It may be an indication that I’m too busy to keep a blog that it has taken me over a month to get back here. The picture is from a trip to Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown’s new Mountains to the Sea Festival on the weekend of September 10th-13th 2009. This is to be a kind of prose equivalent of Poetry Now, their wonderful poetry festival in the Spring. The blue sky reminded me of what a friend had heard on a trip to China – that in the most polluted of China’s cities the dogs howl on a day when there is blue sky, so unused are they to seeing it. I felt I wanted to howl like the dogs having seen so little blue all summer.
I booked the Royal Marine in Dun Laoghaire and went down on the Thursday evening first to see Thornton Wilder’s The Long Christmas Dinner – one of three plays the Abbey were putting on to celebrate Brian Friel’s birthday. It was the only one I could catch but it was worth it. It was a reading rather than a production but even then you could see why Friel chose it. A big cast of maybe ten people around a table and it begins at the first Christmas dinner of a young couple in a New England house – a dinner they share with ‘Mother Bayard’ – the husband’s mother. Behind them are two arches and the stage directions tell the players that they will demonstrate aging in the course of the performance through voice and movement – the only prop a white wig which they may put on at appropriate moments. In the course of forty-five minutes we see ninety years of Christmas dinners in the one house during which certain lines are unwittingly repeated by the characters and in which they change roles, the young wife eventually becoming ‘Mother Bayard’ to her son’s family, the old or ill retreating into one of the portals and the dark, the new children emerging from the flower-wreathed portal. The repetitions were what made it so quintessentially Friel – repetitions over ages. It’s a beauitful play.
I went out to Dun Laoghaire after it to find I had time to catch Paul Auster’s address on Beckett which was happening in the hotel. There were maybe three hundred people there and Auster was wonderful on his discovery of Beckett as a young man on his first trip to Dublin and then subsequently meeting him in Paris when he was amazed to find that praise of his work by a young unknown writer mattered to Beckett.
Auster quoted a passage from Beckett’s novel Watt which Barry Mc Govern quoted again that weekend and it resonated so strongly with the Wilder and the idea of how fleeting a single life is and life’s repititions:
The crocuses and the larch turning green every year a week before the others and the pastures red with uneaten sheep’s placentas and the long summer days and the newmown hay and the wood-pigeon in the morning and the cuckoo in the afternoon and the corncrake in the eveing and the wasps in the jam and the smell of the gorse and the look of the gorse and the apples falling and the chidren walking in the dead leaves and the larch turning brown a week before the others and the chesnuts falling and the howing winds and the sea breaking over the pier and the first fires and the hooves on the road and the consumptive postman whistling The Roses Are Blooming in Picardy and the standard oillamp and of course the snow and to be sure the sleet and bless your heart the slush and every fourth year the Feburary débâcle and the endless April showers and the crocuses and then the whole bloody business starting all over again.
From China to China – this weekend I went to Dublin for a dose of Robert Le Page – the brilliant Quebecois director whose productions are rare here in Ireland but not to be missed. This was The Blue Dragon – a kind of extension to his astonishing Dragon Triliogy – the six hour play about the Chinese in Canada which I saw in London in the 1980s. This one is set in present-day Shanghai and the production was as magical as Le Page’s best work – he is a director who puts you in a postition of watching something on stage – the operation of which is baffling. The play opened with a man writing and explaining a Chinese character at the front of the stage while behind him the character he writes appears. Le Page describes the technique as cinematographic theatre and I suppose it is – it is the closest thing to theatrical magic or alchemy I know. Only downside was having to emerge out of the Tony O’Reilly Theatre in Belvedere College onto the dark Dublin streets that don’t feel at all safe any more – so great is the gap between great wealth and extreme povery. No magic there.
One of the rituals of the new season is to change the shrub by the front door that represents the season. There’s been a standard lavendar there for summer and I usually have an acer for autumn and I’ll change it when its leaves turn, but this is a little bird-sown hawthorn which is going to be the first symbol of autumn.
Yesterday was the first day of sunshine in ages so too good to spend indoors. I planted out lots of little violas and pansies into window boxes and pots to replace the petunias the snails have feasted on!
And here are purple pansies jollying along some of the verbena that have managed not to be eaten. Now they and the tiny violas look cheerful as I come up the path. I also like them since they remind me of my first present to my husband which was a bowl of pansies at his door and a note telling him that their name came from ‘pensee’ meaning ‘thought’ in French and so they meant I was thinking of him. He still thinks it the strangest present he’d ever had, but in a good way!
And after the garden a walk by the river, the banks of which were colonised by this purple plant which I think it Rosebay Willow Herb – it had a very strong honey-sweet smell which seemed right for a sunny September Saturday afternoon.