Love and Chaos Part 6 (D) Three English Portraits

9th May 2021

Sir Edward Elgar OM, GCVO
William Walton: albums, songs, playlists | Listen on Deezer
Sir William Walton OM
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Ralph Vaughan Williams - Wikipedia
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM

The ‘Enigma Variations’ of 1899 heralded the arrival of Edward Elgar, a young English composer who would not only surpass his teachers and rivals, but would restore international acclaim to British music. He was the greatest native composer since Purcell.

He overcame prejudice against his humble background, and his own discomfort in society as, for twenty years, he composed symphonies, oratorios and concertos that rank among the major works of Twentieth Century Music.

However, the sonic assault of his ‘Cello Concerto’ of 1919 was to be his last masterpiece. Shortly after, his wife died and he withdrew from public life, convinced that his art was old-fashioned, in comparison to the Modernist compositions coming from over The Channel.

That Elgar could be a part of the establishment, yet also a ‘down to earth’, ‘man of the people’ is attested to in the following anecdote.

William Walton, as a young music student, met the elder composer, and was so overawed by being in the presence of so great a man, that he was unable to speak. Elgar immediately put him at ease, by asking him if he knew who had won that afternoon’s big horse race.

Walton was befriended and encouraged by Siegfried Sassoon and The Sitwells, and wrote a musical interpretation of Edith Sitwell’s ‘Facades’. There was a society performance where the music played while the poetess recited through a megaphone.

In November 1935, the year after Elgar’s death, Walton’s First Symphony was finally premiered, ‘finally’ as it was started in England in 1932 and was scheduled to make its first appearance the following year.

It is dedicated to Baroness Imma von Doernberg, a young widow the composer had met in 1929.

By 1931, The Composer and The Baroness were living together in Switzerland, though Walton later returned to England and began work on the symphony.

Work on it was interrupted as Walton returned to Switzerland to be with the Baroness who had fallen ill, and they continued their often tempestuous relationship.

Aside from these personal problems, Walton was also lacking inspiration and canvassed his friends’ opinions as how to finish the symphony.

The on-off relationship finally ended in 1934, when the Baroness left The Composer for a Hungarian Doctor.

The symphony is regarded as an important addition to the canon of British music. It begins very softly, as if arriving through an early morning, country mist, before erupting into moments of intense drama, and sensual beauty.

Walton was still a relative newcomer to the music scene, when his First Symphony was being composed, whereas Vaughan Williams was a ‘grand old man’ when he began composing his Sixth Symphony.

This remarkable composition has all the energy and iconoclastic disregard of a young composer, anxious to make his mark by flaunting all conventions.

Three movements run as one, the quiet moments being just as uncomfortable as the loud, with their sense of foreboding. Yet it is the fourth movement that sets the symphony apart and on which its reputation rests: the entire section is played pianissimo. An early critic wrote of the finale as,

“… devoid of all warmth and life, a hopeless wandering through a dead world … “.

The Composer denied it had anything to do with the battlefields of Europe, the death camps of Poland, the post-atomic cityscape of Hiroshima.

Adapting folk melodies of one’s own country is known as Nationalism in music. Hearing that Ralph Vaughan Williams was a ‘Nationalist’ composer, the Hamburg University offered him an honorary degree in 1938. After much debate, he decided to accept, using the occasion to send a letter stating,

“I am strongly opposed to the present government in Germany, especially with regards to its treatment of artists and scholars … and my first instinct is to refuse … “

Hitler banned the music of Vaughan Williams later that same year.

Love and Chaos Part 6(C) Richard 1

8th May 2021

Berliner Dom (Cathedral). Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Six. Berlin. February 1995

Richard was in the bathroom, trying to get his hair to do something presentable, when he heard someone shouting, in English, from the Hof,

“RECALLED TO LIFE ! RECALLED TO LIFE !”

Having just finished ‘The Tale Of Two Cities’, he instantly recognised the quote, and the speaker could only be Chris.

Sure enough, within seconds, there was the sound of key in lock, the door opening and Chris bounding in, repeating his phrase, with a wide smile.

