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.”
Here’s what I’m reading
Never knew what a Tidy Betty was till I read about one here.
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.
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.
His latest boook, The Return, has just been broadcast on BBC R 4.
It is heartbreaking and for that reason I don’t think I can now read the book. On the other hand, it is so heartbreaking that I know I must read it.
The Return is a memoir about his search for the father he fears he will never find.
In the Country of Men, a novel, is about a child’s search for his father. It ranks high in my chosen books and I have always been glad I read it. I am now reading it again.
It is about a marvellous man – the father in the story – who disappears from his home in Libya, is sought in Cairo and disappears again.
Since writing the novel, Matar has gone in search of his father again and so found out more about him. The memoir is about loss and also about the man who has been lost. Lost forever? Only the writer knows.
The final sentences in the radio broadcast were so powerful that I was left alone, in the silent kitchen, the only other person there with me Hisham Matar.
I’ve pitched a few ideas this week – a short story, two ideas for newspaper features and another short story.
Busy.Also done some walking connected to my current project and as a result wrote a piece about the walking sticks in my life. One from South Africa, one from Spain, one from Croagh Patrick and the rest salvaged from ditches and from the side of the road. I bond with my sticks.
Next up, something about that most charismatic of men – Dan O Connell.
Also had a look at Lissadell and the disputed right of way. Those rights – of the poor and the dispossessed ( too many s’s?) – are jealously guarded in England.
And did I mention the film The Siege of Jabotville – about the Irish UN force in the Congo in the 60’s who were criticised by some of the folks back home because they surrendered in the face of a force far larger than their own. Thank heavens we’ve moved on from the creed of sacrifice rather than survival. Plenty of the Irish UN force are still alive today due to the wisdom of their colonel…. Well done, that man.