In Which Pomegranates are not the only Fruit.

Post 31

Oh dearie, dearie me. Slav’s in a pickle folks. In fact that doesn’t begin to describe the doo doo in which my favourite football team currently reside. Not just Slav; from top to bottom and going by the embryonic league table, I’m afraid the emphasis is on the bottom. Don ponders this. But to take his mind off of it, he will also muse (without research or off button) whether Parsifal, far from/as well as being a Freudian wet dream, might actually be Wagner’s coping mechanism for having to go without his conjugal rights back at the ranch; Cosima having closed off that avenue of pleasure. And don’t even get Don started on pomegranate seeds.

Rock bottom, pointless, manager considered most likely to get the chop, needless sending offs, defensive shambolics, best defender injured in pre-match warm up, daft penalties…yes folks….you know it, we know it….can only be ….put your hands together for…… West Ham United.

The irony of course, is that it had been a pretty good summer. A week in Avignon with Mrs D followed by a lovely time outside of Dubrovnik again with Mrs Don, Little Don and one of the Little Donettes. There Don mused with Little Don over the challenge to come at Old Trafford; a tricky start of course but with our well received new quintet of Hart, Zabaleta, Arnautovic, Hernandez and Haksabanovic, we thought we were pretty well equipped; not to win at Man Utd of course, that would be silly, but not to be disgraced. And then to go into the Southampton and Newcastle games with justifiable hope. Added to this, very public talk of William Carvalho being when not if, Valencia gone, Snodgrass about to follow and we reasonably anticipated a winger and maybe one other addition to a good squad and a decent season.

Ok so we conveniently ignored pre-season form, or lack of. Also, various tittle-tattle  concerns re our training intensity, or lack of.

And so it came to pass. Not so much the defeats but the manner of them in the Man U and Newcastle games in which our effort levels doffed caps towards the insipid. Certainly, grit was on display against Southampton, its true; but having clambered to the life raft, we launch ourselves with gusto off of it and into the abyss.

Don’t get me wrong; Don is in the Slaven camp. There; said it and rightly so. It’s grossly unfair to judge after three games, even where tagged onto the ten at the back of last season. But there are very worrying signs. A talented defence looks shambolic. No protection in front. That’s no criticism of Declan Rice whose potential will surely soon be fulfilled and hopefully with us and to a lesser extent, the same applies to Fernandes but his natural instincts lie a little further forward. No, its the impression Slav gives that either Noble or Kouyate can protect a defence; they can’t. They may put in the odd gritty performance but both habitually get wrong side or don’t follow their man because they don’t think like defenders. Can’t remember which manager it was (maybe Curbishley?) that years ago took the young, attacking Mark Noble and said he could turn him into a defensive midfielder. He couldn’t and he isn’t.

Which all makes the William Carvalho debacle an even greater indictment on the numpties supposedly running the club. We thought they’d turned a corner in that some of the earlier transfers were done with comparatively little fanfare, whereas every moment of the early rounds of the Carvalho transfer bout were played out in Technicolor for all to see. And as the deadline approached, the one target so obviously needed, the one all signals from the club highlighted was Slaven’s main priority…. died. Dead. As dead as Frank Miller in High Noon; it took a while to kill him off but once done, he wasn’t coming back. Miller was a vicious outlaw, he had to die. But what had the Carvalho deal ever done to anyone? In these days of grossly inflated transfer fees there seemed little between the clubs though of course we only know what the clubs PR want us to know. Its like the Carrick sale to Spurs; the true details are so complex and obscure as to actually be beyond human comprehension. Like why does every salad now have to contain pomegranate seeds? But more of that later.

The overriding impression is that the board wouldn’t sanction it because rather than support the manager with £40 million, he was a dead man walking and they’d rather save the dosh for the next guy. Whatever one thinks of Bilic, that is shabby treatment because if that is how you feel, sack the guy. Either back him or sack him. Instead we have a half way house, where he hasn’t got the squad he wanted (albeit still one capable of avoiding relegation) and has to limp through to Christmas when he will no doubt be dispatched and the new guy will have some money to spend.

If Don’s analysis is even vaguely right, that is hopeless miss-management. This is supposed to be the second season where we settle into the new ground and assault some sort of challenge on the top half off the table.  I’m not even mentioning that we haven’t played at home yet. That’s unfortunate but we’ve known it from the off. One can only hope that UK wins no more major athletic events. But no, rock bottom, morale having to be built from scratch and the manager left to feebly persuade that he has the squad he needed despite losing the guy he was so desperate to sign.

Don’t get me wrong; there are two sides to every transfer, Sporting may be equally to blame. Also one player doesn’t make the squad. But nevertheless…

It would be wonderful if Slav could sign off with some memorable wins and whisper it, even a cup adventure but Don is in no doubt. He is signing off.

