Thursday, March 08, 2012

A week

Not so long ago, I had a week like this:

On the Monday, I was revising the first chapter of my book version of GOD’S NEW FROCK, which is the Old Testament section of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN.

It's the story of a transwoman who finds herself to be a prophet of god. This strikes her as unlikely and improbable, but there it is. She’s stuck with it.

The revision had already taken weeks. I felt proud to finish it.

On Tuesday I started on Chapter Two. I had a vague expectation it would be easier than Chapter One.

I was mistaken.

On Wednesday I led a workshop for MSc students of Edinburgh University studying contemporary European theatre. It was a practical workshop to encourage them to discover and develop their own capacity for empathy.

It happened in an unpromising room high in the David Hume tower. A building of such staggering ugliness dear Mr Hume would have been so unhappy to think of it bearing his name.

I enjoyed the students. I hope they enjoyed the workshop. What struck me is that while they were all imprisoned in the process of analyzing theatre what most of them seemed absolutely desperate to do was actually create it.

Which would tach them far more about themselves and about the world.

On Thursday I was rehearsing CHRYSTAL AND THE GENERAL with the actors Suzanne Dance and Clunie McKenzie. 

This is a piece we devised in 2009 to commemorate the centenary of the great Suffragette March through Edinburgh that was led by Flora Drummond - ‘The General’ - riding a great white horse. It contrasted her work with Chrystal McMillan’s for the Suffrage cause. Flora believed that it was necessary to work outside the law to gain women’s political aims; Chrystal believed it was more effective to work within it.

This contrast of approach split the Suffrage movement and continues to split protest movements to this day.

We performed it the following week in the Chrystal McMillan building - Edinburgh University again - and I think it went well. My late partner, Sue Innes, greatly admired Chrystal and would have been happy to know that the department where she did her PhD had been named after her.
I think she was with us that afternoon.

On the Friday  I was off to Glasgow for a follow up meeting about SEX, CHIPS AND THE HOLY GHOST. The main thing to follow up was the possibility of TV interest. Which has since grown.

On Saturday I was round at my mother-in-law’s. She was upset because she had been sick and then too brethless and weak to clean it up.More and more it was becoming apparent she could not manage at home.

And on the Sunday I was round again. She had just lifted a cup of tea up to her mouth and was, as a consequence, gasping for breath. I dialled 999. They were very good. Prompt and caring.

Later, in accident and emergency, I sat by her trolley. She was on oxygen, asleep. Her ruined chest, in its clumsy uncordinated way, was greedily breathing in oxygen.

It was as if every cell in her body was wholly engaged in grasping for every particle of life the world could still give her.

And I thought: I will come to this.

We all will.

This is how it all ends, this frantic activity.

And I am still trying to understand why. 
I love the way you write. Your clarity inspires me. I'm doing a PhD in Creative Writing and have to write a 30,000 word thesis using theory, reflection and argument to complement the 70,000 word novel that forms the rest of the PhD. Like your theatre students I find it so frustrating switching from creation to analysis.

Best wishes for your mother in law's recovery and comfort.
When I read your words J, I'm reminded why I admire you so much - very much looking forward to the book.

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