Hospitals and expansiveness

Rocking up at James Paget hospital, Great Yarmouth feels like landing on a different planet. Out of the computer world of Planning Applications, out of the kindness of Kinda Forest School, out of the safe market town of Halesworth, out of the old girl network of my convent school emails, out of dog walking along the Blyth river, out of easy friendly drinking at the Star at Wenhaston, where I am recognised, Hello Rachel, out of my wood and the bursting green of Hornbeam, I roll up at the car park of James Paget, easily find a space (unlike Norwich), close the car door, and check: I’d better lock.

Around me are Martians. People struggling with wheel chairs of the Victorian vintage, to manoever across a 1980’s road structures, tattered temporary now permanent barricades, to an out of fashion square lashed building, next door to Accident and Emergency. An ambulance man inside his chariot signals to me to cross the zebra crossing. Pragmatic. A gaggle of people smoking, furtively. Old people, so many old people, being held together, empty eyes as they struggle to move to more pain. I check myself: I am here to find an old person, but of course he is not old like this, old beyond repair, being patched up old, but my friend, my familiar travelling companion, Michael, definitely not an old man. And he proves it  as soon as he gets in the car, dogs licking his ears.

‘Let’s go back the way I know’, he says.

North? I question skeptically checking the sat nav,

Yes, it’s the way I know as its the way to the crematorium. I know most of suffolk short cuts through Cremetorium routes.

You know what, it was the most glorious route. Not only no traffic jam at Oulton Broad, but it took us through empty roads, over marshland, with cows and horses in emergying green pasture, even passed one of the homes I never bought along Herringfleet Road, and so i wondered how they were doing living in Latvia or was it Lithuania, those fine and beautiful people, and their house would would have been fine to live in, but had I bought  it I would not be in a Fiat 500 with this remarkable man who knew all the best roads of Suffolk.

Once again, I take my hat off to Michael, this gentle  man, with a very fine nose.

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Springe – Socratic Dialogue for 5 days

Oysters prepared by Michael were the evening send off before my first ever 5 day dialogue in Springe, Germany with the Socratic Dialogue philosophers and trainees such as myself.

Michael Oysters

Springe, a welcome beer at 10 pm after a 12 hours journey. Next time train.

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Morning walk I found the woodland and carpet of wild garlic, which was to become my morning and evening home. A dusting of snow on the first day

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Why we are here: the question we asked for 5 days.

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Spring began arriving in Springe in the glorious beach forest

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Morning walk became more adventurous with Henrik – we found evidence of someone else up here, feeding something tall. Or was it the giant to keep him from coming down? Springe SD-6

Other walking companions

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Wild flowers glorious

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Evening discussion after the derogatory film, Ramsheim.

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Hamlin afternoon excursion

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Walking adventure to the ‘deserted village’ in the wood, that turned out not to be deserted

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Our table and tribe for 5 days

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Final evening presentations – in which Dieter sang beautifully

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Springe town with Antonia. We found the park cemetery and the delightful groundsman who introduced us to the inhabitants.

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Springe SD-29Back to the UK, and oysters in Mersey island with Michael.

Michael Mersey

Lenny

It started when Tom told us Lenny had died. Lenny who so many of us, who passed through India, knew  well as a somewhat India eccentric, often alone, unusual, kind hearted almost always smiling or laughing, man who spoke to all.  Originally American Lenny lived and studied in Varanasi. A few days after posting of Lenny’s death Tom heard that Lenny still alive, and living in a nursing home in America. He had to tell us all it was a mistake and so took on the mantel of keeping us informed of Lenny’s whereabouts and as it happens, deteriorating health. He invited us to write to Lenny. I wrote, but failed to send  the letter until the day  he died. Oh my terrible procrastination. The rest is below, including a very touching tribute from Vijay, my friend in Sattal.
________________________________________________________________

To Lenny Mock, C/O Medicalodges-Gardner, 223 Bedford Street, Gardner, KS 66030 USA.

Dear Lenny

Tom Riddle has linked us all into your life again, and for that I am grateful for he forwarded your news from Kansas to your friends in Sattal. Although I think I last saw you in Sarnath – Sattal Sarnath same same.

‘I just worry that i am somehow not authentic’ you said, laughing, at the same time as serious, and I remember this as that feeling resonated with me then too. We never know where our words may land.

