Tuesday, 6th June, 2023

[Day 1177]

So Tuesday has rolled around again and this is the day to which we look forward because we generally meet up with old friends in the Waitrose cafe. Our regular ‘veteran singer’ was in evidence again – this is my sobriquet for her as she was recently part of a choir that sang Brahm’s requiem when she is approaching her ninetieth year and we often find that we can have a chat about things musical. For reasons that will become apparent shortly, I have recently come to the realisation that a full piano keyboard is 88 keys which is the equivalent of 7.25 octaves whereas most modern electronic equivalents make do with a 61 key keyboard which is 5 octaves. The octave are the 7 ‘white’ notes and the five ‘black’ notes making 12 keys per octave – 12 times 5 is 60 with the extra top ‘C’ added to the top to make 61. For many learners five octaves (or 61 keys) are sufficient and I did not know until today that most baroque music and the early Mozart and Beethoven can to all extent and purposes be played on a 61-key keyboard. By the middle of the 19th century, pianos typically had 85 keys. By the end of the century, pianos began to emerge with the now standard 88 keys. It was not really until the late 1880s when 88 keys became standard on pianos. So a beginner ought to be able to make quite a lot of progress on a 61 key piano until he/she meets composers from the mid 19th century onwards. A bit of Googling has revealed that the reason Mozart can be played on 61 keys is because, during his time, there are only 5 octaves (61 keys) on the keyboard instruments of that era. Thus, most of Mozart’s piano pieces are composed using 61 keys. Nowadays, Mozart’s pieces are transcribed to be played on the modern piano keyboard. A bit more research revealed that Mozart did not play on the 88 key piano we have today. The 88 key piano was created by Beethoven when he started writing pieces for the 88 key piano that had yet to be created by the piano manufacturers of his day. Beethoven was such a rock star that the aristocracy pressured the manufacturers into changing the design of the piano so that they could hear the pieces that Beethoven had written. Mozart was born in 1756, 24 years before Beethoven was born and so Mozart played on the 66 key Fortepiano. The keys are thinner and closer together and therefore are more difficult to play. Meanwhile, our friend is off on holiday with her family to mid-Wales so we shall miss her company next week. We discovered, incidentally, that both Meg’s mother and her own mother were excellent seamstresses and so made all of the clothes that their children needed.

So Meg and I made our way home and I then progressed down to participate in my normal Pilates session. There were only three of us this week, supplemented by one extra person on ‘Zoom’ which sometimes happens. Our Pilates teacher is very good and experienced and if any one of us has a niggle which can happen then alternative exercises are suggested to help that sufferer participate fully in the lesson. I suppose that would not be possible if we were part of a group some 20 strong which is what some classes happen to be.

Every so often a news item occurs which tickles the imagination. On the news today was the story of the Aston Martin ‘Bulldog’ designed to reach a speed of 200mph. Only one was ever produced as a sort of prototype and an attempt to run the car ended in disaster when the engine blew up on an initial run in the 1980s. However, today the engine has been restored and a test run performed on a remote Scottish air landing strip. I suspect that the test driver must have been incredibly brave (or foolhardy) to attempt this feat but today the target was achieved with a speed of 205 mph.

In the Ukraine war, the world must surely be shocked with the breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam. It is being reported that some 80 villages and communities and some 22,000 population below the dam have had to be evacuated in the light of the flood waters released by the breached dam. Even more serious is the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station for which the reservoir cools reactors and nuclear waste stored at the nuclear power plant. Pumps will stop working if the water level dips below 12.7 metres, an expert has said. The situtaion is said to be ‘stable’ at the moment but the ecological disaster is evident. The Americans are leaning towards blaming the Russians but tonight both the Russians and the Ukrainians are blaming each other.

Meanwhile the tug of way between the COVID enquiry chair and the government is continuing. The COVID inquiry chair insists it is for her to decide what material is ‘relevant’ in the row over Johnson WhatsApps and there are broad hints that she will resign rather than accede to the government’s desire to redact (presumably embarrassing) material. If this case ever gets to the Courts, the government is almost certain to lose the case anyway.