Note Number 79. . . Reading, Writing,Watching. . .

Closeup of Workspace with Modern Creative Laptop, Cup of Coffee

My everyday: pencil, computer, notebook, textbook. 

Just keeping up with everything really. Still slogging away my dissertation work. I’m creating a portfolio of poems based on dance and I am writing an essay entitled, Stress Behind the Creative Arts of Poetry and Dance — this may change as I read and research but you get the idea?

 

yuli 2

Last week The Man and I watched the film Yuli, the rags to riches story of Carlos Acosta. It’s directed by Icíar Bollaín and the screenplay written by Paul Laverty — a magnificent team.  Even though it’s about ballet it’s a film that anyone could enjoy (The Man did, and he’s not a ballet fan). You can watch the trailer here

No Way Home

I had bought the book, No Way Home, on which the film is based, and settled down to read it the day after watching the film. The book provides far more insight into Carlos Acosta’s personal journey, and sticks more to the facts than the film. It has given me a wealth of material to use in my essay. Of course I will have to be careful it doesn’t turn into an essay just about Carlos. The book was the twentieth book that I have read since January this year — not including text books and poetry books. I have found reading during Lockdown easy, although I know some people have been unable to concentrate. What has helped you pass the time while being stuck at home?

I’ve also been keeping a journal during lockdown, paying particular reference to the stress of creating poetry. Luckily for me, so far, I haven’t found the process too traumatic but perhaps you should ask The Man what he thinks!

Also for research, I am reading Poets on Prozac written by Richard M Berlin. It’s a collection of essays by poets who suffer from mental health problems and have had counselling and/or taken drugs or alcohol to help them. Because of the nature of the content — it’s one-sided; nothing about poets not on drugs etc., — I began to think that I could never be a good writer or poet unless I suffer some kind of breakdown. I need to find a text that shows the other side. Which of course there is, because writing/art/drama/dance are all encouraged to help people relieve stress and tension. 

I have also attended three masterclasses through the Arvon Foundation : Cathy Rentzenbrink, Sebastian Faulks and this week I’ll be joining the poet Kate Clanchy for some tips and advice.  I also watched an evening reading by Tania Hershman. It’s the most exciting experience. There can be up to 200 people in attendance, but we all have to turn off our microphones and cameras so the only person on the screen is the tutor. I can assure you that two hours with Sebastian Faulks made my week!

I can highly recommend the Arvon At Home readings and Masterclasses so do check them out here. Arvon at Home When things are back to the “new normal” I’m definintely checking out their residential retreats.

I’ve added links to all the writers and poets even though I’m sure you know them all. It just makes it easier if you want to find out more information.

 

Tania Hershman: Kate Clanchy: Cathey Rentzenbrink: Sebastian Faulks

Note Number 78…Last Leg of the Masters…

Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.

MA Update:

I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!

editing

A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.

Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.

Firebird Costume Leon Bakst

The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst

I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.

Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:

 

Isadora

dancing is freedom

feel the music let it flow

be Isadora

 

Isadora Duncan 26 May 1877 – 14 Sept 1927

Note Number 75…Pantomime Visit…and Mini Saga Competition Win…

Not a fan of pantomime? Neither am I, so it was a rather reluctant grandmother (or Nonna as they call me) who took her two granddaughters to see Cinderella  at the Pavillion Theatre in Weymouth. I managed to obtain three tickets in the front row of the balcony but the view was a little restricted because the balustrade was covered in thick velvet so unless you had a very long body you couldn’t quite see the front of the stage. Even with the booster seats the grandchilren could not see over. Anyway, minor problem as they stood on my lap or just stood up.

It turned out to be a very good show. Fast moving, lots of good quality dancing and singing from cast and chorus, bright and stylish costumes — including about 20 changes for the ugly sisters. At the very beginning of the show, the Fairy Godmother came on singing and half way through the song, she rose up into the air. My granddaughters’ faces showed total amazement.  She then floated up and out over the stalls all the kids were completed stunned and I was certainly impressed…I have no idea how they did it. I couldn’t see any wires. If you know how they achieved the illusion I’d love to know.

