comforting thought

 

Life is a Moebius Strip. I find that a comforting thought.

Cut an inch-wide strip of paper lengthwise from a sheet of copy paper. Bring the ends to meet to form a ring but give it a half twist before you seal the ends with tape.  Now you have a one-dimensional paper ring with only one surface. To prove it take a pencil and run a line down the centre of the ring all the way round. You’ll never have to lift the pencil off the paper to do the other side because there is no other side. You will run into your pencil line.  

You probably already know this because you have many dimensions.  I was delighted when I first encountered it and still am. It’s not time in a bottle, it’s time on a piece of paper. You go forward in time, you meet the past.  I find that comforting. Plus ça change and all that.

A Klein bottle is a similar marvel: a bottle with a twist in it so there is only one side. That’s possible to make, too, but a tesseract, a cube with a twist, is not because it brings in the fourth dimension which we can’t manage yet. I read a science fiction story in which a man went into a tesseract house and jumped out a window, not into the garden below, but into another place in space-time. I don’t remember anything else about him or it. 

Permit a tangent here: if you retain one idea or image or emotion from something you’ve read, that makes it worth having read it.  I’ll have to consider reading soon.

But not before I get on to Ursula LeGuin.

In the meantime, my damaged leg is not progressing as it should, I am gaining weight because I’m not swimming every day, I am getting tired, literally, from dragging my leg around and trying to walk normally in spite of it, and it’s February, for goodness’ sake. What better time for a trip on a Moebius Strip?

I love this idea of there being two sexes

My son Matt was 55 yesterday, as I told you, I had a party for him, a three-Matt party and it was fun. His nieces and theirsignificant others are 20-some years younger than he and they play well together.  So do I. It is very interesting for me to meet people who are so much younger than I am. (Everyone is.) I keep making discoveries with them.  I hope they do with me.

Yesterday was a shocker. No one had heard of James Thurber.

 “James Grover Thurber (December 8, 1894 – November 2, 1961) was an American cartoonist, author, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. Thurber was best known for his cartoons and short stories, published mainly in The New Yorker magazine and collected in his numerous books.” (Wikipedia)

A lot of his humour and ideas were familiar household lines to us. No longer. I mean a lot of US is gone now and later generations have lost, no, never had them, with one exception that I’m aware of.  My discovery came about because of it. We were talking about Ben Stiller’s new Zoolander movie and the Millenials knew about and had seen his movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but I was the only one who knew who had written the original story it was based on: James Thurber. 

Who?  Well, you’ll have to look him up.  I can still quote some of my favourite lines of his; I’m sure you’ll find some you like. In addition to being witty and funny and quotable, he could also be quite profound. 

“The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself, but in so doing, he identifies himself with people - that is, people everywhere, not for the purpose of taking them apart, but simply revealing their true nature.” James Thurber

 

 

post traumatic stress

One week ago today I was whole.  Later in the day, not so.

Fifty-five years ago today my youngest child, Matthew, was born. Never the same.

We never are, the same, ever.

I’ve been thinking of PTS a lot.  What right have I to claim it?  I mean I had a simple domestic accident, a fall over a footstool, onto a footstool, a heart-shaped stool with a duck painted on top; I fell into the crotch of the heart and ripped a three-cornered tear across the shin and almost into the bone.  It hurt, that’s all. I mean, a car crash, or a mugging gone wrong, or a war didn’t cause it, all legitimate reasons for PTS.  But this week I have had the odd shuddering, explicit memory of it followed by a shock wave across my whole system.  I’m guessing that’s PTS:

"post-traumatic stress disorder |ˈpoʊst ˌtrɔˈmædɪk ˈstrɛs dəˌsɔrdər|

noun Medicine

a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world."

 I guess I have PTS. Also, my leg hurts.

So I’m sitting a lot and trying to justify my existence, puttering at paper, communicating with cohorts, fussing with fiddlies.  Sorry, I can never resist alliteration.

Today I am having a birthday party for Matt. Actually I’m having a Matthew party. My granddaughter, the doctor, recently got engaged to a Matthew. He is Matt 2. And another granddaughter has a new boyfriend called Matthew, so he is Matt 3.  And the three of them -  different ages, of course, have adjacent – or is it contiguous? – birthdays. My Matt’s is in the middle.

