoolgirls who, this time last year, wrote those brilliant letters to the FA (“We aren’t brainless Barbie dolls”) will be delighted—not a pink fluffy football in sight.
Among numerous posts under the gender tag, see e.g. “Little Miss Mozart“; Vera and Doris; Cunk on femininism; You don’t own me; and how men moved the goalposts for women’s football in medieval China.
“I dunno, they’ll be demanding control over their own bodies next”.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal looks on ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
It’s all very well me swanning off to China (see flurry of posts since 14th March) and Germany, but one has to keep up with the domestic news. OK, the Windrush affair is shameful, but on a lighter note:
- The imminent departure of Arsène Wenger from Arsenal has finally produced the tributes he deserves (for his classy send-off, see here). Football will never see his like again. And if you haven’t noticed my post on Daoist football, then DO!
- And meanwhile in the snooker, the gorgeous and inspired Ronnie is back in action!!! I’m getting this in early (his next match is on Friday), as one never knows, but beholding him is always a thing of magic. Whether or not he progresses further, here’s my occasional reminder that you just have to watch his 147 maximum break from 1997—I will accept no excuses.
And I have another episode of Cunk in Britain to catch up on too!
More local cultural knowledge:
One morning in Maida Vale studios, as the great Pierre Boulez was rehearsing the BBC Symphony Orchestra, he stopped and said suavely,
“Please, we play again from measure* 180.”
Brilliant cockney percussionist Gary Kettel, from the back of the orchestra, punched the air gleefully and screamed out,
“ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTYYY!!!”
Since Boulez’s broad erudition didn’t stretch to the world of UK darts, he was somewhat nonplussed [‘Ow you say in French?] by Gary’s recondite allusion to the fabled score of three triple 20s. Still, he and Gary always had the utmost respect for each other’s musicianship.
*Boulez always used the French word for “bar”. Endearingly, he called the cor anglais “ze English ‘orn”.
UPDATE: Cosmic Justice has at least temporarily proved itself amidst a troubled world—I wrote this in the early stages of the UK tournament, but now Ronnie’s won it yet again in another inspiring display!
With his natural grace, Ronnie O’Sullivan is often compared to Roger Federer, but he’s in a league of his own, transcending sport. If you haven’t watched his maximum break from 1997, then do—it’s not merely a world record that is likely to stand for all time, but a thing of exquisite fluent beauty, reminiscent of the nuanced touch of a great musician.
After the morose introspection of yesteryear, Ronnie has come through the early years of obsession and addiction (lessons here for the claustrophobic hothouse of WAM virtuosos), and he’s on great form these days, with a kind of earthy Daoist detachment:
More from Alan Bennett’s diaries. I’m filing this 2009 entry under heritage:
23 August. […] I’m glad I’m not a theatregoer living in Elsinore. All they must ever get are productions of Hamlet, while what they’re probably longing for is Move Over, Mrs Markham or Run For Your Wife.
His keen eye for footballers’ physiognomy is in evidence again (2010):
7 April. The open mouth of Frank Lampard, having scored a goal, is also the howl on the face of the damned man in Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement.
This entry depends on a certain cultural knowledge that might challenge translators:
5th July. A child in Settle is said to have asked what the Mafia was and his grandfather said, “It’s like the Settle Rotary Club, only with guns.”
And he often shows his political involvement. When a speech in favour of the NHS from his early play Getting on is well received, he is encouraged to go on
25 July, Yorkshire. […] whereas nowadays the state is a dirty word, for my generation the state was a saviour, delivering us out of poverty and want (and provincial boredom) and putting us on the road to a better life; the state saved my father’s life, my mother’s sanity and my own life too. “So when I hear politicians taking about pushing back the boundaries of the state I think”—only I’ve forgotten what it is I think so I just say: “I think… bollocks.” This, too, goes down well, though I’d normally end a performance on a more elegiac note.
As Kate Fox observes, the creativity of the English language reveals itself at multiple levels.
The fragrant Gary Lineker recalls how the the team-mates of the footballer Kiki Musampa called him Chris (think about it). There are more where that came from, like Fitz Hall—known as One Size.
Brian Smith, a “straight” symphony-orchestra violinist who became a semi-detached admission to the rarefied early music scene in the 1980s, had a whole series of drôle nicknames for his new colleagues, making his conversation surreal: “I think Identikit’s gone off with Ironing Board”. Once word got round that I was making regular trips to China, I became The Missionary. He only used the real names of musos who had a life outside early music and thus qualified as Real People.
Conductors’ nicknames are another rich vein under the rubric of maestro-baiting. The great Charles Mackerras was known as Slasher—not an allusion to his conducting technique, but an abbreviation of his anagram: Slasher M. Earcrack.
Some gems from Alan Bennett’s 2005 diaries, in his recent collection Keeping on keeping on:
1 May. Martha, Charlotte and James’s youngest, has been slow to read but now aged eight is making great strides, particularly enjoying spelling. She is being given additional tuition by the father of a friend, a retired teacher who is also employed by Manchester United; the foreign half of the squad he is teaching to speak English, the English half he is teaching to read and write.
8 December. I buy a bottle of organic wine at Fresh and Wild and looking at the label see that it says “Suitable for Vegetarians and Vagrants”. Momentarily I think, “Well, that’s thoughtful, someone admitting that winos deserve consideration like everyone else”, before realizing, of course, that it says not “vagrants” but “vegans”.
16 December. Roy Keane has the face of a mercenary. Meet him before the walls of fifteenth-century Florence and one’s heart would sink.