So we’re all in a pickle but this being West Ham, we’re quite used to that.

Is cucumber a fruit? Don’s not sure. Be that as it may, Don turns his roving eye to salad and a very worrying trend that no doubt has been praying on the minds of many readers. It may be a summer thing but why oh why oh why does every salad have to be covered in pomegranate seeds? It’s not just pomegranates, though they are the worst and most persistent offenders. Don feels mandated to speak on behalf of the traditional salad loving community and be in no doubt, we are a community, when he says…fruit belongs in a dessert bowl, not in the salad! Honorary non-fruits being tomatoes and cucumbers. We’ve seen the pickle the EU has got into by broadening its membership too far and we should beware that sorry tale.


Artists grapple with a difficult issue: how to know when the work of art is finished? How not to spoil it by keeping going? In the salad world, that conundrum is easily solved. It’s the moment before you put the fucking pomegranate seeds in!!

On to Wagner and his little pickle. Rather the little pickle he got into. Here was a man who enjoyed the company of women. We know this because due to his huge ego, he insisted on recording every aspect of his life, primarily in his autobiography Mein Leben which covers up to 1865. However, by nature, autobiographies tell the story the author wants us to hear. So it was with Wagner and although it hints at various dalliances it glosses over the less savoury adulterous and other aspects, largely one assumes because he was dictating it all to his then wife Cosima. However, due to his copious letter writing and above all to the Cosima’s diaries which record in detail his life from 1865 until his death in 1883, we have an insight into his life pretty much sans egal.


And we glean that Wagner found life quite tricky without a good women to organise his life as well as to tend to his various needs. His marriage to the long-suffering Minne is blighted with affairs; real or longed for. The most notable being Mathilde Wesendonck, his inspiration for Isolde, whose husband Otto, financed much of Wagner’s life through to middle age. Their dalliances, (possibly nay probably un-consummated) so embarrassed them and Minne, that various breakdowns in relationships ensued, leading to Wagner becoming estranged from Minne. Yet the on-off relationship endured and it was not merely one-sided. Mathilde’s feelings for Wagner were very real as some of her private poetry testifies and they both suffered the strain of deep affection that could not be fulfilled. Social convention prohibited but one also wonders at Wagner’s reluctance to truncate the husband’s financial succour.


Separation from Minne was a significant loss to RW. She was the stable hand on the rudder as well as the tiller. Without her he became increasingly penniless as well as rudderless.  Mathilde was not a realistic option and these years are characterised by a string of female companions from nobility to housemaids generous with their favours, Wagner needed a women.


Enter Cosima von Bulow. Daughter of Franz Liszt and young wife of Hans von Bulow, Cosima was many years Wagner’s junior. Hans was one of Wagner’s closest confidants and musical associates. He conducted many concerts and was, I think, intrinsically involved in the laborious Tristan rehearsals. in short he loved Wagner, realised and accepted he was losing his wife to the Maestro and remained devoted (to Wagner) even afterward.

Cosima was Wagner’s dream. She was prepared to subjugate her life to his genius and takes great credit for providing the backdrop for him to complete the later operas, particularly Die Meistersinger and Parsifal. But despite providing him with two children, she did not excel between the sheets. This aspect was taken up by Eva Rieger in last month’s Wagner Journal. Author of Richard Wagner’s Rebellious Granddaughter and Richard Wagner’s Women, Rieger took this aspect of Wagner’s life and considered how it affected the later operas, focussing on Parsifal.

Parsifal has been considered from almost every aspect, psychological – Freudian and Jungian; religious  – Christian, Pagan, anti-Jewish, mythological etc. But Don has not previously considered it from the perspective of a sex mad author who was having to cope without. For as Rieger says, Cosima declared fairly early on in their “marriage”, that she was ready for the convent and that must have put an awful strain on Wagner. At last he had the King of Bavaria and was not only financially secure but also had an opportunity to create a purpose-built auditorium to do justice to his Ring Cycle. He was in an established relationship with Liszt’s daughter no less, his operas were increasingly performed and he had become increasingly respectable.


Yet his personal needs were not being attended to. A mistress?? Dare he risk all that he had achieved? Dare he risk losing Cosima, his rock and mother of his children? Rieger says not. Most commentators agree that Wagner operas are largely about Wagner and so it seems sensible, as Reiger asserts, to consider them against this personal backdrop that if true, one can expect to influence his thinking.


In this light, the ascetics of Schopenhauer refracts a little differently. Hans Sachs’ acceptance that Eva will choose the younger Walter, the grail community of Monsalvat being male only and the central theme that sex is destructive and to be feared, all make slightly different sense. Is this Wagner accepting that in his later years, his love life might take a bit of a knock but the prestige the wealth and giving him the benefit of the doubt, the opportunity to achieve his artistic dreams was a price worth paying.?

