Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anna Russell and Don Thompson

Two great eccentrics had their obituaries in the Guardian today.

Anna Russell, who has died at the age of 94, was a musician and satirist, famous for her lampoons of Wagner:

Once Siegfried has met Gutrune in Götterdämmerung, Russell reminded her listeners, "She's the only woman that Siegfried's ever come across who isn't his aunt."

When challenged by Wagnerites who felt she was ridiculing sacred art, she replied: "I merely tell the story as accurately as possible and play the bits of music exactly as written. I can't help it if the story is absurd."

I caught part of a radio programme about this remarkable woman a few months ago. You can find it here.

Don Thompson won a gold medal in the 50km walk at the Rome Olympics in 1960. As his obituary says:
Thompson's preparations for the steamy heat of Rome have gone down in sporting legend. Determined to be properly prepared, he trained for the race by exercising in temperatures of up to 38C (100F) in the bathroom of his home in Kent, which he had converted into a steam room using heaters and kettles of boiled water. "There was an electric heater attached to the wall and I thought, 'Well, that won't provide enough heat,'" Thompson said in an interview two years ago. "I had to boost the humidity too, so I got a Valor stove and put that in the bath. Half an hour was more than enough; I was feeling dizzy by then. It wasn't until several years later that I realised I wasn't feeling dizzy because of the heat; it was carbon monoxide from the stove."
Who needs Lottery funding when you have that spirit?

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