“Hey, I’m coming, too ! Couldn’t miss Al’s gig.”

They embraced and whooped it up.

“What about work ?” asked Richard, having gone with Monika as she had driven Chris to work in Yorckstrasse, some hours previously.

“I raged against the washing-up machine. I threw down my tea towel, pointed at the head chef and said, ‘Fuck you ! I won’t do what you tell me !’”

“No !”

“Well . . . OK, not exactly. I jumped out the window and legged it.”

“You’re gonna hafta fill me in here, Dude, c’mon, full story.”

“So I’m at work, and it’s Saturday and you’re going out tonight with my girlfriend, not sure how I feel about that, but by the by, everyone’s going to have fun . . . “

“No, we’re going to see Al. Have you heard Al ?”

“A minor point, I’m working and I get sent to get something, I don’t even know what it is, some long piece of meat, about two metres long, who the fuck knows where it comes from, real ‘Naked Lunch’ food. Anyway, I forget what it is I’m going for and I have to ask somebody . . . “

“I hate having to ask somebody.”

“. . . and I completely forget the fucking chef’s name. I know it’s something like Randy, Roderick, Reginald, but they’re not sounding too German, so I’m in the fridge, suddenly it comes to me. I run out, stand in the middle of the kitchen and shout out,
‘RUDOLPH!’ like, you know, as in reindeer. Everyone looks at me, then goes back to work.”

“Guessing his name wasn’t Rudolph, then.”

“Guessing you could be right. Randolf.”

“Ah, much more German.”

“I just thought, fuck this ! I’m standing in the middle of a greasy, pasta-stinking kitchen calling out for a red-nosed, possibly fictional, animal. And not even drunk. The sink is right by the window, looks out onto the street.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Future reference. You ever start a kitchen, don’t ever give the Spüler clean sight of escape.”

“Well, you just did your duty.”

“Absolutely. I mean, fucking hell, washing-up for a living, screw me.”

“Yes. Pretty rough, isn’t it. Monika should be here soon.”

Soon enough, the knock on the door. Richard opened it and he hugged Monika. She asked him,

“Ah, question, shall we go straight there, or would you like we go to another bar first ? Get a bit drunk ?”

At that point, Monika stopped. She had just seen Chris come out from the living room. He stood by the door, smiling,

“Liebling ! (Darling)”

“And . . . what is ?”

“I left the job. I’ll get another.”

“And, when ? You have something ?”

“I will.”

Monika walked into the room and into the kitchen, Chris expected to follow.

“Er, it’s OK, I’m just gonna put some blue shit on my face,” said Richard, trying to be tactful, and referring to a face pack he’d picked up at Zoo Station. Chris had no idea what he was talking about, but did know that he was in for a rather unpleasant meeting.

The bathroom wall backed onto the kitchen, so the voices were quite clear, especially the female one, which sounded somewhat angry. Richard turned on the taps and began humming to himself.

After a series of very animated, though muffled screams, Richard heard heavy footsteps, followed by the front door slamming shut.

He came out of the bathroom, with the face pack on. Chris just gave him a look, an intake of breath and shake of the head. Then he looked at Richard more intensely,

“You’ve got blue shit all over your face.”

“Yeah.”

“You going like that ?”

“Naw, thought I’d wash it off, first.”

“Cool. Ummm . . . don’t think Monika will be joining us, tonight.”

Love and Chaos Part 6(B) Monika 1

7th May 2021

Bullet holes still visible on buildings in east Berlin. Photo by Martin O’Shea

Part Six. Berlin. January 1995

Gabi was on the merry-go-round. She fell onto the red, leather sofa, holding her head and knowing that all would be well, if only she could get the room to stop spinning.

Monika sat next to Gabi and instinctively began stroking her hair, while Lorelei went to the bar to get water, and another round of Voudinis for those still standing.

Silke waited impatiently. When Lorelei returned, she grabbed the vodka and bitter lemon drink and handed one to Monika,

“Come, Prost!” She emptied her glass in one go.

