Lives of Quiet Desperation.

Quiet desperation
does not rant and rail.
It does not shake its fist
at the injustices of the world-
although they are many.
It does not suffer.
It does not begrudge.
What it knows is how to endure.
It digs in its heels and stays put.
It waits and watches,
clings on and hopes.
It lasts out.

Quiet desperation
is the one secret
which everybody knows
and nobody admits.
Not even to themselves.
A secret which thrives
in sealed dark places-
the dark places within ourselves
where we dare not go.
It squats, wide eyed, lingering,
curtains drawn,
still and silent.

There may yet be time
for it to sing its song
before the lights go out.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Henry Thoreaux.

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More things, Horatio……….

Beneath the rings of Saturn the rain falls.
It begins as a sifting greyness,
born out of lightning.
A drift of carbon.
Soft, falling dirt
which hardens as it falls.
As it reaches towards the surface
of a hostile home
it blossoms into a cascade of
sparkling diamonds,
a short, sharp shimmer of wealth,
then melts into the arms of a liquid sea.
One thousand tons of them.
Every single year.
Wow…………

Of course nobody has seen this
and nobody ever will.
We have to believe…………
but it is good to imagine
that it might be so.

Farewell to the Futurist.

When they send in the Wrecking ball
let them think of this.
Hidden in the rubble
are the ashes of those who queued together,
sang together,
laughed together.
Two thousand people,
united by the simple joy of being there.
People who didn’t get out much
and now here they were,
glowing red from the heat of the sun,
filled with fish and chips and warm beer,
ready to see their heroes walk out
from the fuzzy grey of a television screen,
bursting into life, colour and movement
before their very eyes.

Twice nightly.
All summer long.

When they fill up the skips
let them remember this.
A pool of light,
a space once filled with joy.
Bob Monkhouse times a perfect punchline.
Ken Dodd spreads his own brand
of delicious, delirious anarchy,
and Tommy Cooper walks out, live size,
to face a tidal wave of pure love.
Mythical figures from a far off world
set amongst glittering curtains,
magicians, dancing girls and acrobats.
A safe haven where life is in focus,
brighter, kinder, sharper.
A chance to reach out
and touch our dreams.

Twice nightly.
All summer long.

How Quickly We Become the Past.

How quickly we become the past.
So many things we thought would last
hang, half forgotten, in the air-
so vivid and yet barely there.

The scent of tall geraniums
on a fly blown window sill.
The engraved surface
of a warm sixpence
clutched tightly in my hand.
The sound of voices,
singing their way home.
The colours dancing
in an open fire.
A blue dress with daisies.

Sitting in an old black Vauxhall
outside a beer sodden pub.
Singing wide eyed hymns
about fights and battles
from a tattered roll.
Stretching out my splayed fingers
to pop a shimmering bubble.
Watching scattered raindrops
as they race down a window.
I’d love a Babycham.

How quickly we become the past.
So many things we thought would last
hang, half forgotten, in the air-
so vivid and yet barely there.

Moments when we realise
that the world has turned
without us noticing.
Fragments of a time
which has been discarded
littering our days.

We blink at the unfamiliar,
tripped up by the sight of an eyebrow,
the emptiness inside a closed shop,
a space where a tree once was.
We have become strangers
in a world that has been changed by stealth.
Little by little the dust has settled over us.
We have been stripped bare,
set aside, but still here.

How quickly we become the past.
So many things we thought would last
hang, half forgotten, in the air-
so vivid and yet barely there.

Jane Eyre. National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic at Hull New Theatre. 28-09-17

The ensemble. NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Jane Eyre is one of the best loved heroines of a nineteenth century novel. She has been read and admired ever since she first appeared in 1837. She is strong minded and plain and she suffers deeply, overcoming obstacles to find happiness, allowing nothing to stop her. It’s a formula which has stood the test of time and writers have been using Charlotte Bronte’s template ever since. If you are going to put the book on stage in front of a sharp audience who know the book backwards (as one elderly lady sitting near me said when refusing a programme) then you had better get it right. Add to that a mass of plot and a novel which is written in the first person and you have a big job on your hands. Above all the central character needs a strong performance and we must never feel that we have come to the theatre to see a 3D version of a Sunday night classic television serial. There is nothing wrong with those if they are well done- and Jane Eyre has been quite beautifully put on screen- but they have no place in a theatre. It’s a big ask.

The National Theatre/Bristol Old Vic production has been brought back thanks to the huge success it had three years ago. It was devised by the original cast, with the director Sally Cookson, and its biggest achievement is its theatricality and playfulness. The set immediately brings to mind a children’s playground. It is a series of ladders, slopes and platforms and all of it is used at speed with great accuracy during the course of the play. There are some lovely moments of pure theatre throughout like the one that opens the production where baby Jane’s birth is announced and the baby is unfurled into a dress which is then put onto Nadia Clifford who plays Jane. This is storytelling and we are asked to become complicit in whatever the cast show us, whether it is a moving carriage journey conjured up from the co-ordinated movement of cast members standing shoulder to shoulder and stamping their feet or a dog who is nothing more than a flexible whippy tail in the hand of Paul Mundell. Nothing more is needed other than an actor who gives his whole self to the task so that we believe in him. The music is lovely, with some beautifully sung songs from Melanie Marshall as Rochester’s poor deranged first wife and it was a very moving device to show her wandering the stage in a blood red dress like a ghost. It made Bertha a constant presence- as she should be. I wasn’t as sure about the way Rochester was portrayed. This was absolutely nothing to do with Tim Delap’s performance, perhaps more to do with the Rochester I already had in my head.

Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Of course at the centre of everything is Jane herself. If that character doesn’t work then nothing else matters. A lot is asked of Nadia Clifford, both emotionally and technically. She gives us a fierce, uncompromising Jane who knows her own mind. She has a lot of injustice to be fierce about and we watch her grow up painfully and learn to master herself and grow in dignity and strength. It is a fine performance. I loved the way she was both fully emotionally present and also technically precise. There was a lovely moment towards the end of the first half where she was put in an adult dress for the first time and her whole stance and demeanour changed without a word being said. There is a lot going on in this production around her and it needed great strength and presence to keep us focused on her. Sadly she was unable to continue thanks to injury so Jenny Johns took over as Jane for the second half. This was fascinating to watch as she made the part work in a completely different way. The two actresses are very different physical types and this was a more measured, elegant Jane which I enjoyed for its own sake, as well as being full of admiration for the fact that she was able to slot into a very technical, fast production without missing a beat.

I loved this show and I am grateful for the chance to see it so close to home thanks to Hull being City of Culture. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite novels and I would not have been slow to tell you if I hadn’t.

Sea Fret 3.

We walk in shadows,
flitting in and out of the light,
half seen by a pale white sun,
half known, misunderstood.
Faint wanderers.
Going nowhere.

We have stumbled
into a a chilled grey world,
a place of clinging secrets,
where unseen waves turn.
We walk among distant possibilities,
a mystery, even to ourselves.

I look up into the soft sky,
and examine the shades of grey
as they sharpen and fade,
begging for a burst of blue,
a blaze of light,
and life restored.

So close.
So far away.