Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered - flushed, but smiling proudly - with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quarter of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top."
Dickens virtually invented the christmas idyll as we know it, and with three more sleeps to go what could be lovelier than to listen to the mellow rotund tones of Pip Utton splendidly retelling the classic story of Scrooge's sentimental epiphany? A packed audience at the Merlin enjoyed mulled wine and mass contentment as Pip, costumed like the author himself, regaled us with Dicken's famous ghost story from a red vellum volume set in glittering candlelight.

So now with snow thick all around - Coldplay couldn't have got it more wrong could they?- the end of year countdown has begun:
X-factor and Strictly finals: tick.
Lord Sugar's apprentice picked: tick.
Anti-Cowell kick-back in the charts: tick. (You have to admire the Cage contender for audacity - and value for money at twice the length of Trashmen's wordy bird.)
Flyaway holiday airport chaos: tick.
Yes, we must be nearly there. Still waiting for war is over - a long wait, with turncoat liberal MPs voting now to keep the troops in Afghanistan.
So, merry Christmas and a happy new year. Let's make it a good one, without any fear.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

So as snow crashes all our schedules and intentions until that towering sledgeload of excess and stress we call Christmas skids into the bleakness of New Year Resolutions - here's my pick of the seasonal shows:

Herding Cats at the Ustinov features the traditional office Christmas party debacle as a kind of climax but it's a dark psychological story of loneliness and interdependency despite the jolly Slade jingles. Justine (she went to the fancy-dress party as The Pantychrist, if you're wondering about the costume) is franticly work-obsessed, while her flatmate Michael is agoraphobic and spends his hours working a phone sexline as the fantasy daughter of sadist. Michael can't resist the depravity of Saddo, the most difficult person in his work life, while Justine convinces herself she's in love with the most difficult person in her work life - her boss, who inevitably rejects her. Love and Hate look the same word in the mirror, on the teeshirt Michael gives Justine, and this seems a theme at the heart of this immensely powerful play: troubling, sad, but never drab. Olivia Hallinan and Philip McGinley were totally engaging as the young people, and the simplistic set enhanced their curious isolation. But what I liked best was Lucinda Coxon's script, which boldly created Justine's most significant relationship entirely offstage through reported dialogue as she confides in her sympathetic flatmate. In fact it would have been interesting to see what would happen if the playwright had been similarly brave with Saddo, who didn't really need to be spotlit for his menacing phone calls - a dark stage with Michael curled up whispering those sleezy endearments to 'Daddy' would have been even more effective. But I'd still give it four stars - oh, it's christmas, I'll give it four and a half.

And now one for the kiddies: Peter Pan at the Merlin in Frome, an all-singing all-dancing traditional pantomime with live music and cinematic special effects. We all know the story: Peter doesn't want to be grown-up, and Wendy tries to change his mind by introducing him to grown-up things like marital bickering and demands for improved housing. Of course it's all a dark psychological allegory with irrepressible surges of erotic yearning and loss of innocence really, but that didn't bother the little girls who adored the mermaid and fairy dances and the little boys who thrilled at wicked Captain Hook. My own favourites were Tinkerbell the feisty fairy who turned exquisite cartwheels in her flight harness, and tiny Michael asking Hook if his mother really wanted him to be a pirate... And everyone loved the crocodile.

And now, as the steep streets of Frome rapidly becoming a car-free zone and children groom them for toboggan slopes, here's wishing everyone a peaceful snowy solstice, with plentiful pagan celebrations to come.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bath Christmas Market... a kindof vast outdoor stocking-filler warehouse, spread all around the abbey like brandy butter around a pudding. It throngs with near-gridlock crowds and has apparently been sprayed with gullibility dust that makes us avid to hand over notes of absurdly large denomination for small sewn, carved, and painted, gewgaws you'd normally pass to a charity shop without a pang. Great fun.
I met up with my writer/editor friend Diana Cambridge in Café Rouge too, for festive planning. And the Fromesbury Group converged at Emily's for our midwinter jolly, with our very own Nigella hostess providing mulled wine and the most decadently delicious mincepies on the planet.

