Thursday, May 30, 2013


Another acid attack, another stoning, another public flogging, another honour killing, another rape. Following on with my feelings, Blogged only a few days ago, about the way woman are treated, inhumane stories are everywhere. Coincidence? Coincidence is a strange phenomenon. Sometimes in the theatre or watching a movie, or reading a book on a plot turning by coincidence you will have people bound to say, ‘That’s too coincidental, contrived,  I don’t believe it. But coincidence is with us all the time. Was it coincidence that one day I was waiting for a bus which just wasn’t coming and I swore in Zulu which nobody would understand and, of all the millions in London the man standing just in front of me was a Zulu. Was it coincidence that a friend from my schooldays just happened to watch a TV I was in, a programme he said he didn’t usually watch, but he saw and contracted me through the Beeb. Why was it he watched that particular episode and not the one before or the one after? Was it coincidence that one evening at the Festival Hall, at the interval I was going to turn right at the end of a short flight of stairs to go out for the inevitable cigarette and for no apparent reason suddenly turned left and there, half way along sitting in the front row was someone else I hadn’t seen since my Durban days. He lived and worked in Hull. Was it coincidence that he happened to be in London that one night, at the Festival Hall for that particular concert? And that we should both be sitting in he same part of the auditorium? Last week we bought a newspaper for the first time in ages and what was a headline that greeted me? “Mother beaten up after online date ‘gentleman’ turns into a thug,’ and ‘Web porn is making teen boys see girls as sex objects.’ Various petition sights contact me and I am only too happy to add my signature to a good cause. Just a couple of days ago I received the following, ‘Stop the horrific abuse of Chinese sex workers.’ There are evidently 4 to 6 million sex workers in China who have no Government protection and they face terrible violence with no help including abuse by the police themselves.
 I read on the news that a Sunni cleric has told the black ghosts of Arabia not to turn on their air-conditioning because that will tell men they are at home and can lead to immorality. Good grief! They’re more hung up over sex than the Christians and that’s saying something. In Mississippi they have been debating a law which would make abortion and stillborn babies criminal offences subject to imprisonment. The thinking on the latter is that if the mother had taken better care of herself the baby would not have been stillborn. There are some pretty weird people in this world with the weirdest ideas, especially in the Bible belt.
In Papua New Guinea women have been burnt alive accused of witchcraft and in Africa there are concentration style camps for any woman accused of witchcraft. Thousands of protestors are demanding tougher action from Facebook over posts they say degrade women. More than 50,000 have tweeted in support of the FBrape campaign and around 5,000 have emailed brands whose advertising appears around the content. The campaign focuses on content that portrays rape and violence against women positively. Facebook has removed many examples already. A separate petition on line has gathered more than 220,000 signatures.
And finally, still on coincidence and the treatment of women, I am; half way through reading a ‘50’s American novel and suddenly come across this. I breach copywrite here. “He could perceive now with something of a shudder that he had never really had a girl for a friend. But what a queer way to grow up, what a really miserable attitude to have towards women. And it’s typical – that attitude towards women is damned typical. In this country anyway. Typical of this whole generation of bully-boy, movie-tough-guy, Hemingway idolaters. How we all hate women, really. Don’t know the first thing about living with them. Don’t really want to live with them. We prefer to take our social life with men. We only want the women when we need them. All we know is how to lay siege to them and afterwards get rid of them if we can; if not, tolerate them. Come, lads, another glass of whisky neat, then off on the great American sport: big breast hunting.” Coincidence I should read that at this time? In fact before I got to this passage I was about to give up. The writing may not be quite as bad as D.B’s of J.A’s but it’s boring enough with dialogue that is simply embarrassing. I’ve never heard people address each other or talk the way they do but then I didn’t live in America in the 1950’s. Maybe they did talk like that. The novel by the way is ‘The Philanderer’ by Stanley Kauffman, published by Penguin and like ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ subject of a criminal prosecution for alleged obscene libel, goodness only knows why and the result from a sensible jury of nine men and three women was an acquittal. Now I suppose I ought to endeavour to finish it though it’s tough going, hardly an inspired page turner.

