This has been a busy week. I went to work, and to a meeting at Hampton Court Palace. I gave out leaflets in the rain at Kew The Music (and am due to do the same on Sunday). I went to the latest Royal Ballet triple bill. I watched a beautifully-made and acted, but terribly depressing, movie. I featured in a photo shoot as one of a pair of "ladies enjoying afternoon tea at Kew". And, of course, I wrote.
I've finished the first notebook and started a second. I've discovered that hard-boarded A5 spiral bound notebooks are the perfect thing for me to write in at the moment. They are portable, and somehow less intimidating, than A4 foolscap notepaper, which is what the whole of "Gabriel Yeats" and "Ramundi's Sisters" were both written on. A4 paper is good if you have space, and are very relaxed; e.g. flopping on a lawn with a large cold drink to hand. But writing in snatches on the tube or on a bench at work, as I am doing this time, somehow a smaller notebook feels more comfortable. This size takes about 16,000 words to fill, so I even know roughly how much I've written.
It's going so fast that I know it's going to be a bit rough-and ready, and probably full of inconsistencies. There will be time enough to revise, later. A few pages back, one of the characters surprised me by announcing very firmly "We don't use that word", of a term I had myself been using blithely up till then. It is a very odd sensation, when the characters in a fiction begin to have minds of their own. But it's a strong sign. Anna and Thorn and Carlton are coming clearer all the time; one of the cruxes of the story, which was fuzzy until last night, has clicked; and I have a title at last.
I am writing with rock, interestingly. "GY" was written with Brahms and Mozart. This story is coming with the sounds of The Icicle Works, Bill Nelson, The Waterboys, Vieux Farka Touré and U2. It has drive, and they drive me.
The ballet was a mixed bag. The bill opened with "Birthday offering", which is a sparkling piece of solid frou-frou, in costumes that look like off-cuts from the Quangle-Wangle's Hat. It's a steady stream of show-off turns, for seven ballerinas and their cavaliers, and it was very nice, but to be frank a bit empty. Tamara Rojo was stunning as usual, though I hope she has something more worthy of her dramatic powers to do in the programme of new work that ends the season. I should be sorry if this lovely, frilly bit of bling were the last time I ever saw her dance.
The last piece in the bill was "Les Noces", which I know I ought to admire; modernist masterpiece, unique historical artifact, etc etc. But, I'm sorry, I don't really like it that much. Call me weak-minded, but I wasn't grabbed.
The middle piece on the bill, though, was another of Ashton's mini-masterpieces; "A Month in the Country". Worth everything for this. WOW. Zenaida Yanowsky, Favourite Baritone's Ballerina Missus, was stunningly good as Natalia Petrovna. She is a luxurious dancer whose height makes her grace yet more gorgeous; there is a sense of effortless scale to her every movement; and she is a powerful actress. At the very end, as she loses her lover, and faces the realisation of what her future will be, the simplicity and truth of her gradually shrinking movements, her stillness after that brief, brief hour of rapture, were simply heartbreaking. Needless to say I cried.
What more? The movie: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". Looks fabulous, is very well-acted, desperately sad and very, VERY slow.
On the plus side, it's the first time I have ever begun to understand why Brad Pitt became a star; in a role seemingly meant to be semi-sleepwalked through, he is actually rather good. Casey Affleck, who I knew of only by name, does extraordinarily well at the difficult task of playing someone who is stupid and pathetically lacking in self-awareness, without turning the role into a caricature.
The rest of the cast are also excellent. My current hero does what I guess may be his regular thing of quietly burning a hole on the edge of the screen while others are busy delivering their dialogue, centre stage. It's a pity that his character gets killed halfway through, though; especially as he plays the only person with something like a shred of a moral compass left (if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor). I like to be able to sympathise with someone in a film.. Pretty hard when the only sympathetic character is lying butt-naked and dead in a snow-filled ditch. I do hope it wasn't real snow, incidentally. There are some sacrifices no-one should have to make for their art.
This afternoon I found myself modelling again, for the first time in over seven years. Not for a life class, but for a photo shoot. If all goes well I am now going to appear enjoying my afternoon tea in a piece of Kew literature. It took ages and I discovered just how unappetising cold, milky Earl Grey smells, having to wave a cup of it in front of my nose for over an hour. I prefer my tea hot and without milk, and I loathe Earl Grey. But I did get to eat two very fresh scones with raspberry jam and Cornish clotted cream. Any Friday that ends with a belly full of fresh scones can't be all bad! And the pictures have come out well.
Weekend time, now. Writing time. And washing machine time, and grocery-shopping time, and all the rest. But writing time, I think, first and foremost. It has me by the ears and will not let go.
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