October 28, 2019

Sunday, October 27. A jaunt to Powys Castle, Welshpool, via Mr Backhouse’s cottage. He is, now, a retired piano tuner. In the past, Martin had served our domestic, as well as the School of Art’s, instrument admirably. A modest, enthusiastic, and genuine man:

Presently he continues to restore by assembling (more or less constructing from scratch, if truth be told) a Broadwood & Sons baby grand, from parts left over from a 1980s build that was never completed. Martin has a remarkable instinct for the instrument’s ‘guts’. A consummate craftsman. Some years ago, he experienced good fortune (in every sense of that word). He discovered, while tuning, a hoard of gold bullion secreted in a purpose-built compartment under an old piano’s keyboard. The common Law of Treasure Trove permitted him to claim half the current value of the find.

On, then, to the castle. I’d never been before. Quite apart from the fascinating house (parts of which go back to the medieval period) – with its Elizabethan plaster work and trompe l’oeil panelling (no photography whatsoever was allowed) – the castle boasts a magnificent garden and terraced area:

The exquisite topiary was performed on yew trees that go back to the 1780s:

A point of departure:

Monday, October 28. I arose at 6.00 am. (Which was 7.00 am, really. Right?) The cold external air met the radiated room, on the studio window pane. The promise was of a sunny and upbeat day:

8.15 am: I made a doctor’s appointment, gathered my thoughts for a noon meeting with a HR representative, scanned the landscape of the week ahead, dealt with the weekend’s incoming emails, updated registers (courtesy of the now functional VPN connection), and planned my day: this day, the only day about which I can be reasonably sure. (‘Boast not thyself of to morrow’.) A sense of imperative grips me. These days I’m propelled forward, as though there’s an angel’s hand in the middle of my back gently but firmly moving me in the direction of goodness knows where.

9.30 pm: (Cup of tea #3.) A final overview, before gathering myself (and a list of questions and body parts to address with my GP), and scurrying off to my surgery’s waiting room:

‘Keep thinking, keep writing, John! If your brain stops, it may never start again.’

‘Doctor, what’s your opinion about taking blood pressure tablets last thing at night, as patients have now been advised?’ ‘When do you usually take them?’ ‘Um … when and if I remember.’ More tests, more appointments, to schedule. What a drag!

11.00 am: Back at my desk. ‘What next?’ I could eke out three-quarters of an hour on my descriptors. 11.40 pm: Off to the School for my appointment with HR. In many respects this was decisive moment in my career. The representative was positive and helpful. (‘I see plans within plans’, as the Guild Navigator says in Dune.)

1.30 pm: After lunch (and with many considerations turning over in my mind) I picked up where I’d left off, and continued to describe. ‘Beth & Bill’ was the next composition on the blocks. 3.30 pm: Tea:

5.00 pm: The afternoon’s light declines noticeably as evening makes an earlier entry. Already the day feels far spent.

7.30 pm: When you’re no longer convinced that you can be better than you are, and that the best you can hope to do is exert more and more energy in order to maintain the standard, then it’s time to reconsider. Change isn’t inevitable. There’re times when it has to be planned and implemented. And change ought always to be for the better. Change isn’t always possible all the time. Our responsibilities and obligations to others may prevail. It’s rarely an independent decision. Change ought to be for the better of others too.

On friendship:

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October 26, 2019
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October 29, 2019

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