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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On location, social networking and the guitar,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Hi Alice,

I agree with you about New York, but I would not blame New York as such but the sheer number of people living there. I decided years ago that Melbourne (3.5 million when I was there) was too big for the best quality of life: too much noise, traffic congestion, smog -- all the negatives of a city. On the other hand, a little country town, like the one I grew up in, is too small -- none of the (mostly cultural) positives of a city.

I think the ideal is between 100,000 and 250,000. Any smaller, and you miss out on things like permanent theatre companies and orchestras; any bigger and the disadvantages start building up. I wonder what it will take for governments to start realising that bigger is not necessarily better and encouraging genuine decentralisation?

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Malcolm,

Your ideal actually seems a little too small for me. Melbourne -- or its suburbs -- sounds just about right. But one's opinions often do change over time (see following letter). And I think there's a thrill of living in a heaving city when one is in one's twenties that seems strikingly lacking in one's forties -- as witness all our friends who sneered at London suburbia when we moved here in the 80s who, er, have since joined us where the air is clear and real countryside is around the corner ...

Also, though, cities have gone off. Statistics prove that it's not merely my claustrophobia but plain dull fact that the tube trains in eighties London on which self and cello always got separate seats are now standing room only. Though it's possible that some people in government have begun to notice: I was intrigued to learn that, on the new Aussie-style 'points' system for legal immigrants to the UK you get extra points if you are willing to living in Scotland, with its diminishing population. (What's wrong with Scotland? Stunning place, friendly people!!!) In short, the trouble with (legit) immigrants is not that they come or that they don't contribute but where they come, hot-foot and seemingly without thought: London. If I ran the country no one should be permitted to move into London for 25 years.

PS Wales is good too. Boost for Wales!!!!
PPS Also, I lived two happy years in Northern Ireland. And they were shooting at the time ...

Ask Alice

? 'Alice, I can only hope that by now you have changed your opinion of New York (where I live) and the guitar (which I play). It seems appropriate to note that not everyone who has a literary platform in the music world also shares your opinions. They seem a bit stodgy for this, the 21st century. Come visit us some time. I would be happy to take you to a guitar concert.

' Sincerely,
Pat Bianculli

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Pat,

No and yes, are the answers to your questions. My opinion of New York is still dodgy ... my opinion of the guitar is now fantastic. Nothing more relaxing/stimulating than listening to fine guitar-playing -- and, for classical guitar, only the lute is meant to be harder to achieve (on strings).

And yes, I know, I know (because my American relatives and friends are always telling me) that New York out-guns even London in theatre, classical music, jazz music, museums to die for, great restaurants, fab ethnic buzz and diversity. I admit all this: I admire all this. I just don't see why it has to combine these sterling merits with taxi-drivers who can't even understand English, let alone speak the language, driving standards matched only in (God save them there!!!) Beijing, lousy manners, much higher than London levels of crime and seeming every bit as over-crowded as London. OK: maybe I'm just fussy, but all these standard-of-living things just seem to me to outweigh the strong points, that's all.

So ... can you send me one of your guitar CDs, and bag the concert????

Yours, guitar-loving but proud to be 'stodgy',

Ask Alice

? 'Hi Alice,
Good to catch you on Facebook, but why don't you 'twitter?'
' EB

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Liz,

I guess (see answer above) because I'm just too bloody stodgy.

I'd heard so much about twitter that I thought I'd have a look ... and there is no way I could ever 'tweet'!!!!!!! Apparently because all twitterers are only allowed a certain number of words -- help, already!!!! -- it's all in 'text-speak' such as:

How r u 2-day? We R OK in It., tho Cae. was just stabbed by Brut :(

(Can't go there ...)

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Copyright © 28 August 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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