Until this week I'd never heard of the great Russian producer and showman Diaghilev, called by Jean Cocteau 'Cet ogre, ce monstre sacré" and by himself a charlatan with no principles. From the Ballet Russes exhibition at the V&A, I learned that he was a catalyst and trend-maker before and between the wars - and a user and abuser of all who worked for him, including the ballet dancer Nijinsky, whose mental illness and death were allegedly caused by Diaghilev's treatment of him when their affair ended. But whatever his private life, his artistic influence on the early decades of the last century was extraordinary: Picasso, Matisse, and every great composer of the century. Diaghilev bragged he had no interest in achieving the possible, it was only the impossible that interested him, and his ground-breaking work shocked society, notably with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which caused a riot at its premiere. Diaghilev founded his Ballet Russe when Imperialist Russia was high status in the cultural world, but he ended his life a stateless exile from Bolshevik Russia, still touring. A dazzling exhibition, informative, richly decorative, and totally absorbing.
And then on to the Finborough for a Victorian melodrama - Trilby, a sensation when first produced just before the turn of the century. This is the story of a svengali-character far worse than Diaghilev: the actual Svengali, the preditor-hypnotist who represented the anti-semetic fearfulness of the English. Like Shylock, like Dorian Gray's Lord Henry, he's a decadent dream-maker: he transforms a pretty girl into a popular singing sensation but at a terrible price... actually that's beginning to sound more like Simon Cowell than Shylock. A stonking cast, especially Rebecca Brewer's beautiful and endearing Trilby, did full justice to this revival, revealing resonances of brutality and mental cruelty that are as timeless as love itself.

Finally...Facebook has become my morning window to the world. It's an intriguing fleeting magazine of media news (how politicians voted on student fees, how police & BBC interviewers deal with a protester in a wheelchair), what my friends are celebrating, lamenting and laughing at, event invitations, esoteric videos and literary recommendations. Which is how I came across the New Yorker roundup of best poetry collections, including Don Paterson's Rain. described as showing "what heartbreakingly small difference beauty can make in the world. This is fascinating work, a poet having a brutal argument with his art in his art."
A good aim I think for a dramatist too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Freezing fog is both beautiful and unpleasant, a combination I think shared only by the word 'syphilis' which sounds like a flower fairy while actually meaning a disgusting degenerative disease causing dementia and death. That's about ten-out-of-ten in unpleasantness, whereas freezing fog is probably only a one-to-three, depending on whether you're walking through it or trapped on the motorway in it.

A poetic week, with a double dose on Wednesday. In Bath, lunchtime readings From Around The World at the BRLSI uni-verse, compèred - for the final time after her heroic 3 year stint - by Nikki Bennett. International in a very English way, the main theme was snow and the overall mood sombre. Rose Flint's celebration of winter lifted us finally:
This is ascension time -- sing!
Let the light hold you through the ice.

And in the evening, Frome's Garden Cafe hosted the annual festive season Poetry Cafe/Merlin tie-in event, with pantomime tickets for best poem on the theme of winter flights of fancy, as picked by Nikki Bennett, going to Margie McCallum and Carola Cooper. Fourteen performers gave us some wonderful fantasies, from a witty skit on aged Boy Band reminiscences by Muriel Lavender to Phillis Higgins' touching tribute to her personal superhero Peter-Panman. And for me the most surprising flight of fancy was Wendy Miller-Williams presenting me with a gift of gorgeous glasswear, from all the team, as a farewell present for my festival involvement. Completely & utterly unexpected, and I'm deeply appreciative.

Over in Bristol, Word of Mouth promised "a night of extraordinary urban voices" with 'achingly funny' Byron Vincent introducing 'mellifluous' Shagufta K Iqbal, 'charismatic, entertaining but thought-provoking' Ben Mellor, and Kate Tempest - 'without a doubt one of the best performance poets in the country.' Who could live up to hype like that? Well, each of these did, and then some. One of the best nights of poetry I've seen anywhere in the country, achingly funny and thought-provoking too. I couldn't put it better myself so I won't even try. Byron says there'll be another Word of Mouth event at the Bristol Old Vic basement in January - can't wait.

Bath's Oh What A Performance night - yes folks, that does make 4 poetry events attended in 3 days, the kind of excess that in Ireland prompts the question "catholic or careless?" - was actually more of a music night, with the rather wonderful Golden Eggs creating richly textured arrangements of familiar carols with cello, keyboard, guitar, percussion & trumpet that were quirky enough to charm even the most jaundiced listener with an allergic reaction to the seasonal C-word. Which is usually me. They were joined by Brian Madigan, better known in his solo persona as A Band Named Brian who promised and delivered a genuine 'folkclub first': four minutes of total silence as he recreated Cage against the Machine, the anti-X-Factor chart contender. Highlight of the evening for me though was his stunning performance, with Beth Porter, of the Pogues christmas classic Fairy Tales of New York - an absolute Live Lounge cover winner.

