Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
December 31, 2002
An evening in

On a lighter note, we watched West Side Story on the TV this afternoon. The music's great, Sondheim's lyrics so precise and the boys breathtaking!

There's a bottle of vintage Bollinger in the fridge and I'm just about to make cocktails, so maybe I'll cheer up.

Don't worry about me (I know you won't).. I'm always like this on New Year's Eve.

Posted by nathan at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)


Year's end

I always feel maudlin at the end of the year. It's nothing to do with Christmas - not my religion. It's more to do with the lack of progress I make in a year when compared with my hopes.

Every year I write a "situation review" with eleven sections covering differnt aspects of my life, and concluding with some targets, or aspirations, for the new year. I don't think I'm brave enough to publish last year's on my web site, but suffice it to say that I'm disappointed with my performance in the last year.

I won't fall into the comfortable trap of another whinge on the hardships of life, but it's very disheartening to see that the areas in which I had predicted progress were entirely obvious - I achieved my targets in the "easy" things, but have made no progress at all on some fundamentals.

I feel old as I move into 2003.

Posted by nathan at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)


December 30, 2002
The epic continues

Oh dear, I'm overusing the word epic.

We watched the first couple of hours of The Godfather Part 2 on DVD this evening. I couldn't make it to the end, as it was getting late and Alfred gave me a lovely relaxing massage that sent me pecefully to sleep.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 29, 2002
More about casa nostra

Down to London today for a friend's birthday party - an ok time except we didn't know anybody else there.

On the way back, I called Vincent on the offchance and popped in to say hello. The last thing I expected was to have my knuckles rapped for my failures as an uncle. Here it is:

No 1. I called Cosmo a day late and didn't send him a birthday card.
JustNathan's defence. I can't excuse not calling on the day, it was an oversight. I did call the following day and apologised, and spent ages on the phone chatting with him. I love Cos and Fif to bits and I'm sure they'll forgive my mistakes and realise that I'm fallible. As for cards, I don't send them. They are not my way of expressing my care for people and I resent being told to send them. I occasionally send cards to people when I want to, or when I've missed somebody for a long time, but it's not my normal way of doing things. It's not something new, I stopped sending card when I was 16.

No. 2. Mum and Dad are evil as they don't communicate with Cos & Fif. Of course, there is a subtext here - it's more about Vincent's vendetta against Mum than anything to do with Cos & Fif. Vincent is so defensive about this that it's painful to watch - he just tells me that I should talk with them (C&F) and find out how they feel. I resent being used as a pawn - V should sort out his relentless nagging gripes himself. As for Cos & Fif, they ought to be making some more effort to see Mum & Dad now that they live round the corner from them. However difficult grandparents can be, we only have the benefit of thier love for a limited number of years, and Mum & Dad do love them. If only they could show this without being spikey. They can be difficult, but it's up to both grandparents and grandchildren to prevent these issues from becoming ingrained.

All in all, I was very unhappy and left quite miserable. Vincent is very dear to me as a friend and a brother, and this is the second time in the last month that he's trapped me into his problems with Mum.

My great fear is that the poison of my own grandmother's bile spreads wider in our small family. There are already too many of us who don't talk to one another. Life's too short, and blood does run thicker than water.

Alfred sat through the discussion and was too cautious to intervene. I don't blame him, although, selfishly, it would have been good if he had stood up for me. But I understand his reluctance in involving himself with family problems.

So, the resultant action was that I've asked Cos and Fif out to lunch when we're in London on Saturday and I'll try to understand their concerns and see if I can be any help. I'd better watch Godfather Part 2 first.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 28, 2002
The Godfather of all movies

We watched The Godfather on DVD this evening. After yesterday's "The Two Towers", it was a completely different sort of epic.

What gets me is that the film manipulates my sympathies to be with this gang of thugs.

Posted by nathan at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)


Am I allowed just one whinge?

I hate shopping. I loathe the crowds. I detest the pressure to buy. I always feel stressed, hot and tetchy whenever I've been shopping.

Posted by nathan at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)


December 27, 2002
Catching up

I've spent the day catching up, surfing the Internet - and thinking about our proposed New York / Toronto holiday in the Spring. It's a great antidote to post holiday blues! I think that I have now passed the magic limit with my American Express card whereby I can take Alfred on a Concord flight to New York with my BA miles. Yay!

Off to see Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers this evening.

Posted by nathan at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)


December 26, 2002
Just Williams

We flew back to the UK this morning, picked up the car (outrageous taxi prices today) and drove back to Cambridge. It's taking a while to warm the flat, and it needs tidying.

This evening, I enjoyed a wistful Arena programme about Radio 4's Just a Minute. Sensible, but surprising, was the extent to which Kenneth Williams' part in the documentary was reduced in proportion to my memories of his dominance of the quiz. He nevertheless hovered in the background, a magical presence. A sense of Williams' presence was almost palpable, a will-o-the-wisp.

