Thursday, 18 April 2019

I find myself again with my dear old friend, William Shakespeare…

I never thought to hear you speak again.
Shakespeare: Henry IV, part II (IV.v.90)

I was walking back into the arms of a lifelong friend – sadly, one not seen for quite some time. Hence the ferocity, sincerity, and length of the resulting hug. I wasn’t quite sure why I was there, though, to be honest. Although I had enjoyed the plays I had (relatively) recently seen him perform in – Henry IV, part I, Henry IV, part II, and Death of a Salesman – I was not a major fan of Antony Sher; and his presence on stage is therefore usually not enough to pull me in.

This is not why I had avoided his King Lear, though: that was because Michael Pennington’s incredible inhabitation of the role had ‘spoiled’ the play for me: in much the same way as Pippa Nixon’s perfection (in 2013, goodness me!) had ‘ruined’ the RSC’s current production of As You Like It. Which is one reason why a short run of a new two-hander was the occasion for my re-entry into the RSC’s hallowed headquarters – particularly to be enfolded in the arms of my favourite theatre, the Swan – rather than one of Will’s very, very best, in the main auditorium.

With being away from the place for so long, physically and mentally – I had bought too many tickets in the interim, only to cancel them again and again at the last moment because of my health… – I wasn’t aware that Kunene and the King (directed by Janice Honeyman) even existed. However, Michael Billington’s perspicacious review lit a spark deep inside me. Although it would take a while for the kindling to fully ignite.

Monday, 25 June 2018

For going out, I found, was really going in…

Yesterday – coupled with a developing desire to prove my brittle body once more able – the weather beckoned me far beyond the longing windows of home: with the high-cloud-shrouded sun at my back, and a sluggish breeze easing its surging heat. My first thought upon fastening the garden gate was of the church as objective; but primal instinct pushed me further – to revisit last year’s iterative ascent through Tysoe Hangings, and onwards to Upton House. With every initially uncertain step taken with conscious pain and caution, I crossed the main road close to Church Farm Court; eased my rucksacked self through the metal gate; and prayed that my body (and resolve) would be resilient enough. All I could do was walk, and discover if I could also achieve my heart’s desire….

Where, last year, there had been wheat, was now linseed (and where there was linseed – on the plateau beyond Sugarswell Cottages – I would find wheat): a four- to five-year rotation that seems increasingly fashionable and profitable. Sandy soil under this brilliant cobalt crop was beginning to fissure, though; and the meadow’s margins were dune-like in their desiccation. (Even in so sparse a crop, skylarks nested: their sweet purling such a soothing soundtrack.)

Friday, 22 June 2018

Eat, prey, fluff…

It is an overwhelming and life-affirming privilege to share the existence of another sentient creature: one devoted to you, and dependent on you, to such a large extent that the alliance rapidly becomes symbiotic. Such a relationship has to be based on mutual trust, as well as love, though; and both parties have to be frank as to what to expect from each other; what they will need; and how much time and affection they are able and willing to give. That so much of this goes (and has to go) unsaid should be no impediment (in fact, to some, this may seem to strengthen the bond…) – even though many would preach the value of constant open communication in cementing any such connection.

For those who respect and love animals there can be no bigger thrill than one coming to you of its own free will, understanding what you are trying to communicate, and trusting you not to harm it.
– Claire Bessant: The Cat Whisperer

That I am writing about the association of human and feline may well prompt derision from some quarters; but the majority, I hope, will innately grasp the truth at the heart of this hypothesis. [As I type, Felix, the characterful dark tabby who prompted the above, is curled up tightly next to me, dreaming: as genial and graceful a proof of vulnerability, faith, and commitment, as I think you may find. He knows no hurt will come to him here; and his credence and company, in return, both comfort and calm me – despite the plethora of hairs wisping over my keyboard and screen…. He is therefore the ideal companion for someone as disabled as myself: especially as I am currently confined to home (even) more than what passes for usual, fighting (and perhaps finally starting to subdue) a variety of maladies….]

Monday, 28 May 2018

A sequence of opticalimericks…

A diminutive detachment of double-quick-drafted ditties… to thank the wonderful people at Dr C P Grey Opticians for being so friendly and considerate.

A helpful opticians named Greys
Took all of my glasses to glaze:
     As, transpiring with age,
     My view of the page
Is blurred, like a work of Monet’s.

I need quite a large range of specs
As my long and short sight are both wrecks:
     So some are for local;
     My best – varifocal –
Can see, though, the tick and T Rex.

I have goggles for typing and Tweeting,
And others for reading and eating.
     The former are focused
     At a tad further locus;
The latter are much nearer meeting.

My eyewear for outside must fade,
Or at least be a much darker shade:
     As I can’t face the light
     When it’s overly bright;
But at night I can unbarricade.

Making a spectacle of myself… – or something….

Monday, 14 May 2018

Paradise Regained…

So let extend thy mind o’er all the world,
In knowledge, all things in it comprehend.

