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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On the trail of a few artistic
anythings in a dumbed down world
is ALICE McVEIGH, agony aunt of culture

Dear Alice,
I don't know whether you listen to Today on Radio 4 but it was seriously disheartening today. In it Jimmy Tarbuck and someone whose name I didn't catch were disputing which was more cultured, Manchester or Liverpool (this due to Liverpool's becoming the European City of Culture shortly). Oasis, Beatles, a zillion other demented pop groups, a few comedians. Not a single real musician -- and precious few artistic anythings. Does culture just mean pop now then?
Disgruntled in Derby

Dear Disgruntled,
I do like the Today programme, but missed the one you're referring to so I had (oh horrors!!) to do research, and your point appears brilliantly well-taken. It's really sad that no one bothered to point out (just to mention the most obvious three orchestras in the region) the BBC Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Phil and the Hallé, which by all accounts is sounding sensational at the moment. Not even real theatre appeared to be mentioned!!! Why don't they just call it the European City of Idiotic, Brainless, Teenagey, New-agey, Pathetically Trendy Rubbish and just be done with it???
Yours, just as annoyed,

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
Liked the photo of you in the local paper! But what's all this about your having been playing professionally since you were 13?
Your friend,

Dear E,
Believe me, I didn't even talk to the journalist involved (unnamed) who in true journalistic style, basically made it up as s/he went along. (It's true that I STARTED the cello at 13 -- not EXACTLY the same thing as playing professionally, however!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Neither do I 'live in Petts Wood' (and never have).

The Petts Wood 'MITE' Magazine presents Alice Maxwell D McVeigh (age 13, Petts Wood born and bred) and the A-Bombley Sinphoney in Broche's Shallomo -- 17.45pm Suterday 31 November, Gratehal, Haze Lane, Bramley, Kent

But this is nothing. I happen to have had a famous grandfather (General Maxwell D Taylor, now residing with the morning stars, but previously one of the highest-ranking generals on the ground on D-Day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John F Kennedy's right-hand general etc etc). I loved my grandfather very much -- he was a real hero of mine -- and when he died I wrote what I fondly believed was a very good poem in his honor, which my father thought highly enough of to include at the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. As I recall, my poem compared him -- so good-looking that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis described him as the handsomest older man she'd ever met -- to a strong, full-sapped oak tree. Anyway, TIME magazine covered the funeral, and some idiot journalist there clearly liked the poem well enough to quote it -- or rather, to misquote it, getting the right words in completely the wrong order. I was really annoyed about this, as it frankly isn't very often freelance cellists get their poetry in TIME magazine, but my father cheered me up. In his usual style he wrote to me saying, 'Look on the bright side. At least the TIME journalist didn't say you thought your grandfather was a sap.'


Copyright © 16 November 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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