According to Garrison Keillor “a postcard takes about fifty words gracefully, which is how to write one… fifty words is a strict form but if you write tiny and sneak over into the address side to squeeze in a hundred, the grace is gone and the result is not a poem but notes for a letter you don’t have time to write…” These are my Postcards from France:
I love when Monday mornings begin with cerebral pyrotechnics, as mine did, at 6am with https://vimeo.com/fiftynineproductions . 59 Productions is a story-driven production company/design studio. Designers, writers, directors, architects, animators, visual artists, producers and technologists work together in a range of disciplines to produce radical, new ways of telling wide-ranging stories.
Three-way pub quiz last night, questions bouncing between Toulouse, the sticks and Switzerland. Seriously fun- but oh. My memory. After decades on earth my in-box is apparently full, memory secretly chucking stuff out to make way for the new. So this morning, Norton anthology open before me, I’m memorising a few lines of Andrew Marvell.
Metaphorical torpedoes this week having hit the small sailing boat that, metaphorically, is me, I look for the lessons life’s trying to teach. Sometimes they can be hard to find. As with the employers who contract me to do work, then 10 months later turn round and say they’re not going to pay!
I had a brilliant idea – I’m talking pure genius. Only to discover that Katie Mitchell, Leo Warner and dazzling casts were taking the same intriguing ideas to higher levels more than a decade ago, blending video and live theatre long before it became pandemically hip. Out of the loop, I was busy raising children and renovating houses in rural France.
Ridiculous to slot 7 billion people into categories – and yet. Understanding how different “types” of people perceive the world and process language can improve communication. While we may appear to be speaking the same language, what one person says is often worlds away from what their listener hears.
How do families cope with ageing, increasingly unpredictable parents? Several new films explore the topic, including Florian Zeller’s The Father, based on his strikingly original stage play, a portrayal of an old man’s loss of identity, self and control as he swings from mischievous, enraged, charming to laceratingly cruel.
Philip Larkin famously thought parents do great harm. And yet abusive, traumatic, loss-marked childhoods gave the Arts countless great writers, actors, creators. A comedian interviewed about her toxic, aggressive, “withering” mother admitted the relationship proved the grit in the oyster: out of that childhood came great comic art.
Cis Berry had a wonderful metaphor: we’re born playing all the instruments of the orchestra but one by one, they’re taken away. By siblings, parents, school, society. One day we find we’re left with only one, an instrument we don’t particularly like. Society does it, friends and family: we label people, silence them, their potential.
A choreographed dance sequence: someone standing in a box. A hand pushes them back into the box, duct tapes their mouth, seals the lid, slaps on a label. The box moves along on a conveyor belt. The trapped person struggles free, removes the duct tape, tries to say “But I’m…!” only for someone else to push them down while duct taping their mouth and the sequence begins all over again.
I read a name. Google it. Stumble upon https://www.all-about-photo.com/photographers/photographer/837/juanan-requena – a mesmerising sequence of a photographer from La Mancha, Juanan Requena, setting up an installation, a living diary, charting journeys, delving into memory, playing with silence. Inspirational storytelling techniques I’ll borrow for the Lear project.
Lockdown did it. Or rather all the TV I watched during lockdown – freak show of chemically altered people; the American horror of ageing. For years my hair has been changing colour, I struggled to accept I’m no longer 27, applied dye to my temples with increasing frequency. One day I stopped. And found it liberating.
Other women are coming to the same realisation, are confronting the general horror of women – some as young as 30 – with grey hair. So many women feel they should look (and be) a certain way. I admire those who challenge stereotypes, embark on the emancipating emotional, mental journey of saying grey doesn’t have to equate with ‘frumpy’ or ‘past it’ or ‘hag’.
Ras le bol! – a French expletive useful when you really have had enough. Months of curfew hasn’t halted the virus’ spread: Yesterday 50,000 new cases of Covid. Today 10,000 more. One year on, in Lockdown Take Three, I feel if men understood masks are supposed to cover their mouth and nose, not their chins, we might make progress.
Wisteria, pink-blossomed trees, a stone château looking out onto vineyards, a golden garden filled with sunshine and delightful children running about, holding hands, filling Easter baskets with chocolate eggs. Children, all of whose mothers left far-away lands and built new lives in the south of France.
Global long-term effects of staring into computer screens 12 -15 hours a day? Markedly reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin; blue light induced insomnia; dysmorphia (rounder shoulders, flatter bottoms, strained eyes); altered realities… The latter not always a bad thing!
Rich seams to mine online: clips and interviews about the work of hugely talented, extraordinary theatre innovators like Emma Rice (Knee High), Marianne Elliott, Katie Mitchell (National Theatre) and Scott Graham (Frantic Assembly); wandering over to Gardzienice, the Polish centre for experimental, “anthropological” theatre at the heart of which lies musicality. Music. Opens hearts and souls.
There’s been a bookshop at 158 Fulham Road for decades – first Pan, then Daunt Books, forced to close its doors, not due to lack of demand, but high rent and rates. The building, in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, is owned by Imperial Tobacco. In its place, Easy Money. A heart-sinking sign of the times.
For four centuries there have been booksellers along the banks of the River Seine. Haussmann, architect of modern Paris, wanted to ban them. Survival of late was threatened first by gilets jaunes demonstrations and months of train strikes and now the pandemic. Jérôme Callais, President of the “Bouquinistes de Paris” says it’s not a job so much as a “philosophy of life” –Bouquinistes “diffuse culture”
In Aesop’s fable The Wolf and The Dog the wolf is free to roam wherever it likes but often goes hungry. The dog, regularly fed, is kept chained, always at his master’s beck and call. Precarious but free or well fed and enslaved? artist or businessman? Creators often wrestle with their values, feel forced to use social media to sell their work.