Remeniscing

Last night while relaxing, snugly before bed, with Classic FM playing on the air and the lights turned down low, an image from my childhood played before my minds eye. I lay thinking of when I was a child, no older than ten years old. I used to love dancing, to throw my arms and legs wildly around to the music, in no planned coordination. I used to whirl around my bedroom for hours, in my favourite red leotard stitched with gold tinsel. As gloaming approached, I whizzed my preadolescent body around the floor. I danced to (if you can believe it) my mum’s old 33 1/3 RPM’s, called The World of your 100 Best Tunes, which originated from a BBC radio programme. The LP’s featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade, (a piece of music that always sends me reminiscing when I hear it on the radio). Among others was Holst’s The Planets. My favourite of all the pieces is Uranus, The Magician, (it’s not played half as much as it should be!) The music is so theatrical! To my child’s mind the music imagined a fantastical parade of skeletons and wild beasts, overseen by a master who wore top hat and tails!

While thinking of this happy memory, lines from a poem by Ted Hughes, part of his award winning Birthday Letters, popped into my thoughts. The poems all address his marriage to his first wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The poem in question is called: God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark. I think it was the image of my younger self dancing and tinsel adorning my clothes that brought the lines of the poem to my mind.

‘You danced on in the dark house, Eight years old, in your tinsel. Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced… Then dancing wilder in the darkness…’

‘Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter –

With Hypnos caressing my eyes and Morpheus awaiting to lace my sleep with dreams, I decided to dig out the poem the next day, re-listen to Holst’s The Magician and write a post bringing them both together. Which I hope I have succeeded.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x


God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark

By Ted Hughes.

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

© 1998

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Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

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41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

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On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

30 Days Wild 2016 – Finale

o0OhgWNNI’m worried my 2016 30 Days Wild, will finish in a whimper. Last year, the end of June saw a heatwave hit the country and I sat out in the yarden until dusk, smelling the warm air and hearing the chatter of swallows. This year I am swaddled in layers of clothing and the sky has grown grey again with rain filled clouds.

But that hasn’t stopped me looking to add a bit more wildness to my life.

Day 29: Wednesday

Snapshot 4 (29-06-2016 14-52)I’ve been meaning to dance in the rain for some time now. So with rain pouring down in the morning, I set up my camera and filmed me doing a little jig. I even brought Artie out to join in! If anyone looked out of their window into our yarden, then they would have thought I’d totally lost it!

I also turned for last minute inspiration to the 30 Days Wild app, and one of the ‘101 random acts of wildness’ was, accessorise with flowers. So I clipped a passion flower to my hair.

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Day 30: Thursday

I was given a lovely guided tour of the alleyway behind my house, by my mum. It seems the council has left the ‘weeds’ to grow wild! I took some pictures in the hope of identifying them. Here’s what I found.

The fat cakes I made for the visiting birds, lasted a day! Below is a clip of the starlings enjoying them!

Another day off from work for David draws near. So I am busy planning the day for him :p (hee hee..)

I am thinking of visiting the Lake District again. There are three walks and swims I can do.

  1. Loughrigg fell – visit Grasmere, the caves at Rydal and after a climb, take a dip in Loughrigg tarn.
  2. Easedale tarn – from Grasmere, a gentle walk through countryside towards the glacial corrie.
  3. Derwentwater – walk towards Walla and Falcon crag, views over the lake before taking a dip.

Which walk/swim would you take?

Summary:

The weather this year has been poor (in relation to last years 30 Days Wild). June 2016 started hopeful with long days of hot sunshine, however mid way the weather turned decidedly British. I think this has had a detrimental affect on the number of  bees visiting the yarden and also the amount of baby birds seen this season.

Let’s hope that the weather picks up in July/August!

Though 30 Days Wild is a more focused period of time, nature will always feature heavily in my life and my blog. I find nature very therapeutic! This year, my interest in moths has been piqued. I will definitely try the light trap again. I just hope for some calmer, warmer weather so I can sit out during the night and hopefully capture the night time visitors to the yarden.

I have loved reading other 30 Days Wild blogs and following what wild activities they got up to this June. I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who has enriched my knowledge by sharing theirs.

Finally, wherever you are, I hope you have a wonderful summer! Maybe I’ll see you next 30 Days Wild?! Or you can continue to follow me as I drag David around the lakes of the UK!

Christine x

A Journey, The Winter’s Tale and Second Chances…

The Journey:

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Looking at the picture of Jonathan Firth and I, who I accosted outside of the stage door of the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. I have to admit that the resemblance to myself doesn’t seem real. Indeed the whole day had the essence of ‘fantasy’ to it and I think someone must have taken over my body as I was transported from my life in Liverpool to over the Pennines to Sheffield.

