We went to a NADFAS lecture today, on the birth of Italian opera – and learned that the very first opera ever was performed on 6th October, 1600; a performance of Giulio Caccini’s Euridice – and, though it was interesting and entertainingly delivered by a very knowledgeable musician, its focus was so very narrow that we came away feeling that we hadn’t really learned much more than that first fact. He played extracts from CDs of several pieces of music from about that time and, really, about two would have been enough. It would have been better if he’d taken a broader scope than just the forerunner to opera, Caccini’s work and a bit of Monteverdi. It sounded like the first in a series of lectures rather than one to give enough information to engage the amateur’s interest. I did like him and he knew a lot about his subject, but it could have been brilliant rather than just good.
I’d suggested we park at John Lewis and that afterwards, I’d do a bit of clothes shopping. I’ve been looking for a jacket for the last two or three years without success, but I’d also quite like a new coat as mine is nearly three years old (I don’t want to get rid of it, just have another one too) and a dress, skirt, whatever else took my eye, was not at all out of the question. Perhaps some shoes, too. I’ve not been very fortunate in buying new shoes in the last year or two either (I’m not the most enthusiastic shopper) and tend to go straight from sandals to boots, rarely wearing actual shoes.
I was reminded of why I hardly ever buy clothes in Norwich John Lewis. The department is so big, jumbled and unfocussed that I can’t find anything. It used to be a very nice shop – originally a family-owned department store; the name was kept for some years after it was bought out, so I’m not sure who owned it when it was enlarged about 30 years ago and had a big multi-storey car park added (the worst designed car park you can imagine), but it ruined the clothes shop for me. And, like all department stores now, lots of different makes have their stock in separate sections, so there’s nowhere to go for a coat, you have to look at all the brands. Because of the spread-out layout, there’s no cohesion, no focus, and we wandered around for a while without finding anything we liked at a glance, and felt discouraged from searching further. I might have gone and looked at shoes, but discovered that they’d put them down on the ground floor, and couldn’t be bothered to go and look for them.
So we left without spending any money at all and I’d had it in mind that, if I’d found enough things I liked, I’d have been willing to spend a few hundred pounds. I was feeling some sympathy for John Lewis, whose profits this year have been cut to the bone. Some of the reason for that is that, when House of Fraser was trying to stave off insolvency, they kept discounting stock and JL, “never knowingly undersold” had to follow suit. And then the chap who doesn’t have the best reputation, who’s taken over HoF, first said he’d honour orders paid for before insolvency and then changed his mind, I resolved that I’ll never shop in HoF again and would go out of my way to buy from JL. Oh well. I’ll go into the little clothes shop in Yagnub and see what they’ve got – not coats or jackets, though.
As we walked towards the Nadfas venue, I mentioned reports that people who live on busy roads are more likely to suffer from dementia in old age; which follow hard on reports that babies and children are of less intelligence if they are affected by pollution. Though I don’t dispute the findings, though what the statistics actually mean is probably not as clear-cut as the reports suggest, this information suddenly being plugged by news media sounds to me as if it’s an agenda being pushed. I’d be quite interested in an electric car, actually, and may well look into it next year, but only for local driving, I don’t think they’ve sorted out charging batteries on journeys at all as yet. But it’s starting to sound to me as if spin doctors are driving the reports and that’s not conducive to good news gathering.
Having just said that to Tim, we sat and listened to the chairman’s introduction. She said that, with the change of name from the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies to, simply, The Arts Society, that gave more scope for having lectures from all branches of the arts, not just furniture, pictures and so on. And then, another committee member, giving the vote of thanks, said much the same thing. I was irritated. It’s balderdash, for one thing. We’ve been having lectures on music for as long as I’ve been a member, over 30 years. And we’ve had lectures on garden design, archaeology, all sorts of things that widen the scope considerably from Fine Arts. It seems clear to me that Head Office has received flak from changing the name from the distinctive, memorable one it used to have to an anodyne, inaccurate one (it’s an association of many affiliated societies, not a single society) that blurs, in pronunciation, a distinction between Art and Arts; and so they’ve told the societies’ committees to emphasise a spurious advantage of the new name. Which is treating us as if we’re quite stupid, really.
But to end on a cheery note, we went into the butcher on the way home and found that they’d got shin of beef with the bone in, which is a rare find. So Tim volunteered to make osso buco for dinner. It’s something I’ve never cooked, but it’s one of his specialities, since his days in Milan. So we’re in for a treat tonight.