Monday, 26 May 2014

Holiday plans, and afterwards...

I'm getting packed, although truth to tell it's rather chaotic, and am off in the middle of the night on my trip to to Kefalonia.  It has rained in London pretty much without ceasing, all day today; I cannot wait for my week away from the Great British Climate.  I have two fat novels and two notebooks, and a camera, so between reading, writing, and photography I'll have plenty to occupy my mind when I am not walking or swimming or relaxing under a tree, or drinking freshly-squeezed orange juice or cold white wine...

When I get back, I'll find out the latest about the changes at work, I expect, and I will have some decisions to make about my writing, and (unless I'm frantically trying to find a new job, which gods forbid) I'll be trying to be more sociable.  I seem to have seen very little of my friends of late; I've been so miserably tired, and frequently depressed, that I tend to scuttle home and shut the door quickly each evening.  I've been wondering about trying to organise a group outing of some kind, maybe to a Prom or one of the Somerset House open-air cinema screenings, or perhaps to the theatre - though I suspect I may be the only one of my friends who feels a yen towards Titus Andronicus (I confess I am partly tempted by the prospect of William Houston covered in gore! - but it's also a weird and powerful play that I haven't seen since I was at school, and I can imagine its subject matter is apt to the times in some ways...).

Anyway, I hope to return from Hellas restored in mind, body and spirit, if that isn't asking too much.  Goodness knows I need to be. 

I hope this finds anyone reading it well and happy - have a good week, wherever you are!  

Friday, 23 May 2014

Made it out...

...I made it out alive...

It's Friday and I made it to the end of this week, and now I have finished work for ten whole days - no, eleven, even.  Yea!  And at crack of dawn on Tuesday I go to Kefalonia for a week.

Before that I have three days to work my way through a stack of odd jobs.  It looks like being a busy weekend.  Tomorrow, hopefully I'm meeting up with some friends for tea, after one of those ridiculously cheering pre-holiday shopping expeditions for new walking sandals, sun lotion, insect repellant etc.

Sunday I want to have a proper, full-on Writing Day.  I want to make some progress on "The Healers" and I also want to get the rest of my recent poems typed up.  I probably won't post many more of those here for a while, though.  The majority of them lately are about the odd feeling of falling for someone you thought was a friend, and realising the "It's just biology" trick isn't working anymore...  But they're quite good in some cases, these poems, albeit lyrical and soppy; so I mean to keep them.  Maybe publishable in twenty years or so; when I retire, yes, that sounds about right.

Monday I will be packing and stashing left-over food in the freezer, or taking it to the Dipgeek for her and the Lovely J to eat, and then I'll be getting two hours' sleep before catching a night bus to Victoria Station, and the train to Gatwick, and my flight...

It has been another hectic week at work; I wound up putting in almost 1 1/2 hours unpaid extra at the end of today sorting things out, in order to leave a reasonable state of affairs while I'm away.  The constant barrage of irritating problems with the new system just slows everything down; and there are only the same number of hours in the day as there always have been.  I am working flat-out, and I still can't keep up.  I'm tired.  But I have - I think I have - left a fairly clean desk.

On Wednesday we had a big meeting, all our section, to learn more about the staff restructure.  In the event there still wasn't very much to learn about, as the details are yet to be hammered out.  The overall new structure, which was presented on Wednesday, makes a lot of sense; but it isn't final and may change further.  This is going to take a while, and the lack of certainty is pretty depressing.  But then such things always are depressing.  I now know that my role is affected, but not much more than that; it's all basically still speculation - "It's likely to be this or maybe more like that, but things may change".

So - well, okay.  That's how it is.  Nothing I can do but wait and see, give my input if/when asked for it, and do my best whatever happens. If what's been outlined to me as a possible scenario is what does finally happen, I'll be okay with that.  But none of it is fixed, so I won't pin too many hopes on it just yet awhile.

