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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On Steven Isserlis, Agnes Poirier and surrender monkeys,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

Did you by any chance hear Steven Isserlis playing The Song of the Birds at the end of Newsnight last night?

G Blass

Dear Ms/Mr Blass,

I did, I did!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wasn't he divine???
I loved the way he added bits from the piano part (or is it the orchestra part?) but most of all I loved its simplicity. The stillness and inwardness of his playing with the twin towers behind him, was breathtakingly beautiful.

Incidentally, Steven also deserves credit for spearheading the recently successful campaign to get musicians moving on flights again.


Ask Alice

Well, that's very nice of you, Dear Alice, that you published my letter. At least somebody shows a bit of fairness in this strange case. I also like the lesson about goldfish, which finally answers so many questions I was asking myself day and night.

I am shure: you can speak German as fluently as I write english and you do love and make music at least as good as I ever could dream of.

So I end our neat conversation with a very friendly

Gute Nacht

Best regards
Volker Hartung, counting the sheep ...

Dear Volker, old buddy,
No problem at all, and best of luck with the touring!!!!
(And thanks for picking about the only one of two German phrases I know -- the other, of course, being, Grosse Biere, bitte!


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

Assume, as a well-known fan of all things French, you've heard about Agnes Poirier's latest book about how horrible the British are, compared to the French! (or, to put it your way, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)


Dear David (which David?? I must know about 94 Davids!!!!!!!!)

Anyway, I never heard of it or her, so I googled away and this is what I found.

In a savage tirade of abuse, author Agnes Poirier unleashes a savage attack on our culture, lifestyle and politics -- an abuse yet all the more extraordinary considering Miss Poirier has a British boyfriend and has lived in Britain for a decade.

Miss Poirier begins with a furious attack on the British character, saying: 'They have no understanding of philosophy, beauty or art. They do not even have any intellectuals ... It is a kingdom of narrowly educated specialists on the one hand and those lacking general culture on the other ...'

She said that our countryside resembled an 'immense theme park'; also that, while France continues to be chivalrous, manners are all but forgotten in Britain, adding 'Over there, customs are characterised less by gallantry and more by virility, cruelty and aggressiveness'.

And what I thought, David, was, well blow me down. This woman has got a nerve!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me tell Miss Poirier a couple of things about the French.

  1. They are so lazy they take nine hours to have a meal and then use toothpicks (ugh). They take all of August off, and, if the weather turns hot, surrender their aged parents (left behind, of course, and without air-conditioning) to God without a whimper.
  2. They take their dogs into restaurants (no, not guide dogs for the blind, normal dogs like my dachsies) and allow them to do their business unimpeded all over their pavements. Hygiene is a foreign word to the French.
  3. They have the lowest consumption of deodorants in western civilization. If you survive the pocket-picking gypsies on their underground there is still no way to survive the stench. It wouldn't matter if they wash, but they don't wash, not more than once a month anyway (the saddest part is that they think this is sexy!!!!)
  4. They are cheese-eating surrender monkeys. No NATO country talks more about pulling their weight and sends fewer troops to world trouble-spots than the French. (Not that they would be much use, as the French just rolled over and played dead in World War II, waiting for the US and the UK to get them out of schtuck, but a bit of immoral support would be nice.)
  5. The morals of the French are simply dire. My beautiful cousin Martha, who misguidedly majored in French at university (having a mad desire to attempt to sound as if suffering from a head-cold, which is the only way to get the pronunciation right) lived in Paris for a few years. She couldn't walk down the street without being solicited to become somebody's mistress. (Note: nobody made her an offer she couldn't refuse!!!!!!!!!!)
  6. They believe themselves to be cultured because they have the aforementioned accents; however, they have no world-class orchestra, and even their opera is generally second-rate.
  7. Their writers are also lousy, and the good ones they do have mainly starve. The only ones they read with any avidity are ex-prostitutes (see 5 above)
  8. They cannot forgive America for being bigger, richer, and more successful than they are. They can't forgive the UK for having been smart enough (so far) to eschew the Euro, and for not wanting to turn all of Western Europe into an immense, homogenous theme park.
  9. They dress well, but own only two outfits (both couture). (See deoderant deficiency disaster above for what is wrong about this policy!!!!!!)
  10. Their countryside is nice, but overrated. For more grandeur look to Scotland, Switzerland and Austria, for more beauty of bones, look to Crete and Sicily. For more green lushness look to England and Ireland.
  11. They have no sense of humour. Probably the reason poor Miss Poirier thinks the British ungallant and aggressive is because she can't take a joke. She probably thinks they mean it when they say, 'Keep taking the tablets, love.' (Actually, in her case, they do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  12. French women wear way too much and too lurid perfume (see deoderant issue above)
  13. The French will basically eat anything: even horses. Even SNAILS!!!!!!!!!! (This last put in by request of Buster and Syrilla, resident Giant African Landsnails)

Anyway, thanks for letting me know, David (whichever David you are ...)

Yours, still steaming,

Copyright © 15 September 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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