Inspired by a viewing of “Neverland” – which offers an extremely sanitised and revised reading of JM Barrie’s relationship with the Llewellyn-Davies family, who inspired “Peter Pan”, I’ve been digging around in Barrie’s life and works.
It makes for creepy reading. According to a recent account by the writer Piers Dudgeon (“Captivated”), Barrie was impotent and deeply scarred by his mother’s slide into depression and rejection of him after the death of Barrie’s older brother at the age of 13. There is even a suggestion that Barrie might have been unwittingly responsible for the accident that killed his brother; whether or not this is correct, Barrie was clearly an emotionally maimed individual who was never able to form non-exploitative and healthy relationships. His effect on the Llewellyn-Davies family was largely tragic; of the five boys he unofficially adopted, no less than three eventually committed suicide.
That aside, for it’s a huge and fascinating subject in its own right, I found myself reflecting on the continuing myth of Peter Pan, the boy who is incapable of growing up, his strange relationship with the blonde and nurturing Wendy and the very English note of melancholy that surrounds their story. The novelisation, and to some extent sequel, of Peter Pan, “Peter and Wendy” is available on Wiki as an opensource document. I’ll confine myself to a few observations on its final chapter, “When Wendy Grew Up” and the links this has with “Doctor Who.”
For several months now I’ve struggled to work up any enthusiasm whatsoever for cooking. It had reached the point where a pall of gloom settled over me an hour or so before the evening meal was due. Partly it was depression, mostly it was having struggled with cooking for a picky, allergy-prone family for too many years. But things deteriorated to the point where I was spending a fortune on food, yet throwing far too much away, both cooked and uncooked, and resorting to takeout all too frequently.
I decided that a new cookery book might be the inspiration I needed, because the real problem seemed to be a dearth of ideas. Since we grow veggies and we’re into the whole natural, go-with-the-seasons thing, I thought River Cottage might fit the bill, but when I looked at Hugh F-W’s tomes in the shop, I couldn’t justify spending £25.00 on a lavishly-illustrated paean to the joys of hedgerow foraging to make preserves and butchering my own pig. The TV chef stuff did nothing for me either – most of these works of art have, if you’re lucky, a 10% success rate at best in terms of what you get around to trying more than once. The rest is aspirational gastro-porn.
On the way to the exit, I spotted a large, refreshingly plain volume called "The Kitchen Revolution", which promised to "change the way you cook and eat forever, saving time, money, effort and food". What I liked about it was that it was jam-packed with recipes, surprisingly sparse in many lavishly-illustrated celebrity chef-authored books these days. And the fact that it didn’t contain a single illustration.
So I handed over £25.00 – a lot, I’ll admit, and in return I got a whole year’s worth of menus, seasonally arranged complete with shopping lists. The whole shebang can be downloaded from here if you’re intrigued. There’s even a Facebook page (that’s where the pictures are). Since it’s the planning I detest, rather than the cooking itself, it’s an attractive proposition.
The concept’s this. You start the week by cooking a big meal from scratch – something like a pot-roast with matching root veggie mash and greens. Although this takes a while, increase the quantities and you’ll have sufficient leftovers for the next two recipe suggestions. For example, this week’s pot-roast feeds into beef for a stirfry the next day, and colcannon cakes with sausages for the following, both relatively quick and easy once the grunt work’s done. Midweek brings a seasonal supper suggestion, and a storecupboard meal (though it’s a well-equipped storecupboard that can run to chorizo sausage and smoked mussels at the footfall of those pesky unexpected guests – and most of my unexpected guests are teenagers who wouldn’t touch either with a barge-pole, but that’s what breaded chicken freezer pieces are for, isn’t it?)
Finally, before the cycle starts afresh, there’s a "two for one" meal suggestion that allows you to make one, freeze one, both serving four people. The other thing I liked is that the writers are very specific about little things you can do to get ahead in the occasional spare few minutes.
