After tea I crossed over into the city and sat out the latter half of that queer Chinese affair – Turnadot.
We are now having the bright cold season. Each morning a red sun rises above the buildings and smoke stacks of Deutz, and each evening ruddily sinks behind the forked apex of the “Dom”. There is no wind. The bare trees stand motionless, firmly outlined against the clear sky.
During our nocturnal prowl on “Town Picquet” we encountered numerous tipsy denizens of the demi monde, male and female, squeaking, giggling, and reeling about. For this they were born, reared, educated, and prepared for life!
I hanker for the throbbing of propellers – single, twin – any old kind: so long as they revolve and push across the intervening brine something that will remain afloat.
“Chum” leaves me tonight. She put up a record performance this morning; shied at nothing, shot out her colossal heels in discouragement of any rear attack, and set out at an elephantine gallop homewards. Dick was shot some time ago – his foot wouldn’t heal. So he swells the unprinted Roll of Honour – worked to death winning the War – a gentle and patient chap throughout.
We have heaps of fuel, the best being a form of briquette.
Supper last night – bits of bred and bacon saved from mess, and cornflour made in a leaky cake tin. Also made some jelly, but upset it on the floor.
9 p.m. To Madame Butterfly, presented with perfect scenery; and long familiarity with the music delightfully reminiscent. Excellent performers, though, by a perversity of chance, they were of gigantic stature, and hardly adaptable to the Japanese toddle.
Now for the criminal side of my career. I obtained entrance by two bribes – 2 m. for a ferret-eyed flunkey, and 1 m. for Madame of the Garderobe. My old Hun informed me he had seen Tanhauser between 200 and 300 times, roaring some of it in my ear.
Last night’s bibulous effects decidedly humorous. One by one the delinquents returned in various stages of liquordom. After assisting same to partially undress and roll up in an assortment of one another’s blankets, I took to my bunk, when the flute-worshipper and his mates returned with the helmet and a large humorous notice with which they decorated one of the unconscious beauties; then went into prolonged ecstasies of laughter, lasting until late into the night. Their victim lay throughout, motionless, stern; like the body of the Duke of Wellington lying in state. Before his final lapse into statuesque coma, the Duke had helped manfully with his “cobber”, whom we skinned of his nether garments, socks and all, as you skin a rabbit. When today he found he had been robbed of all his money and his watch, he simply said “It serves me right”. Things like that show character.
I like my present company, real “hard doers”, who don’t ‘whip the cat’, are loyal, and get fun out of their misfortunes. One (the Duke) I would give much to have provided with a good education. He has a natural gift of fantastic and humours expression. The quaintest analogies suggest themselves to his mind, and his attitude towards the military environment is inimitable. He is now about to “get his razor into trip to do a little chaff-cutting” – his battered looking-glass being “the old range-finder”. His spare donk he has taught to follow him like a big dog, and it is as good as a play to watch him galloping up and down, followed by that frolicsome satellite. A much damaged plate of false teeth, his only valued possession, is a source of endless jocularity. He procrastinates: discussed from every point of view the problem of where and when he should get his hair cut. After harping on the idea for over a week, he entered an elaborate saloon in the city – cast one terrified glance at the rows of bowing and unctuous attendants, and bolted! My eternal gratitude to him, although he did drink most of our bucket of washing water this morning.
Just been out to midnight “hay-up”. The tapering twin towers of that mighty Cathedral probing (dark blue against pale blue) the wintry sky.
Am reading Adam Bede.
Just returned from Tannhauser. It re-creates by the magic of sound the world-old, magnificent and terrible struggles between good and evil. I cannot understand what Wagner’s critics were driving at. Far from being incomprehensible, it makes you understand.
The leading male (Menzinski) has a beautiful voice, under great restraint and reserve. It swells, organlike from his lips. (Arrival of first devotee of Bacchus – today being pay-day – very boozy and repentant) – I don’t care how mad it sounds, but you can see Wagner’s music, as well as hear it. In one part it gave a picture of magnificent spiral bubbles shooting up through an iridescent ocean. At another it presented horizontal waves, interchanging intricately in the same planes.
I am in danger of being a convert to the opinion that Grand Opera offers the greatest scope of all art forms, but shall probably recant on reading again (say) Prometheus Unbound. Thus spouteth the vacillating dilettante.
My dipsomaniac, after visiting a neighbouring and lugubrious flautist, and raising a raucous bass in unison, returns in gleaming Hun helmet for my gratification, and retires flute-wards after effective dumb show. Enter reveller No.2, who after short exposition, goes to sleep fully dressed. Ten by the wrist-watch – and yet three away!
Had a driving job this morning, by way of a change – the ground was thick with snow, which seemed to form a blanket creating the warmth to thaw itself. Easily got a ticket for tonight’s performance, Lortzing’s “The Armourer of Worms”. There was too much unintelligible libretto. My real motive for going being to see again the attractive Summer-night’s spook which followed it. But I also obtained a ticket for Tannhauser tomorrow.
Baths today. Lovely swim! Went to my rehearsal tonight. No.2, the Mozart, was delightful. The solo was played by a strong leonine lady in a masculine and masterly fashion, and without mannerisms. The programme cost me 3 cigarettes, as I had no small change. (Bystanders much amused).
No.3. This piece recently composed by a Rhinelander was tonight performed for the first time. Probably clever music, but it didn’t seem to grip one. No.4. This big symphony by Bruchner is a remarkable work. It is full of surprises – throws thunder and lightning at you, bludgeons you with sound at one moment, and rubs ointment on the bruise in the next, eventually lulling and pacifying the somewhat perplexed brain with a long massage, tying and untying it in soft easily resolved loops and bows, gently lassoing and releasing it, running smooth instruments through its intricate coils – in fact, putting its tangled and tawny masses into musical curling pins. I was much indebted to a fair-haired young fraulein who spoke some English, and helped me understand things – rewarding her with a hunk of butterscotch. I told her how the hun children plague us for “chocoladen”, and she said “Yes, and also the ladies – I mean the wrong-women. I shall not be the wrong-woman”. (I didn’t ask her to).