Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Rewards

Went on a bit of an iTunes rampage this evening, downloading stuff by Messiaen, Vaughan Williams, Peter Hammill (2 of the solo albums) and Yes (the extended version of Fragile, an album which, astonishingly, I don't think I've ever actually possessed, despite knowing every note.)

Not entirely sure why I went a bit crazy, but I think the newfound pleasure of listening over the earphones to music from my phone played some little part in all this. (Today I completely lost myself in Toru Takemitsu's brilliant score for Ran over a cup of tea and felt very jolly indeed doing so.) I suppose also that in some deeply infantile way I was rewarding myself for surviving recent travails, but I'm not sure I want to admit this to myself, even though I just did so.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Something I Forgot

Have enjoyed some outstanding discussions of items in the news in Pastoral Care lessons this year - and learnt a lot myself. Today's was no exception, a remarkably thoughtful, thought-provoking forty minutes or so on the way we respond to news of human tragedies and the aptness, or otherwise, of those responses.

In closing the lesson I felt it incumbent on me to remind us all, myself included, of the sad reality that the world is so often a terrible place and the human condition is one of pain and suffering and sadness. But I forgot to express the corresponding truth that the world is also a place of astonishing, magical beauty and that happiness is as inevitable as pain.

Blake: Without contraries is no progression.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Highs And Lows

I've never bought into the idea that work is ennobling, especially my own. But, to strike a balance, neither have I ever considered any kind of work demeaning. I've cleaned my fair share of toilets (including the Ladies at Ciba-Geigy, Trafford Park) and I didn't think the less of myself, or anyone else, for doing so.

So I was a bit taken aback talking to Noi today when she referred to someone of our acquaintance who, as far as I understand it, regards the notion of working as a security guard as indicating a lack of something - class, status, whatever. Baffling. A perfectly good and very useful way of making a living, it seems to me, assuming you can get paid a reasonable wage. I wouldn't want to be a security guard here simply because, as far as I understand it, most are grossly underpaid. But it seems to me that the people to look down on in this situation are those doing the underpaying, not those on the receiving (or 'not-receiving') end.

And here's an odd thing that just occurred to me: in my experience talking to folks who for some reason are seen as being at the bottom of various imaginary ladders is usually a lot easier than conversing with those on the presumed higher rungs.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Well, Well, Well

Noi has just back from Melaka. It seems Mak is making what sounds like a good recovery, but she'll go back again after a week to further lend a hand. So for the moment all is well, and we have the promise that all manner of things shall be well.

(Actually, I've felt oddly under the weather all day, but in the great scheme of things that really doesn't count.)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

No Time To Lose

Somewhat to my chagrin I realised that I've still not finished the February/March issue of Philosophy Now, the one with a special focus on human rights. This is isn't because the articles aren't interesting, it's a tasty enough confection, with a couple of quietly illuminating pieces on the late, great David Bowie. No, the fault is entirely that of this reader; or, rather, of this reader's work and its intrusiveness upon the finer things in his life.

Now having reached that time of year when things might lighten up a little (and I mean only a little) I'm intending to really get going on the five items on my current list of books and sundry items that simply must be read soon, meaning right away. So pressing is this list that I haven't time to say what's on it but must simply start immediately. Bye!

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Part of the fascination and fear of live performance is the way things change once an audience is involved. The first time I directed a show, a long, long, long time ago, I could hardly bear the tension. Now I can, but only just.

I used to ask myself, about twenty minutes before Showtime, why on earth I was doing this. And after every performance I would have the answer.

Postscript: Got the answer yesterday evening as usual - and all the richer because I don't take the 'as usual' for granted.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Kinds Of Truth

After a good dress rehearsal I invariably find myself in a curiously over-excited state of mind. A brain that's racing after rehearsals is a director's friend since there are always more than enough things to think about to make it worthwhile finding it difficult to relax - and waking way too early the next day creates a useful space. But we're at the point at which, with most things in place, the to-do list suddenly looks reasonable.

So this evening I needed to figure a way to slow myself down and change the subject, just a little. My remedy was a few pages from Wachsmann's KL, and very grim reading they were - as expected, pretty much every page being grim one way and another. There wasn't much in the way of joy in the concentration camps.

But here's the point. Somehow in these darkest of places some decency survived, and it occasionally illuminates a dark page: In summer 1942, when the Ravensbruck SS punished Jews with a month-long cut in rations, another group of prisoners, led by Czech women, regularly smuggled some of their own bread into the Jewish women's barrack. (By the way, to contextualise this, the cut in rations would have spelled certain death for many of the Jewish women, whilst to give up your own bread was to put your well-being in considerable jeopardy.)

What we're putting on stage implies a very bleak account of our fundamental nature, and I think it's important sometimes to represent that kind of ugliness in the theatre because of its truth. (Reading Wachsmann's book will convince you of the truth of our essential ugliness, if you think otherwise.) But it's equally important to recognise other more positive truths. I think they are there in Lady Macbeth. Just difficult to find. As they were in Europe in 1942.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

In The Dark

One thing's for sure, Lady Macbeth takes you to some very dark places in the human soul. The paradox is that there's so much light to accompany one there, emanating from all the creative souls who are bringing it to life on stage.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stepping Out

Had vague thoughts of getting to the gym this evening but, finding myself with an imperatively urgent to-do list, generally production-related, wisely abandoned my plans. Just ticked the last item off the list, I'm glad to say.

Then I checked the health app thingy that mysteriously counts your steps. Did 14,978 today, it seems, and climbed 35 floors. I reckon that's a pretty fair replacement for the gym, for now at least.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not Letting Go

Like most old curmudgeons I enjoy looking back nostalgically at how wonderful things were in the past and sort of pitying the youngsters of today for missing out on all that. Of course, most of the time I'm aware I'm just happily deluded. But occasionally a memory will pop up suggesting that the nostalgic haze might not be quite so deceptive.

The other day I chanced upon an early single, I Can't Let Go, by The Hollies, a fine sixties (and beyond, I suppose) 'combo', originating from Manchester of all places. It's a song I know backwards, having happily embedded itself in the consciousness of the little lad I was back then. But hearing it again made me keenly aware of just how brilliant it was, and is. Can't think of anything I've heard in the world of popular music in recent years that comes close to evoking the sheer joy of the song - and, by the way, I reckon The Hollies playing it live is even better than the studio version. Two and a half minutes of bliss that's sort of lasted more than fifty years.