Friday, 2 September 2011

Tired again, Friday again...

Yesterday I got another rejection note. This one was not for GY but for "Ramundi's sisters" - its first. It was courteous, even friendly, and a very quick response, all of which I appreciate, but the agent in question said the writing didn't grab her imagination. For the first time, a rejection note left me feeling really, really flat.

Up until now I've been rather proud of how well I was taking the prolonged application process and all the rejections. I suppose that was bound to slip, at some point. Now a wave of depression arrives, and I find myself thinking "Maybe I'm unpublishable" and feeling altogether really low-spirited. Maybe I am unpublishable. I think my writing is good; but then, a large number of staggeringly untalented people think that about their own writing, so maybe I am simply as delusional as them. Maybe I am unpublishable despite being a competent writer, simply because what I produce is completely uncommercial. Maybe I am wasting my time. Maybe I should just hide under a stone; go in the garden and eat worms, as my grandfather used to say...

Last night I was at the Prom given by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Interesting experience... I never thought I'd see a Prom turned into a political demonstration. Naive of me, I suppose.

It was certainly naive of me not to think about the political connotations when I booked, and invited several other people; I had my cultural blinkers on, and was simply thinking "That's a fun programme, and Gil Shaham is playing; I love Gil Shaham, ergo I must go to this." It literally never crossed my mind that there might be trouble (I guess I share my Dad's attitude that "Musik ist eine heilige kunst").

There were a couple of small "Free Palestine" and "Support Israel no-matter-what" demos outside the Royal Albert Hall when I arrived, but they were both being very civilised; making their point in a calm way without any aggressive behaviour, simply reminding everyone coming in that there are complex issues involved and people who feel strongly about them. But then first of all someone handing out leaflets began to abuse my stepmum Jane after she told them she's a Quaker - I know people get very hot-headed when they are passionate about a cause, but telling someone they cannot call themselves a Christian and will be damned and spat upon by God because they disagree with you is out of line.

Then, when we got inside, we found that a good number of people in the hall had bought tickets solely in order to disrupt the performance as much as possible, seemingly with at least partly the intent of causing not only the maximum noise and interruption but also the maximum of provocation to the remainder of the audience. As Maestro Zubin Mehta readied himself to conduct each piece, people would stand up around the auditorium, and shout and carry on, condemning Israel and chanting "Free Palestine!". As each protester was escorted out (or carried out, in a couple of cases) another one would stand up somewhere else. It was a well-planned demo, I must say that for it; but a pain in the neck nonetheless.

By the time of the (I think) seventh outburst, from a guy quite near where we were sitting, the level of ill-feeling against the protests had reached the point where another member of the audience stood up and began pushing the protester down into his seat with considerable force - he was subsequently ejected alongside the protester, whereupon other members of his party began to make their own protests, the gist of which was that he had been justified, and two of them were then asked to leave as well. The bulk of the audience were just muttering and booing at yet another disturbance, and began loudly shushing both the protesters and those who were shouting at them to shut up.

I doubt if more than a handful of the audience will have felt anything other than extremely angry with the cause of a free Palestine by the end. And it may be cynical of me, but I doubt very much if the irony will have registered with most of the angry people around me, that in having our normal life disrupted aggressively by strangers for no reason except their hostility towards the fact we were there, we were in fact experiencing a tiny, TINY taste of what it is like to live under an aggressive occupation.

It is a pity, though, since this was exactly the kind of situation where a positive impression could have been made on people who hadn't been really thinking about the issues. Instead the impression most of them will have come away with was of a bunch of loudmouths being arsey. Presumably the opportunity for wide publicity at minimal cost of effort and time over-rides the seriously counterproductive effect on the actual audience on the night.

I am saddened by the cynicism of attacking a soft target like the Proms, rather than the people who actually make the decisions. Governments have legal representatives on foreign soil; their embasssies. Outside an embassy is the proper place for a demo against the government of the country in question. Vide the group outside the Zimbabwean embassy in the Strand, patiently making their point, day after day. But that demo will be a long, hard slog, possibly requiring years of work to really get the publicity mill rolling... Whereas this one was loud, quick and dramatic, easily staged, and didn't result in anyone getting hurt or arrested, and I learned this morning that it achieved its goal of getting the BBC outside broadcast taken off-air partway through.

The orchestra, who I fear must be pretty hardened to this sort of thing when they play abroad, were consummately professional and played on throughout, extremely well. Gil Shaham was of course absolutely wonderful. And even in such strange circumstances, it was still good to see Jane, and The Crazy Intern, and TCI's nice fella G., and The Ginger Scotsman. And we had some fabulous Booja-Booja raspberry truffles at the interval. Interesting, weird evening.

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