Saw my crush on Thursday, and found to my relief that I could be around him, talk to him intelligently and reasonably sensibly, and enjoy his input and his company, without feeling heart-sore or making a fool of myself.  And I don't think he has a clue what's going on in my head, which is also a relief (unless, of course, he's just a very good actor!).  He's one of those people who restore your faith in human nature; so it would be a pretty rotten thing if I were to be a cause of embarrassment to him.  I'm an old-fashioned enough Brit to think one should do right by those one respects; so not to cause a problem for this chap is important to me.  Now I can let myself hope that in time we'll be able to be friends.  Much the best outcome, if it can be so.

But anyway, now I am off work for a spell, and I can put everything behind me; walk away from the tiredness, from the wry sadness, from having had to crush feelings I had just begun to allow myself after seven years, and from the non-stop pace and general anxiety at work...  And so I will go to Katelios, to swim, walk, read, do some writing, eat grilled fish and salad and drink good Greek wine, and have a rest.

I wish I could bestow a week in Greece on all my friends and everyone I work with.  I see so many tired, stressed faces lately.  It's a busy time of year at the best of times, and with the restructure and the uncertainty that brings, a lot of people at work are worried.  Whilst among my non-work friends there are theses to be completed, weddings to be planned, houses to be sold, new jobs to be found, new digs to be settled into, bad break-ups to be got-over...  Yes, stressful times for so many people at the moment.

I wish I could just pluck them all up and drop them down in my favourite places in Greece.  Athens for the city-break buffs, Crete for the lovers of mountains and archeology, Thassos for the swimming nuts, the serious foodies and everyone who likes a bit of everything, Kefalonia for those who want a complete rest...  I wish I could give Greece, the home of my heart, to everyone who would benefit from it.

If I am ever rich, maybe I will.  Remind me, if I write a best-seller!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Busy day

This morning I had the chance to get out of the office (unusual, lately) and model for a press launch photoshoot.  One of the other models was very beautiful and had a very beautiful three year old with her, so I should imagine most of the press coverage will feature them.  But if your paper has a shot of a lot of feet, mine might be one of the pairs featured.  Chipped blue nail varnish, if so (o, the shame).  We were demonstrating the Barefoot Trail.

For your information, and rather to my surprise, the Barefoot Trail does exactly what it's meant to do; I came away feeling relaxed and revived, and as if I had been close to nature for a short time.  All from wandering about barefoot on assorted surfaces such as wet grass, logs, pine cones and sand.  The New Age Fluffy Stuff won over my cynicism, hands (or rather feet) down.  It was glorious.  If muddy.

In the afternoon my boss and I had a long meeting with someone from Finance, someone from Visitor Services, and The Man With The Answers, to talk about hitches and glitches in the new ticketing system.  Most of the aforementioned hitches and glitches, if I'm honest, are in our handling of the system, not inherant in the thing itself.  It was a hugely constructive meeting, the kind I wish all meetings could be.  Although we only got through about 20% of the things we needed to sort out, we did have really thorough discussions about those things, and make real progress on them.  I suppose we just need to have more meetings, and slowly work through the remaining 80% of the issues with the same thoroughness.

Halfway through this meeting the weather turned on its flipside and began to pour with rain, then hail, and then thunder as well.  The office we were in is in an attic and the rain and hail were pounding on the roof and bouncing into the open windows.  The Man With The Answers sat smiling in his usual unflappable & Buddha-like way - until I said "Answers, I'm getting worried about your books" (which were on the windowsill behind him) - at which point he suddenly reacted with alacrity.  Good chap; I am sure even Gautama Buddha preferred to keep his books dry.  Keep your powder and your books dry, eh?

He appears to be reading a playscript, which is intriguing (I would know the Faber & Faber Drama livery anywhere).  But being nosy about other folks' reading can seem tremendously rude, so I bottled it and didn't ask.  Now I'm just curious (equals nosy). 

Then it was back to the office, and then to the leaving drinks for a colleague who is moving on to pastures new.  This last happened to coincide with the Grand Re-Opening of a local bar (sheer chance, but it meant we got two free drinks each and a lot of slightly random free tapas).  So by the time I left, early, to go and vote, I was full of food and drink, and decidedly relaxed.

Trotted to my local polling station (the infant school over the railway line) clutching my poll card.  Even at well after nine pm there was a steady trickle of people.  I handed my card over and said, maybe a tad too brightly, "I hope it's okay to vote when you've had a couple of pints, I've been at a colleague's leaving do."

