Monday, 30 March 2009

A busy weekend...

Friday night, got drunk with Julie and a lot of odd but interesting people. Saturday morning, lay in bed feeling nauseous and dizzy. Why do I do these things? Because they are fun at the time. An evening at the Magpie and Crown in Brentford was certainly lively, intellectually stimulating and at times hysterically funny; and I think their cask-conditioned scrumpy is probably at least twice the advertised strength... Delighted to find a pub where I can leave my handbag on a bench (because I am an idiot) and no-one takes my wallet or indeed my make-up bag which in a previous incarnation was once stolen as it looked more like a wallet than my then wallet (long story behind that).

Saturday afternoon, got on with unpacking. Again. This is getting to be boring. Then went back to my old place to collect my coffee pot, a postcard of Venice (Thanks, Jasanander) and some dvds, most of which turned out not to be mine (in fact all of them bar "Time Bandits", which was mine, were the kind of Hollywood generic made-by-numbers tripe I wouldn't touch with the proverbial forty-foot bargepole. I'm talking about stuff like "My Super-ex girlfriend" and "Step up to the Streets 2"...). Refreshed myself after this by buying loads of packets of seeds for the new garden in Wilkinsons.

Sat on a number E3 bus for bl**dy ages in the traffic in the rain. Got home. Watched "Primaeval" for a laugh with my supper and enjoyed seeing the gorgeous Douglas Henshall (ooh that lovely accent!), ably assisted by his sidekicks and a splendid CGI'd giant eocene crocodile, apparently trashing the British Museum, the terrace café of Somerset House and the entire Festival Hall. Then put the clock forward and went to bed early.

Sunday, ran washing machine. Put washing out. Got on with unpacking yet again. Almost finished unpacking. Improvised a fantastic new bookcase out of two packing cases - I'm not entirely sure it's stable but so long as I don't hit it, sit on it or step on it that shouldn't be a problem. It looks a trifle Heath-Robinson and has an odd lurching-sideways structure, very war-time-make-do-and-mend. Grandpa and my Dad would be proud of me (when they'd finished laughing). Went to Sainsburys. Came home, unpacked the shopping, and then went on with the other unpacking. Went into the West End to go to a concert at the Festival Hall, wolfing my sandwiches on the Level 5 balcony where in the previous evening's tv the CGI crocodile had fallen with a crash to the riverside walk below. No crocodiles (or sweet-voiced Scots actors, sadly), but a fine sunset over Charing Cross Station. Heard the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra playing a rather cool and crisp Beethoven symphony (sorry; I like Beethoven treated as the first wild Romantic composer, not as the last calm heir of Hayden), a lovely "Vier Letzte Lieder" with the wonderful Anja Harteros looking stunning in a red draped grecian number and singing like an angel - "Im Abendrot" especially was haunting, hairs-on-the-back-of-my-neck-prickling-up stuff. That's Ms Harteros at the top, by the way, not me at the Magpie! The Festival Hall acoustics aren't always kind, even now with the amazing "wibbly roof" retrofitting, and the last time I heard the Four Last Songs there the soprano was drowned by the orchestra half the time. Ms Harteros rode over them without hesitation or flaw, displaying both the requisite glorious heft and scale, but also singing of incredibly controlled softness and delicacy... Lastly a really stupendous "Daphnis et Chloe" suite no. 2, fielding no less than 11 percussionists. Yum. Extra yum as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra have one of the best-looking timpanists I've ever seen. Imagine a skinny version of Johnny Wilkinson in full evening dress leaping about beating the living daylights out of four timps with an ecstatic grin on his face... nice picture, no? Sorry I can't find a picture of him... but you'll live, no doubt, without.

Tonight I think, I really think, I might get the unpacking finished.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Forward progress… slow but steady… I begin to believe I may make it to the bottom of the last box and bag, and I may get my inheritance, or a good proportion of it, in the relatively near future, too. I might even be able, by the middle of next week perhaps, to do something other than go home, have some food and then settle down with a box of stuff and try to work out where to put it. I definitely need a new bookcase, though, as all my previous digs since I moved to London have had reasonably big ones and the shelves here are fairly small (although deep – I can put all my old diaries safely into the back of the shelf hidden behind other stuff!). At present I’m going to have to put most of my books and dvds in boxes against the wall, and wait on finding a bookshelf. Freecycle here I come, I think… Or there’s a wonderful second-hand furniture and house-clearance shop on Northfields Avenue, which I might try. I want to do some painting and some writing and some sewing, and I don’t feel able to until my home is actually fully habitable.

