Tuesday, 29 April 2014

In the distance (2)

The second time I saw you
Go by in the distance
You were with friends, and smiling.
I hung back, bowed my head;
I didn't dare so much as
Look up, lest you should see me
Watching you.  I stared
Down at my lunch as though
That salad fascinated me.

Yet seeing you smile brings
A smile to my lips also,
And knowing you are happy
Makes my serious heart
Glad for a moment.

But if you had wanted
My smile, to lift your day,
You might have glanced my way
And seen nothing, save
Averted eyes, and a dark head
Bowed down; you might
Have seen not inadequacy
But blank indifference
Focussed on lunch.

What kind of friend am I
If too shy to smile
When I see you go by
Happy, with your friends
There, in the distance?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Spring day

Already some of the blossom
Is falling; already small shells
Of white, pale petal-saucers
Are scattering the grass,
Settling into the gravel,
Preparing to rot away.
Already the first blush
Of happiness is passing;
And today we have rain.
But in the tall bamboos
The year’s first reed warbler
Is singing his raspy joy.
For all things their seasons,
Their blossoms bright and dark,
Their myriad passing days;
Ephemeral as rain,
Their ways to happiness.

Busy busy bee

...that'll be me, next week.

There's work, for starters.  I think all the issues I outlined in my last long post are ongoing, so yes, pretty busy at work. Progress is being made, and on all fronts, too; but at this time of year there are more tasks coming in every day, so "progress" does not mean "let-up".  No rest for the wicked, ect ect (Molesworth he sa).

At least by the end of the week there may be more information about the restructure.  Even if the news is alarming, it will at least mean being out of the limbo of waiting, and into a place where one knows what is happening and can start to plan accordingly.

Monday evening I'm going out with the Dipgeek and another friend to the Curzon in Richmond, to the cinema relay of Christopher Wheeldon's new ballet of "The Winter's Tale"; hopefully with supper beforehand. Given Dip's dietary issues this will probably mean that nice Persian restaurant on the little pedestrain square just off Sheen Road, since they do lots of gluten-free things.  Mmm chicken with pomegranate seeds mmmm...  Looking forward to seeing my dear Dip again as we haven't met up for several months.

Thursday I'm off to another cinema relay after work, this one at Westfield; the National Theatre "King Lear" with the brilliant Simon Russell Beale, one of my big-time acting heroes, playing Lear.  I've been trying to ages to get a ticket to see this in the theatre, but tickets are like the proverbial gold dust and in the end I gave up and said a short prayer of thanks to the gods of live broadcast, and accepted that I will have to spend an evening on board the good ship Axiom...  At least I can have gambas al ajillo and patatas bravas and a glass of Mahou at Tapas Revolucion first.  I suspect I will need to be fortified with garlic and beer; if Mr Beale is not a harrowingly good Lear I will be very, very surprised indeed.  He was easily the best Hamlet I've seen, when he did that some (good grief) fourteen years ago.  Somehow every familiar line and speech and scene in the play seemed to come fresh, with him, as fresh as if never experienced before, so that it was almost painful to watch events unfold.  For the first time since I was twelve I wanted the ending not to be what I knew it was going to be.  It was like seeing one of my brothers going through Hamlet's torments and miseries.  Perhaps that's a bad metaphor (neither of them has any inclination to the stage, after all!) - but it all felt so real, so immediate, so like the struggle of a real man.  An actor who can do that earns a small piece of my heart, and I don't think I've ever seen Mr Beale give a duff performance; so I am, in a slightly "brace for impact" way, looking forward to his Lear.

Then next Saturday I'm going to an engagement party.  TCI and her other half the Lovely G got engaged at Christmas and are now having a proper bash to celebrate.  Looking forward to catching up with them, too.  I expect that will be a fairly lively evening.  Cor-lumme, it's in a posh bar up in the west end and all.  I think I need to try and be smart for this one (scurries around trying to think of something dressier than my usual jeans-and-blouse combo).  Not that my hair will ever let me be truly smart; it has a disreputable tendency to look messy at any and all occasions. But I can try, anyway.

So, I imagine that by this time next week I may be crashing out and spending my Sunday vegetating under a tree at Kew, or if it's raining then slummocking at home in front of the dvd player watching soppy movies, drinking tea and eating fudge.

