Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Trouble at the Opera House - I

Fifty years ago, I was at the centre of an Unfortunate Incident at Covent Garden Opera House.
On May 4th I caught the night bus from Notting Hill at 3.30,  arrived in Bow Street at four, and was 264th in the queue for tickets to hear Callas and Gobbi in Tosca. Orderly queue, as always, but alas the queue leader had only brought 280 tickets, and made the mistake of telling late arrivals that they could just sign his book, safely go away, and return later to take their places. After a while, he went off himself for a slow half-pint at the Nag’s Head. Sure enough more and more late- and later-comers came to join the end of a queue which they were surprised to find considerably shorter than they had feared. At half-past seven or so those who had left, returned, shocked that ‘their  places’ had been taken by other opera enthusiasts extremely reluctant to give them up. When the queue-leader returned at a quarter to eight or so, he was quickly surrounded by unhappy queuers. The discussion became extremely heated, and  despite typically humorous attempts to break the tension (‘If you don’t shut up, all we’ll get is tickets for Moses und Aron!’, one wag shouted) I began to fear that the incident might eventually be concluded in the courts across the road. Only the appearance of the much-loved and usually amiable Sergeant Martin, the Major-domo of the House, quietened things down. You didn’t argue with Sgt Martin, late of the Guards.
I got two tickets for the first Tosca after the Royal gala performance, and turned up on July 12th  to find another Unfortunate Incident had occurred: Madame Callas, having sung for the Queen, had decided that enough was enough, and gone off to Paris about other business. However, once George Pretre raised his baton we still heard a marvelous Scarpia from Gobbi and an excellent Tosca from Marie Collier.
The refund the management arranged, on the spot – queue at the box-office as you leave - was extraordinarily generous: we got £3 15s back on our £5 stalls tickets , which was a help later in the year when I was 82nd in the queue for a Fonteyn-Nureyev Giselle, and Cinderella at Christmas with Helpmann and Ashton as the Ugly Sisters. In the end, everything comes to he who queues.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vivat Obama!

What as astonishing wave President Obama is riding. After a tenure of the White House during which he has been continually battled and frustrated by the lunatic right in Congress, suddenly Obamacare has been approved and embedded in the constitution, gay marriage has been approved by the Court, it at last seems possible that he may be able to make some progress about gun control . . . The view of him as a 'disappointing' President stems completely, surely, from the fact that he has been tied hand and foot by the Republican majority in Congress, and the splenetic fools of the NRA. He may after all be remembered as one of the  best and most progressive presidents since FDR.

Born under Mercury?

Who so is born under Mercury shall be very subtle of wit, and shall be a devout person to God, and have goo conscience, and shall be very crafty in many sciences. He with his wisdom and labour shall get him many friends and lovers. He shall ever follow and resort to them that be of good manners, and shall be fortunate on the sea to use the course of good merchandise. He shall be very gracious, and he shall have harm by women, and when he is married men shall not set so much by him as they did before. He will have great love to ladies and gentlewomen, but yet they shall not be masters over him . . . he shall not love to go to a warfare. He will hate thieves and swearers, and he shall gather great goods by his wisdom . . . He shall love well to preach and to speak fair rhetoric language, and to talk of philosophy and geometry. He shall love well writing an to read ever in strange books, and to cost accounts of great numbers. And he shall be a gay maker of ballads, songs, metres and rhymes.  He shall be perfect in the art of music and love it. He shall have a high forehead, a long visage, black eyes and a thin beard. He shall be a great pleader in the law, and will meddle with other men’s deeds if they do not well and say against it.  And Mercury governeth the thighs, the flanks and the belly.’

-          The Kalandar & Compost of Shepherds (Paris, 1493; tr London 1518).

To be ‘born under Mercury’ is to have Mercury in Gemini or Virgo on the birth-chart, or otherwise prominent.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All you Cancerians - take note!

Hi!   Julia here!
Yes, well, as you probably know the Sun's been in your sign for a day or two, and until  the 23rd of July (when it'll be Leo's turn) you should make the most of the weeks ahead to do lots, have fun and take plenty of action. The Moon is Full on Thursday July 2nd, and nearly all of us feel the additional energy whether we're consciously aware of it or not.  For instance,we often sleep less well than usual, and this is a time when we tend to get round to catching up with jobs we've been shelving - but  we always have to be  aware that we might easily react over-emotionally.   However, for Cancers this Full Moon is additionally important; if possible make it a 'key day' in one way or another, and do try to question any of those Cancer worries - they could well be far less important than  you realize.  I'll be giving more astrological and indeed astronomical news in future, and my comments won't always be just related to the current  Sun sign!!    Cheers for now, and Happy Birthday Cancerians, or was we astrologers say, Happy SOLAR RETURN . . .  but that's another story for another day!  
Always, Julia.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

VOTE! - or else . . .

