Friday, 31 August 2012

Busy busy bee, encore une fois (or, busy poseur, perhaps)...

I want to say that I have been on the go for so long I feel slightly disorientated.  I want to have a little moan about that.  But that “for so long” refers to a period of about three weeks.  There are people in this world whose lives don’t provide them with a break and a decent rest for several years at a stretch, never mind weeks.  Heck, there are plenty of people who never get a holiday in their entire lives.  I should grumble.  Heavens, what a wimp I’m becoming.

Work has been busier this month, which is good.  The weather has been – well, British.  Since I last wrote any notes here I’ve been gripped and thrilled by a magnificent performance of “Peter Grimes” at the Proms (Stuart Skelton in harrowingly good form in the lead, the chorus practically blasting off the roof of the Albert Hall when they let rip, all this and the lovely Iain Paterson to boot); I’ve also spent a blissful afternoon at the Science Museum (no longer just for kids), I’ve written my arse off all the bank holiday weekend, and I’ve dashed down to Kent to help my mum celebrate a big birthday – you know the kind - one with a number ending in zero. 

The latter is a bit of a “good grief, really?” moment for me; presumably a hell of a lot more so for her.  She never really seems to change that much, much less age particularly, and it is weird to realise how the numbers are still stacking up notwithstanding.  Well, I hope I have inherited her life span genes, and not my father’s. 

Mum’s birthday was fun, and would have been more fun if the weather hadn’t been so up itself.  It’s still August, for crying out loud.  What’s with the howling gales, persistent heavy rain and thunder and lightning?  But there was plenty of champagne, as well as both vanilla and maple-pecan fudge (she’s allergic to chocolate) and several kinds of cake, and curry for supper, and bouquets of flowers, and potted phalaenopsis, and a nice stack of greetings cards to prop along the front room bookcase.   And gin and Pringles, without which no family gathering seems to be complete these days.  Whatever did we do before the advent of the Pringle? 

Outings (it being way too dodgy, weather-wise, for the planned picnic on the beach either day) were instead spent partly sitting in the car listening to the rain beat on the roof, and pondering the intricate patterns very heavy rain makes on a windscreen in a very heavy & horizontal wind (like quivering water-lace; rather beautiful in a wet way), and partly indulging in the atavistic pleasure of blackberry picking.  So what with the dear UK climate doing its absolute nut, and the blackberries leaving all of us with lacerated burgundy hands, and champagne going to everyone’s head, it was a mad but very happy couple of days off. 

This weekend I’m cat-sitting (for the cat who is scared of farting – note to self, do not fart at the cat.  As if I needed telling.  But then, I’m no lady, me).  Then next Friday I’m off to Cornwall, for the second half of Mum’s birthday celebrations (I told you it was a big one) – a family week in Polruan.  Beautiful Cornwall, beautiful Fowey River, beautiful clean sea air and peaceful walking, silent country nights, lovely pubs, and good Cornish cider, yarg cheese, and pasties from Niles Bakery... 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The road you didn't take...

Do you ever wonder if there are alternative universes?  That wonderful staple of so much science fiction (albeit generally at the cheesy twaddle end of the spectrum), the alternative world where your life could have been different, where the entire history of humankind could have been different, where evolution itself could have been different...   Perhaps this is simply further evidence of my being a bit of a saddo, but I do wonder about it.  What if there really were numberless, infinite, endlessly variable alternative worlds?

I don’t wonder much about the perfect life I’m not leading (& that is probably pretty revealing, come to think of it!).  But I do wonder about all the universes in which I didn’t exist, or didn’t exist past the age of four, or fourteen, or twenty-two, or twenty-nine...  I could have been drowned, the first time I saw the sea (I threw myself into it headlong in my excitement, and was pulled out literally by my hair).  I had a mysterious fever when I was fourteen; it went away after a few days, but there could be universes where it didn’t...   It feels as though I am bending my brain and squashing it through a slot in a thick steel wall, when I try to imagine how I can imagine a world in which I am not there to imagine it.

I have jay-walked across so many busy roads in my life.  Every time I have ever taken a risk – whether jay-walking or something more serious - it could have worked out differently; and from each of those branching points, how many alternatives could have come? 

