Brazen customer

Last night first: The visit to the National Concert Hall was a great success. It was a special musical celebration of the life and work of John and Doreen Ruddock, an extraordinary couple, co-founders of the Limerick Music Association and promoters of over 800 concerts over the past forty years. Without much financial support, they attracted soloists and ensembles of the highest international calibre to Limerick and Dublin, in many cases demonstrating a talent for spotting up-and-coming young musicians who later went on to establish hugely successful international careers. The list of world-class musicians associated with them is wonderfully impressive: Isaac Stern, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Deszö Ránki, the Berlin Philharmonic Octet, the Beaux Arts Trio, the Amadeus Quartet, the Takács Quartet, András Schiff, Támás Vasary -- these are just some of the names on their roster.

Doreen died a year ago. Her obituary in The Irish Times included the following: 'The balance for her tipped strongly on the side of joy. One could see that as her head moved imperceptibly to the rhythms of her beloved Takács Quartet playing Bartók, when a concert was over and she could relax into a marvellous meal, cooked by her, for her musicians and when she gently, but proudly, chided her husband John as more wondrous, and expansive, plans were outlined for yet more concerts.' The recipe was simple: John excelled at identifying talent and bringing it to Ireland before the world had noticed, while Doreen made sure they enjoyed it enough to want to return when their careers had taken off.

It certainly seems that musicians who came at their behest thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and were more than happy to return, even when their reputation and their normal asking fee had grown out of all proportion to their first visit. A basic rule applied by the Ruddocks was to keep ticket prices low, and this was also the case last night. For a mere 25 euro I (complete with new gold tie) was treated to performances by Michael Collins, the Vogler Quartet, Wolfgang Holzmair and our own Finghín Collins, in an extraordinary programme consisting of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, Beethoven's final Piano Sonata, an exquisite group of Schubert Lieder, and Schubert's 'Trout' Quintet. It was a real marathon, running from 8.00 until 11.00 with one short interval. Every moment was fantastic, and it was an honour to be part of the audience.


So, back to today. I had an afternoon meeting with my ex-boss, who wants design and editing help with a project he's cooked up. He always was a terror for changing meeting arrangements, and was true to form this time also. Our original appointment for 2.30 was first changed to 4.00, and finally moved to 5.00. I was anxious to be punctual, and erred sufficiently on the early side to have time for quick refreshment in the Brazen Head, which is very close to the ex-boss's office. I've blipped this pub previously, under sunnier conditions. There was nice sunshine on offer today, so I wasn't able to stay outdoors. The interior could be described as 'quaint', I guess. As I stood at the bar waiting to be served I overheard two members of staff discussing what to do with a stack of dollar bills one of them had. The other guy told him the procedure is to hand them over to a local charity, who gets half value from the bank. It turns out that these were notes left by customers which simply couldn't be fitted anywhere on the walls, every inch of which is thoroughly covered already. The defacing which reduces the bank value is caused by messages scrawled on the notes by the enthusiastic customers. It's a great old place, Ireland's oldest pub, and very, very popular with tourists. It was very quiet this afternoon (only three other customers), but still worked its magic. This guy was fascinated by the mad blipper in the corner. I don't know if he realised he was in shot or not. I decided he was Scandinavian.

The meeting went well. The whole dynamic of the encounter was strange. My ex-boss and I never got on all that well (his staff skills aren't the best), but all of that changes when he changes into a client. The job could prove tedious (pulling together content from several disparate contributors, proof-reading and editing it, doing layout/design, and organising a 1000-copy print run), but it's still a nice challenge -- and an extra bit of work never goes amiss.

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