The four girls were getting a lot of attention from a group of men in the Nollendorfplatz bar, but before they could make their move, Silke fixed them with an angry start and a stern,

“Ja ? Was ?” (Yes ? What ?) which, quite understandably, deterred them.

Silke continued her post mortem of her relationship with Andreas. He didn’t know yet, but she was about to end it. She had made a lot of allowances and had carried him, financially, for just too long.

“Can you believe it ? I told him not to worry about Weihnachten (Christmas), we’ll have a little celebration when I get back. And what ? He fucks off to Turkey. With what money ? He’d been saving up. All the time I was paying for him, drinks and food and cinema. Scheiße ! Arschloch !”(shit ! asshole !)

Gabi was talked out about Sebastian, punctuating her tale of misery with shots of Voudini, and, as there had been a lot of misery, there had been a lot of shots.

Lorelei had joined in lamenting about not having a man, there seemingly being none around, while Monika had felt disturbingly empathetic as she listened to Silke’s catalogue of complaints.

Monika was known to have continual on-off affairs, so it was no surprise to her friends that she had broken up then got back together with Chris.

Tonight, inspired by vodka and the general mood, she let rip about Chris. There was no progress there. There had been such magic at the beginning, but, half a year later, there were in the same place. It felt like a holiday romance, that Chris could leave at any time and feel no remorse. It was this obsession that was keeping her from really committing, as well as her conviction that he was interested in other women and it would only be a matter of time before he cheated on her.

At another time, Gabi would have explained that maybe he sensed her not being fully open, and would encourage her to give more of herself, but now she was just making soft noises of distress.

Silke appreciated the solidarity, women who deserve better than the no-hopers they has wasted time on.

Lorelei mainly remained quiet. She was also glad that this bar had red lighting, because when she heard that Andreas may soon be available, she felt herself blush.

Back in Prenzlauer Berg, Richard had just come home and found Chris standing by the CD player. A tape of flat, plodding keyboard music, with some unmelodious attempt at singing, was playing.

They looked at each other.

Richard raised his eyebrows.

Chris let out a desperate sigh.

They both shrugged their shoulders.

“I just thought it’ld be more like Beefheart, or Ry Cooder, or some wild desert music. Not that I’ve heard Beefheart or Ry Cooder, or wild desert music, but . . .”

“I know,” agreed Chris. “So. What do we do ?”

“We could say the tape got mangled.”

“Yeah. I’d quite happily mangle it. No, need something better. We have to see the fucker. Live. In concert. This . . . cack !”

“Oh, shit, I’d forgotten. Man, this is awful.”

“Tell me about it, I’ve been listening to it for half an hour. Waiting for ‘the good song’. It never came.”

“No,” Richard clarified, “I mean the situation. How do you tell someone that you hate their stuff. It’s his whole life, whole identity.”

“How can a guy look so fucking cool, and make . . . this ?”

“Did Monika hear it ?”

“Not for long. She turned it straight off. ‘That music is depressing and unnecessary.’ Absolutely right.”

“So . . . what do we do ?”

“Drink, obviously,” suggested Chris. There were four beers in the fridge but even they couldn’t help. They talked over the music, and before long, had quite forgotten it was even there.

“A brothel,” said Richard, out of the blue.

“OK. What ?”

“Remember that shop next to Rigaer 16 ? All that junk in the window, none of it making sense ?”

“I’ve been here nearly two years, but less and less about this city makes sense.”

“There’s a joke, a New York joke. You know what a Mohel is ? He’s the guy that performs the circumcision. OK, there’s this man, walking along Fifth Avenue, and he’s looking for a jewellers, to get his watch repaired. Suddenly he sees a shop window with a large elegant clock, so he goes in, up to the counter and takes off his watch. ‘Can you fix this ?’ he asks. The shop owner says, ‘No, I’m a mohel, not a watchmaker.’ The first man then asks, ‘If you’re a mohel, why do you have a clock in the window ?’ to which the mohel replies, ‘Nu, what should I have in the window ?’ So, it must be a brothel, because . . . ”

“Yeah, what should they have in a window, yeah. Maybe it’s a mohel’s ?”