Polling officer:  Dearie, if you're here and you can make a cross with a pencil, you can vote.

So I voted.  I'm not sure whether I should be cheered or depressed by the discovery I'm allowed to vote even if half-cut.  I've decided to be pleased about it.

Like many good Lefties I sometimes have those moments of wondering if there's any point in casting my vote.  Parliamentary democracy has its flaws, goodness knows, and ours is as messed-up as the rest in many ways..

But so many people across the world even today never have had and never will have the chance to make that cross on a ballot paper, to try and add a drop of influence to the vat.  Most of my ancestors didn't have the vote - none of the men, to my knowledge, until 1918, except possibly the Hyders in Bristol, and certainly none of the women until 1928 (property qualifications are intended to exclude the peasantry, after all, and I come from very solid working class stock!).  I would be utterly ashamed of myself if I didn't go out and vote. 

Now home, sobering up, and writing this.

Last night I was at the ballet; two lovely non-narrative pieces and a gritty, grim, bleak story ballet about the spirit of Jack the Ripper haunting London and inspiring Walter Sickert and a friend of his to commit the Camden Town Murders.  "Sveet Violence" said the German woman in the row behind mine, carefully reading her programme aloud to her neighbour.  Well, quite; I couldn't have put it better myself.  Actually the title is "Sweet Violets", but anyway...  It's choreographically terrific.  Also grim, grimgrimgrim, also grisly and dismal.  Beautifully danced, though, of course (Lauren Cuthbertson in particular was superb as the second woman to be murdered).  But it was a relief to go from that to "DGV" with its superb score, high energy and rich, resonant optimism.  Graphic violence and murder in pointe shoes may be very impressive; but hope and love and human connection carry the more meaning, for me, cockeyed optimist that I am.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


It seems to me now
That this story
Has reached a crux
And I don’t know
Where it will go.

There are so many
Paths it could take.
There’s the version
Where one of them dies,
The version where they all die,
And the version
Where the good guys win,
The invaders are defeated, and
True love conquers all.
Nobody dies in that one.

There’s the alternative
Universe, where
He’s really an alien
And the rest are zombies
And they eat one another’s brains.
There’s the one where they all
Learn to do magic
And lay down their lives
Fighting the enemy.
And the universe where
They never meet at all.

There’s the story where
Love is true, but it’s
Unrequited, or
Unwise, or unwittingly ill-given;
There’s the love
Between friends, between
Siblings, between lovers, comrades,
Like-minds, and
Between those who can
Never even touch.  There’s
Love, and there’s death.

These are all stories.
Maybe in ours
No-one is ever going
Even to speak
The first line of the play.
Maybe this story is all
Pinteresque silence,
Blindness and regret.
Or maybe this will be
The one where all my scenes
Were cut, or the one
Where you and I
Were written out
Before rehearsals began.

I’m waiting
I’m waiting for my cue
But I don’t know the scene we’re in
Or what part anyone plays.
I don’t know if you
Will fight at my side
Or put up your sword and
Turn away in embarrassment.
I don’t know if my friends
Are the heroes or the enemy,
Or even the zombies.
I’m lost in here
And the story rolls on.

Is this the way it ends, then?
The crux of the plot
A crucial scene
Between the characters
Who matter; the commanders
Their captains-at-arms, and
You, their champion.
And I sit in the back room
Worrying, and am
Forgotten about
While others nurse the heroes’ wounds
After the battle is won.

It seems to me now
This story could go
Completely off the rails
Or come home happy
Or, just end.
Who knows? – but
All I want now is
Just to get it over with.
So leave me alone, in peace
Let me turn the pages
And see.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Settling down for the night

Still as a hushed sigh
I slide into the quiet
And the darkness tonight.
Settling for sleep,
The ordinary mercy of
Seven hours' oblivion.
And not the bare
Bodkin, the longer quietus.
It has no allure
These days, that dream;
I am too old
To long for such things
When I know
They are coming
Anyway.  So settling
In the hushed dark tonight
For sleep
And the merciful cliché.
Tomorrow's another day.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

