Monthly Archives: November 2012

An unholy muddle

Writing about agenda item GS 1708D feels risky, because anyone raising the issue in the last week has been on the receiving end of a right old mix of derision and opprobrium.

It’s curious that although to an extent we are learning in the 21st Century to treat minorities with respect, the trend doesn’t always seem to extend to those who profess a religious faith.  On the whole it’s open season to dismiss organised religion as irrelevant or to blame it as the source of the world’s worst atrocities, now and through the last twenty centuries.  The fact is that religion is a fallible and flawed human construct which will inevitably get a lot wrong, but which is mainly populated by ordinary people trying to understand whether there’s a God, and if so, what that means both in general and for how they live their lives day-to-day.

So anyway, clearly the majority of the Church of England agree it’s time to take seriously the notion of a different sort of bishop.  Last week’s measure was rejected because the arrangements for those who can’t accept the new bishops on theological grounds were deemed insufficient, not (entirely) because those voting against wanted to throw out the whole idea.  However, as our Bishop has pointed out in his ‘Ad clerum et laicum’ letter, after years of debating the options any new alternative can only look rather similar to the one voted down last week.  In the end it may turn out to be one of those cases where if everyone’s equally unhappy, that may be the right answer.

Jesus made a point of spending time with society’s outcasts, and treated men and women as equals.  The earthly organisation which grew from his teachings subsequently gave itself unhelpful limitations in line with a human interpretation of what God had in mind.  Presumably the present muddle is not what she meant at all.

Most wonderful!

We’ve been to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford to see Propeller Company’s production of Twelfth Night.  If it comes anywhere near you, go and see it – in fact run, run as fast as you can to get a ticket, because it might just be one of the best Shakespearean productions you’ll ever see.

Often it can feel a bit worthy to go for an evening out with Shakespeare.  You can depend on it’s being a good play, at least, but you’re also aware of doing a ‘good thing’ for two and a half hours.  It’s not like that with Propeller, an all-male group under the direction of Edward Hall.

Twelfth Night was brisk, intense, bawdy, moving, slapstick.  You’d recognise Sir Toby Belch’s drunken bravado in the antics of people in any city after a binge.  The teasing of Malvolio, so often mannered, shades into bullying and beyond, so that you feel genuinely unsettled to witness it.

The players’ ease with the language is striking – you completely believe they must talk to each other that way all the time, like it’s second nature.  So there are no barriers to following the story, and it just picks you up and carries you along.  Not least because having assimilated how to say the words, the actors can give their all to physical energy, in this case grounded by the still presence of other cast members, tucked into corners, cupboards, hiding places, the edge of the wings, masked …  watching.  Probably you won’t even notice that they are also providing all the sound effects.  You will notice the musicality because rhythm, melodies, chimes are subtly woven into the texture of the evening by cast members.

The fact that all the actors are male gives a muscularity to the performance but the female roles are no less tender for being played by men.  They wear dresses, but not wigs; they are definitely not in drag, but they inhabit the world as women.  Being all one sex seems to enable the group to be on the same wavelength, there are no imbalances, there’s less predictability. In Twelfth Night, where twins are central to the plot, Viola (as Cesario) and Sebastian are so alike that at first you really aren’t sure which one you’re watching.

It’s Shakespeare as I expect he intended it to be, and I was captivated from the minute I took my seat until the last note of  ”Hey ho, the wind and the rain’ faded into the audience’s rapturous applause.

Propeller Twelfth Night

Sir Toby Belch and friends
Propeller Twelfth Night

A running commentary

Things I have learned since starting to run:

  • if I can do it, then, really, anyone can
  • walking a route first for weeks/months is fine and I got to run in the end, improving at a rate of progress that suited me
  • the weather outside is often not as bad as it looks from the inside
  • there are a few essentials, but you don’t need a lot of kit – it’s definitely cheaper than gym membership and easier to stick to.  I spent money on shoes and orthotics but then picked up clothes and reflective stuff from Lidl’s and eBay.
  • once you light on the right time of day for your energy and commitments it’s easy to set up a routine
  • even walking regularly has a rapid impact in term of flattening your tum and contouring your legs
  • patience is important as well as motivation, building up slowly in the first place and if there are any set backs like tweaked muscles, it’s not the end of the world, just time to ease off.  I’m learning to remind myself that if I’ve achieved a certain level, I can do it again.  Top athletes have lots of support to recover from injuries, the rest of us only have patience.
  • I don’t want to run competitively and I think joining a group would discourage me rather than inspire
  • the immediate vicinity is a different world when you set out to run in it, compared to popping out to the newsagent’s later in the day
  • my best time is before breakfast, and breakfast is extra delicious when I get back
  • starting in the winter is good because then the dark mornings aren’t so daunting when they come round again
  • it gives you an inner glow for the whole day and it’s great for your skin, and you can eat a slice of homemade cake without feeling bad
  • even a short route yields the benefits – I don’t have to run for ten miles or sign up for a marathon – but if I wanted to, I could

Running shoes

Photographic memory

It’s been fun, recently, to re-connect with some of my cousins because an aunt celebrated her 90th birthday.

I realised that I knew more about ancient ancestors through dabbling in family history than I did about those who are alive and kicking in various parts of the UK and the world.  As children, we would be rounded up for family get-togethers fairly often by our parents, but as that generation got beyond organising such things and eventually passed on, we all went our separate ways.

So here we are now, picking up threads and weaving them together to fill gaps in life stories created day by day over more than forty years.   Looking for resonances and overlaps, marveling at the new generations.

Most striking are the family photos – taken in black and white, sent away to be developed when the roll was full.  Admired, or disappointing, on their return a week or more  later.  And now digitised and crossing the Atlantic in an instant.

Was that really us?  Really? Those clothes, and hairstyles?  Our parents younger than we are now, the children dressed in children’s clothes.  Strange furniture, a funny little Christmas tree with not much on it.  Everything odd and at the same time familiar.  I remember that dress, I remember my sisters looking like that.  It’s where we come from – they are images of our past selves which we carry around in our heads – and yet, really? Was that actually us?