Fifty-five years ago today, we weren’t sure he would live a week, let alone 55 years. It’s been a hard struggle for both of us.  I grew up with him. And I wrote a lot about him: The Book of Matthew (his biography); Boy in a Cage (a chamber opera); Jason (a one-hander play), all produced or published. He helped.

I think it was Proust who commented on how unforgiving art is.  No excuses. You either produce or you don’t, and no one cares why if you don't.

I suppose so many women writers (I guess visual artists, too, but I don’t know their stories as well)…many contemporary women writers have had abortions, for the sake of their work.  I know (of) other writers who stick their aberrations in a room, lock the door, and throw away the room (Arthur Miller did that) as some people advised me to do when Matt was at his lowest ebb.  So as to keep producing.  And did the end justify the means?  Who’s to say?

John Hirsch was a friend of mine; we were students together at the University of Manitoba and he produced my first adult stage play, an adaptation of Ibsen's  An Enemy of the People that I wrote for him because he didn’t want to do Miller’s.  I would have gone on being his handmaiden, writing speeches, doing research, following his suggestions – I have at least one complete play written at his behest, never produced – but when Matt’s troubles surfaced I had to spend too much time on physiotherapy and couldn’t spare any for Hirsch.

When John received his Order of Canada, The Book of Matthew had just been published (1985 ) and I sent him a copy with a note: “This is my Order of Canada.”  Years later I received a CM of my own for an accumulation of effort, not much art.

But I have survived. We all do, in one way or another. And we all suffer PTS, in one way or another.  Life is traumatic, no doubt about it.  And no one one gets out alive.  Cliché, cliché!  True though, that’s why it’s a cliché.

Just keep on keeping on. And on and on.

Anon, anon.

a monologue blogue

"A dramatic monologue is a long excerpt in a play, poem or story that reveals a character's thoughts and feelings. When we read a story, sometimes we can see what a character is thinking, but it isn't always so clear. When a writer allows a character to speak in a monologue, we get to see inside a character's head and then we better understand what motivates that character." (Google)

ME:  Monologues are a favourite device in contemporary Canadian  plays, so much so that playwrights often have trouble creating dialogue between (or often: among) other characters on stage.  They talk at each other instead of inter-acting or responding. I still go to courses and workshops and readings and such as well as plays because it's always possible to learn something new or even to have a well-known technique reinforced. If you haven't already noticed, monologues are very important - to the writers, I think, more than to the audiences. I mean, they're not like "To be or not to be".I know playwrights who begin a new play by writing a monologue for each character they envision.  It’s an effective method for getting to know their people, getting inside a head, learning (creating) speech patterns and back history.  It’s one method, not the only one.  Writers are encouraged (by textbooks on how to write a play - or novel) to write biographies of their principals, not much different from a monologue, at that.  I’m not going to go into this any further. I bring it up because yesterday I gave a playwriting lab, on Character, at Ryerson University (the Senior Playwrights program) and asked my class to write a monologue and then to share it. I discovered that some of these wannabe playwrights don’t know what a monologue is.  They wrote dialogue for two or more people in a dramatic scene.

My fault. I had assumed that everyone knew what a monologue is. Like this blogue.

 

 

save my place

Safari is on record now as being untrustworthy, and says it won't change until its next update. So wait here, while I write my blog elsewhere. I'll be back.

Here I am..

 

This morning I am going to limp over to Ryerson (University) to give a playwriting lab on Character for the Seniors Playwriting Program. My chief concern has been what to wear. I can’t get jeans or tights over the large dressing on my leg, so I’ll wear a long denim skirt and take an extra shawl over layered tops.  I asked for a chair so I don’t have to stand for two hours and I’ll use my shawl as a cushion under my leg so I can put it up (on another chair?), if need be.  Then I’ll tap-dance. Not literally, of course, but what a nice expression to use when I am at the moment incapable of tap-dancing.  My mind is still agile.

And full of blogs.

I still want to discuss Ursula LeGuin and the child in the basement. Schedule that for later this week. 

I  want to tell you about some of the people I met last week on the theatre tour, and about the Stratford Festival, and maybe even a little about my late husband.

Oh, and Robert Frost and soup – not a huge discussion – just my paraphrase of his line “Good fences make good neighbours” with a totally different approach to neighbourliness.  My line is “Good soup makes good neighbours.” I’ve been thinking of it this week as various neighbours bring me soup.  That’s my favourite take-to for people who need TLC. 

