Sunday, March 18, 2018

Remember kindness

I'm walking
I'm slowly and silently walking
Walking through a dead land
The fruit is rotting on the tree
There are no birds singing
Nothing moves
Nothing will ever move
Nothing will ever move again
All the windows are open
All the windows sag open
All the windows and doors
And the only sound
Is the windows
Banging in the wind
And I ask
What's happened?
And I walk through the country of the dead
and the dead lie where death has caught them

Young men.
Old men old women
children. babies.
babies and their mothers!

Who could do this?
And I come upon a child
Lying as if asleep.
And the spirit child
The spirit child opens her eyes and speaks

It didn't happen suddenly
It wasn't a flash of fire from the sky
Or a machine exploding on the earth
It didn't happen the way we'd been prepared
The way that we'd prepared for our defence.
It happened bit by bit
Birds began falling out of the sky
But one by one so no-one noticed they had gone.

And then we started losing colours
All the deep reds and the indigos
Bit by bit and one by one
And no-one, ever, noticed them go.
And everyone stopped listening to each other
But little by little
And bit by bit
And so we never noticed what we'd lost
And when we started not to feel things
And when we started not to think things
No-one noticed because we'd lost...
Because we'd lost the capacity to notice
And when we forgot
We'd soon forgotten what it was
We had forgot
And when we died
mostly we didn't notice that we'd died
And she takes my hand
And we walk on together
There is a kind of beauty in the stillness
And I don’t feel afraid
She is silent for a while,
And then she summons all her strength
All the strength of her brothers and sisters
the strength of all the dead!
And I hear them
I hear them very close

Don't settle for the easy option
don't settle for the "there is no other way"
Don't believe them when they tell you
human nature's just like that
and things will never change
I feel pity for you
setting out so full of strength and hope
setting out on so dangerous a road
don't be afraid remember kindness
its kindness that banishes all fear

This comes from a play I wrote in 1994. One called "Dreaming".

I wrote it for the Edinburgh Puppet Workshop, who are now called "Vision Mechanics"

They were lovely to work for, and I was so proud of the play. But this was before anyone had really considered writing ofr young people as a serious thing to do. We were way ahead of our time, did terrible business, and I almost bankrupted the company.

I am so glad I didn't. They are still producing beautiful work. You can find out about it here

The phrase "Remember kindness" came into my head yesterday in this blog, and I'm I've looked up its source.

I was writing in an oddly prophetic way about a process that we are now living through.

And must unite to resist....

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thinking about the 312 Tory MP's who voted to end free school meals

I'm thinking about the 312 Conservative MPs who voted to take free school meals from one million poor school children.

And did so knowing that malnutrition among school children is a growing and intolerable problem.

We know this used to be a terrible scourge in Britain. Hungry malnourished children. Presenting with rickets and other utterly preventable diseases.

We live in one of the wealthiest societies in the world and I thought such things were gone for ever.

I'm thinking of the prison warders in a California jail who strapped a man to a chair for 46 hours. Every so often they came in to move his arms and legs, as regulations demanded. He was not allowed to go to the toilet and so peed and shat himself in the chair. When the smell became unbearable they moved him to another cell.. They left him on the bare floor with only a blanket. He covers himself with a blanket. He appears to suffer from tremors. He stands up briefly, then collapses. He stops breathing.

Paramedics enter to try to revive him, while a couple of sheriff's deputies idly watch. Laughing and chatting.

His name was Andrew Holland. He had been in jail since 2015. He was known to suffer from schizophrenia.

We know that in the 18th century mentally ill people were neglected and tortured and that their sufferings were thought of as entertainment. I thought such mistreatment had gone for ever.

Forgive me for distressing you if you have read this far.

It seems to me sometimes that our societies are in a state of regression. That we are returning to the brutalities of an earlier age.

We need to know this. We need to be aware. We need to resist.

I am not condemning the perpetrators of these crimes. What these events have in common is a lack of empathy. These criminals have no empathy for others and in the end they have no empathy for themselves. So it is no use condemning them because they already condemn themselves.

And, a little to my surprise, their actions do not leave me feeling angry and helpless. Life is too short for me to spend overmuch time on that. I have to focus on what I can do. However small it seems.

"Remember kindness" I wrote in a play once. I forget which one. I know that everything in the world connects. I know that our actions have consequences that we cannot know.

So I will try to show empathy and compassion in my work and in my living. I will fail. I will try to forgive myself and then I will go back to trying.

And perhaps something will come of this. I don't know. I cannot make any claims. But I think it will lead to something. Whether it does or not, there is really nothing else to do.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Finishing the play. And why it matters.

I feel bleary eyed tonight.

I've just finished printing out these five short plays. I finished the last of them this evening, just five minutes before a dear friend came to tea.

And next week I will hand them in.

I'm not quite ready to celebrate: I haven't read them yet.

They're a serial, each of them 15 minutes long. I'm proud because I've written in that form before.

Proud because they're the first new plays I've written for a while; and by the end of last year I was too ill to write anything.

I wrote three of them this week. Parts three and four I'd finished by Wednesday. Part five I got stuck on.

I was so distressed by events in the world yesterday that I found it so hard to focus on anything. And I'd made a mistake somewhere.

It's a brutal process, this: make a mistake, take a wrong turning, the words won't come and you're liable to feel stuck forever.

I had a singing lesson yesterday at 4.30 and suddenly half way through a song I understood where I'd go wrong.

And by the time I'd arrived at the Filmhouse to see "A Fantastic Woman" I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to print everything out, go back to the very beginning, and rewrite everything. That way I'd know what had to be in Part Five.

So I turned on the computer this morning before I'd even had my cup of tea to get the printing started.

Part Five was still open. And the minute I saw the first speech I knew it had to go. And that somehow freed everything else and I started writing and never got out of my pyjamas till after two.

And there was just one long speech to do. And I did it late in the afternoon.

In the middle of it all there's been one of those Facebook debates going on, inspired by my blog post of I don't know what day any more about whether the Russians did or did not try to kill those two individuals in Salisbury and what it all means...

And this all frightens me. And yet I kept writing. I cooked a lovely meal for my friend. And I feel that's important somehow. That even in perhaps the smallest of ways it's an act of resistance that matters: not to be carried away by fear or by rage but to do what we can to be creative and hospitable and kind.

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