Beginnings and Ends

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Would you object very much to some more slight gloominess? Or perhaps it won’t be so terribly gloomy by the time we’re done – but let us talk of endings and beginnings, and Stevenson. I’ve always liked this thing that Stevenson wrote in a letter written from Samoa to J.M. Barrie:

If you are going tho make a book end badly, it must end badly from the beginning.

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Sometimes it is the small things

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They stopped Walsingham and Paulo, my Italian, whom they seemed resolved to rob [… and] another Englishman in his company, called Skeggs, as I remember.

On the twelfth of November 1581 Elizabeth’s Ambassador in Paris, Sir Henry Cobham, wrote to the all-powerful Secretary of State – and spymaster – Sir Francis Walsingham . It was almost in passing that the ambassador slipped in this bit of information about the misadventure of Sir Francis’s much younger cousin, nineteen-year-old Thomas, riding as a diplomatic courier between London and Paris. Continue reading

Who cares for poetry anyway?

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He is fifteen and a half – that most dreadful of ages – and quite bright when he can be bothered with it. Alas, that’s not always the case, lost as he is in that teenage tumult of rebellion, Fortnight games, and hunger for peer-approval. I might add that the long, long months of lockdown and Covid-related restrictions are hardly helping… Continue reading

A slightly gloomy person

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A new year begins, and everything – and I belong to the list-making sort, if only marginally. So, with a lovely new notebook to start, what was more natural than making a list of writing projects for the new year?

It is, of course, one of those hopeful lists, with way more items than I can reasonably expect to tackle – although you never can tell – and written down in full awareness of the nature of the best laid plans. Continue reading

Dickens’s Christmas Tree

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I don’t know about your corners of the world – but hereabouts these are days for trimming the Christmas Tree.

As a matter of fact, most people in Italy seem to do it on the 8th of December, a Marian holiday and, usually, a first taste of Christmas vacations. Others do  it on the 1st of the month, and I have a friend who used to hold that a Christmas tree should, by definition, be trimmed of Christmas Eve, and taken down the day after the Epiphany. Now he has two young daughters, though – and the tree goes up as early as the girls can wear down their parents’s patience. In my family, for some old reason no one quite remembers anymore, we keep a tradition of trimming our trees on the Eve of Saint Lucia, on the 12th – the day after tomorrow. Continue reading

A strange December

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December again…

Had things been different – had things been normal – I’d be going through the backstage routine for the umpteenth time with the newest recruit of the Quick Change Team (whoever she or he might be), getting ready for tonight’s dress rehearsals of a Christmas Carol, discussing our Scrooge’s foibles – and perhaps trying on my own costume for Ruth Grimshaw in the prologue… All the while, also getting ready for our new big play – my own Verne adaptation, to open on New Year’s Eve.  Also, Gemma and the good old Squirrels would be doing my Christmas Triptych on the 17th – so, even without being directly and officially involved in the production, more preparations… Continue reading

Do as you will – the Volumnia technique

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There is this thing in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – Act 3, Scene 2 – where the eponymous hero is dragged home by his friends after wrecking his campaign for Consulship.

Caius Martius’s unwilling bid for popular vote in the Forum began badly, and ended worse when the two People’s Tribunes goaded him into a shouting match. All patience lost, he gave them all a very abrasive piece of his mind on the rabble and its representatives – the sort that the Tribunes can easily construe as treasonous speech. So now he is at home, with family and friends trying to talk him into what he perceives as a humiliating apology, unless he wants to face charges of treason for himself and/or civil strife in the City. Continue reading