It's been a while. Following the rush of Christmas concerts and their associated revelry, motivation has again yielded to cold, bloody-minded pragmatism and uncompromising discipline; an inescapable caveat of the profession but one that never ceases to bite when the shadows lengthen. Creative energy has dropped off a little (a lot) in the New Year, and I've invested most of what I have left getting elbow-deep in existentially bleak Thomas Hardy poetry in advance of a recital this summer.
Possibly I haven't helped myself here - as a relative novice on canonical literature, I'm wary of making sweeping statements with any authority on the collection in A Young Man's Exhortation - but revealed beneath the arcane crypto-language is a frighteningly morose interpretation of the human condition. Hardy was actually defensive over the widely-alleged critical assertion of latent pessimism in his work, saying of his Late lyrics, in which A Young Man's Exhortation was published, that such suppositions were "in truth, only such "questionings" in the exploration of reality". Hmmm...When said reality is that 'men moment after moment die, of all scope dispossessed', it's no great surprise that in the course of the last few weeks, my moods have swung less like the gently undulating hills of Hardy's Wessex so much as Ben Stokes on a booze-fuelled bender in Bristol (I'm delighted he's back, by the way. Not for a second endorsing violence, but did you see his six down the ground off Trent Boult? Man's got minerals).
It's not actually been that bad. And to be fair to Hardy, that incredibly depressing line is framed by a more positive overall message of seeking happiness and positivity at every turn. Essentially, life is pointless, we're all going to be wormfood eventually, so carpe diem...innit.
And on this most St David's of days I'll be doing just that - seizing the opportunity to be insufferably and unjustifiably Welsh. Though I have more of a claim to the principality than the literal Prince himself - one Welsh grandparent and a cameo role as first Shepherd in a Nativity play yn Gymraeg - I've always been Welsh only when it suits me. Famously in 2015 when, with an undisguised tenorial yelp, I attracted the not-so-cordial attention of some battle-hardened Hexhamians as Dan Biggar's kick sealed victory over England in the Rugby World Cup. Again during the Euro's in 2016 (much has been made of Robbie Savage's commentary on the third goal against Belgium...almost exclusively by him, but hey-ho). And every St David's Day is an excuse to wheel out an amusing ovine-themed tie, however unsafe for work and damaging to my professional credibility. I may even brave the bone-chilling Siberian winds and wade through the half-inch of Hampstead snow to Budgens, lest I be in want of Welsh cakes for elevenses. Historical precedent would suggest otherwise, however:
As this photo, dated 23 years ago to the day, shows, I've always been a fair-weather Welshman. And anyone who has spent any time there knows that's not really a thing, so there goes my claim to Cambrian sovereignty. It's probably best I drop my Tafioso protestations and leave St David's Day in the hands of my Grandad. Here's a recording of him singing Cymru Fach; I hope it's not just my familial bias that recognises this as intergalactically awesome. For anyone interested, he'll still give you a Penblwydd Hapus at the right price. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus.