Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon, the occasional blog that brings you all the arts.

Today a rattling good story, two very different theatre experiences and a concert.

She Who Goes Forth by Audrey Driscoll

I posted this review on Amazon.co.uk, but it was rejected! I also posted it on Goodreads, giving it five stars.

Whether you are young or can remember setting out in life on your own, you will connect with France our heroine in this ripping yarn. She is the new girl and nothing in Luxor, Egypt is as she was expecting. France finds herself with a complex set of colleagues and like anyone new does not know what is going on. But with her trusty cello by her side she does not let much daunt her. Although this novel is a fantasy, it portrays real people at an interesting time in history. We are not sure at first what is truth, what is France’s imagination or what part others have played in the strange happenings. Then events start to happen fast and there are terrifying page turning moments as France’s life changes forever.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2792704117

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Whatever your taste in music, drama or films; going out to a live event is always an experience.

The Pavilion, Bournemouth

The Pavilion has been celebrating its ninetieth birthday, not the oldest theatre in the country, but it has seen off two winter gardens and survived several attempts at closure or change.

The actual birthday night was celebrated with a trip back in time, three hours of varied entertainment for less than £10. A municipal orchestra was recreated and rose from the orchestra pit. This was followed by amateur silent film of Bournemouth in 1929 and newsreel films accompanied by the fantastic Compton theatre organ, which can also pop up and down and can make the whole theatre vibrate. At the many keyboards was Donald Mackenzie who plays its sister organ at the Odeon Leicester Square.

http://www.donaldmackenzie.org.uk/

After the interval was a showing of my favourite old musical, 42nd Street, made in 1933 when movies had made a great leap forward from silent to large scale musicals. The first time I watched it was when the lovely Art Deco cinema in Christchurch was having its eightieth birthday in 2011. On that occasion Mark Kermode, film critic from the BBC, introduced the movie and declared how great it was that the little cinema was still using real ( reel ) film. Shortly afterwards the cinema went digital; modern technology has to be embraced to keep these places busy and functioning…

Meanwhile back at the Pavilion I enjoyed the film again, great music and a show business story that is still relevant, the fat bloke with the cigar and the money was Weinstein. As the film finished the organ rose from the pit with a resounding chord and played the National Anthem and yes we did all stand. Happy Birthday followed to round off a good evening.

Lighthouse Arts Centre, Poole

 The Lighthouse opened in 1978 and has a concert hall, theatre, studio and cinema. We went to the theatre to see ‘Dracula The Bloody Truth’ a family friendly show with the premise that Bram Stoker stole a true story.  Exeter based Le Navet Bete are committed to creating hilarious, physical and totally accessible comedy theatre using creative and engaging storytelling. The four chaps played many roles between them, including all the ladies. Their timing was brilliant as they mistimed everything, knocked scenery over or spoke each other’s lines. By the end of the first half, most of the set had fallen onto the stage. It was hilarious for the adults, but even better, the theatre was filled with the genuine laughter of children.

http://lenavetbete.com/shows/dracula/

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, has not been based in Bournemouth since it moved to the Lighthouse; it plays its main season of concerts there and some are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 – make sure you have your mobile phones turned off! But it still plays some concerts at the Pavilion and also in other towns all over the South West of England, as well as spreading out its members to work with schools and care homes.

Even if you are not interested in classical music you probably have an idea what happens at a live concert and you would be right…   audience sits down as orchestra come on and start tuning, leader of orchestra comes on, more applause, conductor and perhaps the soloist comes on; even greater applause and they haven’t even done anything yet, but they look smart. If there are choir seats behind the orchestra and no singing planned the audience can sit up there and get a great view of the percussion section, although I always worry the huge cymbals are going to go flying backwards into the audience as the percussionist strikes them with gusto. I have never tried these seats as it involves lots of clambering around watched by everybody else in the auditorium and it would be embarrassing to trip. On broadcast nights you can watch the radio presenter chatting away silently to the microphone in his little booth at the side of the stage…

https://www.lighthousepoole.co.uk/about/

But every concert can be different and there is plenty to watch. Serious concert goers who all know each other, school parties, restless children and inevitably some people who fall asleep; even the most ardent music lover can find their eyelids, or worse, their head drooping as a busy day catches up with them and they sit in warm comfort soothed by the music… and what of those going for the first time? At one concert, as we all filed up the shallow steps to the exit doors at the back, I heard a woman behind me saying to her chap

‘I feel like I’ve been run over by a tractor.’

