Mainly because about one third of my family live in the South West. My daughter lives in north Wiltshire, my sister in Bristol, my aunt in Cheltenham and my mum in Cornwall.
So far none of them have been directly affected or at least not very much.
Mum’s village was cut off by flood water and the local shop flooded. Mum’s house is two thirds of the way up the hill so she wasn’t affected but joined in with the community efforts to move the shop to the pub. She is very excited. She loves a good crisis.
My aunt’s backyard was filled with water by a squall a few weeks ago. A truly torrential downpour of water swept over Cheltenham and then Bristol (where I was at the time). It set of car alarms in the my sister’s street. My aunt’s yard is a quite small courtyard and the drains were momentarily overwhelmed by the volume of water, but it didn’t quite reach the top of the doorstep and ran off down the hill on which she lives as quickly as it had come.
I think my daughter’s village has seen high rivers and a little localised flooding but nothing major. Again, she lives half way up a hill.
So I think everyone I know will be okay but I can imagine they are a bit tense.
I’m down in that part of the country this weekend. Following in the damp footprints of England’s Glorious Leader I shall bring hope to millions by promising to leave soon.
The politics is fascinating but that’s a post for another day.
There's No Business Like Show Business, by Irving Berlin
This weekend I am away. That will make my second weekend away in a row. I’ll be away the weekend after too.
I am up to Dundee to take part in a weekend acting workshop co-run by the RSC and the Dundee Rep. This is part of the multi-year RSC outreach programme to amatuer theatre. They have been providing various skills programmes to amatuer groups over the last three years in a programme triggered by the Olympics (does anyone remember when it was a poetry competition) and the 500 anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
I’ve been at both the previous events and found them hugely worthwhile but I’ve been working on the production and design streams. These have helped my thinking about direction but not done anything for my acting. This weekend is all about acting.
The scheme of arrangement is thus. Each group has to nominate one production of a Shakespeare play they are going to do. They director of that goes on the Acting Programme (held last September). Then 10 members of that group (ideally the cast of the play) go on the same Acting Programme (this weekend) whilst the Director goes on an advanced directing programme. The idea is that actors and the director should end up with a common process and language for talking about and rehearsing an piece.
So, I’m spending the weekend in Dundee hanging out with actors.
Highland Cathedral (instrumental only) by Roever and Korb
Last weekend was My Lovely Wife’s birthday. She is not usually a great celebrator of her own birthday but this time she decided to take the Captain and me away to Crief Hydro for the weekend.
Crief Hydro, for those that don’t know, is a Victorian, purpose built health spa majoring on the health giving properties of water, which has turned itself in an upmarket spa and activity centre. It has lots of rooms in the hotel and a large number of self-catering chalets and lodges. All set in typically Scottish countryside. There used to be upwards of 20 Hydros in the Highlands. There is now only One. Or maybe two.
Crief is just about in the Highlands. In the past it was where Highlanders would come to a) sell their cattle to Lowlanders, b) rob Lowlanders c) lose all the money they had made through a) and b) through c) being swindled by Lowlanders and d) taxed by Lowlanders. It’s a pretty wee town in Perthshire and I think it pretty much on the Highland Boundary Fault. Lots of black slate and white render, veiled in a swirling mist of peat smoke and fine rain and then light as if by Turner’s very hand by the Highland sun.
Crief, like a lot of my country is very, very beautiful. What a great pleasure it is to live in Scotland. I’m feeling very patriotic at the moment.
So, the three of us headed up to Crief on Saturday morning. We planned to spend Saturday and Sunday night at the Hydro and drive back first thing on Monday morning.
Rather than stay at the actual Hydro we stayed at the Murraypark Hotel. This is a sister hotel to the Hydro with full access to the swimming pools and other leisure activities at the Hydro. It is actually closer to the main Hydro building than many of the chalets. It turned out to be a much better decision than staying at the Hydro itself. The room was close enough to the hotel dining room and bar bistro that MLW and I could put the Captain to bed and then enjoy a relaxed dinner on our own with occasional strolls down the corridor to check El Capitano was still asleep. He was. Unmoving in repose.
We spent a happy few hours over two days in the nice warm pool. An hour or so at the adventure playground in the bitter but very envigorating cold. Both MLW and I had a go on the flying fox. Several goes. Some time watching the Captain take on the soft play area. He had a ride in a sort of bucket on wheels towed by a quad bike. Throw in a few walks, some board games in the room and some nice lunches and we had a lovely family weekend away. MLW and I had dinner out more that weekend than we managed in the whole of 2013. Delicous food too.
The hotel was lovely with very, very helpful and friendly staff. We arrived early. Our room wasn’t ready. We were moved to a similar room that was ready in about the time it took to type that. Warm milk for the Captain arrived as if on a conveyor belt.
We all had a lovely time. When I asked the Captain if he thought MLW had had a nice time he said “She was so smiley my thought the top of her head was going to fall off.” Which I think is a good thing.