I've managed to book some time off, hurrah; a week at the very end of May (hopefully taking me to somewhere in Greece), a long weekend for WOMAD in July, a fortnight in late September (hopefully Greece again) and the week of my birthday (hopefully not having gastroenteritis again!).  Having annual leave booked and being able to contemplate the possibility of a holiday is tremendously cheering when one is feeling under pressure.  Of course, if (God forbid) I do find myself out of a job then annual leave arrangements become academic...  Oh well, one can only wait and see, hope for the best; and have an up-to-date CV just in case.  Maybe I should get an actual trip booked for one of those spells of leave; booked and paid-for, so that I can't very easily get out of it if life turns pear-shaped.

But I hope it will not.  I hope very much it will not.

What else to report?  Bills are stopping making Garlic Pachadi, drat them!  It's become a staple in my cooking since I discovered it.  I've cleared the nearest store out of their last supplies (four jars) so I'm good for a couple of months, but then...  Harrumph harrumph, not fair.  I protest, I refuse.  I wonder if I can learn to make my own? 

Kew Gardens is looking beautiful; it's odd to look back and see that this time last year the snowdrops had only just finished and most trees were still in tight bud.  Now we have horse chestnuts in glorious bloom, all the hawthorn family coming out everywhere, rhododendrons in flower and even the earliest roses, like the lovely yellow single-flowered Rosa hugonis...  The Rock Garden is an absolute picture, full of asphodels and peonies and alpine tulips...  For all its quirks, I work in paradise.  Please don't let me have to leave paradise.

Now I must go and get on with some writing.  This was going to be a writing day but as always I have got distracted.  By thoroughly frivolous things like painting my toenails blue and writing this.  Come on, Ims, get a shoofty on!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

In the distance

I saw you going by today
In the distance,
Looking so sad
I wanted to run after you
And say, hey,
Hey, hey, my friend, my dear,
Can we be sad
Together, or better still
Find something to share
To make us smile?
But I wasn't sure
You'd want to hear my voice
If your heart
Was aching already today.
The sky was grey,
Your face was lonely,
Your brown eyes sad.
I didn't know
If I had anything
That could make you smile.
So I said nothing, and stayed
In the distance.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

April mist

I wrote this a few days ago.  A bit late for a spring equinox poem, but it's really a friendship-poem anyway, easily as much as a season's one.

April mist

April the first, and a thick mist
Lying close in the Thames valley.
Birds sing unseen above me
And the towers hide their heads.
Trees are fixed ghosts, and traffic
Is ghosts that move.
I cross the bridge, walking away
From one mystery and into
The next.
If you, my friend, were just
A hundred steps ahead of me
I would not know
That you were there.
And perhaps you are.
Perhaps you too are walking
Quiet in the quiet mist
Between two mysteries.
I cross the bridge, as you
Have done, or will do soon.
One would not know, looking out
That there are islands here;
Even the river itself
Can barely be seen.
Still, I am crossing water,
Towards the invisible
Blackbird singing ahead,
Towards the hidden wonder,
And, maybe, to you.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Should I wind down?

Should I wind this blog down?

I hardly ever post anything on it any more.  My evenings of late have mostly been spent either getting on with some creative writing, or messing about chatting to people on tumblr and posting my photogaphs there (& making dirty jokes about fanciable actors >ahem< sorry folks, I'm only human).  And work is so hectic at present that in my lunch break I want to flee and sit outside in the fresh air, not sit blogging at my desk and hoping no-one makes an issue of the fact I've taken a break from working while I eat my lunch.

More of all of that anon.

I'll start by answering my own question, though.  Although I'm fairly sure very few people read this blog (apart from robots in Russia trawling for Russian opera singers' names) I don't think I will wind it down after all.  In very large part, because there seems to be too much winding down going on around me and to consciously decide to add to it myself depresses me in a vague unquantifiable way I can't explain.  It feels too much like going with the flow, when this particular flow is one I want to fight.  I do not want to wind down.  I shall not go gentle into that good night.

I am aware of my body getting plumper and slower, and it being harder to fight that progression into middle-aged spread and torpitude.  I am aware that the tipping point has been passed for some of the things I've always wanted to do; I doubt very much, now, that I shall ever direct a play, or see one I have written performed.  I know I will never be a successful artist, or run that cafe I used to talk about, and I wonder if I will ever get to bum around Greece writing "The Modern Pausanias"...  I am painfully aware that my brain isn't quite what it was, either; tiredness and tension don't help, of course, on that front.  But if I went to live in another country nowadays, the way I blithely did fifteen years ago, I wonder if I'd pick the language up as easily as I picked up Spanish, back then in 1999?

But I remind myself, I am tired and tense; and have been badly depressed, this winter.  As per usual; but still hard going for all it is a familiar pattern.

