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Secularists headed off at the pass in Melun

melun area

The town of Melun, south-east of Paris, below Orly airport, so to speak and above Fontainebleau, is a very special place to me.

Obviously I’ve spent time there and it was my stomping ground for awhile. Though the town itself is just a town, the area south of it is magnificent, from its cobbled roads and stone walls with old road signs to the forest and the buildings which abut it.

My major writing work, the three part saga, is heavily centred on the area from Barbizon to Melun to the 12eme arrondissement, which I know well. All the major characters in the middle of the book were from there and one remains throughout the entire saga.

I can’t even start to tell you how deep that book is inside me – if you ever want to know what makes Higham tick, read that* – it’s the most honest account of him you’re ever likely to read.…

OHMSS – 45th anniversary


The sixth James Bond film, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, celebrates its 45th anniversary today. Back on December 18th 1969, the world premiere was held in London’s Leicester Square. ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ is now often considered one of the best James Bond fans among long-time fans. It was voted the #4 Bond adventure of all time in 2012 in the MI6 poll, which was biggest independent James Bond fan survey ever.

The old question, over and over and I for one never tire of that question, returning to it over and over, like returning to the well.…

Wish the Beeb would cover other divisions

Pity really that the Bournemouth game won’t be shown, though it’s on 5Live.  I’d like to see the top clubs in other divisions given coverage, as they’re obviously playing well.

Delighted that AFC Wimbledon get live coverage on January 3rd and would like to get to a tele that evening.  Don’t think they’re actually high enough but not complaining.

Liverpool better than Champions League, not good enough for top tier PL yet.  Sterling great, sad about Newcastle keeper.  Jones useless, BM goal, Liverpool need a keeper and striker.  Man U need a midfield.…

André Rieu – the delight and the disappointment [final]

The music was superb.  More classical last evening than in many of his programmes, fewer stunts, more straight out music, the audience did not know how to take it.

Together with the poor acoustics for an orchestra, everything felt just a little flat.  He obviously felt it too, perhaps he was tired, worn out, perhaps he missed home, perhaps the UK is not a happy country now, he had a half-sized orchestra, with no extras – so many possible reasons.

Perhaps he didn’t like the plebbishness and looked down upon them, which I’m not claiming and it would be slur on the man.  Yet one gets the feeling he knows what classical is, he knows this is not it but it’s a huge money-spinner plus it brings classics to the masses and the most important thing – he was always banging on about love.

True, the programme was about Venice and love but as he went into this with the audience, you could tell he really meant it.…

André Rieu – the delight and the disappointment [2]

May it be stated categorically, if stridently, that André Rieu does not shortchange his audiences – a two and three-quarter hour performance, with the shortest of intermissions, is not shortchanging. Not by any stretch.

To employ an Americanism – he works his butt off the whole time and even after that – gives some more. He is worth his money, if for that reason alone.

However, however … Hmmmm, it’s a puzzler as to what is wrong. Thee’s something wrong, of which the acoustics of the Echo sports stadium are but one part.

He’s no impostor, let’s get that out of the way. He does play violin and a fine one too, with good tone. If he’s not top rank, then he’s second or third out of a hundred ranks and that’s pretty damned good, despite what JD and other purists say.

Certainly good enough for an evening’s entertainment and showmanship.…

André Rieu – the delight and the disappointment [1]


There’s a piece of music coming up this evening from JD but what might have been a great preface to it, the noble JD does not include in the post:

Cowboy with no cattle, warrior with no war,
They don’t make imposters like John Wayne anymore.

Impostors – ye-e-e-e-s-s-s. Might have been the story of André’s Ruses, as I now call them. Harmless fun? Yes, to be sure, except for an incident at the end I’ll get to at the end and that was anything but harmless.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read, you begin with A B C; when you sing, you begin with An-de-ré. [Sorry.]

The pre-concert meal – teaching wimmin to flirt with girls

Ersatz, schlock rip-off or different genre?

Your humble blogger entirely missed this storm in the musical world – it’s almost as if he had been transported to … oh … I don’t know …  Russia … during the years when all this arose.

There are all sorts of arguments about.  What someone such as JD and I would agree on isthe travesty of the Turner, possibly on the Booker, naturally on Emin and Hirst, two of the most egregious people whose ‘style’ Brand has followed.

Populist sampling and synth, an analogy being ‘slam-dunking in basketball when all anyone wants to see is the netting of the ball but none of the intricate work which actually led to that basket.

Another analogy is only the icing and none of the cake which actually required all the baking.  It’s a trend the purists would abhor and I’m with ‘em on that, particularly in art.  Looking at that Vanessa Mae treatment of Vivaldi above, I didn’t like it, thought it was cheap and catered for the lowest common denominator.…

Decisions, decisions

There are two matters I’d like to ‘discuss’, if it could be called that.

1. The madcap idea

The first is that anything in Manchester or Liverpool is within range for me – train to the intercity, intercity to one of those two. Plus we’ve been discussing Rieu for some days.

Plus Mad Numiswhateveritis left a comment here:

… which has got me thinking. The reason it’s got me thinking is not only what he said but this as well:


Hmmmm – I’d need to decide today. Can’t afford it [only just] and the snow is coming – Friday might be hell on earth. Plus I’m worried about crowds these days, which is why I don’t live in London. Plus I’ve only light suits, not heavy – have a heavy sports jacket but one doesn’t go to concerts in that. Plus an eyesight issue I need to resolve. Hmmmm, need to decide today.…

In defence of André Rieu

This post is for any comments on the Rieu posts, it being the last on him for a while, to the relief of many of you.

Here are three criticisms of Rieu:

1. André Rieu is not considered by classical music fans as a “real” classical violinist, in the sense that the difficulty of his repertoire is significantly less than that of professional violinists. He also composes/arranges his repertoire in a way that it no longer sounds “classical”. He also doesn’t play the traditional repertoires like Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, Bach Partitas, etc.

IMO he must be respected for creating a popular brand and attracting many people to classical music, however debatable the understanding of “classical music” the audience might have.

2. It’s the criticism that comes with the territory, as it were. He is subject to the same criticism that any purveyor of E-Z Listenin’ is – be it John Tesh or Yanni.…