Anyway, armed with my list for October Week Four I ventured forth to my local vegan grocery co-op, Polish baker and deli and Asian supermarket on Friday afternoon. One is ethical with exquisite veg and virtually no food miles (they’ve just started growing stuff on the roof of the shop, I kid you not). One is indulgent and exotic, and the Asian one is cheap and brilliant for smoothies and herbs. They don’t have a website yet but, for some reason, you can always rely on them to have plain choc Bounty bars, and there aren’t many places you can say that about these days. It took about two hours and I needed the car because five squashes and vast quantities of swede, turnip, carrot and spuds were involved, but I returned home with the warm glow of virtue that comes from being middle-class and avoiding supermarkets in favour of the kind of retail outlet that makes habitat for redstarts on its roof.
Next day, I started on the Lemon Butternut Squash Lasagne. This is supposed to take an hour from start to finish – in fact it took me almost that long to peel and chop the squashes, and I have a blister on my little finger to prove it. If you’re around my age, that’ll make you start humming "I want my MTV" and recalling a Knopfler riff from Live Aid, but I digress. Two and a half hours later, I had two enormous lasagnes to show for my efforts, stuffed with good things like squash, leeks (from the garden), ricotta and creme fraiche – this is not a low-fat option. When all that was done, I went off to Lakeland Limited and spent £80.00 on freezer boxes, etc, and other things that seemed necessary at the time. I also priced up overflow freezers – what was that about saving money? But my own is full of Birds’ Eye Potato Waffles and soya ice cream.
We ate about 10% of the lasagne yield for tea and were absolutely stuffed. "I guess that’s the rest of the week covered, then?" asked DH, and was surprised when I told him I had to start again on the Pot Roast tomorrow. That took a bit longer – again peeling industrial quantities of veggies was the main problem, and the fact that the kids both wanted totally different things to eat when they heard that wine and bay leaves were involved (at least I’d avoided the book’s original suggestion of venison "cheap and plentiful at this time of year"). I suppose, between 8 hungry people, £15 for a haunch of dead Bambi could be regarded as reasonable.
Well, it was the most delicious Sunday dinner I’ve had for many a week – gorgeous tender beef rich with wine and stock, cooked long and slow – a rich but healthy mash of eight winter veggies and even the curly kale was quite palatable for something so virtuous. And it only took me three hours or so, plus another hour and a half rearranging the fridge to fit in all the leftovers – three individual portions of mash, plus a larger one to go with the Sausages, Balsamic Gravy and Colcannon Cakes on Wednesday evening, four huge lumps of Squash Lasagne with matching sauce and, hey wait a minute, what’s with all the bok choi and peppers in here? Oh yes, tonight is stir-fry night, isn’t it?
It didn’t help with the fridge situation that we harvested our sweetcorn yesterday – two massive tupperwares of cobs, and where can I fit those into the general scheme of things when the seasonal supper is mushroom curry? And don’t say I needn’t bother. I made the garam marsala two days ago (wanted to get ahead) and I can’t waste that.
But the interesting thing is, despite the vast quantities of food involved, my food bill so far is half the usual, which probably says volumes about the pernicious efffects of impulse buying in Tesco and general disorganisation. Food for thought indeed. Meanwhile, please drop by anytime, particularly if you like butternut squash lasagne.
There is a big hole in my life where my love of Doctor Who used to be, and I continue to go through the motions of my obsession like a twitching corpse. But it’s more about habit than anything else. So we’re going to get a two-minute preview of the Christmas Special for Children in Need? That should just about take us up to the first "Whaat?" moment – where RTD originally intended to be by the end of S4. And I’m not even going to be in England on Christmas Day, a fact that leaves me curiously unmoved.