By elbowing my way through the crowds during the interval, I managed to get a ‘golden ticket’ for the eldest granddaughter, Evie, and she had a wonderful time dancing onstage with about twenty other star-struck kids. Highlight of the show for sure.

Evie Golden Ticket hand

The Golden Ticket!

 

Mini Saga Comp

toast

For the second year I entered the Yeovil Community Arts Association Mini Saga competition run in the Western Gazette and once again I was lucky enough to be one of the winners. *blushes for round of applause*  The theme this year was TOAST and I’ve included my little story here for you to read – especially for those who can’t rush out and buy a Western Gazette today as you live in another area of the county, country, continent or whatever. Just to make it clear, it’s a 50 word story and you are allowed up to 17 words in your title. So basically 67 words altogether.  Somebody suggested this little story might make a good short film. I think it might make a feature film! Remember you read it here first!

T.O.A.S.T – Telling Our Adventure Stories Together. The Evacuees Children’s Club. Five members. 1940 – 1946.

reading B&W

At the farm where we’d been placed. We told each other stories and ate toast. Scary Gothic tales; wild imaginings; exaggerated memories of our families and homes in London. After the war we continued meeting annually. Now, there’s only me left; telling stories to the wind, but still eating toast.

Old woman reading

 

©Ninette Hartley December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note Number 44…Fitter Not Fatter…

It’s been a funny old year with plenty of ups and downs healthwise. Back in April I was diagnosed with Temporal Arteritis...no, I hadn’t heard of it either but I had a lot of headaches which wouldn’t ease with the taking of a paracetamol and I felt generally exhausted and unwell. When I went to the doctor and said that I had a headache but that also my scalp was very sore and I didn’t want to touch it…the alarm bells rang…blood samples were taken for tests and the next day the doctor rang urging me to go straight to the surgery whereupon she told me that the level of CRP (C-reactive protein levels, whatever that is) in my blood, was sky-high and that there was a strong possibility that I had TA. I was immediately prescribed steroids (prednisolone)  60 mg a day and booked in for a Temporal Artery Biopsy (they take a little bit of your artery out of the side of your head – yikes!). It was all very scary.

doctor

The result of the biopsy was inconclusive but when I saw the rheumatologist he decided that we (him and me I guess) should err on the side of caution. He said that it was at least 85% certain that I had TA and it can cause blindness which  seemed pretty serious.  The steroids were to be continued and gradually reduced over a period of time. It is now December and I’m down to 3 mg a day. The reason I’m telling you all this is because steroids can increase your weight, well,in the words of my son who is a nurse, ‘steroids make you feel hungry all the time mum they don’t actually make you put on the pounds. You just have to be strong!’ Thanks a bunch.
They make you want to eat as they give you this weird sensation in your mouth making it salivate  and giving you the constant feeling of needing to stuff your face.  ‘Eat a carrot or some celery!’ shouts the do-gooder…

It was all rather annoying as I had actually just lost ten pounds in Jan/Feb of 2017, and I tried hard not to eat but I’m afraid I did manage to pile those naughty pounds back on. You will have seen that I’ve cut down drastically on my alcohol intake and have enjoyed only the occasional G&T since the end of October and have expanded my cellar of non-alcoholic or de-alcholised wine. I’m coping with it well and last weekend when I took a sip of Sancerre, I actually found it too strong. Now my mother would be amazed that any of her children were not imbibing in some way. She had heart problems and I don’t want those as well as my TA so now that I’m on a reduced steroid dosage and I’m beginning to feel a bit like my old self,  I’ve put my mind to getting fitter and eating sensibly. .

As you know I’ve started the Laban Dance Class and I walk the dog every day for at least 2k and now, now –  ladies and gentlemen, I have begun the Yoga class. I thought it would be a doddle but let me tell you right now, IT IS NO SUCH THING.  There’s lots of breathing, stretching, bending all at the same time AND I will have to learn another new language – yoga-speak. I will never remember the names of all the different moves, poses and positions. But I did love doing it. Especially the relaxing meditation at the end of the class. I’m sure all my children will be delighted that in my late 60’s I’m finally going to be cool, calm and collected.    And breathe. . .