It was an email from my good friend Paolo that did it. Not directly, of course. Just a little nudge; which, in turn, morphed into a diminutive, but nagging, suggestion; which, gnawing at a widening area of brain-cells, wouldn’t let go. Thirty minutes later, I had changed into some light walking trousers, a thin T-shirt, and a medium-weight fleece. (Although the only marks in the sky were man-made – the number of planes travelling over Tysoe having seemingly increased in the last year or so – the Met Office warned of northerly twelve mile-an-hour winds: making seventeen Celsius feel like fourteen.)

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A designer who was also an engraver…

I hope, dear reader, that you may be one of my descendants, but I have only three children, my grandfather had six and as I write a German aeroplane has circled round above my head taking photographs of the damage that yesterday’s raiders have done, reminding me that there is no certainty of our survival.
     If you are not one of my descendants then all I ask of you is that you love the country as I do, and when you come into a room, discreetly observe its pictures and its furnishings, and sympathise with painters and craftsmen.
– Tirzah Garwood: Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood

After three extended, extremely leisurely and exhaustive visits to Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship (English Artist Designers 1922-1942) – Compton Verney’s latest wondrous, desire-indulging display (of everything from the smallest hand-carved print-stone to a documentary on a now bomb-ruinated mural) – I had already discerned that much more time would need to be spent there (at least to produce this ‘not a review’); but that, even then, my absorption and adoration would, could… never be quenched. In fact – apart from experiencing, in the flesh, Janet Baker singing in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (which I am fortunate to have so done) – I had quickly grasped that, as a resolute atheist, this is quite probably the closest to any divine being (albeit as evoked by the most tempting graven images) that I shall ever come. The thought of its absence – as with Moore Rodin, at the same venue – although amplifying my attentiveness – rapidly causes my vision to blur.

This, then, is more a personal response than a review. Especially as – never having seen Ravilious’ watercolours in the flesh before – I was initially too overwhelmed to delineate my reactions. What I will say is that we are immensely fortunate that such a wonderful facility as Compton Verney exists (and on Tysoe’s doorstep, too) in which to exhibit them: and I would, therefore, encourage everyone based locally to go (at least twice: there are so very many riches on show) as soon as they are able. You may not see them in the same way, the same light, as I (which is, of course, A Good Thing); but I guarantee that you will find at least beauty… – as well, I hope, as a personal connection that lingers for a very long time afterwards.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

A double whammy (of hits and histamine…)

Two migraines at once is a massive achievement:
Like banging your head on the wall, then the pavement.
One stems from the nerves that are totally frizzled;
The other from food that I shouldn’t have sizzled.

Please click on the two ‘Poems’ tabs, above, for more of the same (and even more of the different…)!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

What air’s from home…

Sometimes – and sometimes more fittingly than we may care to observe… – Mother Nature schedules her tasks and happenings more fruitfully and frequently (and therefore with much more granularity) than simply the succession of seasons obvious to even the most imperceptive of eyes. Waking late, yesterday morning, my habitual appraisal of the front garden, and the youngish oak which stands sentinel over it, revealed a large selection of cleanly-broken twigs on the green verges beneath, scattered by the recent sharp winds (harbingers, it seems, of yet more of Winter’s cold, unforgiving, grasp; and its reluctance to depart – despite Spring puncturing the jackstrawn turf with the tiny xanthous blooms of narcissus and primrose; and the local finches’ songs, above, swelling with Summer warmth…).

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none…

Until this musical year (because my health has become both a priority and a burden), on one Tuesday each month – and throughout that long day – you would have found me sat in Stratford ArtsHouse, behind the Orchestra of the Swan’s remarkable cello and double-bass sections, laptop or iPad (and keyboard) on my lap, basking in the splendour of their talent and sound: as they rehearsed for that evening’s concert; whilst I started to make notes for my ensuing review (despite frequent, extended drifts of concentration: when either those notes would be left untouched; or the score I was following would be left unturned).

Here was a refuge – and of the most glorious and comforting kind – away from the daily tribulations and devastations of disability. Here, my increasing deafness no longer mattered; nor my Asperger’s. I was amongst friends – people (impressively gifted ones, at that) who would not judge me, but would treat me as their equal (which I am not) – absorbed in some of the greatest creations (instruments and music) that humanity has managed to conjure up.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

I knew our music would allure him…

Sometime during last weekend, I came downstairs to find The Good Lady Bard transfixed by a recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on Classic FM – a piece much discussed (and played) in this household (as on this blog): especially the difference (on the soloist’s part, at least) between good and bad performances.

This was neither. In a nutshell, it was astonishing – the composure and control of the pianist far excelling any previous experience of this work (and with orchestral accompanists of the same impressive calibre). As TGLB said: even amongst all the virtuoso passages, and the swagger, the performer “sounds like they have all the time in the world”; adding that “they seem so relaxed: as if this is well within their capabilities; that they’re not being stretched, at all…” – and I had to agree. All those dense notes; and what could have been a struggle (or a muddle) rendered crisp, and yet remarkably heartfelt. Whoever was playing was at the top of their superlative game… – but this was not a version either of us had encountered before. I laughingly remarked that, in the more lyrical sections, it reminded me of either Martin Roscoe or Peter Donohoe playing Mozart; however, I was not aware – having listened to many (extremely different) recordings, whilst carrying out research (for the two concerts linked to, above) – of either of them having recorded this.