As London Underground ‘even out the gaps in the service’, I step back and take a mental selfie- an overwhelming guilty pleasure spreads over my skin like an embarrassing unwanted rash.
Unwanted because I’m squirming with the privilege I enjoy whilst others are fighting for their life-right now- they’re coming up for air-as I puff and pant at my inefficient predictive function on my phone .
I feel even more conscience stricken because my very existence is the outcome of refugees of yore who escaped eastern Europe and South Africa.
My attitude to life, my confidence, education, exposure is the result of kindness towards those immigrants who are my fore father’s.
That kindness meant I got out of the ghetto FOR FREE and one perk of this brave new world I now luxuriate in is: music.
Tonight I was reminded of that pure, delicate,tinkling and tickling to the ears that only Rimsky-Korsakovs, scherazade can evoke. Music is a luxury that I love deeply. It’s a non verbal communication that communicates volumes to my inner most being.
You could be excused for enquiring how can I possibly imagine that this hedonistic lifestyle could described as ‘slumming it’. Well- I went for the £5 tickets and elected to queue for hours in the great outdoors that we call Kensington, to then sit on the floor in the Gods of the Albert Hall and languish in mesmerising musical luxury !
I love the Proms because as a superbly awkward mixed race child growing up in Haggerston estate: a non English speaking refugee, single parent (need I go on)- I could ditch the labels; pay less than a fiver and hear the likes of Anne Sophie Mutter, Victoria Mullova, Simon Rattle, the Berlin Philharmonic and last Monday: the St Petersburg Philarmonic.
All in that hall, had one thing in common: passion for The Sound…going to whatever lengths were needed to be part of that magnificent, alluring, written in the stars – like- SOUND. Like the Berlin wall tumbling down, the barricades of class, race, demography, economic privilege, education were momentarily flattened as we soaked in the rays of brilliant sounds that don’t have words that can be misunderstood, hurtful or degrading.
That’s what paying £5 to lie on the floor of the Gallery of the Albert Hall means to me. In all that gratitude for the simple pleasures – it’s mingled with bitter sweet or in modern parlance (salted caramel) for 2 reasons:
there’s the fact that even though it’s a fiver. None of the adults I grew up with or the kids I now teach in impoverished areas are breaking down these stereotypes by joining me in the gallery.
As the solo violin rose elegantly, delicately, like a snake charmer, charming me toward an ideal of Platonic beauty, up through the higher echelons of the octaves, I plummeted down with the realisation that culture is not about economic deprivation as so many in schools insist- it’s a ‘mind forg’d manacle’ of what is socially acceptable for you and yours.
You know how much dollars people don’t have to spend on their Nike but £5 for imperialist Russian decadence- PASS! For me-it’s a Charlie finding the golden ticket moment- the absolute pleasure and intrigue of straddling the worlds of cow foot and philosophical notions!
I only hope that we can all take a mental selfie and remember where we come from – so many of us are descendants of invaders/freedom fighters or immigrants be it last year, last century or last millennia.
Let’s work together to provide what is needed to help those without hope as our families were once provided for.