It’s 7 a.m. and I have to change the dressing on my leg.  I also must change my face and attitude so as not to daunt my students.  I need a little joie-de-vivre here.  Know any good jokes?

happy groundhog day

Safari did it again. It saved the title of my blog, is all. I'll be back. Wait for me....

I am tired of the computer world, tired of pushing buttons and offering user names and passwords that keep getting rejected. I am so tired of being made to feel like an idiot every time I tackle another program from a company I must do business with. Am I the only one? I guess I am, or one of the rare ones. Computerese is not my native language. I came to it late in life. 

 

I had lots of interesting things to say in my GHDay blog but I'm going to quit before I am erased. Tomorrow is another day and I certainly hope so.

happy February first

It could have been worse. I could have had a concussion or broken my hip. I have slashed my leg on my little wooden ducky footstool and I have lots of stitches, inner and outer (it's a real MESS),  but my laptop is charged and I have work to do. As soon as my muzzy thinking clears I'll do something. So this is my blog for the new month.  You never know.....

a two-play blog

 

Like all Gaul I am divided.  I’m going to deal with the first part of this day before I head for home by catching up with what has gone before…I’m a couple of plays behind. I left off at The Master Builder on Thursday night.  I was running late for the next discussion period so I just said it was exciting and left.

My first main stage play was my adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.  I cut two characters and transferred it to present-day Saskatchewan, the present at that time being 1963; it was the December production at the Manitoba Theater Centre (now Royal).  Later I was invited to do it again at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto (1970), and tinkered with it, just a bit. The protagonist didn’t realize until opening night what a benighted person Dr. Stockman is and blamed me for Ibsen’s portrayal.  It was subtle.  Ibsen’s heroes don’t always know what they’re doing, witness The Master Builder. 

Fear and guilt and greed drive poor Halvard Solness, played forcefully, not to say pigheadedly, by Ralph Fiennes.  This is not to suggest that he is wrong or a bad actor. He is wonderful, forceful, manipulative and naïve, in varying degrees.  Ibsen’s men are sooo maddening, to me, anyway.  Spoiled and indulged by their women, they carry on, blindly rushing to disaster.  The directing revealed this, aided by effective lighting.  We saw a preview and I had the impression during the opening scenes that the pauses were not always directed or intentional but just a little insecure.  I didn’t mind. It was, as I said, an exciting evening and it was good to see Fiennes with his nose intact. 

Caryl Churchill has returned to the Royal Court with a new play, Escaped Alone, directed by James Macdonald. It’s a short play (one hour) but intense, though seemingly very relaxed and banal, like the three friends chatting in a garden where they are joined by a neighbouring acquaintance. Three of these middle-aged women, each with her own baggage, talk at each other though they know each other very well, or perhaps because they know each other very well, employing a deceptive shorthand and revealing more to their gate-crashing guest than they realize. Each in turn is given a focused, dim light and a full monologue as she contemplates her inner self/fears. 

The same lighting could have been focused on the interloper as she goes on on a grander scale about the ridiculous horrors of the world today. instead, when it’s her turn, and she gets several of them (I didn’t count), the lights go out, the stage is framed in red lights and then the smaller frame of the garden set, now dark and invisible, is also outlined in the tiny zigzag lights and she appears in a spotlight to tell her tale of absurd doom.  The only thing the lighting change added was a few extra moments to a short script.

 I didn’t mind it being short. It made its point and offered some character revelations. Since no one changed or developed or learned anything, it didn’t have to be longer.

So now it’s Saturday morning and I am about to hurl my body through time and space and return to Toronto. 

Anon, anon.

surfeit

Well. it’s Friday now but there was no time on Thursday to write the blog for the day.  I collapsed last night, surfeited, and not only with culture, art, ideas, creation, but also too much food and stimulus (ideas, talk and wine).

A long time ago, we had a basset hound named Joey –

(a sturdy hunting dog of a breed with a long body, short legs, and big ears)   -  also a very talented nose.  My son John was the official owner of the dog and he enjoyed testing that nose. John would take a biscuit, not even a very pungent piece of food, and run it over the grass in a complicated pattern before letting the dog out.  Joey would pick up the scent and follow it immediately, swerving only if the trail came too close to the one he was on when he would switch over. I used to think what a marvellous experience it would be to have that nose and pick up on sharper sensual experiences than I could imagine.  I think that artists, visual artists, must have the equivalent of a Basset’s nose in their brains/physiology that enables them to see the world in different dimensions and patterns than we ordinary humans can see in our drab perception of the world.

