About Me

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Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Hello and welcome! I am Colin Bell, a novelist and poet, previously a TV producer-director of arts programmes, also known as the blogger Wolfie Wolfgang. I hope you find something here among my daily blogs. I write about anything that interests me - I hope it interests you too. Let me know.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

My three Fibonacci poems about the composer Tchaikovsky published in The Fib Review.

Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)

My three new Fibonacci poems about the Russian composer Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893) were published yesterday in that pioneering and Fibonacci-dedicated online journal, The Fib Review. I hope you'll take a moment to follow the link and read them and the other poems there. My poems were written as I came to the end of  Tchaikovsky's life in my seventeen year chronological journey through the history of classical music from the year 1100 until my planned ending date 1897 (Brahms' death) - this project has been often discussed in these blogs. I have now moved on to 1894 - only three years to go - and with the closing of 1893 came the end of Tchaikovsky after I have listened to almost all of his works in time order.  I used to sneer at Tchaikovsky when I was a teenager, thinking him a tunesmith but little more. I've changed my mind and now, while still recognising that his worst works are extremely dull, his greatest pieces are truly original and very great indeed. I'm listing some of the very best here and they stand up as powerful works of genius. So, if for nothing else and if you still don't believe me, listen (or listen again) to the 6th symphony (Pathetique), the ballet score for The Sleeping Beauty,  the opera Eugene Onegin and, for all its organisational flaws, the always brashly brilliant, First Piano Concerto.  I shall return to them often. It was a tough project to try and say anything worthwhile about the man in the challenging miniature form of Fibonacci poetry.

Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck (1831 - 1894)

I've also written a Fibonacci poem about Tchaikovsky's patroness, the enigmatic Baroness Nadezhda von Meck (1831 - 1894) who supported Tchaikovsky for years after hearing an early performance of the First Piano Concerto in a concert only weeks after the death of her husband. It was a passionate relationship conducted by letter because the Baroness insisted that they should never meet. 

Pierre Moskaleff

The third Fibonacci poem deals with the dedication of one of the composer's last piano pieces, the melancholy Berceuse, Op. 72 No. 2 written in the last year of Tchaikovsky's life. This lullaby is dedicated to a man called Pierre Moskaleff from Odessa. No one has managed to trace this man so all we have is his name, the town he came from and this lovely piece. We can only guess at the nature of their relationship but the piece has a feverish passion which certainly supplies a few clues.

So, please take a look at my three Tchaikovsky poems and enjoy The Fib Review. This is its 21st issue and my sixteenth consecutive appearance in it. Thanks are due, yet again, to its editor, the always energetic Mary-Jane Grandinetti.


If you'd like to hear that piano piece, Tchaikovsky's Berceuse Op. 72 No. 2, here it is played by the young Russian pianist Konstantin Shamray:

And, go on, I know you want to hear at least the opening of the First Piano Concerto and here it is performed by the legendary American pianist Van Cliburn in Moscow, 1962. He was accompanied by Kirill Kondrashin:

Monday, 29 June 2015

The amazing grace of Barrack Obama.

You could say it was only a church service but it was more than that.

You could say it was just about a wedding service but it was more than that.

You could say it was just a lot of fuss about a flag but it was much more than that too.

It was quite a week, last week, in the United States of America and, just possibly, it will be seen as the week that made the year 2015 historically significant. The Supreme Court didn't just rule in favour of Same-Sex Marriage but, the day before, put its seal on the long fought Obamacare. Is equality really bursting out all over this June?

In that church in Charleston, mourning the murders of those nine black American Christians, President Obama didn't just sing a song and intone an emotional homily, he was calling for a turning point in American - and World - inequality. As the man said: "For too long we've been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present." He repeated that phrase "for too long" and it was echoed emotionally by the gathered congregation but, more than that, the televised speech, inspired many, many more people of good heart to echo the sentiment world-wide. For too long indeed.

He was talking about racial inequality and its place in America's 'original sin' - he was also talking about social inequality and, goddamit, he might just have made almost everyone sit up and think.

We all knew that slavery was wrong but he said it. We all knew that the difference between the rich and the poor was wrong but he said it. We all knew that the inequality perpetuated in questions of gender, sexuality, class and race were wrong but he said it. We all knew that gun violence was wrong but he said it. It was quite a speech. He didn't just say it but, whether you agree that his presidency has been a success or not, he has made a difference already and, who knows, he may have chosen just the right time in American history to make the best speech of his career.

