Saturday, 28 November 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009

A chocolate cello

Carl Friedrich Abel’s The Drexel Manuscript is one of the jewels in the repertoire of the viola da gamba, and Paolo Pandolfo’s recording of this collection is nothing short of sublime.

Hang on, some of you say. Have I lost my marbles? What am I doing talking about Baroque music on Bingley’s Blog?

Well, I could say that the beautiful, rich, chocolate brown tones of the viola da gamba remind me of the gorgeous brown sheens of Bingley’s coat. But that, though true, would be stretching things a bit.

The real answer though, lies in a painting. The sleeve notes to this CD include an illustration of a painting, by Gainsborough, of CF Abel. There he is in all his Baroque splendour, seated at a desk and composing away. Lying across his lap is the neck of a viola da gamba, a beautiful instrument and progenitor of the modern cello; and lying at his feet, in this very same painting, is a dog!

A lot has been written about Abel’s music, and justifiably so: he was a significant and prolific composer and a close contemporary of JS Bach. But not much is mentioned about his dog, which is a shame; and the iconography of 18th Century art notwithstanding, surely this is his dog

The relationship between dogs and artists is worth exploring, I think. Maybe not everyone is inspired by their dog, though there are certainly times when Bingley inspires some very strong emotions in me. Sadly though they’re not always of the creative variety!

But dogs are our companions and we spend a lot of time interacting with them. I for one allocate a significant part of each day to walking Bingley. Some of the time is spent playing together, some of that time spent in training sessions (no, I haven’t quite thrown in the towel yet!). But there are long spells when Bingley is off by himself on a sniffy ramble, and I have time to look at the views, listen to the bird song, and to think and reflect on all manner of things.

It’s easy to imagine that artists come up with some of their best ideas during these periods of dog-walking reflection. Certainly the atmosphere of the Drexel Manuscript is intensely reflective; and indeed the whole Consort repertoire has a beguiling solemnity and the rich, golden hues of a late autumn dog walk.

But I don’t know how dear old Carl would have got on with Bingley. Though I’m not a composer, I’m sure that I’ve been on the cusp of a Big Idea several times now; only to have my train of thought broken by the realisation that Bingley is eating or doing something he shouldn’t!

Our dogs can inspire great art, I’m sure of it. But perhaps it’s fortunate for all of us that Bingley isn’t the dog in that Gainsborough painting, because otherwise I doubt very much whether we’d be enjoying The Drexel Manuscript today!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The joy of socks

Bingley, without doubt, is a pooch full of mischief! But he’s also reliable and, up to a point, trustworthy. Even when he’s not fast asleep, I can generally leave him alone and know that he isn’t going to create havoc whilst I’m upstairs working at my computer.

Food is safe: he’s not going to raid the fridge or empty the bread bin. Books remain intact even when they’ve been left lying around. He did eat a remote control once, but all the others (and these things seem to breed like rabbits) have been untouched.

Of course, before leaving him alone we still need to do a spot check of all the stuff that might be within his grasp; but the list of items in danger of being Binged, is short.

Nevertheless, there are things which we have to look out for, and there’s absolutely no doubt that the top item on that danger list, the thing which Bings find utterly irresistible and which they will try their utmost to get hold of, are socks. Any kind of sock will do: thick, thin, long, short – it doesn’t matter; if it’s a sock, he wants it!

He doesn’t always wait until they’re off your feet either! If Jane’s sitting there relaxing in her warm woolly socks, she has to keep a constant eye out for a sneak attack. And Bingley being Bing, he can whip off a sock quicker than a magician hides a rabbit: one moment it’s there, in a second it’s gone. The only hint you get that something has happened is a cold foot and the sight of a gleeful dog bum-tucking around the lounge.

When I put on my walking boots for our afternoon ramble, I often end up hopping around the kitchen trying to pull on my socks, whilst the muzzle at the other end tries to pull them off again.

But it’s not just socks; gloves have a similar appeal, and we now have several pairs which have been reduced to fingerless mittens! Tissues and handkerchiefs are also regularly snaffled from unsuspecting pockets; and of course soft slippers have been a long time favourite.

Thankfully, if he does happen to capture one of these items whilst I’m upstairs, he lets me know. Sharing the knowledge is part of the fun, and if I don’t respond to all the noise, he patiently waits until I go back downstairs. Then just as I’m about the rescue the captive lying, strangely enough, just in front of him, he’ll whip it away and dash off: that way, he reckons, I’ll have to chase him!

Soft and chewy wool! I can think of nothing worse to have between my teeth – for me it’s the fingernails down a blackboard syndrome. But Bingley clearly loves it and will do anything to repeat the experience.

Over the past couple of years we’ve spent a small fortune on chew toys. Actually, I should rephrase that and say that we’ve wasted a small fortune on chew toys. Nothing lasts for long; not even those so called ‘indestructible’ toys that cost a lot but which are guaranteed to be chew proof. A few months ago we bought him a Hurley, which came in a lovely shade of green. The makers of the Hurley are so confident in their product that they offer a free replacement if your dog somehow manages to damage the toy. Well, it might have been chew proof but it wasn’t Bing proof, though to be honest it didn’t fare as badly as some: it took Bingley half an hour to destroy that one. Normally it only takes half that time!

But it turns out that once captured by Bingley, socks can survive longer than most of these toys do. Unless he’s in a particular ‘lets rip this to shreds’ mood, he’s content to lie there wearing a happy expression, as he slowly mouths the poor lump of wool to soggy oblivion.

It took us a while to switch over from the idea of buying expensive, indestructible toys which were anything but, to the idea of simply buying cheap sock-like toys which he could happily play with. But once we started buying soft toys there was no going back! It turns out that Bingley absolutely loves woolly toys. Not only that, they last! Occasionally he’ll try to remove that squeaky thing which is nested deep inside; but more often than not he’s content just too gently play with Bertie Bear or Little Pink Pig.

It’s yet another Bingley dichotomy: 38 kilos of high energy dog, strong and tough and ready for action. But deep down inside he’s just a big harmless softy who likes cuddly toys!