I do not think of myself as a cultured person. I have little clue about fine wine; classical music and opera are a bit of a mystery; I have a supreme ignorance of [and largely lack of interest in] great literature. I suppose I am a true Philistine. However, I do have lots of interests. I participate in life instead of simply allowing it to happen to me. What little TV I watch is carefully selected. So, I have started to wonder what being “cultured” really means …

I looked up “cultured” in a dictionary: “Marked by refinement in taste and manners”. Then I had to check “refinement”: “The quality of excellence in thought and manners and taste”. So, it is all subjective – one person’s taste is another’s vulgarity. So, I must conclude that to be cultured you simply need to have ideas and tastes and interests and not be a passive receptor of life. I have, therefore, decided that maybe I am cultured and I will support that conjecture by describing a recent few days [evenings] of my life:

Saturday: We went to see a very lively folk/rock band called Three Daft Monkeys at a small venue in a nearby city. The band were loud, very lively and full of enthusiasm – nobody can fail to have their spirits raised by such music. I took advantage of the venue’s enlightened attitude to photography [another big interest of mine] to try my hand at capturing images of the band [and I had some success]. Unfortunately, I spent quite a lot of time right in front of the speaker stacks, with many hundreds of watts of sound enveloping me. My ears did not stop ringing until the following afternoon.

Sunday: We went to see a movie – The Help. When I read the excellent book a while back, I thought that it would make a good screenplay, so I was pleased to hear a movie was in the works and keen to see it. I was not disappointed. It is quite a faithful rendition of the story, beautifully set in the early 1960s and the casting was spot on.

Monday: I enjoy reading and discussing books with other readers. So, I thought that I would join a local book club, but I was unable to find one. I decided that the answer was to start my own and proceeded to drum up some interest. As I am quite new to the area, it provided an opportunity to widen my network of friends and acquaintances. This evening was the inaugural meeting, which was a pleasant way to pass the time, discussing our “set” book [The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes] and books and reading in general.

Tuesday: We went to see a Ukrainian choral ensemble, which we saw last time they were visiting the town a year ago. There are a couple of dozen guys – a strange looking bunch – and a late middle-aged soprano, who appeared from time to time. In the first half they did religious pieces and the second half was rather more jolly, with folk music etc. The venue was a local priory, the origins of which go back about 1000 years. The acoustics and ambiance of such a place are perfect for the sound of the human voice. I could not understand a word, but the sound the ensemble made was something special.

This evening I am off to give a talk at a camera club an hour’s drive away. The audience will have the dubious pleasure of hearing me talking for 90 minutes or so, as I show and discuss about 100 of my pictures. I wonder if it is myself or the audience who will have a cultural experience? Wish me luck.

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