Monday, May 27, 2013


This was the peroration for the previous Blog but somehow got left off
…but if you believe in a divinity, women as well as men are as God has made them and this fearful practice born no doubt and carried on through ignorant superstition is an abomination. Even if you don’t believe in a divinity it is almost impossible to believe human beings can inflict torture in this way. Tradition!
There are attempts to have it stopped but it would seem to be world-wide and appears to be a losing battle. Perhaps, just perhaps, hopefully it will be the mothers themselves, finally defying tradition, who save their daughters from this awful experience.
Have just spent the best part of a week’s evenings totally absorbed in  what I think is one of the most marvellous productions we have ever seen on the box – CRANFORD – and I  would be quite happy to sit through it all again right now, including the extras. In this quiet backwater in Cheshire with the majority of characters townswomen this is to all intents and purposes a ladies’ subject and they bring it off brilliantly: created by Sue Birtwistle who also produced and Susie Conklin and written by Heidi Thomas what can I say? Talk about suspension of disbelief, this is a six hankie job and all six of mine were sopping by the end and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The amazing thing, such is the power of the writing, that it was usually small things and not necessarily great drama that set the tears flowing. And of course there were moments of wonderful; humour.
I didn’t see it when first broadcast and would never have thought of getting the DVDs, it was our Douglas who ordered it out of the blue and as a complete surprise. ‘Cranford’ was one of my set books at school but obviously as a schoolboy I didn’t appreciate Mrs Gaskell’s writing and I don’t think I would want to read it again now. For once I feel sure the screen is better than the book. If there are flaws I didn’t notice them. I wouldn’t have wanted to notice them. To me everything; acting, directing, (Simon Curtis), costumes, settings, props, locations, was sheer perfection. Such meticulous care taken to get everything right and as for the cast! The top of the cream of British talent with the wondrous Judy Dench as Miss Matty and oh what a collection of wonderful women with her! Everyone, not to leave the men out of it, without exception gives a performance of total reality. Absorbing I suppose could be the word for it? Simply no one puts a foot wrong and it would be invidious to pick out a single one. There is an old saying that states you should never work with children and animals and even they in this piece gave performances, albeit not consciously, especially Mrs Forrester’s (Julia McKenzie in tip-top form) cow that came to an untimely end pertinent to the denouement. What more can I say? The Beeb has produced some wonderful period pieces over the years I have watched television – why I have even been in one or two myself - and this must surely rank with the very best. God alone and the accountants know what it cost but it is worth every penny spent. If you haven’t watched it, do so, you won’t regret it. Every drama student should watch it and learn what their future craft is all about.
As for me, at 82 I was taken out of mothballs to do a seven minute promotional film on Crete and saw a fine cut for the first time last week. Again it is something beautifully put together – well how could it not be considering the beauty of this island? And Theo Papadoulakis is a wonderful director; witness his 22 episodes of ‘The Island’ which unfortunately has not been dubbed or provided with sub-titles to be seen elsewhere which is a great pity, so hopefully our seven minute promo will encourage other film makers into using Crete for locations.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Abram to Abraham

In the musical “Fiddler on the Roof there is a song, “Tradition”.”  There are traditions worth keeping and there are traditions way passed their sell-by date and really need to be scrapped. They might very well have lasted for centuries but they have no place in the twenty-first. Imagine this scenario – scene, Abram’s garden. Present Abram taking a pleasant evening stroll, deep in thought and possibly picking delicately at a pomegranate. Suddenly he practically loses it when he hears this majestic voice booming out though he cannot quite tell where it is coming from. It seems to be coming from every direction at once. He stops his perambulating and nervously clears his throat. After all it’s not every day of the week that one hears a stentorian voice in the quiet of one’s garden. We'll go into sort of dialect now.
God: Abram, Abram, hearken ye unto me, I am the Lord thy God and I have something of the utmost importance to impart.
Abram: Go ahead, Lord. I am listening.