Eva Rieger cannot know such personal detail but it makes interesting food for thought. Just please leave the pomegranate seeds.


If you have been, thanks for listening.


© 2017



In which Don adds a Glossary, muses on GB Shaw and the Southampton and Liverpool games

Post 1

Hello. Its been a busy week at Don’s place.

Any discussion on Wagner has an initial challenge of pitch. Not as in tonality but as in where to pitch it. I don’t want to have to prepare an idiot’s guide to each opera as a prelude to discussion, nor do I want this to be over academic. It would be nice to attract interest from all camps. I have therefore prepared a Glossary of common terms. Once I figure it out, I will pin it to the Welcome page but in the meantime it pops up from somewhere when searched.

My posts will not be impeccably researched (or at all), more musings really, so don’t go all la di da critical on me please. But feel free to post reasonable responses.

George Bernard Shaw loved Wagner, at least for the first three operas in the ring cycle. RW had proven his revolutionary credentials on the Dresden barricades and had written three excellent operas; Das Rhinegold, Die Valkyrie and Siegfried in which, as far as GBS was concerned, the Gods represented the decadent aristocratic classes and Alberich and/or Fafner was international capital, later the great finance houses, creating nothing other than wealth, hoarding it for its own sake and in this way, wresting power for itself.

Siegfried, nurtured by Brunhilde was the revolutionary zeal that would tear down Valhalla, kill the gold hoarding dragon, free the Nibelung slaves and all other races subjected to Wotan’s rule.

And then Gotterdammerung. Yes the Ring (the key to wealth creation) was wrested from the nasty capitalists and yes Valhalla was destroyed but where was our heroic revolutionary? Dead. Killed in the act of revolution? No, actually killed (arguably) by the next generation of international capital. And where was his mentor Brunhilde? Had she taken up the Red Flag? No she had conspired with international capital to crush the heroic revolutionary. Why? Because of petty jealousy? Why asked GBS, this elevation in the final opera, of personal feelings; love, jealousy, revenge? [Had GBH missed the significance of love in DV and Siegfried?:Don] Where asked George, did this leave the class struggle? What was Wagner thinking? He was disappointed that Wagner had deserted his socialist soul and even more that Wagner had concluded that solutions were not political at all but something far more subtle; a withdrawal from society rather than a desire to overthrow it.

I don’t intend here to consider why Wagner opted for what some may describe as a nihilistic end, a return of everything to a primordial state, a blank canvas in which the same problems are just as likely to return as not. A Ring after all being cyclical. But it is telling that having experienced attempted revolution first hand and having tee’d it up in earlier operas, he decided to stifle the revolution in favour of an ending arguably less dramatic (though the death of the main protagonist followed by the engulfing of the world in flames and then cascading flood is pretty dramatic) and certainly less fathomable.

Clues may lie in the order in which he wrote the operas (reverse order, the the scores in correct order), the period over which they were written and his evolving thoughts during this time.

Anyway, West Ham’s thinking evolved quickly this week, glossing over a really disappointing performance at Southampton to focus on Liverpool in the cup, under the lights etc etc.

The cliche re playing against ten men is true and more so when the ten are talented and organised. But our play against Southampton was so slow and methodical that it seemed to play into their hands. Little Don tends to groan when there’s three “CDMs” (he’s the Fifa generation) on the team sheet, coupled with defence minded full backs (at least on the right). I know what he means; we have this predictable pattern of sideways passing along the back, full backs advancing ten yards before turning back and we start again.

It would be churlish to complain at our football this season (so much better) but I long for the return of Sakho’s movement up front and the speed of thought and movement when Lanzini is alongside Payet. Byram at right back is also likely to more attack minded than any combination of Jenkinson/Tomkins/O’Brien.

None of Sakho Lanzini or Byram were available for Liverpool but we had an incident filled night that will live long in the memory. Little Don was playing in his own game that night so I went with a Man City friend, desperate to get to The Boleyn one last time.

I don’t need to give a match report but of course it was great. When Oggy smashed that header it was an explosive, stranger hugging moment that happens rarely and is never to be forgotten. Just great. I felt it was deserved purely on the basis that I had shlepped up to Anfield in a hail blizzard the week before.

Farewell Carl Jenkinson. In the vernacular, you put in a shift when called upon. Occasionally frustrating in the attacking third but I think that’s a confidence thing and there is a good player not too deep inside.

Payet contract..tick. Blackburn tickets….tick. Tristan and Isolde playing…tick. Looking forward to a hard game at Norwich.

All is currently well in Donner the Hammer towers.

If you have been, thanks for listening.



© 2016