And finally... I can't let the week go by without homage to Corrie's 50th birthday celebrations, which went with a bang as the street exploded from the cobbles up, topped by a tumbling tram, cleverly contriving the climax of all its lingering loose-end storylines: the secret-lover baby, the secret-lover bride, the secret-lover body-burier stalker, the secret child at the pub, the secret chocolates at the Kabin... all the stuff of an ordinary suburban Soap Street in fact. Corrie is unsurpassable for its huge swings from melodrama to farce - even in the hour-long live episode with several residents bundled off to the morgue, mad Mary managed like the porter in Macbeth to interject surreal comedic notes - but it packs a profound emotional punch: there's a scene between Sally and Kevin in the darkness of their kitchen when she quietly reveals the terrible truth that Molly mouthed before she died, which is as good as any television drama I've seen and very much better than most.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Possibly I set a local, if not global, record for tissue consumption over the weekend at Farncombe Estate in the frozen Cotswolds. Despite my gleaming Rudolf-nose and struggling energy, my loyal and lively creative writers provided all the pzazz necessary for a terrific course. As a group mutually supportive, as individuals all genuinely interesting wordsmiths, here's the self-styled Glorious Residue - and what's not to love about a group that claims that title? We worked from 9.30 Saturday morning till 9.30 that night, and I left them in the bar still discussing each others' work and sharing readings with the singers...

Always good to see writer friends doing well - Christine Coleman spotted her new novel Paper Lanterns in a Waterstones window display with that 21st Century accolade of success: a 3 for 2 sticker - and in the happy company of literary leviathan Colm Tóibín, hardy-perennial Nick Hornby and queen mum of lit-chicks Maeve Binchy... or you could get 3 copies of Paper Lanterns and give two of your friends a great read.

December's Frome Poetry Cafe traditionally has a panto link, and as this year's christmas show at the Merlin is Peter Pan - my all-time favourite - the theme on Wednesday 8th is Winter Flights of Fancy. 'Tis the season for audience votes but we've bucked the trend and Nikki Bennett is coming from Bath to decide who gets the prize of 4 panto tickets for the most apt poem of the night. No Tory ex-Home Office ministers welcome, whether flying on wires or sailing on ice.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I may have mentioned this before but Frome for a small town has extraordinarily enormous creative energy - so many events on each week I've had to miss some great music (like 3Corners) through date clashes. Luckily, I managed to get to Frome Drama Club's Dorian Gray at the Merlin, a stunning adaptation by Geoff Hunt which turns Oscar Wilde's dark novel into a powerful gothic drama with shadows of greek tragedy. Dorian's downward spiral into depravity and ultimate destruction is triggered, almost innocently, from his 'fatal flaw' moment as he gazes at the portrait of himself and impulsively wishes it could grow old and he could stay young forever. Geoff Hunt, who also directed, narrates the story through five 'voices of Oscar', a dark flock of watchers, prophets and voyeurs, while many of the more famous Wildean phrases were allocated to the sophisticated and corrupt Lord Henry Wotton. Movingly plangent with Wilde's own sad self-loathing, this ambitious experimental production featured terrific visuals and music by Mike Witt and Luke Stuart respectively and an overall strong cast in which Laurie Parnell as Lord Henry excelled.
Meanwhile, down by the river the Library has been celebrated its 10th birthday, with a Saturday morning of cakes and face-painting - here's Robin, with an assortment of superheroes and princesses - and an evening of readings for National Short Story Week.
Alison and I had no idea what would transpire when we gaily launched Short Stories Please! but we knew in Frome there would be an interested, articulate, enthusiastic, participative audience. Our 5-minute "taster" readings ranged from classic to contemporary and spanned the world: as Gordon Graft (who read a Steinbeck) said: "The thing about short stories is, a bit like poetry, they can take an incident that shows you the wider picture." From David Lodge's boob obsession to M.R.James's midnight graveyard, short story writers as we discovered can transport you anywhere in moments.
I first saw Midsummer, a play with songs at Soho Theatre last January and was utterly captivated by this gem of a production, now touring and at the Ustinov in Bath last week. It's lost nothing of its freshness and exuberence. The script still feels sharp and contemporary, the story is just as moving and funny and anarchic and deliciously subtly erotic, and the actors - Cora Bissett and Matthew Pidgeon - still utterly captivating.
So instead of rewriting my review I'll just add some of the audience feedback scribbled on the whiteboard in the foyer: Brilliant - clever - touching. VASTLY ENTERTAINING! engaging, humorous. Wicked. Fantastic!!!!! Superbly acted, great script + wonderful design. FIVE STARS!!! It's heading for London next so if you want an evening of contagious midsummer madness that sends you out into the winter night with a luminous smile make a trip to the Tricycle Theatre your midwinter treat.

