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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On worrying about the planet,
and principal cellist problems,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Dear Alice,

I am worried about global warming, the situation in Darfur, what recently happened in Bombay (where I once lived, some years ago) and many other issues.

It seems to me, though, that worry is increasingly a waste of time. (Who could have predicted 9/11? Or Bombay?) I am inclined to think that, having worried for sixty years, I shouldn't bother to worry anymore.
(Anon, UK)

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Alice Dear anon,

Well, yes, I have to say that I know what you mean. I never lived in Bombay (or Mumblai, or whatever it is cooler now to term it) but I visited it with my family and thought it was amazing.

My personal feeling -- and I'd be grateful, frankly, if you didn't pass this on -- is that (sad as it seems) your worrying is indeed a complete waste of time and energy. Outside of contributing to (reputable only!) charities that attempt to help, your best bet for the world is to do what you can where you are, and while you can. In other words, those unremembered acts of kindness (offering a lift, contributing to the African fund) are worth any amount of early-hours-in-the-morning worries about 'Whither ye earth, matey?' etc.

Practical assistance: that's the ticket. So get stuck into those worthy causes and sleep as well as you are able (which, with your clear conscience, you so clearly deserve to do!)


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? 'Dear Alice,

My principal cellist is driving me insane. Tell me if you think I'm over-reacting. Basically every time we rehearse he turns around to glare at second desk. When the conductor says how good we are, he preens himself. When he complains, he sighs and jerks his head towards us as if we are automatically to blame. I am so p****d off that I think I'll quit, but my pianist friend said to try you first.
(Name withheld)

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Alice Dear name withheld,

I am full of sympathy, whatever kind of orch (youth, university, professional) you are on about.

Not that it matter hugely. Principals really ought to know better. Through luck, hard work or corruption, after all, they have attained the heights of their current aspirations. Therefore the best thing a principal can do is to lift his/her bow and say: 'Sorry, my fault entirely.'

If most principals only realized -- as I did, by accident -- how this endears them to their section, the air would be full of: 'My mistake!' 'No, no, it was me!' etc.

In the absence of this, may I suggest that you cultivate an air of abstraction, as if your mind is bent upon Higher Things. Should your principal berate you, look angelically heavenwards. Should s/he screw up, avoid the temptation to dig your desk partner delightedly in the ribs.

Yours, in hopes that you will hang in there,

Copyright © 5 December 2008 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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