Sunday, August 03, 2008

3rd August
In a way, I don't want to be writing this.
It's been a long day, and I want my bed.
But maybe because I've just come back from the Traverse, and met friends who work as critics and who therefore once, when I worked as a critic, would have been my colleagues, all a bit jaded already, though for me this has been the first things I have seen, I must be tired as i can't quite figure out the shape of this sentence: I mean seeing them stirred a memory in me of seeing plays and having to have opinions about them, and not being able to go to bed until I had got these opinions written down.
So here I am, trying to record this day.
Which began early, in the rain, going to the West End for a Peace Walk.

"The purpose is to be in the present moment and be aware of our breathing and our walking, to enjoy each step..... Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in such a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth. We can do this, provided we want it very much. Any child can do it..."

It is a beautiful practice. Very difficult. There are suggestions for co-ordinating your breath with your steps, for reciting a little poem as you walk to help you remember.

In spite of all that, I always forget. My mind skitters off everywhere, and constantly I have to try to re-collect myself. But even in failure, in this constant trying again: there is great pleasure.

To walk silently, alone, yet in a group, slowly, co-ordinating with the step of the person ahead, and yet freely also... along the street, through the gardens. aware of the scent of the morning air. of the small, amazing, vivid white flowers growing in the clinker at the railway's edge...

I felt very blessed to walk this earth.

And then afterwards sit and drink coffee with a delightful man, who wouldn't let hiumself drink coffee but enjoyed the hot chocolate instead; to learn of his work for an organisation called
and enjoy his enthusiasm for it; to try to describe my work as being concerned with trying to find an aesthetic, and put it into practice, that is not simply concerned with chronicling disintegration and decay, but is also about trying to dream into being a new future.... all this was pleasurably encouraging.

And then I went to church. I really was very well behaved this morning.
The Metropolitan Community Church has had to move to a strange little basement and meet on Sunday mornings; and the new pastor spoke very movingly about Jacob wretsling with the angel.
He related it to his struggling with God: "Why me?" he as asked God as a boy; and I recalled my long angry monologues with God as a twelve year old, under the grey blanket in the iron bed in the dormitory named after a famous general and where I was trying to be brave: "Why did you let mummy die?"
And he never answered, but I'm so glad I asked... just as I was glad to be there in this basement, where the Pastor was also talking very inspiringly of his hopes and ambitions for the church... and that afternoon I was inspired, going back yet again to the play for the Lyceum. Because my ambitions, I understand, are as ferocious as ever.

I went through many indecisions getting ready to go out. Trousers or skirt? Long skirt or short? Or how about that dress... There was a stime in my life when the Traverse at the Festival felt central to my existences (I always seemed to be having a play running there) and returning after quite a gap felt symbolically very important.

I packed my handbag for every eventuality: notebook, two pens, make-up bag, hairbrush, phone, water, umbrella... as if I was making an excursion into unknown territory and needed to cover every eventuality.

Which, in a way, I was.

I was dreading walking up the Royal Mile. I remember walking up there with Susie, the last Festival of her life, and having the most immense difficulty because she had lost half her peripheral vision and had the greatest difficulty not bumping into people. And the constant strain of guiding her through an impatient and utterly unforgiving crowd and trying to still the monstrous fear at the back of my mind.

That was a Sunday; and after a week of steadily increasing pain it was the Friday they drilled the hole in her skull and found the tumour.

And is it that which leaves me feeling psychically bruised, somehow, still as if bruised all over, and so really unwilling to go to a play full of desperate distress, where it's as if all these bruises get beaten all over again with a hammer...

Or maybe it also was the time I saw the scan show up an image of my heart on the television screen. With such clarity that I could see the blood which should have passing through the valve, falling back instead from the place it came from. And could see with utter clarity that my heart was no longer functioning properly and could kill me. And so thought: "I need never see another image of horror or terror again. This one image has filled me with enough for a lifetime".

I don't want to judge the plays, I don't think I have the right to, really. I met the author of one, and felt for her. She seemed to be in a state I remember only too well: for of course it is great to have your play on at the Traverse in the Festival. You get a level of exposure of the kind you may have craved for; but the exposure leaves you most horribly exposed. And the whole event puts your private parts on display in the arena. Where you are poked and prodded and judged like a pig up for auction.

I don't want to collude with that process here.

Both struck me as really fine; and the second one began in a way that reminded me so strongly of the way I am trying to write the Lyceum play, it cheered me hugely. "Someone else" I thought, "Someone else understands how we need to develop the form".

There was a scene in the first where two lovers were sharing a bath together. It was a rare moment of tenderness, and I enjoyed it. I was thinking "I want more of that. I want more tenderness". And then suddenly in her despair she was asking him to drown her, and he did, and it was movingly and skillfully done, but I found myself thinking: "I don't want to see this".

And then later on in the second play I found myself thinking: "I don't want to hear bad language."

And what, I wonder, what on earth is happening to me?

What am I wanting to achieve?

Perhaps I will find out more tomorrow...


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