Movie spot: Mike Leigh is back in Abigail's Party land of social expectations and personal desperation, adding this time loneliness, growing old, and death: Another Year pairs the wonderful Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as a well-adjusted couple (almost complacently so) with needy friends who cling around them. It's sometimes nearly too excruciatingly embarrassing to watch, but there's humour and humanity there too. "You never have a script, you're always refining" says Ruth Sheen, which is perhaps why this film, despite its length and lack of any message or conclusion, is such compelling viewing.

And finally: Compulsory reading tests for 6-year-olds are on the way, I read in the New (mini) Independent, with children "tested on their ability to read simple words beginning in 2012."
Good thing there aren't many words around beginning like that, then...

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Never try not to be nervous" says Niamh, at our 'Stage Write' group session with a focus on performing. Niamh's tips were aimed towards our Merlin Dressing Up Box monologues event, but were agreed by participants to be extremely useful for work and life too, in any situation where confidence ebbs and we find ourselves needing to 'do it the way you would do it if you could do it...'

Still at the Merlin, enterprising new director Claudia Berry is launching a New Writing Competition for one-act plays, with winners to be produced as a rehearsed script-in-hand performance on stage next March. It's free to enter, and there's special encouragement to younger writers with an under 25 category. Deadline is end January, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the scripts as I'll be co-judging along with Mark McGann. First Nevertheless Productions launch Somerset's only Pub Theatre, now this - Frome Ferment is definitely fizzing.

1967 has a special place in my nostalgia files. It's the year I left university and got married in the same week, went off travelling and discovered the allure of Greek islands. It was the summer of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band, the one they called the Summer of Love. Skirts were high and so were we - not so much on drugs (most of us couldn't afford to get any closer than song lyrics and Timothy O'Leary paperbacks) but on hope. Music and fashion were no longer dictatated by the providers but led by us from the street: we believed times really were a'changing, that year just before the providers labelled the bandwagon Flower Power and jumped on it. So when I read that Mike Bartlett's new play Love Love Love tracks a couple who met in '67 for forty years to see what kind of sexegenarians they became, and that the production had rave reviews in the posh papers, and was coming to Bath's Ustinov Theatre, I was agog.
Better to travel hopefully than to arrive.
Love Love Love (retitled by a local reviewer Long Long Long) runs for 3 hours with 2 intervals and I escaped after the laboriously 'establishing' opening act. Except in right-wing ranting tabloids we never met anyone like those ghastly students but we'd have considered them not idealistic free-spirits but arrogant pain-in-the-arses, if we had. Did anyone outside a Norman Tebbit dinner party anecdote actually complain about being sacked for smoking pot instead of serving customers? And what was with the mad-aunt costume, all lime green with pearls and platform sandals, for Sandra? If Mr Bartlett wants to raid precious times for drama again, here's what we looked like. The picture's faded but the dress was purple with tiny buttons. And the shoes - it's a shame you can't see them - were gorgeous.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Every time I visit, the Isle of Wight is in a mood of relentless monochrome: sea and sky mottling together in forty shades of grey, so the comfort and warmth of The Grange was especially welcome at last weekend’s writing course. Twelve participants convened in the opulent lounge after supper on Friday for introductions and a thumbnail sketch of their aspirations - well, more of a fingernail clipping actually as with such a big group I was brutal about succinctness. On this, and everything else, everyone was wonderfully responsive. After a full Saturday and late-night writerly revelry too, even our final gathering in the lounge produced some seriously impressive pieces. A delightful and dedicated group, so take note of these faces: you could see them next on a paperback jacket...

