This board is not on the wall. It rests on a worktable against a wall. It’s almost the length of the table, perhaps a foot short. On top of the board its wooden frame makes a shelf ideal for photographs or cards to balance precariously, photographs and cards too precious to pin. Today there are five, yes they change from day to day, and today (from left to right) there’s an original drawing in walnut ink of a winter field, a photo of two children looking from a cliff top towards a peninsula’s end, a card called Autumn Spey from a lithograph by Angie Lewin, an invitation to a gallery opening, and a What’s On brochure – from another gallery – showing some unusual tapestry.
The Notice Board is 100 x 60 cm. The wooden frame is slight, probably home-made, but well-made, with a dark brown hessian surface. Not that you can see much of the surface as it is covered with stuff: photographs, images, poems, pictures, cards, quotations, a prayer, an origami bird, a doctor’s prescription, a piece of tapestry, an invitation, an address, lists galore, a cheque or two, a diagram (of a knot), a concert program. Not everything can be seen directly as many items are shared by a single pin and hidden four, even six, notices deep. Every so often the items are unpinned and consigned to a folder and filed, and so the process of choosing and pinning starts over again. This can happen after a holiday, returning uncluttered by days walking the cliff paths with only the quiet sea to gaze at and the cottage blissfully free of things known, things owned. So when back at the desk, in front of the notice board, it seems right to be beginning again.
Mozart’s Linz Symphony is playing quietly in the background. It’s that time of day when music is sometimes allowed to frame work at this desk and blot out the going home noise of buses in the city street moving away from the stop three floors below. Linz, the capital of Upper Austria and now a large industrial city straddling the banks of the Danube, once gave its name to Linzertorte, a cake of jam, cloves, cinnamon, and almonds, and this remarkable symphony by Mozart. The composer had only just married his Constanza and wrote to his long suffering father:
When we reached the gates of Linz . . . , we found a servant waiting there to drive us to Count Thun's, at whose house we are now staying. I really cannot tell you what kindnesses the family are showering on us. On Tuesday, November 4, I am giving a concert in the theatre here and, as I have not a single symphony with me, I am writing a new one at break-neck speed, which must be finished by that time. Well, I must close, because I really must set to work.
And set to work he did. He had just 4 days to compose, write the parts (though Constanza helped), and rehearse an orchestra. Such is life for the working composer, even today. Maybe not a summons from a beneficent Count, but a phone-call from a producer with a deadline. It is the film or TV score to be composed at break-neck speed. And it can be done, believe me. It may not be sublime as Mozart, but it gets done: there are ways and means.
But this is today’s background, and as these words are written the gracious siciliano of the Symphony No.36 plays away. Such a tender confection.
Looking up at the notice board where does one start? Each pinned piece is a divertissement, an aide memoire to times, events, places, and people. It is a mixture of the colourful, the curious, the necessary, the unusual, the nostalgic, and the personally precious. These things are the qualifications required to occupy a place on this board.
But now Haydn takes over the musical background, Symphony No.88. No descriptive name here, just his wonderful music: his first symphony to score trumpets and timpani, and with more than a touch of Turkish in the Minuetto and Finale.
So close your eyes now (let’s listen to Haydn for a while), then slowly open them and choose from the notice board what first catches your attention.
It’s a coloured sketch of flowers on an A5 sheet of cartridge paper. It is outlined delicately in pen, coloured variously with pastels, green, orange, purple, red. The vase is a glass bowl. It’s set on a window-sill and there’s the frame of a window faintly rendered. There’s no artifice in the arrangement. These are flowers from a garden, picked and now firmly ****** into the bowl. Immediately the long, quiet east-facing room comes alive to colour. It’s in shade now the sun has moved since midday when the flowers arrived after a journey of 40 miles in a hot car wrapped in moist newspaper and silver foil. It is a special gift and its beauty remains vivid for days. When visitors visited gentle comments are made on their fresh colours.
At night when the room is only lit by a standard lamp standing by a pale yellow settee the flowers sleep in the darkness, holding a vivid memory of a day of colour and light. A recording of the Schumann quartets plays passionately during the ‘close to the end of summer’ evenings. Hands are held, and between movements there is an occasional exploratory kiss. Such was their collective fear of passion overcoming other endeavours . . .
In the early morning time when she slept in the room next door oblivious to his wakefulness he would enter the long studio room with its four windows to find the first sunlight patterning the floor. The flowers were wide-awake, their perfume rich in the still morningtime. He would stand entranced to see such beauty brought from her city garden; the first of many gifts he would come to treasure. His sketch was an amateur’s, but four summers past it continued to give much joy and dear memories. It had something of the solemnity of Mozart’s siciliano, and if an image could be said to have a right tempo, it had a right tempo, a gracefulness roughly hewn perhaps, but full of grace.