I have long agreed with the opinion that playwrights rank among the most conservative of artists.  Even with all the innovative ways- and not all of them by the playwrights - that have been devised to present a play, the stories and ideas are still essentially linear.  We depend on explosions of colour and noise rather than on words to break into that lizard brain in the audience for any breakthroughs we might hope for. 

Sorry, but yesterday my lizard brain was running round like our old basset hound, trying to follow the ideas/notions/visions of two modern artists who were on our agenda for the day.  We began early with a comforting view of the past: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a hugely popular London resort for almost two centuries, the Disney World of Europe, that finally closed in July, 1859.  The entire area that encompassed the Gardens is undergoing a vast revival, with gigantic new housing and the building of three Embassies (U.S., Dutch, and I forget), as well as new art galleries, including the Newport Street Galley, our first stop once we hit the bus.

The wealthy, successful artist, Damien Hirst, has opened space for art from his own collection, not his own creation, and this first exhibition is devoted to John Hoyland.  The space is well suited to the work, titled Power Stations, and displays to incredible advantage the sharp angles of the enormous paintings matching the angles of the ceilings of the vast white rooms. We had some preparation for this huge sensual onslaught from the Power Points illustrations given to us by our presenter, curator [NAME?], but all the Power Points in the world could not reconcile me to the work of Frank Auerbach, our second artist of the day, encountered at Tate Britain, after lunch at Brunswick House.  Pause here.

Do you remember the movie UP?  A tiny little house is surrounded by behemoths of skyscrapers dwarfing it and the old widower who owns it and refuses to sell out.  That’s Brunswick House, a wrecked and reclaimed Georgian mansion, protected now as a heritage site, and a South London landmark, a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, meeting and party place and antique shop.  Like Honest Ed’s restaurant in Toronto, everything in the place is for sale (very pricey). It’s like a live Antiques Road Show. One of our Group bought a copper engraving to take home.

We had a very large lunch (dinner!): roast lamb, roasted new potatoes, and spinach salad, following a big appetizer plate, concluding with apple crumble, accompanied by red or white wine.  The others preferred white wine so I had a bottle of Merlot all to myself.  Surfeit. I didn't drink it all, but enough.

That did me in, that, plus Auerbach.  His work includes “some of the most vibrant, alive and inventive paintings of recent times”.   My lizard brain was very sluggish and it wasn’t just the wine.  I “got” this passionate and exciting (not my words), artist better at arm’s length in the Power Point pix than in the actual paintings I saw in front of me. 

Surfeit, and the day wasn’t over.  The coach dropped us back at the hotel after 5, and I rested – no dinner required – until time for it to take us to the Old Vic theatre to see Ralph Fiennes in The Master Builder: exciting, and I got it.

Surfeit, though. 

And now I am just in time to attend the last discussion of this packed week: a critical round-up of the London theatre scene with one of London’s leading critics, Michael Billington of the Guardian.

Anon, anon. 

BIG day

I should know better. I'm trying to save a picture and it's taking too much time and I'm not getting it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so it's said, but in this case, and this morning (almost 7 a.m.) I don't have that much time because another BIG day is coming up and I have to report on yesterday.  WOW.

My father used to say there are three parts to every day when you are travelling i.e. away from your usual habitat and normal routine: one, two and three, or, morning, afternoon and evening.  Ideally, you should use two parts in order to pace yourself and conserve energy.  Well, I guess I stored up extra parts after a do-nothing day like the day before.  I hope it lasts through until the upcoming day that will involve another three parts.  Well again, what’s the good of a TRIP if you can’t overdo?  Case in point: yesterday.

We began in The Lady Violet Room at the National Liberal Club, cheek by jowl with the Royal Horseguards Hotel (home base), closer than that: push through a door off the lobby and find yourself in a marble hall with a huge curving marble staircase leading up to, among others, the Lady Violet Room (I don’t know who she was; I’ll try to find out). where coffee and interesting cookies awaited, and two wonderful speakers from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, there to discuss the Bard in this, his 400th Anniversary Year. 

