Friday, October 28, 2016


Finding any time in which to read or listen to music - other than the music of the show we're doing - has been very difficult over the last three weeks or so. Fortunately the music from The Fantasticks is so good that I haven't felt any great deprivation in that direction. Indeed, I've been carrying all the songs and arrangements around in my head as genuinely welcome ear worms, such that I'm sort of luxuriating in music at the moment. But in the last few days I've managed to listen to a few things outside of my immediate concerns - Kate Bush, White Willow, The Enid, Martin Carthy - and am sort of getting back to my usual diet.

But reading has been a real problem. The only time I've had has been very, very late at night, in the twenty minutes or so before I fall asleep, and I'm not exactly a paragon of alertness at that time. So I've had to compromise with just dipping into a few poems here and there.

For the last three nights the poet of choice has been William Carlos Williams - from the very fine two volume Collected Poems published by New Directions. As a teenager I got hold of the Penguin Selected, and that became a precious text for me. I got to know every poem in it very closely and it was something of a way in for me into American poetry in the general sense. But despite having owned the Collected for a while now I've never managed to get to grips with the full range of Williams with quite the same intensity. The welcome result of this, however, has been to make me feel a wonderful sense of discovery as I dip in and find gems everywhere.

Deprivation has its uses.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Process

Something I came to learn, some years ago now, about putting together any kind of drama production: no single individual controls the process. But it is possible to grow in understanding of the process, and there's a fascination in that growth and the recognition that comes with it. Also no one at any level of involvement, however tangential, can stand neutrally outside the process, though generally this is not understood.

When I first started doing this stuff I felt very lucky to be put in a position to get to experience and understand all this. Funnily enough, that feeling has never changed, simply intensified.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Something Lacking

I'm busy at the moment, but not so busy that it would be impossible to manage a reasonable seven hours of sleep a night. But I don't get anything even close to that. Getting to sleep is easy. Waking earlier than I really need to is, problematically, even easier.

This is a state I know very well from previous experience, especially when putting a show together. I'm guessing that some odd mechanism in what passes for my brain has decided that bringing me to consciousness is a good idea, even when I don't really need to be conscious, as it gives me more time to think about all the stuff you need to think about a couple of weeks before show-time. (That's a lot of stuff, by the way, in case you were wondering.)

I'm afraid there's not much I can do about this. Fortunately the days are so packed there isn't time to be tired, so it's not exactly a problem in strictly practical terms. Also there's a sort of solution awaiting. As soon as the show's over I'll find myself falling asleep anywhere at any time - and I'm very much looking forward to that.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Bit Ironic

Listened to an excellent talk on the need for rest this morning - and proceeded to get precisely none whatsoever for the remainder of the day.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Apple Never Eaten

When we arrived in Jeddah for the Hajj back in early September, once we'd cleared Immigration we found ourselves waiting for the coach to take us to our accommodation at Shisha for quite a few hours. This wasn't terribly onerous as there were shops outside the airport and plenty of seating for the pilgrims waiting around - this being the airport specially designed to cater for the Hajj. Also a decent quantity of food was provided, as was the case for every leg of our journey.

However, I remember beginning to feel a little uncomfortable as the day wore on and perceptibly warmed up. I noticed a few people who'd got hold of various bits of fruit from the shops around and started to think of how good it would be to bite into a fresh, cool apple. Sadly the real thing wasn't available and, thus, I found myself haunted by the image of the perfect apple. It struck me that there was nothing I would have liked more and was reminded of just how wonderful apples had tasted when I was a kid.

In the days that followed an abundance of deliciously fresh fruit became available at almost every meal, including some glorious apples - especially some wonderfully crisp red ones. But somehow nothing quite replaced that perfect apple of the imagination I never ate at Jeddah Airport. Nothing ever tasted quite as good as that one, and I suspect never will.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sort Of Optimal

A good day, further improved by being rounded off with a plate of bangers & mash courtesy of the Missus. Actually it was a plate and a half as I helped myself gleefully to seconds. It just doesn't get better than this.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Weight Of Things

I've felt somewhat weighed down lately by all that needs to be done. But if there's something I've learned over the years it's that eventually every load gets shed and then it's possible to enjoy the very bearable lightness of being - until it's time to pick up the next one.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Going Back

I was chatting with Brian today about the Hajj, trying to convey something of the flavour of the experience to him. In the process I found myself revisiting a few of those moments that had demanded patience from me. Happily they were moments in which I somehow delivered, though I hope I didn't sound as that was the reason for talking about them. In fact, I was keenly aware of the fact that those times are/were firmly in the past. The Hajj is about one's ability to remake oneself in the now of conflict and struggle and I'm not so sure I've held so firmly to those qualities I thought I'd found in myself.

Time to search again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Keeping It Simple

After spending part of the day thinking about how nice it would be to simplify my life I'm now listening to Martin Carthy's Sweet Wivelsfield. Acoustic guitar, voice and lovely old songs. (There's one of them here, if you're not familiar with the finest British folk singer of his generation.) Do I really need much more than this?

(Of course, the truth is that I'll soon go looking and listening for more, but in this rich moment this seems more than enough for a lifetime.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Idly skimming channels this evening after getting back from an unseasonal Christmas Dinner (don't ask!) to my delight and astonishment I chanced upon Mike Leigh's film about the great painter, Mr Turner. Sadly I missed the first forty minutes or so; happily I was able to watch most of the rest.

It was a welcome reminder that films of real value are still being made. A visual feast, brilliantly acted, with a remarkable sense of historical imagination. The rhythms of the dialogue were particularly striking: orotund, yet convincing as to what would have sounded quite natural at that time.

To be honest I really should have been doing something else rather than watching the movie, but I'm very glad I wasn't.