I’ve just been listening to a spirited discussion about compulsory voting, which operates in Australia – as it does in thirty-one other countries, among them Belgium (I think the earliest system, in operation since 1892), Bolivia, Fiji, Gabon and Liechtenstein.
The chief argument in favour seems to be that citizens should play a part in deciding who runs their country – which would be an unexceptional argument if it weren’t the case that a large number of voters who are completely uninterested in politics have no idea of the merits or even the general attitudes of the candidates, and virtually waste their voting papers.  Interrupting their work or indeed pleasure time to make them attend the poll is simply a waste of time and energy. Another argument is that in countries without compulsory voting millions and millions of pounds or dollars are spent by political parties on advertising  - the dollars spent during an American election would run Greece for a thousand years! And in any event, almost as much money is spent on advertising in countries which have compulsory voting.
Of course it’s also true that many of us vote emotionally rather than rationally – we vote Tory because our parents always voted Tory, or we vote Labour for the same reason; or because we like the look and sound of a party leader, or what he says irrespective of the merits of the argument). So compulsory voting is no more likely to result in a genuinely intelligent result than a ‘free ‘ system when perhaps only 50% of the people trouble themselves to choose a candidate.
There’s actually little doubt that democracy is a fraud and a waste of time – but nevertheless probably the least worst system. The democratic countries usually muddle through to some more or less adequate solution. In most European countries at present this means a Government without an overall majority, and so at best has to act moderately, and at worst is in the hands of some loon – in New South Wales, for instance, the Prime Minister is in the hands of an extreme right-wing any-gay cleric and a selection of loons who call themselves (hold on to your hats) The Shooters and Fishers’ Party. Not quite as lunatic and not in the same universe as the gun-lovers club in the US, the NRA, with it seems every politician safely in their pockets. Now there is the argument that democracy and wealth are irreconcilable.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Give us a smile

As I left the house this morning to walk the dogs at 7.45, a young woman jogger came around the corner and gave me a smile of such friendly warmth that it set me up for the day. An unsolicited greeting as warm as that doesn’t happen too often, and as a smiler and greeter I’ve had to steel myself to the fact that about half the people with whom I try to make even such a brief contact don’t receive a smile with any great pleasure. When I first came to Australia I was astonished at the friendliness of almost everyone one passed in the street, from a simple smile to a ‘Gooday, mate!’ Thing seem to have changed slightly in the last few years, and the number of people who simply ignore a smile or a ‘Good morning’ seems to have increased. Those that upset me most are the people who simply ignore one: even a scowl or a mumble is better than the pretense that one doesn’t exist. I suppose people have a right to scowl or ignore one, but it’s not a pretty response. I can’t of course answer for those ladies covered from head to foot in black, with just a slit for the eyes; they may be smiling delightfully at me, but I shall never know. On the other hand happily there are plenty of returned smiles and greetings, and the two dogs of course are a bonus for dog-lovers, and especially mothers with small children who regularly want to have five minutes’ play with them.
Anyway, all I really want to say as that the exchange of a friendly greeting at eight in the morning really does start the day off well, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What Mr Lilly though of Cancerians

Qualities of the Sign Cancer   Is the onely house of the Moon, and is the first Sign of the Watry or Northern Triplicity, is Watry, Cold, Moyst, Flegmatick, Feminine, Nocturnal, Moveable, a Solstice Signe, mute and slow of Voyce, Fruitful, Northerne.
Diseases   It signifies Imperfections all over, or in the Brest, Stomack and Paps, weak Digesnion, cold Stomack, Ptifick, salt Flegms, roten Coughs, dropsicall Humours, Impostumations in the Stomach.
Places Cancer signifieth   The sea, great Rivers, Navigable Waters; but in the Inland Countries it notes places neer Rivers, Brooks Springs, Wels, Cellars in Houses, Wash-houses, Marsh grounds, Ditches with Rushes, Sedges, Sea banks, Trenches, Cisternes.
Shape and Description   Generally a low and smal stature, the upper parts of more bignesse then the lower, a round Visage; sickly, pale, a whitely Complexion, the Haire a sad browne, little Eyes, prone to have many Children, if a Woman.
Kingdoms, Countries and Cities subject to Cancer   Scotland, Zealand, Holland, Prussia, Algier, Constantinople, Venice, Millan, Genoa, Amsterdam, Yorke, Magdeburg, Wittenburg, Saint-Lucas, Cadiz.
-          William Lilly, Christian Astrology (1647)