Posts Tagged ‘Matthew Bourne’

tmmkgWhat is time?  How do we order the past, the present, and the future.  Why are artists interested in time?  How is art a machine, vehicle, or device for exploring time?  How is art a means by which time ‘travels’, and how does art permit us to travel in time?

This is the way in to MK Gallery‘s latest show, How to construct a time machine, from the press release of which that opening quote is taken.  You enter under Ruth Ewan‘s We could have been anything that we wanted to be (2011).  Yup, only ten hours.  It harks back (nostalgically?) to the revolutionary Republican calendar of 1793 in France.  The exhibition is a fruitful and entertaining way to spend some time, and we will return to it later in this post.  Meanwhile, let us consider the book as a time machine – two books, actually – and visit a period when England was actively trying to decide what it wanted to be more than usual.

LamentationLamentation (Mantle, 2014) is the sixth in C.J.Sansom‘s distinguished sequence of weighty historical crime novels featuring the hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, set in the reign of Henry VIII.  Innocent traitor (2006) was popular historian Alison Weir‘s first novel after nearly two decade’s worth of non-fiction mostly touching on the same era.  The lead protagonists of both novels witness the burning at the stake of the heretic Anne Askew at Smithfield in 1546; Henry’s 6th wife – Katherine Parr – features strongly in each book as a good woman; and his prolonged miserable death is a very big deal in both – well it would be, you’d suppose.

That I read them one after another was pure coincidence; I’ve followed Sheldrake’s fortunes from the start in 2003’s Dissolution, while Innocent traitor was the latest Book Group book.  Add the spellbinding adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall on the telly and a surfeit of Tudors could threaten, were the latter not so beautifully done; Thomas Cromwell – not one of Shardlake’s favourite people when alive – is long gone by the time the novels begin.  And what a time: when failure to believe in transubstantiation – that the bread and wine taken at Catholic Mass actually become the blood and body of Christ – could be fatal; when even sacramentarianism, the sop of metaphor, just wasn’t good enough.

Innocent traitorWhile its narrative is driven by events at – and it spends a fair amount of time in –  royal residences and the corridors of power, Lamentation also shows us Tudor London in its vivid entirety.  Along with the sights, sounds and smells of its mean streets and the river you get to see an interesting selection of London’s other ranks.  The drama of Innocent traitor, on the other hand, is almost exclusively played out in the opulent royal courts and in the mansions of the high and mighty.  Similarly, while the issue in Innocent traitor is seen simply as being between Catholic and Protestant, in Lamentation we get to meet some real radicals, those handy folk devils – socialist Levellers precursors no less – the Anabaptists.

Lamentation is an astute, gripping, sometimes violent, layers-of-the-onion conspiracy thriller, an examination of the nitty-gritty of realpolitik at close quarters, delivered with a beating heart and a finely tuned moral core.  A sub-plot involves a hopeless legal case Sheldrake has been engaged in, which functions as both light relief and to underscore what is going on in the wider world.  There is an easy continuity of Shardlake’s likeable social circle with previous volumes; you care about him and his friends.  He gets involved again against his better judgment, basically because he fancies the Queen; not that anything’s ever gonna happen but, you know, she’s got a nice smile.  What I found particularly interesting this time around is his growing disillusion with it all, his radicalisation.  Here’s the evidence.  Postmodernist intrusion? – maybe, but not beyond the realms after what he’s seen:

  • I no longer had sympathies with either side in the religious quarrel, and sometimes doubted God’s very existence … (p6)
  • Nicholas shook his head firmly.  “Now the war is over, prosperity will surely return.  And the security of everyone depends on people staying within the ranks to which they were born.  Otherwise we should have the anarchy of the Anabaptists.”
    That bogey again.  I said, “I confess the more I see of mankind, the more I think we are all of one common clay.” (p160)
  • “I thought the proceeds from the monasteries would be used to bring justice to the poor; that the King, as Head of the Church, would have a regard to what the old church did not.  Yet all that money went on extending Whitehall and other palaces, or was thrown away on the war.  No wonder some folks have gone down more radical paths.” (p225)
  • I looked over all these rich men and women and thought of Timothy, somewhere alone out on the streets.  The notion came to me that perhaps the Anabaptists had something after all: a world where the gulf between the few rich and the many poor did not exist, a world where preening peacocks like Thomas Seymour and Serjeant Blower wore wadmol and cheap leather might not be so bad a place after all. (p561)

Right on, brother Shardlake!  Who it is almost time to leave, save to ponder what it can mean as the hunchback lawyer says, when mightily surprised, “I sat bolt upright” – a miracle? – and wonder how he’s going to fare in the months and years to come after Henry’s death, which is the crisis at the heart of Alison Weir‘s book.  Something to look forward to.  I note that Sansom has already cleverly set his man up with a young mate who is to achieve a prominent position when Elisabeth is on the throne, but there’s a lot of muddy water to wade through before that happens.

