Thinking about freedom

It’s not often I wake up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open, my mind working overtime.

It’s annoying, that’s for sure. Annoying mostly because I seem to spend my day worrying about one thing or another to a greater or a lesser extent, so much so in fact that I do wonder why I bothered paying the first installment on my gym membership. Anxiety is always a good contributory factor to weight loss.

I’ve been thinking about the word “freedom” just recently, largely because one man suggested I might like to think about it along with the words “childhood” and “equality”. It was quite a tempting offer, not least because it seemed to set my fingers tingling with excitement.

What does “freedom” mean to me? How can I illustrate what it means to me ? Is there a reasonably interesting point (or points) to be made about the word “freedom”? It’s 4.37am on Wednesday morning. Given that I can’t sleep for worrying, I’m going to give it a damn good stab.

If I stop to think about things in my life as they are right now, me staring at the keyboard and panicking about the white space on the screen in front of me, there’s one freedom I’ve only just recently realised I’ve taken for granted for quite some considerable time.

Over the past ten years the internet has afforded me more opportunities than I ever thought I’d want or need. Quite apart from the obvious professional opportunities I’ve had working with web-related things, the internet has also made it possible for me to publish the results of my creative efforts in one form or other.

If it’s not a blog it’s a podcast. Videos or photographs. Facebook statuses (?sp) or the very briefest of dalliances with Twitter. All of these “tools” have allowed me to express myself without the interference of an editor wagging his finger, rolling his eyes or shaking his fist at me.

It is in fact these latest internet technologies, some part of what’s regarded as part of “Web 2.0”, which have been the most liberating. Facebook, hailed by many as the greatest development in social networking on the internet since I-don’t-know-what, has been that for me.

Over the past few months I’ve “made contact” with a whole host of people, made different kinds of connections with people at work, people from previous jobs and most recently people from school. * I’ve seen different angles on lots of different people. I’ve felt a part of different people’s lives in a way I hadn’t originally thought possible or necessary.

With predictable shamelessness I’ve also used these growing networks of propagating my fairly regular daily creative efforts. Contrary to the advice given by a friend who said “just concentrate on the content of your blog – let others market it”, I’ve found it difficult to resist trying to draw people in. After all, what’s the point in writing something if others don’t read or can’t read it. I’ve got to be honest that after I’m done writing I don’t really have much time or inclination to read my own blog back again. Once the “Post This Entry” button has been clicked, that’s it done with. I wash my hands of it, unless of course the spelling mistakes are so grim that it warrants a return visit in edit mode.

The ultimate problem with writing regularly and sharing with people I know via the likes of Facebook is that little by little the creative freedoms I had formally are slowly getting eroded. Suddenly I have to think twice before I commit something the screen. Who will read this? Will my words offend them? Will my actions be interpreted by some as grist for their particular mill? Do some people read this and then turn to a friend and say “have you seen the bollocks he’s written here – the pretentious wanker!”

Underpinning the power of self-publishing we’ve all of us come to take for granted is the growing spectre of moral and legal responsibility. I can write about what I want, in theory, but as I establish more and more real and virtual relationships to distribute those words so I have to stop and, in many cases, cross a topic off my list. That is a very disappointing prospect, almost as though someone is standing behind looking over my shoulder and warning me off particular words, phrases, sentences or (worse) entire paragraphs.

Some people (probably sandal-wearers) will shout “That’s the creative challenge – rise to it!”

I’d just say it’s a pain in the arse.

* It’s not without good reason that the people I consider closest and most in-tune are often correct when they half-jokingly refer to me as a real-life networking whore.

Simon says


I find myself in one of those increasingly rarer situations where I’m home alone during the day, free to relax and pamper myself before I start work with a vengeance at 6pm this evening.

Consequently the lovely, lovely Simon has been keen to stress that I must RELAX, get myself away from the computer as much as I can and indulge myself.

So, with the last Proms video now completed (there may be some tasty clips yet to come – something even I can’t believe I’m prepared to release into the wild) and only a handful of fairly straightforward administrative things yet to be done, I figure it’s perfectly acceptable to start dreaming.