“In Berlin ? I somehow doubt it.”

Chris stifled a laugh and mulled over some thoughts.

“So, or nu, this circumcision lark . . . you, er . . . “

“A-humm.”

“Hhhmm. Still hurt ?”

“A little, but I can always tell when it’s going to rain.”

Several hours later, Alan Francis was on the London Tube, heading for a job interview.

Just before Christmas, he had had his first preliminary assessment.

He felt that he had done a good job and was expecting a pay rise, or promotion, or at least an offer for him to go on an executive trainee course, which he would have to refuse, as he would soon be making films.

Instead, he got a character assassination. Everything from his attitude to his appearance was brought up and found wanting.

He took it all with barely a word in his defence, secretly planning a new job. As soon as possible.

Love and Chaos Part 6(A) Chris 1

6th May 2021

Photo by Martin O’Shea 2021

Part Six

Berlin. January 1995

Richard knocked the worst of the snow from his boots and entered the bar immediately seeing, and hearing, Chris and Arizona Al at a far table.

He ordered a coffee as he walked over to them, and began the process of taking off the layers of clothing.

It was only mid afternoon, but all lights were on. The day, seen through the large glass panes, was gray and bitter, people walked along quickly, heads down and wrapped up against the cold.

“Look what I got,” he said, opening his bag and taking out three second hand paperbacks. He put them on the table, Chris taking them straight up,

“Let’s see . . . ‘Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man’, hhmmm, ‘The Trial’, Kafka, and, ah, Dickens, ‘Tale of Two Cities’. Which one you gonna read first ?”

“Think I’ll have a bash at Kafka. You’re always talking about him. You read this one ?”

“Long time ago. Al ?”

“Err, what’s that ? Kafka ? No, who’s he ?”

Richard explained about the Czech writer, as best he could, only knowing what he had read in the introduction on the U-Bahn ride.

“Oh, yeah, cool, could give that a go, yeah, something different. Been meaning to ask you guys about books. Like to maybe borrow some, if that’s no biggie ?”

“Here,” said Richard, offering the Memoirs. “Thought it was something German, name like Siegfried Sassoon, but turns out he’s as English as can be.”

“Yeah, the fox hunting bit may have been a clue, what ?” said Chris with a wink at Al, before asking him, “You read Generation X ?”

“Err, no, no, don’t think so.”

Richard had brought it from London, and they had read and reread it many times between them. Chris was all for going home and getting it immediately, but Al told him that later would be OK.


“It legitimizes our whole existence,” continued Richard, “for example, I’m no longer a hopeless loser, I’m a McJober. We,” indicating Chris and himself, “are occupational slummers. You, Al, are retro, neo, rock star, throwback . . . something.”

“Actually,” corrected Chris, “I’m taking an occupational sabbatical.”

“Yeah, how’s the job hunt going ?” asked Arizona, trying to get the conversation back to something he could understand.

Richard laughed to himself, having heard all of Chris’ descriptions of sordid, Dickensian working conditions.

“I’ve got an interview, meeting thing tomorrow at some pasta restaurant in Yorckstrasse, so at least I’ll get some decent grub. But, fucking hell, some of the places. I went to one, out past Dahlem, and there was no sink in the kitchen. They were showing me how to take the plates and shit out to a big barrel in the yard, and wash them with a hose. Then I went to a brewery bar on the Ku’ Damm. Took one fucking look and thought fuck that. Enormous kitchen and about ten chefs, all screaming at each other and at the Spülers, who just stood there, heads down, as frying pans were flying around, fat was flying, food was flying, bottles . . . lucky not to be decapitated. Lucky not to be employed there.”

Richard enjoyed the embellishments Chris had made since he first heard that anecdote, when it had featured a mere four chefs. He then spoke up, as much to clear his name as anything.

“Of course, I offered to let him go back to Biberkopf . . . “

“Yes, but then what ? I have a much better chance of finding something than you. Besides . . . Monika’s not happy with me being just a . . . “

Arizona waited for the completion of the sentence, but was forced to ask,

“You and Monika not so tight ? I thought you were solid.”