God: When I created mankind in my own image I have to confess I made a small mistake that needs to be rectified, I gave him a foreskin and you will have to rid me of it. You will circumcise yourself and every male child on the eighth day and every male and this will become a covenant between us.
Abram: But Lord, I am ninety-nine years old, will this not be, how can I put it, a little on the painful side?
God: A small price to pay for being my chosen people.
Abram couldn’t help wondering if God, having created man in his own image, meant that the Lord had genitals and if so whether or not he had a foreskin or had he had himself circumcised, but he decided not to voice these thoughts as being possibly sacrilegious and for fear of the Almighty’s wrath which could be terrible to behold. It was only fairly recently that He had sent them a plague of locusts which had caused immeasurable damage so, if somewhat reluctantly, he agreed with what God wanted.
God: And, oh, one other thing, you will change your name from, Abram, to Abraham. Much more melodic don’t you think? Has a sort of resonance to it.
His voice was beginning to fade.
God: Oh, and while you’re at it, change your wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah.
Abraham thought this request too was rather odd but he acquiesced with the Lord’s wishes and become the father of the Hebrew nation. And that is how circumcision became a tradition.
Two Jewish gentlemen standing side by side at the urinal. The one turns to the other and says, “You were circumcised by the Rabbi Greenberg.”
“Why yes! How did you know?”
“The Rabbi Greenberg is cross-eyed and you’re pissing on my foot.”
And before someone jumps down my throat for making what they would call anti-Semitic jokes, only Jewish humour could think up that one, and it was a Jewish friend who told it me. But enough joking. What this is all leading up to is something so horrible it is difficult to even think about it. I refer to female circumcision which over the years as been perpetrated on millions of girls and is still carried out without anaesthetic to this day. It is difficult to imagine the fear, the intense pain on sensitive and delicate tissue, and shock the girls suffer, and why? Tradition, tradition tradition. Mothers, who have been through it and know what it is like, still offer up their daughters for what can only be described as barbaric mutilation. Who knows how it started but perhaps it could be put down to it coming about because of a holy man or men who in their unfathomable way had a deep rooted fear of the female genitalia

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The treatment of women

A woman who bears a female child is considered to be twice as filthy as one who gives birth to a male – Leviticus. So she is filthy even giving birth to a male? Doesn’t add up. Doesn’t make sense. The only way not to be filthy then is not to give birth at all. Wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would save women a lot of pain and reduce the world population. Two billion will be added in the next thirty years and we are being urged to eat insects in order to make the available food go further. There’s nothing new in that. Some people have been feasting on locusts for centuries and I remember the indigenous folk of Natal found flying ants rather succulent. I was never tempted to try one. Do they really eat witchery grubs in Australia? What exactly is a witchery grub?
Anyway, what got me thinking seriously (I do sometimes – sometimes too much for my own good) is why is it that women always, or nearly always, draw the short straw?
I am grateful and thank my lucky stars (superstition) that I was born male but thinking seriously about the sexes I can only come to the conclusion that when it comes to the female of the species most males are shits of the very first order. The holy books really put women in their place and their place is not where I would like to be. Did it all start off with Adam and Eve; the myth of creation? With all the controversy about same sex marriage some fundamentalist has posted on Facebook ‘It’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.’ But I wonder how different the world would have been if the Abrahamic god was a goddess, that Eve came first and Adam followed and many of the scriptural precepts were applied to men instead of women; and why not? The Greeks, the Egyptians, The Romans, the Hindus and others were quite happy to have goddesses, what is it about Judaism, Christianity, Islam that it is so completely male dominated? What started this musing, apart from the quotation from Leviticus, was reading that women are not allowed to stand for the presidency in Iran and reading two reviews in a Sunday Times Culture section. The first, “The Loves and Wars of Lina Prokofiev’ by Simon Morrison, is a heroic private tragedy, the second from which comes the quotation about men demanding more anal sex from their wives is “Sex and the Citadel: Intimate life in a changing Arab World.” This is by Shereen El Feki, a Welsh-Egyptian Muslim brought up in Canada, and what must be an extremely fascinating book. Describing sex in the modern Arab world is a bit too complicated to do it justice in a short Blog though to mention in passing she tells of a book, “The Encyclopaedia of Pleasure” that covers every aspect of sex from gay to animal sex to advising on jealousy, oral sex, romance. In fact, “sex is God’s gift to mankind and we are meant to enjoy it. The author was a Muslim, Ali Ibn Nasr who lived in Baghdad in the late 10th or early 11th century.
