Sunday, 4 May 2014

Weary but not unprofitable

Oof.  I am tired and I have backache.

I love bank holiday weekends; three days off instead of two, yea!  So despite going out last night and eating far too many tapas, and drinking far too much sangria, on top of far too many cocktails, and consequently feeling pretty wiped out today, I have still got two days off after this.

Party last night was the one I was worry-warting about a few days ago, the posh one in the smart bar uptown.  I really don't run to much moderately dressy clothing (I have one summer dress and a few really evening-y things) so I compromised on one of my new blouses and my turquoise green linen slacks, and my big gesture towards being dressy was to wear (gasp) make-up.  I never usually wear more than a dab of lippy at most.  Looking in the mirror at myself in lip-liner and lipstick and mascara and sparkly highlighter and concealer was rather odd, and I confess my first thought was that I looked like a cartoon version of myself.  So when I got to the party and overheard one guest saying to another "Is that Imogen over there?" I wasn't sure whether to be gratified or thoroughly embarrassed. 

 It was a good party though; the cocktails were amazing and the tapas were plentiful and tasty, and the company was good.  There came a point though at about 10.30 or 10.45 when the music was cranked up, and I suddenly couldn't hear a thing anyone was saying to me.  Not being able to have a conversation rather takes the pleasure out of a party if one isn't young and lovely and partying in order to flirt (there were plenty of attractive interesting people there, so partying to flirt would have been a thoroughly enjoyable activity had I been 28 instead of 48!).  And it wasn't my kind of music anyway.  I'd entertained hopes of something Latin, as it was a Spanish club; I can still pull off a passable salsa and merengue, though I no longer remember the footwork of the chachacha.  But thumping-bass "dance" music isn't my cup of tea.  So I snuck off home, and slept abominably, probably on account of all those cocktails, and managed to lie in an odd position and give myself backache...

What else?  The National Theatre "King Lear" was even better than I expected/hoped/feared.  I can now say I have finally seen a production that really, utterly worked.  It was cold and clear-headed and lucid, and terrifying, and heart-rending.  Talk about being purged with pity and terror; my God, was I gutwrenched.  Simon Russell Beale was tremendous. Not a Lear with any kind of comfort in him, but a harsh, desperate man with dementia, battling his own slow descent, and failing. Stephen Boxer was a phenomenally good Gloucester, too - the embodiment of that poem about realising the man being tortured in the next room is the bureaucrat you thought would save you (it's by Margaret Atwood, I think, but I can't find the bally book in the muddle of my shelves at the moment). 

I came out and stood at the bus stop in the torrential rain feeling as though I were a speck of dust to be trodden underfoot and ground to nothing.  Hardly a comfortable feeling; but it was a powerful and a kathartic evening, and sometimes, when one is strong enough, these are worth all the grief and pain they evoke.

It did leave me teribly aware though of how much I miss seeing my old mate Alan; he's pretty much house-bound these days and I don't think he's been to the theatre for a couple of years.  He is 84, in fairness, so he's entitled to take things more quietly if he wants to.  But I would have loved to discuss this production with him; the details, the way no-one was "verse-speaking" and so the verse became like powerful, slightly cadenced but perfectly real speech, the stage design and the fantastic sound design, the casting decisions...  I do have theatre and opera and ballet-going buddies, but few of them are as knowledgeable, or as up for a hearty debate on the director's intentions and the political connotations of the blocking of Act one Scene one, and all the rest of it, as dear old Alan. 

What elose, what else?  I booked a holiday yesterday.  I'm going back to lovely Kefalonia for a week at the end of the month; back to the same place I've been to for the last two years, Katelios.  This time I'm going to be staying right in the heart of the village, in studios built above one of the harbourfront tavernas.  I've tended to be in quiet places in the middle of fields, lately, so this is a bit of a departure for me - the last time I had accommodation in the middle of a town was staying on Poros, way back before I went to college. 

Hopefully it won't be too noisy (after all, Katelios is hardly Ayia Napa; the worst I'm likely to get is some music and buzz from the tavernas).  But it will be lovely to be back there.  Katelios is small and rather scruffy, with a lovely but relatively undeveloped beach, and some good walking in the area, and it has just enough in the way of touristic infrastructure that one can get a good meal or an ice-cream, and a peaceful drink before supper, and book a boat trip...

I can hardly wait. 

The last six months have been hectic at work.  It seemed to take forever to shake off that horrible bug I had at my birthday.  I seem to be permanently tired at the moment, and there's no sign of any let-up for the forseeable future.  Even the writing is stalled at present, apart from this sudden attack of poetry. 

The western I've been working on is stuck, at a stage where I know what I've written isn't right and needa a full rewrite, and the next part doesn't gel yet.  But once I get past that problem, I've got the next two chapters written out in long-hand already. So all I need to do is join up the gap.  It ought to be easy; I'm going to have another bash at pushing on through the pain barrier this afternoon.  It's going to take me to the point of killing off a minor character who I don't feel I've done justice to (he's the bit that needs to be rewritten) and that feels oddly mean and wrong when he's not been got down on the page right to begin with. 

Ugh, I went all through this with Jamie Weston in "Gold hawk" and I'm doing it again?  Why do I kill characters off at all if it's so hard to do?  Maybe I should settle for writing nice cuddly fluffy stuff where everyone is happy and no-one is ever troubled or untruthful or unfaithful or wrong-headed, and nobody ever gets hurt or dies; where all misunderstandings are righted and all love is true. 

The problem is, that would be crap.  I write what comes to me, I can do no other; and sometimes it's a mess, and sometimes people die.  Torstein Riis is going to die.  I'm a-gonna kill you, Sheriff, so watch out!  Then Wood will be free to go about the countryside being miserable and avenging people he feels he's betrayed for a while (this is the part that exists in long-hand).  In my long-hand notebook I started writing the denouement a couple of days ago. 

Maybe I should skip the part that isn't working altogether and type up my long-hand sections, and then come back and fill the gap?  "Gabriel Yeats" was written in lumps and bumps and raggedy chunks like that, after all.  It's not my best work but I think its weaknesses are due to other factors than the eccentric way I wrote it.  I managed to kill of Thomas Rosenau easily enough, come to think of it, and I adored Thomas.  Maybe I'm getting lily-livered with my old age...

Hmmph; and maybe I should get on with the writing, instead of with the writing-about-writing...

No, I must not think like this; I must not sit here telling myself I'm feeble and awful and am getting nowhere.  It isn't true.  I am making progress.  It may not be tidy progress but it is progress nonetheless.  I am weary, yes, but not stale, or flat, or unprofitable. 

There have been some big pluses to the last six months.  Several new friends, for starters.  I have met some really lovely kindred spirits online lately (hello, Kath, if you're reading this!).  And work has thrown me recently into the company of someone I've always been curious about, who has turned out to be interesting, witty, immensely likeable, and possessed of that undervalued quality, great kindness. 

Things like this are huge blessings.  Friends are sweetness and salt, after all; the essential seasoning of even the most quiet and enclosed life.

The writing is progressing; and poems are not to be sniffed-at when they pop up in the interstices.  The Muse is random in her gifts sometimes, but she is still my first and greatest love, and her presence in my life remains another huge blessing.

Life has always been challenging from time to time.  And I've always hated the times when it was not, so I have no business complaining now when it is. A great many things, including pressure, struggle and frustration, are better than the soul-sapping effects of being bored.

So - I suppose that means, onwards and upwards for the remainder of today.  With maybe a session in the kitchen to start with, since I've promised to make gluten-free chocolate and raspberry cake for tomorrow...

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