Chris let out a whistle,

“No, sir, not by a long chalk. Trouble at mill.”

He knew that Arizona would have no idea what he was talking about, so he clarified.

“I don’t know, Al. You should know, you’re been around women. What should I do ? First, every thing’s fine, great, she’s the love of my life, next thing, she’s a bloody Tasmanian Devil, a force of destruction. Hurricane Monika. Not a house left standing.”

“Hey, man, can I ask you something ?” then without waiting for permission, Arizona continued, “what was the deal with that Melanie chick ?”

Richard sat up, hoping that at last, he may know the full story.

Chris did in fact look at him as he began, but now didn’t care and was happy to get it all out in the open.

“I don’t know. As you can see, when it comes to women, I’m at a bit of a loss.”

“She was into you like gangbusters, Dude. When you kissed Monika, her face was just pure evil. Queen of death.”

“Yeah ! That’s her. ‘Queen of Death’”

“All that black doesn’t help,” added Richard.

“She some kind of Antichrist or something ?” asked Arizona.

“Atheist,” said Richard, presuming Al has used the wrong word. “We had a discussion about her beliefs one morning. She told me there was no God. But atheists are like joggers; you never see a happy one.”

“And you couldn’t argue with her. She’s always right.” said Chris.

“Especially when she’s wrong,” concluded Richard. Arizona was more interesting in the background than the word games.

“But did you ever like, date or fool around ?”

“Yeah, you ever take her out to second base ?” asked Richard.

“Get to second base, asshole. If you’re gonna go Yankee on my arse, at least get it right !”

Arizona tried to get the answer. Chris refocused.

“No, no, well, yeah, OK, kinda kissed and shit, but I wasn’t really into it. Breaks down like this; I was working in a café, bussing tables ‘n’ shit. OK, I was pouring coffee and working the till, whatever, and Melanie also worked there.”

“And Will was a regular customer ?” interrupted Richard.

“I’ll get to that bloody old nuisance in a moment.” Chris shook his head and took a strong hit of caffeine. “So, we’re both students, Mel and me, but never meet on campus, because I’m doing heavy macho stuff and she’s into waste of time, book reading or flower arranging, I dunno, chick subjects. But, you know, there ain’t much a-happ’ning on the home front, and we get on, and one night we go to the movies. Then, afterwards, as we’re saying ‘goodbye’ she comes up to me and gives me a massive hug, really hung in there, got her moneys worth. That should have been a sign.”

“Oh, I get it. A clingy-thingy.” Said Arizona.

“I hear you, Man.”

“But you were never together ?” clarified Richard.

“No, course not. So we kissed a bit, well, you know, vodka will do that to ya. But then I pulled down the portcullis. Told her I wasn’t into anything physical. Childhood trauma and all. I expected her to run like the clappers, but, oh no, she has to add her own Freudian fuckups. Unable to . . . you know.”

Arizona nodded, slowly, sagely. He knew.

“But she was coming on like you were soul mates an’ all,” Richard explained, “such talk, like you have the best hands in history. Let me see. Hold up those Germans.”

Chris wasn’t exactly sure of that Cockney slang, but held out his hands for inspection.

Richard made a dismissive snort,

“They’re nothing to write home about. Now, Will; what’s his problem.”

“Where do I start ? He’s just some old fart who’d come in, buy one coffee and stay all day. Couldn’t shift the fucker. The sort that works out how much he’s saving on electricity. Sniffing around young students.”

“Male or female ?”

“I don’t think he was even bothered. In fact . . . Yes, sonofabitch, he came on to me. Few times. Cheeky bugger. Thought he was just being . . . ”

“HEY !” exclaimed Arizona, who had been looking at some flyers on the table, “whatdoyaknow ? ‘The Wiggling Kellys’.”

There were a few seconds of silence, as Chris’s story had been prematurely curtailed, and they would have to adjust to the verbal jet-lag, as a new, wholly unrelated tale was going to unfold.

“Ha, those girls. They were my backing band.”