On the river's edge

A heron's silhouette,
Inverted teardrop, waits,
Raises a poignard,
Daylight shatters
Every second as the wind runs
Across the water; it
As off a swordblade
With spring sunshine.
And the wild bird
Kills and kills again as I
Cross the bridge.
I cannot defend myself.
If I am overwhelmed
I will fall
Into the steely water,
But I cannot stop
Walking forward into today.
The bright steel of morning
And the heron unfolds herself and
Slowly flaps away
Certain and strong as

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

New scale of measurement

I have been reminded that some of the people who read this know me in real life, and some of them even work at Kew.  I have been grumbling about pressure at work a lot lately, and I realise it might be construed as unprofessional of me. 

So I've decided to instigate a new scale to grade what kind of day I have had, instead of griping about specifics.  It will be a scale of fictional heroines.

I haven't yet got a full range of markers for every gradient (give me time, I only thought of this half an hour ago).  But, for example, an Anne Elliot day will be one in which I have borne quietly with all kinds of miserable shit, in the patient hope that things get better, while a Lizzie Bennett day will be one on which I have borne rather less quietly and have vented my feelings without shame. A Carmen day will be one in which I have been feelin' good & shakin' my sexy thang - singing in the kitchen, dancing with the photocopier - because I know I am The One.  A  Black Widow day, by contrast, will be one on which I wanted everyone to think I was The One, but only so that I could kill them all.  A Cunegonde day will be one in which I wanted to be able to lament my sorry lot and then have flat-out hysterics in high coloratura. 

You get the picture.  If I ever have an Ophelia day, get help.

Today started out quite cheerful but went decidedly Cunegonde by the end of the day.  It's good to be home, and eat, and write this, and wonder whether to spend the evening in Missouri with Wood and Sarah and Torstein Riis, or in Brentford with my unnamed protagonist getting drawn by Kat Ryle; or whether to cut my losses and watch a silly film.

I feel in need of serious silliness, I must say.  If I had a dvd of "Ghostbusters" I would probably be putting it in the machine right now.  I need to switch my brain off.  Maybe "The Princess Bride" might do the trick; heroes, giants, wizards, villains, true love, sword fights...  Yep.  Perfect switch-off film.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Just quickly

If you have the chance to see it, I highly recommend Lukas Moodysson's film "We are the best!".  It's delightful; truthful and very funny, and the three leads are tremendous.

If you remember being young - and especially if you remember being young in the eighties - if you've ever played in a band or known anyone who did, if you've ever felt that no-one will ever understand you, if you have ever been embarrassed by your parents or fought with your friends, or rebelled, or got drunk when you couldn't hold your liquor, or trailed about as the gooseberry when everyone else seemed to be pairing up...  If you love seeing fresh, unfussy, natural acting from non-professional actors who seem blind to the camera and make every scene burst with life...  Well, just see this film.  It's hilarious and touching, and deliciously real about all of those things. It's on at Waterman's Arts Centre at the moment, and probably at an art house cinema near you, too.

That aside, Monday has been okay.  We had passable weather right until the evening, with plenty of sunshne during my lunch break.  Work was mostly just about manageable (as in, I managed to keep on top of the phone calls and also did something right that I was sure I'd done wrong, but I still haven't got done the job I didn't do Friday, even now - so it was one step forward and one back, whereas on Friday it felt like backwards all the way).  Then a nice curry supper with the Dipterist, and a good film to finish off with.  Yep, not a bad day.

And I got home to find a postcard from someone I was at college with, telling me about her most recent show.  Alex Perri was one of the most talented painters I met in the five years I was at KIAD, and it's a real pleasure to know she is still painting and exhibiting.  And judging by the image on the card, she's creating good work, too.  Proof that talent can still rise to the top.  Alex, you rock!

Hope tomorrow is as good.  I could use a few good days.  Hope all are well - Cryptic, I hope you were able to meet your deadlines without staying up all night wearing yourself out - Kath, I hope you are feeling better after that nasty bug.  Off to bed with me now, I think.  Ridiculously tired tonight...

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Better for the weekend...

