Thursday 31 December 2020

New Year's Eve

 This time last year I was in transit, somewhere between Singapore and Auckland (remember international travel? Fun, wasn't it?) with no idea what the new year was going to bring. No more have I any idea now, but I shan't be cranking up my progonstickation engine; rather I'll be looking back on 2020, and, this blog being what it is, remembering the high points, upsides and abundant pleasures.  
  2020 was the year in which I largely abandoned Radio 4 – something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago – and made Radio 3 my default network, a musical refuge amid all the madness. It was a good year to do it too, being the great Beethoven anniversary, an occasion to which Radio 3 rose splendidly. I ended the year more thoroughly convinced than ever of Beethoven's staggering musical genius. My greatest musical discovery of the year, though, I owe not to Radio 3 but to a tip-off from an old friend of this blog, Mahlerman: it was Teodor Currentzis's breathtaking Rameau album, The Sound of Light, to which I have become thoroughly addicted. (Beethoven aside, most of my listening and my musical exploration has been in the world of Baroque.) 
  Lockdown 1 – how long ago it seems – brought the welcome sound of silence, and with it birdsong, never before so clear and so welcome. With scarcely any cars on the road, the air became very much sweeter, and being a pedestrian a good deal easier – effects that, sadly, were not replicated in subsequent 'lockdowns'. Meanwhile, with spells of glorious weather recurring throughout the spring and summer, walking in my local bits of countryside was more delightful than ever – and, in terms of butterfly encounters, hugely rewarding. So much so that it sparked the idea of writing a short butterfly-themed book, which I am now engaged in doing, at my customary snail's pace; I'm hoping to have it finished by spring or thereabouts. By which time – here's another piece of 2020 good news – a fifth grandchild will be in the world, and happily near at hand, not in the Antipodes.
  The first lockdown also gave me the impetus and opportunity to go through 'my papers' – making some surprising, mostly pleasant discoveries – to write a brief memoir (not for publication) and read one of those big fat classics I'd never got round to: Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed, which I enjoyed very much more than I'd expected. Other highlights of the reading year included another big fat book I'd long been meaning to get round to – Jenny Uglow's excellent The Lunar Men – and A.J.A. Symons's extraordinary 'experiment in biography' The Quest for Corvo. Vikram Seth's An Equal Music was a mixed pleasure, but musically rewarding, and I greatly enjoyed the earlier, more youthful parts of Fanny Burney's diaries, while Elizabeth von Arnim's Vera flabbergasted me, and Kay Ryan's essay collection Synthesizing Gravity stimulated me (and made me laugh). Oddly, despite 'lockdown', this hasn't been a particularly rich book year for me, partly perhaps because I've been reading or rereading so many butterfly books. One of these in particular, Jeremy Thomas's Butterflies of Britain and Ireland (the full-sized edition), beautifully illustrated by Richard Lewington, has given me enormous pleasure.  
  This was also the year in which I finally took out a Netflix subscription. It proved to be worth it for the Coen brothers' astonishing western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – my most memorable viewing experience in some while. On the art front, there was only one highlight, but what a highlight – the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of Titian's reunited Poesie at the National Gallery. Simply stunning.
  With so many planned excursions, walks and breaks abandoned, it seems all but miraculous that we managed the traditional short family holiday in Dieppe, returning just days ahead of the latest round of quarantining. The few excursions I did manage in the course of the year are all the more precious for their scarcity, especially my visits to Lincoln, Lichfield, Newark and other Mercian parts. I have high hopes for more travel, both at home and abroad, next year...
  And with that I'll wish all who frequent this corner of the ever shrinking blogscape a very Happy New Year. Here's to better things!

1 comment:

  1. No international travel allowed... No more Canadá from Brazil. Not funny até ALL. Happy New year