There are positive possibilities, as well as all this “I might not exist” stuff.  Things I look back on as horrible low points in my life could have been far worse, with the smallest twist of fate or shift of decision.  Several relationships that didn’t work out could instead have worked for longer, and then have failed far more dramatically and messily, than they did in this life.   We were pretty poor when I was a child, but we could have been far worse off.  My parents fought; but they could have fought far worse.  I hated school, but I could have had far more reason to do so.

If there are other universes, I’ll never know, anyway.  The song says “The roads you didn’t take run through rotten ground – don’t they?”  But I’ll never know.  My road has had its bumps, but by and large has run through good ground – or at least, through an interesting terrain.

There might be a universe somewhere in which I have always enjoyed perfect health and perfect self-confidence, a universe in which I got a great degree, made a wonderful marriage, had four lovely children, owned a beautiful home, was successful in every career choice and every pastime, and never had to lose anyone I loved.  Would that blessed lotus-eater me have been bored rigid, though? -  maybe even have been dissatisfied with her lot?  She might not have been aware that it was perfect, after all. 

And would she have wondered about alternative universes, in which she and her perfect happy life had never existed at all?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Mystified and busy with Grimes and Bourne

Can anyone enlighten me as to why this:
appears to be my most-viewed blog post ever?  As the saying goes, how weird is that?  There must be a lot of people out there who really love the word "purple"...

It's been a busy patch: work has picked up again; the hot sunny weather got completely overwhelming last weekend and has only just become bearable again; I met a friend's gorgeous new cat and fell for him heavily (he's snow-white and fluffy, very sweet-natured and slightly daft), and then scared said cat rigid by farting loudly after drinking far more cold cider than was good for me on a very hot afternoon; I ate almost a whole Walls Vienetta on my own; I went to a brainstorming session in a pub (good venue!), the new Bourne film (ace!) and a fascinating marketing workshop, and had lunch with Jane; and tomorrow I've got the afternoon off and am heading into South Ken for "Universe of Sound" with the Philharmonia at the Science Museum and a prom performance of "Peter Grimes".

I have also, needless to add, been cramming a bit of writing in around the edges.  Since it is forecast to rain for most of this Bank Holiday weekend, I may well end up doing a bit more of that.

No prizes for guessing why I'm going to "Peter Grimes" - I'll probably have a good cry, since Stuart Skelton is singing the lead.  The glorious Mr Skelton in full flow, and all that stunning Britten music and painful emotion, in the heightened atmosphere (& probably elevated temperature) of the Proms; irresistible. 

No prizes for guessing why I went to "The Bourne Legacy", either.  I would probably have gone anyway, but perhaps not as soon after it opened!  I loved the other Bourne movies; they've been a welcome blast of clarity and grittiness in a field that tends towards the bloated and ludicrously unlikely (see: pretty much any Bond film, ever)...

The latest one is, like the previous three, intelligent and exciting.  The script requires you to pay attention, listen and think, as well as assuming you know what "vector" and "metastasise" mean.  There's a very pleasing sense of a new spiral swinging off from the circles of the previous storyline, and a fascinating touch of "Flowers for Algernon"...  Rachel Weiss is, as always, excellent.  And having always found Matt Damon's who-me-I'm-just-an-Everyman good looks just a tad too doughy-faced for my tastes I am very happy indeed that with the arrival of Mr Renner's grimly brooding hunk of a new hero the eye-candy quotient has been much improved!  Along with the acting intensity.  I'm beginning to wonder if there's anything this man can't do?  I gather he also sings and play several instruments (& does DIY, and can cook, and loves dogs - hell's teeth, I'm looking at perfection here).  Maybe he can't tap dance?...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Trying again!

I've had another go at it.  The new blog launch, that is.  It's called "I see W", aka ICW, or Imogen's Creative Writing.  Check your inboxes, people.  You might have received unsolicited mail from me.

It's sunny and boiling hot here at Kew, and the forecast is for it to get hotter over the weekend.  I'm trying to put together a shopping list, but all I can think about is salad and cold beer.  Going home, then, to eat salad and drink cold beer, and (of course) write...

