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The Original "Getting Real"

The Original "Getting Real"
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Friday, 29 January 2010

The Beauty of George Eliot

It pleases me immensely to have been born in the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, though I know nothing about the place except the author after whom it was named! It is amusing to think that such a pillar of society as a hospital should be named after a woman who in her lifetime scandalised Victorian society, first by stopping going to church and secondly by running off with a married man!

Physically George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) was singularly unattractive according to the conventions of her day and she suffered greatly in early life from the unkindness of people who judged her solely by her appearance and who were not averse to telling her how plain she was. In later life, however, the power of her personality - unique, intelligent, with great depths of beautiful feeling and the power to translate those feelings into words - conquered such superficial considerations and all those who met her were hugely attracted to her.

Some of her writing is, to me, the most beautiful in the whole of English Literature. She had the ability to see beyond the superficial to the beauty in the lives of the most 'ordinary' people and created such strong characters that even those who had once condemned her for her 'scandalous' lifestyle (which, in fact, was not scandalous at all!) came flocking around her to be her friends. She was the J.K. Rowling of her day - someone who changed the face of literature and became, virtually overnight, the wealthiest woman in the country! And, as happened with J.K. Rowling, is was so well deserved!

The utter beauty of "Silas Marner" - the miser who takes in a little orphan child - is so uplifting and it is difficult to know which page to quote from as all of it is so lovely. Here is a small example:

"In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child's."

How bizarre that dull people once considered that incredible person 'plain'.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Mozart's Birthday

On Mozart's birthday, it is interesting to consider that, while he was a prodigy and is rightly viewed as a genius, even he had to devote himself to his art in order to achieve such greatness.

"People make a mistake," he wrote, "who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over."

It often seems that much so-called art nowadays is simply thrown together without effort, and it often makes me question whether such 'artists' love their work at all since we naturally want to spend time with what we love. When a person loves something, s/he wants to perfect it and does so not only by concentrating on his/her own work but on the works of those who have mastered that art.

Perhaps this is what Mozart meant when he wrote: "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

St. Agnes' Eve

It's the eve of the feast of St. Agnes and though it's milder than it has been for the past couple of months, Keats' poem "On the Eve of St. Agnes" comes to mind.

St Agnes' Eve---Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith....

I had this picture of St. Agnes (among countless other saints) when I was a small child and often wondered why saints always had that plaster cast look, which I tried unsuccessfully to emulate. St. Agnes, like most of the others in my collection, was a martyr who died some horrible death resisting someone who attacked 'her virtue'. Of course, that meant nothing to me as a child, all I saw was a saintly being who suffered horribly and died and was holy - and therefore equated suffering with holiness.

Funny, isn't it, how people talk about the horror of computer games set before children today! The only difference is that 'in my day' the suffering was imposed on one's self, and in those horrific games it is aimed at others. All of it is really most unpleasantly dangerous because it distorts young minds.

Thank heavens for the equilibrium of the less gory stories of childhood - like 'Watch With Mother', The Woodentops, Pogle's Wood and Tales of the Riverbank!!!

Watch with Mother

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Birds Singing In theNight

Although the night is very dark, the birds have been singing all evening in a most unseasonable manner! Perhaps they are rejoicing that the snow has finally (if temporarily) disappeared, or thinking because it has become a little milder it is almost spring. Whatever their reason, it is very beautiful! I doubt very much that they are nightingales, but they bring to mind the beautiful lines of "Romeo & Juliet" :

Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

and still more, Keats' 'Ode to a Nightingale'

...thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

Where would we be without poetry to help us express what we feel!

(The image is taken from the beautiful RSPB site - I trust it's okay to post it here and if not, I will remove it!)

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Lovely Return of 'Lark Rise'

Amid all the bleakness of snow, what sheer delight was the return, last night, of the BBC's 'Lark Rise to Candleford' - every bit as beautiful as the last series. Apart from the endlessly entertaining characters and idyllic settings, the stories are always so gentle and so very 'human'. More than any other, this programme shows that real entertainment doesn't require violence or horror. One of the most amazing things is that there aren't even any 'baddies' in it. Those few characters who might at first be perceived as such, nearly always turn out to be 'good' in the end. A real character-driven drama with such unique individuals gathered together, their characters developing with every series. What a thoroughly beautiful programme!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Voices from the Heart

In the days before hype, when art was really art, literature really literature and music really music, people performed with no glitz and glamour or electronic adjustment to their voices. What could be more wonderful than a small person with a fabulously beautiful interpretation of lyrics, singing on a stage with a voice that moved millions and continues to do so to this day? No flashy clothes, just a simple black dress. No effects, only the person, her heart and her song...such was the wonderful Edith Piaf:

Edith Piaf 'Milord'

Perhaps we are returning to such an era of loveliness in the emergence of Susan Boyle, and perhaps that explains some of Susan's well-deserved success. No glamour, no glitz or sham - just a person who sings from the heart without being manufactured by the entertainment industry - and such an incredible voice and interpretation of lyrics touches something so deeply within us all.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Greasy Joan and her pot!

My mother often used to quote the last line of this extract from Shakespeare and it always sounded rather unpleasant and made us all pull faces! How sad to have been 'Joan' and come down through the centuries as 'greasy Joan' - I wonder if she really existed?

The rest of it is so appropriate tonight as we go through another long winter of so much snow and cold...I love the line: 'when coughing drowns the parson's saw' since, wherever you go nowadays there is so much sniffing and coughing and ruddy cheeks in the cold!

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When Blood is nipped and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-who: a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.