Monday, 31 October 2011


I am quite bewildered at what is happening at London’s great St Paul’s Cathedral. It seems to lack all logic. There seems to be effect without cause. How can the church’s bosses close God’s house – if he exists – because of a peaceful encampment outside its portals? Lavatories provided. No weapons apparent. The campers make tea. No threat visible. But down comes the portcullis. Up goes the bridge over the moat. The castle is made impregnable. Panic. It just looks like pure cowardice. Or are the church authorities making some sort of political statement?

Act two. The church’s bosses, together with the City of London, its financial hub, go to law to evict the campers. And with that threat hovering over the campers, the clergy come out in their pretty red and white gowns and try to persuade the campers to up sticks and go home. It’s the Theatre of the Absurd. The ineptitude of the people in charge of our affairs in this country seems to be endemic. And they don’t appear to be particularly nice people. I certainly wouldn’t have them to tea. 

I wonder how Jesus would have acted in this situation...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

UK 1066 (and all that!) - 2012 (and all this!)


Christina came for tea. We spoke of the conditions in this country. The rich. The poor. The wars. The national bankruptcy. She told me that a teacher friend of hers suddenly found that his local authority was stopping all teachers' holiday pay, so that he would get paid for only 10 months of the year, and no longer for the whole year of 12 months. So his pay was being cut by 1/6th. She spoke of the preparations for the new scholastic year that teachers had to make during the holidays. I spoke of a teacher's need for a holiday, after a year’s psychically demanding and responsible work. Additionally, I thought that, as the local authority wanted a teacher to be available again for the following scholastic year, he should, contractually, legally, be getting a retainer fee, i e his paid holiday!

Then Christina asked me what I thought the future held for this country. I said I had no idea; I had no picture at all in my mind of the future. But of the present, and of the past, I said I deeply resented the governments – note my plural! – for always pursuing polices of favouring the rich versus the poor; of favouring the owners versus the rent payers; for pursuing policies that involved hugely expensive wars all over the world, instead of minding the country's own business; and I deeply resented the government for now acting with the grossest indelicacy, and most indecent haste, in instituting violent cuts indiscriminately, so that the cure for the entirely man-made economic problem turns out to be far worse than the disease itself. That augurs ill for the future fo this country, so I suppose that means that I DO have a picture in my mind of what the future holds for this country, and that picture is that, without a drastic change of policy, things will certainly go from bad to worse. And that drastic change of policy can come about only if the people of this country stopped being so bloody tolerant, if they stopped tolerating the evil and the folly perpetrated by the politicians, and by the bankers, and by those in power generally. Dont blame only the rioters. Blame those who create the conditions that cause us to HAVE rioters, that cause us to BE rioters... Please dub this my blog, admittedly concocted alone, and in the warm comfort of my home, politically riotous!!!

I did a Brecht play in ’68, the Exception and the Rule. Its theme was that we can change things, that they don’t need to automatically go on in the same old deadly way, that they dont need to go from bad to worse, that they can be steered into altogether happier waters. But that would require action. By us all. But the momentum that keeps things in this country going in the same relentless direction arises from the fact that there hasnt been any significant changes of power since 1066. My friends: It’s nearly 2012!!!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I learn that the British Government has just ordered the refurbishment of the army’s ‘Warrior’ tanks, and that at a cost of one billion pounds sterling. That is £1,000,000,000 or £10 to the power of 9. In its statement, the government further had the nerve to make this enormous expenditure, this incredible extravagance, sound as if they were saving the country – they always call it “the taxpayer” - a huge amount of money, by their refurbishing the old tanks, rather than to replace them with new. I formally object. I want that money to be spent, not on war and on the now so disastrously fashionable national aggression, but on the nation’s welfare; on the nation’s health; on the nation’s education; on the nation’s young; on the nation’s old; on the nation’s poor; on the nation’s disabled in mind or body, on infrastructure, on transport, water, power... OH, Hear me! Hear me! Hear me!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011




In my concern to ensure that the concert hall of the beautiful Les Arts Gstaad project will have an orchestra pit for on-stage performances, for dance, for opera, for theatre, I decided to fly to Gstaad after my summer stay in Berlin. The original instructions for the architectural competition had stipulated that there should be ballet on the stage, but that there should not be an orchestra pit; that the sightlines would have to arrange themselves! That would of course mean that one would see the feet of the dancers through the conductor’s waving wand, and past the heads of the orchestral players, and through their instruments, the harps and the double bases...

