Yesterday was dull, cold, and wet, and neither I nor the dog went out all day. Dull for the dog, who cannot read and only has a limited appreciation of music, but good for me: I kept the ‘practical work’ — the lunatic inventions, the endless repair jobs — to a minimum and spent much of the day alternating between computer and piano. At the computer — though I always do first drafts longhand, in a notebook in front of the screen, so it’s hard to choose a pair of glasses that allows me to focus on both, not to mention the pile of dictionaries, some coming unbound, that teeters nearby, threatening to collapse onto keyboard and notebook — I was translating a Greek text into English. At the piano I was trying to learn another of the Bach two-part inventions. I learn painfully slowly now; perhaps I always did. I’m proceeding at about a bar a day, and I notice the piece is 23 bars long. Actually, come to think of it, that’s not so bad: it means I could just about have the thing under my belt, or rather in that mysterious network of nerves and synapses between fingers and brain, in about six months.
You finally learn to play the piano, and then you die.
So quite a productive day, so when I finally went to bed I could allow myself some frivolity, and to that end I had earlier downloaded some Road Runner cartoons. You know the Road Runner cartoons? Minimalism avant la lettre. The road runner is a ridiculous chicken-like creature — I don’t know if he really exists — who tears along an otherwise empty road in a barren rocky landscape; precipices, canyons, the occasional organ-pipe cactus. He irritates hell out of the only other character, a coyote who comes up with absurdly ingenious devices to capture him, all of which backfire. The standard scene-ending is coyote falling down a canyon so deep he dwindles to invisibility, reaching the bottom with a distant crash; all we see is a little puff of dust. As is the way of cartoons, he then peels himself up and tries a new ruse. There are no voices, never any human presence at all: just the mocking ‘Bee-beep’ of Road Runner as he hurtles past. It is very relaxing.