I’ve fallen out of love with Ten, I think. I haven’t yet forgiven him for being such a self-flagellating idiot in Journey’s End, and once you feel the hero’s brought his angst on himself, your sympathy is strained. I think the only way I’m going to be able to enjoy future eps, including S5, is by resetting to zero and regarding it as a different show from the one I’ve watched since 2005. And apparently that’s the plan – he’s going to be on his own through the Specials. They’ve even reissued the S1/S2 soundtrack CD, which was absolutely soaked through with Rose’s presence, with just the Doctor on the cover. For some reason this fills me with an anger out of all proportion to the its importance. Why don’t they take Martha off the S3 one while they’re at it? Or Donna off the new one, since he’s as good as killed her?
Rose happened. She existed. I don’t care how much they airbrush her out of the Doctor’s memories and the ongoing narrative of the show – I cannot and will not relate to the Doctor as a person who wasn’t changed by her. I can’t just pack up my stall and move to Pete’s world – it doesn’t work like that. Like Rose herself, I feel the whole thing has made me harder and older.
Or it might just be that fandoms tend to have a natural life-span of around two years. I notice I’ve heard relatively little from the writers I admired when I first joined up. Are they as blocked as I am? I”m still writing, but I feel caught between two worlds and somehow I can’t just slot into fixit mode and say it doesn’t matter what’s canon. My loyalty is being pulled two ways and that is that.
What I feel most like right now is that I’m winding down after a long and dramatic love affair, returning to the monochrome but admittedly restful state of real life. There are some wonderful stories out there about the new Ten and Rose, and maybe it’s time for a new "generation" to receive the torch. Somehow, and I know people won’t agree with me, if I try to write that story, if I give it my loyalty, it negates all the emotion invested in the original stories of Rose and the Doctor.
Fortunately, they’re still out there. This week I re-read kalleah ’s wonderful "Calm before the Storm" and was bowled over by it all over again. It is, quite simply, the most real and beautiful account of the flowering of their relationship I’ve ever read, soaked through with wonder, joy, risk and feeling. I wept freely at the last chapter, even though I knew the outcome – in fact I helped beta the sequel. For me, that’s the authentic account of the Doctor and Rose relationship and I, at least, have little more to say. So it might be an idea not to write. In time, I’ll adjust to it. I keep saying I need more time, after all….
I realised last week when I was in Stratford that it was exactly 50 years since my father died, and 25 (almost to the day) since I lost my mum.
Because Dad was in the RAF, the grave is at Henlow Camp in Bedfordshire, in a very beautiful churchyard. There isn’t much you’re allowed to do with it because it’s an RAF grave, but back in 2001 I went down with the kids and my DH and had a memorial tablet dedicated to my mother added (her ashes were interred there in 1983).
From where we live it’s not a very straightforward journey so I don’t go back there often. I thought, given the anniversary, I would make the effort. This involved renting a car for the first time in my life, because the only way you can get from Stratford to Henlow on public transport is a complicated journey involving London. I’m sure most of my flisties rent cars all the time and think nothing of it, but my determination to make the trip only just outweighed my anxiety – would I get lost? Would the M1 be involved (it was, but I’m still here)? Would I crash and have horrendous insurance issues to unravel?
Ah well, I felt I owed it to my parents so I went ahead and in fact everything went pretty smoothly. I probably didn’t find the most straightforward route but I got there. On the way I bought a rosemary bush from the National Herb Centre near Banbury. I reached Henlow around 2.35pm on a glorious sunny afternoon. I found the grave and cleaned off Mum’s tablet, which had disappeared beneath grass and weeds. Then I planted the rosemary bush and left a photograph and a card with a line from "Hamlet" – "There’s rosemary for remembrance, pray you, love, remember."
And that was it. The whole thing had taken about fifteen minutes and there I was standing at my parents’ grave wondering what to do next. Three hours there, much the same back, but I felt better for having done it. Not only because of the anniversary but because I’m contemplating one of the biggest life changes for years, no less than starting a further degree and dividing my time between Manchester and Stratford.