And for your info, that picture at the top is A) not my bookcase B) a damned sight tidier than my book situation at present, indeed than the whole west wall of my room at present!

The inheritance situation is that I gave up on trying to get any sense out of the solicitors acting for the trustees, who veered between lackadaisical casualness and surly near-hostility, and were really wearing me down. I got a solicitor of my own. He’s an old college friend of my elder brother, and is happy to wait to be paid until I get the money. I haven’t met him for years, and recall him only vaguely as short, rather scruffy, cheerful, and totally normal (all of which which I’m sorry to say I’d never expected someone training as a solicitor to be!! - shame on me). He’s been wonderfully professional and supportive, and is getting things moving at lightening rate. If he weren’t married I’d be getting ideas…

This is probably really bad form of me, but: If you want really pleasant, professional, friendly and efficient solicitors, I’d recommend the firm of Bradley Saul in Chipping Norton heartily; and I’d urge you with equal heartiness not to bother using the other firm, who I won’t name here as it might be libellous – but I’ll be happy to tell you in person if you are interested!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Have a look at this

...assuming I can get it to work...

I don't know if that will form a hyperlink - at the moment it looks as if it won't. Bother computers, what odd things they are! It's a link to a YouTube trailer for a fantastic play I saw late last year at the National Theatre...

Maybe I can find a better link on the NT website...

Oh blast and b*gger this, I am a computer-illiterate baby! Please, copy and paste one of those addresses and have a look. The second one might be better as that is from the National Theatre's own website rather than YouTube with all its attendant twaddle of adverts etc.

I'm off home, now, instead of sitting here abusing myself for a twerp just because I can't make this machine do what I want!. Tired but making some progress on the unpacking - it's funny, the last bit is the worst.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Katharsis and inspiration

I have reached the stage in unpacking and crawling around the cardboard-box-littered floor where I feel like screaming. So I took two evenings off. If I hadn’t had tickets booked well ahead for both events I probably would have gone home and gone on crawling around the floor wanting to scream, instead, but I am a stingy sort and having got tickets for things I dislike not using them. In the event it was well worth taking both outings, although this means there has been no significant progress on the unpacking front for the last couple of days. And that, in turn, means no progress on anything else going on in my life…

The first evening was spent at the ENO, seeing “Dr Atomic” by John Adams. This was marvellous – beautifully sung, especially by Gerald Finley as J Robert Oppenheimer, and an extraordinarily effective staging. The build-up of tension in the latter half of the second Act was incredible. The use of non-music noise in the score is dramatic and horribly effective – by the finale, where I sat in the gods the entire House felt as if it were vibrating - and the climactic Trinity test detonation itself, conveyed solely through one huge sudden discord from the entire orchestra, fortissime, and through the brilliant acting, was actually terrifying. And then, as the blast fades, one sees the cast react with stunned horror to what they see, and simultaneously the entire story of the use of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is alluded-to with devastating simplicity as a soft pre-recorded voice, speaking Japanese, asks quietly for help – “Please give me some water… please help me, Tanimoto-san, my children are asking for water”… Blood-curdling and chilling; utterly harrowing theatre.

The second evening, yesterday evening, was about as different as you could get; two films, “One Giant Leap” and “What about me?”, at the Riverside Studios. Poetic documentaries about the interconnections between music, traditional cultures, creativity, spirituality, sustainability, politics and justice, with stunning visuals and a deeply quirky assortment of contributors talking about everything under the sun to do with those topics. The antithesis of the agonised depiction of man’s insanity and destructive capability in “Dr Atomic”, these two little films left me feeling uplifted and inspired. They also both have fantastic music scores – people like Baaba Maal, Asha Bhosle, Michael Stipe, all collaborating together to produce some tremendous music, at least for the WOMAD-ites among us like me.

So all in all a rewarding couple of evenings. I recommend both pieces highly, but for very different reasons. The opera for its sheer dramatic, kathartic power; the films for their inspirational quality and the lovely way the filmmakers have layered so many nuances and subtle ideas together into something that is far richer than the sum of its parts, and also enormously beautiful. “Dr Atomic” is probably the greater work of art, but it may well leave you shaking and shattered and despairing; “One Giant Leap” will spur you on to commit yourself all over again to your creativity and to your hopes and dreams, to follow your muse and to do whatever you can to leave the world a fraction of a scrap better than you found it, when you leave this life. At any rate, that's how it got me...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Knackered Dent

I am moved. I am knackered. I am about 1/3 unpacked and 2/3 chaos. I have my life lying about me in cardboard boxes; antiquated laptop, stack of canvases, pint glass collection, bag of old socks for cushion stuffing, old Uncle Tom Cobbly and all... But I am moved, and am now ensconced in Turnham Green (well, right now I'm at work at Kew, typing this on my office computer after hours, but you get my drift). I am moved. It's done.

