As No Entrance Halls go, the No Entrance Hall on La Avenida Grande is possibly one of the most enigmatic in the city. Ever since the building went up, the great No Entrance doors have remained closed, a situation which for centuries has only fuelled speculation as to what the building is for. For certainly no one has seen anyone go in or come out. If the curious enquire, an official will explain that logically no one is seen going in as it is a No Entrance Hall, and also reasonably, as no one goes in, so no one comes out.
Daily, Mrs. Methuselah mops the great tessellated floor within. Donned in pinafore and headscarf, she criss-crosses the tiles from corner to corner and, squeezing out her mop, moves across to traverse the room again. One last draw on a cigarette, she drops the butt into the dirty bucket and casts her appreciative eyes over the ostentatiousness within its walls. She could tell them all they wanted to know. But her lips are sealed.
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For too long I have lead an uncultured life as far as the theatre goes, so a few years back I decided I wanted to experience a bit of Shakespeare. I’m assured there’s no finer.
We saw Macbeth performed by the Cotswold Arcadians at Hatherop Castle in 2011. It was really enjoyable and this event has become a fixture in our diary – I blogged last month about seeing the Arcadians perform Twelfth Night.
Well, now that I feel a bit more confident about experiencing the Bard, I thought about trying another performing group, The Riverside Players. Last week, they were putting on Much Ado About Nothing in the gardens of Rendcomb College, just a spit and stone’s throw down the road from us. We booked tickets at the last minute for the last show.
The College is a grand Victorian period building, set up high with splendid views of the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately it was a bit breezy and overcast, and the arena was a bit too exposed to the weather. In the end, it did rain; a fine drizzle typical of English weather; we got dampish but what doesn’t kill you makes you tougher; we toughed it out.
I didn’t know much about this play other than it was billed as a comedy. My wife said it was also a romance. A Rom-Com then, by Shakespeare. I now know that the people who put on Shakespeare often like to play with anachronisms. This performance was set during World War II, with princely officers in uniform, women in print dresses and permanent waves, and even a comical party of Home Guards and an air raid warden.
There was a bit of singing too which surprised me. Authentic Shakespeare or a touch of Vera Lynn?
The Players performed very well, I thought. It was clearly a comedy and the plot was easy to follow, and I cottoned on to some funny lines. We’ll be going along again, I think. Next year, perhaps, though they don’t always perform Shakespeare. That’s okay, it’s good to get out and see some theatre now and then.
Mark Twain famously described the game of golf as a good walk, spoiled. Inferring from it that he might have been interested in a bit of a stroll, I wonder what his views would have been on Ramblers and their Rambling?
Interestingly, the dictionary gives me two meanings for Rambling: “walking for pleasure in the countryside” and “lengthy and confused or inconsequential speaking”. This is probably no accident.
Today promising no rain, I take a chance on walking into town to buy some groceries. As I approach the riverside path, I see to my dismay that I am many yards too late to get ahead of a long crocodile of chatterbox ramblers. There was little for it but to insert myself within their number, halfway between the fittest of them and the hopeless stragglers. Maybe I could squeeze past somewhere? No such luck; the path is too narrow for even two abreast, and they are in too plentiful in number.
This reminds me of what the renown Lake District fell walker and guide book author, Alfred Wainwright said about walking with others (I’ll paraphrase it): In company, there are some that hurry you along too quickly to enjoy the moments, while others drag their feet so much that you fear you’ll miss the pub’s last orders, the last bus home, or end up lost in the failing light. Go alone.
Suddenly, the group ahead stops, both in motion and inconsequential chattering. One has alerted the others to the fact that, in a field of horses, a young foal is lying flat on its side. “I hope it isn’t dead”, cries the one. “You’d think the owner would be here, wouldn’t you?”, says another. “What to do?”, wails a third. Before they begin the tearing of clothes, I use the moment to edge through despite the risk of being nudged into the river or carelessly lanced with the pointy end of a Nordic pole.
Do they think horses sleep standing up?
Their leader-guide is a short, old guy with a stick at least two foot longer than himself, and a pair of wide shorts only a foot shorter than his legs. Even so, his legs have put him some distance ahead of his now stationary followers. He is apparently oblivious to the flat horse issue being discussed behind him. It only needs a couple of sharp turns and he will have lost them forever.