I made another decision. My first name, which I’ve never used, is in fact Miranda. It was given to me in memory of my father, who loved Miranda’s intelligence and wanted her qualities in his daughter, the child he never knew he’d fathered. None of my fairly solidly lower middle class Lancashire family could handle the name, and my mother backed down and I was known by my middle name instead. It’s hardly practical to change everything now with the family and friends I have here. But in Stratford, why not claim the name given to me by both my father and, less directly, the Bard himself?
So in Stratford I shall be Miranda Waterton, which is a very Shakespearian name since there’s a Lord Waterton mentioned among Bolingbroke’s followers in Richard II.
Just in case anyone was wondering, there is a good reason why Berowne is in blue in LLL. The RSC stage is black and very reflective. If you can just imagine the effect on the average impressionable female of very sexy young men in Elizabethan pantaloons and tights on said surface…well, you’ll understand why the other three noble Lords are attired in white and Berowne….isn’t.
The RSC just don’t have the staff to cope with a mass fangasm safely. There are some nice posters of Hamlet up in the Circle Bar now. I wish they’d had the new LLL poster in the shop – I’d have picked up one or two, I think.
To be honest I’m still amazed by how lucky I was to get a ticket. I hadn’t booked. I literally walked in off the street on Friday at around 5 pm and asked what was available. I ended up in the gallery but that’s okay – I saw it, that’s the main thing.
I’ve seen the play before at the Globe and it’s not the most accessible of Shakespeare’s. There’s not much story to it but Berowne gets a couple of glorious speeches about love. It’s theme, if there is one, is the contrast between the dance of courtship and the reality of having a relationship with somebody, and there’s a shock ending which throws this into stark relief. Berowne has an answer for everything all the way through, but ultimately he’s wrong footed and has to adjust to not always getting what he wants – at least, not right away. As you can imagine, Tennant plays this to perfection.
Everything the RSC does is very much an ensemble and it seemed to me that Tennant took a while to blend in with a company again, but he’s got there now in a way he hadn’t when I saw Hamlet.. Admittedly that was two months ago, and also LLL is more of an ensemble piece. I also thought he looked a good bit older and more tired than he does on TV. It must be quite a punishing schedule, particularly when it’s two performances a day. I know it’s the same for everyone but they’re big parts and he has the fans at the stage door as well.
It’s nice that he gets to use the Scottish accent. And there’s a lot of climbing and jumping out of trees, and somehow his clothes always end up a little rumpled, not that I’m complaining, of course…
In two days’ time, I’ll be on my way back to Stratford! I’m just recovering from a horrible chesty cold, and it’s a relief to have that out of the way. Also, for those aware of the situation, my son seems better at last. Partly due to the change in the weather. The rest of us may hate rainy days, but crisp dry autumn weather does awful things to his dry skin. He’s actually got himself into school on time every day for the last week or so, and for Tom that’s pretty amazing.
Anyway, back to Stratford. I arrive at lunchtime on Thursday and go straight to the Shakespeare Institute weekly seminar, which is about Hamlet, for a general meet and greet. I’ve been doing my homework and finding out what all the research students are into – it’s a small set-up and I might actually get to meet one or two, and there’s no better way to hit things off than to ask an intelligent question about a postgrad’s work. But mainly I hope to research the different ways modules are delivered and have an informed talk about ways forward.
The big question is whether to go for a part-time, DL type course, or to wait until John’s semi-retired, the kids are a bit more independent, and I can move to Stratford for a few days a week at least, and do it properly. I would much rather go for the total cultural immersion than try to run it in tandem with my family life here, but the down side of that is if you plan too far ahead life has a way of biting you in the ass and the mythical perfect moment to do these things might never come. A mother can always come up with plausible reasons why the family needs her.
Certainly, as far as my son goes I’d like to see him over his health problems and settled at a reasonable university before I leave for pastures new, even part-time. To some extent that’s out of my control but I don’t think I could apply myself to such a major lifestyle challenge if worries about his future were still at the back of my mind.
