Fulke Greville, not a major poet but often anthologised, was born in 1554. He led a fortunate existence. Made Secretary for the Principality of Wales; elevated to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer; created Baron with overlordship of Warwick and Knowle House. In 1628 he was murdered by a servant. A day, it came.
In 1628 he was murdered by a servant. A day, it came.
BAD PARTY. In passing.
Regarding the gathering at the window. Here is the music for it. There will be flashing lights as it plays. If we have a projectionist there will be something of further interest to see around, about, above our small tableau, as it plays. The music is the Prelude to the 1st Act of the opera Walkure by Wagner.
This writing is a moment of thanks. To those who have no wish to go forward, you are at perfect liberty to ‘stand down.’
To the rest, there are few enough of you, I will, if I may, continue. The thanks come from myself. I constitute the moment, not an extension of me but me, in minutest portion. I must then proceed as gift and tell you something of myself and bare myself in order for you to know and believe that the gift I now present you with is honest and heartfelt and without guile.
In The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, (I have many friends, – composers, poets, novelists, Dickens a particularly close friend, essayists, oh so many), the figure of Alfred Jingle says that although his had not been an extraordinary life, it had been singular. I believe I can safely say the same, not an extraordinary life, not by any means, but singular.
I come from a working-class family. We were poor. No, no, no, no, no. My home was my Mum. I was rich. I started life a wealthy man, we almost died together, I continued wealthy into my fifties until she died alone. I watched her die over a period of four months, watched her in her shit, piss, sweat, vomit, watched her as wearily she began to support a rictus grin and went in search of the death rattle. She found it, it found her. I wasn’t there. Death had no need of my presence. But I was angry. She’d sullied the home. There had been a besmirching.
Earlier, I’d escaped the clutches of the Moors Murderers. My escape consisted of a stepping back. It was not heroic. Invariably, life can be reduced to a stepping forward or a stepping back, a decision that always makes the difference. Every day, in some way, some small way perhaps, you will make that same decision, to step forward or to step back. And it will matter.
I am a Catholic though, in my case, the appellation is meaningless. I am Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew. I am a believer, an atheist, an agnostic. I am a man and a woman and all and every in-between. I am to the Right and to the Left and am neither, nor am I Moderate. I am Moderate. I am also Extreme. I am not gay or straight; not black or white; not good or bad or indifferent. I am all of these things and I am nothing at all, for all labels limit me and I am without limit. To be the crab that burrows into the sand. To be the bird that flies and has no name. ‘Twixt Air and Angels. To know my element.
A life, an individual life, must strive to know its element.
I love Classical music, though I admit to its variability. I like Jazz very much. On the other hand, Pop, Rock, whatever it is, bores me. But what’s meant? Frequently a challenge. Frequently the positing of numerous questions. Often it’s about interpretation, an individual voice. A lesson for actors. The piano sonatas of Beethoven are testaments to the Human Spirit, to the struggle, to an almost Promethean will to carry on in the face of impending dissolution. I listen to the interpretations of Kempff, Backhaus, Andras Schiff, Paul Lewis and so on. Their voices resonate over the merely dexterous. The symphonies of Bruckner conducted by Gunter Wand, not necessarily by any other. The Cantatas of Bach, distributed by the boutique label, J S Bach-Stiftung or Eliot-Gardener or Masaaki Suzuki. Music is not tune. Music is morality. I once found the music of Mozart difficult, too difficult, tremendously difficult. I was missing something and it was only when I heard the sonatas played by Alfred Brendel that I found the key, – the humanity of the composer, his openness to friendship, his good-humoured willingness to reveal the way beyond the clacking skeleton to the perennially-budding birth beyond the boned.
Have I failed? I fail daily, we fail daily. Failure is our metier. Failure is what we do. Failure is the price we pay for living. For we are flawed and afraid and don’t know where to go. No one tells us where to go. We stand in a corner, heads upraised, believing ourselves to be in the light when actually we are in shadow. Through a glass darkly. We stare at the wall of the cave imagining that the silhouettes in front of us conform to a true picture of reality. Through a glass darkly. We are mistook and call it well. For whom should I write? Writing should be about political engagement, – thus Sartre. But this, from The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett by John Calder: It is the norm of the western world to live as if in a dream, through habit and a disciplined timetable, pushing what is unpleasant outside consciousness. Beckett could not accept membership of that world: he had a compulsion to create his own wounds and rub salt in them…Along with this the determination to resist the seductions of ambition and to become nothing, to desire nothing, expect nothing and be nothing…
I make the effort to erase myself every day. I fail. A stubborn stain remains.
“It is not hard to die a good death. What is hard is to live a good life.” The priest in Roberto Rossellini’s film, Rome Open City (1945, the first of his War Trilogy), says this as he walks towards the firing squad. A man has been tortured to death but has not talked. A woman has been shot. All consequent upon decisions. It is easy to write on a piece of paper. It is easy to formulate opinions there. It is easy to think of the next apposite word there. But in extremis? How would I respond? Badly I expect but hopefully with at least some small modicum of honour left intact. There is so much of me yet to be discovered, a vast, inexhaustible landscape, solar and lunar, this last most of all.
We are not measured by the extent of our search to find the right answers, but by our seeking to reveal to ourselves the correct questions.
But all of this is by way of a thank you and is being sent to very few. To whom is it being sent? Why, to those I care about of course, to those who know how to listen, to those I like, to those I have come to love. To those who know that the slightest gesture of fellowship is also a great human gesture. In your remembrances of me and your quiet ministrations, I thank you.
A few acting exercises, not easy. Please perform or otherwise attempt to express the images below.