Innocent traitorThe innocent traitor of Innocent traitor is Lady Jane Grey: at age 16, the 9-day queen, holder of the record for the shortest reign of any English monarch.  The girl was cruelly used as a pawn by her parents and various others at court in order both to secure a Protestant succession to the throne and as a blatant exercise in self-aggrandisement.  She ended up – spoiler alert – quite unjustly, because of the specific utter stupidity of her very own father, losing her head, as happened quite often in those times.  I knew nothing of her story before reading this, but I do now, and for this sympathetic retelling I am grateful.

I wasn’t quite as annoyed by certain aspects of Innocent traitor as some in my Book Group.  Because of time constraints (I was reading Lamentation) I skim-read a lot of it and so missed the others’ detailed objections to the prose, the unlikely adverbial and adjectival elaborations, that particularly got up people’s noses.  The tale is told in first person mode by a number of participants including Jane herself, her Lady Macbeth of a mother (the book opens with her giving birth to Jane), her loyal loving serving woman Mrs Ellen, Queen Katherine Parr, Queen Mary to be, and a couple of others, with the final words coming from The Executioner (which was rather a nice touch, I thought).  The trouble is, they all sound the same, with practically no variation in voice at all, even from Mrs Ellen, the closest to a pleb we get in these pages.  As first person narratives they work better as third person voiceovers for a tv documentary.  The one that really made us laugh in bemusement was Jane’s, “Today I am four year’s old,” followed by some elaborate scene-setting with no concessions to toddler talk, which might have been interesting.  And her mum telling us, early on, “After two disastrous marriages, and a cataclysmic quarrel with the Pope, my uncle, King Henry VIII, at last has a son and heir” is no isolated example.

I was moved by Jane’s plight, I’ll admit, but I didn’t cry, so according to the quote on the cover of the paperback edition, I “must have a heart of stone“.  “What young girl would not giver her all to be Queen of England?” Tom Seymour (for it is he) asks rhetorically.  Alas, not poor bullied Jane, the kind of gal who scorns all the young nobles out a-hunting: “Their sport is but a shadow to the pleasure I find in Plato.  Poor souls, it seems to me they do not know what pleasure means,” she tells her tutor.  Maybe, but she didn’t have a chance to have much fun.

Back to the Time Machine …

Time machineThere is much to engage with in How to construct a time machine – Mark Wallinger’s highly reflective aluminium TARDIS which “disappears into the space-time continuum by reflecting its own surroundings” and the butterflies ‘flying’ in the zoetrope, to mention but two – but the thing that really absorbed me, and I shall probably go back and watch it all the way through, just because, was Thomson & Craighead‘s The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order (2010), a re-editing of the classic 1960 film of the H.G.Wells novel featuring Rod Taylor as the time traveller; that’s right, only the one with the actual time machine prop the lads successfully bid for on eBay in an episode in the first series of The Big Bang Theory .  Each word of dialogue, and the spaces in between after the last words of a sequence (I appreciated the rest), appear in alphabetical order.  Never mind the artspeak justification, it works because you vaguely know the story, but it also works … beyond narrative.  I guffawed loudly a number of times in the 15 minutes I was in there in two sessions (it runs for 1 hour, 36 minutes) and hung around for specific words: ‘love’, for one – just the once, as it happens.  You probably have to experience it to understand why I’m so enthusiastic, but for the high frequency words like ‘time’, ‘machine’ or ‘future’ the rapid fire succession of speakers and backgrounds is a joy to behold.  If I were to meet the perpetrators I would not be able not to ask whether they took at least some inspiration from the notorious Short f***ing version compilation of The Big Lebowski(Go on: you probably want to).

Before I move on I’ll say something about the gallery experience.  Another of the exhibits is a small (non-flat) television showing a performance of John Cage‘s 4’33 – you know, the one where the concert pianist sits at the piano and ‘plays’ silence (in three movements) for precisely 4 minutes and 33 seconds.  The telly’s on the floor and on the wall above it there’s a facsimile of the original score sheets (oh, yes – full of rests).  Now you can see the same bit of film right here on your computer or other digital device in much better picture (and sound) quality, but … context … it’s just different, worth being there.

