Six Weeks Until Christmas

Six week until Christmas; unbelievable.  I have written a list of cards I need to send. I’m going to Northern Ireland for a week at the start of December, so I think it’d be a good idea to get at least some cards written before I go. The price of stamps is a major incentive to cull the list, but it still seems very long. i have put the letter e by a number of names, meaning I shall send e-cards. Another group come under the delivered-by-hand option, but since the Post office  has been privatised I am less and less keen to boost the bank accounts of share holders.

But at times like these it’s also important to keep in touch, to remember our shared humanity, our overseas friendships, to write a line or two to people who we like but seldom see. The most dystopian forecaster probably wouldn’t have come up with the past twenty-four months. Refugees continue to arrive traumatised and exhausted in leaky boats meant for far fewer people on far shorter journeys. Reports of attempted genocide, with footage for proof flood our screens when we watch the news. Allegations of sexual abuse, of men  using superior power to manipulate and control women in the film industry fill acres of newspapers. Continue reading

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A Case for Jane Marple

I have eczema on my eyelids. This is a first for me. I get the odd patch of eczema in other places, but never before on my eyelids. It’s sore. It’s pink. I thought to begin with the soreness was in my eyes, then the penny dropped. So now I have calendular cream smeared on them. I look a bit greasy and shiny in a very unhip way, but it definitely feels more comfortable. Continue reading

I’m on the Train part 2

What a splendid place Walton-on-the-Naze is to spend time on a fine day outside the high season. The train conductor on the second train thought it should be fine for me to come home later so I am hoping that confidence is borne out when someone comes to check the tickets.

There’s not a lot doing by the station at Thorpe-le-Soken and I didn’t have enough time to explore, but there was evidence of decayed grandeur and Google informed me that Eduardo Paolozzi lived there. Google also informed me that beautiful properties for the price of my London flat are available.

Having spilt my snack down my front, I followed up by dropping avocado onto my jumper. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly when I reached WotN so I stuffed said jumper in my bag and presented a clean shirt to the world.

Out of the station and a walk beside a sparkling sea. I’m guessing most of the people I saw walking their dogs, or pushing young children in pushchairs are locals. The schools are back, many of the ice cream sellers and chip shops seemed to have shut up, maybe to allow staff to go on their own holidays. Continue reading

I’m on the Train

My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 was to explore areas of London close to where I live, areas I think I know but where really I have the barest knowledge. I haven’t done terribly well at that but as the year trots to an end I am finally making some progress. However, I have enjoyed some out of town day trips. This started with a trip to Coventry on February, followed by Birmingham, Coventry again, Colchester, Chatham, Ipswich next month and today Walton-on-the-Naze. After a night of rain it’s a fine morning and promises to be warm and sunny. In anticipation of a fair amount of walking I am wearing my boots and I have a packed lunch with me. The train is very long and very empty. I don’t know if it is going to fill up later but I have to change at Thorpe-le-Soken where I have two minutes to make the connection. This train will continue to Clacton. Have I ever been to Clacton? I’m not sure. It may have been the destination for a ramble once, but I have no memory of it. Another one to add to the list. Continue reading

Horror and Humanity

Sober times here in the UK; a wave of terrorist attacks, the latest last night when someone driving a van, another hired one, deliberately ploughed into a group of people outside a mosque in London. An ordinary man, say his Muslim neighbours, friendly; their kids played with each other; no reason to suspect he might be planning murder.

I struggle to understand what turns people into terrorists, what makes people decide it is alright, even a duty, to kill others in the name of their cause. The heat of the moment, anger, reaction I get. I understand the rage, grief and frustration that sent crowds to the Kensington and Chelsea Council offices in the aftermath of the inferno at Grenfell Tower. No, correct that, I can approach understanding those feelings, but I was not in that fire. I did not lose friends, family, pets, everything I hold dear in something which seems to have been wholly preventable. The eye witness accounts are stomach churning. The horror, at this distance, overwhelming, so no, I cannot imagine how it must be for people who witnessed this first hand, who escaped, who survived and today look up at that ghastly ruin. How they feel, how they will survive, how they sleep when fear and flashbacks must surely colour their every moment. There was a newspaper report today, i carried a story about survivors meeting Mrs May at Downing Street and how she ‘welled up’ hearing their accounts, showing a different woman from the expected caricature of the Prime Minister, according to Mark O’Donoghue, Dean of Kensington.
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Laughter, the Best Medicine

This time tomorrow the polls will be about to close, and the country’s fate will be sealed for five years. Pray god it’s not a Tory landslide. Mrs May has not had a good election campaign, but while television is required to be balanced in its reporting, newspapers are not. The headlines of the Mail and the Express make me wonder if we are on the same planet, let alone if we have been listening to the same speeches or reading the same manifestos.

