Category Archives: Old

Big Tip for Long Life: Fiddle Around, Folks


The Guardian:
A truce with the trees’: Rebecca Solnit on the wonders of a 300-year old violin
Made with all-renewable materials, this violin from 1721 reflects a time of magnificent culture – a global gathering from before the climate crisis

Rebecca Solnit. — Thu 7 Jul 2022

For the last 50 years, David Harrington, the founder and artistic director of San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, has been playing what he calls “pretty athletic music” on a violin made in 1721. I’ve heard him play all kinds of compositions on it, from the galloping notes of Orange Blossom Special to the minimalism of Terry Riley and even the occasional bit of Bach. The instrument made by Carlo Giuseppe Testore in Milan has survived three centuries, providing music for countless audiences, and can be heard on more than 60 Kronos albums.

When I first learned the age of the instrument I was filled with wonder that a delicate piece of craftsmanship could endure for centuries, that something so small and light could do so much, that an instrument made in the 18th century could have so much to say in the 21st. It felt like a messenger from the past and an emblem of the possible, a relic and a promise.

Part of David Harrington’s 301 year-old violin.

This violin is from before. Before James Watt made the steam engine a voracious, ubiquitous device devouring coal and wood and then oil, driving mills, looms, pumps, then locomotive and steamboat engines. Before we began gouging out the Earth so frantically to feed those steam engines and then those internal combustion engines. Before we dug out so much of the carbon that plants had so beautifully sequestered deep in the Earth eons ago. Before human impact exploded into a destructive force with the power to change the acidity of the oceans and the content of the atmosphere. Continue reading Big Tip for Long Life: Fiddle Around, Folks

Attending A Funeral To Die For

The Guardian

Why a good funeral can be a life-affirming occasion
Eva Wiseman — 10 Jul 2022

As well as tears there’s cake and laughter: remembering a well-lived life is a very human affair

Last week, I went to the most fabulous party, and it happened to be a funeral. My best friend’s mum, Janet, died – a clever, funny, brilliant woman who was remembered for the way she danced around kitchens, and smelled of perfume and fags, and trucked across the world with priceless artworks, and brought up two of the most extraordinary girls in London. But while the loss was incredibly sad, her funeral was an absolute blast.

My friends and I dissected it on the way home in the car. Why did it make us feel so… good? The journey was long, the roads were blocked, so we had plenty of time to discuss it, to think about the way their family had performed this quiet trick, taken a sad song and made it better. They’d started by employing progressive funeral directors who gave them a copy of the book they’d written, We All Know How This Ends, a guide to death and the lessons it teaches us about life. They said talking about death and dying can be life-enhancing; they never used the words “passed away”, always “died”. And they insisted the funeral could be anything the family wanted it to be.

There was nothing wild about the afternoon, nothing fired from a cannon or dropped from the sky, instead just this sense of gentle shared joy, passed from hand to hand. Beside the coffin, Janet’s daughter did, not a speech, really, it didn’t feel like a speech, it felt like a series of happy memories told beautifully and everyone laughed.

A colleague talked about Janet’s work, her husband talked about the places they’d lived and the family they’d built, their shared love of drunkenness. There was a poem which read like a love letter, and there was mingling outside in the sun. At a café down the road a jazz trio played while we ate some sandwiches and drank some wine, and the place was packed with Janet’s many friends, some old, some young, some she’d known from work, some from the pub, everyone chatting and chuckling, and holding each other’s arms with that perfect griefy care.

While the loss of my best friend’s mum was incredibly sad, her funeral was an absolute blast
I’m sorry to go on about the pandemic again when I know everybody’s doing so well at trying to forget all about it, but God, every now and then the facts of it prick freshly at me: the way so many had to mourn alone, or die on FaceTime, or attend funerals from home and the distance of a shaky camera, or sit very far apart in ventilated rooms while coffins slid away. It is unbearable, really, to remember.

Continue reading Attending A Funeral To Die For