Anyway, back to the coming trip. After Thursday my diary’s clear – I won’t come home because I’m going to the Cheltenham Literature Festival on the Sunday, where I’ll be seeing RTD and John Barrowman. So I’ll have two wonderful days at leisure in SoA and at the moment the only definite plan is to hang around the Courtyard Theatre until they get sick of me and let me buy a ticket to Love’s Labour’s Lost. Since my trip spans four performances I think I’d have to be very unlucky not to get in at all.
Woot! I’ll let y’all know how things go.
One of the great pleasures of my job (librarian in a primary school) is that I can come out of the closet and declare myself a fan from time to time.
We’re running a promotion with Waterstones called The Big Book Bank. Here’s how it works. A child brings in a favourite book. You give them a sticker and they write a review of it. They leave the book on a display stand for others to enjoy and get a Waterstones voucher in return.
Anyway, I thought I’d get the ball rolling. So I picked one of my favourite science books, George’s Secret Key to the Universe and wrote the following review:
“This is a brilliant book. It’s written by someone who’s very clever (for a human) and it tells you all about things like space and black holes. The pictures are great. There’s a man called Eric who has a computer, Cosmos, which is a bit like my TARDIS. It can take you anywhere in space, though it’s not so good at time travel yet. I think Eric is a great character. He has spiky hair and wears glasses to make him look even cleverer than he really is. There is a nice pig in the story too. But pigs should not be sent into space. It frightens them.”
Then I just left it on the trolley and waited for the reaction to come in. My lovely Headmaster bought into it totally and stood there for a while telling sceptics, “He can get in anywhere with his sonic screwdriver. I’ll leave a few jelly babies around tonight and see if we can catch him.”
Two interesting things in the Guardian today. First, visit Media Guardian if you feel so inclined and you’ll have the opportunity to vote for Classic vs Nu Who. At the moment, Nu is winning by a narrow margin. Also, if you search for DW you’ll probably be surprised how many links come up. I was always under the impression that The Times was the most Who-friendly of the heavier English papers, but perhaps not?
More seriously, Tanya Gold has bravely described her abject misery as a student at Oxford University around 10 years ago. This is completely anecdotal, of course, and already the backlash is building on the blogs, but I recognised so many of the same experiences from my own brief time at one of the least glamorous women’s colleges (yes, they still had them in those days) back in 1977.
How very very sad. I remember being attracted to Oxford as a place that resisted change. At the time, being young and naive, I was traumatised by the way my beloved grammar school was being carved up under a grudgingly implemented abolition of selective education in a Conservative local authority. I actually wanted to go somewhere that would stay static. Now I see the disadvantages of this.
Okay, many of my own difficulties had far more to do with my domestic situation as an over-protected only child from a very humble background – and the fact that my widowed mum fell apart on the night before I left, after telling me for the past 18 years that I’d be gloriously happy at university because it would be full of clever people like me. (Since she’d had to leave school at 14, I assume this information was gleaned by heresay). Tearful phone calls home became a daily ritual, and the tears weren’t all on my side by any means. I was torn between wanting to settle and do well, and worrying myself sick about her.
I’ve been over-identifying with Rose Tyler ever since 2005…but at least she had someone to look after her when she left home.
I did eventually make a go of things and had a happy time at York University, but I carried around that sense of failure, having lasted a mere 3 weeks at Oxford, for the rest of my life. Getting married to a Cambridge graduate possibly didn’t help. I now feel a little vindicated by Gold’s remarks, and also by the experience of some of my son’s contemporaries who have struggled at Oxford themselves.
One experience really sticks in my mind. I went up to Oxford by train, alone, and it never occurred to me that there was another way of doing things. Over 20 years later I visited the city, coincidentally at the start of the new academic year. Seeing parents settling students in seemed to twist a knife in my guts and made me realise how alone I’d been. After that I judged myself less harshly and resolved that, no matter how conflicted my feelings may be, I would do my utmost not to inflict them on my own children when they leave home for college. On the whole, I don’t approve of emotional subterfuge, but in that particular situation I think they’ll have enough on their plate without worrying about me.