Briefly, some other cultural adventures …

In chronological order:

Scribal Feb 2015

Archivists of the future please note: Glass Tears were nowhere to be seen.

HB Scribal 5What can I say?  It was Scribal‘s fifth birthday and there was cake courtesy of Caz.  The mighty Antipoet were mighty lots of things, among them being rhythm section to the wonderful Dodobones, who were surviving admirably after their self-imposed cover-a-day for a month stint on YouTubeMitchell Taylor showed a sensitive side but still managed to shout/sing “Fascist scum” with some glee at another song’s end; shame because his The blood of St George stands well enough (nay, better) without it.  New Bard Pat Nicholson continues to blossom in the role.  Can’t remember much else about it.

SSSAnother grand night at York House for S.S.Shanty! 3, a benefit for the RNLI. (for non-MK readers the SS stands for Stony Stratford, as well as the traditional nautical nomenclature).  An acapella evening of great variety with, naturally, a maritime theme one way or the other.  We had the many-handed Sloop Groggy Dogg from the shores of Woburn Sands, barber shop from B-Flat, a round the world trip from Oxford’s Manchoir, and the stirring Trim & Doxy up from Liverpool (one of whom played accordion).  The sheer power of The Five Men Not Called Matt (all 6 of ’em) gets me every time, with, this night, the occasional sweet bonus of aiding and abettment from Michèle Welbourn.  All the beer was drunk.  Unexpected were the low-level murmurings of demurral at the last mentioned (wait for it) when MC Ken kicked off the evening by addressing the assembled multitude, “Ladies, Gentlemen, and UKIP supporters.”

All six of The Five Men Not Called Matt in action.  Photo (c) Alison Holden.

All six of The Five Men Not Called Matt in action. Photo (c) Alison Holden.

esAnd then there was Matthew Bourne‘s splendid production of Edward Scissorhands at the theatre.  Has to be one of the highlights of the year already.  I’ll say it again: I don’t do ballet, but I do do Matthew Bourne.  What’s to add?  All the superlatives.  Even though I’ve never actually seen the Tim Burton movie, I’ll presume you know the story.  It had everything.  Energy, humour, wit, rhythm, romance, compassion, satire, a touch of goth.  Brilliant moves, exhilarating ensemble work, suitably corny stage business and a great set.  Glorious shiny happy ’50s American suburban stereotypes paraded and parodied, and the fears lurking behind.  Dominic North as Edward was magnificent.  Was moved greatly by the dramatic, then poignant, ending.  And we got snowed on.  Biggest genuine standing ovation I’ve ever been a part of.


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Westward Ho!  Not wholly literally, but, at least, a weekend spent in Bristol and Cardiff.


“Fellow citizens”: This is what the British super-rich used to do with their money – Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Didn’t have the time to do all of the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery on Friday, and, to tell the truth, I can’t remember much about the paintings or the pots on the second floor, but I’d go again; Alfred the gorilla, the gypsy caravan and the dinosaurs on the first floor fare better with the memory cells, and it’s as good a colourful collection of stuffed birds as I can recall seeing.

TeasmadesWe had practical reasons to visit the Clevedon Craft Centre the next morning.  Where we did espy a small garden of dead Teasmades at Clock Repairs & More.  Click on the link for the proprietor’s entertaining take on Teasmades and his chosen life path.  Shame about the Teasmade; we had one once.  If only they could have cracked the milk problem.

Oakham treasures

And so to Oakham Treasures, just off the M5 at Porterbury, near Bristol.  This wondrous collection of old domestic and retail tat and ephemera (and some bigger stuff) from the last century is a crammed and endlessly surprising collection of memory triggers of staggering proportions.  Here’s a link to the website.  Never mind those period shops in York Castle Museum (or, indeed, more locally to Lillabullero, Milton Keynes Museum), here are aisles of shelves and counters of multi-decaded emporia – groceries, sweets, hardware, booze and fags, chemists’ stocks, cameras, shaving mugs, post boxes … I could go on.  With an accent, I guess, on the central decades of the twentieth century (though I saw my first mobile phone in one of the displays).  Filled, un-cashed in books of Green Shield stamps, anyone?  Then there’s that barn full of tractors – well over a hundred of them – and an overpowering aroma of pneumatic rubber; would you believe a folk art of decorated metal tractor seats?

