I have completed the return plane journey from Australia to the UK and it was as dreary and as claustrophobic as the trip over a couple of weeks previously. I tried read but the light and the noise interfered with my concentration. I hid my head under a blanket and managed to get four or five hours sleep but that left a further twenty hours to endure. The tv/interactive screens in front of each seat is both a blessing and a curse. From my aisle seat I am bombarded by at least six other screenings: Bollywood, action movies, Pocahontas, flowing Arabian robes and horses, candy crush, Sound of Music. I tried to focus on my own miniature screen but end up flicking from film to film as nothing really grabbed my attention. Then I arrived at Ran by Akira Kurosawa 1985.
I have studied and taught King Lear, the greatest of the Shakespearean tragedies, for many years. It is a cruel, heart-wrenching play to watch on stage and it translates magnificently to film as Ran proved. This version of the play is set in feudal Japan. The set is huge and sweeping and the armies, mounted and foot, are awesome in their size and their colourfulness. Yet they don’t overwhelm characters, so extreme in their personalities and actions, who battle for ascendancy in the void left by a vain and senile lord. The bitterness of the action is painted on the face of the failing lord, Hidetora, in increasingly dramatic shadows until his face is literally the tragic mask. I was gripped for three hours.
Yet the greatest film version of King Lear remains the one directed by Grigori Kozintsev, 1971.
I was meant to be a comfort and a help to my aged mother over this holiday period. Instead I contracted a mind-suffocating cold, courtesy of long plane journey, so that I spent two days hiding out in the bedroom washing panadol down with berocca while anointing myself with Vicks and another two days huddling in corners so as not to infect Mum. I wanted to be reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, History of Shit by Dominque Laporte, The Golden Age by Joan London and Black Glass by Meg Mundell but my concentration was too soggy.
My mother has a shelf of yellowing novels by Georgette Heyer. I had read several, okay I confess, a lot of these ‘when I was so much younger than today’ and these well-written, clever, formulaic romance novels ‘steeped in the Regency Period’ of England suited my mental capacity. I was happy to be re-introduced to the boredom, gambling, ritualised entertainments and top gear (in clothes, carriages, houses and horses) of the period. I was so grateful that I could grasp the central plot and main entertainments in the first thirty pages and, at any point, skip to the last twenty for a denouement delivered in style when lovers are reconciled.
I am recovered now. I can approach my mother without holding my breath and washing my hands, and I am able to re-engage with Cryptonomicon. I was glad of the undemanding entertainment that the Heyer novels offered (Venetia is the best) and bloody glad I don’t live in that suffocating society; it would have been like living permanently with a cold.
I have realised that using the medium effectively is as important as writing the piece of work. Hence, I have prevailed upon my good friend, Jane Davies, to assist me with working around and with my wordpress blog. The main thing I have learnt is to have the confidence to experiment with the presentation and that blogs and pictures and fiction can be undone. It has reduced the anxiety so that my hands do not hover above the keyboard and then press exit.
After an extended period of writing (fiction, letters and minutes) I am able to return to blogging with a purpose and a few things to say. I will be reviewing new fiction and launching a publishing site in the New Year. Roll on 2017.