Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Ladies dancing and a happy new year

The eighth day in the carol is ladies dancing though I never remember where you start counting from, but the highlight of an absolutely brilliant gig at the Old Bath Arms from Back of the Bus was The Eighth Day The link here is to Hazel O'Connor's version, but it gives some idea of the impact from this amazing hi-impact septet. All of us in Frome are so lucky to move into the difficult year ahead in an egalitarian town that bubbles with live music!

And now after a week of those traditional seasonal celebrations of eating, drinking, walking, dancing, quizzing, and sneezing, it's time to start on another year, still box-fresh and unsullied - let's see if we can keep it that way. To finish the old one and start the new, here's a story and a poem.

Growing up post-war, Little Women was staple re-reading for me, along with my absolute favourites The Secret Garden (unloved little girl turns out to be adorable) and A Little Princess (unloved little girl turns out to be adorable).  Of the four sisters in Louisa M Alcott's tale, tomboyish Jo seems most favoured, with practical Meg in second place while Beth is clearly far too angelic to survive and Amy is selfish and vain - but as the reader is invited to disapprove of her, she's the closest to an unloved little girl so I preferred her to Jo who was too much like Worrals (the female version of Biggles). Jo in the movie doesn't come across like that although she does literally rewrite the book, and it's all visually entertaining with some excellent acting (especially Meryl Streep) and a charming Laurie, although the girls all seem a bit hefty for their ages & era and the time-jumps are a bit confusing. It's been criticised for focusing on the lives of white characters but that's what most girls' books in the 19th century were like, and at least we had the eye-candy of all those pastel puffed-up skirts at the parties like massed macaroons. Nostalgia encouraged me to revisit my mother's copy of the story dated 1917 and published by the Religious Tract Society of London who appear to have economised on their cloth covers as the binding is in shreds: the colour plates by Harold Copping are still glowing though so here's Amy from this book, being vain, and Timothée Chalamet as Laurie in the movie, being the fairest of them all.

So here's hoping your 2020 will impossibly good, and some helpful words from Brendan Kennelly.
Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

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