Navy CutHappily Oakham Treasures is not overburdened with captions and explanations detailing time, place or significance.  Nor is there any attempt at chronological arrangement.  The material is allowed to just be there, broadly themed, so memories are organically sparked.  I’d forgotten my dad used to cut out the iconic capped and bearded sailor roundels from the Players Navy Cut cigarette packets that cost him a lung and use them creatively – just about the most artistic thing he ever did – though nothing like on the scale of the picture here.  Hard to remember just how prevalent smoking used to be.  All the men were hooked, so they had to get to the women.  So-phisticated:

CapstanGold Flake woman

 And the times, they were a’changing:

Fab Eve

Lord of the Flies

lord-of-the-fliesAnd so, on Saturday evening, to Cardiff Bay, to Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru – the Wales Millennium Centre – for Matthew Bourne‘s New Adventures dance company’s production of Lord of the Flies, from the William Golding novel.  Wow.  Even without a show the venue is impressive, even from the back outside.  We were in the Circle on Level 4, and the climb was an architectural treat in itself – beyond the atrium the lettering on the front of the building (there’s a photo below) is actually window space – while the auditorium roof is an elegant, clean, warm wonder in wood just considered on its own.

The performance was, as you’d expect from a Matthew Bourne production, a total experience.  Loud, exciting, bold, involving … just stunning.  There was so much going on among the cast, the bare permanent scaffolding set was inventively functional, there were moments of great beauty just from the lighting effects, while the cello-based music was intriguing and driving, intrinsic to the drama of the whole.

The story is basically a bunch of boys left to their own devices on a remote island (an extreme reality tv scenario if you will).  The sweet dulcet tones of the stranded boys’ choir of the opening sequence is soon forgotten as the power struggle of reason and brute charisma develops and practical survival becomes the issue.  It’s been a long time since I read the book; that will now have to change.  And though I wasn’t quite there with some of the finer points of the narrative all of the time, the gradual descent into savagery was all too understandable.  It’s not the most optimistic of works, whatever the format.

I won’t go into great detail about the project – a team of 8 professional dancers and a 20-plus volunteer ensemble of young men and boys initially recruited as their introduction to dance – but you couldn’t tell where the one group ended and the other began.  Brilliant night’s dance, brilliant night’s theatre.

Wales Millennium Centre: "In these stones horizons sing" it says, in English and Welsh.

Wales Millennium Centre: “In these stones horizons sing” it says. In English and Welsh.

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Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty curtainThe usual rider: I don’t do ballet but I do do Matthew Bourne. Even before we’d taken our seats the curtain in front of the safety curtain exuded quality and what followed when it went up on his New Adventures production of Sleeping Beauty: a Gothic Romance was just stunning.  That’s the word.  All I can come up with is a string of superlatives so I’ll keep it short, given I don’t really know what I’m talking about.  The Sunday Times review quote on the posters accurately gives a flavour of the show’s greatness and wit: ‘The Bourne Supremacy‘ (though the excitement to be had is thankfully of another kind entirely).

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping BeautyFantastic flexible set, sumptuous yet never over-complicated, framed at the side with wonderful black and gold vertically striped ionic columns that set the tone, a dark marble floor.  From the circle where we were sitting you got the bonus of intriguing reflections of the dancers in the floor and the windows at the back (when they were there); an enormous moon often featured through them too, to great effect.  The lighting transformations worked wonderfully too.  Aurora – our heroine – as a baby was a puppet, which beautifully achieved a magic of its own even while you could see the black clad puppeteers behind. It would be churlish not to mention the costumes in all their variety, earthly and faerie, over the century and a bit the show spanned.

The whole production was so clever and inventive, but those qualities were intrinsic and never loudly intrusive (I still shudder at the thought of the Welsh National Opera’s Flying Dutchman set on a space ship).  The traditional Charles Perrault fairy tale gets a gothic injection of good guys and bad in conflict for Aurora.  Starting in 1890 – the year the original ballet was first staged – Aurora comes of age and falls asleep in 1911.  ‘100 years’ it said projected on the curtain that announced the interval, with the final act taking place ‘Yesterday’ (nicely projected in sans-serif – a neat shift).