Professor Stanley Wells is a Life Trustee of the Trust and former Chairman, plus Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Birmingham and Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and General Editor of The Complete Oxford Shakespeare, and the author of several books to do with you know who.  He edited the latest one, published in November in honour of this anniversary year, titled The Shakespeare Circle, a collection of essays about Shakespeare’s contemporaries. It looks like a keeper.  Check out: theshakespearecircle.com.

Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson is Head of Research and Knowledge for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and is also a multi-published author and editor of books to do (much ado) with Shakespeare. Both men are besottedly in love with Shakespeare and the love and the knowledge oozes out of their pores like fragrance from the myrtle (Gibran). 

So it was a love-in, a very rich, informed, dazzling love-in, with special emphasis on As You Like It, on our playlist for the evening, and on the Scottish Play (Mac-you-know), on our Stratford’s program for this season (2016), to be directed by the A.D. (Artistic Director) Antonini Cimolino, who was our host and discussion leader this morning.  Quelle richesse!

Scarcely time to grab a bite (I had a cuppa soup in my room with a purloined slice of bread and cheese from the breakfast table – “coldly furnished forth”) before we boarded the bus to take us to the afternoon performance of Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, the Irish playwright (British born and bred) who sprang a full-blown playwright in his 20s with a series of stunning (world hit) plays. After a stage silence of some 12 years, during which he wrote for film and TV (?), he has come up with another stunner, deemed one of the top ten plays of 2015. 

Talk about gallows humour, Hangmen is exactly that; it’s a black black funny play about a retired hangman, hung (pardon the expression) out to dry by the abolition of hanging in 1965, running a bar and enjoying a kind of fame among his customers.  When I first read about it, I thought of John Millington Synge, one of my favourite playwrights, and of his play, The Playboy of the Western World, (1907), one of my favourite plays, cited in the program notes with its similar message: “state violence is only made possible by the tolerance of an entire population”.

Does that make you think of Ursula LeGuin and her unsettling story about the child in the basement? I’ll deal with that another time. I still have a play to go before yesterday was over.

I had a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers before we went off to the evening performance of As You Like It at the National Theatre, in the Olivier playhouse, such a marvelous complex.  I must say, it’s wonderful to be taken to the theatre - no hassle with driving or finding one’s way or parking – one of the great perks of a theatre tour like this.  As someone who can’t find her way out of a paper bag, I really appreciate it.

SOW, I tried that as an exercise on a class of very young children I was talking to (in a Playwrights in the Schools program, a service of the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada).  I found very large brown paper grocery bags (not easy to find but necessary; you wouldn’t give anyone a plastic bag to pull on) and invited them to put them on and then find/fight their way out.  What a revelation of character!  There are as many ways to find a way out of a paper bag as there are individuals to attempt it. You should try it. But I digress.

Polly Findlay, the director of the production we saw last night, has an awesome list of credits, so I knew we were in the hands of someone who knew what she was doing.  The Forest of Arden becomes a forest of hanging chairs and desks. as the characters escape the confines of the office and regulations and authority.  I can’t go into details about the performances because I have to have some breakfast before I get on the bus again to begin today’s revelations. 

I just want to say a word about the cleaning staff; they deserve a round of applause and probably overtime pay for the work involved in cleaning up the stage after this play, and not only the stage.  I saved some of the coloured paper that fell on the audience to show you.  I sprinkled it on my desk and took a picture with my Pad, but then my technological illiteracy hindered me from passing it on.  I’ll still try but porridge awaits.

Anon, anon.

 

 

free day

I didn’t realize how spoiled I was by the musicals at the Stratford, Festival in Ontario until last night. I went to a West End production of Guys and Dolls (1950; music and lyrics by Frank Loesser; book by Abe Burrows), at the Savoy Theatre, transferred from Chichester where it was a smash hit.  Compared to Stratford’s achievements with its two musicals every summer, it was an amiable high school production.

I mention its provenance in Chichester because the set had been designed for that thrust stage (inspired by Stratford’s stage created by the British stage designer Tanya Moisiewitsch), a thrust, not a proscenium, stage, as you no doubt know. So the G&D set was squeezed in and pushed downstage a little uncomfortably. However, the sewer setting of the crucial crap game worked its magic for the Crapshooters’ Dance.

