It’s been a while – hope the reindeer are holding up after all this year’s adverts suggesting you’re travelling by minicab. I’m sure the folks at FIFA have been bothering you about it, too [ed.: Festive Institute of Flying Animals]. Still, at least the whole NSA scandal seems to have calmed down [ed.: Nasal Satnav Attachment]. Poor Rudolph must have needed a lot of therapy after that.
Anyway, since it’s that time of year again, and since I can’t think of anything really naughty I’ve done this year, I thought I’d just write with a few gentle suggestions. In case you’re lacking in inspiration for possible presents. Nothing too spectacular, you understand. I am, after all, known for being modest and pragmatic in my requests.
1. Helicopter and launchpad (ideally with pilot and 1 year’s supply of fuel and taxes). No, look, I know what you’re thinking… but consider this. I have to travel a lot for work, and there are always times when the public transport system fails us. Plus, I do sometimes have offers of work for which travel expenses (let alone actual fees) seem to be beyond the budgeting ability of my would-be employers. And it’s all a question of time, too – hours backwards and forwards on the train. How useful would this present be?! I could get myself to where I was going for minimal expense and at great speed. If you were up for it, perhaps we could also throw in some skydiving and parachuting lessons. Think of what an amazing impact it would make if I could land just in front of the concert venue, detach the silk canopy and go straight into the pre-concert talk? There’s real potential here…
2. Interactive, colour-coded chart of the complete works of Franz Liszt. This might seem like a curious choice for a Brahmsian, but you see, Brahms didn’t feel the need to write the same thing sixteen times and call them all the same thing. If I had one of these, the next time I had a programme notes request that included any Liszt ‘Études’ (or, for that matter, any of his songs), I could immediately look up all the possible versions and then try to find out which one was actually being performed. If you could include an additional column with basic universal identifiers (e.g. ‘it’s the one in the Dover score with the blue cover’), that would be particularly useful.
3. Waterproof top hat and cane. This is for my ever-advancing tap dancing career, obviously. But I do enjoy swimming as well, and I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t some kind of possible multi-tasking opportunity here. Time is money, after all. Still, I think tap-flippers would be a mite excessive.
4. Inflatable harpsichord. Ever since I did A-level Physics, I have been wondering when I’ll ever have time to work through my plans for a fold-up suitcase-sized piano. But I reckon with a harpsichord, it must be far more possible – no pedals, no metal frame, none of that heavy stuff to weigh you down. I’m not asking for miracles, obviously, so I’m not expecting multiple strings and lute stops. But I reckon a nice little single manual Italian job, with roll-up strings, should be do-able. I’m working on a talk about Dido & Aeneas at the moment, so this could really come in handy.
And of course, last but not least…
5. Replica of the Royal Albert Hall in chocolate. Perhaps not full size. That might make the whole chimney delivery system thing a bit tricky. I consider this to be my most self-sacrificing present request. Just think: I consume part of the structure, the acoustic instantly improves, we make the same adjustment to the actual building, and then we can save all that money and planning for another London concert hall, and spend it on music education and helping ENO instead. Better make it proper 90% dark chocolate, though. Otherwise it might not be very good for me.