Thursday, September 04, 2008

4 September 2008

They’ve just played Messaien’s “Quartet for the End of Time” over the radio, broadcast from the Proms.

Such a joy to hear that again: in all its bleakness, its wrath, its tenderness. Its transcendence.

Listening to it, I remembered my second professional play, Ending Time, which Radio broadcast in 1984.

I was so proud of it. So full of hope.

I wanted each of its scenes to reflect each of the music’s eight movements. And there were three stories: a Radio 3 announcer trying to figure out what on earth he was going to say about it, a musician who played in the quartet, listening to the recording on his car radio. He was travelling around with his partner, and they were trying to decide whether or not to have a child. And a tramp they picked up on the road, St John of Patmos, who had the vividest memory of the Angel coming to see him to give him the Revelation that became the last book of the bible.

And it ended in ecstasy. A vision of heaven granted St. John. In the public loo at Kinross motorway service station.

It’s disappeared since, as radio plays do. But how good to be reminded of it.

I think I wanted to try to express something about the different dimensions of time: how on our dimension it seems to move forward in a linear fashion, but in another dimension it is eternity and maybe stands still.

I’d seen it in an amazing picture by El Greco in Toledo, The Burial of Count Orgaz, and the idea kind of obsessed me. There must be a truth in it, because here I am, quite late at night, alone, this Thursday; and I’m also with Susie in the cottage in Roslin listening to it go out over the radio.

And I’m with Basil Farncombe in his study in Malvern, and he’s teaching me to meditate; and I’m reading out the ‘Four Quartets” to Susie in the hospice.

And there’s bread rising in the kitchen. On an impulse, I started to knead it in the first few movements. A promise of good things to come.


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