Hugh Rants : The Elusive Pound

Hugh Coates

I did a fair amount of travel on the train this weekend, £45 worth to precise. This was not including the necessary refreshment stops at St Pancras’ overpriced, head-up-own-backside cafes where if a man wants to get a bacon butty he has more chance of out running the fast train to Ashford International than he does of obtaining such a mundane snack. Am I an irritable traveler? Maybe.

We all know somebody that lives out in the sticks and in being so to remain within the social loop of his friends he must hike far and wide on the magnificence that is British public transport, as his financial impotence has denied him access to that very ordinary machine known as a car. That sorry desperate oaf is me. Yes, living in the the blissful peace of Norfolk is marvelous in the latter stages of your life, but to a young man like myself it is merely an unnervingly flat prison locked in by rat infested water ways, whereby the only means of escape are the First buses which are about as punctual as the Americans arrival to the war (apologies for the use of that already haggared metaphor).

This being considered, a 16-25 railcard seemed to be as worthy investment as ever. As a student ‘worthy’ investments are a rarity I include in this bracket of questionable investments the £9,000 a year tuition fees – zing. In the most part, this little orange card with my rather immature face haphazardly stuck onto it, has saved me a fair amount of money. Well done the person who created this card.

But then again, even the mighty Roman empire had to come to an end eventually, and like Hannibal when he tried to destroy Rome, Greater Anglia trains too tried to destroy a good thing. In what still baffles me while I write this snottogram, are an astounding sequence of events occurring in the space of about 15 minutes. In reading the following account you may think many things of me as a person, I can guess what a few of these may be: petty, deluded, lazy or just really a bit of an imbecile. I hope you will lose these thoughts by the end of this…

As I boarded the luxurious, sun seeking pleasure mobile that is the Greater Anglia train to Great Yarmouth, realizing that time was not on my side, I decided to buy a ticket on the train. This was certainly a reasonable aspiration of any train user within the last 20 years where card payments and more flexible ticket inspectors have come to the fore. Not thinking anything of it, when the ticket inspector came along, I reached for the trusty debit, the card having been inserted for it then to be unceremoniously rejected, much to my dismay. So much so, that a whimpering comment escaped my mouth. I informed the fair inspector that there was definitely money to be taken off of me as I had not long been paid. However, this comment was ignored, along with many pleas I was to make later on. Instead, this beacon of common sense came to the conclusion that despite me reaching for my card to pay the fare initially, that I must have just been trying to waste his time and that secretly I had the required amount of cash stashed away somewhere in my fairly light feeling wallet. However, much to my relief, I had the correct change for a railcard priced ticket. And then it dawned on me what the man had said to me before he took my card  ‘railcards are not ‘valid’ when using them on the train from Norwich.’ Bummer.

Not only had I been denied the price that was rightfully mine, I was now, according to the-inspector-that-makes-up-his-own-fares, £1 short. He duly went off to prey on other travelers promising to ‘come back later’. Unfortunately, I have been cursed with a rather vivid and imaginative mind, one which conjured a host of expectations of what to expect when he returned. They ranged from a fare settled by a wrestling match to a good old fashioned fine of something well over what my whole weekend of travel had cost me. He returned, the only progress I had made was in finding a fairly apologetic looking 2 pence coin, no good at all. My last resort: appeal to the public for help. Surely there was a human being on this train that would donate this fairly embarrassed looking young-adult/child a pound? My first attempt to attract some charity was to to ask the ticket inspector to repeatedly tell me the amount that I owed him and then repeat how much I had available – no response. This dead-end led me onto the no-shame approach of loudly announcing ‘oh dear, I’m only a pound short if only I could find one’. No prizes for guessing that this appeal to the public met with similar levels of success. My faith in humanity severely dented, I accepted my 21 day unpaid fare notice and skulked off the train.

From this experience I can say two things. Firstly, karma, where were you? I helped a blind person off the lift the other day. Secondly, humanity, and in particular Nor-folk, I hope you chose you property based on its elevation above sea level as it is due to rain this weekend and it would be terrible if you got a bit of flooding. You let me down.

The Life of a Percussionist

Leo Gauvain

To those of you who weren’t aware, it was the last night of the Proms which usually calls for those attending the Albert hall to become overly emotional and patriotic listening to some of the great scores written by Britain’s finest. Dambusters is a usual favourite and who can forget the fan’s Jerusalem, which despite its misleading name is unmistakably British.

However when I was watching on Saturday (Yes I am 19 and I really was watching the Proms) I wasn’t singing along at home to the classics, I was thinking about the unsung hero in every Orchestra who always gets overlooked, I was thinking about the percussionist. While other members of the orchestra can fall back on their fellow members, the Percussionist works alone.  His mistakes can not be masked by a chorus of strings or a big brass band. Though the contributions of this musician’s work seem minimal compared to his/her compatriots they should not be underestimated.  Every cymbal clash, every virtuoso glockenspiel solo, every triangle ting; a percussionist is responsible for them all.  Playing percussion on its own is an impressive skill to behold but it is lost in the greater scheme of an orchestra.

It’s sad really.  A percussionist in an Orchestra doesn’t even adhere to traditional percussion instruments, moreover he doesn’t get to use the full array of instruments at his disposal.  Percussion instruments were believed to be the first ever instruments and date back to tribal times.  Imagine being a musician back then; thought of as so inventive by banging two pieces of timber together to create a noise.  Then all of a sudden musical evolution saw the rise of the strings to quash these primitive striking tools.

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Of course Percussion evolved too; the Piano Forte is a percussion instrument but has broken away from its ancestors and managed to assert itself in people’s homes and as heart of the Orchestra.  It’s so loud that it can drown out almost anything, the lid has to be shut for big performances.   The unfortunate news for budding percussionists is that music has naturally been linked to popular culture.  The guitar has mutated into the electric and the piano has managed to downsize to fit into people’s homes.  What both have in common is that they have an appeal to the masses.  Everyone is instantly impressed if one can play either of these instruments no matter how proficient you are.  Playing the glockenspiel on the other hand, well I’m not sure you could get anyone into bed with that one besides pianists and guitarists are deemed to have more impressive fingering.

At this point you are probably wondering why have I not mentioned the Drum kit? Well the fact is that a Drum kit is not part of a percussionist’s armory, they have to make do with bongo drums and the like.  A drumkit is one of the instruments that became popular, like the Piano and seemed to get away from the art of percussion.  So this leaves us with a dilemma for percussionists worldwide.  Do they continue to remain in the shadows, occasionally popping up to make that memorable cymbal crash or do they rebel? I’m sure there are purely percussion orchestras out there somewhere but not as mainstream as a classic Orchestra.  Maybe I’ll be proved wrong and next year while watching the proms will get to hear a symphony of crash bang wallop.

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