So I will move on to the Simon Morrison book. The story of Lina Prokofiev is worthy of a Russian novel. What is it about men of genius that they are so flawed as human beings especially when it comes to the way they treat their womenfolk? Think of the way Tolstoy treated his wife who remained loyal to him right until the end, and Prokofiev was no better. It would appear that Prokofiev, a truly great Soviet composer was interested in only two things – Prokofiev and Prokofiev’s music; at least one is more than glad for the latter. I’ve always loved his music. Lina, born in Madrid of musical parents, grew up in Brooklyn and they met in Chicago. Lina fell in love and for a while Prokofiev was happy to use her as bed-mate and unofficial secretary. Lina wanted to get married. Prokofiev wasn’t interested being wholly committed to his music. At least that was his excuse. They did marry though when she became pregnant with the first of their two sons. Prokofiev proved to be just as bad a father as he was a husband travelling the world while she was left in Paris to bring them up. He had left Russia in 1918 and had no intention of ever returning but in 1927 the Soviet government invited him to give a concert tour and he accepted. Audiences greeted him with rapture and for a while it was best hotels, best restaurants and champagne bars. He evidently also had a thing about fast cars and designer clothes and it has to be said Lina wasn’t exactly backwards in coming forward to bask in reflected glory. Despite the disappearance of friends and acquaintances into the Gulags they seem to have no difficulty with what was a horrendous regime but then that could possibly be put down to self-preservation and why make waves when the going was so good? In 1936 they settled permanently in Russia. Despite the fact that they knew their phone was being tapped and that they were followed everywhere Prokofiev evidently felt the authorities valued him as an artistic genius and he was invulnerable. But in 1938 Stalin’s secret police declared the pair ineligible for foreign travel.
He now found a new love, a member of The Communist Youth League named Mira Mendelson and when the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, leaving Lina and the boys in Moscow, he took Mira to safety in the Caucasus. Lina did her bit in the defence of Moscow and at the war’s end Prokofiev returned but declined to see her or his sons. Instead he attempted to divorce her but it wasn’t necessary.  Because they married abroad the union was deemed to have no legal basis in the Soviet Union and he was free to marry Mira.
Lina knew that fraternising with foreigners was a crime but she visited the French British and American embassies in a bid to make contacts that would get her and the boys out of Russia, but in 1948 she was arrested, interrogated for days under torture and forced to sign an admission that she was an American agent. She was condemned to twenty years in a slave labour camp. This is a whole other story but even then in her letters to her sons she always asked after papa and sent him a hug.
Prokofiev and Stalin died on the same day and when she heard the news she wept. She eventually obtained an exit permit and left Russia in 1974. She died in London in 1989, aged 91.
I hope someone in the film world takes up her remarkable story but, in the meantime, both these books must be definitely on the list of what to read.

PS: Talking of books I read in a newspaper cutting someone sent me that Pippa Middleton was paid an advance of £400000 for her book on etiquette. To quote a song, “It must be true, for I read it in the papers didn’t you?” And if it is there is no justice in this world.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Heartbreak in Minnesota

After the Boston bombings Ms Palin stated that America should immediately invade Czechoslovakia! Now can this possibly be true? The good lady gets sent up left, right, and centre (well maybe left and centre) for her faux pas but to confuse Czechoslovakia with Chechnya is too much. Both the Bible and the Koran state that women should keep silence and in Ms Palin’s case that edict should hold. Every time she opens her mouth she tastes toes. Was there ever a possibility she might have been president of the United States? Perish the thought. If that ambition ever existed hopefully it has been banished for all time. The same goes for her tea party associate Michelle Bachman.