A couple of days off have left me feeling far more human.  I still can't wait for my holiday at the end of the month.  But a quiet weekend, a couple of long telephone calls with my mother, a pleasant meal out at Bistro One in Southampton Street, some brilliant contemporary dance from Northern Ballet at the Linbury Studio (& what a gorgeous little theatre that is; I'd give my eye teeth to be able to use it >sigh<), plus getting my fantasy western past the 100,000-word mark today; yes, after two days of that, I feel more like me.

I've also discovered that crying jags are, like non-specific bouts of depression, frequent symptoms of the perimenopause.  While not exactly cheerful news, this does at least help me to place my weird attack on Friday evening in perspective.  Yup, I'm a menopausal woman, folks.  Be afraid, be very afraid...

The only alternative to going through the menopause is to die first.  Which I should prefer not to do.  Even when it is chaos, even when I am worn out and depressed, and work is hectic and I am trying to get used to using a ticketing system that has the electronic equivalent of several limbs in plaster (& one perhaps tied-on with string), even then, I enjoy my life.  I know I will die one day; maybe tomorrow, maybe not for another forty years.  Why wish it any sooner, when I have so much I want to do with my time?

Anyway, if anyone was worried (& I know one person at least was; bless you, dear heart), don't be.  I'm okay.  It was just one of those days, a day that started well and went sour.  We all have them from time to time.

I've decided to step off the 5:2 diet wagon again for a while, though, since I don't know that this is a good time for being hungry.  It isn't as if anyone but me cares if I am stout or not, after all.  I was trying to diet because I dislike finding it harder to run for a bus, not for my looks (or lack of them).  But right now I think self-care is the order of the day.  That needn't mean self-indulgence, but it's not self-denial either.  It means enjoying that lovely fresh grapefruit I had for breakfast, and the extra pumpkin seeds I put in my cereal.  It means not feeling harried into doing things I don't want to do, not feeling I have to apologise for being an introvert.  It means showering in the morning and using conditioner in my unruly rag of hair, and wearing my good clothes even on non-work days, not because anyone is looking, but because I will feel better if I am clean and do not look like a windswept tramp.  It means going out of the office for some air, and taking the time to say hello to friends and not sit in a slumped heap feeling sad in the summerhouse like a neglected toy.  It means all sorts of things, but it does not mean trying to lose weight.  Not at this moment in time.  Life is too pressured to add any more pressures just now.

On with the motley tomorrow, anyway.  Little by little we'll get there.  My life seems to be full of half-resolved stories, and little by little I'll get to tell them all, or have them told to me. 

Who knows, tomorrow I may get a breakthrough of some kind at work.  I may learn that my job is secure (gods, I hope it is!).  I may get a procedure for a month-ahead report on unconfirmed provisional bookings, or one for last month's figures, or a new process to simplify another task.  If work stays hectic, nonetheless I may find something wonderful in bloom, or be paid a compliment, or run into a friend; I may have the chance to help someone, or simply hear a good joke.  Someone may like my singing or my writing, or may just need a cup of tea that I can make them.  Of such small incidental things much happiness is composed.  

Meantime, all of you who I cried over on Friday; I'm sorry if I worried or embarrassed you, and I hope you are all well, and I love you all.  Even the ones I don't know.  Look after yourselves.

I'm not going to delete Friday's post.  I've thought about it, but it seems a false note somehow.  One should not hide from the shadows; they will still be there, notwithstanding, so better to be comfortable with that.  It's all part of life's rich pattern.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A rough day that ended oddly, with my mind playing a rum trick on me...

Today didn't start rough, in fairness.  The weather was passable, if windy, and mild enough to wear sandals to work.  In the morning a couple of minor problems got solved, too, which is always satisfying.  I had managed to do something thoroughly silly and I appealed to my friend The Man With The Answers, who  popped in and demonstrated that it could in fact be fixed with three clicks.  Three clicks!  That's my idea of a good, well-behaved problem.  I sat and beamed at him like a child with an ice-cream, and thought everything was shiny and not-to-fret.