So chocolate milk with every meal, good friends who remind you of Sattal, a nurse from India, with whom you can converse in Hindi, and meditation daily, – this does sound like you have died and gone to heaven.

You miss the freedom of wandering the Sattal hills. Me too. I haven’t been back to India now for over 10 years. Instead I have settled in my birth country, England, and in East Anglia. I bought a small wood, and here I meditate, run Forest School for kids and chop wood, re-introducing the coppice cycle. Those days in India, though are strong, and are frequent visitors to my minds eye. I remember once coming up to see your pad in BHU, and being impressed with you being a student there, at this prestigious university. What were you studying? Sanskrit? I can see your face in the room of meditators, I can see your walk along the street of Sarnath.

I never married or had children, but instead have two beloved dogs, both boarder collies and campervan within which I travel, always east, a dream to drive to India one day.

Take care Lenny – love to you,
Rachel

……………………………..

From Tom Riddle:
I received this this morning at 6:30 AM, April 24, here in Ohio. It was sent three hours ago by Lenny’s cousin. I’ll write a little more at the bottom.– TR
———————-
Wanted all of you to know that Leonard (known to many of you as Lenny) passed away peacefully at 11:55 PM on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at the Olathe Hospice House, Olathe, Kansas, USA.

At this time cremation is planned with burial of his ashes in the family plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, MO. I will let you know as soon as possible when additional arrangements are made.

Lenny lived a blessed life and had many friends all over the world as well as relatives in the Kansas City area who will miss his quiet ways.

Cheryl Haines (one of his first cousins)
14815 S. Locust St.
Olathe, KS 66062-2619 USA

——————————————————–

I’m still processing this, but I can say a few things.
I first made contact with Lenny’s cousin a few months ago by telephoning a number that I thought might be connected to him. It was Lenny’s cousin, Cheryl. She and I immediately, in a way, understood each other in that we both have some kind of down-to-earth American midwestern roots. Plus she shares some of Lenny’s openness.
She visited him every day over the last few weeks and read the messages that people have written to him.
Her last message was on Sunday,

Thank you, Tom, for the messages received today. I will read them to Lenny tomorrow.
His condition hasn’t really changed much in the last few days. He’s still receiving pain meds and calming medication and they “reposition” him every three-four hours. Seems like the waiting is the only thing to do. Takes patience. –Cheryl

My first thoughts are that Lenny, probably much more than most of us, led the life that he wanted to lead. To me, it always seemed that Lenny did things very naturally with amazing humility. I would never of have had the courage to live as simply, as trusting, as he did. He also had a wonderful lightness of being that comes from not taking yourself too seriously. It’s a great teaching for us all.

If you have a note or some thoughts, you can send them to me and I’ll pass them onto Lenny’s cousin or you can just share them with me.

I’ll write Cheryl just now and tomorrow I’ll pass on any thoughts that you have.

— Tom Riddle

………………………

 

Lenny’s long-time friend in Sattal, Vijay, wrote the touching message below which he has given me permission to share. — Tom Riddle

Vijay Patni
Wed, Apr 24, 8:00 AM (1 day ago)
to me

layi hayaat aaye qaaza le chali chale
na apni khushi aaye na apni khushi chale

Life brought me here and I came, when death took me away, I went away with it
Neither did I come of my own will, nor will I go of my own accord.

Thank you Tom for keeping us updated on Lenny’s final lap on this planet. The innocent sparkle in his eyes reflected pureness of his soul and lightness of his being.

His spirit never left Sattal ever since he left the valley 2013. Lenny Da was our mascot of Love and Peace. He shall be remembered as the coolest loving person we came across. Along with myriads Happy memories of him can describe endlessly, I also have many pictures of Lenny Da..

He lived in Peace.. He will Rest peacefully..

And will be our inspiration… Forever ❤️

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London in Michaels footsteps, Coward and Brexit

This is Michael’s story. A counter to our recent visit to Aldeburgh to celebrate the Great Escape and life of my Uncle. Indeed this was his life. As a theatrical agent, he inherited, as it were, the Noel Coward portfolio, and it entertained and profited him him  and continues to do to his successor, Alan. He just missed meeting Coward, his predecessor promising next time, but there was no next time, for Coward died in his home in Jamaica, that would have been 1973. On the train journey down, Michal describes some of the background:

Exactly 35 years ago Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother came to Westminster Abbey to unveil a memorial to her old friend Noel Coward and Alan Brodie, my successor as the agent representing his work, has arranged a little ceremony in the Abbey to mark the occasion. Rachel and I are invited and she appears on my doorstep bright and early to catch the 9.41 train. The ceremony is in the evening but we have decided to make a day of it.