 

PS:  The yoga might have been easier had I not tripped over during the second Laban Dance Class and now have a sore wrist and a rather large bruise on my right knee. I must learn not to show off…

Note Number 42…List of Missing Blog Posts and Laban Dance…

It’s been a while since I blogged and it’s a pity because I have done many things in November and now the moment for writing about them has passed.

Here’s a quick list of activities…

French classes
Writing
Procrastinating (I’ve had great tips from The Man on how to do this)
London for the day (for lunch…as you do)
Bristol for two days
Writing meetings x 4
Writing workshop in Dorchester
Playing cards
World Cinema with the Bridport Film Society every other Tuesday
Meeting with friends for coffee
Meeting family for Sunday lunch
Meeting friends for Sunday lunch
Losing the dog (we found her again)
Poetry workshop (how to improve performance)
Halloween and Fireworks…with family
To Yeovil to see Steeleye Span…(I coveted Maddy Prior’s blue/silver velvet jacket…I want one!)All around my hat…etc.,
Washing, Ironing, Cooking and the rest…
Dog walking
Dieting
I’m still on the non alcoholic wines although I have had a couple of G&Ts.

If you would like to know more about any of the above, tough…Although some of them may raise their heads in the future…Now read on!

Group Best

Group Photo

Big day today…(Wednesday) I got up from my computer where I’d been sitting writing poems for Christmas and playing Lexulous, looking at Facebook and Internet shopping…(generally procrastinating as above) and I took myself along to the village hall in Salway Ash to join a Laban Dance class. I wasn’t sure what to expect so it was with slight trepidation that I donned my leggings and a baggy top, took a towel, a bottle of water, a basin full of courage and went off to the class. I was a dance teacher for over twenty-five years, ballet, tap, modern and creative dance…but I have had little experience with Contemporary dance. I LOVED it. It was liberating, energizing and so wonderful to get the old muscles and bones moving again. It’s all very well walking the dog each day but that’s not physically creative and you don’t stretch and move every part of your body. They say that swimming is good for you because you use all your muscles, well I don’t like swimming and for me dance is a far better option.

The other members of the class were welcoming and it was a pleasure to work with them all. We danced independently, in pairs or in small groups. We choreographed small pieces guided by the inspiring dance teacher, Wendy. She helped and improved on our ideas without being pushy or demanding. She brought out the best in all of us so we all felt proud of our achievements.

pointing

Group Photo with Me…(centre front) 

Being a ‘newby’ I was anxious to do everything correctly, but of course, there is no correct or incorrect way, you work to the best of your ability and importantly enjoy it. I couldn’t believe how much energy there was in the room. Three hours fairly flew by…we did stop for tea, biscuits and a natter, for about twenty minutes during the afternoon.

I’m thinking now that perhaps I can bring a bit of Laban into the dog walking. After all I hardly see anyone when I’m out and I could develop my walking, running and general movement. Not sure what the dog would make of it though…I might have to lengthen her lead. Work with me here…

Teacher (Wendy) is centre back in top photo… I don’t know the names of the others taking part, but they were all lovely people! 

I’m looking forward to next week’s class, in fact I can’t wait. Why don’t you try it? Find out if there is a dance class for the more mature person, close to you. It might not be Laban but any dance is good. It keeps your body and mind active stimulating the old endomorphines…know what I mean? The feel good factor!

Note Number 27…We’re Spending the Kid’s Inheritance…

A little poem followed by what we did for Easter Weekend…

We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
And hoping that they won’t mind,
As we fulfil our dreams and ambitions
Keeping our bodies and minds alive
Because, until we reach the end of the road
And hear that inevitable knock on the door
We’re spending the kid’s inheritance,
And, we’re enjoying it, further more

We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
On doing as much as we’re able
Like, city breaks, beach holidays, classy hotels,
Sunshine, roses, champagne and those
Wonderful visits to London to see
The ballet, or theatre, or an art gallery
We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
We’re retired and at last we are free

Don’t worry, we’re not really selfish
And, there’s something I really should add
Most of our kids are now better off
Than their soon to be skint mum and dad!