When Markus Kappeler showed me these instructions during my stay with him and Marlis in the summer of 2009, I immediately remonstrated with him about the inconsistency of planning musical performances  on the stage of the concert  hall, without providing an orchestra pit, an obviously necessary professional-standard facility. He countered that an orchestra pit would be too expensive! “Too expensive?” When they were planning to build, not a local village hall, but a world class, multi-million Swiss Francs, arts complex, to serve a large area, that would include an art gallery, a safe art depository, and the concert hall - the only one of its kind and scale in the neighbourhood - with a bus station and car parking underneath it all???

In preparation for my journey I contacted various persons concerned in the project, including the architect, Rudy Ricciotti, who said that he would not be in Gstaad, but that I would be welcome to come and see him in Bandol. So I flew to Nice, where Michel Callyannis had kindly arranged for me to stay at the same hotel as two years ago, the Floride, on the 22 bus route into town, up the hill, a bit inland, with a wonderful sunny view over the town and hills from my balcony, the coloured lights at night. And Boris Slioussarenko collected me from the airport. And the next day he drove me to Bandol.

Rudy Ricciotti talked to us about the superb acoustics that the concert hall would have, and expressed his concern, that there was not enough money to continue the architectural work, and that there was not enough money to build the building. And why didn’t one of the wealthy residents of Gstaad simply pay for the lot, and lend his name to the building. I concur with that sentiment. I was relieved that building work had not yet started: I had had no access to information about the progress of the project until I came to Bandol...

We then had a conference with Rudy’s enthusiastic project manager, Rasko Rob, at which I would like to have   been shown more detailed plans – on the internet sketches the stage appears rather high for an orchestral podium -  but I could see from the plans which I was shown that the hall had no orchestra pit. I pointed this out to Rasko, and he said that there was space underneath it for one to be installed, as there was car parking below the hall at that point which did not require the total height of the ceiling. When I asked him why there was no orchestra pit, he replied that none had been specified by Les Arts Gstaad. So I realised that this crucial facility – crucial, as it is intended to present ballet etc ON THE STAGE! - which I had been pleading for in speech, emails and letters and on my blog for two years now, was still not going to be provided, to my view a disastrous compromise. A house without a water closet. I mentioned that London’s Royal Festival Hall had been built in 1951 simply as a concert hall, with a podium for the orchestra. But it was found necessary to present a long season of ballet in the hall each summer, as musical customers were attending the BBC promenade concerts in the huge Albert Hall. So a make-shift stage for the dancers had to be erected in the Royal Festival Hall each year. With its recent renovation, the hall received a completely new, flexible, stage and orchestra pit, and the chorus seats can now be moved away hydraulically, so as to provide a clear performance area. Rasko stated that no chorus seats were arranged for. This is a double lack, as they can accommodate members of the audience when not needed for a chorus, the audience thus surrounding the orchestra as in a private salon, giving a more intimate ambiance, and providing cheap seats behind the orchestra. Memories of early concert-going to the Proms in the Queen’s Hall...

With my now up to date if, alas, incomplete, information of the concert hall, I flew along the Mediterranean, over the white-tipped Alps, and along the huge Lake Geneva; took the train along the lake to Montreux, and then the little mountain railway up to Gstaad. I wheeled my zipper the few meters to the luxurious small chalet Hotel Christiania, with its welcoming host, in the main street.

I had an appointment for coffee the next day with Frank Mueller-Brand, the editor of the Anzeiger von Saanen, and I fetched him from the office, and we sat in the sun in a cafe, and I put my case. It was a delightful meeting, the outcome of which was for him to say that I needed a ‘Gespraechspartner’ to voice my continuing concerns, somebody with authority within the organisation of Les Arts Gstaad to speak to. He suggested Hans-Ueli Tschanz, Kultur Engagement, who rang me the next day, to say that he was not the right man, but that I must meet Kurt Aellen in Bern, the architect member of the Board of Les Arts Gstaad.