We are going in advance. The fingers of the horse chestnut leaves are breaking through their sticky buds in London town. In Halesworth they are not even sticky.

Michael is a natural at making a day of it. Of course he has a plan, and it is a joy to surrender to, says one who is usually the planner, who can now relax. Via the no 28 bus we rock up at St Pauls, where a ceremony must have just ended and men in their fur and gowns are walking from St Pauls to their next venue. We turn our backs to the Wren cathedral and walk across the Millennium footbridge to the Tate Modern in glorious spring sunshine.

Lunch naturally is top of the agenda and we dine in simple style on the 9th floor of the Tate, their light bites menu of pork shoulder, potatoes with goat cheese, washed down with fruity Portuguese wine.

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The colours of Bonnard were immediately attractive – light, airy, bright, echoing the day. A painters painter I assume. Domestic scenes, checked tables cloths and views through windows, cats and his beloved sausage dog. Many were of his beloved wife Marthe de Méligny (1869-1942) with whom he had a touching intimate relationship. M tells me later there is one of wife and mistress in the same frame. My favourite was the half naked woman looking in her mirror, we view her half body though a doorway. He liked odd view points and compositions, sometimes cutting off heads, perhaps the Japanese influence.

Coffee 1915 by Pierre Bonnard 1867-1947

A boat, naturally, to Westminster, where after disembarking we emerged from our tunnel into a flag waving pro Brexit demonstration. That was unexpected. So many Union Jacks and so many men. Would they know we were from the other side? Three separate God advocating men on boxes linking into brexit: Britain needs the gospel of Christ not the European. A bicyclist carried a European flag bravely entered the square.
‘Plonker’ an older woman exhaled with mirth. ‘Put your trousers on!’ her friend joined in the joke.

After finding a cup of tea and still arriving early for evensong I went back into the March. Tired people sat on the useful wall around Parliament Square. Men mostly and at one point I felt daunted, uneasy with such unusual concentration, and  nervous of being fond out. There were no children and few women. The March felt empty of good humour and not surprising, I considered later, for they had come into the den of the enemy the remainders London, and we’re watching the exiting process disintegrate before their eyes on this day that Brexit was to be delivered, as Government and Parliament descended into a farce.  They were angry and tired. A somewhat potent mixture. As it happened they were waiting for the result of the latest Brexit debate. (The Brexit deal was defeated first by a record 230 votes on Jan 15 and then by 149 votes on March 12.). Later John Snow would be asked to apologise for this observation remark that he had ‘never seen so many white people’. The Guardian asks why? ‘That Snow’s remarks caused such a fuss is a perfect display of how race inequality works. It is a reflection of white privilege that white people like me are so rarely defined by race that being referred to by our own skin colour is perceived as a personal affront.’

Michael had the advantage of comparing the rally directly with the march he was on a week before:

It has a totally different atmosphere from the ‘Remain’ march, which I joined a week ago. That was made up of friendly groups of believers in a common cause. Their views were argued on placards, often wittily – ‘Even Baldrick had a plan’. Here  both Oliver Cromwell and Guy Fawkes are invoked to aid their cause. We wonder apprehensively if we are easily identifiable as Remainers from our voices or our dress. We take to the back streets for a restorative cup of tea.

Returning to where M sat waiting, a Brexiter sat beside snacking on a large white roll.
‘You do smell beautiful” he turned to me and said.
‘Thank you you’ve made my day’, I said grateful for his olive branch
‘ And you mine’, he said, as if he knew I’d shopped in Waitrose and voted Remain.
So he bridged that great divide with a kindness that nourished both of us.

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We entered the great West Door and took our seats in the choir stalls for evensong. The daily ritual began, the choristers arrived led by the hierarchy of men. Their young and old lives circumscribed by circumstance, conditioned by privilege, talented and ambitious. Among them an oriental and African black. Just as I was feeling once again the singular dominance of men, the high Commissioner of Bangalesh was announced as the reader, and turned out to be most unexpectedly a woman. Small as Bangladesh people often are, she was elevated by high healed shoes that I hoped would not get caught in her beautiful sari, which was overlapped with a taupe chiffon shawl lined with a soft fur. She read beautifully Corinthians 10 23: All things are lawful, but not all laws are helpful.