Then it all went a bit pear-shaped.  The phones rang almost incessantly, my boss's computer turned out to have much more complex problems than we had all understood them to be (it needs the digital equivalent of brain surgery rather than therapy), things kept going wrong and taking far longer than they should, I had to turn down offers of cake and muffins because it's a 500 calorie day, I never even got started on one of the two main tasks I wanted to do today, and when I finally got round to doing an essential Friday job that's usually very quick and simple, it took far longer than normal and I uncovered a whole new can of worms by doing it.  I then spent well over an hour of extra time trying to solve the can of worms (oh dear, sorry about all the mixed metaphors here) and ringing a gentleman in Poole who was very upset and angry and bullied me something rotten.  I ended up emailing The Man With The Answers again at 6.15pm to say (albeit in slightly more diplomatic terms) "This is shit, please may I ask if you would be able to do x for me next week to make it slightly less shit?  Because it's really shit." 


Then got home, had my small low-calorie supper, and - suddenly, completely out of the blue - I was struck by the certainty and deep, experiential awareness that everyone I care about, all my family, every friend, every lover lost and gone, every crush dreamed-of with childish sighs, every colleague, every musician or actor I have every admired, every writer or artist I've ever wanted to be like, and everyone I've ever said "Thank you" to in a shop or "Please" to in a cafe, or brushed past in the Tube, or smiled at in the staff kitchen - every single one of these people, most of whom are good people possessed of kind hearts and deep, uncommon human wisdom in their way - every single one of these people is going to die.  And I sat on my bed with my cup of herb tea beside me on the bedside cabinet, and I cried like I had just been bereaved, of all those good, honest, ordinary people.  All my folks.  All my friends.  Everyone I have ever loved, and everyone I have never even met.

I know I'm tired and stressed, when I do things like that.  After all, I know rationally that I'm going to die; I mean oif course I do, I'm not stupid; I know that we are all going to die, and that immortality would actually be hugely depressing.  But I kept seeing faces in my mind's eye - my brothers and my mum and my stepmum, and my dear, dear friends - but also the nice-looking girl who took my coat at Covent Garden and smiled at me; the chap in the cafe at work who is always trying to chat me up; the woman with the lovely dogs who I pass on the bridge every morning; the guy at work with the amazing Burne-Jones hair; and my nice new boss Daryl, and the colleague I modelled Perpetua Maddix upon, and The Man With The Answers, and Mr Irritating from the mezzanine...  Friends old and new, and aquaintances, and those I had barely registered.  I kept seeing all those real people, and loving them all, in their reality and their self-contained happy purposefulness, that may have no purpose at all save to continue in happiness; imagining them dead and mourned, and then those that mourned them also dead.  My heart did not feel large enough to hold all the grief I was feeling.

The mind is fascinating, when it plays tricks like this on one.  For it was a trick of the mind, of that I've no doubt.  Tiredness, stress, lack of food, worry, all kicking in and conjuring a quick, toxic brew that left me momentarily - but utterly - flattened.  I cried until my face hurt and my throat felt almost closed-up with the pain of suppressed sobbing.  And then, quite quickly, it passed.  I blew my nose and dried my eyes, and made another mug of herb tea; and here I am a bare hour later writing about it quite rationally, and wondering what the heck was wrong with me.

I wish I were a light-hearted person who could be calm and cheerful.  I wish I could smile at grief and laugh in a crisis, and be one of the sustainers of the world, helping others to bear their burdens, without a thought for my own.  I wish I could be a better person; I wish I could love everyone as they deserve, and never grieve for them or for myself.

And, who knows, maybe to someone somewhere I am one of those who keep things from falling off the ledge in the mind.  Maybe there are people to whom my words here, or the sound of me singing as I go by, is a tiny daily blessing; maybe to someone my daft sense of humour is the veil that holds back despair.  Maybe, unawares, even I help someone who is wrestling with the knowledge that we are all going to die and in the meantime it's all just a damned long hard slog... 

For that hope, that I can restore a moment's peace to the odd soul here and there - as a kind word, a joke or a smile or the sound of a familiar voice have done for me sometimes - for that hope, I can, I will, keep going through it all.  Right to the end.

Gods, I am so bloody tired.  I am going to telephone my mum, and then have an early night.  This philosophy of melancholy is a sure sign that I need sleep.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

In which I realise I may have a problem

Well, several problems, maybe; but I'm thinking about one particular one here.

