Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


GIVEN COVID-19’S SUGGESTED pastime at home sans company, I got to thinking about fulfilling ways to hunker down. Recently here I cited armchair travel. Today, tidbits touch on Henry VIII research, books I’m reading, and occasional diversions onto the Internet.

King Henry VIII, Pop Star. An Internet diversion arose in recalling the English folk song Pastime with Good Company, also known, for good reason, as The Kynges Balade.

Henry VIII, 1491–1547, king of England from 1509 until his death, occasional composer, serial groom. This portrait, c. 1509, is attributed to Meynnart Wewyck.

According to Wikipedia, Henry composed Pastime with Good Company shortly after his coronation. And you can bet everyone thought it was an exquisitely fine song.

Once the people got to know Henry better, things got more complicated. For instance, I cannot name any of his subsequently composed anthems, ballads, songs, masses, or motets.

Jethro Tull performed a cover of Pastime with Good Company called King Henry’s Madrigal in 1979. And The King’s Singers offer a more traditional take on it.

A Satirical Royal Pedigree. In the 1950s, the English duo Flanders and Swann gave another English folk song Greensleeves a satirical royal pedigree: “In fact to this very day,” Michael Flanders said, “in every period play you go to see, whether it be set in 1300 up to about 1715 I suppose, still for incidental music, ‘Greensleeves’ is ALWAYS played. And the royalties go to royalty.”

Enjoying a Pile of Books. Rather than concentrating on finishing one book before starting another, I enjoy reading books en masse. This approach has its caveats, though: I get befuddled with more than one book of the same genre; mysteries, biographies, histories especially. Here’s my current pile.

Christopher De Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World has shown up several times here at SimanaitisSays, most recently “The Hengwrt Chaucer.” Given its “Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World,” this wonderful book will be on the pile for a while.

The Gaudi Key, by Estaban Martín and Andreu Carranza, is a modern-Barcelona mystery involving the granddaughter of architect Antonio Gaudi’s apprentice, the granddaughter’s mathematician boyfriend, and competing religious orders, one of them sinister indeed.

“Since ancient times,” the book’s blurb reads, “their name has been spoken only in hushed tones. Cloaked in anonymity, they guard history’s greatest and most devastating secret.” This one is a real page turner and won’t be on my pile for long.

Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster reads like a mystery, yet it’s all the more chilling in recounting a real event. Aspects of the Soviets underplaying the disaster have parallels in today’s COVID-19 responses.

Immensely detailed, Higginbotham’s book is even encouraging me to learn Russian language trivia: The Russian word чертовка translates into the English “hottie,” though its root word чертов cannot be uttered in polite society.

I’ve long been a fan of Jasper Fforde, author of the wildly inventive Tuesday Next series. His latest, The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel, is eruditely zany enough to counter the real-world horrors of Chernobyl (and COVID-19). Fforde’s novels are armchair travel into an alternate world.

Auditory Pastimes. Internet pal (and occasional R&T contributor) Ray DeTourney sends me fascinating items he’s encountered online. Most recently is a rendering of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Given the inadvisability of assembling for a performance, players gave a virtual concert by setting up video links at their homes.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra’s virtual concert.

Beethoven’s Ninth has already been a highpoint of world culture. Bernstein’s Berlin celebration concert at the demise of The Wall comes to mind. This recent concert of the Rotterdam Philharmonic is equally moving. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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