The reason we are here finally arrived: we gather in the chancel of Poets corner, beside the floor marking to Noel Coward.
While Richard Attenburgh gave the speech then, his son Michael, the spitting image of his father, gave the speech today. (As he arrived, Patricia Hodge put her hand on his shoulder saying ‘As if you haven’t had enough to suffer’ so we knew something sad had happened and indeed he did not dally after his reading)
Simon Green sang a few of Cowards songs including Cowards version of the Keats poem When I have fears

When I have fears, as Keats had fears,
Of the moment I’ll cease to be
I console myself with vanished years
Remembered laughter, remembered tears,
And the peace of the changing sea.

Michaels account:

Flowers are laid by a young woman, recipient of a Coward Foundation Bursary and another recipient, Tim Southgate, recites ‘If Love were All’. Simon Green sings sweetly, unaccompanied,‘The Wild, Wild Weather’ and ‘London Pride’. Michael Attenborough, bearded and the image of his father, reads some of what Richard said about Coward at the original dedication. Lindsay Duncan and Patricia Hodge deliver stellar versions of ‘When I have Fears’ and ‘Marvellous Party’. They all deserve loud applause but the presence of the officiating clergy and the ambiance of the Abbey hold us back. I sneak some pictures on my phone

I too missed the applause, it was church subdued. Throughout we could hear the crowds outside the Abbey chanting their rituals, including finally God Save the Queen. The Vicar  referenced the Brexit revolt outside at the end with some benign analogy.

Over a glass or two of wine, I met Alan, his wife and various other of Michael’s colleagues. He and Alan were probably the only people there who had been at the original ceremony.

At the party  I am reunited with some of the figures from my past and take the opportunity to introduce them to Rachel. Apart from Alan and his wife Ali (it takes me a while to recognize her) there are the producer Joe Abrams, Vivienne (?) from Samuel French and Alison Lee who worked for me and is still in Alan’s office. Most of the rest of the people that I don’t know; current members of the Coward Society and board members of the Foundation. We take the opportunity to see if either Simon or Tim, who both perform Coward programmes, might come to the Halesworth Festival. Both seem interested. Finally we make our farewells. I will see Alan for lunch in a couple of weeks’ time.

 

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Ah but Michael has forgotten the last person to see is his Bete Noir, both of us struggling to find an exit out of Westminister. Exhausted, we use the facilities of Uber and are driven all the way to Twickeham. Arriving, however, we find we are not too exhausted to find a tasty Italian restaurant, where we relax over some wine and food before retiring to our Air bnb.

After Chatwin in Twickenham, a cup of tea, delivering luggage to Candy, we set off on our morning walk, through the spring glorious Marble Hill Park, over Bridge Street into Richmond where we found a delicious breakfast of egg Hollandaise, watching the runners and mobile phone readers passing by, Via Waterstones to find a book for Candy, into Richmond Green, paying homage to the Richmond Theatre and the Orange Tree Theatre where Michael will return to see Where the  the Sun Shines. I am in one of the rich jig saw pieces of Michael and Tamsyn’s  life, passing Michael and Tamsyns’s home, and passing under the bridge where Tom died. We went back on Twickenham road, over the bridge to Candy’s and Edwards, where the ballons were out and Lebanese food freshly delivered for Candy’s 60th birthday celebrations. After a very fruitful and fulfilling conversation with two early visitors and friends of Candy, X and X about, you’ve guessed it, Brexit, I left early for the 4 hour journey home. Michael would have the same long journey a few hours later.

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75th Aniversary of Great Escape at Aldeburgh

 

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Sitting in Aldeburgh plush velvet chairs watching The Great Escape, I realised through a question from Michael sitting next to me, that this is the first time I’ve watched this film realising that this was Richard’s camp, where he lived for 3 years as a POW.

It was a fund raiser for the RAF and Dan Snow (something to do with HistoryHit, evidently very popular) introduced a series of people involved in the Great Escape or the film sandwiched by some women with tree trunk legs dressed up as Army girls calld teh D Day Darlings (Britain’s got Talent evidently) – it was all very static, two dimensional and lacked much substance.Live from the Apollo Hammersmith, there were two intervals, so plenty of time to be entertained by the display I put up of enlarged copies and originals from Richards papers to the Aldeburgh Cinema. It was like saying this is the real life event, before you watch the fiction.

