Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The big freeze continues and days zigzag by in forty shades of white.
Either I'm getting blasé or cabin fever has kicked in because on Monday I set off with writer friend John Payne, who's researching a quirky city guide, to walk the Bath Skyline route... through Rainbow Wood and Bushy Norword, past Sham Castle - sounds like a Rupert Bear adventure, doesn't it?
It took us nearly 3 hours to cover 6 miles. I'll skip the full list of hazards; suffice to say that tho we enjoyed it, my top tip for anyone intending to undertake this in the middle of the most snowy snap in 30 years would be: Don't.
Stourhead is still accessible, though, unless you're a duck. Snow has turned frozen lakes into fields.

Luckily, the night Debby Holt launched Recipe for Scandal at Bath Waterstones saw a brief respite, so a posse of Frome writers managed to be there to celebrate her latest novel as it swoops off on its journey from the shelves to the best-selller lists - with a rave review from Heat magazine. Good too to catch up with Sarah Duncan, whose novel Single to Rome has been nominated for the RNA 'novel of the year' award.
Debby always gives an electrifying talk at these party-style launches, mingling witty anecdote with tough tips for writers:
"Never kidnap a person and plonk them in a book without bothering to do anything with them. And never think you know what’s going to happen...
When I started this book I thought it was about something else, but when I finished I realised it was a story about how we let our pasts control our present – and sometimes we have to jettison our past. When we get older, shock horror, we don’t get any wiser."

The power of the past is an appropriate reflection, perhaps, for this time of year, and it seems to have loomed everywhere for me lately. Everything is Illuminated was filmed 5 years ago but I only caught up with it this week on DVD: Cohn-brothers-style spiky comedy and poignant historical backstory, but essentially it's a road movie: the journey of a belligerent old man and two young men with little in common but their inarticulate mutual commitment. Like all good road movies the journeys are within. "The past" Alex concludes "is always inside us, looking out."

In Your Image, the new play by Rob Benson staged at the Ustinov as a 'Script Factory' reading, replaced the Ukrainian road with a rubbish-filled flat but the abrasive relationships, the lost boys searching for answers, the old man who walked out on his life, were all there- although the debris of the past had not been so tidily collected. Rob Benson started with the idea of disposable cameras which might, or might not, hold secrets to the past, as two estranged brothers coincide at their dead father's flat to rummage through his debris in their different ways. 'Leave those pictures there,' the older brother urges, 'it isn't our past - he's not our past.'
Director Mark Powell emphasises this is still a work in progress, but there's already much to appreciate especially in the structure, which time-shifts the father's death to the second act and slowly probes the dark confusion until everything is illuminated...

This posting's unrelated endpiece: A friend introduced me to TED - a kind of cerebral youtube. Go to 'most favourited' to hear Ken Robinson explain how schools kill creativity.


No comments: