September 1, 2015

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10.30 am. The day of David Trotter’s funeral. When I arrived at Holy Trinity Church to take up my duties as Assistant Warden, the building was already two-thirds full. Present, were faces that I’d not seen in a long time — academics and administrators whom I’d known during my years as Head of Department, in the days when the School was part of the Faculty of Arts. (I do miss that.) Funerals are great levellers. On these occasions, the only important people are the departed and their family. The service drew together solemnity and good humour, honour and loving tributes. One of David’s daughters spoke warmly about his fatherly dedication, imaginative forethought, and zest for life. He was a colossus as much at home among his family as he was in his career. As those who’d paid their last respects followed the bearers, a silence pervaded the church, such as I’d not experienced before. Several hundred people left their pews and filtered out through the main doors and onto Trinity Place without either a single word being spoken or noise, made. It was a most eloquent expression of the sense of tragedy.

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12.30 pm. I caught the train to London via Shrewsbury and Crewe – a rather circuitous journey reflected in the price of the ticket. I sat in carriages with inadequate air conditioning on two out of the three legs of my journey. In the ‘old days’, passengers could control their environment by pulling down a window. These days, our climatic comfort is determined remotely … or not, as the case may be. I sat in the ‘QuietZone’, behind a woman who was noisily rustling a crisp packet and chomping on its contents. I suspect the carriage’s prohibitions do not pertain in this instance:

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5.05 pm. The train arrived at London Euston on the dot. Afterwards, I took a brisk walk to visit the British Library before dinner. I’d not worked there or several years. There was time to look in on the Humanities I & II reading rooms – my habitual haunt. They’d not changed; some things shouldn’t. From there, I walked the aisles of the galleries, and peered over the shoulders of young scholars working on their laptops, like an invisible angel in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire (1987):

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7.00 pm. An evening at the Almeida Theatre, where I attended a performance of Euripedes’ Bakkhai [The Bacchae], starring Ben Wishaw. Adaptions of ancient Greek tragedies are hit or miss. This was the latter. The a cappella chorus sang well, but the music (of which there was far too much) sounded like a second-rate mash-up of cast offs by Reich, Glass, and Adams. The play had no stylistic continuity and was too colloquial. The descent into pantomime and school play territory was inevitable:

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