Something I hate: Procrastination. It is the bane of my life. I would be far more effective as a human being if I could find some way of managing it. So far, the most effective way I’ve found of forcing me to do things is to paint myself in to some sort of corner with a public obligation. This works fine a motivating tool but because I’m working against myself, putting myself under pressure and not managing my workload very well I can end up feeling anxious and then often down. This occasionally leads to depression.
I think procrastination is the mental health thing I need to work on this year.
Something I love: Passion. I love passion in myself. I love it when I’m inspired and driven and made joyful by the doing and the achieving of something. I love it when other people are too. But, it’s a secret love. I’m a bit embarrassed by passion, in myself and in other people. Perhaps because if we admitted that we had passion or could have passion we would have to examine the way we live our lives and the way we structure our politics and ask ourselves why only a few people get to act on their passions as fully as they would wish?
Somewhere I have been: Portland, Oregon. MLW’s bestest and oldest friend and her husband, my spiritual twin currently live in Portland. We will be visiting them in a few months’ time. Portland seems like a nice, relaxed sort of a place with lovely beer. If ever I win the lottery I’m setting up a brewpub like they have in Portland.
Somewhere I would like to go: Pompey. One of the things I love is archaeology. Another is Classical Rome. I’m particularly interested in how ordinary people lived their lives. I’d love to go to Pompey and Herculaneum and explore the past as people experienced it.
Someone I know: Pete, my friend Pete, my “friend” Pete. Pete is perhaps the most unreliable friend someone could have. I first met him when I moved back to Aberdeen at the age of 15. We were at Uni together, in the same halls, in the same course. We even mooted together. He was an usher at my wedding. Every so often he just disappears, often for years at a time. He’s erratic, prone to outburst of intemperate anger, often irrational. I’ve no idea what is going on in his head but I wish I did.
Best Movie: Platoon. When I was a young teenager one group of my friends were fascinated by the Vietnam war. It was the decade after the tenth anniversary of the Vietnam war. I was living in Australia at the time. A few of my friends’ dads or uncles had been involved in the war. My friends and I would devour Vietnam war films in a great film fest of jungle green savagery. Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and perhaps, most disturbing of all for me Good Morning Vietnam. Platoon was the first film I saw where I was aware of the authorial position sitting underneath the story.
It is well that war is so terrible, else we should become too fond of it.
Everybody Loves The Sound of a Train in the Distance, by Paul Simon
I have a wifi stereo and a Spotify account connected to it.
I often amuse myself by baffling my son with appropriate (or inappropriate) sound effects. Over the Christmas holiday the Captain and I were playing with his model railway. I queued up about an hour’s worth of train related sound effects on the stereo to create some atmosphere.
An email today from Spotify tells me that they would like to recommend three artists I might like.
My Lovely Wife’s nephew and his girlfriend came to visit just after New Year. Their visit followed the earlier visit home of Bluebird. All three visitors were complaining vociferously about Michael Gove, his actual policies and the way he makes them.
Education is a devolved matter. The Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government handle education policy and local governments in Scotland deal with the provision of actual education. So far, so good. My vote and my efforts in civic society have as much of an influence on my son’s education as anyone else’s.
My daughter lives in West Wiltshire.
In theory my Edinburgh MP has a vote on English education policy. In practise, I’m not sure how much of an interest he takes in the matter. I certainly have no say in the running of the local authority that is delivering my daughter’s education.
As a Scot, living and voting in Scotland, should I have?
I’m struggling a bit to raise much emotion about Nelson Mandela.
Perhaps it is because a man who achieved pretty much everything he set out to achieve has died at a great old age after retiring from a high office in to prosperity and near universal affection.
Perhaps it’s because what he achieved has faded a little in my memory. What had Nelson Mandela done for me recently?
Perhaps it’s because those that came after him have not done so well at delivering South Africa’s future as Mandela did at creating it. Nor have they lived and worked with quite the integrity that Mandela managed.
I’m pleased to see South Africans celebrating his life more than they are mourning his death. For myself, I find myself just a little untouched by the whole business.
Julius Caesar opened last night. It went well. I’m pleased. We and I got some nice feedback. I’m particularly pleased with the two scenes where I kill someone.
I think most of the cast managed a top five performance on the night and nobody had a below par night. I think now we’ve had the opening night out of the way we can loosen up a bit and give it some welly. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights should be cracking.
Julius Caesar is an interesting play. Obviously very political. I’ve been reminded of Aristotle’s Politics.
I’ve enjoyed watching the directing process. I like working with the director very much. She has a happy knack of keeping everyone focused and disciplined without seeming authoritarian. She also has a nice eye for bits of detail.
The actress playing my on stage buddy has been immense. It’s her first time on the stage since primary school but she’s been Assistant Director on a few of the Grads’ shows so she is very professional. She’s also been really good at looking after the kids who are in the show. It’s been lovely working with her.
I think I’ll have a shot at the one act play festival next year which is the Grads traditional route into directing full plays.