Friday, July 25, 2008

a document in madness

A few words on the RSC production of Hamlet which I saw last night in Stratford Upon Avon. This could be a patchworkish sort of blog as I am pretty tired and am not sure I can do a completely coherent piece.

I love Hamlet. It is hard to find words for a play which already says just about everything. I thought deconstruction was something to do with post modernism until I read Hamlet. There is a really beautiful ambiguity about it and last night's performance shone such a delicate light on all of its facades. I came away thinking that maybe it's only acting that can give meaning to language. Or maybe only act-ions. Or something.

It must be hard to act a part like Ophelia or Hamlet without giving in to the desire to answer the questions that the play refuses to answer; what is it to be mad? what is it to love? what is a ghost? what is a father? a mother? how can one live in the present and the past at the same time and how much thought should one give to the future?

Patrick Stuart was bad to the bone as Claudius and Ophelia made me cry with her crazy flower arranging. Particular kudos to David Tennant whose portrayl of the oedipal Hamlet in his mother's bedroom was one of the most touching things I have witnessed on stage or screen. To read about someone whose anxiety about the present leads them to torture themselves over the future while yearning for the past is one thing. To witness what it is like for someone else to try to crawl back inside their mother's womb is another. It extends out somehow so much further than the words alone.

Time traveller indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I've just made Ana her first itunes playlist. It contains all her very favourite tunes including:

The Theme From S-Express (S-Express)
Vertigo (U2)
Suddenly I See (KT Tunstall)
14th Street (Rufus Wainwright)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (Flaming Lips)
Upside Down (Jack Johnson)

Her favourites are S-Express and the Rufus Wainwright (which she won't talk during). I have noticed her digging Billy Joel lately do that'll be going on, along with the Proclaimers, very soon.

The first song I can remember really loving was 'You're the One That I Want' from Grease. I was about Ana's age when that came out as a single so maybe she'll remember this stuff too in years to come.

What's the first song you can remember loving?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Great Things About Northern Ireland Part 1

Last night Ian and I went to see the Hothouse Flowers in a wee bar in Castlewellan. We got a perfect spot right beside the bar and about a metre away from where Laim O'Maonlai was sitting playing his piano. So close that a couple of the women beside us were seriously contemplating stealing his cardigan which he'd left behind him out of his line of vision (they picked it up and put it back a few minutes later!) It is the only gig I have ever been to where an audience member was playing air uilleann pipes. I think I have would have enjoyed it if only for that, but of course there was much more.

Liam's voice is like angels. There was a little moment during a song I'm not familiar with when he sang one long note to the audience, repeated about four times, and it was like nothing earthly. I thought, that's it, I can leave now. We stayed to hear a bunch of songs we did know and then the Lakes of Pontchartrain and then, this: Si do Mhamo(a traditional irish song, the chorus of which translates as 'she's your granny, she's your granny, she's your granny, the hag with the money').

What's this got to do with the north? Well, half the bar (including my presbyterian husband) were singing along with gusto. It was sort of great. I like being Irish in part because of the great stuff we have that no-one else has, and because the good stuff that we have is very very good! Many protestants in the north have embraced and are embracing their Irish heritage and finding out that it belongs to them as much as soda bread and the Giants Causeway and all the other things you were allowed to enjoy as a kid (OK, there weren't that many....)

When you listen to the news it is easy to forget the good stuff. So I'm challenging myself to think about it a bit more often (such a hardship- it might involved going to more pubs..).

Any joiners?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

my house is very small, with woodchip on the wall...

I've been working on the shed over the past few weeks. The white you can see in the first picture is insulating material- the kind you get for doing the roofspace. After I'd fitted it I wallpapered over it to make it look all pretty :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Three Reasons I Love Second Hand Bookshops

1. They leave you alone in there

The owner of a second hand bookshop will not follow you around, assessing if you are the type who is about to spend a fortune on their goods before asking you if you 'need help' to spend your money. Sometimes they will ignore you completely. This is a rather beautiful experience in my opinion. You can spend a very long time in a second hand bookshop without feeling in the slightest bit conspicuous.

2. The Derren Brown factor

There is a kind game I play in second hand bookshops, especially in the type of shop where the books are in double rows and you have to remove piles of books to find the ones lurking behind. If you are looking for a certain book eventually you get this feeling like if you think hard enough about the title of the author it will soon show up as if it was waiting there for you the whole time. The times when this works will be worth an entire afternoon of searching and you can walk out of the store feeling like a Jedi knight AND you'll have the book too! What could be better?

3. Everyone wins

When you find said sought-after book you feel like it is worth a lot of money due to the (physical but, remember, also mental) effort you have put into its discovery. Look inside the cover- it only costs £1.20! You might feel slightly guilty as you bring it to the counter, as if you ought to pay more, only to be told you can have it for a quid. Second hand bookshops don't make a lot of money. They are delighted with your custom! If you still feel bad, pay the full asking price! Everybody wins!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Prayer Plant by Sinead Morrisey

It was given to me small, whorled like my brother's tongue
in the game when we were children, its three leaves
wrapped up tight in themselves, barred as an oyster.

I can scarcely remember what happened in between:
how many months (or pots) it took to enter
its own abundance. Now it hangs full and excitable

over my fireplace, concerned mostly with maintenance.
Come morning, after I've moved all night from room
to room in search of sleep, and I can sometimes witness it

lower its fringe of adjustable oars beneath the rim
of its lazuli bowl, as though blushing, or weeping.
Then, by evening, before the sky has acknowledged that

-already- the light is draining, catch it levering
its slow arms towards heaven again, mindful as Islam.
is it praying in the dark or in the daytime?