Oh, and the dancing, the choreography, the extraordinary movement and shapes, collective and individual?  Dramatic, intricate, exciting, moving; not forgetting the wit.  Some of the time there were travelators near the back of the stage moving in different directions adding another delicious dimension.  Aurora’s sequences when asleep – dancing blindfold – were remarkable, not least in the collective faith on display; her moves took me back to Pina, Wim Wenders film about Pina Bausch’s work (I raved about it here).  The whole evening was a delight, a tremendous theatrical experience.  Have to end with that word again: simply stunning.  The sheer warmth of the ovation, never mind the volume and length, says it all.

Hey, and in 20 minutes times as I type this, a new Poliakoff on the telly!


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Quick before I forget it.  Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe spirit’ at the theatre week before last was OK but I didn’t laugh as much as I’d hoped.  Probably the play’s fault; the other couple in the first act are superfluous really for example.  But it’s not exactly a brilliant idea to have brief snatches of Noel Coward’s songs sung by the man himself between acts; a bit obvious really.  Highlight of first act was Hermione Norris’s stunning period (and ever) stylish throat to floor red dress; the culottes in act 2 were beautiful too.  Alison Steadman, as the matter of fact but mad English medium on a push bike (albeit operating under the name of Madame Arcati) was nicely judged, didn’t take things too hammy, and Robert Bathurst‘s was a stylish performance, but the scene stealer was Ruthie Henshaw‘s almost permanent wicked grin as the ghost of his first wife, reaping her mischief.  Funniest was the spiteful jousting of both wives by the time they were spirits.  Early in a pre-West End run, so it should sharpen up a bit and get more than the single curtain call it got last Tuesday.

Apparently ‘Blithe spirit‘ was first produced in 1941 so I hate to think how London audiences reacted to the poltergeist explosions at the end.  The explosions came loud and fast in  Matthew Bourne‘s ‘Cinderella‘ at the theatre last week.  A Cinders set in the Blitz, no less, with the horse-drawn carriage a gleaming silver and white motorcycle and sidecar and Liberace in Las Vegas sparkle as the fairy godmother; a Cruella de Ville of a stepmother of wicked grace.  It was a New Adventures production so it was brilliant – great moves, great shapes, great atmospheric London set.  The ball a dream sequence in the Cafe de Paris the night the bombs hit.  Sensuous, witty not least in the movie referencing, and emotional too.   Not sure about the electro-convulsive-therapy sequence though – what exactly was that all about?  No matter – an experience to be savoured.

Beg, now, to excuse a musical rant.  John Grant‘s ‘Queen of Denmark‘ featured in all the 2010 round-ups I looked at and Mojo magazine even awarded it an “Instant Classic” badge.  It isn’t.  At times it’s pleasant enough on the surface, but it’s all over the place stylistically and highly derivative.  Just one for instance: twice my attention wandered and I heard the ghost of Phil Ochs – except he knew how to rhyme and make lines scan.  Self loathing, addiction, loss … well sometimes art as therapy can work for an audience too (I’ve just ‘discovered’ Eels, remember) when you can feel and share the redemption, but in my house I aint gonna have (from the title track):

I wanted to change my world
But I could not even change my underwear
And when the shit got really, really out of hand
I had it all the way up to my hairline
Which keeps receding like my self-confidence
As if I ever had any of that stuff anyway.

Lovely image.  “Gallows humour” says Dorian in Word magazine.  Music critics, eh?

And while we’re in this quarter of town, let us consider British Sea Power.  I so wanted to like ‘Valhalla dancehall‘, same as I really wanted to really like the previous one, the one with ‘Canvey Island’, about the tragic North Sea flood of 1953, which song was well worth a listen.  Great title, the new one, and on the timely lead-off track, ‘Who’s in control’, there’s even a defence, among other things, of public libraries:

It’s militant, not military,
See we welcome everybody, we’re not even scary
I’m a big fan of the local library,
I just read a book but that’s another story

They interview interestingly on a range of topics including their deliberately off-centre but committed relation to the music business – their previous album was actually called ‘Do you like rock music?’ with some sense of double bluff – and are obviously literate, with their hearts in the right places.  But half the time it’s just rock noise and they have no tunes.  Sorry chaps, at best I was reminded of how good Pulp were.  And more’s the shame, for the comparison, there’s a song about going to the disco and I’ve been struggling to get – no, I haven’t really been trying so hard cos it’s so delightful – the Divine Comedy‘s ‘At the indie disco’ out of my head since I first heard it a couple of months ago.  Neil Hanlon is a real master of his craft – wit, wisdom, rhythm, emotion, plaintivity, rhyme and huge TUNES, gorgeous addictive melodies that take a hold and just don’t let go.  ‘Neapolitan girl’ is a fabulous swinging bitter-sweet capture of those Italian movies of the early ’60s, of the idea of that era’s continental joie de vivre.  So clever but never smug, sharing a joy.  Scansion, rhyme, attitude  – I give you  the conclusion of ‘The complete banker’:

Oh, how I hanker for the good old days
When I was free and a complete banker
I’m a conscience free, malignant cancer
On society

To a tune, of course, that you’ll hum walking down the street.