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Well, I did it...

... but it doesn't seem to be working properly.  Dear heaven, I wish I were a tad more technology-savvy.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Might do this - what do you think?

I’m thinking of launching a second blog. 

No, not re-launching the joke one I started and then scrapped when I realised the joke was too singular for general consumption (botany/lechery fusion humour, anyone? – no, I thought not). 

No, this would be a very occasional blog, for very occasional updates of – well, creative writing.  That stuff I keep gabbing on about but never show you.

It will have to be “subscribers only”, and anyone who wanted to see the contents would have to sign-up in response to being invited by me.  No charge!  I don’t do that out of any mistaken impression that I or my writing are of any importance, at least to anyone other than me and my friends; it’s just a security thing.  I don’t want to stick it in the public domain, completely unprotected.  But I’d like to be able to let those who want to see it do so, without having to dispatch horrendously long email attachments to them which they then never get around to printing out. 

However, if you’d be interested, or just fancy a laugh, remember I need an email address in order to send you an invitation.  So if you don’t get an invitation from me when you would have expected one, a) check your spam folder, and b) send me your current email address, just in case I don’t have it. 

The plan is for the first item up to be a fairy-tale/ballet mash-up called “Trouble with Bridegrooms”.  What happens if Dandini falls in love with Cinderella, and Benno falls in love with Odette, and the Prince wanders off into the forest and finds a completely different story altogether? 

If that makes you want to chuck, then ignore the new blog, and retain your lunch, and be happy! 

Monday, 13 August 2012

Post-Olympics blues...

Very tired after sitting up till midnight watching the closing ceremony of the Olympics.  What a riot!

I hate to utter such a cliché, but looking back over the last two-and-a-bit weeks I feel rather proud to be British.  I really think London has done a damned good job at staging the Games.  All the venues looked fantastic, and seemed to have clear sight-lines (& very loud acoustics).  Transport has run much more smoothly than we anticipated.  The BBC tv coverage has been excellent, too.  They managed to make Dressage interesting, which is quite an achievement.  I even spent one evening glued to a handball game, when I hadn't previously known there was such a thing as handball (except as an illegal move in football, that is).

And the Opening and Closing ceremonies were both, in their totally different and bonkers ways, glorious fun.  Good music (okay, some of it better than other bits!) and mad theatre, perfectly organised chaos, and wall-to-wall British eccentricity.

To finish off with Darcey Bussell arriving as a phoenix to dance the Olympic Flame to its rest was a lovely final touch.  She flew in, trailing fireworks from her wingframes, to join four gorgeous flame-coloured cavaliers (led by the unmistakeable figure of Gary Avis - I'm pretty sure I recognised the other three as well but won't mention names in case I'm completely wrong) and dance with them, being lifted and flung dramatically through the air, until at last they gathered round the great unfurling torch and waited; and like a huge fading chrysanthemum it shed petal after petal of flame, and died away.  Call me a sentimental sausage by all means, but it was real lump in the throat stuff.

And if I am rather sleepy this morning, I cannot imagine how tired the participants and the audience must feel.

I did also get some writing done, I'm glad to say.  I got over a little bump that had been intimidating me.  I had realised it had to come from a different point of view, and it flowed much better for it.  I'm at about the 45,000 word mark, though I'm sure extensive revision will be needed; still, that's not bad after two months. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Looking forward to the weekend

I was planning to go down to Kent and see my mother this weekend; I haven’t been over there for a couple of months.  But I’ve had a nasty upset stomach, and she’s had a nasty upset stomach, and neither of us feels very lively at the moment, or entirely confident that we won’t simply exchange upset stomachs if we meet up, and both feel ill again next week as a result.  So I’ve called the visit off.  I’m due down at the end of the month for her birthday, anyway. 

So, unexpectedly, I have a weekend to myself.  I know people who would rush around frantically trying to find things to do and people to do them with.  Not me; I’ll be fine on my own.  I like a bit of solitary down-time now and then, after all.  Witness my annual May-time escape to swim in the Aegean and walk in maquis-covered hills, and eat too much, in Greece.  