You have no soul, it was fantastic.

‘Don’t ever bring me to a live concert again, I don’t mind listening to Classic FM on the radio…’

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At a recent concert nobody knew what to expect and the conductor gave us an introduction so we would be prepared. It was the third symphony by Armenian composer Avet Terterian. Two soloists played small wooden instruments called duduks. The piece started with total silence for a good few moments which was surprisingly moving; do we ever hear total silence? This was suddenly broken by the drums. I noticed some of the orchestra had ear plugs and a lady up in the choir seats kept her ears covered the whole time. The duduks, far from being overwhelmed by the orchestra, played piercing notes that took you back to ancient lands. There were other periods of silence and sweet lyrical parts. I could not describe the symphony, but I loved it. There was rapturous applause at the end; it had been an experience.

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The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

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If you recall the Sunday School chorus you will know the wise man built his house upon the rock and the foolish man built his house upon the sand. The rain came down and the floods came up. Even if you don’t know the chorus or Christ’s parable, I expect you can guess where this is leading. It is meant to be about building your life on Christ’s teaching, but it is also good engineering advice; advice that builders and councils everywhere, especially in coastal areas, often pay no heed to.

 

Someone I knew told me her father-in-law once had a chance to buy a cheap piece of land on the narrow strip of sand between Poole Harbour and the sea.

No thanks, it will be washed away in twenty years.

Sandbanks is now claimed to be the world’s most expensive coastal real estate in the world and the man’s descendants could hardly forget what they missed out on. But one day I’m sure the sand will wash away and there will be a different way out of the world’s second largest natural harbour.

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Move a little further east and cliffs start to rise towards Bournemouth where houses have slid down the cliff over the years. If left to their own devices cliffs naturally crumble into the sandy beach below. But when man made promenades and buildings are put up, the beach is washed away (coastal drift ) and if resorts wish to keep their beaches they must be replenished with sand dredged up from beneath the sea. Houses on the cliff top move nearer and nearer to the edge and remnants of gardens can be seen flourishing vertically on the cliffside. Chunks of cliff often fall on beach huts and three years ago a landslide wrecked one of Bournemouth’s three cliff lifts.

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But the council doesn’t wait for nature to knock buildings down. Last week was the ninetieth anniversary of Bournemouth Pavilion, which has survived both because of and despite councils over the years. It apparently took eighty years of discussion before it became a reality in 1929. In its life time it has seen two winter gardens demolished, but also saw Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra leave and move to Poole’s new arts centre. Looking out to sea from the ballroom the Pavilion was witness to a monstrosity being built at Pier Approach. This was The Waterside, featuring dark glass and a wavy roof designed to represent the sea. It was more commonly known as the Imax building and caused an outcry when it was opened in 1998, owing both to its looks and the fact that it blocked the view across Poole Bay to the Purbeck Hills. The Imax cinema only functioned for a short period and spent most of the years closed. In 2005 the Channel 4 programme Demolition asked people which building they would like knocked down and the Imax was judged first in line in England. The council then had to spend millions buying the building, demolishing it and creating a public ‘space’. Perhaps if they hadn’t demolished the swimming baths that stood there for fifty years…

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When we moved into our current house nearly fifteen years ago, the neighbour one side told us that the neighbours the other side were not there; they had to move out because of subsidence! This was a bit worrying and we should have known not to buy a house built on sand. We are not near the cliff edge, because those properties are too expensive, but we are on what was once sandy heathland.