The day started like any other, David went to work while I had taken the day off so I could go to Sheffield, to the matinee and see Jonathan in William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. It is not my favourite play. Indeed I would like to see Jonathan play Macbeth, but that is my own fantasy.

David kissed me goodbye unbeknown what plans I had for the day. Last year we both went to Edinburgh, well David had to go as I demanded it! To see Jonathan play in Good Grief, but it was a disaster waiting to happen. I was so embarrassed to be watching the man I fantasied over while sitting with the man I shared my life with that I could not approach Jonathan at the Stage Door afterwards.

However, this time I vowed to myself that I would go. It was a second chance that I just had to take. I also had another reason to go too. I had to deliver all the lovely letters and messages of support to Jonathan from his Facebook fan page. I really couldn’t believe that I was the one playing ‘Hermes’, the messenger this time.

I managed to leave the house around 9.15am, all made up! I walked unsteadily on my four inch high heeled shoes; I wore them because I knew Jonathan was tall. Much taller than I! I said goodbye to my mum who said ‘I hope you get to see him!’ and made my way to the bus stop! Then I waited ages!! Well it seemed like ages. While I stood at the bus stop, the cold autumnal wind blew my hair about like medusa’s snakes; I dithered while holding the letters for Jonathan. Then the number 14 bus arrived (followed by many more as is always the case) and I dived on to it. It took me to Lime Street station. I had no time to get lunch so I bounded onto the on time, East Midland’s train to Norwich, which would take me to Sheffield and to Jonathan!

The sun in the North West of England was gleaming. It was a most beautiful autumn day. The wind was gusty but my spirits were lifted by the sun, azure sky and the lovely support from the other Jonathan Firth fans! My nerves struck around Manchester, but I swallowed my stress and just went with the flow!

Scenery flashed passed as the train made its way across country. City scape then the green vista of the Peak District opened up, beautiful countryside, herds of cows and lines upon lines of dry stone walls! The train’s conductor seemed a character!! He was on the PA system after Manchester saying ‘don’t squash your heavy items in the overhead lockers, or they can fall out and hit you on the head!’ He had me chuckling!

Sheffield:

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Before long I had arrived in Sheffield. I disembarked the train and then tried to find my bearings. I managed to get lunch of a Tuscan vege wrap and I ordered a café latte to go. I really needed the toilet, nerves and all but they were closed! So I had to just cross my legs and bear it. I followed my new Samsung Galaxy S3 sat nav, but I found that it was taking me away from the Crucible! Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to get lost and start panicking! So I had to rely on good old fashioned ‘asking’ people. I asked one guy but I didn’t think he was from Sheffield, so I asked a woman, who thought I was going for an interview. Did I look that severe? I found that her name was Margaret and she worked at Sheffield’s Radio Station. She was so kind and helpful that I have to mention her. She not only told me the way to the Crucible, she actually took me there! I am so blessed to have met her, and I thank her. I do hope she gets this message as I am most indebted to her. I was quite adrift when she met me. I was in a city I did not know, had technology that did not work and yet she welcomed me and guided me to my ‘rightful’ place. I thank you!

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I got to the theatre at 12 noon and before I headed to the Stage Door, I queued up at the Box Office for a programme as I thought, ‘if I am waiting at the Stage Door I may get other actors’ autographs too!’ The queue was long and it seemed to take ages for my turn. I was getting a bit impatient thinking, ‘I’m going to miss him at this rate!’ I paid my £3.50 for the programme and headed around the side of the theatre to the dreaded Stage Door!!

I had been in correspondence with the theatre for the past week. Ruth seemed particularly helpful and another person I should mention. She answered my query about how long the play was so I could plan my train journey accordingly. Then she sought out and gave me information on how to approach the Stage Door and enquiring about actors’ availability. Then if that wasn’t enough help, she updated me that production shots of Jonathan had been uploaded onto their website!!

The Stage Door:

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I have never actually been to a Stage Door. I have been past them, but never hung around nor entered them. I felt rather silly. I just do not do things like this! However in I went and met with a rather abrupt older woman who said to my request about Jonathan. ‘He’s not arrived yet. I don’t know his availability. You’ll just have to wait outside and see him when he arrives.’

‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘I was just doing what I was told,’ being a novice and all! So back out into the chilling wind I went. I could have left the letters for Jonathan at the desk but I thought it would be better me giving them to him personally, at least that way I’d know he got them. I waited just over half an hour, but with raging nerves and feeling oh so foolish, standing there being all fan like! It seemed much longer!

My plan of getting other actors’ autographs didn’t play out. A few just walked past me without a second glance. Though to be fair I was not one to shout up and wave my pen and programme under their noses. I saw Daniel Lapaine arrive, then go back out and then come back again with lunch. Barbara Marten walked in quietly. One actor arrived via bike; I think it was Keir Charles. He just looked at me distrustfully and Gareth Williams smiled at me.

