I remember having a go at saying the word oasis. I was nine years old. I’d seen the word and knew what it meant but saying it was a different matter. I can’t remember if I said it properly but the teacher was well impressed with my explanation. Oasis: a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found.
Although it’s a simple enough definition, the actual meaning goes a lot deeper than the explanation. How do you see an oasis? Is it a little bit of sanity in amongst the madness? A haven in a sea of torment and pain? Is it your own room, your favourite chair or park bench, a specific place or even your own car. As a sufferer of MS, I have found a number of oases.
On my sofa in the flat when it’s just me.
On my scooter somewhere in the Sussex countryside. Writing on the laptop. Creating art.
Interestingly, all these places are dominated by solitude. But there are two exceptions. Firstly there is being joined on the sofa by my wife when the little one is fast asleep. That doubles the number. More exceptional however is one of our rare trips to the Royal Festival Hall. Now that is a real oasis. It is surrounded by desert. I use the term loosely. Of course, our thriving buzzing metropolis is not a desert. But just like oceans of burning sand, it is a gargantuan mass of life.
Everywhere you look, it is in your face; shops, restaurants, traffic, noise, rush, hassle and crowds. If you were to stand anywhere in London and close your eyes, your ears would be assaulted by the discordant cacophony of modern city life.
Dare I say that in London the art of conversation has been ousted by demands and shouts of derision as everyone seems so desperate to get somewhere? On the streets, no-one seems to talk to each other. It’s more like the orders of the battlefield or the ranting of a football match. Even inside the Southbank Centre itself the barking continues.
As you pass on the train, looking down at the swelling masses buzzing around the concourse, it looks like any other cultural market place. It’s iconic fifties concrete facade is not exactly inviting.
It’s only when you sit down in that hall and the lights go down, does my oasis come into view. No-one talks, a few people cough and we all listen.
Two hours later we pass from our little corner of heaven. People still shout and argue but I am refreshed and indifferent to the tensions around me. I don’t really care if some selfish lazy people are clogging up the disabled lift. (It actually sings each level.)
We could miss a train or the weather could be awful but that little burst of musical delight has put the life back into my virtual stride. It’s so necessary. The journey home may be full of everything but I am oblivious to its effect.
You don’t stare, you speak kindly and you languish in your recent pleasure. That is my oasis. I can say the same about many of the other concert venues I have gone to; especially the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. But the Festival Hall is my current buddy. Thank-you for reading.