I’m going to try and restrain the urge to sit and watch the last of the Olympics; there’s more to life than wall-to-wall TV.  I will probably have a walk here at Kew, and enjoy the summer weather that has, so blessedly, returned for a spell.   I’ll have to do some grocery shopping and clothes-washing, of course. But then  can settle with my little A5 notebook and get on with writing Thorn and Carlton through the equivalent of busting someone out of jail.

I have been enjoying the Olympics, don’t get me wrong; enjoying them hugely, in fact.  The skill and hard work displayed on all sides, from the astonishing feats of the winners to the sheer grit of the underdogs (absolutely any of whom is still a far finer athlete than me!) are both magical and heart-warming.  What some of these people can do is simply amazing.  Those runners!  Those gymnasts!  Those swimmers!  And, oh good grief, bring on the dancing horses!...

What’s more, though there have been a couple of really unedifying displays of unsportsmanlike behaviour, in the main there seems to have been a good old-fashioned mixture of damned hard competition and honourable comradeship among the competitors.  Watching all last night’s 800m finalists hugging winner David Rudisha, and then one another, at the end of the race was extraordinarily touching.  Likewise, the sight of two of the runners who had completed their heat in the hurdles waiting for Liu Jiang as he limped in agony over the line, to help him off the field to a wheelchair; or Michael Phelps practically comforting the stunned Chad Le Clos, after the latter beat him to a gold medal; real lump-in-the-throat stuff.  Factor in all the triumph and exhaustion, the cheering crowds, the ecstatic, incoherent happiness, and the sight of big, handsome men like Chris Hoy openly weeping on the medal rostrum, and you have a bit of an all-round emotional wallow.  

But it all winds up this Sunday evening; and in the meantime I have sunshine to enjoy and writing to get on with.  Long may they both continue - and long may the gyppy stomach remain okay again.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Ropey as old rope...

I think I ate something.  Something I ought not to have done, that is.

My relationship with food is strong and healthy – not to mention downright erotic at times.  But there’s nothing like a gyppy tummy to make you think “Why would anyone in their right mind want to eat?”  At the moment, the smell of fish pie wafting up from the kitchens downstairs is nauseating; on a normal day it would have had me doing Homer Simpson impressions. So somewhere, sometime, in the last few days, I have had some bad food... 

I’ve sweated out most of the day at work.  I’ve chugged through all the jobs I needed to get done.  I’m wondering whether to ask if I can go home a bit early, as I am now feeling decidedly ropey.  It’s not the worst stomach upset I’ve ever had (not by a long pole - don’t worry, I won’t bother you with any more details!) but I am shaky and headache-y and queasy, and I just want to lie down.   

I had a horrible dream last night, what’s more.  I was attending an interview with an unbelievably rude and aggressive interview panel who all tried to bully me, and who argued with one another in front of me about everything I said and did.  It was like a conflation of all the worst interviews, worst auditions and worst meetings with management I have ever had in my life; to wake up from that and think “also my insides are up the creek” was an altogether miserable start to the day.

The weekend had gone so well, too.  I shopped, I cleaned, I ran the washing machine.  I wrote.  I went for a walk (Kew is looking lovely).  I cooked some good food (a classic tortilla española with a parmesan-and-asparagus twist, and some very garlicky pea soup).  I watched a good movie.  I watched Britain’s athletes and other sportsmen and women continued to distinguish themselves at the Olympics, as well as the great Serena Williams beating the shrieking beansprout Maria Sharapova comprehensively, which was almost as pleasing (Williams is a joy to watch, and Sharapova is a poseuse).   I bought some new sandals in a sale, and I went to see the English National Ballet’s “Swan Lake” at the Coliseum.

I had booked to see the lovely Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov; one or the other is out of action, it seems, so I got Anaïs Chalendard, who was good but not great (technically polished, so far as I could tell, but her acting is decidedly one-note – Odette total misery, Odile total bitch is slightly too simplistic for my tastes) and, an unexpected treat, Junor Souza stepping up to make his role debut, and seizing the chance with both hands, as the Prince.  Tall, quirkily handsome, lovely clean lines, partners beautifully, gorgeous jump, and he can act.  Go, Mr Souza! 