Jonathan:

I half worried whether I would recognise Jonathan, or would he sneak past while I wasn’t looking? I had my head buried in my phone texting when I looked up and there he was standing (alone) across the road from me waiting for traffic to pass. I thought, ‘here we go, put your brain into gear Christine.’ I didn’t know how best to attract his attention, so I just stood there waving at him (he probably thought I was insane!) and then I approached him as he crossed the road. I said, ‘I’m Christine, from the Facebook fan site,’ but I don’t think he heard me so I had to repeat myself. I don’t even know if he caught my name? ‘I have some letters for you,’ I said and I gave him the envelope with the little booklet I made. I hope he enjoyed reading all the lovely words of encouragement we offered him?

‘Thank you,’ he said and then I discovered he was still eating his lunch! Ops! I apologised profusely while he took a bite of what looked like a muffin or a flap jack. Sorry Jonathan!

I was quite surprised at myself. I actually spoke to Jonathan without my heart beating fast, clammy palms syndrome or my mouth drying up leaving me with a stammer. I remained cool and collected and asked questions easily. I hope I came across that way to Jonathan? Maybe his account of our meeting would be different? Possibly I was an annoying fan who asked too many awkward questions while he wanted to hurry into the theatre to get ready for the performance? But for me it was ultimately a most pleasant experience. I had envisaged a ‘train wreck’ of a meeting, where I would be so star struck that all I could do would be to look down at the floor and not face him! Thankfully that was not the case and Jonathan did not carry the conversation, it was well balanced, and dare I say it seemed quite relaxed?

Jonathan asked me was I going to see the play. I said I was, the matinee as I had to go back home later that day. He asked me where I was sitting; I couldn’t remember the number and then I felt a bit silly for saying, ‘in the front row.’

He seemed interested in his fan based Facebook page, said we were ‘doing a good job’ and looks at it from time to time!! I informed him membership had doubled in a year and he laughed with me when I said I had been promoted to co-administrator! I mentioned he met Florence (the other admin) last year in Edinburgh and he said he ‘remembered.’

I asked Jonathan how he liked Sheffield and he said he was ‘living in a nice part of the city.’

‘In an apartment?’ I asked.

‘Yes, we (the actors) get a list of digs,’ he replied.

‘That’s good.’ I said, knowing nothing whatsoever about the workings of a theatre company.

It came about that I had travelled from Liverpool to see the play. ‘Liverpool?!’ Jonathan exclaimed. ‘Had I come by car?’

‘No train.’

‘How long did it take?’

‘One and a half hours, so not bad.’

‘Direct?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did I come on my own?’

‘Yes,’ and then I told Jonathan that I had gone to Edinburgh last year to see him but that my fiancé was with me and it was all ‘rather embarrassing.’ Jonathan didn’t say anything to that, he just looked at me! Possibly the conversation could have died there and then!

I knew I was keeping him from going about his work, but I just kept asking questions! So many questions to ask and so little time! I think I must have gone into ‘reporter’ mode. ‘What made you do Shakespeare again?’ I asked and that triggered Jonathan into talking about his career doing Shakespeare, Henry 6th and TV/radio work. I probably should have said I ‘loved’ him in Henry 4th, but I just stood smiling and listening to him. He seemed happy to be working at the Crucible, said the theatre had won accolades.

He asked me if I had seen ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ before.

‘I’ve read it,’ I said. Jonathan then went on to say it’s a long play, but that he gets to have fun in the fourth act. He was proud of what the director Paul Miller said about the cast.

‘The company was the best he’d worked with in 20 years.’ That is some acclaim!

I managed to get Jonathan’s autograph. I felt a little silly asking for it, but Jonathan was gracious. Luckily I already had the programme and he kindly signed the front. I didn’t read what he had written until after we had parted. He signed: ‘All the best. Thanks for coming.’ Which I thought was a nice touch. Thanks Jonathan!

He said the theatre hadn’t given the cast any programmes and that he was interested in what was inside. So I leafed through a few of the pages for him and then he laughed at his cast picture, saying it had been taken for Victoria and Albert. I looked up at him smiling and said.

‘I think you should get a new picture.’ He smiled in agreement. I think that was the best moment for me, it seemed light hearted and fun and Jonathan was very close to me! Maybe a bit too close!!