Saturday afternoon was our chance to experience the out-of-season charm of Shanklin, a townscape which resides resolutely in the 1950s - though not the stiff-petticoat-and-nipped-waist style, more the grey Dannimac mode.
It's endearing up to a point, but there seems something wilful about this degree of drabness: enough, surely, to eschew Macdonalds, with declaring the entire town a cappuccino-free zone. A great place for those nostalgic for the days when cauliflower soup was thickened with cornflour (creating the 42nd tone of grey, incidentally, if anyone's counting), or for a High Street with hardware store, haberdashers, and a Conservative Club. But times may change: the charming man in bottle-lined sweetshop is planning something new for next year - smoothies! I look forward to trying this radical innovation when I go back in April.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nevertheless Productions returned in style Upstairs at the Lamb following our sell-out debut in Frome Festival in July. In a collaborative venture with Salisbury's Bootleg Theatre Company, SNAPSHOTS was a set of short dialogues. Four highly personable actors delighted the first night audience with these bite-size dramas from contemporary relationships and modern mores. Perhaps I'm partisan but for me the most successful in theatrical terms was Back to Back by Nevertheless founder Rosie Finnegan which uses dark absurdist humour to create biting political satire. Great to hear people enthusing "That was marvellous” - “Really good – really enjoyed it, really good actors”, and responses on feedback forms ranging from 'Very entertaining' to 'Fantasticle!' and 'Brrrrilliant'! Here's Stewart Taylor and Kerry Stockwell, under draconian future legislation rueing the day they failed to report a grey squirrel... "The homely aesthetic of the venue lent itself kindly to the plays" reported Bootleg's Salisbury reviewer, commending Rosie's "surreal political dialogue".

Meanwhile over in Bristol's Alma Tavern there's nothing homely about Venus at Broadmoor, the fourth, and arguably the best, of Steve Hennessy’s plays lifting the lid off psychiatric care in the Lullabies of Broadmoor quartet.
The cure for insanity is love, pronounces Doctor Orange – an enlightened stance for a Medical Superintendent in 1872 – but he’s baffled by the perverse version of love practised by Christina Edmunds, who calls herself Venus and distributes poisoned chocolates around Brighton randomly and remorselessly. Asylum attendant John Coleman, obsessed with this enigmatic beauty, asks a more pertinent question: what’s the cure for love? Neither man recognises there is no cure for the secret childhood abuse which has left Christina unable to grasp the horror with which infant death is greeted by those around her, or appreciate her culpability.
Dark material, but vividly written with luminous imagery and emotional fireworks from pathos to hilarity, creating authentic evocation of Victorian mores as well as probing deeply into this true-life tragedy. Here are no real villains, though all the men are flawed by selfishness, vanity, obtuseness, and just plain weakness. Christina, the mad murderess, is paradoxically guilty only of living in a society where sexual initiative in a woman is a shockingly ‘lewd act’ while for a man it’s a pardonable lapse. But the tragedy at the heart of the story is that a little boy died: the play is heavily dedicated to that child – indeed the weight of that small ghost, especially at the end, is my only reservation about a superbly written play.
Rebecca Sellors' set wittily creates a mood of seaside vaudeville and the actors are onstage from the start – the doctor restless at his desk, Coleman brooding, Christina dancing delicately in her lace-trimmed underwear – so that even as you take your seat you sense that when the penny rolls to start this end-of-pier show, it will be something special. And it is. Sensitive and cleverly-paced direction from Chris Loveless, superb acting by the men - Alan Coveney and Matthew Ward – and a superlative performance from Violet Ryder as the Chocolate Cream Poisoner... no wonder audiences loved it, with sell-out shows every night and feedback any writer would give several fingers, if not an arm, for. So much to enjoy and to reflect on in this complex play and polished production, I’m only sorry I didn’t get a chance to go back and watch it again.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A couple of final idyllic images from the Bay of Bliss... looking both ways from the beach right by the house just before dusk, sun gentle on the horizon, fierce on the cliff face. I have over 500 shots of this coast and it seems to seethe with different shades in every one.

Final idyllic days and evenings too - one of which was the Spoken Word night at Dave Minton's home, where the 'Best in the West' writing group encouraged guests to read original and favourite poems and pieces while enjoying an excellent Pot-luck party. California must be the Pot-luck Party capital of the world - it's like, why bring just a bottle, when we could have more fun with a pot of chili and a plate of choc-fudge too...
And on the subject of yummy nosh, suppers with Mo and Anja are amazing: last night we had artichoke soup then Tilapia fish tacos with avocado and pico de gallo, which is a Mexican fresh salsa with lots of coriander... mm, at least I'll have something to do on the long-haul flight home, listing everything about California I'll miss...