Ninette Hartley © February 2017

Last Easter weekend we spent in London…a city break. We stayed at the Royal Overseas League in St. James’s where we are members. It’s a wonderful club, where they had a deal; four nights for the price of two. It’s perfectly situated for central London, shopping, theatres, museums etc., We packed in a lot of stuff…

nononobike

The Man Enjoying Window Shopping….(nooooo- not another bike!!) 

1. Friday train from Crewkerne to Waterloo. Lunch at the club. Evening a visit to the Dominion theatre to see An American in Paris. A new show, a stupendous show and well worth a visit. The dancing, mostly balletic, is wonderful, culminating in a fabulous pas de deux with the leading characters, Jerry Mulligan played by Robert Fairchild and Lise Dassin played by Leanne Cope. The Man said it was the best bit of ballet he’d ever watched.

american

2. Saturday we went to the Regent Street Cinema to watch an uncut version of Novecento (1900) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu. An epic five hours and twenty minutes of film plus a forty-five minute, interval. The story covers 1900 – 1945 showing the situation in Italy between the Socialist party and the Fascists, seen through the eyes of two boys, born on the same day, one a peasant, whose family live and work on the estate belonging to the family of the other. I wasn’t sure I could sit through such an epic but actually it was like reading a good story, settling in and not putting the book down until you had finished the whole thing. I loved it.

regent street cinema
3. Sunday we took ourselves off to the Imperial War Museum but only managed to cover three of the five floors in four hours. We’ll definitely be going back. The Holocaust Exhibition was particularly powerful with images, artefacts, interviews with survivors and a lot more. Disturbing, informative and thought provoking.

tulipsstjames

Beautiful Tulips in St James’s Park – We walked to the IWM 

4. Sunday evening we were treated to a musical concert at the club. Not something I would normally choose, a soprano, Sarah-Jane Lewis, and a piano, but I have to say, the singing was beautiful and the pianist, Simon Lepper, accomplished and not bad looking. The songs were short, diverse and Sarah sang in three different languages. We were given the programme with all the words translated so it was easy to follow. A glass of wine after the concert and a chance to thank the artists for their performance, rounded off the evening.

The Steinway….and The Programme

5. Monday, we were to meet a couple of our children for lunch at Dishoom in Carnaby. The Man had bought a couple of pairs of shoes on Saturday morning and I had said in a mad moment, ‘I’ve always wanted a pair of DMs.’ Well, we were early for our appointment so had a walk around and lo and behold there was the original Doc Martin shop in Carnaby Street. Had to be done!

dms

THE BOOTS…photograph credit Will Hartley 

In the evening we went to see The Wipers Times (so called because the British soldiers pronounced Ypres Wipers) a first world war play written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, at The Arts Theatre. A completely opposite venue to the Dominion it was an intimate theatre, more like a club, and the production was low key but splendid. Based on a true story about the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters who found an old printing press in the burned out ruins of Ypres and decided to print a satirical newspaper covering the war. The main men, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson, co-editors continued to produce the journal throughout the war. It was an instant hit with the troops but not so popular with the top brass. Spoof advertisements, agony aunts, musical hall jokes and routines and always taking a jibe at those higher up. If you can catch this play it’s a must.

The Arts Theatre Bar – loved the light fitting… The Programme for The Wipers Arms

Back home to Dorset on Tuesday we felt we had crammed plenty of culture into our weekend away in London and hope it’s not too long before we can cram in another. In the meantime, we’re attending as many of the 22 films showing over the next five days at the Bridport Film Festival, From Page to Screen. We’ve already seen, In the Heat of the Night and Their Finest, both bloody brilliant and only a hop down the road.

