It might just be me. But it seems to me as though there’s a growth in the number of artistic works that deal with the plight of “everyday” Germans during World War II.

This week, BBC 2 showed ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, one of the most affecting pieces of “childhood” drama I’ve watched in a long time. Roughly ten days earlier, the Beeb showed a new one-off (‘The Man who Irritated Hitler’- apols if title wrong; I’ll amend later!). This showed the real-life drama of a Jewish barrister who called Hitler as a witness in a stormtrooper trial in the early ’30s. Meanwhile, London’s brilliant (and under-funded) Tricycle Theatre has just housed the pre-West End run of Arthur Miller’s 1994 play, ‘Broken Glass’ starring Anthony Sher, about an American Jew struggling with both his wife’s reaction to Kristallnacht and his WASP boss’s ill-hid and growing antisemitism.

As I say, it might just be me.

But even so, there’s value in questioning. Why now? What can we, in Britain today, take from 1930s Germany? I don’t have answers enough to commit yet, but I raise the flag and encourage comments…

The urge to swear gratuitously, graffiti-ing violently right here, right now, is overcome by the urge of self-censorship. So instead, I’ll ask you to transgress.

Pick a stranger to look at. If they catch your eye, hold it. No aggression. No immediate smile. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Now you can smile. No flirting.

What happened?

“May you live in interesting times”

– a Chinese curse, that. Apparently.

Anyway – the Imp is doing just that: living in interesting times (well, aren’t we all?). And one of the moments on the horizon is that I’m about to spend the night in a near-empty theatre, writing a 20-minute performance piece, from scratch, for 6 actors I’ve yet to meet, to be performed 24 hours after we wet our pens. Dead excited, but also nervous.  The whole thing goes up on the main stage – and it’s filling up (this ain’t no teeny theatre).

Cor – the unknown – and I don’t mean Rumsfeld’s unknown knowables….

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Beautiful….’cos what could I possibly have to worry about, having read that?!

😉

The boiler’s gone. And it’s raining. T’was sludging earlier, so this is an improvement. And I’ve not really got my brain in yet, either. Next couple of days bring trips to That London, the far east (Anglia), friends, professionals and recalcitrant teens. I’ll play teacher, adult, grouchy stranger and, in-between, really get to be a mate.  Part of me would much rather curl up and hide. But if I did that, who knows when I would reappear?!

I suspect half of this desire for the cave is about writing. In the last few weeks, I’ve spewed out plays of 60 and 15 minutes. That’s not to say they’re good; they will more than definitely need work, but the act of squeezing them out is quite intense (and throughoutly enjoyable – lucky me this time, as it can be merry hell). I’m also now reworking an earlier, incomplete work, and seeing how weedy and flawsome it was – also a good feeling, but….So, yes: engagment with the outer world is going to take me away from this lovely writing.

Better get back to it, then!

😉

“Only connect” is the foreword to A Passage to India – EM Forster’s tale of English colonial arrogance in India – and of how terrible the consequences can be when we choose not to listen to one another.  It’s my starting point today for many reasons:

  • My web access has been madly impaired this last month (temporary location change = lack of wifi = broadband dongle virginity being lost = dongle antennae ‘experiences ‘= absolute, screaming, frustration = invention, of a sort, being born of necessity
  • New life experiences (the Imp’s now a step-parent to delightful mini-imps) and new extended family relationships
  • A new eye on old memories – now I’m on the other side of the parent / child fence (“good God – I did that all the time- that’s terrible! My poor parents!”)

So, lucky you – you get to share my shallow insights, as I sit here with two computers (the family desktop PC with magical tinterweb and my hissy-fit laptop with all my files on it, refusing to find a web connection), two mice and two keyboards, aimlessly (resultlessly) hitting one then the other and swearing.  It’s good to be back.

There’s nothing like life changes to make you see yourself, I now think.  Perhaps I should say, to force to you ‘connect’; to widen your world view, empathise, and take deep breaths.

There I was, this time last year, happily imping, just closer to 40 than 30, with cash, time and liberty. Now I have school runs, after-school clubs, weekends in with the giggly box (mind you, there’s some wonderfully inventive kids’ theatre out there – thank you, Kneehigh!) or out with the rollerskates – and it’s alright, actually.  There’s a great deal about it, in fact, that is jolly fine, when you’re not investigating the depths of your navel!