I had an early conversation with a man who’d met Douglas Barder as a boy, and had a connection himself to the RAF. He must have said something along the lines of how devastating the effect of the camp must have been on their lives, because I responded, while it wasn’t a bunch of roses, it did not appear to be a place of great hardship – unlike the Auschwitz or Japanese camps. He wisely responded they were a special bread of men then, they did not reveal or disclose their suffering, but joked jovially about it, dismissing it.  I recalled Richard’s description ofwhen he was first caught:

Good weather report but as they neared Tobruk weather worsened. RK went down under cloud to find himself on the top of battle. Took much flack, one engine shot out. Managed to cover 20 miles before making crash landing in the desert. Began to walk to Cairo. No shortage of water as they collected the night dew in their parachutes. Resting up at an old fort (they had one wounded man) saw a German car approaching. RK plotted an ambush, which involved RK giving himself up explaining the wounded man in the ruins. Germans put a gun to his head, and the plan failed. All were now POWs.

First taken to Mousel and interrogated. RK gave rank and number. Escaped but re-captured. Stripped and tied up. Flown to Crete then Athens. Taken to super interrogation unit in Germany. Kept for a month in various conditions, sometimes suffocating heat, sometimes freezing cold. This was mixed with being wined and dined. RK: ‘Eventually they gave up of course’

The films portrayal of the German commandant was one of the authentic elements in the film – for he was a gentleman and sympathetic. This was in line with Richard’s account:

“The German Commandant (Friedrich Wilhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau) was a marvellous man. Kindly but strict. All respected him. If we said we would or would not do something to him, we kept our word. He did the same. After the war Pricky Day flew out to Germany to read at the German Commandants funeral in 1963.”

Von Lindener, although a staunch supporter of Germany, he was an irrefutable anti-Nazi. He felt obliged to accept a position in the Luftwaffe in 1937 as one of Hermann Göring’s personal staff. He unsuccessfully tried to retire on the grounds of ill health, and his appointment to be the Kommandant of Stalag Luft III at Sagan in the spring of 1942 during World War II therefore represented an opportunity to serve his country without directly serving the regime he so despised. [WIKI]

Film Fiction? Well indeed there were no Americans in the camp, no motor bikes, no escape by airplane, and it was the coldest March on record with snow on the ground, not summer with green grass to have an enjoyable time filming amongst.

Another unanticipated problem was that this was the coldest March for thirty years, with snow up to five feet deep, so the escapees had no option but to leave the cover of woods and fields and stay on the roads. WIKI

A young Attenburgh played Bushell who was positioned as the driven man in charge of escapes and Gorden Jackson presumably Pricky Day, (Although Day did survive).

“Obviously there was an Escape Committee. Pricky Day, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Day) Wing Commander, super chap, was in charge of all the escape side.

The actual version of the location of the tunnel would have been so much more effective and dramatic than the static one in the film (of the German soldier waiting for all the men to emerge from the tunnel.)

 

The guards had no idea where the tunnel entrance was, so they began searching the huts, giving men time to burn their fake papers. Hut 104 was one of the last to be searched, and despite using dogs the guards were unable to find the entrance. Finally, German guard Charlie Pilz crawled back through the tunnel but found himself trapped at the camp end; he began calling for help and the prisoners opened the entrance to let him out, finally revealing its location. WIKI

And wouldn’t it have been great to have had the whole efficient German Ittinary of what went missing?

90 complete double bunk beds, 635 mattresses, 192 bed covers, 161 pillow cases, 52 twenty-man tables, 10 single tables, 34 chairs, 76 benches, 1,212 bed bolsters, 1,370 beading battens, 1219 knives, 478 spoons, 582 forks, 69 lamps, 246 water cans, 30 shovels, 300 m (1,000 ft) of electric wire, 180 m (600 ft) of rope, and 3,424 towels. 1,700 blankets had been used, along with more than 1,400 Klim (milk) cans

A cruel punishment was bestowed later to the German Workers:

Electric cable had been stolen after being left unattended by German workers; because they had not reported the theft, they were executed by the Gestapo

I wanted to find out the numbers again. No motor bikes, or planes:

Of 76 escapees, 73 were captured. There were three successful escapees – none of them English! Perhaps that was a fact not encouraged.