Rep. Peggy Scott of Minnesota says her “heart breaks” because thousands of same-sex couples will soon be able to marry in Minnesota. The Republican state lawmaker, serving her third term in the House, was weeping after her colleagues voted 75-59 to pass a same sex marriage bill, this just six months after voters defeated an attempt to write anti-gay discrimination into their state constitution banning same-sex marriage. “My heart breaks for Minnesota,” Rep. Peggy Scott informed the media. “It’s a divisive issue that divides our state,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes as she stood on the House floor after the vote. “It’s not what we needed to be doing at this time. We want to come together for the state of Minnesota; we don’t want to divide it.” So why exactly would this issue cause division in the state of Minnesota, so much so that it fills her eyes with tears and breaks the good lady’s heart to think of it? Well who would have guessed it? Scott belongs to a non denominational Christian evangelical church that believes the Bible was written directly by God, believes in the Rapture, and believes everyone is a sinner by choice.  
Meanwhile the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Biblical speech opposing homosexual behavior, including in written form, is essentially a hate crime. On Wednesday, the seven judge panel upheld the conviction of activist William Whatcott, who found himself in hot water after distributing flyers regarding the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexuality throughout the Saskatoon and Regina neighborhoods in 2001 and 2002.  “The Bible is clear that homosexuality is an abomination,” one flyer that was found to be in violation stated, citing 1 Corinthians 6:9. “Scripture records that Sodom and Gomorrah was given over completely to homosexual perversion and as a result destroyed by God’s wrath.” Another flyer, entitled Keep Homosexuality Out of Saskatoon’s Public Schools, was written in response to the recommendation of the Saskatoon School Board that homosexuality be included in school curriculum. The Supreme Court declared the document to be unlawful because it called the homosexual acts that would be taught to children “filthy,” and contended that children are more interested in playing Ken and Barbie than “learning how wonderful it is for two men to sodomize each other.” The justices ruled that because the use of the word “sodomy” only referred to “two men” and not also the sex acts of heterosexuals, it was a direct target against a specific group of people. I find that ruling very interesting because most heterosexuals appear to be of the opinion that sodomy is something only homos get up to (as though there is no other way of achieving sexual satisfaction) and they’re constantly at it like Bonobo monkeys. Here is a quote from a book recently published on sex in the Arab world, “But the men have returned with new sexual appetites, presumably as a result of sex with prostitutes abroad. They demand much more anal sex and are frustrated that their sexually innocent wives don’t have the knowledge to act out porn scenarios.”
How the world has changed since I was a boy, well in parts of the world anyway where religion no longer carries the clout it once wielded. Unfortunately there are many parts of the world where ignorance and stupidity still reign supreme but now, in other parts, it would seem that not only is same-sex marriage approved of  but homophobia derided. It is no longer, well not quite as much, that fucking queer, poofter, shirt-lifter, arse-bandit, ginger, filthy faggot, nancy and various other epithets were thrown the homosexual’s way. Of course there are still queer-bashers about and the lunatic ravings of fundamentalists; mainly it seems the pastors of Southern Baptist and Evangelical churches. With re-establishment and rise of the Orthodox Church, Russia is reverting to censorship and condemnation and Ugandan politicians are showing their ignorance in no uncertain way egged on by wealthy fundamentalist American missionaries, but would you believe in Cuba the gay pride march was led by Castro’s daughter?  Now there’s a turn-up for the books.

Monday, May 13, 2013


“I finished my play today. What do you think of that? Does that look like wasting my time? Three acts, six scenes, a masterpiece all completed in a few weeks.”
George Bernard Shaw to Ellen Terry 30th November 1896.
Chris and Douglas both admonish me for being, as they say, too negative in my blogs and letters, and they are right of course. In fact my whole outlook on life I guess has always been that way. It’s not a question of false modesty it’s just the way it’s always been which is a shame because there’s no point in relying on others to speak up for you. Is it too late to take a leaf out of GBS’s book to say unequivocally how bloody marvellous my plays are, well some of them anyway. There are some crappy ones of course but then no one can be a genius all the time. I’m not saying the good ones are masterpieces but there is no doubting their dramatic quality so the sixty four thousand dollar question still remains – why will no one do them? That’s not being negative, that’s simply asking a straightforward question. Like Offenbach I should have had my own theatre.
