<< -- 2 -- Jennifer Paull REMINISCENT RETROSPECTIVES
Undoubtedly, many figures have transcended man's artificial, paper
or real, geographical frontiers. However, some remain totally national.
Gilbert and Sullivan might be household names wherever there are the British
or those of British descent to form societies and enjoy this national institution.
They are not household names in Italy, Finland, or Russia. Each country
has examples of a national product which, like a precious local wine, doesn't
I remember coming home very late after a Saturday night concert. I didn't
need to get up the next morning, so I looked forward to being lazy. I awoke
late and duly refreshed, sprang out of bed and drew the curtains. I lived
in Upper Berkeley Street, a stone's throw from Marble Arch in the West
End of London. My flat was on the top floor, and I had a lovely view towards
Wigmore Street and miles of London rooftops. That is, I did usually. At
that moment the sky was filled with a zeppelin, large and silver like a
giant dolphin, it simply hovered there looking back at me. It was a very
odd sensation. I felt as though time had stopped and clocks had gone backwards.
Maps and frontiers had been affected by a different outcome of a war, two
I pulled the curtains closed and sat down heavily upon the bed. Being
very careful not to look out of the kitchen window, I put water on to boil
and returned to my room. I turned on the radio for reassurance. In those
days, Radio Three was a wonderful, relatively new experience. There was
always something very interesting to which to listen. Sunday mornings meant
Bach Cantatas. I had recorded many with oboe d'amore obligati for the
BBC Northern Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic as it has since been renamed.
No, it couldn't have been the appropriate time. This was Gilbert
and Sullivan. I sat down on the bed again rather suddenly. It was being
sung in Hungarian! How could something as British as Gilbert and Sullivan
be emanating from Radio Three in Hungarian, on a Sunday morning? There was
no mistaking the language, my Father's native tongue. Was I dreaming?
I made tea and poured a cup. Repening the curtains, I found the sky restored
to its usual arpeggio of rooftops and breathed a deep sigh of relief. Thank
heaven for Earl Grey! The Hungarian, however, persisted. I listened until
to the end of the performance, hoping for a clue. It was to be an hour or
so later before my questions were answered. Was I listening from within
the confines of a Dali painting? I tried to imagine how a translator had
struggled with the patter songs, and why? Even more amazingly, how had the
BBC been persuaded to broadcast this performance?
Copyright © 15 February 2002
Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland
JENNIFER PAULL'S AMORIS INTERNATIONAL
& Vision home
Wonderful walls >>