I love being Retired…

feelingenergetic

Note Number 25…A Visit to the Ballet…

Programme ENB

I’m not a ballet critic nor a balletomane to the fullest extent but I do love a good, live ballet performance and it’s something I missed out on a great deal when living and sunning myself in the region of Le Marche Italy. I was a dance teacher in the UK for twenty-five years and during that time, for four years published a dance magazine called The Youngdancer,  a financial disaster but artistically and personally quite an achievement. I think I know a little bit about dance after that experience.

A trip to London last week and I booked tickets for Sadler’s Wells to see The English National Ballet’s triple bill. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Adagio Hammerklavier and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). I knew a little bit about all three ballets but was a bit worried about The Man, who is not a great lover of ballet but does appreciate the ability of the dancers and has grown to like it more, since he’s been hanging about with me. I had told him beforehand, ‘if you don’t like the dancing at least you can close your eyes and appreciate the music.’

In the Middle

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated

Well, the first performance began with a blackout on stage and an almighty electronic crash that made my heart jump out of my chest and my nerves endings tingle with fear and that’s how the accompaniment  continued. I was regretting my comment immediately. I sat through the dance and for me the whole thing was overpowered by the loud discordant noise of the ‘music’. The dancers could not be faulted and the choreography ‘interesting’ though I’m not a fan the beautiful classical motif being abruptly finished, then a casual walk off stage completely out of character as though to grab a coffee and light up a fag. I’m sure that William Forsythe had his reasons but it’s just not for me. Thom Willems, I did try to like your music. So, basically, jury still out on this one for me, but The Man? He loved it, especially the music. Well, you never can tell…

Adagio Hammerklavier

Next was Adagio Hammerklavier, music by Ludwig van Beethoven. This time music I could not fault you, it was medicine to soothe my damaged drums and lull me back into the world of beauty. Choreography was slow and absorbing, though Hans Van Manen (choreographer) still managed to throw in an unessessary flexed foot every now and then. Why must they do that? Costumes, flowing and fitting. Dancers, technically and artistically striking, bodies working together with a unity and completeness that only comes from rehearsal and hard slog. A joy for me to watch.

Last in the triple bill was Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) choreography by Pina Baush and this was the one I was looking forward to. My daughter had been raving about Pina Baush a couple of years ago and I had not had the opportunity to see any of her work so this was a treat.  Before the performance began, a team of stage assistants, (or they might have been dancers) came on in brown coats and spread the whole stage with peat. As I understand, from the programme, the idea of this was to ‘ground’ the dancers, it’s not a pretty classical dance but, it is to be danced as yourself, to give yourself up to the dance and the music.

rite of spring

The music is by Igor Stravinsky. Pina Baush said that the music was the dance and the dancers are the music. Jo Ann Endicott, who was the rehearsal director for this performance and had worked with Baush in 1996, said that if you weren’t exhausted at the end then you hadn’t danced properly. Well, I can assure you, I was exhausted at the end and I didn’t dance a single step but I was captured and on the edge of my seat for the whole time.  The women’s dance was frenzied, panicky, desperate. They danced in unison, sometimes repeating the same phrase over and over at a frenetic pace, moving huddled together in mesmerising rhythmic, earthy patterns, like animals cornered. They would split apart, running and moving everywhere, then return to the safety of the herd. The feeling of terror and desperation as each girl thought she might be picked out was tangible.  The costumes were simple and cream coloured and were soon covered in the peat from the floor. The men’s bare torsos, heaving and pumping with energy, were quickly dirty and smeared, rendering them, (the men that is) basic and primal.

Passing from one girl to the next was the terrifying, red dress. Though tiny and inert,  it seemed to be the most powerful presence on stage.    The young girl who finally became the ‘chosen’ one in said, red dress, danced herself to death with an outstanding performance. What a sacrifice.

The Man’s verdict on Rite of Spring? ‘Well, what was all that about?’ You just cannot tell what a person will enjoy when it comes to the arts can you? It’s all so subjective.

Next performance visit will be American in Paris  Watch this space.

All photographs used in this post are taken from the English National Ballet programme. Individual photographers were not credited so I cannot credit them here. I hope they don’t mind.