There have always been revivals in the theatre. The theatre couldn’t do without them. After all every time a Shakespeare or a Restoration play is produced it’s a revival. On the other hand neither can the theatre exist without new works, there has to be a balance and, looking at what’s on in London at the moment, the balance seems tilted heavily towards revivals with new work appearing only in the smaller and outer theatres. Provincial theatres are not in the habit of producing new plays. In all the rep seasons in which I performed over the years I never had the experience of creating a character in a new play. Having said this I also have to say that I had four plays that first saw the light of day (well theatrical light) in Rep: Oh Brother, Tell Me You Love Me  Women Around, Early One Morning and two in outer London; Thriller of the Year and Champagne Charlie. One play actually premièred in London, The 88.
When I was in the company at The Haymarket in London we did two revivals: Hobson’s Choice and Captain Brassbound’s Conversion and one new play, A Coat Of Varnish renamed A Cloak of Tarnish. It wasn’t very good although it did give me the chance of playing my one and only new character.
Looking now at what’s on, add to the hoary old numbers that have been going on for centuries and look as if they’ll never come to an end: The Mousetrap, Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Blood Brothers, The Woman In Black, there are or have been revivals of Quatermaine’s Terms, The Winslow Boy, Cabaret, A Chorus of Disapproval, Scrooge The Musical, Privates On Parade, Our Boys, Charlie’s Aunt, Top Hat, Spamalot,  Hello Dolly, Kiss Me Kate, Trelawney of the Wells, Relatively Speaking, The Pyjama Game, Merrily We Roll Along. Surprising how many productions this has had considering it was a flop when first done. The Magistrate, A Chorus Line, Uncle Vanya, Hedda Gabler, The Turn of the Screw, Old Times, Quite a list. I’m not saying these are bad works and that they do not warrant revival but it is scraping the bottom of the barrel somewhat to revive that trifling piece of fifties twee English whimsy, Salad Days. Why not The Boy Friend? That has catchier songs, is pastiche and, as pastiche like Little Mary Sunshine, it need never lose its flavour.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Hey-ho! It’s the loquat season again, one of my very favourite fruits, sweet and juicy and, as I think I probably say every year, I’m only sorry the season is so short. Two or three weeks at the most and it is over.
Pippa Middleton must surely be the bimbo to out bimbo every bimbo in bimbodom, or so it would seem. I don’t know the girl, have never met her and she could be the sweetest, most charming thing on two legs but, oh dear, what a wannabe, what pretension! A minor socialite celeb coasting along on the fact that she is the younger sister of the future queen of England and mother of future monarchs, presuming the royal family remain royal. I wonder if Kate, when she enrolled in her Scottish university, ever imagined she would end up in that exalted position. She is hardly Debrett after all as a few who had their noises put out of joint pointed out. Does the infusion of the common enrich the royal blood line or does it dilute it?  Other kings and princes have married commoners. According to a TV documentary I watched recently the current royals shouldn’t really be there at all and the rightful king of England is a plain mister who lives in the Australian outback, whose sons and daughters instead of being princes and princesses are plain Sheilas and Bruces. Evidently this all stems from the accession of Henry lV (I seem to recall it was Henry lV) who should not have been king because he was conceived the wrong side of the blanket, daddy, John of Gaunt, being away fighting a war somewhere at the time of his conception and that should have barred him from the throne. Think how different history would have been if there had been no Henry lV. It would have meant no Henry five and Agincourt, no Henry Vlll, no break with Rome, no church if England, no Elizabeth who could have married a catholic anyhow, no King James Bible, none of the Georges, no Victoria and no Guelphen descendents, meaning our current queen which only goes to show what a swizz it all is.