You are with me forever

Can you spot Evil Edna?

Off to bed, tired and glad to be back home.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 25, 2002
Ending our holiday on a high note

Back to the Olympiazentrum where the BMW museum was open. It was interesting to see old versions of PEW. The forward-looking elements of the exhibition (those concentrating on intelligent cars and traffic management initiatives) were rather disappointing, compared with the much criticised Ford zone in the Millennium Dome. Concepts such as satellite navigation were displayed as future developments. I suspect that this part of the museum should be updated with a conceptual display more befitting BMW's image.

We saw Die Zauberflöte at the Bayerische Staatsoper in the cold Christmas evening. Excellent performances by Diana Damrau as the Königen der Nacht and Aga Mikolaj as Tamina. The production was atmospheric and employed excellent scenery and costumes designed for the 1978 première.

Heather Connolly as the Queen of the Night in another production

The highest voice of all is the coloratura soprano (inaccurately named, in that coloratura literally means rapid passages, trills, and ornamentation). A genuine coloratura has an unmistakable light, birdlike quality to her voice. She often sounds much like a flute or piccolo, and these instruments often are given music to accompany her. Two of Mozart's most famous operatic roles were written because his sister-in-law, Josefa Weber Hofer, was a coloratura, and she sang the parts of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute and Constanze in The Abduction. A number of operatic roles call for high sopranos with voices of great flexibility which can trill, sing scales with the utmost rapidity, and make wide jumps, but do not go to the astronomical heights (F or F sharp, two and a half octaves above middle C) of Mozart's coloratura or Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss' Ariadne. Some of these roles, with top notes of an E flat or an E natural, are Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia, Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto, and Norma in Bellini's Norma ( 1831). The flutter of the vocal cords in high registers demands constant practice (presumably a soprano high C gives off about 1,025 vibrations per second). A coloratura must be a slave to vocal exercises that keep her voice in tip-top condition to prevent the vocal cords from thickening.

The lyric soprano is the embodiment of the high, bright, clear female voice. Susanna in Figaro and Mimi in Bohème are examples. This is the voice of young womanhood or of the youthful heroine. When the role is quasi-comic, the description soubrette (French for "cunning," "shrewd") is often applied. Another term used is spinto (Italian for "pushed" or "urged"), which signifies a soprano whose tones have greater brilliance and carrying power than the usual Iyric soprano. Many Verdi heroines are in this group: Leonora in Il trovatore, Elisabetta in Don Carlos (1867; 1884), Leonora in La forza del destino.

Last in the soprano group is the dramatic soprano. This voice is rarer because it often takes on the heavier and darker hue of a mezzo or a contralto but is still a genuine soprano with a high range and ringing sound. It is generally a big voice with very full medium and low tones. The voice may not develop fully until the late 20s or early 30s although it is embryonically present earlier. Two of the most famous dramatic soprano roles in opera are Brunnhilde in Wagner's Ring and Isolde in Tristan und Isolde. Leonora in Beethoven's Fidelio also is a dramatic soprano.


Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 24, 2002
What did I do today?



Went to museums and galleries which were closed

Looked for somewhere to eat in the evening. Ended up with pizza and Weissbier.

Posted by nathan at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)


December 23, 2002
Return to the Haus der Kunst

A strange experience today, returning after fourteen years to the Haus der Kunst. My last visit was to the Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1988, which was a very creepy reconstruction of the opening "decadent art" event staged by Hitler.

Today's exhibitions were of some intriguing sound sculptures called "Tune the World" by Stephan von Huene, and some odd beeswax sculptures by Wolfgang Laib. Hmm - modern art is rubbish (that'll get me into trouble).

We enjoyed our walk through the Englischer Garten.

Posted by nathan at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)


December 22, 2002

I slept until gone nine o'clock this morning. The relaxation therapy is already working.

We had a super idea - skipped breakfast and wandered down to the Christkindlmarkt to enjoy the shopping and traditional fare. We enjoyed the Bavarian equivalent of potato latkes, mulled wine (Glühwein), sausages in Semmel rolls, sweet roasted macadamia nuts and Apfeltaschen (cooked apples and cinnamon in a yeast pocket). Lovely.

I forgot to write yesterday that I'd read some reviews about yesterday's restaurant. They're very amusing, if your German is ok. The service was rather haughty.

We enjoyed the swimming pool and sauna in the hotel and then went off to a traditional Bavarian restaurant zum Franciskaner. We had Leberknödlsuppe, and a soup with oxtail consommé and shredded pancakes and chives. Then two pints of Weissbier (the dunkles- and Hefeweizen) with a mixed grill, potato dumplings and red cabbage.

