March 16th, 2013



Some people come into the world with an extra helping- or maybe two extra helpings- of the life force: Rostropovich, for instance.

Great musician, great teacher, a man with a huge appetite for life and friendship. He kissed everybody. There's footage of him grabbing hold of a bewildered Leonid Brezhnev and kissing him on both cheeks as was his custom with anybody who came within range.)  Also brave. He befriended and stood up for Prokofiev and Solzhenitsyn when they were out of favour- and got sent into exile for his pains. After the collapse of the Soviet system he snuck back into Russia illegally so he could go and stand next to Yeltsin in the White House and brave the encircling tanks. Yeltsin gave him a bodyguard- and there's an amazing photograph of Rostropovich holding the bodyguard's rifle while the young man- fagged out with non-stop watching- sleeps with his head against his shoulder. All of this was completely beyond the call of duty. He loved girls (it was hinted) and Benjamin Britten was his very best friend.

I look at lives like this and wonder, "Where on earth did he get the energy?"


Almost Thou Persuadest Me...

They say the British monarchy has a genius for ceremonial, but I reckon the Vatican beats it hands down.  The choosing of a Pope is the most wonderful theatre: the swaying procession of the men in red, the locking of the doors, the secrecy, the suspense, the black smoke, the black smoke, the black smoke, oh my God,  it's white this time, the pause before the name is announced, then the appearance on the balcony of the chosen one newly costumed in white robes (like Jesus from the tomb.)  I got so wrapped up in it I almost forgot the new Pope is a Catholic...