On the other side of the pond, in the wake of the terrorist attack at London Bridge, that great savant Mr Trump has been making unwarranted accusations against our elected London mayor, Sadiq Khan. Trump seems to be under the impression that Sadiq Khan is a threat to democracy. I’d say the boot is on the other foot.

Having been pretty uninspired by the leaders of the three main parties at the start of the election campaign, I am surprised to find myself increasingly impressed by Jeremy Corbyn. I have to pinch myself every now and then as this seems so unlikely.  I am hoping that the votes for the Lib Dems, Labour and Greens will be enough to halt the Maybot in her tracks, or at least severely hobble her. If David Davies and IDS lose their seats, I may have to do a conga around Parliament Square. Don’t hold your breath.

If Friday finds us with a Tory majority and a strong opposition, I may still open the champagne. Opposition is vital in any democracy, and Theresa May’s calls for unity fail to disguise the fact that she would prefer a weak opposition, or preferably no opposition at all. This is a frightening prospect in any country, and her further statements that human rights could be suspended in certain circumstances should strike fear in the hearts of anyone who thinks even for a moment what that implies.

But May’s stance on human rights has always been shaky. So devout Tories as well as others who think she is a *strong* leader, offering a *stable* government, may not bother to consider the implications. Perhaps if they were to find themselves imprisoned without trial, waterboarded, deprived of their citizenship or deported without explanation, they might think otherwise. A lack of imagination is as dangerous as a lack of empathy. Continue reading

Play For Today

My parents weren’t theatre goers. They had neither time nor money, though my father attended music concerts in his youth, and as a pupil midwife my mother enjoyed London’s West End theatres courtesy of free tickets left at the nurses’ home. I got the bug for watching plays via the BBC. There used to a programme called Play For Today. Every week, on Thursday night, I think, there was a new play written for television by writers that included Dennis Potter among others. It was magic. My sister loved the Regents Park open air theatre and introduced me to that, and I became a supporter of my local theatre in Guildford, where five minutes before curtain up for 50p I could get a seat in the house.

Unsurprisingly, in London theatre has been a constant since I moved here.

My friend Tony and I went to see Twelfth Night last night at the Globe. Last year we were blown away by Emma Rice’s Bollywood Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as this is to be her final season at the Globe, we wanted to see Twelfth Night as she has directed it too. I bought tickets as soon as they became available and have been really looking forward to this production.

Most of the audience were enraptured. We less so. After Malovolio had blown his whistle for the sixth time, I wanted to leap on the stage and take it away from her (a female actor is playing the part of the male steward, whereas up river at the National, a female actor is playing Malvolia, the steward’s gender having been changed).

It was a less than subtle production. Emma Rice seemed to have decided to throw everything at this one, and for me it was a case of less would have been more. There were bits I loved; the shipwreck, Antonio rowing through the groundlings in his boat Bewitched, some of the music. There was a lot of music. At one point in Act I, we wondered if the play had been turned into a musical. Twelfth Night is a light, frothy sort of play, to my mind it didn’t need, or deserve, to be whipped up further and half a ton of cherries put on the top.

It’s part of the Globe’s 2017 Summer of Love season. Ironic in more ways than one, but with the upcoming general election on my mind, it’s the disunity on painful display across my country, the distinct lack of love among our separate parts that seems most obvious this summer. The talk is all of a Tory landslide, Labour wiped out, Theresa May measuring up for new curtains at Number 10 and settling in for a long stay. Some of her admirers speak of her as the new Margaret Thatcher, a divisive politician to the power of n, and although Mrs May says she is no Margaret Thatcher, her constant harping on about unity while spelling out policies that obviously divide, punish the metropolitan communities who so stubbornly don’t vote Tory, and reward the Home Counties and shires who do, reminds me of Thatcher’s little speech when she quoted St Francis.

But for those of us who remember the days of Thatcher as leader, and I do with a shudder, we know that unity was the last thing she achieved. My country was riven. There were riots across the country. Greed and ostentatious wealth were praised, poverty was obviously the fault of not believing in Mrs T strongly enough, of being feckless enough to think the weak and the vulnerable were deserving of respect and dignity, of working in the public sector. Continue reading