It’s not that the show wasn’t good, or professional or entertaining.   And it’s not that I don’t like it.  Guys and Dollsranks as one of my all-time favourite musicals of the 20th century; I know all the lyrics by heart. (I restrained myself from singing along.)  It’s just that the Stratford Festival, always considered a designers’ theatre (as well as an actors’),  is so rich and lavish and generous that other shows shrink beside it.  It was a good thing it was Rabbie Burns Day and most of our Group congregated after the show in the name of the Bard, at least, I did, for the Bard, I mean.  I had my wee dram of Glenfiddich so the evening was not flat.

Today is – flat - but I don’t mind.  Today is a Free Day set in the midst of this feast of theatre and art.  I have friends and observers who marvel at my ability to continue to travel and do things. (“At her age! Isn’t it remarkable!”)  Let me tell you, my free days are not adventures, they are respites.  In a way, they are forced but I don’t mind.  After all, I admit, I am old and I do get tired. Also I don’t have a lot of money so I can’t spend it on extra excursions, or dinners:  I am alone and I don’t want to eat alone in a beautiful (expensive) restaurant. I have a terrible sense of direction and I am capable of getting totally lost in Toronto so why push my luck in London?  As for London’s Eye, Europe’s largest Ferris Wheel, you couldn’t pay me to ride it, not with my terror of heights.

So you see, my Free Day is very free. Today I have worked hard at another staggering British cryptic crossword; I had a nap; I have read my programs and newspapers and my email (one of the great perks of computers, that you take your baggage along with you) with an offer of some reading gigs down the road; I had a cuppa soup made from a package activated with water boiled in my hotel room’s kettle, along with some bread and cheese I brought up from my breakfast-included; I washed a little lingerie (hardly lingerie, just a couple of cotton pants, NOT thong, but a cut above bloomers – I told you I’m old). 

Now I am going to go for a walk, not too far, or I’ll get lost.  You’ll be the first to know if you don’t hear from me.

Anon, anon.

happy Rabbie Burns day

I wonder if I can find some single malt Scotch....

We’re going to Guys and Dolls tonight.. It’s one of my favorite musicals ever. It will be interesting to see/hear what Brits do with Damon Runyon’s words and the NY accent – although they did fine yesterday with New York Jewish accents.  I’m not pushing too much between our laid on program; I have a healthy respect for my age and stamina. I have a book on my mini-reader, I have newspapers, I have British crosswords, and here are a couple of people in he Group that I know, though, as a single, I do not try to intrude on a couple’s togetherness.

The weather has been incredibly good, actually up to 16 C. yesterday, going to 13 today, and dry.  The world is tilting.

I’m writing before the performance tonight because I do intend to find a single malt Scotch somewhere after the show, and someone to drink it with? I’ll let you know.

 

surfeit

It’s too soon for surfeit.  Day One is drawing to an end, and so am I.  We had the morning off and I wrote letters and tried British Crossword puzzles, which are very difficult.  I even tried one in Latin – got two slots filled.  We had lunch at the Menier Chocolate Factory, no longer a factory but a restaurant and theatre, seating about 230 people, with a great track record.  A number of shows, mostly musicals, have transferred to the West End from here, and the one we saw today will be no exception, slated for the Savoy in March, and after six months, possibly New York. 

Funny Girl has not been produced in the UK since 1966.  Barbra Streisand put her stamp on the show and no one has dared to mount a major production without her. Now a British actor, Sheridan Smith, has put her own spin on a somewhat different version of the original script; the book has been revised by Harvey Fierstein. We met backstage with Ms. Smith and with the actors playing her mother, Marilyn Cutts, and her man, Darius Campbell.  (At last! a gorgeous tall man who can sing.)  It is a different spin: Streisand really is a funny girl and she could never resist a good line. The line often trumped the character. Sheridan Smith puts more pathos into her interpretation, helped by the plot clarification at the end of the play.  Of course, she can’t sing like Streisand, but she belts out her songs with emotion.

I hate the knee-jerk standing ovations that audiences tend to give now, at least in North America but I was happy to stand and applaud Sheridan Smith.  Watch for her.

It was another rich meal, called a lunch, more like dinner, and I don’t feel like eating now.  Perhaps I can go and find a bowl of soup to hold me for the night. Tomorrow, failing my swim, I will try to find time and a place to walk. We start the day, however, with “an in-depth look at the country we are visiting – the politics and social issues of the day, a discussion with the political columnist Martin Kettle of The Guardian.”