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See more pictures of Bournemouth at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-two-coastal-views/

 

Everyone is welcome here. Tidalscribe will be remaining in the European Union.

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Where Are We?

Are you sure you know where you are? I could say I live in Wessex, but Wessex has not existed for a thousand years. It was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain, from 519 until England was unified by Æthelstan in the early 10th century. But Wessex must exist because Thomas Hardy set his novels there… No, he used it as the name of the county in which his stories are set; corresponding approximately to Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

But Wessex must exist because there is an Earl of Wessex.  Don’t worry if you get confused with all the titles the Queen has bestowed on her children and grandchildren, most of us do. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, Prince Edward, married Sophie Rhys-Jones. By tradition the monarch’s son receives a title upon marriage. Prince Edward became the first British prince in centuries to be created an earl, rather than a duke. His wife Sophie became The Countess of Wessex.

Many organisations, including the army, that cover the area of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire and Wiltshire use the name Wessex .

The ITV television series Broadchurch takes place in the Wessex area, primarily the county of Dorset. It features government agencies such as Wessex Police and Wessex Crown Court, and several characters are seen attending South Wessex Secondary School.

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I live in Bournemouth which is in Dorset… or is it?  Before it was founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell, the area was a deserted heathland occasionally visited by fishermen and smugglers. Historically part of Hampshire, it joined Dorset with the reorganisation of local government in 1974, but it has always seemed to me to have little in common with real rural Dorset. Since 1997 the town has been administered by Bournemouth Borough Council. But wait, more changes are afoot Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will be the unitary local authority for the district of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that is to come into being on 1 April 2019. The three towns already form the South East Dorset urban connurbation. What will it mean for the locals? Most of us are expecting to pay more in rates and have more services cut. Bournemouth is a new town set between two historic towns with plenty of pirates. Poole has the second largest natural harbour in the world, Sydney, Australia has the largest. Our sea is Pool Bay. Christchurch lies round the corner separated by Hengistbury Head; in Bronze Age Britain this was an important seaport, there was a settlement here in the Iron Age. I wonder how they viewed their identity?

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But let’s zoom in. I live in Southbourne, the creation of Doctor Thomas Armetriding Compton, who set up general practice in Bournemouth in 1866 and could see the area’s potential as a health resort. The clifftop land here had been part of Tuckton Farm, purchased by Compton in 1871 and later developed by the Southbourne-on-Sea Freehold Land Company.

Local businesses consider they are in Southbourne-on-Sea, Southbourne Grove, thriving with interesting shops and eateries, has been nicknamed the Sobo Mile.

You can see plenty of my local area at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-two-coastal-views/

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Now let us zoom out. I have never considered I come from anywhere in particular, having lived in lots of places. I was born in Middlesex, but it ceased to exist as a county in 1965. It stretched to Westminster many centuries ago, but London had finally swallowed it.

Our local borough may be getting bigger, but our horizons will narrow as Britain leaves the European Union, dark days for those of us who are Remainers. We shall all still be members of The Commonwealth and the English speaking world and The World, The Solar System and the Universe… as we used to write in our exercise books at school…

Do you know where you are, do you care where you are?

 

Silly Saturday – Not More Air Festival Shots…

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The Red Arrows flew over our road, but I missed the shot.

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Some people alter their whole house to get a good viewing point.

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Ice cream war?

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You need the right lens if you want to get good shots of the aeroplanes.

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Boats are easier to photograph.

 

 

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So are buses.

 

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Which ones are real?

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This is as far as Spiderman got!

 

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Which ride would you try?

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I got some good pictures of smoke…

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… and bikes.

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Meet the pilots.

For actual pictures of planes see Wednesday’s and Friday’s blogs.