No room for dessert.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 21, 2002
Münchener Freiheit

Oh, what an early flight! I still had time to buy a pair of shoes at the airport before we left.

We arrived a little late, but our luggage took a further hour to reach the terminal. After a ride on the S-Bahn, we checked into the Le Meridien Hotel. We stayed in a "Queen Suite" (don't laugh) and were treated royally by the staff. Our champagne was ready and chilled - we couldn't leave it to suffer, so toasted Alfred's birthday and downed it before whistling off to the Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz to give Alfred his first taste of Weisswurst with sweet mustard and Bretzn.

The weather was overcast and drizzling when we set off for the Glockenbach restaurant on Kapuzinerstrasse. But was it worth the Michelin Star? We had a superb meal, although the handwritten menu with lots of especially long words to describe the particular goose that made up my confit and the berries that made the sauce with Alfred's roe deer. All washed down with champagne cocktails and a rather good Frankenwein.

After such a lovely day, all there was left was to argue before bedtime. Over an umbrella. Dunno why.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 20, 2002
On the move

We drove down to Heathrow this afternoon and checked in at the Sheraton Skyline. Apart from a miserable-looking man at the hotel reception, the afternoon off work provided an opportunity to wind down. Even JustNathan bunks off once in a while. We had a decent, if rather expensive, meal at the hotel and went to bed early.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 19, 2002
Peace in our time

Not much of a subtle reference, was it? All twenty thousand pages.

Off to Munich soon.

Posted by nathan at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)


December 18, 2002
A quiet day at the office

For the first time in several weeks, I had the chance to catch up with myself today. I haven't started on the in-tray, but I'm ahead of myself with finishing off work for clients. That makes a change.

I've also managed to tie down one deal, and nearly at the end of another deal for one client that has had problems. Nice to feel that I can work the sales magic occasionally.

Posted by nathan at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)


December 17, 2002
Another drink and it all seems bigger

Another person joining the company. We really are starting to grow up - I'll definitely need an office in April, May or June next year.

After such a hectic weekend, with so many cultural events, the holiday in Munich is approaching rapidly. Bring on the boys!

Posted by nathan at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)


December 16, 2002
Choose Life

We saw Sophie's Choice at the Royal Opera House this evening. It's dreadful to admit that I'll remember it more for its length than its music. It could easily have been cut by over an hour and gained momentum.

It was nevertheless an exciting occurence, to be one of the first people in the world to hear a new work (I know it wasn't the first night). The music was captivating and had strong teutonic echoes (Schoenberg I think) and the singers were excellent. Unlike the ENO, I could hear every word, in English, clearly.

Supper at Cafe Lazeez was excellent, although our early start meant a limited bar menu.

Posted by nathan at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)


December 15, 2002

Shopping in Paul Smith today yielded shirts and trousers for the two of us (Alfred now has a birthday present!). We had supper at Joy King Lau near Leicester Square and then took the tube to Waterloo to see Bernard Haitink conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Mahler's Second Symphony.

A friend was singing in the London Philharmonic Choir and had very kindly given us the tickets. Overall it was a fascinating performance, somewhat overwhelming in parts. It confirmed my concerns about the second symphony - such an uneven piece. Mahler seems to have thrown too many ideas, too much light and shade, too many conflicting emotions into this hotch-potch. When I compare it with the third, that moved me beyond this earth at the Proms, I could not find fault with the conductor or the orchestra, it's the sheer unconvincing opacity of the piece.

And yet, sitting on the tube on the way back to North London, I hear strains of Des Knaben Wunderhorn in the clatter of the carriages.

Just like all Mahler, I'll learn to understand it one day.

Posted by nathan at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)


December 14, 2002
Product placement

It's a busy weekend. After returning from London after lunch, we booked to see the new James Bond film Die Another Day at the cinema in Cambridge. The expected product placement was very much in evidence. The story was much darker than previous films. I felt this to be a welcome change and Brosnan was excellent.

Indeed, it's provoked a protest from the North Koreans, who state that the film is "an insult to the Korean nation" and "a dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander and insult". Good for them.

Although, secretly, I'd love to be the villain in a Bond film.

I even cooked this evening - meatballs in tomato and pepper sauce. Alfred's been doing so much of the cooking recently, I've been missing the pleasure.

Debbie's found out about Brian - the lava flow commences in Ambridge.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 13, 2002
Stones in his pockets

As I can't abide Christmas, I arranged our company do (for the second time) to be a "December Theatre Evening". I think it worked well - everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. We stayed at the Grange Hotel in Holborn (5 star in a 3 star sort of way) and had supper at Zilli Fish Too - food not as good as last time, but that's the penalty of taking a party of twelve.

We then went on to the Duke of York's Theatre to see Stones in his Pockets, an excellent two-hander of a play which managed to be funny whilst combining a serious (if well-trodden) message about extras, exploitation and fifteen minutes of fame.