Maybe I can walk in the afternoon.  Anon, anon.

 

blog today and blog tomorrow but no blog yesterday

I was moving my body through time and space yesterday and my mind just had to catch up as best it could. The train from Brighton to London took an hour longer than its regular schedule because of work on the tracks (weekend). Since I gave up my car I have used and enjoyed buses and trains a lot. This English train was just fine and two delightful women who helped me when I needed it.  Midlife mothers, one with 3 children, the other with 2, friends since girlhood, were enjoying a get-away in the city.  I didn’t inquire, or talk, too much on the train because that time belonged to them.  I missed Arundel Castle on the way by because the visibility was very short-range.  I dozed and read and did not eavesdrop.

Well, you know the routine: check-in, unpack (I’m here for 7 days), something to eat (delicious soup), a rest, a bath, meeting the Group, champagne and a briefing (not very brief), and dinner, also delicious but very rich, plus good conversation with interesting people.  So I was wiped and went to bed before 9 p.m.  And that’s why my blog is blah today.  I have more to tell my diary because I can fill it with noodges.  Blogs are not for nagging.

Today is just barely today; I may be back before it’s over.

Hove actually

Brighton/Hove seem like twin cities but they are one and the same place, population 273,400 (in 2011). Hove is supposed to be the upscale part of Brighton.  Sir Lawrence Olivier is quoted as correcting someone who commented that he lived in Brighton: “Hove, actually,” in his best upper-class tone.  My cousins live in Hove (of course).

Today they took me to their seaside club in Brighton, the HDSA, Hove Deep Sea Anglers, founded by a policeman in 1909 to enable eager fishermen to fish out from the shingle (they call it but it’s stones) beach.  Rain and wind prevented us from sitting on the patio looking out at the ocean waves, but a goodly crowd inside warmed their cockles with lager and lunch, specializing in fish, esp. fish and chips. I had battered cod and chips; my cousin Beth had kipper; Cousin Tim had grilled plaice.  A well-behaved white poodle watched its owner. A caregiver withdrew a little boy whose eyes were level with the playing surface of the pool table as he watched the balls careering  about, for fear that he get smacked with a shot,  or maybe she was worried that his chin might drip onto the green field. I just watched and soaked up local atmosphere and hot tea with a biscuit.

After lunch we checked the local train station where I bought a ticket to London for tomorrow (more anon).  Then at Waitrose (supermarket, a chain) I bough tBath Oliver biscuits for a friend in Canada (because you can’t get them there) and a couple of bottles of good French wine for my cousins that made me want to stay over and share them.

We had afternoon tea at home; I checked my mail, had a nap, didn’t help with dinner (fish pie) and talked.  Maybe it doesn’t sound exciting to you but I don’t have many contemporaries left and I enjoy talking to them.   At that, I’m a little older than they are, but we are the same era and we share some family memories.  I  loved being with them.

Tomorrow I begin the cultural pace of my trip.

food glorious food

At least it used to be. Glorious.

I have arrived safely in England after a long flight from Toronto, not first-class, of course. I don’t think it makes much difference. I flew Cathay Pacific first-class from Toronto to Singapore last year to begin my almost-round-the-world cruise (one of the perks granted to us “world-travellers” as they called us) and I slept in one of those fascinating stretch-out beds.  Slept is not the right word. I didn’t sleep any better there than I did last night in my Economy three-to-a-row chair. I dozed; time passed. I also slept on the bus from Heathrow Airport to Brighton (“Hove, actually”) to visit some cousins before I begin my theatre odyssey.  Buses are like cradles to me, but I digress.

I tell you all this because we ate on the plane. That is, we were given something to eat. We didn’t have to order it in advance on a credit card as we do on domestic flights. (Nachos and cheese for a an outrageous price!) Dinner came on a tray, choice of chicken or mac and cheese.  Chicken, please. plus a teeny bottle of red or white, also my choice. And that’s when I became very nostalgic.

Years ago there was a  first-class flight in North America that sold out before economy.  The Canadian airline, now defunct, ran it between Vancouver and San Francisco and it took about the same amount of time as was required to consume and enjoy a gourmet dinner with appropriate wines. The champagne would be poured as the plane took off; the liqueur was being rolled around the tongue as the plane landed .   It was delightful and I thought of it last night as I munched my chicken, enjoying the  memory more than the dry meat or the “savoury” rice.

