One of the first alcohol free beers on the market was called Barbican. It looked like a beer but it was a substitute.
If you’re driving but want to enjoy a safe beer like drink it’s fine. The idea of drinking with impunity is a fantasy we can only dream of. Two days before the Christmas of 1989, my GP ordered me to stop drinking. I had been suffering with the early symptoms of MS but even though I knew what it was, I was desperate for a quick fix. The optimist in me gave me hope. I told myself:
“The doctor is right. I’ve been drinking too much and I’m stressed about my PGCE course.”
The course meant everything to me. I wanted to teach. I’d wanted to teach since the age of fifteen. As a result my Christmas and New Year was dry. And I was the most popular person in the world.
I was invited to every night out and every party, In fact I partied hard and sober. To party sober is a unique experience. I am grateful for the experience but I’m never doing it again.
The Barbican I know now is the arts complex in the city of London. A masterpiece of sixties design, it sits in the famous old city oozing a sparkling foam of aesthetic elegance offering a haven of music, cinema and theatre. The layout is complex. A narrow service road cuts through its heart.
The car parks appear misshapen and disorderly. We’re used to rectangular levels of cold grey concrete. Strangely enough, this tangled web of developed and adapted design has an air of revered mystery. It’s the lack of regular shape. Even the bar and social areas outside the concert hall appear to be tagged on as afterthoughts.
Behind the old Gladys Street terrace in Goodison Park, the catering area appears as a small appendage hanging on to the side of a large old stadium. I know that place well.
At half time we would queue for a cup of weak tea and a discussion of the first half. Yet above us, bats flew frantically between the eaves. No-one seemed to notice. Evertonian bats? Priceless.
Well outside the Barbican concert hall I am reminded of my beloved Goodison. There were no bats at the Barbican; I checked. But there was a similar sense of anticipation.
The anticipation of a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra is thrilling.
Unlike football, there is no chance of losing. We were going to hear two Mozart violin concertos. Number one was “like a summer’s day”, to quote my good friend Steve. Number four was totally exquisite. Both concertos used a chamber orchestra with the upper strings standing in true eighteenth century style. The soloist and director, Nikolaj Znaider was skilled and charming. He smiled through his performance. I can recommend Mozart’s Violin Concerto number four.
Mozart is not light music, it is not background music and it is not just relaxing. It’s thrilling but touched with sadness and pathos. Mozart had a wretched life.
Getting to the Barbican has its issues however. Basically if you live near Tunbridge Wells, you would like everything to be close to Charing Cross station. But the Barbican is in the city.
On the map it is tantalisingly close to the main arteries, offering a expedient route to our destination. London traffic however, is more than willing to put a sting in the tail of any well planned excursion. Nevertheless we arrived.
I’m on their disabled access register so we were able to find the appropriate car park and glide elegantly into our reserved parking place. We wriggled through the confusing warren of walkways and lifts to emerge outside our allocated door. The bar was pleasant, the whisky was pleasant and the company was more than pleasant.
The second half of the concert promised a real treat. Tchaikovsky’s fourth is a highly charged cannonball of electrified emotion.
He hates, he loves and he hopes. If you lock in to his rich blanket of of turbulent torment, you will become wrapped in a world of a man haunted by his own being. This long drawn-out statement of metaphysical angst will drag you screaming through a panoply of emotions. It is so sumptuous and engaging, you will feel trapped by the colossus of its beauty.
By the way; I like this symphony. I have memories of its previous performances. Tonight’s was no exception. The third movement was the man of the match. The frantic pizzicato was the harbinger of a demented finale. At the end, I bellowed my feelings of joy. I can’t help myself. It was the climax of a thoroughly pleasant evening with good friends. I am lucky. All those years; listening to , performing and studying music have given me such insight. And I appreciate the generosity of friends. Thank-you for reading.