But back to Pippa who among other things, I seem to remember a short while back had a book on etiquette published that was greeted with hoots of derision, has landed herself a seemingly cushy number as the face of Waitrose and her latest output, tips for a romantic picnic for two, beggars belief. Firstly, have your picnic in Province, she says, which means travel expenses from wherever you happen to live in the UK and travel these days does not come cheap. Then get yourself some accessories like quilted rugs to make yourself comfy, the cost of which would be about £85 then your menu will consist of Peach And Vanilla Fizz to start followed by Fig And Goat’s Cheese Fougasse, the main course is Smoked Chicken and Melon Salad, for dessert there is Strawberry and Lavender Cheesecake Jars, and to drink a Mirabeau Cotes de Province Rose. Total food cost 43p short of a hundred quid. Well, just consider the ingredients for your chicken salad and you will realise why – no fewer than 13 items of which the chicken is not quite the most expensive. That honour goes to the raspberries and virgin olive oil.
What planet is this girl living on when more and more people in this recession and with the cost of living constantly on the rise are finding it increasingly difficult  making ends meet, even keeping their heads above water?
Marks & Spencers is advertising a dinner for two; main course, side dish, dessert and bottle of wine for £10.
Pippa’s picnic menu is about on a par with Marie Antoinette’s reputed - “Let them eat cake.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

Loving Creator

I watched a video of Richard Dawkins conducting an interview with creationist Wendy Wright, a lady who kept on going around in circles saying “show me the evidence for evolution” and what evidence Dawkins produced (visit any museum for starters – you could tell he was getting just a little bit irritated) she merely reiterated, “show me the evidence.” All this while never ceasing to smile and when one shows perfect teeth non-stop throughout a lengthy interview it betokens something not quite right, that is a mind-set that nothing but nothing is going to change. Her beliefs are so firmly fixed no matter how much evidence she was presented with it went right over her head. For her the world came into existence through a “loving creator” (her words) and that thank you very much is that, no more to be said. Well all right, big bang or no big bang, no one truthfully knows how it all started, that is if it ever had a start. It certainly didn’t start with a “loving creator” putting it all together in six days just six thousand years ago, and how highly intelligent and highly educated people can honestly believe it is simply beyond me. The question could also be who or what created the creator? And, if there is a creator, show me the evidence.
I might at a push consider the possibility of a creator but not in a million years could I consider him/her/it to be a loving one. Consider history, consider the state of the world, consider the wars, the tortures, consider the abusers and the abused, children, women, animals, consider the bullies and the tyrants, the evil that man, made in god’s image, is capable of. Would a loving creator have designed a creation that involves so much pain? Anyway, if Ms Wright is using the Bible as her textbook she obviously hasn’t read it properly or has skipped all those gory bits about god ordering the killing of men, women, children and animals, let alone drowning his creation but for a select few – another creation myth and, if it is not a myth, how could he, the omnipotent one, have made such a mistake in the first place, knowing that down the line one day that is exactly what he would do? How could he, when he came to earth to sort us all out and rumours of his expected birth started to circulate, allow Herod to slay the innocents? That’s quite a price for a loving creator to pay. Yes, our wonderful world is full of ‘all things bright and beautiful’ but it is also full of horrors that make me think the designer was having a very bad hair day.
But, apart from Wendy Wright’s belief, two stories I read recently brought to mind the vagaries of nature.
The koala is under threat – from what? Well, would you believe Chlamydia? It had never occurred to me before reading this that, as well as sinful human beings, innocent animals doing what comes naturally could suffer from sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia affects male and female koalas, and even the little ones called joeys that spend the first six or so months in their mother's pouch pick it up suckling. It causes blindness and infertility in koalas - and can be fatal. Some other animals are also infected with the disease but it is usually at low levels. It affects koalas more seriously and experts don't know why that is.
