August 07, 2004

Scarborough and other fare

I'm off to Scarborough tomorrow, to play in a sub-tournament (the Harry Baines Week Two) at the British Chess Championships. Two hard games of chess a day isn't really the ideal way to recover when you've been off sick with stress since the beginning of June.

Nor is agreeing with the Occupational Health doctor on a Friday morning that you'll come back to work on the 23rd and then finding on the Friday afternoon that said doctor has emailed my boss saying I have agreed to come back on the 16th (which I haven't, and which I won't). So now I have to worry about whether I'm going to be expected to come back a week earlier than I'm planned, whether it's going to look like I'm swinging the lead, whether some sort of difficulty or conflict is going to come out of it. None of which makes me feel anything other than anxious, stressed, and destabilised, worried about going back to work, worried generally. So well done, doc.

I realised what that gated community reminded me of: a Jewish settlement in the West Bank or Gaza. I don't suppose the yuppies are going to go round trying to shoot down the kids off the council estate (or vice versa) but otherwise the attitude, and the alienation, of the implanted community in relation to its surroundings isn't so very different.

It's funny, when you hear reports of "settlements" you tend to think of homesteads or something, like it was Shane. Then you see photographs of them and they look like the MI5 building, but in the middle of the desert. And I suppose that's none too surprising, either, when you think about it, as the idea of the Westerns was to give the impression of a few brave and isolated settlers fighting against incredible odds, whereas the reality, of the West, of the America that created the myth, and of Israel today, is of forces which have all the firepower and all the odds stacked in their favour.

I'd say the same was true of the gated community too. There they are, imagining that they're cowering under their beds at the fear of crime, but who is having the greater and more destructive impact on whom?

(I should have said, not least in order to escape all this negativity, that there are some lovely co-operative estates just round the corner, across the Caledonian Road. Clean, nice, friendly. And nobody is fenced in or gated out.)

That Stella music turns out to be La Forza del Destino by Verdi. I thought it sounded like Verdi. Perhaps, when I get back, I will try to say some things about classical music, why I have come to love it and why I think it has an emotional range, a depth and nuance that pop music doesn't really possess. I have been typing while listening to Tchaikovsky's Fifth, the Symphonie Pathetique, which I videoed a few days ago from a broadcast of a Prom. Perhaps I tend to the overwrought more easily than most, but when they play that unbearable theme, I cannot write, cannot do anything, but sit and wait for it to stop.


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