But there’s this business model thing – you might have heard of it : “form-storm-perform” – and it certainly applies to my inner experiences (inner child foot-stamping vs. any issues with playgrounds or packed lunch-making). The form/storm/perform idea, briefly and perhaps inaccurately, is that when a new team comes together (a family as much as a work team), they go through periods of squabbling / anger / boundary pushing, before they can really come together as a great team to perform. It’s all about boundary testing, creating, forging, understanding one another. 

And with this new team as a background to my life, it’s been my ideas of me fighting my ideas of me! IE, having to accept that I’ve moved up into the next generation, without actually having made it so myself (by deliberately sprogging) ; accepting that my childhood/teen fantasy me being an Imp entirely in charge of her own destiny has – from necessity – had to leave now, become a past experience, because I’m responsible for other people. And it’s been fascinating to watch my self deal with this  (narcissistic? the Imp?! “Don’t you know who I am?!”)  ;-) 

I didn’t realise that we – naturally – grieve in some ways when we change. Even though change is necessary and very good for us – we ought to go through periods of ‘storm’, of chrysalis-breaking. And when I look at it that way, when I see I’m not leaving something very enjoyable behind, but rather building on it, I’m happy to accept it; excited about the future, instead of lamenting the (completed) past.

These are sometimes things we’re not supposed to talk about, but I now find people whispering to me, because my situation is transparently unusual – and because of that whisper, we’re connecting; showing empathy, feeling relief we’re not alone in having ‘tricky’ feelings about growing up, about leaving child-free / family-lite life behind. And connecting, reaching out to one another – that is very fine indeed.

😉

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened” – Winston Churchill

The solstice is almost upon us! Snow’s sneaking across the land and men sell woolly hats in the street.  I’m waiting on a friend from the US, who’s flying over especially for the Imp’s wintry nuptials, while other family and friends crawl their way through The Weather.

I’m telling all involved to relax, worry not, take it as it comes – which is a joke given the self-inflicted assault on my nerves of the last few weeks. But finally, the calm is coming!

What is anxiety; why do we worry? I’ve been (annoyingly) able to watch my own discalm, disquietude, and have come up with some factors of imp-angst – which is to say, they’re not necessarily anything like yours.

For me, I reckon it’s all about other people – and their reactions to one’s self.

Because a worried “what if, what if, what if, ” by itself is meaningless – it can do no harm: we’re back to “if a wood falls in the forest, does it make a noise?”  What I mean is that the worst case scenarios are usually (I’m ruling out falling off cliffs, here) about performance, acceptance, and other contributors to emotional safety / harm.

This all became clear when I found myself saying, “it doesn’t matter what happens because we’re amongst friends.” I realised that people who love me won’t think less of me if something – anything – goes wrong. Those who would think bad thoughts aren’t my friends – and in the context of my own wedding, well – they shouldn’t be there!

So – I have just seen the first snowflakes through the window. Sinatra’s on the radio (natch) and I urge all elves, gnomes, fellow imps and pixies to hug yourselves, smile at the world and remember you are loved.  Get friends around you and get festive.  Happy celebrations, one and all.

😉

You wonder,  sometimes, just how grown-up you really are.

This happens, in the main, when you stumble, perhaps even fall down; when you quite possibly weren’t looking where you were going and then end up, breath knocked out of you, gasping for air, with shock-hot tears poking at your pride ducts.

And to be fair, how can you find the things that need mending unless you can see the holes?  The real sign of being grown-up, of course, is how you decide to deal with the fall, and with what caused it in the first place.  Do you sit and stamp your heels against the ground, screaming and flinging blame? Do you quietly seethe and vow to win vengeance? Or do you (because these questions must go in threes) take a deep breath, look behind you to see what happened and remind yourself not to do that again?

You never step in the same river twice, so they say, but of course, if you don’t learn from the tough times – if you then don’t grow – then the river’s going to look pretty much the same throughout your life. And that’s possibly secure, but it’s bloody boring. If you reinforce your own prejudices about the world (people are not to be trusted; I’m boring and ugly;  people never understand one another) then you’re only building up impenetrable walls and choosing to make yourself lonely and miserable.  Or boring and lonely and misunderstood and unable to trust anyone. Oh, look – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I really admire people who can bite their tongue; who don’t need to bolster themselves in the eyes of others; who live in the present and don’t worry. But I know that some of those people find it hard to do some of the things I find easy. We’re all different and we all have different qualities: not having some of the good ones is not a failing – but it is a challenge, and after all, what else is life for?

😉

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