My wonderful brother Stephen helped me move, coming all the way from Bath to do so. He was a rock, too, while I was a hysterical wreck. He drove back and forth patiently, did all the heavy lifting, and talked common sense to me whenever I started to wail and wave my hands in the air. We worked pretty much non-stop from 1pm to 1am the following morning; then he had a cup of strong coffee and some soup and drove home to Bath again. I don't know how I'd've coped without him. He's an amazing bloke and I love him to bits, and I'm a very lucky woman to have him for a brother.

He also put me in touch with an old university friend who became a solicitor, so I can put the messy business of my late godmother's will and the Trust fund and Cousin Pearl's estate into Geoff's capable hands and forget about it.

Feeling very relieved and very, very tired.

More another day. Going home now to empty a few more boxes. Have a good evening, all...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Feeling like a bottle of shook champagne...

Quickly writing in my lunch break. I'm completely all over the place today, once again in a mild state of shock, after agreeing last night to take the place in Turnham Green. Only a few days ago I was saying to my mother and brother "I'm not going to rush at this digs-hunting business, let it go onto the back burner for now, I've got enough on my plate at the moment". Then suddenly I find myself looking at an advert on Gumtree that sounds interesting, and on impulse I ring up and make an appointment to go and see it; and it's terrific.

It's a big first-floor front room in a shared house, about five minutes' walk from Turnham Green tube station. The house is probably Edwardian, certainly no later than WW2 in date, so the ceilings are high and the windows are large. The room has one wall lined with built-in cupboards, so I'll have masses of storage space (which is one of my principal worries solved), and a large part of another wall is taken up with a window looking out onto a quiet residential street lined with trees. I get a double bed, a big table and chair (& I already own a second chair), a large mirror, a couple of odd little occasional-table thingummies, and some rum little shelves built-in to the blocked up fireplace - I already have a small freestanding bookcase, and will look for another, but otherwise the furniture situation looks ok. There's loads of space. There's a picture rail - yippee! - so I can hang some of my work. I didn't count the number of electric sockets, and I've just realised there was no chest of drawers; I can probably get hold of the latter without too much trouble, though. There's a small, unkempt, uncared-for garden at the back, south-facing, running up to the embankment of the District & Piccadilly line; the landlady's daughter, who showed me round, practically skipped with delight when I asked tentatively if I might do a little gardening.

Anyway, I'm going to have no end of things to charge around trying to get sorted out in the next few days. I've booked tomorrow and Friday off work in order to pack and start getting moved, and Monday off to finish unpacking. I'll be rushing about like a cat with a scalded tail, but I'm thrilled to have found somewhere that fits what I want so well. It's right at the top of my budget, but the place is so good that I'm prepared to pay up. It's a really nice area, too. I'm inordinately happy, even if also completely stunned at the suddenness of this. I've gone from a state of just-keeping-my-eyes-open to I'm-moving-in-two-days, overnight; bang!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Thoughtful on Tuesday

No progress on the messy business with solicitors and wills; possible progress on the somewhere-to-live front (I’m going to look at a place in Turnham Green after work tonight); steady progress on the typing up of “Ramundi’s Sisters”. I’ve also been back to the new piece (must give this a working title – GY is an abbreviation of “The Eternal Love of Gabriel Yeats”, so why don’t I follow the same principle and call The New Piece “Fortitude”? Okay, that’ll do for now) – I’ve been back to “Fortitude” and tidied up some typing errors, and I think I see how it goes on from where it got stuck. I had a brainwave relating to another story this morning while walking to the bus stop, so am now wanting to get going on that. And I’ve restarted another piece, which had been started and abandoned twice before, when I suddenly realised it would work better as a first person narrative.

Good grief. It’s a bit scary; I’m typing up “Ramundi’s Sisters” and working on two other written projects, and contemplating starting on a third, all at the same time. Will this work, or will my brain collapse under the strain? Watch this space!