I’m not too sure about the production in places, though.  We don’t need to see Rothbart enchant Odette to the sound of the overture, so the beginning irritated me straight off.  It doesn’t clarify matters particularly, since one still hasn’t got a clue why he does it (is he after her?  Is he after Siegfried?  Is he after the throne?  Is he just a mean b*stard?).  It’s just a silly fad, pandering to the kind of audience members who won’t stop talking until there are dancers of stage, and so chatter like rude kids through each of Tchaikovsky’s beautiful orchestral preludes.  I’m sorry to say we did have rather a lot of that kind of audience yesterday.  May they go to the special hell, the one reserved for people who talk at the theatre...

Then there’s too much posturing and gurning generally from Rothbart, and there are one or two other moments when the cheese factor gets a little strong (just think “A Bullet in the Ballet” and you will have an idea what I mean).   But the sets and costumes are good, ENB field a fine corps and some excellent national dances for Act 3, and there’s a strong emphasis on making the blossoming of the relationship between the protagonists really clear.  Odette and Siegfried don’t fall in love because it’s in the script but because they click, and then click more, and trust and longing and hope start to flow between them as each realises the other is what they have dreamed of and prayed to find one day.  Of course, that makes the whole thing even more tragic, but then “Swan Lake” should be tragic – and at least we don’t get a happy ending here, even if from the balcony seats of the Coli I could only see half of the dead lovers’ heavenly apotheosis (the lower half – thoroughly nice legs, but it was hardly the full spectacle, and I was only in the fourth row).

Anyway, that’s my last ballet fix until October.  Sigh. 

It’s nearly five pm – can I stick it out?  I still feel grotty and queasy and I’ve begun burping like a drunken marine.  Not nice.   

Friday, 3 August 2012

On looking at a pin-up photograph...

I've been working on a Lughnasad poem, but it isn't quite gelling and keeps veering off into random imagery.  I mention it to a friend who says "I like your poems" (- preen- ) "did you ever post that one about having a crush online?"

Slightly awkward pause.

Me: I think I've written rather a lot of poems about crushes, which one were you thinking of?

Eventually we narrowed it down to this...  It was written a long time ago, for a quite different crush to the current one, but it still rings true.

On looking at a pin-up photograph

For most of us it is a dream, to be
The object of another's dreams.
I can't imagine who you are
Yet hold you in my hands.
Your face with dreaming smiling eyes
Perfected, made unreal, within
An inch or two of glossy colour;
A real man's charm, reduced to paper's sheen.
I've held you in my arms, in dreams,
And we have danced alone
Past stationary trains,
A shining midnight merengue
In the sleeping mind's surreal
Deserted mainline terminal.
I can't imagine how you dream,
But when you wake I know
You can put on another life, another
Mind, and your bright eyes
Perfect another's smile
Or dream their pain, each day.
Holding your picture in my hands
I have to smile as if you smiled at me;
Knowing that it would simply be
Another role for you, if we
Could really dance, and not in dreams.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A still, small moment...

I was sitting quietly in the bamboo border of the Secluded Garden eating my lunch today.  Suddenly a pigeon flew over; and, as it passed out of sight into the trees, a single feather appeared in the air, drifting down. Somehow this feather had managed to fall so that it was perfectly horizontal, cupped against the air.  It drifted down, sauntering beautifully from side to side like something in a cartoon, really taking its time, and I sat with a slice of corn crispbread halfway to my mouth, watching in delight as it sailed, so slowly, so gently, to earth.

It landed in the little watercourse that runs through the Secluded Garden; and the water, again with almost infinite slowness, carried it along, bobbing and dipping and hesitating in little whorls of current, until finally it drifted away out of sight behind a mossy boulder.

It was nothing.  A feather fell.  But it was magical.  I have no idea how long I was watching it - thirty seconds?  Several minutes? - because for those moments as it fell through the bright air and sailed off on the gently flowing water, time seemed to stand still. Somehow it was as if I was becoming one with the creation of this moment, the drifting magic of a single feather.  I witnessed, and I knew myself blessed