Breakfast at Milliways   Leave a comment

August 15, 2015…

I note with considerable astonishment, today marks my tenth anniversary, that I’ve been living in Victoria. 8 more years and I’ll have lived here as long as I lived in Toronto… and I have to say, on calm reflection, after just over a year relatively smooth sailing, my sojourn here for the most part, has been a wild, wild, wild, bloody ride… not unlike the Euthanasia Coaster, which life on Earth already too closely resembles:Euthanasia Coaster

Your initial ascent is to about 1,500 feet, you pass through a series of loops subjecting your body to about 10 Gs of force… And at the end of a minute’s ride.. You’re dead!

No-one’s actually tried to construct a real euthanasia coaster… not yet… And legal ramifications notwithstanding… I’m inclined to wonder how many of us would ride on it given a chance, knowinCaptain Jacksong full well what we were doing? Scarey thought, eh? (You can learn more about the euthanasia coaster here:

Ah yes… “The Undiscovered Country, from whose bourn no traveller returns” … we’re all going there sooner or later, Gentle Readers… meanwhile the question is, what — to those of us who have a measure of choice as to our actions in the meantime — do we do, to make sense and to bring meaning to an existence, that makes no obvious sense, has no apparent meaning, at all? “We’re born alone. We die alone. And nothing in between makes a jot of god-damned sense” to quote the morphine-addicted sawbones Captain Homer Jackson of Ripper Street… I wish they’d chosen John Barrowman sporting that marvellous coat or a variation thereof for the role but that’s my labyrinthine brain doing what it does…

Capt. Jack:                    “It’s only in suffering do we recognize beauty.”
Ianto (impatiently):     Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah — Who said that ?
Capt. Jack:                    Proust.
Ianto (disbelieving):    You’ve read Proust ?
Capt. Jack:                    Yeah ! …  Well, no… We dated for awhile… He was really immature …

Captain HarknessThe Beeb missed the boat rather badly with Torchwood

Jack Harkness or Homer Jackson.. Take your pick. But I consider also the words of the latter’s wife, “Long Susan” and Madam of a brothel in Ripper Street:

“Life. It singularly fails to reward our good intentions. We want so much better for ourselves… for those we love… and then…”Long Susan

… Yeah …

And… sorry to tell you this, Persephone: Life just doesn’t. To paraphrase Gag Halfrunt’s diagnosis: “Hey, Look: Jesus is just this guy, you know?” Even so, like Fox Muldur…I Want to Believe

… But on the other hand…  like Artoodeetoo.. I have been known to make mistakes… From time to time..

To further muddy my metaphors…

Whatever. Negative thinking and pessimism just don’t cut the mustard.

*   *   *

Thus it was with some trepidation about a month back I delivered a rendition of Camille Saint-Saëns’  Sonata for Oboe in Church one Sunday… didn’t go so well.. Didn’t completely flame out as has happened to me on more than one occasion. Trouble is.. Well, a couple of “trouble is’s”… The Saint-Saëns is a very delicate piece, very transparent (not unlike the oeufs de cailles served to Mr. Creosote) which done well is a piece of limpid beauty and untroubled simplicity… to listen to.. But it requires flawless technique and chops of iron… if you’re an erstwhile alleged professional but haven’t touched your horn seriously in years it’ll take about 6 weeks of disciplined practice to get it ready, but I endeavoured to do it in about 6 days, practicing whenever and wherever possible… and I didn’t do it with my oboe.. it being down for the count, I instead used one of Euridice’s.. Lorree Oboe #DT-42, and like its owner, it’s a precise, not to say persnickety piece of work, even for an oboe.. No ham-fisted hammering on this horn, unlike mine (Loree Oboe #GQ-61)… Oboes are all very, very different, even ones of the same make.. not as bad as bassoons, but bad enough…

I cacked the run beginning on the low B:Saint-Saens 1

And kinda… ran out of air… on the impassioned middle part:

Saint-Saens 2

Saint-Saens 3And thus there isn’t a recording of me doing it, gracing my blog. Sergei

Actually wanted to do the  Poulenc oboe sonata, but Polyhymnia (our organist) didn’t want to work up the piano part and I guess I can’t blame her, ‘cause it’s monstrous… the Poulenc for me is very evocative of a tenor sax playing in a smoky jazz bar (back in the days when we had smokey jazz bars.. Almost worth the risk of lung cancer for the sake of the ambience, and let us not forget the parables of the Euthanasia Coaster, Captains Jackson and Harkness and Long Susan) in New York at 2 in the morning, which is rather odd, considering it was written by a classical French composer and dedicated to the memory of Sergei Prokofiev.. Who would certainly have incurred Stalin’s wrath had he ever attempted to write anything even remotely jazzy…

Be that as it may.. Oboe Key 1My own poor old oboe, Loree GQ-61, which I bought in 1986 when I figured out the brass of the PPCLI Band were going to shitcan me no matter what I did, so, work my ass off to demonstrate what a bunch of clueless jerks they were (“all too easy”, in the words of Darth Vader), get a decent oboe while I could still float a loan.. 30 years later, the C♯ key was acting up, dismantling it was impossible, until my erstwhile classmate Hu Yin-Wen told me to soak it in oil for a week and then heat it with a blowtorch and then the keys should come apart… and they did… 

Revealing a nasty mess of rusted decrepitude.. Contacted Lorree, who told me:

“Although our kOboe Key 2eys have now become more interchangeable, it was not the case at that time when each key was made by hand and unique.

So, the most convenient and cheapest solution would be for you to have this key repaired.

If you have not been able to do it yourself, then maybe you could ask the following specialized repairman to assist you:

1612 Queen St. West
Toronto, ONTARIO M6R 1AB

Two years learning this stuff at Keyano College and setting up a business doing repair work…and the manufacturer tells me “no spare parts, awfully sorry.. up until recently all the keywork was pretty much custom-fitted.”

That’s what I get for obtaining the best oboe money could buy I suppose..

But.. To do the work myself.. Have to find out what the thread pitches are from Loree and order pin screws and possibly pivot screws…

I suppose I’d have to get one of these..Tap Jig

And some of these..taps

So Gary got the key in the end, I’ve way too much on my plate, and I should have it back tomorrow and.. Onwards and upwards…

Two saxophones to work on, a C Soprano from 1892 which I’m praying will be at “Old Continental Pitch” (A=435 hz) as opposed to “Old Philharmonic Pitch” (A=452 hz) because if it’s the latter it’ll be a quarter-tone sharp and unplayable with modern instruments…IMG_8150

The Stradivarius of saxophones, a Selmer Mark VI Alto, which had rather a nasty mishap with a stage floorIMG_8274:


That’s a legitimate if somewhat extreme repair technique in the middle. I know what I’m doing. Don’t try this at home.

Still… they’re not oboes…

After that, my table saw and my engine lathe… Have I described 6 or more impossible things I’ve accomplished this morning so I can finish off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?


Posted August 14, 2015 by Capt. Roy Harkness in Uncategorized

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