But on to the twins Abby and Brittany Hensel. They are conjoined twins determined to live a normal, active life. They have been to university, they travel, have jobs. But how easy is it for two people to inhabit one body? And judging from the photographs that is what they are; one body with two heads. There is a pair of conjoined twins in India who are now fifteen years old but they at least have separate bodies, being joined at the head. Their parents have always refused consent for an operation as they feel it would be too dangerous. That also applies to the Hensel girls. Had they been born in ancient Greece they would have been taken up the mountain and left to die. Two bodies, sharing some organs, and two heads, but one body and two heads? Could life be made more difficult? But like most 23-year-olds Abby and Brittany love spending time with friends, going on holiday, driving, playing sport such as volleyball and living life to the full.
With two sets of lungs, two hearts, two stomachs, one liver, one large intestine and one reproductive system, they have learned from a young age to co-ordinate their body, with Abby controlling the right hand side and Brittany the left. They have had to learn to reach compromises on everything from what food they eat to their social life and even the clothes they wear. Can one go to sleep while the other says awake?
Despite having a normal family and social life, studying and working like any other young women, they naturally do face additional problems. For example, they have to put up with speculation about their private life - something they prefer not to discuss. Travelling to a new country with friends on holiday is also not as straightforward for conjoined twins. They have two passports, but one ticket as they only take up one seat on the aeroplane. However they also have to be on their guard and more aware of entering crowded or confined spaces because members of the public will often try to take unwelcome photographs.
Conjoined twins are very rare - it is thought one in every 200,000 births - and around 40-60% of these births are delivered stillborn. Female siblings tend to have a better survival rate than male siblings.
With possibly fewer than 12 adult pairs of conjoined twins across the world today, Abby and Brittany are defying the odds. But looking at their happy smiling faces in their photographs one can’t help wondering at the amazing resilience of human beings and so much, Ms Wright, for your loving creator.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Time To Be

The Bible is right with one thing even if not much else and that is there is a time for everything; a time to be born, a time to die, to sow and reap etcetera. In my case it certainly applies to the writing of plays each one of which has its own gestation period, some of it fairly lengthy, for example THE MUSES DARLING.
ROSEMARY was another and it wasn’t until I heard of the real Rosemary’s death that the floodgates opened and the play was finished in five days. It is still one of my favourites but apart from a reading at James Madison it is yet another waiting to see the light of day.
I had for more years than I can remember also wanted to write book and lyrics for a musical on the life of that incredible grand horizontal of La Belle Époque, La Belle Otero, but it refused point-blank to be born until the composer Christopher Littlewood came to live on Crete in a village not four kilometres away and this was an opportunity not to be missed; fate I suppose you could call it, and the work was soon finished. But that was eleven years ago and there has been not a nibble since. The book was submitted to the Cameron Mackintosh office together with a demo disc Chris had produced in Athens and, although it received high praise from underlings, Cameron was heard to shout, “No money! There’s no money!” Come off it, Cameron, after Lionel Bart, Andrew Lloyd Webber and that other world-wide phenomenon Les Miz there’s no money? Who are you kidding? I would have thought with the billions that have poured in together with investment from backers, Cameron could afford to be just a little more adventurous but there you are, it is not to be.
So to continue with the woes and wails of someone who considers himself to be the most underrated and neglected playwright of the twentieth/twenty first centuries.
October last year I wrote out the synopses of no fewer than eighteen plays (Not the sum total of my work) and did a round robin of UK companies. My efforts elicited two responses; from a small theatre, who couldn’t possibly mount it because the size of the cast would be prohibitive, asking about THE 88, and an e-mail from Clwyd saying it was difficult to judge from a synopsis and would I send them a play. So I sent ROSEMARY since when there has been silence. At least eight plays have been out for months, in a couple of cases years, to people (friends?) with theatrical connections, particularly in the states – result? – silence. In the old days before the home computer sending out printed manuscripts by snail mail and including return postage (not that the scripts were always returned) used to cost a small fortune. Now, with the advent of the internet it no longer costs when attached to an e-mail.
Are my plays really so bad that simply no one is interested in them? I should really be depressed but having just past my eighty-second birthday I’m afraid the time for dreams and ambition and consequently depression is over. I would like just one work to really take off so that I would know I left something financially worth something for the others when I shuffle of this mortal coil.