Monday, February 16, 2009

Festina Lente

We could all learn a thing or two from the good burghers of Halberstadt. I learnt late last week from my good friends on Radio Four, that these fine folk have embarked on a monumental work set to far surpass and little local difficulties we might be experiencing in the developed world at the moment. In the midst of present financial and political turmoil they have begun a concert whose ambitions will, if completed, span generations, if not epochs.

As we all fret and worry about the fragility of the economy, witnessed locally by the flurry of job losses in the midlands car makers and their attendant parts suppliers, they gathered last week to witness the playing of a new chord in this concert. The chord began but and eyeblink (as I believe the literal translation of a German term would have it) ago in 2003. It will change every 18 months or so, playing steadily throughout the intervening span on the organ of St Burchard’s Curch. Played to its completion the piece should last around 640 years.

That’s right, YEARS.

The time chosen is significant as it reaches forward in time as far as the founding of St Burchard’s reaches back. In those intervening 640 years we have gone from illuminated manuscript to internet, and from horseback through horsepower to spaceflight. The way has been strewn with calamities, market crashes, wars and pestilences to be sure, but equally with triumphs in art, music, medicine and technology unimaginable to the Halberstadters of yesteryear.

I have a new thing to add to the list of “things to do before I die”, and this one should be there for generations of Jests yet unborn to do likewise, whatever befalls us inbetween. And for roughly twenty generations, should we all be lucky enough to be able to participate, and should the concert get to run its allotted course, we could all claim to have been present at the same event. A thought I find both humbling and ennobling. I doff my cap’o’bells to the fair city of Halberstadt and its visionary folk.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A mile in another man's shoes?

We moved to Ambridge late in 1990. Our first winter here was a proper Winter with a capital “W”. For four weeks we had a meter long icicle hanging off the corner of the conservatory at Jest Towers, and our poor late lamented moggy (then a spry young two year old) could wade chest deep in snow like a little ginger Bismark.

One especially icy Saturday saw Dr Neighbour and I abandon our attempt to drive home from the duty surgery at the foot of Lakey Hill, after some pillock had jack-knifed his artic’ across the road. Instead we stumped up the hill and back to Jest Towers afoot, like Pooh and Piglet tracking woozles—only stopping at the top of the hill for a reviving medicinal port in the now demolished Lakey Arms. When we made it home we ended up calling Radio Ambridge, to warn the punters there was little point calling on the duty doc that weekend as his car lay abandoned and almost all roads were impassable anyhow. Later that afternoon (once the “medicine” had worn off a bit) we went back with spades and dug Dr Neighbour’s car out, and let our newfound Radio chums know we had restored normal service. Since then Ambridge winters have been a bit of a damp squib—though often very damp indeed to be sure.

Until now.

This week we have fallen pray to a new meteorological phenomenon, the “Snow Event”. Indeed, we have had two such thus far, and can apparently look forward to another on Sunday. On the minus side it’s made all the roads hereabouts really slippy so driving has been a bit of a pain. On the plus side it has made all the roads hereabouts really slippy, so the schools have been closed and nobody has been mad enough to venture out to work, which has made driving an absolute joy, especially when, as this morning, you get to drive through countryside where every tree and bush stands limned in glittering white frosting, in the special silence that attends fresh fallen snow.

Better yet, when you get in to the office, scarcely later than on a normal day despite the “extreme” weather, everyone is so pleased to see you, and many of the regulars, having take a peep out from under the duvet, have decided they can wait a few more days before coming in and so have cancelled their appointments, making the caseload a little lighter. Intriguingly though one group of patients seems to stick at nothing to come in, those with pre-existing mobility problems. One poor old chap even managed the two mile walk in for a routine review of his Parkinson’s Disease since the busses weren’t running. It’s almost as though the snow doesn’t impinge, or that it is just another and perhaps more trivial challenge to their mobility.

I'm pretty sure they could teach the rest of us a thing or two.