2008 — 9 August: Saturday

Tonight's picture shows Christa helping Peter walk along a raised log at the Netley country park. It's long been a favourite watering hole for my little family. I admit I've yet to go back there on my own, however. It deserves a smidgen of her ashes, that's for sure.

Christa and Peter enjoying themselves at Netley, March 1983

I was glancing, again, at Virginia Ironside's excellent book on "The rage of bereavement". There's a bit by Viktor Frankl she quotes nearly at the end which I take comfort from:

Once an elderly practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, "What would have happened, doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?" "Oh," he said, "for her this would have been terrible, how she would have suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You see, doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her." He said no word, but shook my hand and calmly left my office. Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.

Viktor E Frankl in Man's search for meaning

Recently, I've found myself wondering from time to time how Christa would by now be coping had our positions been (for want of a better word) reversed. Certainly she already had many more of the simple domestic survival skills that I'm slowly developing. But I know she wouldn't have been very happy, and I have indeed spared her that unhappiness. Her happiness meant a great deal to me over the last three decades.

Ho-hum. This too shall pass, as they say! G'night at 00:33 or so. Tomorrow (technically, later today) is another day...

And here it is, Saturday...

It's 24 years now since I discovered the fictional Napoleonic-era naval adventures described by Patrick O'Brian. (Think of them as like CS Forester's "Hornblower" but with added humour and erudition.) I was surprised, in August 1987 while holidaying in Guernsey, to find he'd also written a biography of Joseph Banks, the naturalist. I agonised somewhat over its cost (a £15 hardback was not cheap1 for a book rather far from my mainstream set of interests) but gave in. I'm reminded by the book review here.

Merciful heavens, more reasons to spend my widower's mite at the British Library. Can I resist CDs of Evelyn Waugh, HG Wells, and GBS? And, if so, for how long? Watch this space. Meanwhile, in the unreal world of British banking: "He [FSA chief executive Hector Sants] said there would be 'consequences' for banks that pay employees too much for doing imprudent deals." Can you hear their knees knocking? (Source.)

Time for breakfast, I think, as Brian Matthew winds down his morning show. (Ray Charles currently seems to have Georgia on his mind.)

Random thoughts

Tonight I shall have a nostalgic date with "Sleepers" on BBC4. I had a copy on a VHS tape but that is undoubtedly landfill somewhere by now. For some reason, I associate Warren Clarke (whom I first saw in A clockwork orange) with Derek Martin, last seen last night as "Gruber".

I enjoy Ben Goldacre's Bad Science material in the Guardian. This week he's looking at the "Quantum QXCI" about which there's some eye-watering stuff here, too. Not to mention a whole host of people willing to sell you this thing... Typical claim: "Whilst some devices address the physical being the QXCI has astounding facilities for all levels, including deep facilities for emotional and higher vibrational aspects". There must be a lot more than one born every minute these days, it seems.

Grisly drizzle

It's 13:51, lunch has been prepared and wolfed down. The rain is steady but not particularly heavy. There's nice stuff on BBC Radio 3 (Bach's Art of Fugue) and the Internet is my oyster. (I suspect from the background humming that I'm listening to a Glenn Gould performance — I've only just tuned in after tiring of the sophomoric chatter elsewhere — yes, I was right.) I have a bill to pay and that Bandoneon Concerto has just turned up, too.


It's a hybrid multichannel SACD/CD (quite a clever logo, I suppose) which is fancy talk for "I can only be played on the DVD player with surround sound decoded analogue output fed into the external decoder input on the amplifier, I don't want you ripping off high-quality digital clones, sunshine." Another job for the Harmony One to learn. Sounds good though. It plays fine on the Denon CD/tuner/amp up here in the study (though only as two-channel stereo, of course). And I'm almost convinced that if I go back to play the Terry Gilliam film "12 Monkeys" I'm going to find very similar music on the soundtrack.

Thank you, IMDB. It was indeed Astor Piazzolla whose work is featured on the soundtrack. (Source.) And "Amazon" goes on to add: Elton John's original arranger Paul Buckmaster wrote this elegant and eerie score for Terry Gillian's (sic) sci-fi tale and keyed it to an accordion-like riff penned by tango king Astor Piazzolla. It's "Introduccion" from Suite Punta Del Este, used as the 12 Monkeys theme.

Sounds? Frustrating!

I appear to have nuked sound output from my Oppo DVD player. It was OK last night, playing Private Schulz using the normal co-ax digital audio cable straight into the scaler. It was OK earlier this afternoon, playing the Bandoneon Concerto SACD using the multi-channel analogue sound output sockets straight into the back of the Yamaha. But, later this afternoon (well, evening, now — it's already 19:52) having reworked the "Play a DVD" activity on the fancy new Logitech remote control, and asked it to set the system to play a DVD, what happens? TV switched on, and set to correct input. Perfect picture, scaler set to the correct input, amplifier set to the correct input, but not so much as an audible squeak. This is very frustrating.

Solved, though it had to wait until after "Sleepers" had finished. (More excellent work from the late Verity Lambert.) Anyway, the Oppo: I'd somehow reduced the volume output on it to zero — it's the first time I've ever had a DVD player with controllable volume, and I thought I'd been reducing the plasma screen's volume (not that I have any speakers hooked up to it). Odd, but now working fine. It's now 22:20 and time for another dose of Private Schulz. It's interesting seeing these relatively old TV dramas. What they lack in slick camera work, technical clarity, sound quality and tight editing and pacing is generally more than compensated for by superior writing and acting. Swings and dumbed-down roundabouts, I guess. They gave themselves room to stretch and breathe in the "old" days.



1  I don't know whether to be amused or alarmed by the fact that the average price I've paid for the books currently cluttering my shelves is now £7-49. And a small-scale poke at one of my databases shows me that I bought the last book Christa was reading in hospital (Noël Coward's Autobiography) during that same Guernsey holiday. My total spending on books over the years has reached a minimum of a horrifying £66,692-72 because I'm not counting the innumerable escapees there have been from the shelves...