 

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/to-the-pier/

 

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/friday-flash-fiction-flies

 

To The Pier

To organise a four day air festival with events on the ground and in the air, co-ordinating the military and private flight displays with the local airport, is a great feat. But that is nothing compared to the planning involved for families visiting or local households being visited.

Bournemouth Air Festival, now in its eleventh year, straddled the end of August and beginning of September, marking the end of the school holidays. With the generous four days there is a good chance of having at least one good flying day.

A clear day is perfect, heavy cloud means the Red Arrows doing a low level display and torrential rain grounds all the planes. This year we had four fine days and it was too hot at times. The only problem was where to watch from.

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Wherever you are you will see some flying; young children on the cliff top will be happy just watching the planes fly by, some people sit in their garden, others go to Bournemouth Airport to watch planes take off and land. But to get the total experience you need to be between Boscombe and Bournemouth piers, on the beach or cliff top, to hear the commentary and see the centre of the display.

In Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse, no one actually gets to the lighthouse and at the weekend I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get to the pier. Cyberspouse headed straight for the East Cliff with his camera and big lenses each day; as I only have a compact camera and missed all the best shots, I have borrowed some of his pictures.

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For the rest of us Thursday was the beach hut day; convenient, a good view of passing planes or you can swim and watch them above you. There is one downside; every year the beach hut next to us is used by a family coming down to visit granny; she has lots of family, they are all odd and most of her grandchildren whine. The air festival family’s children have whined about everything in the eight years we have had our hut. Fortunately as they have multiplied they have spent more time spread out on the beach. The Red Arrows arrived at five thirty, the sun came out and the nine Hawk jets glinted high up in the sky as they made their graceful curves, swooped down for scary passes then signed off marking the one hundredth birthday of the Royal Air Force ( before that it was the army flying corps.)

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Friday the visitors went into town to play crazy golf and enjoy the busy sea front. I didn’t even get to the cliff top as the garden needed to be watered and food cooked. I saw the Red Arrows from the back garden and got dinner early as Cyberspouse wanted to get back out for the after dark flying. Who is doing and seeing what and where has to be planned with military precision. The visitors went back to Bournemouth pier for the ten o’clock fireworks.

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On Saturday the visitors were meeting friends and I went to the greengrocers and saw the Red Arrows from the front garden. I got to the beach hut for a late swim and on the way back up the cliff zig zag the Breitling Jet Team flew straight over my head. I stopped to watch their evening display and took pictures of smoke in the sunset. Dinner was late, but we had time to walk back to the cliff top to see the Saturday fireworks in the distance and enjoy the lights of Poole Bay all the way round to Swanage.

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Sunday the visitors had to go home and I finally made it to the pier. The promenade was unrecognisable with fair ground rides, military stalls and food outlets; noisy and busy. It is worth hearing the commentary; what is flying, how fast, which manoeuvre.

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Every year is slightly different; we always have at least one Spitfire, but the Lancaster wasn’t flying. Sally B was here again, but not the iconic Vulcan bomber or the Typhoon to deafen us. The Breitling team were on their first visit and they were terrific, at times within 3 metres of each other at speeds of over 430mph.

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Friday Flash Fiction and Silly Saturday continue the flying theme.

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Friday Flash Fiction – 1K

Two Minutes Later

 It was one of those perfect moments that are rare; my body still tingling from the sea and soaking in the warmth of the sun, I wrapped my white finger tips round a mug of fresh coffee. In the blue skies above, vintage aeroplanes soared and swooped. While others stood on the crowded cliff tops in the baking sun, I enjoyed the privacy and comfort of my little shady window box on the world. The four figure beach hut rates for a six by six wooden box, one tier above the promenade, were worth it for this moment alone.

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I looked at my watch as I polished off my sandwich, 1.30 pm; another hour and I would plunge back into the sea. In the meantime it was inevitable that I would drift off to sleep… the sunlight was red through my eyelids, the planes and waves together made soothing background music.

