Saturday, 8 August 2015

...And All That Jazz

When the need arose for me to terminate a Virgin Media broadband account I found out that there is no easy way to do it. It requires persistence, determination and a couple of hours on the phone just to reach the disconnection team, protected as they are by ranks of gatekeepers.
May I ask why you wish to terminate? Are you unhappy with the service? asked the disconnection lady.
No, I said, as calmly as I could, As Ive explained several times to your colleagues, the service has been fine but the property is being sold and so it is no longer needed.
The process is certainly a test of ones self-control and not recommended for those inclined to apoplexy but, fortunately, I had been prepared by an earlier experience which was so ridiculous that it took me beyond exasperation and left me in the bemused zone. The Post Office had turned down my application for a credit card because its system jumbled up my address whenever the man tried to enter my postcode.
Cant you enter the address manually? I asked.
No. Sorry. he said, with no acknowledgement of the irony inherent in the fact that the postcode had been allocated bythe Post Office.

These irritations - the teething problems of a technological society in its infancy - are best endured stoically. There are pleasures elsewhere which compensate us, not least the annual Manchester Jazz Festival. Performances take place at various venues but there is a hub comprising a giant marquee, a temporary bar and several food stalls erected in front of the Town Hall. Surrounded as it is on three sides by roads, its not a quiet location and this year, as the organiser pointed out in his introductory speech, the MJF coincides with the Manchester Roadworks Festival. The programmers might perhaps have considered putting the quiet, reflective artists in the permanent venues and reserving the marquee for acts which have a fighting chance of being heard. No matter, the central location of the hub appears to be an important factor in bringing jazz to the attention of people who might otherwise not go out of their way to hear it. Accustomed as I am to jazz gigs being thinly attended, I marvel at the difference a Festival can make. Not only in the marquee but also in other venues the habitual audience of older white men and sundry jazz aficionados is swollen - sometimes to capacity - by a more diverse mix of age, gender and ethnicity. Even small children are present - though this might have more to do with the fact that the schools are closed and the weather is poor than it has with parents being keen to share their enthusiasm with their offspring.

A Festival can also present organisers with opportunities to promote a wide range of musical styles and to be adventurous in their setting. John Surman, for example, played saxophones with a string quartet in the great domed reading room of the Central Library, utilising the unique acoustic properties of the space to enhance the ethereal sounds of his music. I was entranced but, between the numbers, I realised that something was missing from this and all the other gigs Ive seen before and since: bottle-holders. Musicians - lowly and exalted, young and old, able-bodied and infirm - all must stoop to the floor to retrieve their bottles of water, beer or whatever. Why has no one thought to design, make and patent a bottle holder which clips on to the stem of a music or mic stand? Convinced I had spotted a business opportunity I began drawing up mental plans for such a device but was distracted by the music and, later, my phone vibrating. Afterwards I saw that I had missed a call from the Virgin Media loyalty team - the fifth so far. 

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