Neither Chris nor Richard were willing to delay the story, so they indicated with their eyes that he should continue, without pause, with Richard holding up his coffee cup, and three fingers, to the waitress, whom he naturally found cute. He had already checked her left hand and noticed the absence of a ring.

“Yeah, they were backing me at the ‘So Was ?’ (So what ?) club in Kreuzberg. Ya been there ? It’s got this long kinda walkway catwalk stage, so it’s great for rocking out on. I’d met these two girls some time before and they’re real hot, groupie types, and they’re asking about venues and how to go about getting a band together, and I’m all, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, just trying to decide which one I wanna connect with, ya dig ? So I told them about this gig and they were asking do I need backing singers, and I’m thinking, well, no, but, hang on here, what better way to turn ’em on, play the rock star card, so I say, well, I don’t know, maybe, let’s see what ya got.”

Laughter and claps of approval.

“Yeah, I’m one one cool motherfucker when it calls for it, I know, so they do a number, in the bar, and, what can I say ? OK, can hold a tune, just, but they start dancing to it.”

“Wiggling ?” asked Richard, with excitement.

“Oh, yeah, they had the moves, you know what I’m saying ? So I thought, hang back, if they sing, they’ll fuck up the songs, but if they dance …”

“Fucking genius ! I’ve got a lot to learn from you,” Chris gushed.

“Sure ’nuff, Grasshopper. So comes the gig, I’m playing, and doing my stuff, I just had guitar and drum machine, and I start to walk up the stage. The girls see this, and next time, they walk with me, one each side, dancing away. So it goes. Every time I move up the stage, they come with me, and the audience are going crazy. I thought it’ld be a tough crowd, lot of biker leather in there. So I play another, and another, each time, loud screams. Then I go over to change a rhythm track and strum a few chords, but the audience are still going wild, even more so, then I look up and see the girls still dancing. Then the fucking PA motherfucka cuts my amp line and starts playing Techno shit, and the girls keep dancing, the audience going even crazier.”

“So . . . what did you do ?” Richard was forced to inquire.

“Just packed up my equipment, took a beer and watched the show. Gave them the name, too. From ‘90210’. You guys get that in England ?”

They both denied knowledge of it. Arizona continued,

“Yeah, I had a lot of afternoons at home in the early Nineties. So there’s this character called Kelly, and in the opening credits, she wiggles off. Man, you gotta see it. OK, gotta split. Oh, shit, Man, nearly forgot. Got a few gigs coming up.”

“Cool !” from Richard

“Rock on !” from Chris.

“Yeah, you’ll be there, right ? ‘Cause ain’t nothing worse than playing to an empty hall.”

“Of course. Even take the night off, if I have to. Chris ?”

“Absolutely. I’m so there. One question . . . “

“No, The Wiggling Kellys will not be there. Got their own gigs. Playing the, hey, check it out, they’ve got another gig at the ‘So Was ?’. Hah. Never asked me back. OK, out of here. Tschüs.”

After he left, Richard turned to Chris,

“I’m glad we know him. Oh, shit, he’s coming back.”

Arizona returned, holding out a cassette.

“You guys still play tapes, right ? Here’s a copy of some of my old stuff. Yeah, you may be into it. Give it a listen.”

He left again. Chris put the tape in his bag and Richard checked his watch.

“OK, gotta split soon, myself. You back at the flat tonight ?”

“Yeah, gotta stay sober for the interview, meeting thing.”

“Why you sweating it ? You’re a sure thing because, one, they really need a Spüler, and, two, they really need a Spüler. Another coffee ? Then I’ll have to go.”

Left alone, Chris read a bit of Dickens, starting in on the introduction, but couldn’t really concentrate. It was only an unskilled job, paying a basic wage, but money went a long way. A full week’s work would cover his rent and travel for the month, and there would be free food, as well.

But the job meant so much more. He still hadn’t told Monika about the studio closing and was terrified of her running into Al and him telling her. He had to get something, or he would certainly get something from his girlfriend who would instantly become his ex-girlfriend.