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Two minutes later a chill on my skin prompted me to open my eyes. I looked at my watch, 1.32pm and closed them again. But a voice penetrated my oblivion.

‘You’ve let your tea go cold.’

‘Geoff, I thought you were on the cliff top taking photos, no peace for the wicked.’

‘What… I thought you’d be in a panic to get ready for work.’

‘Work?’

‘You’re late shift…’

Reluctantly I opened my eyes, wondering if my husband had gone mad. He was sitting next to me and peering over the top of his newspaper.

‘Good thing we didn’t move to Bournemouth, look at all those crowds on the beach for the Air Festival.’

‘But we did… and we’ve got a beach hut…’

He carried on talking as if everything was normal ‘…and as for getting your dream beach hut, long waiting list and much too expensive apparently.’

Something was wrong, very wrong and I could not avoid the evidence of my eyes. We were sitting in the garden of 29, Mildred Crescent, Harmonton. I recognised it even though the trees and shrubs had grown a lot in the seven years since we moved away; this was turning out to be a very vivid dream, a nightmare. I looked at my watch again, 1.34pm. If I closed my eyes I could finish the dream and wake up at the beach hut.

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We had both taken early pensions from work, I loved working at Heathrow, but I did not intend to spend the rest of my life living in Harmonton, Middlesex; the sea beckoned. Geoff was equally determined not to end up like his boring parents living in the same road all their married lives, round the corner. We had never regretted the decision.

The sun must have gone behind a cloud, I felt chilly. I should have changed out of my wet swimming costume, my beach towel must have fallen off. I looked down at my lap and saw my old skirt, I turned my head to see my old pink blouse.

‘Are you okay,’ said Geoff ‘shall I phone in and say you’re sick.’

‘Er… I’m fine, I had this strange dream we were still in Harmonton.’

‘Ha, ha, very funny… was that the door bell, is Marion giving you a lift to work?’

I shook my head in disbelief; Marion who I felt sorry for, guilty even, when I handed in my resignation and she realised it was true, I really was going. We’d worked together for years, lived close; I had been an aunty to her children. She was never going to leave Harmonton and I was never going to stay. We popped up to visit at first, but their seaside holidays with us never materialised, we made new friends, she wasn’t on Facebook…

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I looked up and there she was, hair different, a few more lines.

‘Don’t blame you for dozing in the garden, that’s what I hate about late shift, I’ll admire Geoff’s vegetable beds while you get changed, don’t be long, we can’t both be late and don’t forget your ID pass this time.’

If I stood up I would wake up and stop my past playing out in my dreams. I walked towards the back door, the scent of Alyssum tumbling over the edge of the patio was so real I bent down to pick a sprig, I crushed the tender stalks in my fingers. I reached out for the back door handle, it was solid and very real. I walked through into the old kitchen I’d been a little sad to leave behind. Then it had been stylish, now it looked very tired compared with the fitted kitchen in our Bournemouth flat.

Now there was a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. This house was no dream; I dashed frantically up the familiar stairs into the bedroom; yellow and blue, what had happened to the dated eighties pink flowered wallpaper? My work uniform was hanging up on a strange wardrobe…

I stumbled down the stairs, I didn’t want to face the truth, there was still a chance to wake myself up. Out in the street we got into a strange car, not strange to Marion though.

‘Marion, remind me why we’re doing this, still working at the airport?’

She laughed. ‘We’re not getting our state pensions yet and you said you would go mad with boredom staying at home now Geoff’s retired.’

‘I had this vivid dream when I was dozing in the garden, I was sitting in my own beach hut, we lived in Bournemouth.’

‘That was a dream for sure, you’d never get Geoff to move, remember when you suggested it years ago?’