I imagine a scene perhaps akin to one from a Jacques Tati film, where a similarly shortish man in shorts might cross their path at that precise moment, and they thinking him their guide might follow him on an unintended mystery tour across town. Eventually, he arrives home and opens his door, and they all file in down the narrow hall where his wife has just mopped the floor. Her jaw drops a split-second before repositioning itself far further up her face than its normal resting position; she scowls and her black look meets a score of bewildered eyes. Then one of their number breaks ranks,
“Excuse me, but we saw a baby horse just now, lying in a field. I expect you see a lot of that in the country…?”
“You only are free when you realise you belong no place; you belong every place.”
Maya Angelou (in conversation with Bill Moyers, 1972)
I’m unfamiliar with Maya Angelou, but I don’t imagine she means it geographically. I think it’s about acceptance, about being accepted as a person.
But what has this to do with freedom? Freedom, from what?
If you live free from obligation, from responsibility, from commitment, then how can you expect to hold onto respect?
And what is it to be free of compassion, and free of love?
John Donne, in his Meditations, in 1624, wrote of man being not an island, entire of himself. He is connected to others by human experience and shared values, of life and death. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
So what of freedom? Elusive?
Richard Lovelace, while imprisoned for political dissent in London, 1642, wrote to Althea in verse. The famous final stanza reads,
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
The line that impresses most is, minds, innocent and quiet. If we do not feel at ease in our own mind, then where on Earth do we go to find it?
inspired by Reena’s Exploration Challenge, week #50
It’s a good, and difficult, challenge from Reena, this week. Being overprivileged as I am in this old world, I wonder how much of value I can say about the sense of freedom, unlike Maya Angelou, say. Mine is just thoughts and words, and participating in Reena’s challenge.
As I approach the final day of work, I’ve noticed a phenomenon where extra weeks seem to be slotting in between now and that day, seemingly from nowhere (or should that be nowhen?) For example, I was looking at the project planner the other day and hadn’t realised August has five weeks, not four, so I’m a week further out in my estimation. What a drag.
It dawned on me how this phenomenon is likely a universal one. I remember now when we were kids, the approach of a birthday, or Christmas morning, seemed to slow the nearer we got to it. It obviously has to do with the intensity of looking forward to a desired event.
So if I can gather in a room enough people approaching the end of a mundane career, we would experience time gradually slowing down. Then, adding more and more such people, we could stop time completely.
It doesn’t take a quantum leap in imagination to see that the addition of just one more similar person would effectively reverse time’s arrow. Those fortunate enough to be in the room closest to the window will see the seasons slowly change from Summer to Spring, and soon enough little children will be wrapping their presents up to give to Santa, turkeys will be resurrected from ovens the world over, and leaves will begin attaching themselves to trees.
So let us forget the impracticality of going to Mars. Let us save our planet by going backwards. If you’re up for it and have an itch for a future date, get in touch. Our time room awaits us.
Refreshments will be provided.
Last night, I watched Last Bus To Woodstock, the seventh episode of Inspector Morse. To give you the gen, this is a British police telly drama, set in Oxford, and which ran for 33 episodes, over eight seasons for 13 years; each film-length episode runs for almost 2 hours, so that’s a lot of time investment. I have also caught up with the much newer UK police series, Unforgotten, on the “catch up” app and now I’m on the current season showing every Friday. The thing about all these police-crime solving telly dramas is they are very cyclic in nature. With each episode, and with each series/season, the story begins just like the last one.
We should be happy with that and I think we are. Lots of things in nature go about in cycles: day and night, the moon, the Earth around the Sun, the comets around the Solar System, the Solar System around the Universe and the Universe, for all we know, goes regularly around a flying turtle called Derek. We cannot get away from cyclic events so we may as well accept this fact and enjoy it.
But with me there is a rub. The thing I never liked about work was the dailiness of it. You get up, you go into work, you work, you go home, you go to bed, you get up, you go into work….. whaaaa!
Not only this but the work itself, and I’m sure I can’t be alone, is excruciatingly cyclic. You get one project out the door and what next? In comes another, much the same as the last, and the process is the same, on and on, until they give you a small party and a clock. Yeah, and that clock.
So it occurred to me this morning that I must be some kind of Linearist. A natural straight-liner. Entropic, Time’s Arrow, ever forward. I hadn’t the foggiest whether Linearism was a real thing, and I’m still unsure and if it is a thing, whether it applies to what I’m talking about.
I can’t think it’s never been thought of. Unless we’ve been going around in circles and missed it.
When I write about Life and the Meaning/Purpose of it as being simply Procreation (as a work around to a kind of sense of continuum or immortality) and Entertainment, I don’t mean the second to be entirely of the passive sort, like couch surfing the big game, or watching a clown riding a unicycle and the fenders and doors falling off his tiny yellow and red car…not entirely.