This problem doesn't have brown eyes (down, Cryptic, there's a good hound!) and it doesn't live in the upstairs flat and play the sodding piano at one a.m - although the problem who does do that is certainly still a problem I have. 

It has a screen and a keyboard connected to it; but it isn't the ticketing system at work (which is behaving quite well for me at the moment, hurrah!).

Some time on Bank Holiday Monday morning the internet connection here in the flat crashed.  It remained crashed for around 60 hours, which time included two whole evenings. 

During those two evenings I wrote approximately 6,500 words. 

Since I had spend most of Monday during the day either baking or lounging under a tree at Kew Gardens with my dear Dip and talking of many things (including, if not cabbages and kings, at least chocolate and graphic novels and the potential usefulness of being able to turn oneself into a chair as a fighting method), I didn't write anything until the evening anyway.  And yesterday was a work day, and a fairly hectic one at that, so again, no writing till the evening. 

I did a lot of writing in those two evenings, then.  Without this thing to distract me.

So that is my problem; I think I have a bit of an internet addiction.  Gosh, how very modern of me.  But also, oh shit. 

Monday was lovely, though; so good to catch up properly with Dippiest Dip the Dipterist, so good to roll in the grass chilling out, so good to eat too much.  And the chocolate and raspberry buns were rather splendid, though I say it myself.

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...

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Well, I dunno...

It's been all fun and games...

Monday evening was fun; "The Winter's Tale" makes a terrific ballet, although the "game of two halves" tendency of the play was if anything emphasised by the transformation to a purely visual medium.  More of that anon.

Thinking of anons, I seem to have pissed-off my anon from the weekend.  Sorry, cryptic outside-over-there person!  Not knowing who you are kind of throws me, because you clearly know who I am.  Try and put yourself in my shoes, and consider how discombobulating that feels.  I'm happy you seem to have liked my poem & I'm touched that you responded positivly to it.  But I have to be honest; it was written as a response to seeing someone I know walk by looking tired and low.  One particular person.  Now you seem to be taking it personally, and I don't know if you're that person or not;  Again, significant discombobulation here.  I hate not knowing things; makes me feel really inadequate...

So, I'm sorry if I didn't react the way you wanted.  It's probably good for me to feel inadequate, though.  Challenging.

A good few things are challenging just now.  The new ticketing and database system continues to be challenging, bless its digital cotton socks.  We had server issues for large parts of yesterday, which was certainly bl**dy challenging, and reminded me just how painfully dependent we all are on computers these days.  Today we had a fire alarm, and it wasn't a drill.  In fact it turned out to be a complete mystery; so everyone was kept outside the office for a good thirty or forty minutes while it was investigated.  Thirty-forty minutes I could really have used in the office...

At least it was a pleasant afternoon.  There was patchy sun, a fresh mild breeze, goldfinches singing in the trees and big, blowsy golden peonies in bloom.  Compared with some fire alarms I have known, that was okay, I have to say.

Worst fire alarm I've ever been in was a time when I was modelling for an evening class.  In November.  As the saying goes, less said about that, the better.

Then when we were allowed back into the building I got sabotaged in my attempts to do a simple job by the fact I couldn't get it done because something wasn't doing what I expected it to.  Couldn't crack it for the life of me.  Had to email The Man With The Answers about fifteen times in a row, which was both challenging and plain bl**dy embarrassing.  I dislike bothering busy people.  That inadequacy thing, again; I feel I ought to be able to fix my own sodding problems. 

And then when The Man had fixed that problem, I got a different problem and had to give up on the whole thing.  As it was I didn't leave work till six pm.  Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Back to "Winter's Tale".

Firstly; what a cast, what a staging, what amazing choreography!  Between Sicilia and Bohemia the whole physical language changes; so that the first is angular, frontal and formal, full of clenched fists, Graham-technique feet and gripping hands, and the second is all flowing lines and chain dances, leaping and springing and lightness of movement and gesture.

