Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Night Roundup

...although I suppose I need a fairly large corral if I'm truly going to do a roundup: far too many days have passed since I waxed rhapsodical about Alison Krauss and Robert Plant! So this will be the short-attention-span-roundup.

I'm now in London, after spending last weekend in Clare, getting over jetlag and partying a bit (I had a nice session Saturday night back at the old scene at the Crosses of Annagh, after watching Holland get beaten by Russia in the Euro Cup). I arrived in London Monday afternoon and started settling into my fairly grotty dorm room near King's Cross. So far, it's fine (fine in the American sense: just about on the positive side of acceptable), and it suits my purposes--and the location's perfect for me, since I'm dividing my time between the St. Pancras and Colindale branches of the British Library.

I won't go into the various (non-dealbreaker) problems with the accommodation, except to say that it costs about $12 more per night to be furnished with cooking equipment for the fairly decent kitchen down the hall. So my cooking, if it can be called that, has been fairly minimal. I have been meaning to buy some cooking vessel (saucepan? wok?) since I got here, but have been too fried in the evenings to even think of cooking, so I've slipped back down the ready meals slope (though I'm microwaving them in a bowl I bought). So far, this is a dismal idea altogether, with one remarkable exception: Sainsbury's pizza with ricotta, spinach pesto, and sundried tomatoes. Foodie friends, I *promise* I am going to get out of this rut! I have decided that I Do Not Need to Know which supermarket curries are the best--though I hesitate to use the word "best," because it implies some suggestion of "good," and these most definitely have not been. (I have had better food on airplanes.)

On a more pleasant topic, tonight I went to hear Emma Kirkby and company, with Cambridge's Trinity College choir, at St. John's Church in Smith Square. It was a lovely concert, and the setting was absolutely perfect--the church is fairly closely contemporary with the repertoire they performed (Handel's Chandos Anthems 7, 9, and 11). Handel's not my favorite ever--although I think his orchestration was cool, and I like some amount of the instrumental stuff (including the 'backing' for these pieces), I tend to prefer vocal music from earlier, and I found the sometimes banal lyrics a little distracting at times. Those are all small criticisms, though, and based on my own taste--for me, it wasn't a transcendental experience, just an evening delightfully spent. I wouldn't have minded hearing more of Emma Kirkby herself, although I did thoroughly enjoy the other soloists, particularly countertenor Iestyn Davies. And it didn't hurt that I got my ticket for 9 pounds through a deal they have to fill some seats on the side of the hall that don't have a great line of sight to the stage. I could actually see all the performers--the only drawback was that, in a hall without amplification, my position created something of an imbalance of sound, and I'm sure parts of it rung out better for those seated in more ideal locations. I was worried about that in the beginning, but it didn't wind up bothering me too much.

But London hasn't been all good concerts and bad curry. I've been working me arse off in the British Library, which is exhausting but exciting work that brings up as many--or more--questions than it answers.

So that's the news!

The Book I'm Not Reading: Robert Kee's The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism

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