Back to the hotel for a cocktail and then off to a deep sleep.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 12, 2002
Nathan Returns

Well, I didn't go anywhere. But I have been working far too hard (as ever) and not stopping to do anything other than sleep and eat. Why, I ask?

Posted by nathan at 06:31 PM | Comments (2)


December 11, 2002
Cherie pickings

How I love a good political scandal. Watching the exasperation on the face of Blair as his wife's naive actions come to skewer the party agenda.


It's not her actions of course - they're just fumbling idiocy. It's comparable with the Ecclestone affair, where the inability to admit wrongdoing was compounded by the drip-drip as the truth was wrung out by the media.


Then, in tears, Blair had to admit his stupidity, whilst appealing over the heads of the media, direct to his loving people. "Trust me, I'm an honest man".


Posted by nathan at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)


December 10, 2002
The Siegfried Show

Imagine a hero, brought up in the woods by a dwarfish smith.

Imagine a dragon, slumbering in his cave as he guards the Niebelungen hoard.

Imagine a Wanderer in the woods, who knows he cannot interfere to prevent the inevitable downfall of his godly race, but cannot avoid a last futile attempt to block the hero's path.

Imagine a maiden warrior, who sleeps on a mountaintop, encircled by fire, at the mercy of the hero who can pass through the flames and waken her.

Imagine a dwarf, consumed by loathing, watching the dragon with sleepless malice.

Imagine the Earth Mother, disturbed from her sleep, bewildered by the events of the world above.

A sword, a ring, Loge's fire.

Imagine the Barbican, filled with enthusiasts, watching Paul Daniel with eagerness. A hush falls, his baton is raised and four hours of magic is weaved before our eyes.

I was in Neidhohle this evening.

John Graham-Hall as Mime was especially good and Robert Hayward as the Wanderer continues to impress. Stephen O'Mara looked the part as Siegfried, but his voice was unconvincing. Kathleen Broderick as Brünnhilde is foxy but just not my idea of the part.

Eleven months to Götterdämmerung.

Posted by nathan at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)


December 09, 2002
Just another manic Monday

Another week begins.

Posted by nathan at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)


December 08, 2002
Not a good shopper

We traipsed around Selfridges for what seemed like hours. I was looking for a decent pair of trousers and a shirt. I'm useless at shopping, but at least managed to buy a shirt for next weekend.

Great news about Cherie - keep it up.


Posted by nathan at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)


December 07, 2002
But was it funny?

We went down to London today for Alfred's birthday party at Jongleurs. The St. Martins Lane Hotel was as swish as ever. It was odd that the room service boy excused his late delivery of our champagne by telling us that he had been attending to a celebrity instead. Well. Indeed.

We met Alfred's friends at the bar above Jongleurs. We had a pleasant evening, and it was lovely to see Alfred so happy (with red and blue streaks in his hair to add to the party atmosphere). A late evening cocktail at the Light Bar and then to bed and a minimalist dream.

Posted by nathan at 08:43 PM | Comments (0)


December 06, 2002
Where's Wally?

Which are the embezzelers, which the fraudsters, which the politically naive and who manipulates who?

Spot the difference...

The wife

The thief

The cook

Her lover

Posted by nathan at 07:34 PM | Comments (0)


December 05, 2002
Rumbles in Borsetshire

The Borsetshire volcano is rumbling. The eruption must surely be imminent - Christmas day?

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 04, 2002
I love Swindon

Over to Swindon today for a couple of meetings. I must be softening towards train journeys, as I chose to go this way. If only we were living in London, everything wouldn't feel so far away.

Of course the 06:15 train was cancelled due to "points failure ta the sidings" and we were put on the 06:26 slow train, which stopped for 15 minutes at Royston because of "door problems". So I arrived in Swindon late, but at least just in time for the presentation.

Whoops, another train rant. At least there was a cute guy to ogle.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 03, 2002
A dilemma in the making?

I think the project I'm being asked to quote for is in one of the anti-Israel states in the Middle East. That'll be an interesting conundrum.

I don't wish individuals any harm, but I'm so disillusioned with the apparatus of the Israeli state that I can't work up any feelings of loyalty. So should I be helping a (non-military) business capability in one of the Arab states?


Posted by nathan at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)


December 02, 2002
Review day

We managed to get through the project review today - it's good to see that we could produce such a coherent message after just five weeks learning about a new product and technology. On to the next phase now - I'll enjoy all of the agency work.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 01, 2002
Sunday papers

Robin has agreed to join the business from next year. Brilliant news.

Also, a scandal seems to be erupting around Cherie Blair. We'll soon see whether it's the Mail or Downing Street apologising.

Posted by nathan at 08:12 PM | Comments (0)