It’s odd how it comes and goes like this, in phases. I feel at the moment a bit as if I’ve opened a door and found a lot of things crammed in behind it, squeezed together to the point of severe compression; suddenly there’s space to expand into, and everything comes bursting out. My problem is to keep up with the onrushing flow of ideas coming through this door (sorry, slightly odd mixed metaphor there) while still holding down my job, having some sort of social life, etc. I have a ballet ticket this week, and two evenings I’m meeting friends for a drink, and tonight I’m going to look at some prospective digs, and I do want to do all of these things. But I want to be sitting down at my cranky little old laptop, writing, too. Because when it’s going, and it’s flowing, like this, there really is no feeling as good as this. Creative work is more precious and more exciting to me than almost anything else I’ve ever done; better than getting drunk, better (just) than swimming in the Mediterranean, better even than being in love… Admittedly being in love is the route into all sorts of agonies (or it always has been, for me, at any rate, largely because I am a complete idiot in love). Doing creative work is pure, consistent bliss. If only the aftermath weren’t sometimes such torture…

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Slowly coming out of shock on Thursday

I’ve done nothing creative all week, and nothing much else either, except go to work, go home, eat some food, drink some cider and go to sleep. Sound nasty? I suppose it is. Basically I have been in a state of shock since Monday, when I had an email telling me someone had died and I am due to inherit some money. I don’t even know the figures involved, but it has brought up a huge mass of mixed emotions and memories. I’m already tense and emotional and dealing with painful unresolved memories as I try to gear myself up to find a new place to live – reliving as I do all the misery of my last house-move and the bitter circumstances in which that took place. And now this comes up.

It’s a long-standing arrangement – my late godmother Joyce left a Trust to pay an income to her only living relative, an elderly cousin – her cousin has just died, and I am one of the residual beneficiaries. Because my eventual receipt of the money was dependent on Cousin Pearl’s death I have always refused to think about it – it felt uncomfortably like wishing her into her grave, and I was very ill at ease with that. It must, realistically, be a large enough sum that the arrangement was worth doing in the first place, but I have no idea what I am going to receive. I am suddenly reminded of Joyce and of how bitterly I missed her when she died, and of the shock of her death – she had been in remission from cancer and had seemed to be doing well, then suddenly had a relapse and was gone, bang…

Anyway, I am now struggling with solicitor’s letters and legal terminology to do with the administration of Trusts, and feeling upset and shaken, and wondering what on earth I will do with this money, and whether it will be enough to do something concrete, and how long it will take to resolve the matter and wind up the Trust… My mind feels as if it is boiling all the time. I’m fairly pissed-off with the combined smugness and inefficiency of the solicitors involved, who have simply assumed they will step in and act on my behalf, unrequested, despite the fact they are based in Axminster and I live in Ealing, barely five miles from the solicitors administering the Trust, who are in Teddington… If I have to have a solicitor act for me, I’d prefer to choose my own!

I’m supposed to be going down to my mother’s in Kent for the weekend and I’m hoping to be able to switch off and relax – but I fear Mum will not let me rest until matters are resolved to her satisfaction. She dislikes uncertainty even more than I do…

It’s extraordinary how something like this can throw one. My mind is constantly returning to the subject, turning it over as one forks over compost, as if adequate aeration will sort the problem out. I’m startled at how quickly I have been able to put more then twenty years of saying “I won’t think about that!” straight out of my head. Now I am thinking about it all the time.

I find myself veering between the hope that I will find I have come into enough money to take some real steps towards realising some of my dreams, and the reflection that I will probably get very much less, and that less solicitors’ fees, and then I will not know what to do with it. I am astonished at the feeling of buoyancy and relief that accompanies the thought of receiving a solid chunk of capital. But I have to remember that in 1983, when Joyce, not yet ill and probably never imagining her cousin (who was twenty years her senior) would outlive her, made her will, the economy was in a very different state from now, and one could buy a pleasant small house in Canterbury (where I was living at the time) for around £60,000. It’s quite possible that that is the sort of sum that was invested; and if that were the case then a share of the capital, in today’s terms, would not be worth very much. But I just don’t know what I’m dealing with. I don’t know the figures. And I feel so morbid, brooding over this.

I won’t wallow in emotion for Pearl, beyond the general feeling one has of regret and sadness about a death. I didn’t know her well, but she was a nice old lady; and she was in her late nineties and had had a good innings. I hope I reach the same age in similar good health. I hope when I go people say “She was a nice old woman, and she had a good innings” – there are worse epitaphs, after all. Next time I lay my hands on some champagne I’ll drink a toast to her.