So, yes, America is now celebrating same-sex marriage equality and the old prejudices that prevented such a thing in the past are a' tumbling down, opening the way for more, and bigger, equalities for all regardless of sexual orientation. For too long this inequality.

Now the nation appears to be acknowledging the pain that is symbolised by the Confederacy flag - 150 years after the American Civil War. As the president said. For too long. And now it's probable that the flag will be lowered for good outside the capitol building in South Carolina and, soon, I hope, it will be lowered everywhere recognising that it is a poisoned symbol and that not just slavery was wrong but all resistance of civil rights for the people was wrong too.

Could the nation now even change its mind about gun laws? I hope so. For too long 30 people a day are being shot down in the USA.

Whatever happens next, one thing is for sure, last week was a great week in the long march towards the ending of prejudice. It is still a battle though as I'm sure Barrack Obama knows - prejudice has long roots and grows even in the ranks of some of those people celebrating same-sex unions and into the very ranks of that AME church where the President preached civil rights. There is still a long way to go but we have all been helped on our way by the amazing grace of Barrack Obama. If saying these things wasn't enough, he also sang it:

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

It's Summertime - well, we're nearly there in Lewes or so I'm told by Mr Schafernaker.

As you all know, we officially started summer last weekend and to prove it, yes, you've guessed, the seasonal change has been marked in my household by my mother's latest tea cosy, every house should have one. Here is her Summer 2015 model - it is all blue skies and summer flowers. And,  on the other side...

Well, it's June and nearly time for Wimbledon - so what better than a tennis court  to mark the new season. Wimbledon, of course, means rain in the first week if not the second but we had that yesterday here in Lewes, UK, and the forecast is for dry weather and, believe it or not, warmer weather  is on the way.

My garden looks ready for summer but, sorry to gripe, it's just not hot enough out there yet. Come on England, you can do better than this in June. If you don't get a move on I shall be forced to get out one of my winter tea cosies.

I'm hopeful about this summer though after hearing the cheerful forecast from one of the BBC's weathermen, Tomasz Schafernaker who says that it will soon be dry and hot. Hope you're right Mr Schafernaker,  but it's not unknown for you to go to pieces on your national bulletins. Edinburgh? Where's that?

Monday, 22 June 2015

My new friend, the one-eyed Siamese cat.

I'm an enthusiast about my small Lewes, UK, garden and, I have to say in all modesty that it is looking particularly fine at the moment with all the roses in full bloom and much else on its way. My new friend, the cat who moved in next-door earlier this year, has helped me with some of this. I like cats, dogs too, but don't own one any more and the absence of a feline has meant that my garden has been open territory for some of the neighbourhood cats to use as, well, a convenience. Now that there's this new cat on the block,  the others have been chased away in a series of skirmishes that has left my garden as a one cat paradise. This large one-eyed Siamese looks as if he's seen more than his share of territorial wars and now that he's the temporary boss round here, he is much too proud of his space to defecate in my/his rose beds. He's a good fighter but mono-vision means that he's not a great bird-catcher and, consequently, my garden is now alive with bird song and free of cat poo. Perfect.

A few years ago, another cat adopted my place, and used to come into the house on visits to sit next to me when I was writing. Sadly it was killed, brutally, by one of the neighbourhood dogs and so I was cat-free but also cat-soiled again. I had to revert to my reliable Japanese water canon and keep watch for any persistent offenders. A bull's eye with a strong gush of water is a sure way of insuring that unwanted cats don't come back.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Looking back at Sissinghurst in May 2014 - ending my survey of Sissinghurst Castle Gardens.

To finish the series on a recent trip to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens that I've been running all week, I thought I'd  look back at some photographs I took in May 2014 on my first visit to this inspiring horticultural paradise, the creation of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. It was the 7th May last year, to be accurate and the weather was a mixture of sunshine and rain after a mild winter and a warm and wet spring. I was unwell for much of last year so I never quite got my act together with these photographs and so I've not put them up on here until now. I'm glad that I didn't because they are a fascinating contrast to the shots I took last Sunday when I found that the gardens had exploded with life and colour. Apparently, I was told, Spring 2014 had been glorious at Sissinghurst but I'd arrived when the bulbs had finished flowering and the summer plants were still to come. Nevertheless, there is always something interesting to see in these gardens and the more familiar the garden, the more interesting it is to watch how it grows.  Take a look at these photos and then, maybe glance back to the same locations to see how they blossomed this June. Next year I plan to return - maybe in July - and I shall take some more photographs.