The good thing about that memory is that it can never be duplicated; the bad thing is that it can never be duplicated.  It spoiled my dinner last night.  The good/bad thing, depending on how you look at it, is that it makes a carnivore a carnivore. and a wine drinker an oenophile.

“There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  (Hamlet, of course.) Or a very good memory.

 

 

halfway between then and now

I wouldn’t say I’m nervous, exactly, but there’s a lot of adrenalin pumping around that I’m not quite sure what to do with. I have been so efficient (question is, what have I forgotten?) that I think I’m ready to leave, but it’s not time to leave, so I could write my blog now, that is, if I had anything to say. By tonight (on the plane) or tomorrow (on a bus) or at my cousin’s place, in Brighton, I’ll have more to say but I’ll be too tired or distracted to think clearly.  I can hear someone say, when did you ever think clearly?  It’s true, I am a parabolic thinker; that means either that my thinking proceeds in  a circle like a parabola above my brain, OR that I think in parables, like Aesop or Jesus.    

Right now I’m just tap-dancing.

Perhaps I’ll check in later today.

Anon, anon.  I think I just added my new haircut, but then again, maybe not.

try me in the dark with the light behind me

I will try to stay awake long enough to check in. here. I had a haircut today, a good one. My friend and mentor, Richard, says I look like Louise Brook. (Look her up.) Not me, the haircut.  My friends who took me for dinner tonight as a “waving from the banks” gesture, say I look YOUNGER.  Not really.  It’s trompe l’oeil, is all.

 (ORIGIN French, literally ‘deceives the eye.’)

 And that makes me think of all the ads on TV now trying to persuade women to use their product to reduce wrinkles.  No, not to reduce wrinkles, rather to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It’s pretty subtle but the wording protects them from an accusation of false advertising.  They all do it; it’s smoke and mirrors.  Don’t look. Don’t look now but those are pearls that were her eyes, or whatever. 

I remember reading a cute line by a stand-up comic who was mocking female cosmetics, that a thin layer of Crisco would achieve for the skin what all the sheep’s embryos and mare’s urine promise to do. Yes, well. Hard to absorb – not the mare’s urine but the implication of the comment – for a woman who has been persuaded that her only value lies in her (youthful, beautiful) appearance.  We’ve all been psyched, to some extent, and we’ve bought it .  The comic, BTW, was male.

I had good strong skin and it lasted pretty well.  As I aged and people kept saying I didn’t look whatever age I had achieved by that point, I was cheered by  Gloria Steinem who, when she reached 40 and said so, parried the protests that she didn’t look 40, with the great line, “This is what 40 looks like”,  meaning that women over 40 and even over 50, kept saying they were 39, and of course, they didn’t look it. Sixty isn’t the new 40 nor does it look like it, ever.

As a semi-public (meaning not very well-known) person, I have always let my publicist, when I had one, tell my age.  I backed into a scintilla of fame and had no choice before it was too late. So what? I aged, not in leaps and bounds but in a series of evolutionary plateaux. I think you go along looking much the same for four or five years and then wham! it’s like snakes and ladders and you slide down a snake into the next pit- old age, well, older age. Somewhere along the way, I decided that it was easier to try to be pretty than to be young. For a while, anyway.

Too late now.  Neither pretty nor young, Great haircut though.

Tomorrow I fly to London. I have to go to sleep now. Tomorrow is another day.

blogging on

I’ve been going over possible markets, aka targets, to aim my work at.  It’s discouraging, not to say daunting, because the descriptions and eligibility criteria eliminate so many of them for me even to consider approaching.

For starters, a description might read “for Alberta residents only”.  Of course, that lets me out because I don’t live in Alberta.  Or this one:  “for LGBT”.  IMHO, I don’t qualify, I mean, I’m broadminded but I don’t have anything useful, significant or touching to say.  The one that kills me, though, is “for emerging writers”.

One thing I’m not is “emerging”.  That hurts. I begin to feel as if I’m submerging.  More like surviving.  But what good does it do?  Almost every contact I had is either retired or dead.  I’m still here, but no one else is, or if they are, they won’t admit it. 

I still have a lot to say.  There must be someone out there who would like to listen.

I’ll think about that tomorrow.