We spend our years as a tale that is told (Psalm 90.9).
And what of this year’s story? In many respects, the plot-line will have many of the same themes as in previous years. On the one hand: resolutions made and broken; disappointments, with ourselves and others; uncertainties and anxieties; illness and infirmities of body and mind; losses and heartaches; failures of confidence and faculty; self-delusion and folly; and anger and regret. Life, thus conceived, ‘is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing’ (Macbeth). On the other hand, the story may also be distinguished by: surprising opportunities; moments of unspeakable joy and peace; hopes realised; ambitions achieved; love and good given and received; and limitations overcome. But it’s likely that people rather than events will contribute most to that story.
8.15 am: A communion. 9.00 am: The next few weeks would be routine predictability on an industrial scale. Before marking recommenced, I applied myself pruning my inbox and addressing postgraduate admin:
(In the background: Charlie Christian (1916–42) – one of the earliest and greatest performers on electric guitar, and a precursor of bebop. He died of tuberculosis, aged 25. His life was a short story of immense significance for his field. He held the guitar’s neck like Hendrix would.):
(Inevitably, my ears moved towards Django Reinhardt‘s (1910–53) work on the electric guitar. Boy! What he achieved with just two fingers on his fretboard hand. Reinhardt died suddenly from a stroke, aged 43.)
11.40 am: My back needed easing. Time for a 10-minute respite on my feet and underneath the bonnet of Pedalboard 1:
Few students in the 18 to 21 age-range have had any education in the principles of English grammar and syntax. UK students who’ve studied a foreign language and foreign students who’ve learned English (well) often write markedly better than those for whom English is their native and only tongue. The former have acquired a knowledge of the mechanics and construction of a second language. Mention of, for example, ‘subject’, ‘object’, ‘adjective’, and ‘preposition’ to the latter at essay tutorials is met with glazed incomprehension. These students aren’t stupid; they’re untaught. The pre-university educational system has let them down. I studied (poorly) Latin, French, and English Language (as distinct from English Literature) in secondary school. At the very least, the experience of these subjects taught be what I didn’t know about writing (and speaking) English. And a knowledge of one’s ignorance is a good place from which to move towards understanding.
1.30 pm: Over lunch, I tested the power distribution and throughout the pedalboard and plugged her into the amp. She sang! 2.00 pm: Back to marking. (In the background: Jamie Muir’s and Derek Bailey’s Dart Drug (1981). Muir is a Scottish painter and former percussionist, who was at one time a member of King Crimson. He made the sort of sounds that you’d expect of a fine artist.) Bailey was an avant-garde guitarist – an abstract guitarist, in my book. Improvisation, atonality, noise, dry timbres, and discontinuity were his stock-in-trade.):
He hung his career on doing one thing supremely well. I admire that. No other guitarist sounded like him. Bailey was an explorer who discovered music in its making. Quite possibly, he had more detractors than admirers. (The music is forbiddingly difficult.) But I suspect that he was too persuaded on his own cause, and too professional, to care one wit.
Continuing conspicuous commentary:
- ‘Careful of the tone. This is an academic essay’.
- ‘There’s no logic to this assertion’.
- ‘Be careful that you refer only to that which forwards your response to the essay question’.
- ‘As a reader coming to the essay for the first time, I’d have no idea where it is going. There’re no signposts’.
- ‘Too colloquial an expression’.
- ‘You tend to state rather than elaborate’.
4.45 pm: Back-stretching time, again, and a final consideration of Pedalboard 1’s performance before completing another essay.
6.30 pm: Practise session:
7.30 pm: On with marking into the late evening.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90.12).