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Remembering a visit to Barbuda

One of my books – Journeys of a Lifetime –  contains a description of a visit I made to Barbuda. Here’s what I wrote in  2004

” Barbuda is a flat sand-coloured leaf loating on a pool of blue. Water laps its edges amd the wind, whistling across its desolate  landscape, makes me feel uneasy and unsafe, fearful that at any moment a wave may flow  across the whole island and engulf it….      Barbuda bangs and clangs  like a ship buffeted by winds  that seem to strike it from every direction…”

Later, I called in to the rum  shop and had a stiff drink.

 

 

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The Codrington Library, its connection to slavery, sugar and Oxford

 

The Codrington library at All Souls, Oxford.

 

Some years back, I made preparations to go  to the Eastern Caribbean.

 

“ If you go to Barbuda,” said Bill Heine  who presented a programme on BBC Radio Oxford, “send me a postcard.”

The capital of Barbuda is Codrington and Bill remembered how a portrait of  Codrington hung in All Souls College, Oxford which he had attended. He’d found Codrington glowering down on him unsettling.

When I got myself to Barbuda ( it’s the sister island of Antigua)  I went to the post office to buy a postcard and a stamp.

There were no postcards so I bought two envelopes, wrote on one, folded it up and put it inside the second envelope.  Next,  to buy  a stamp.

The man behind the counter offered me an array of stamps. “ Pick,” he said. They all had different pictures on them including ones of Winston Churchill, a parrot and a kettle. I chose the parrot one.

“ This OK for Europe?” I asked him and he replied cheerfully: “ Whichever.” The card reached its destination. Job done.

Today it’s Open Doors Day in Oxford so I am going to All Souls to see the Codrington Library which has been closed to visitors for some months.

The Codrington family set up sugar plantations in this part of the Eastern Caribbean in the 1600s.

Now, here’s the irony: under Codrington’s rule, slaves were forbidden to learn how to read  while at the same time, Codrington slave money was used to establish a library for the privileged few back in England.

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Famous writer pinches things in Regents Park

 

From Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On

I was given this book for Christmas and am now on page 361 out of 753. Quite a bit to go which is great as I won’t want it to end.

Also reviewing another book at the same time and the temptation, with KOKO, is to pick up a pen and make notes. Fatal. I’d be making notes all the time.

Here’s one anecdote out of many: he cycles through  Regent’s Park every day for the exercise but one day it’s raining so he walks.

“Almost out of piety and a respect for a tradition I filch a couple of  branches from the base of  a balsam poplar  on the north side of Regent’s Park. The buds are hardly open  and thus are briefly heavily scented.  Now in a glass on the sitting room mantelpiece they bring a flavour to the room as they have done every spring for the last forty years.”

http://www.maryrussell.info

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Here’s what I’m reading

 

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Never knew what a Tidy Betty was till I read about one here.

 

 

 

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Trump would bewise to choose his words carefully

    Groper Trump would be wise to choose his words carefully and take heed of those who have gone before him.

In 1995, Jonathon Aitken, Conservative Chief Secretary to the  (British) Treasury, sued the Guardian for  saying bad things about him. All untrue, Aitken said and added: “ If it falls to me  to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British  fair play, so be it.”

  Stirring words except that his case against the Guardian collapsed and thus, having lied and perjured himself up to the hilt, he was unable to meet the costs of the case and was declared bankrupt.

Convicted of perjury, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison – where he found God.

Message to Groper Trump:  a loud voice and a blustering manner may work in the playground but don’t mess with the Guardian and Granada TV whose dedication to journalism and to exposing  a corrupt politician carried the day. Bravo!

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Always the bridesmaid?

Went last week  to see Pinter’s No Man’s Land at London’s Aldwych Theatre, starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan.

Patrick Stewart had lost his voice and so his understudy took over.

At the end of the play. Ian McKellan came forward and praised the performance of the understudy. And quite rightly as it was excellent.

Two points: as the cast were taking their curtain calls ( there were three) McKellan kept the understudy’s hand  in his – a brotherly gesture or an attempt to prevent the understudy from stepping forward to take a well-earned applause of his own? Still, that’s the theatre for you.

And the second point? McKellan got the understudy’s name wrong so here it is:  Andrew Jarvis.

If you’re interested in the plight of the understudy – always the bridesmaid never the bride – have a look at David Weston’s excellent book Covering McKellan. He spent a year as understudy to Ian McKellan when the latter was touring Lear.

Poignant but a story that has to be told. All part of the theatre canon.

 

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Bob Crowley’s sexy set.

I was lucky to see the production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Stratford, directed by Howard Davies who, sadly,has just died.

I returned Stratford  a week later having persuaded the Irish paper for which I was then freelancing that it should be reviewed, pitching  it to the paper as something that should be covered since the set designer was Irish, from Cork.

Bob Crowley was his name. Still is. And it was his set that mesmerised me:  a larger than life chest of drawers  out of which was spilling an array of white, gauzy female underwear.

Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson were in the lead but I couldn’t take my eyes off that chest of drawers. Brilliant.

 

 

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