Oh, and ‘Howard’s End‘ – a slight return.  Discussion at the Book Group meeting.  Seems I was meant to dislike them.  E.M.Forster was doing satire.  But, you know, there remains the old question – what is to be done?  Apart from winge about noisy dirty expanding London and moan about the motor car and bemoan bourgeois Swanage?  And ‘only connecting’, of course.  No, I recognise certain qualities of thought at work here and some fine writing about a notion of ‘England’ but I am not budged from the thought that – for all his faults – that world was crying out for  D.H.Lawrence to rub their faces in it.

Listen to this, Forster speaking, not one of his characters, from the end of Chapter 19:

… and over the immense displacement the sun presided, leading it to triumph ere he sank to rest.  England was alive, throbbing through all her estuaries, crying for joy through the mouths of all her gulls, and the north wind with contrary motion, blew stronger against her rising seas.  What did it mean?  For what end are her fair complexities, her changes of soil, her sinuous coast? Does she belong to those who have moulded her and made her feared by other lands, or to those who have added nothing to her power, but have somehow seen her, seen the whole island at once, lying as a jewel in a silver sea, sailing as a ship of souls …

Those who have moulded her – is that the capitalists and imperialists or the workers and the ag labs, the captains or the ratings and the poor bloody infantry?  And from Chapter 22 this stretch of coast a bit further along:

Beneath them was the bourgeois little bay, which must have yearned all through the centuries for just such a watering-place as Swanage to be built on its margin.
The waves were colourless, and the Bournemouth steamer gave a further touch of insipidity, drawn up against the pier and hooting wildly for excursionists.

1910 was indeed – a century even – a long time ago.  England, whose England?



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You’ll believe a man can fly.  Absolutely stunning, emotionally and visually.  Such agility, such energy, such great shapes.  Beauty, grace, strength, vulnerability, sensuality and some fun.  I hadn’t bothered to check out the story beforehand and frankly, it wouldn’t have helped that much; they take it somewhere else.  Bourne’s reworking of ‘Swan Lake‘ with an all male flock of swans – contemporary in concept (like his ‘Dorian Gray’, celebrity culture was one reference point) if not wholly in costume – was a treat.  Hell, they were swans; suddenly all the corniness of those cod school drama lessons made beautiful sense;  “Be a swan”, and they were – you have to see it.  A few things: the bad boy at the big party just took your breath away, total charisma; the old woman with her old lady’s shopping trolley feeding the swans bread at the side of the lake after the first entrancement; the shadow play near the end, huge behind the characters.  I’ve said it before and it’s a bit of a cliché – I do not do ballet but I do do Matthew Bourne.  I’ll go again next time it’s around.

Had reason to be in a church in Letchworth last week.   There was a tasty banner displayed saying ‘Faith in Wilbury’ but we did not do the ‘Wilbury twist‘; no, the exit music was Westlife.  Turns out Wilbury is a district of Letchworth and it was us did the travellin’.  Journey took in a turn around (it said on the sign) ‘UK’s first roundabout c1909′.  Humanist that I am, ‘Abide with me‘ still gets me every time.
Did the RSPB’s ‘Big garden Birdwatch‘ on Sunday.  Bit of a disaster: 2 starlings, 2 blackbirds, a robin, a chaffinch and a blue tit was all.  Hardly a dicky bird, you might say, compared to other years; hope it’s no augury.

Well into Richard Dawkin‘s ‘Unweaving the rainbow: science, delusion and the appetite for wonder‘ (1998).  I think he makes his case well – there is poetry in the worlds science reveals, whatever is taken away (if indeed it is) is well replenished – and he takes no prisoners.  And though at times the prose hardly sparkles and that hint of the pompous cannot be denied, nor can his arguments.  The notion that pigeons could be superstitious (discovered by Skinner) was news to me, and there are lots of other similar snippets in there along the way.   The accusation of reductionism in Dawkins’ work is unfair, for all he posits about the selfish gene.  He never says, “It’s just the genes/ it’s only …”  He retains, is driven on, by a sense of wonder and a mission to share it.

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