But first I had to keep my appointment in Zuerich with Dr Peter Hagmann, feuilleton-editor of the Neue Zuercher Zeitung. I was out of breath by the time I had given him a resume of my case for an orchestra pit. Then there was a silence. And I thought he was thinking me a fusspot over such a detail as an orchestra pit. But he went much further than me. He quoted other new concert halls in Switzerland, all of which were extremely flexible, and one of which had innumerable squares of floor, that could all be lowered and raised individually, in any configuration so that, for example, the audience could sit in the centre, with the action going on around them. He proposed to pass on my information to his colleague dealing with architecture. I have emailed Peter Hagmann with detailed supportive notes for his colleague: About the missing orchestra pit; about the missing choir stalls; and about the apparently also missing organ; none was mentioned in my talk with the architects.    
Concerning the missing windows in the building, I pleaded for daylight in all dressing rooms – with those wondrous views of the valley, the snow-capped mountains - in the green room, and in the canteen, and in the rooms for the technicians, for the orchestra and for the chorus.

Concerning the other missing feature, the restaurant, I learnt that it had been deleted from the original plans in deference to the interests of the nearby hotel restaurants and cafes!  A completely wrong decision, to my mind, about which I raised the following six points:

1)      That it would be more proper for Les Arts Gstaad to represent the interests of Les Arts Gstaad, and of its public, its artists, and its technicians, rather than representing the interests of nearby hotel restaurants and cafes;

2)      that these nearby hotel restaurants and cafes have the opportunity of applying for a licence to run the restaurant;

3)      that a restaurant would support the project financially;

4)      that, together with the originally planned terrace, the restaurant would encourage the public to visit Les Arts Gstaad;

5)      that a restaurant was all the more necessary, as the building had activities for the public all day, as well as in the evenings;

6)      and that eating and drinking served a hugely important social function.
The next day I took the same series of trains to Bern, to meet Kurt Aellen, the architect, le maitre d’ouvrage, as Rudy called him. A fantastic meeting. Thrilling. Because it turned out that he thought that the solution of the Royal Festival Hall could solve the problem of the Gstaad hall: Raise the stage one meter. Extend the front of the stage one meter. Remove 5 rows of seats. And, hey presto! you have an orchestra pit, without having to build one. Both a technical, and a financial, solution! Irony has it that I had circulated the full details of the Royal Festival Hall scheme, together with those of Eddy Smith, the Technical Director of the South Bank – the man they should consult! -  of the company that designed and installed the new stage, and of the architects overseeing the renovation of the hall to Rudy, to Markus, and to a number of other persons concerned in Les Arts Gstaad, in November 2009, twenty one months ago!

After our meeting Kurt Aellen insisted on driving me to see the wondrous Renzo Piano. Paul Klee. art gallery on the outskirts of Bern, where I had a quick look inside this amazing huge steel and glass ‘conservatory’, built in three curved waves...

I rushed back from Bern to Gstaad for a delayed meeting with Leonz Blunschi, the chairman of the Yehudi Menuhin Festival. I asked him what he expected, hoped for, needed, from the concert hall, pointing out that the Festival was the first known potential customer of the new facilities. But Herr Blunschi refused to answer. The beginning of our conversation was also its end. He said that he was not concerned with technical questions, and stated that, if everybody talked to everybody about the scheme, there would be utter chaos. People should talk only to Markus Kappeler. I was nonplussed. First of all Markus Kappeler was no longer on speaking terms with me, so that that avenue was closed to me. Then I wasn’t “everybody”. I had a very particular involvement in the project; and where did freedom of speech come in? After sleeping on this extraordinary interview I emailed Herr Blunschi, and suggested to him that he appeared to have erected a fascist image of the structure of Les Arts Gstaad, and to have attributed to Markus the role of dictator, a notion less than palatable to me, with my personal experience of Germany 1933! In his reply Herr Blunschi countered my definition by describing what they had set up in Les Arts Gstaad as a “klare Organisations- und Entscheid-Kultur”, literally a clear organizational and decision culture”. I accepted Herr Blunschi’s definition, but said that I still found that conversation, that discussion, with whomever, and between whomever, about  what was, after all, a public project, and not some private person’s venture or company, should not only be permitted, but should be actively encouraged.                                                                                                                                                        

And, further, that I was in the unique position of having been the actual person to propose to Markus to take on this project which became Les Arts Gstaad, and that I should therefore be all the more permitted to participate in the discussion. I had been introduced to the subject some 25 years ago by my architect friends in Berlin. It was the student project of Wieka Muthesius, of a concert hall inside a mountain in Gstaad, which was set by her professor, later her husband, Alfred Grazioli. That extraordinary image has been with me for a quarter of a   century.