Simon and I go on holiday very soon. We always go around about the same time of year. Most people I know (those without children I hasten to add) seem to go on holiday during the summer months in the UK. We, on the other hand, always get terribly excited about going when the evenings are pulling in, the leaves have changed colour and the air temperature is dropped.

So it is this year as we look forward to a week in the lap of Portugese (well, Marriott Hotels) luxury here … and yes, the picture here really is the view from what will be our balcony.

Prom 59: Woopsy

Having recovered from the pain of Michael Ball’s Prom, I settled down to the LSO gig full of excitement.

In truth it was a little late to be committing to the recorded TV broadcast. Clearly my insistence that everything should be listened to/watched live is waning although I offer the pressure of producing Proms-related videos as mitigation.

There was however one key element which got the evening off to a good start. It may take a little time for the penny to drop when you see this.

That aside (and frankly, aren’t smartarses to spot mistakes really tiresome individuals, especially when they make mistakes of their own) the Romeo and Juliet overture from Mr Tchaikowsky got the evening off to a cracking start, demonstrating the LSO has a distinct style in terms of tone and their willingness to rattle off pieces at lightning speed. A truly exciting performance.

The high point for me, wasn’t so much the one part of the programme I’ve seen thus far, but instead the sight of the principal clarinettist who I remember from my days at the Britten-Pears Orchestra ten years ago. I had to switch off soon after the overture. My sense of pride was a little overwhelming it has to be said.

It got me thinking though … for all the talk there is surrounding any kind of concert, the talk about the work, the composer and the conductor, I can’t think of any ocassion when the orchestral players themselves get talked about.

Sure, they’re part of one big team and so it should be the team who get referenced. Even so, overlooking the individuals as we all do seems to deny them the recognition every professional player deserves to get for the years of hard work and committment they all have to put in.

Prom 58: Exruciating


What could be better for a self-confessed of musical theatre and a strange, if slightly-obsessive Proms fan * but an evening of excerpts from a variety of different stage works sung by UK musical theatre chieftan Michael Ball?

Here’s what could have been better.

A concert performance of one entire stage show (preferrably something by Sondheim – say Into the Woods) with a varied cast and absolutely no anecdotes from Michael Ball.

Last night’s Prom was a frightfully disappointing affair. Enough said. Let’s move on. Let’s not dwell.

* Who obviously only ever listens on the radio or watches on TV.

Prom 56: Hardly any comment

As usual, I’ve found myself fending off a steady stream of contrary opinions regarding last night’s Prom concert from Proms fans who (to the best of my knowledge) didn’t actually attend/watch/listen to last night’s concert.

I have to be completely honest. We didn’t watch very much of it ourselves nor did we watch it live. So, that combined with my usual defence about why I hardly ever go to the Royal Albert Hall because it’s better at home, I do realised that I’m probably not in the best position to offer any thorough review of last night’s gig.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra promised Britten, Martinu and Prokofiev. Either I truly am some kind of slack fan but it wasn’t long into Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes that I rapidly began to lose interest.

Something was happening in the hall, it seemed to me. Few of the players seemed to be able to hear or concentrating on what they could hear and, as a result, there were moments when it was obvious the band wasn’t playing as one. The brass left me clawing at the sofa cushions as though I was looking for an escape and had failed to remember I was watching a recording and could therefore switch it off.

The most telling moment however was the sight of the entire front row of Prommers looking up to their left. Something had grabbed their attention mid-performance and it wasn’t the orchestra or the conductor on stage. Voices could be heard – one in particular – although the words were indistinct.

At the end of one movement in the Britten there was a agonising pause as the conductor, his baton still hovering over the orchestra glared in the same direction as the Prommers. The voice continued, so too the orchestra almost defiantly.

No mention of it can be found anywhere today and the only mention of it I noticed last night was when the Proms’ broadcast pundits (pictured) crow-barred it into the introduction of their own account of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s opening effort.