Per Bergsland, Norwegian pilot of No. 332 Squadron RAF, escapee #44
Jens Müller, Norwegian pilot of No. 331 Squadron RAF, escapee #43
Bram van der Stok, Dutch pilot of No. 41 Squadron RAF, escapee #18

Bergsland and Müller escaped together, and made it to neutral Sweden by train and boat with the help of friendly Swedish sailors.[31] Van der Stok, granted one of the first slots by the Escape Committee due to his language and escape skills, travelled through much of occupied Europe with the help of the French Resistance before finding safety at a British consulate in Spain.

In Richards log book, he laconically describes the bare bones in his neat italic handwriting.

We’d eaten delicious lentil soup washed down with English Champagne, and had a few lamb sandwiches left for the journey home with very forgiving dogs.

The moon was huge, and a diminishing one at that.

 

Doggerland – Julia Blackburn and Hugh Brody

A packed Cut theatre on a dull Thursday in March. Julia’s face reminds me of Pam, it’s that nose and a confidence of a full life. She spoke brilliantly and lyrically.

‘The companionship of a big book’
What’s my connection? Two fold. First my short sight and second my Dutch husbands.
Jane Ivimey introduced me, through her paintings, and then the exhibition at the Cut.

Background Doggerland was an area of land, now submerged beneath the southern North Sea, that connected the UK with continental Europe (pre brexit). It was flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500–6,200 BC.  It was probably a rich habitat with human habitation in the MESOLITHIC  period.  First uncovered by a fishing trawler which dragged up a barbed antler point. Vessels have dragged up remains of mammoth  as well as a few prehistoric tools and weapons

Life on Doggerland – the rise and fall, the precariousness of life.

Conversation with the Slaughterman who collected mammoth fossils on Cove Hythe beach.

The Zero’s – Millions of years

Relationship between hunter and hunted. In order to kill, the hunter has to become the animal hunted.

Tollerman – or one such – had 63 plant species in his stomach at the time of death.

She went to Doggerland with a Trawler fisherman. First discovered in the 1990’s

Richard question – was life more comfortable there than in say the North East now? sounded rediculous but Julia answered ‘Comfort has to do with sufficient food, and indeed they had plenty.

Happisburgh footprints

Hugh Brodie was introduced by Julia as a person who represents what is is to be human. An anthropologist who first went to the Arctic and lived amongst the Inuits in 1971 for 10 years. He learned their language. Why are we teaching you, they asked, so you can protect us.
– Language disappearing – global warming ice thinning – higher than average level of suicide. As if they have nothing left to live for being abosorbed into the western

10,000 years ago farmers. Hunter Gatherers 2 million. Their apparant simplicity is extrarordinarily complex. Knowledge of the planet, of observation, story, myth combining knowledge with intuition (dreaming)

Hugh introduced the film – probably the best every made – of Inuit fishing, called Fishing at the X Weir.

Ash of the fire taken by the woman to spred over the eyes, was a ritual welcoming the animal. The relationship between the hunter and animal is one of respect.

No accumulation, there is plenty. All shared. Sence of time, backward time, not forward time. Schools used to taken the children to board and shape them into western paradigm. Now stopped or have they? Botswana? These and all reminds M and I of what we have just experienced with the Aboriginees in Oz.

Someone noticed the ring on the womans finger. There was a story here . These people filmed in 1950’s had just 3 years before been rehoused in a western collective, and got by the missionaries who liked to promote marriage. Familiar and grown up with these traditional ways they re-inacted all their rituals for the camera and this remarkable film.

Michael asked about their death rituals. Placed on the earth and stones on top. The wind and animal s gradually removed, and ate. Pay back time.

….

We had no time to stay to buy a book, but raced off to Aldeburgh, where we met Peter who Michael had not seen for 64 years! They connected on Facebook while we were in Perth staying with Curly Matthews from my old school days (a mere 40 years ago). We had a delightful reminising lunch at the Brudenell. ‘And how did he die?’ was a refrain. One by a tree falling on his car, another by cancer, another suicide and some still lived! He’d bought with him two programmes from their Birkenhead school, MH Imison, Head boy. ‘Did he tell you he was connected to Royalty?’ Peter quipped. ‘Why he was the Queen in our pageant!’ Peter had thoroughly enjoyed his working life, a fixer, first for Walls icecream then tobacco, sourcing packaging and materials. Married to an Edinburgh girl, with us for lunch (now 8 years with Alzimers), they settled in Stanstead village, Essex, then moved up to Woodbridge 3 years ago. They both had life threatening events in their lives half a dozen  years ago, and set up a benevolent gift to all students who became medics from their old school, hence his recent connection with Alma mater. Such playful alive eyes he has.