Certainly the Entertainment part is the greater part of it, broad and all encompassing. It is there to give Life a Sense of sustained purpose, before and after the relatively brief Procreative part. It’s as if nature first bestowed on us the Procreation part but gave us too much time to do it in, so we came up with the added value of the other part, to make Life bearable for the overthinking beings we are, although sometimes this doesn’t appear to be working as well as it should.
Entertainment is superficial. Entertainment is profound. It is simple, and intellectual and cerebral, and practical. Dexterity, creativity, imagination, philosophy and, yes, I think education, and everything really. Even in matters of Procreation, it helps enormously. So, Entertainment is everything.
Phew. Glad that’s sorted.
Now here’s Weller’s take on it, performed by the English band, The Jam…
image: “clown riding unicycle in town yoga mat” by Simon Bratt
This was in my inbox, today. A lifetime achievement award. Well, six years but it’s a beginning. Yes, it’s an achievement to register with WordPress and not delete your account for the following six years! (I should say so.)
Look, six years in and I know the form: I publish the fact for the world to see, then sing about how it counts for nada. Don’t mean anything. Worthless. Not what I’m here for.
Wrong! I’d like to thank my team, the editors, my publicist, the photographer (has he finished with my Samsung, yet?), the girl from graphics, my lawyers, security, and all the advertising sponsors which I don’t actually see but I know you do.
My Mum and Dad, my wife for yesterday’s cup of tea and sandwich, my kids, the dogs and cat…goldfish….
I had been thinking about those little GIF cartoons I attempted some years ago, and then how and why I came to blog, and it’s probably right that I self-identify as a bit of a dabbler. If you can’t be a Master at any one thing then at least try to be a Jack of all things. This I believe.
If I see something I like, I’m interested to find out how it works and what better way than to have a go at it yourself? That way you get an understanding and a better appreciation of the thing, and, by extension, the whole world. Or at least as much of the world as you can cram into a single lifetime.
This education began with my Mum and Dad. They were, and still are, the most self-reliant people I know. For them, I think it was partly out of necessity, not having a lot of money, but they are practical people too, in spirit.
So throughout my adult life, it’s astonished me how many times I’ve heard men say, with undisguised pride, how they “got in a man” to fix something that any fully functioning and reasonably intelligent person could do for themselves in no time. Seriously, I have known men who don’t even possess a screwdriver. It’s just bizarre if you consider how man is identified as a user of tools, a thing that sets us apart from most other animals, and yet there are examples here amongst us without a basic tool, the screwdriver – in a world of screws! And don’t get me started on men who (again, proudly claiming) don’t know their way around a kitchen…!
But back to education. It’s a source of dismay to me how it is in our co-called civilisation that educational support seems to shudder to a halt in adulthood and thereafter is only a real option for the wealthy and privileged. Not that it appears many of them take it up beyond the necessity in getting the right qualification to begin a career – normally a very straight and narrow path to the end.
Ignorance abounds, and it seems as if we’re proud to be dumb. Ironically, we are also very opinionated, and adamantly so. Though, to me, this is likely a symptom of the malaise. I believe it’s true that the more you learn, and the broader your learning is, paradoxically the more there is remaining to be understood.
This dabbler’s education is a work in progress.
Folks, it’s time for a little light visual entertainment, I think, and by way of my new follow, Hobo Moon Cartoons, this blog is proud to show Popeye the Sailor (featuring Betty Boop) in the first ever feature of Popeye.
Any who knows me, or wants to for that matter, will know this kind of thing is milk to my tea, and a biscuit to dunk with it. I’m not swayed so much by awesome visuals, just give me ingenious sight gags every time. And this toon is full to the brim with them. (I love the way the seaman lowers the gang plank before Olive Oyl arrives.)
And please check out Hobo Moon Cartoons, just two minutes from this theatre!
image: “Countdown #1” by Bladud Fleas
The GIF was made many years ago when I did a bit of photography and was given some photo editing software, gratis, which included a GIF maker (when GIFs were a new thing). I found these GIFs recently while sorting through an old memory stick.
Despite enjoying movies a lot, I have not set foot in a cinema for about two decades – I simply didn’t like the experience – and as technology has come an astonishingly long way in that time, I probably never need to ever go again. Now it occurs to me that also I haven’t kept up with how cinemas work today and the “hair in the gate” problem might be a complete obsolescence. No matter, consider it a lesson in cultural history.