The storytelling is marvellously clear (& scrapping Autolycus makes for a sharper and more fairy-tale-like plot, which works better in ballet).  The homoerotic quality of Leontes' and Polixenes' love for one another is pointed up gently but not over-emphasised - so that one can see Leontes' rage and jealousy are as much over his friend - and first love - as over his wife and second love - but it wasn't egged to the point (which I've seen done on stage) of implying he's never really cared about Hermione in the first place and has only  made a marriage of convenience for the sake of getting an heir.  I loved the way it's shown that, his madness once over, Leontes is practically a broken man; dependent on Paulina, almost helpless at her behest and physically literally in her hands.  The parallels between Leontes' jealousy in the first half and Polixenes rage in the second were brought out perfectly, too.  It's that sort of thing that storytelling through physical language can sometimes do almost better than words.

But ooh, I'm on dangerous territory there; inferring that Shakespeare's words could be bettered if removed is hardly a good line to take!  I can see that argument taking me swiftly off the edge of a precipice if I try to follow it.

I guess it just shows yet again the infinite variability and flexibility of the stories and characters he gave us, though, that they can be retold and reborn even without the text itself, and still come absolutely true...

All the cast are pitch-perfect (though the programme note that says something like "Leontes remarks on Florizels ressemblance to Polixenes" had us all giggling naughtily - ah yes, the ginger tom takes one look at his dark-haired friend's extremely ginger son and that's what he thinks?).  The six principals were all excellent as were rest of the cast, right down the batting order.  In particular Edward Watson's Leontes was terrifying in his insanity, bending and writhing like a sea-creature or a giant multi-jointed invertebrate; and then tragic in his grief, weak and broken in spirit in the aftermath.

I'm always happy to see Gary Avis given a decent role, and as Perdita's adoptive father he gets to be both a solid dancer, leading off folk dances and proving he can still partner most of the fellows off the map, and also a gentle and truthful actor.  Valentino Zucchetti was a stunning Clown; please, someone, anyone, give this chap more to do, and stretch him, let him get his teeth into more and more.  He has an astonishingly elastic jump, tremendous footwork, and a frisky, charming, insouciant stage presence.  I can't wait for the day they give him Lescaut to do...

The whole Bohemia scene is simply lovely; where everything in Sicilia was trammelled and tight, and love could only be expressed with small gestures and taking care not to overstep the marks of good manners, suddenly here we get the happy innocent tenderness of young love, the affectionate sibling joshing between Perdita and Clown, the solid loving paternal strength of the father shepherd and all the cheerful flirting and falling-for and delighting of the festival crowd.  Every gesture is suddenly wide-open and free, the lifts are big, the footwork bounding and stomping and joyously natural. 

And it looks tremendous, too.  The designs are gorgeous; clean plain colours, plus sober black, grey and white, in Sicilia, and rich tapestried patterns everywhere in Bohemia, where hems are embroidered or fringed, fabrics brocaded, cushions painted and everything imaginable decorated.

Joby Talbot's score is further evidence that he's become the ballet composer who should be at the top of every list today.  It's less gallumphing than his "Alice" score, richer and subtler and more shimmering; it reminded me of Prokofiev's "Cinderella" and Henze's "Ondine", and one really can't give much higher praise than that.

Problems?  The animatronic baby is bl**dy creepy (one almost couldn't blame Leontes for being freaked out by it) and the bear pursuing Ben Gartside's kind-hearted Antigonus is a bit odd; not as theatrically effective as I'd hoped Covent Garden, with the resources at its disposal, could rustle up.  Darcy Bussell, presenting from backstage (I love backstage stuff!) was wearing a garment with a collar apparently studded with jelly-tots; very distracting...  But that's about all I can find to nitpick over.  The final scenes had me in tears.  The lovers' plea to Leontes; his humbling himself to help them and his reconcilliation with Polixenes; the little touch of the father shepherd being greeted honourably by the kings... Paulina's recognition scene was simple and perfect (my goodness can Zenaida Yanowsky act when she's given the chance) and then Hermione's restoration and duet with Leontes, and the reunion with her daughter, were sad and painful and noble; emotional truth at its clearest.   


And now I must go to bed, and be ready for another little wrestle with my new database and ticketing system tomorrow.  I want to learn to drive this thing properly.  I will not be defeated by my tools.