Monday, 14 March 2016

Look Back In Anger (reaction not review) - Derby Theatre

It's a wet Sunday afternoon sometime in the late 1950s and Jimmy Porter is angry - oh my, is he angry! - about what he reads in the newspaper, about the weather, about not being able to get a pint on Sunday, about his wife's rich background, about the fact that no one will argue back at him, about his wife ironing while he wants to have fun (or at least an argument). He may feel frustrated, thwarted in his ambitions, and held-back by his working class roots. Maybe he wants to change the world  - but taking out his anger on the people closest to him isn't really the way to do it ..... and to be honest, after a while, Jimmy starts to come over as not so much an angry young man as a stroppy teenager.
.....and I haven't started on his attitude to women, both generally and towards his wife, Alison, specifically... Ok  Jimmy is a 1950s man, and the roles of men and women have changed a lot since then, but he's prepared to sit around while his wife does housework, expects her sympathy with his tiniest grievance but offers her none, and, for all his claims, doesn't really seem interested in her opinion on anything. He talks openly about the lovers he's had before he met his wife, and when she leaves him he's quick to find another. What he really seems to want is a woman who'll unconditionally adore him, agree with him all the time (no matter how quickly he changes his standpoint) and somehow magically get the housework done without upsetting his day.

Are we actually supposed to sympathise with this guy?

Look at things from his wife's point of view ....while Jimmy's having his little tantrum, she's working away, getting the ironing done. Nothing remarkable in that maybe, but Alison is a middle class educated woman - doesn't SHE feel frustrated by how her life has turned out? Did she expect to end up living in a one room bed-sit-style flat, with a husband who seems to complain day in day out about everything? Even so it's hard to sympathise with her - maybe because it's difficult to put oneself in Alison's 1950's shoes, but she does come over as rather too meek and mild, prepared to put up with whatever Jimmy says or does. She presumably still loves him and for any woman to leave her husband at that date wouldn't be as easy a decision as it would be today but I can't believe there was ever a happy ending in store for them.

The 60th anniversary production of Look Back In Anger at Derby Theatre is accompanied by a modern piece, Jinny, showing a modern woman full of unfulfilled dreams ..... I'm off to see it in a couple of weeks, so I'll wonder how she'll compare to 'old' Jimmy.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Spring Sunday

Glorious blue sky, the froth of blossom on sloes and cherries, and finding the first of the anemones .....Spring must be here

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Biddulph Grange Gardens

Last weekend the sun shone and Spring seemed in the air, and being in the area we decided on an impromptu visit to Biddulph Grange Gardens.

As you enter, you're met by Italian-inspired clipped hedges, formal bedding, an ornamental pond and long tree-lined vistas

but head further in and hidden from view are tunnels and stepping stones,

quirky design features such as a maze of daffodils,

a stumpery which looks like something out of a fairy tale,

 sphinxes guarding the entrance to an Egyptian tomb,

and at the heart of it a little bit of China

with the sort of bridge found on "Willow Pattern' plates,

It's rather like stepping through a gate into not just a secret garden but a magical one which transports you to the Orient.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Only Way Is Indie - Books And Music

Do you ever find that sometimes you don't go out for weeks and then several things come along at the same time that you'd like to catch? It happened to me on Friday.
I'd already planned in a vague way to catch an independent publishing event at Nottingham Writers' Studio, then realised that a pair of singer/songwriters that I'd really like to see were performing locally the same night. Time to panic!
Then time to check venues and timings ..... almost unbelievably, the two events were taking place on the same street, literally opposite each other, and, with a bit of leaving early here and missing the opening act there, I could pull both in!

panel photo courtesy of Mud Press
First over to, and underneath, Nottingham Writer's Studio for The Only Way Is Indie; Dr Teika Bellamy of Mother's Milk Books, and Sara Jayne Slack of Inspired Quill had brought together a panel of twelve, representing independent presses publishing anything from graphic novels to literary fiction, short stories to poetry. Picking up a book from an 'indie' you're not going to find something destined for the 'bestseller' list or a celebrity memoir - it's going to be quirky, maybe a little avant garde, possibly a debut novel from an unknown author who could turn out to be the year's big discovery (and then get snapped up by a larger publisher for their next book).  Besides hearing about what independent publishers have to offer authors, things that maybe the large publishers can't, it was a great opportunity to meet up with authors and publishers - some I've met before, some I'd only so far talked to over social media. There's a proper write up of the event on OurBookReviewsOnline but for me it was time to nip across the road ... to Bunkers Hill.

If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago what or where Bunkers Hill was, I'd have had no idea. But then I heard on the social media grapevine that two of the guys I'd met through my daughter's music promotions  - Patrick Craig and Joe McCorriston - were going to be playing there, and I thought it was a great chance to see them again. The venue turned out to be, as I said above, just across the road from the book event, one of those pubs that advertise 'live music' on certain nights, and the 'stage' was a small area in one corner of the bar (No dartboard this time though)

I always expected to miss the opening act, local singer George Gadd, but I was disappointed to have got my timings a bit out and missed the beginning of Patrick Craig's set ..... still it's a good excuse to go see him next time he's up from London, and I at least managed to catch the whole of Joe McCorriston's set. Both are singer/songwriters with a folk/punk vibe and were as good, if not better, than I'd remembered (though it helps that this time I hadn't been left in charge of collecting entrance money!). It was a really fun end to the evening and I'm glad I went along.

 What struck me afterwards was the way in which both of the evening's events had been about going down an 'independent' route. In the same way that the independent publishers are investing in work that isn't mainstream, so are these musicians. Their music is their own, played and sung from the heart; not something shaped by management to fit what's deemed popular. Although both the bestseller lists and music charts have something to offer (though, please, not the latest formulaic thriller or boy-band song), there's a lot more variety to be found by looking a little beyond the obvious.

* photo of The Only Way is Indie panel comes courtesy of Mud Press