I certainly did and now I knew the unthinkable had happened, I had slipped into my alternative future, a future where nothing had happened except our bedroom being redecorated. Geoff had become his boring father, not the new man who hiked in the New Forest and followed tide timetables for his photography. Boring Geoff was happy with his vegetable beds and fish pond and would never move away while his parents were still alive, or when they were dead. Now I remembered the alternative past seven years, the mortgage paid off and money kept sensibly in the bank. Geoff would not even contemplate a caravan. I let out a silent scream.

 

For more short stories, open the book and have a look.

 

Pause and Applause

We were at a matinee concert at Bournemouth Pavilion, near the front was a young mother with a little boy who was chatting excitedly, when the music started he quietened. After a few bars the conductor raised his baton for a pause in the music; the little boy called out in a loud voice STOP. It was so funny. The conductor lowered his baton unperturbed and the orchestra carried on playing, but before the next piece of music a busy body usherette came bustling down and moved the mother and child further back and to the side. I hope it didn’t discourage them from live concerts.  After all, the child was better behaved than some adults and Bournemouth Pavilion seems to attract more than its fair share of odd people when Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra are playing.

The seats are very close together with little leg room, not surprising in a building nearly a hundred years old, so just getting to one’s seat involves lots of very English ‘excuse me’s and ‘sorry’s. One afternoon in the foyer, an ‘odd chap’ was already causing confusion in the queue for programmes. Soon after I sat down he came shuffling along, huffing and puffing, treading on toes as he made his way to the middle of the row in front, then with much shuffling, grunts and elbows flying finally sat down. Nobody could believe it when in the middle of the first piece of music he stood up and reversed the whole procedure till he finally reached the aisle again.

One evening the lady in front of me started rummaging in her bag the moment the first notes were played, her friend whispered advice ‘In my experience the more you look the less likely you are to find what you are looking for.’ The rummaging continued until the last note when she triumphantly held aloft what she had been looking for – her glasses.

Surely no one would unwrap sweets noisily? Yes, perhaps they can be excused if they have just had a coughing fit. But why would anyone eat a packet of crisps in a concert? One evening, across the aisle from us, sat a lady who we assumed had come along as carer or friend with a very disabled lady in a state of the art wheelchair. The disabled lady sat quietly enjoying the concert and needed no attention from her friend, so what on earth was her companion doing digging in her bag, rustling around, disturbing everybody and probably the orchestra as well?

Visit another Pavilion concert in a previous blog.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/wagner-elgar-and-all-star-superslam-wrestling

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Not everyone intentionally causes havoc at a concert. We were at the Lighthouse in Poole, the BSO were at full throttle in a lively movement of a Tchaikovsky symphony when we felt our seats vibrating. It wasn’t the music; several well built Saint John’s Ambulance people were wheeling a stretcher down the aisle, with even more disruption as they tried to get to the collapsed man; finally they wheeled him off with his poor wife, clutching her handbag, following after them. The orchestra played on valiantly, presumably the conductor would not have seen all the action, some of the orchestra must have, unless they were totally absorbed in the music.

Some people enjoy a night out without hearing the concert. I knew an elderly couple who came to the Lighthouse throughout the season. He loved music, she did not and figured they could afford for him to go to more concerts if they didn’t buy tickets for her. She was quite happy to sit in the foyer with her knitting, holding court, chatting to the Saint John Ambulance and bar staff. At one stage she made a friend who also sat out the concert waiting for her husband.

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If you have never been to a live concert before don’t worry, you won’t draw attention to yourself if you follow two simple rules. Don’t clap till you are surrounded by applause; even regulars don’t always know when a piece of music has ended. Second rule, don’t stand up, don’t move a muscle until the orchestra leaves the stage. You may think the concert is over because the conductor and soloist have been applauded and left the stage. Don’t be deceived, they will return, perhaps several times to more frantic applause and just when you really think it’s over and you will be in time to catch your train or get to the car park before your ticket expires, the pianist will sit down smiling and play an encore. At one concert the flamboyant pianist played three encores, each with enthusiastic flourishes, did I detect  a look of panic on the faces of the orchestra members, was she ever going to go home?