All Work and More Play

 

It was weeks ago that I wrote about being given the part of the Dame in the local pantomime show. The rehearsals for that seemed to be endless, culminating in four very successful and well attended performances. All who took part felt that after so much work had gone into bringing the whole thing together that four performances seemed far too few. It was not only myself that felt empty after the last show, everyone who had taken part had that feeling of ‘What do we do now?’  I should not have been too concerned, however.  No sooner had I removed the greasepaint from my face than I was persuaded to attend a reading for the group’s next production, Tartuffe by Molière.  What a difference in dialogue!

The last time I read anything by Molière was for O Level exams over fifty years ago. Fortunately, for this production the text will be an English translation.  Even so, the play is rather ‘wordy’ and I shall have to work hard to learn my part for the April performances, and my short term memory at my age is no longer what it was.  Nevertheless, the sheer enjoyment I shall get in performing this will be a huge departure from the terror that faced me when I sat that French literature exam all those years ago.

Moliere_tartuffe

‘Le scandale du monde est ce qui fait l’offense,
Et ce n’est pas pécher que pécher en silence.’

To create a public scandal is what’s wicked;
To sin in private is not a sin.

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All the Fun of the Fair

 

Maybe it’s just my age but the magic of Christmas doesn’t seem so…well, magical as it used to be.  The commercialisation of the season, which seems to start earlier every year (I’m pretty sure I heard the usual music Christmas singles in a supermarket in October), does not help.  There is a frantic rush to get things done: shopping, wrapping presents, writing and posting cards and having more than enough food stockpiled even though shops are only closed for the one day.  The chilled (literally, before global warming), simple family Christmas get-togethers seem to be a thing of the past.

They say children make the Christmas festival more special, as the excitement of what Santa is going to bring them is infectious. Others will point out that the true meaning of Christmas diminishes year by year, and they would be right.

My daughters are now in their twenties and of an age where they are independent people, with their own circle of friends and work colleagues.  So I always look forward to the times we can get together for a day out or a holiday.  We met up two days ago in London with a plan to have a pre-Christmas meal together and maybe a bit of shopping. Not far from where we arranged to meet up, there was a massive Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  Now, I’m not a great fan of funfairs and I was rather dismayed when they both said that we ought to check out what it was like. I wasn’t keen but it was Christmas after all. But I was more than pleasantly surprised at what awaited us. Not only were there exotic (and frightening) rides of such complexity, it was hard to grasp that these were actually temporary structures. The vast area of the site contained all manner of Christmas stalls and food outlets, plus several German beer halls, music and entertainers.  We had a lot of fun, eating, drinking, singing and dancing, and I was so glad that they had persuaded me to go.  So, it seems not to matter how old they become – children really do make Christmas special. Well, they did for me.

Winter Wonderland – Hyde Park

 

Christmas is Coming!

winterIsComing_00

It did not seem that long ago that I was thinking how far off it was to Christmas, and bemoaning the fact that the shops already had Christmas, cards, gifts, crackers, wrapping paper, Christmas puddings and mince pies on sale, when the big day was ages away. And then suddenly it was December, cold weather was upon us and snow was falling, and as if to add a further prompt to my lassitude in respect of Christmas preparations, the  first Christmas cards arrived through the letterbox.  I wouldn’t say that panic had set in but it was as if I had been jolted from a daydream and I felt left behind.

It happens every year of course, and I probably wouldn’t have it any other way. Too far in advance and for me the impact of the festive season is lost somewhat come the twenty fifth of December. The need to be out and about, in and out of shops, trying to decide what to buy and for whom; remembering who to send cards to, all make for a bit of excitement for the season, which sadly diminishes the further we progress beyond childhood.

This year, having already been to two Christmas parties and with a third on Monday, I can say that I am finally in festive mood, as opposed to the humbug attitude of a month ago.  Some say that Christmas is for children and especially when your own offspring are still tiny and absorbed in the magic of it all.  That’s as maybe, but I’m more inclined in my advanced years to throw myself more into the spirit of it all, even to the extent of this year wearing a loud Christmas jumper, and dancing till I drop at the parties. If you can’t beat them, join them!

December arrived with a cold blast

As though someone had left the door ajar,

Letting a draught blow through. The past

Month had shown no sign of change. Far

From being cold, a mild front had swept

Across the country. Warm sunshine

Continued to fool me, and I kept

Thinking Christmas was far away: time

Was on my side. Then snow and ice came

And I realised I had to get my skates on.

(Figuratively speaking)

Only myself to blame.

 

Words Fail Me!

I wrote a few weeks back about my having the part of the dame in the local pantomime production which is now only a few weeks away.  Well, I thought I had learned all the words and felt quite prepared to strut my stuff across the stage. What a difference though when the stage directions were introduced, and the costumes, and the props! Concentrating on all of that, left me at a loss for my lines and made me feel rather foolish. Clearly it’s not just about learning lines but about ‘performance’ – if I can put it like that.  Then, of course, there will be the confrontation with a paying audience to cope with, when I hope that everything will come together.

Mind you, it’s not the first time that I’ve ventured onto the stage, but it was a very long time ago when I was much younger and the old grey cells had a much greater capacity to multi-task.

With all the fun and celebration that December brings Pantomime is an essential tradition which is always welcome, especially for children. And I’ve just remembered that there are a lot of children in this production of Ali Baba which I have yet to encounter. One more aspect to take on board!  It will be alright on the night.

December arrives

Officially Winter

Greying skies

Sun’s rays splinter

Growing pale

Air much colder

Winter’s Tale

Says it bolder

Time to enjoy

In darker time

The endless joy

Of pantomime

 February snow 010

 

 

The Spirit of Level Playing Fields

I recently checked out the results of a writing competition I entered a few months ago and was dismayed yet again to discover that the first prize had been won by a well established writer with a string of publications and awards, a lecturer in creative writing etc etc. The prize was a week at a residential writing retreat and a great incentive for we aspiring writers, but I’m not sure what this particular winner was hoping to gain from this type of prize. So, why enter and leave little hope for the rest of us? It’s like Usain Bolt turning up at his kid’s school sports day to see if he can win a trophy in the parents’ race.

I’m not saying the winning piece was not good. It was excellent, and why wouldn’t it be? It just doesn’t seem fair not to give lesser mortals a fighting chance. It is a fact that very few make a living out of writing. But for those that do, please give the rest of us a break.

OK, this is a whinge and a classic cry of ‘It’s not fair!’  But as the saying goes: ‘All’s fair in love and war.’ I have to ask myself  would I continue to enter smaller competitions if I were a successful professional writer? I suppose the answer must be ‘Yes’. So it is mere envy that I feel. I should therefore use this to spur me on to greater things.  Not the usual incentive I seek!

 

A Fine Balance

My creativity can be measured

As a point in which the clarity

Of mind allows a freeing flow

Of finely focused thought.

My usual relaxation is a leisured

Glass (or two) of wine, but parity

A balance, as all of us should know,

Is a goal that is not easily sought.

 

And a soothing picture to calm me down:

Leith

Safe Haven

I’ve been in my current house for just about a year now and have been able to study the seasonal changes in the garden here in the eastern counties of England. It was last year that I decided a lot of vegetation and shrubs which had been neglected for some time would need cutting back.  One of these was a fairly large mahonia tucked into the far corner of the back garden.  The appearance of bright yellow spikes of flowers, however, gave it a late reprieve from my saw and shears.  It was a welcome splash of colour on grey autumnal days.

mahonia

Despite this attraction, its spiky foliage is hazardous when tending to other adjacent plants, and its increase in growth was such that I determined to take drastic measures in reducing it this year.  That was until I discovered the blackbird’s nest tucked deep within. Such a secure, safe and secluded place to choose.  I have assumed that this will be a favoured nesting place next spring, and so the mahonia survives intact once more.  I shall therefore just stand back and admire its flamboyant show.

Intricacies of weave and weft

With twigs and leaves and moss,

Fashioned as a chalice. Deft

Beak building skill. I’m at a loss

To understand this artistry,

Which for me remains a mystery.

 

Backdrop

Peruvian Andes

I was considering changing the backdrop to my Twitter page but then remembered the exact moment when I took the picture, which is part of the Andes range in Peru.  It was in May 2014 when I went on a holiday I had wanted to take for about fifty years, and finally achieved in my retirement.  A sort of pilgrimage.

On the same trip I visited Machu Picchu and later came across poems by Pablo Neruda, with wonderful imagery and descriptions of the magical and mystical ancient Inca kingdom: Alturas de Macchu Picchu.

Y el aire entró con dedos

de azahar sobre todos los dormidos:

mil años de aire, meses, semanas de aire,

de viento azul, de cordillera férrea,

que fueron como suaves huracanes de pasos

lustrando el solitario recinto de la piedra.

 

My translation which does not do justice to Neruda’s language is:

 

And the air came in with fingers
of orange blossom over all those who slept:
a thousand years of air, months, weeks of air,
of blue wind, of iron cordillera,
that were like gentle hurricane footsteps
polishing the lonely boundary of stone.

 

So the background picture remains as a beautiful reminder of a beautiful moment in my life.