 

 

We are Sound – Blythburgh Church

Thank you Eileen for flagging this up, fresh back from Oz, out of local loops. What ever you said sounded intriguing.

From the get go, ordering Tickets, the email that came back was quirky and playful and kind. Also mysterious. Signed We Are Sound. No web site, no pointers to further definitions. I had to look them up this morning and found this:

http://www.we-are-sound.com/gigs

Michael, who of course was up for it even the late last performance, the 9.45 one, and I rocked up at Blythburgh and after a meal walked up the dark narrow lane to the  Cathedral in the Marshes. All was quiet around, we were the only ones, no dramatic illumination but a warm reddish glow from the clear story and chancel windows. We quickened our step eager not to be late but we weren’t and opening the great door were greeted by a gathering of smiling youngish confident welcoming people.
‘You do not need your ticket but I can take it from you if you wish’.

No need to scrabble for the front stalls for the best view for there would be no view.

Putting on our ‘sleep masks’, I was aware of a movement of people coming around us. The piano began, mens’ voices from another side began. The first song words were not  English, words  being immaterial, the sound entered. Even when the English songs began and I heard the words, I forgot them as they washed over my mind and other thoughts like tides came and replaced them. I gave up trying to remember and found some more, took other turnings and meanderings.

The kindness, quirkiness, gentleness, of music and words enveloping all around the huge Gothic arched ancient structure and us – may be a hundred of us – all still all listening . With the eyes, rested no longer doing fly yoga, the ears were open to hear.

We had to have a whisky in the pub afterwards, finding Rodderick on the way. As luck would have it, one of the troupe – the partner of a singer – came and sat with us.
“I do not like to sit alone” she said honestly.
Turns out they are bussed in from Cambridge. A loose group of 100 singing volunteers organised by the small dark haired woman who introduced the event this evening, the one who smiled and played with us, who is a music scholar from Cambridge. The are a new and forming group – since 2016? I will follow with pleasure.

 

First Man – Film at Blythburgh

With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing coming up in July 2019 (1969)  the film is purposely well timed. It takes me, like many I’m sure, back to when my mother, not given to visionary moments, said come outside and look at the moon, there are men on it up there, and so we stood in our back garden looking up at history being made. Fifty years later, my mother long dead, I, now at her age then, and  Michael (naturally game to see the film) go to the friendly, community run pop up cinema at Blythburgh Village Hall, where we are warmly welcomed by this tight community. (It was as uncertain as those times then – the DVD player broke and finding an old fashioned DVD player in the village was challenging. The sound was not perfect  the American voices hard to understand, but we got jist)

Told through the eyes of Neil Armstrong, now dead (he died in 2012),  the film is based on a biography of Armstrong, but also draws  on the first hand experience from Armstrongs two sons, and his two co-pilots Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, still alive. It had a definite feel of authenticity. From the hand held camera uncertainty methodology that framed the illness and death of Armstrongs beloved 2 year old daughter at the beginning that informed the life of Armstrong  (did he take her bracelet to the moon and leave it there? mix of fact, educated guesswork, and fiction, I gather), to the facing of his two sons before he leaves to admit he may not come back. That moment was orchestrated by his wife, played brilliantly by the English actreess Claire Foy)

The film conveys the punch and peril, uncertainty, of contingency, of the vast unknown that Armstrong and his colleagues faced.The meccano equipment, bolts, leavers, the crazy juddering, the decisions that had to be made, the sacrifices (the fire in the space cockpit with the 3 astronauts burnt alive was visceral). The prepared script was read out of what would be announced in the event of an Apollo failure and death of the astronauts.

Neil Amrstrong (Ryan Gosling) is a private, taciturn, driven man of very few words and a face that intrigued, I wanted to read it, to  see what it revealed. Why space exploration? he was asked at the NASSA interview:
“It allows us to see things. May be things seen a long time ago’.

Produced by Speilburg, it is Directed by Damien Chazelle (American French).  who is an ambitious filmmaker who makes films about ambition. (Whiplash and La La Land).

 

Plastics