While I was in Gstaad I should very much like to have been given the opportunity of meeting the Artistic Director of the Menuhin Festival, Christoph Mueller, particularly as I, too, have directed a number of British arts festivals, and have been involved in concert promotion, and theatre and opera production and direction. I would like to have been able to talk to him about these professional practicalities, that appear to have been neglected in this visually exquisite building.


My summer visit to Berlin was earlier this year – I caught the full season of asparagus! – because I was invited to come to Berlin to be interviewed on 23 May for a television documentary film by Radio Berlin Brandenburg, rbb-Fernsehdokumentation "Geheimnisvolle Orte: Wannsee”, “Mysterious/sinister places: Wannsee”. Nazi crimes were perpetrated in this lovely suburb set round the lake and by the river Havel. It had been largely started by the enterprise and money of wealthy Jewish residents who were all replaced by Nazi bigwigs and other ‘Aryans’ after 1933, till when I had spent my glorious childhood weekends at my father’s swish sailing club, the Verein Seglerhaus am Wannsee. And just down the road from the club was the notorious house of the Wannsee Konferenz, where the Nazis had decided on the ‘final solution’ of the Jews.

The director of the programme, Karin Reiss, had picked up on my blog the story of my father’s friend and co-owner of our sailing yacht, Adolf Hain – picnics on board with the two families – who turned rabid Nazi boss of the club, and was responsible for kicking out the Jewish members post haste, a story I discovered 70 years later... I was interviewed on the terrace of the club where, total irony, I now have my birthday parties and, in the dining room, we celebrate our annual crisp Christmas goose!

In Berlin one feels all the time that the past is running parallel to one’s daily experiences…

We Berliners dispersed throughout the world get a journal issued by the Berlin Buergermeister twice a year, and they published a letter of mine, in which I described my recent discovery that I dont speak high German,   that I speak berlinerish! I don’t eat ‘Kaese’ – I eat Kese! This pleased me enormously: Ich bin ein Berlienr… Twelve Berliners from all over the world wrote to, phoned or emailed me, touched by this reference to their past, their childhood, their family, their identity. One of these, Hanni Levi, who lives in Paris, was also coming to Berlin, for the laying of some ‘Stolpersteine’, literally ‘tripping stones’, those 4 inch square brass memorial plaques set on cubes of concrete and let into the pavement in front of the houses where Jewish residents had lived before they were murdered by the Nazis.

I collected Hanni and her friend Huguette from their pension nearby – we three had met over dinner the night before -  and we went to the block of flats in the Nollendorfstrasse for the laying of these stones, eleven of them. Now, in this house, Hanni had been secretly accommodated from 1942 till the end of the war by a non-Jewish German family, a hugely brave action. Hanni had peroxided her hair, and had played the role of a normal, ‘Aryan’ German girl. She had had to act completely naturally, with Berlin chutzpah, not be cowed, otherwise people might have become suspicious. And in that way she sometimes actually forgot, that she was leading a secret life!

Some of the descendents of the family that had saved her life were present at the laying of the Stolpersteine, as well as the residents in the flats, all of whom had worked together 2

to unearth the past of the building they were living in, had known about the eleven victims in the house, and had known about Hanni, had been astounded when Hanni had one day turned up with her grandson, whom she had wanted to show where she had lived in hiding. There had been unanimous agreement in the house that                                                                                                                                                
they would erect a wall plaque in the entrance of the block of flats to honour the family that had  risked their lives to save Hanni, and they had arranged a celebration in their honour, to which Hanni had been invited. That was the background to the celebration I attended. When the eleven Stolpersteine had been cemented into the pavement a Jewish man and his son donned their little caps, and the elder read a prayer, which reminded me that of course these historic victims had never had a funeral, had never been buried. I wasnt the only one who was moved. A woman came towards me, and diffidently asked me whether I perhaps had also lost relatives, for whom I might like to set Stolpersteine in front of their last homes. I thanked her for her concern, and said that I could not but  agree to consider her suggestion, although I had never thought before of setting one for Anita’s sister, my Tante Erna, for my father’s sister Hilde, and for my grandfather’s sister Lilly Kirstein, but would welcome her help in checking their last addresses. She found Tante Erna’s, but the information about the other two is as yet not quite convincing, and needs more research. The organisation that deals with this remarkable artistic invention of the Stolpersteine also does research for them. I shall arrange for one certainly for Tante Erna.