Meanwhile back in Blighty I find as I prepare to head home that the town & county I left are rapidly being folded up to be put in a box for dumping. 100% axing of Arts funding across Somerset, libraries under threat, Cheese&Grain losing its funding for community events, and even the town Post Office closing. I can't blame SCC or FTC for that one but it's an added irony we won't even be able to stand in snake-like queues waiting for a soupy voice to murmur the number of the only operative cashier please and gripe to each other about these massive assaults on community life.
If ever there was a reason to go on Facebook, this is it and I urge you all, if you haven't, to sign up now and join one or more of the protesting campaigns to find out what's going on.
(And if you want to see where political tyranny and absurdity can lead, go see Rosie Finnegan's clever satirical play Back to Back Upstairs at the Lamb, November 10th & 11th. In fact, support Frome's pub theatre anyway - at this rate it may soon be the only theatre we've got...)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

As temperatures soar through the 20s (or 70s, in local-speak) I've been doing a lot more sea-gazing from beaches and cliffs than writing. The waves have been awesome all week - I tried to photograph them and took so many shots I was out of battery by the time I reached Pillar Point where wet sand reflected the turquoise & pearl-pink of the sky in exactly matching luminosity. None of my pictures convey the impact of these long rolls of marbled water, barging into each other like rogue elephants, cresting erratically then detonating, sending shock-spumes of white spray spirally high - it's the ferocity and erratic rhythms that make this unending turmoil such compulsive viewing.
Equally constant, high and vast, is that unutterably blue Californian sky, cut with vapour trails like shimmering fireworks.
When the tide's out, practicing press-ups in preparation for later bombardment, you can play a game with the sea along the four miles of sand from Half Moon Bay to El Granada: the aim is to walk the line reached by the previous wave - identified by a rim of sparkling foam - adjusting to each oncoming deluge without getting wet jeans. Mostly the sea wins. On this beach I feel like Woman Thursday, I saw only one other person though plenty of plovers, sandpipers, and gulls, and one seal.
Later that evening, with freshly charged camera, I caught the most splendid sunset I've seen anywhere in the world.

With mid-term election results now in, I'm particularly lucky to be staying in California - and in a household where there's no discussion of politics, apart from the noncommital comment "We shoot Republicans on sight."
In The New Republic, Democratic journalist Jonathan Chait prophesies there'll be a move to impeach Obama. Not yet, but sometime, maybe soon. In a piece ominously entitled Scandal TBD he expands: " You can always find something... A poll found that 35% of Republicans already favor impeaching Obama, with just 48% opposed and the balance undecided. Wait, you say, what will they impeach him over? You're not thinking like a Republican. This is the Conservative view of Obama - a left-wing radical who seized power in an economic crisis, smuggled radical views into the White House, and used unfair tactics to force an unpopular transformative left-wing agenda upon a conservative country. Why would Republicans impeach Obama? The better question is, why wouldn't they?" So that's the news Stateside. And glum news it is.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's pumpkin time in California and Half Moon Bay is pumpkin capital. Orange polka-dotted fields, roadside stalls billowing with orange - we dine on pumkin soup and carve pumpkin lanterns for the pot-luck party. A great night of music, folk & country classics and original songs by Mo and his friends.

Lots of coastal walks too, all along the bay where the pale sand is deserted and the sea crashes in endless high waves for miles and the sky is vast and impossibly blue and everywhere seems empty except for sun and birds. And I've been with Mo and Heather down to Pescadero (where a stranded blue whale is now in the piquant stages of disintegration) and dog-walking in the pine forest, and cappuccino-sampling at Pillar Point... and a certain amount of writing. But to be honest, not much.

Footling footnote of the week: The New Yorker is bucking the American trend of attempting perfect parenting with a "Good Enough" approach. A baby never really needs to be clean enough to eat off, unless you intend to, so why not just run it through the sprinkler occasionally? Feeding on demand is hardly a good way to prepare a child for the real world, where nothing is available on demand except cable television, while reading, singing, and talking to your baby 'may actually be harmful, lengthening her attention span to the point where she will be unable to enjoy most popular entertainment.'
Clearly not all Americans have an irony deficiency.