A little before that I had asked Jonathan if I could have my picture taken with him, which he kindly agreed too, though he seemed a bit worried that he hadn’t shaved! I hadn’t noticed actually! Of course at the time of asking, there was no one about! Then David Mallinson (in a nice hat), who plays Antigonus in the play (and meets an untimely demise at the jaws/claws of a bear!), approached the Stage Door. I just looked at him and Jonathan asked him if he could take our picture, which he kindly did! That was when I glimpsed the director in Jonathan. Not content with a lamp post in the picture he repositioned us to the middle of the pavement. I just followed and stood beside him and smiled as David took the picture. Jonathan said it was a nice picture and it is, at least we are both sporting toothy smiles, but I seem so small standing next to him, even with four inch heels, Jonathan seems rather larger than life!

I think I must have been talking to Jonathan for 10-15 minutes. I felt awful for taking up his time. I thanked him and we both spoke over our farewells as Jonathan rushed into the theatre and I to take stock of the encounter!

The Play:

The Crucible’s performance of The Winter’s Tale is over three hours long! However to me the time just flew!! Like every other Twitter comment and press review that came before, I must reiterate that the acting from all the cast was top notch and the delivery of the language was just perfect. The play rattled along at such a pace that I will probably be thinking about it for some time to come. When you see Shakespeare done well, you really feel it!

The stage design was simple yet effective and I must confess that I did covet some of the lovely dresses the female characters wore, especially Perdita’s gorgeous white dress in the final act, oh I want, I want!!

The Winter’s Tale, is a ‘strange play’, (borrowing Jonathan’s words there). With it’s fantastical ending, it’s like a fairy-tale, rather like my meeting with Jonathan seems to me now. It’s like two plays stitched together. To me it resembles a Gustav Mahler symphony. The tragedy of the first two acts is starkly contrasted by the light hearted humour in the fourth. Jonathan did look like he was having fun on stage as the ensemble danced and joked about during the sheep shearing festival. At one stage Jonathan, in breaches and red nosed disguise skipped past me, I didn’t know where to look!

The Crucible itself looks a small performance area. From my seat I was trying to picture the snooker championship that goes on there and wondered how they accommodate two full sized tables! I was well placed in the ‘front row’ and due to liking end seats, I was right next to one of the entrances the actors used, in fact at one point Jonathan ran past me as he made his way onto the stage!

As I visited the first matinee, the auditorium was half empty, or half full depending on your viewpoint. I presume the evening performances are better attended? I do hope so!

The slow menacing entrance of the ‘bear’ raised a small titter from the audience. I was expecting a brown bear as Bohemia is suggested to be in Europe, hence a European Brown bear, but what the costume department went for was more of a Black bear, or to me it even looked like a Spectacled bear! Either way, it was a cute addition!

It’s very hard to pick a standout performance as all the actors were fabulous! I particularly enjoyed Patrick Walshe McBride’s comic take on the young shepherd as a country bumpkin, especially his pronunciation of ‘see you these clothes?’ But you have to go and see the play to appreciate it. I shared a few uncomfortable glances with Keir Charles’ Autolycus as he stood right before me stuffing his purses down his pants. Again I didn’t know which way to turn! And Jonathan was just Jonathan, his command of the Shakespearean language I have always admired!

The Journey Home:

I felt quite saddened when the play ended. I was having such a good time being entertained by the cast. As the actors came out on stage for their ‘curtain call’, I wiped out my camera to film it. I got the slightest impression that Jonathan wasn’t best chuffed to see a camera being waved about in my hand. Though in my defence I want to capture every moment, especially once in a lifetime moments like this!

As the lights brightened and the audience began to mill out, I checked my phone and saw the time was 5.15pm! If I was quick I may have time to catch the 5.40pm train home! Otherwise it would mean hanging around another hour! Could I do it? Find my way back to the train station this time without getting lost? As I left the Crucible I noticed it had been raining, the floor was wet, but thankfully the rain had stopped. I was reluctant to leave Jonathan but as I left the theatre I said a solemn farewell, almost like a prayer.  I thank him for being perfectly wonderful to me.

Rushing in high heeled shoes is not conducive to looking good, so I waddled like a penguin back the way Margaret had shown me almost five hours previously. And did I reach the station in time? Yes! Did I get the right train? Yes! Though at first I thought I had not as I sat there for half an hour as the train carried me forwards in a bubble of silence. There was no PA system saying the next station would be Stockport until we were in Stockport! Then I relaxed.

I had imagined I would come home all tearful after visiting Sheffield and meeting with Jonathan, but on the contrary I did not. I felt quite blessed to have had the experience. I had met with some kind and helpful people in Sheffield and Jonathan had been lovely! I was proud of myself for doing something so out of my comfort zone! It showed me that I can do anything I put my mind to!

I now smile to myself as I remember reading my diary written when I was just 19 and in my first flush of ‘desire’ for Jonathan. My young, innocent self had scrawled ‘I wish I could meet him.’ I can now safely say I did, ‘but only 18 years later!’