I haven’t blogged for days; no, make that weeks. I’ve been busy with lots of work and quite a lot of play. That should be plural, quite a lot of plays, including Matilda, 42nd Street, Translations. I had complimentary tix to the first two. I loved Matilda. The children were amazing. Some looked as though they could have barely started school, but these were professionals giving fine performances and looking as though they were enjoying very minute. I saw 42nd Street with my friend Julia. We were a bit nonplussed by it. As a spectacle it is everything you could ask for and more, the dancers tap their socks off and the set pieces are stunning. But the story. Why would you revive that now? I wanted to stick #metoo hashtags all over it.
Which brings me to Translations at the National which I saw with my friend and colleague Tony. His family is from Mayo, and we often go together to events with an Irish connection, despite digging with different feet as you might say. Tony had see a production of Translations, also at the National, in 1981 and brought the programme along with him. He also bought a programme for the current production and it became very clear the same sources were consulted when the notes were written in 1981 and 2018.
But my goodness, what a production. It was fabulous. Ciaran Hinds has cornered the market for roles as Irishmen of a certain age. To my ear, his delivery owed something to the declamatory style of the late Ian Paisley. It’s part of the Travelex season, meaning we got to watch it in the Olivier for £15 per seat. Good seats, there are no bad seats in any of ten National’s three theatres. The Olivier is based on the theatre at Epidaurus so you can feel yourself a part of a theatre tradition stretching back centuries while sitting on cushioned seats. That last comment is because Octavia and I saw As You Like It at the Globe last weekend. We had seats, and hired the cushions, but it makes you appreciate small creature comforts like seat backs and arm rests.
Octavia and Celia are both away at the moment, which means my two close friends who live close by are absent. MasterB is having to listen to me a lot as I process my days. He’s given me the excuse I needed to write this post by sitting half on me and having a wash. Truly, no one ever lived with a sweeter cat.
The NHS is about to turn 70. There are some in government who would like this to be its last birthday. People who say things like “we can’t afford it” and “people need to be responsible for their own health insurance”. They are either wilfully ignorant or wilfully misleading. Maybe both. Mark Haddon, one of several people writing in the Guardian about why he values the NHS has hit the nail on the head with his piece which you can read here – and please do, especially if you are from the US or another of those countries where private health companies would have you believe the NHS is an unmitigated disaster and you are so much luckier to receive itemised bills for everything anyone does for you from helping you onto a bedpan to heart surgery.
Equally read the obituary here of James Callaghan MP, also from the Guardian, and wonder at the achievement that is the NHS.
Those people who tell us we can‘t afford the NHS/public libraries/art subsidies/minimum rates of pay/social housing/bus services in rural areas either lack the imagination to comprehend what life would be like for so many of us without those things (and increasingly is) or have a financial interest in doing away with them. There is always an agenda. It doesn’t matter how high-minded someone sounds, those of us who want to keep our services are condescended to rather like the doctor in AA Milne’s poem, The Dormouse and the Doctor.
In the space of my lifetime, which is getting longer by the minute, but is less than a blink of the eye in the history of the world, money has become the new morality. Arron Banks, the millionaire who backed the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, felt his wealth entitled him to not answer questions about his business practices during a Commons Select Committee hearing, “I pay a shedload of tax, probably more than this entire committee put together … I’m not gonna be lectured about my business interests.” Which I translate as “my money puts me out of your orbit” His arrogance was on display throughout, saying that he knew the members of the committee were “all remainers – all remainers, right?” who had a vested interest in trying to discredit the Brexit campaign. He then walked out, claiming to have a lunch appointment. His boorishness, his confidence that he could flout representation our elected Parliament because he has power and money were astonishing and appalling. He’s rich, so he feels he is above the law, like that woman who said taxes are only for little people.
Further down the food chain, we are back to the undeserving poor v the respectable poor, or hardworking families in today’s lexicon. All change is hailed as good, which obviously a nonsense, and those proposing those changes which will line their pockets and empty ours, scoff at us and mock us for our old fashioned ways.
There are fashions in flowers too. I’d like to see those delphiniums back in vogue.