So this time Berlin was particularly dramatic, on top of the pleasure of music, theatre, opera, exhibition, favourite restaurants, enjoying the spaciousness and architectural variety and the lovely surroundings of the city of my birth. And seeing my dear friends. Birthday party at Amelie’s; breakfasts at Pitt’s; family dinner at Elisabeth and David’s; Gerhard’s private cembalo recital of the Bach family and of his own work; Amnesty International conference with Annette; meeting Margaret Ewing at the delicious free Tuesday recital in the foyer of the Philharmonie, the Reissner connection; long ramble along the Kleine Wannsee and the Havel with Annelie, with asparagus to follow! Gudrun’s book reading about her research of the Bayerische Viertel, another aspect of the Nazi pogrom; tea party for ten in the sailing club with my new friends; and many other meetings. Not enough time to see everybody...

20 July 2011

Thursday, 13 October 2011


I am sometimes forced to the conclusion that the average intelligence in this country is well below average! Went to have another blood test at the still pretty new, purpose-built, University College Hospital – or is it the University Cottage Hospital? – where the designated waiting area for patients who have come for a blood test is far too small for the number of patients dropping in, and there are far too few chairs for patients to sit on. The woman patient sitting waiting at the entrance to the treatment room had to keep her feet tucked under her chair so as not to impede the circulation of patients and staff in and out, between the waiting space and the treatment room. And patients crowd the entrance and the passage to Outpatients, and have to be regularly ushered away to sit in another space some way along the passage, which means that staff have to go and fetch them when their number is up. Now this has been going on, and has been known about, ever since the hospital was built. I’ve known about it from the start. In fact I wrote in about it. Never got an answer. And of course nothing was done about it.

Since I had my last blood test at the UCH they have removed the rounded reception counter on the opposite side of the passage, whereas they could, and should, have removed the rounded reception counter on the side of the blood test clinic. They could then have easily put 20 more chairs for 20 more sitting waiting patients in the vacated space. Why don’t they use their brains? I find it agony to observe these mistakes, these blunders that are not corrected, and then these missed opportunities, these decisions in the hands of people without invention, without nous, gumption, savvy, common sense. And this is the great hospital that looks after the various parts of my old body – bar the feeble physiotherapy for my hip – so superlatively...


And Thanks!!! 


Wakey!  Wakey!  Wakey!  UCH...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Just found among my papers…

When I walk
I just walk
I don’t eat
I don’t drink
I don’t read
I don’t phone
I just walk
And I look
And I think
That’s enough


I am all the things I am

Monday, 3 October 2011

Like the Niggers of yore…

W G Sebald, in his ‘The Rings of Saturn’, where he recounts his ramble through Suffolk, goes off at a tangent, as he will, and recounts the crass and large scale murderous cruelties of the Belgians in subjugating the peoples of their African colony, the Congo. He then recounts the similar treatment of the native populations in South America, in the jungles of Peru, of Columbia, and of Brazil, by the Amazon Company, whose headquarters were in the City of London. And it strikes me that the imperialist attitude still persists in this country today, in the form of its attitude to, and its treatment of, the ‘lower orders’, that is, of a large section of its own people, whom it treats like the niggers of yore, in fact, as the despised enemy…Those in power and in possession of the goodies of the country, who enjoy the privileges of their position, blame the poor for their poverty, instead of taking responsibility for the grossly uneven distribution of wealth, and legislating for a fairer sharing of those goodies. To me the fact that our prisons are fuller than those of all the other European countries, ties in with that imperialist attitude, which runs counter to an understanding of the rebellion generated by the utterly unfair distribution of those goodies, and which metes out the vicious and vindictive punishment of the transgressors, whose crimes arise largely out of the social conditions for which those in power hold sole responsibility.…

Of course the imperialist attitude is also the basis of the country’s foreign policy, resulting in its military interference all over the world, costing vast sums of money, which could well be better channelled to the needs of its own people.