It's been a rough six months, and there's no sign of that easing up for the foreseeable future.  I was thoroughly ill twice in the autumn, with a horrendous fluey cold followed by a bout of gastroenteritis that had me off work for a fortnight.  All sorts of things since then have been tiring and stressful, too.

There's a massive staff restructure going on at work that will mean roles being lost, and that in turn may mean facing the propect of being out of work.  I hope it doesn't mean that for me; my job makes money, so I'm possibly safer than some, but no-one is really safe when these things happen.  I understand the operational thinking behind it, and it does make sense, sadly; but that doesn't make it any less alarming to contemplate.

At present we're in the throes of implementing a new ticketing and customer relations management database system; damned hard work, let me tell you.  I had no idea how flipping complicated these big organisation-wide projects were to bring in.  In my particular area we are just beginning to make some real headway and I can believe now that in time this will all work, and do what it's meant to do; and it will be tremendous when that happens.  A good visible sign of this progress is that the long email I stayed late at the office tonight to write, detailing the latest list I've made of queries, issues and general peculiarities, was mostly detailing non-urgent things this time - the previous three or four have all been about things that were vital and that needed to be sorted out NOW!  I have complete faith in the person who I know will be doing most of the sorting-out, who is one of the most capable people I've ever had the pleasure of working with.  But I also know he has a lot on his shoulders at the moment.  I'd prefer not to add to that if possible, so I'm even more glad that the queries on my list are now relatively minor ones.  Man deserves a break.

Heck, Man deserves a ruddy medal.  In my humble opinion.  But that's another story.

Paul, my lovely boss, left us ten days ago to go to pastures new, working for a marketing company that has been running less than two years and is apparently going to all sorts of exciting places.  He deserves every success and I hope he finds it; he's been a fantastic manager and I shall miss him.  But I could also thump him, because he's left me at the busiest time of the year for my regular job, with all the extra workload from the new database implementation, and until his replacement is fully run-in I can't ask for too much support from him.  Apart from anything else, he won't know the job or the people well enough to do much.  But meanwhile I am terrified of getting behind and feel as though I'm juggling cats.

I come out of the office at the end of the day and walk home, and tell myself to put it behind me.  I have a cup of tea and a proper meal (I am determined not to fall-back on cook-chill meals, so am making sure I buy real raw ingredients and cook them; I know I need the real nutrition just now).  Then I write, or mess about, as mentioned above.  I've been doing a lot of writing; my Western is progressing nicely and looks to be going to end up at well over 100,000 words.  And every now and then I go out.

On Monday night I was out; at, guess what, the ballet.  Seeing the Royal Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty" for the umpteenth time (well, fourth, or fifth possibly? - it's a gorgeous production, anyway, and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty).  There were some problems in the pit at the beginning - someone needed to have a quick word with some of the brass section, who were all over the shop - but on stage it was sheer heaven.  One of my favourite dancers, Hikaru Kobayashi, was dancing Aurora.  I've seen her in the role before - I made a beeline for this performance precisely to see her in action again.  She has beautiful feet and a lovely luxurious sense of space and scale.  She's one of those dancers who can make it look as though she has all the time in the world, although she has exactly the same number of bars of music, and beats in a bar, as anyone else would.  And she can act.  It was simply lovely to see her dancing a leading role opposite her husband, too; no need to worry about onstage chemistry between this prince and his beloved... 

There was more chemistry between Princess Florine and her Bluebird; Melissa Hamilton being wonderful (as usual) and Fernando Montano (ditto) ; flawless virtuosity from both and a sort of sparkling sexiness that made one really feel this was a fairytale indeed.  And between the King and Queen (Gary Avis and Genesia Rosato) not only chemistry but also a series of object lessons in telling, simple, spot-on mime, using the set conventional gestures and the chances to add one's own elements of expression alike superbly.  Not to mention demonstrating wonderfully how to manage a long trailing cloak with aplomb.  Christina Arestis was a splendid, beautiful, evil Carabosse and I think every fairy was a standout (though the lilac fairy was rather more of an implaccable spirit of justice than the personyification of goodness that I'm used to seeing).

I wish sometimes at the theatre that it were possible to make notes as the evening went on; but of course it would be the most horrible bad manners.  Only one finds oneself afterwards thinking "There were so many great moments last night, and now it's all one wonderful happy blur...".

But a wonderful happy blur is by no means a bad thing.

I shall have to stop writing; for now.  But not forever.  There is still too much to tell, too much to do, too much to say.  Even if I'm more erratic, more chaotic, I cannot stop now.