Autumn Samba

I never thought I’d have occasion to say this, but I almost feel as though this summer has been too long. Not in terms of weather or anything – we’ve only had about four real days of summer this year if that were the indicator – but rather just the time between everything winding down at the end of one academic year and starting up again at the beginning of the next. I’ve found myself wishing I had something to do rather more often than I’m used to, and the musical scene has been unusually arid.

So with this in mind I must confess I’m rather looking forward to returning to UCL for my final year at the end of this month. Things have started being set in motion for the coming year and I’m already feeling more invigorated than I have in quite some time. I’ve been doing all those little organisational things that give you a small but beguiling sense of productivity: re-enrolling, sorting out student finance, picking modules, looking up course books. The latter has admittedly been a bit of a dead end – if Amazon or AbeBooks (normally full of such good bargains) were to have its way I could end up paying more than my rent for reading material. The cunning swines.

I’ve been looking a bit into various styles of big band lead trumpeting. The one with which I’ve become most familiar over the last few years has probably been the Wayne Bergeron: powerful, with much screamingly high playing when necessary to cut across the band and say ‘I am trumpet, hear me roar.’ He’s a great player, with a fantastic tone and range and (as I just discovered) an extensive resumé. I was recently introduced to the works of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and was astonished at the professionalism and sound of their brass section (obviously the rest of the ensemble is fantastic too but it’s the trumpets that piqued my interest). Even at the higher end of the stave there was an incredible blend of the tone and texture, like it was one super-brasser with several instruments. It was wonderful.

I finished the final book of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, just now, and have to say that I thoroughly approved. As I mentioned before, the translation could be slightly clunky from time to time, and the story does begin to test the limits of suspended disbelief from about three-quarters of the way through the second book, but overall I thought it was extremely well-written. What I particularly liked was the ending – fear not, I won’t spoil anything – because it is, in my experience, the most difficult bit of a book to get right. It’s much easier in standalone books, where there isn’t so much to deal with, but if the author wishes to give a satisfactory ending to a whole series, there is always the risk of it coming across as unnecessarily twee and corny, à la Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I feel Stieg Larsson struck just the right chord.

Finally, with term starting up again in a couple of weeks, I feel compelled to remind you all that several of the bands with whom I’m involved will be commencing rehearsals again – if you would like to hire them or me, head over to the Contact page.

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The Very Model

I have two kinds of news for you today everyone: good news, and better news. Firstly, my flatmates and I are closing the deal on a new flat at last, one that’s (a) cheaper than my place last year, (b) superbly convenient to get to (it’s the other side of Mornington Crescent from where I was last year) and (c) actually looks a very nice place to live. Our tenancy doesn’t start until 1st October though, so we’ll have to get through Freshers Week jetting up and down to London on the trains and the Tube.

The better news? In my time spent with Mass Effect 2 recently, I discovered that one of the crew members used to perform Gilbert and Sullivan. Wonderful.

OK, I suppose you had to be there.

Political Storms

Scouring the BBC website just now I happened across their article on the debate currently raging over whether the country should have a referendum on changes to the electoral system. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

One. The main problems that nay-sayers seem to have with it (at least which I can see from the article) are rather selfish (at a party level that is) at best. A Conservative MP apparently expressed fears that an ‘outright Conservative government’ would never be in power again; Labour has brought to the table the idea that rejigging the constituency boundaries might ‘disproportionately’ hurt their figures in Commons. No specific Liberal Democrat comments appear to have been recorded, though I suspect that if they had as much of a vested interest in keeping the system exactly the way it is as the Tories and Labour do, they probably wouldn’t sound much different. The idea that a change to the electoral system might allow the British electorate to be more accurately represented within the body that governs it seems to have escaped them, possibly swallowed up in a tide of self-interest.

Two. Ever since the general election there has been more clamouring for change in the electoral system than I, personally, have ever heard. That the numbers of seats in the House of Commons that each party ended up with is so incongruous with the number of votes they received is absurd. Electoral change has already been talked down from real proportional representation to the alternative vote system, and at this point many MPs are still trying to quash the idea altogether. This is an issue that needs to be decided by the people whose electoral relevance it deals with, not those who have such vested interests in keeping themselves in power.

Three. The idea that MPs should decide the method by which they remain in the House of Commons is utterly illogical. It’s like letting students decide their own exam grades. I know we have a parliament to decide on matters of state, but this strikes me as an issue that, if decided by any means other than the will of the people (which is to say, a referendum), could be seen as dangerously illegitimate.

As far as I can see, politicians are, by nature, going to be wary of anything that looks to pull the rug out from under their feet. Any sort of change in the electoral system looks like it could do just that. Change like that could be beneficial, or it could be dangerous. But it would be fair.

This has been: My Two Cents.

A Long Hard Slog

Flathunting is proving more fickle than we expected, as is often the case. Jonna and I spent most of this morning on the phone to every estate agent known to man, and were either told that they had no properties at the moment or that the ones they did have were out of our budget. We have a single viewing booked for this week at the moment. Here’s hoping it’s a goodun.

On the plus side, being back in the country has been good for getting back in touch with people. I went to the London Double Header at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday with a friend I hadn’t really seen in about a year and spent more time reminiscing and catching up than watching the games (London Irish v Saracens was a tad boring but Wasps v Quins was highly entertaining). And I’ll be seeing my teacher Andy Bush this week as well after what can only be described as Far Too Long.

I recently started Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I finished last week. Now halfway into the 2nd in the series, I have to confess I’m rather enjoying them. The translation can be a bit clunky at times – it often seems that a convenient phrase is reused more than necessary for a particularly difficult-to-translate Swedish idiom – but the characterisation is impeccable, the storytelling is enjoyable and, as many reviewers have pounced upon, the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, is quite original.

But enough about me: how are you today?