Snow White, or My week in nature

Me nuts

I don’t mind nature. Quite like it. Just don’t come across a lot of it day-to-day. Except the last few days have been packed with urban sightings.

Thursday: Pulled back the bedroom curtains at 6:45. I can see the rabbit in her pen is very nervy. Then there’s a sharp, tawny face under the apple tree. A fox. I bang the window and it leaves. The rabbit calms down.

Saturday: Clearing the vegetable patch. I shift a few pieces of wood and I’m face to face with a toad as big as my fist. I don’t know who is more surprised, but I react the most. I leave it be. The next time I come back it’s scarpered.

Sunday: Up to the attic bedrooms to empty the bins. There’s a blue tit in one of the bedrooms. We have a short stand off. I open a window. It leaves. Still no idea how it got in.

Sunday again: Working in the vegetable patch and there’s a mouse wandering about, oblivious to me. Ah. Then I shift more bits of wood and the mystery of where all the nuts went from my cobnut tree is solved (see picture). All hidden and nibbled.

Monday: Out on my bike. Grey heron resting in a field.

As my daughter said, I’m like Snow White.

Soup of the day

So. Having given Hero in a Coma a first public reading we (Tuesday’s Childe) are working out what to do with it next: how can we get it up to a full performance. As part of that we are reviewing the audience feedback and thinking what needs cutting, changing or developing. Now, behind our play lurks The Odyssey, which means one of our questions is ‘how closely are we following The Odyssey?’

That is a difficult question, as some members of the group would say ‘not very’ and others would say ‘quite closely’. I’m looking at it like this: imagine you’re making soup (that’s not too hard for me as I do that most weeks). You have a rough recipe, so you chop and fry and stir, switching a few ingredients around (why are there no green lentils in the house this week?) and pour in the stock you made last week. But on the back of your stove is a stock pot which has been bubbling away for close on three thousand years. It’s been added to and drawn on for all that time. The stock is thick, highly flavoured and something of a familiar taste. You add a ladleful from that ancient stock to your new soup.

As your soup bubbles away the flavours of that old stock work their way round and through your new ingredients. When you serve it, the diners catch a waft of that old, familiar flavour as the steam rises from their bowls. When they eat it they get your soup, but an undertone of that ancient stock. Some of them will recognise it and smile to themselves because they do. Others may never have come across it before, but they’ll enjoy the soup as soup.

That’s what I’m aiming for: a good soup.

Hero in a coma

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So. Tuesday’s Childe held the first public reading of our new play Hero in a coma at the Bridge Hotel. It’s an intriguing piece (I know, I of all people, shouldn’t really say that: it’s just true) which covers an awful lot of ground – and a fair bit of sea. As we described it:

Hounded by his investors, Oliver Decius sets sail across the Atlantic in a bid to save his boatyard. We travel with him as he runs into a storm of mythic proportions which threatens to cost him not only his business but his life.

‘Hero in a Coma’ examines our conflicting desires to sail away from the struggles of life or to stand and fight the monsters around us.

We’d gathered our cast, adjusted the script for a reading rather than a full performance, rehearsed, and now, at half-past seven we were ready to go.

I was nervous. Partly about the acting – I’m not primarily an actor and unlike the rest of the cast I’m not trained – but mainly because this was the first time anyone outside the group was going to see the whole piece. I had a lot of time to listen to the audience and in my mind every creak of a chair was someone disliking the piece and shifting their position in disgust. Were they enjoying it? Why were there so many words for the cast to get through? Surely no one could bear to listen to all this talking?

Then we got to the end of the first half. The audience clapped. They clapped even more at the end of the second half and gave us positive, usefully-critical feedback. Of course, being a nervy writer I usually only hear the words after the ‘but’. Yet there were people there who would like to see a full production.

Now that feels good.

The borrowers

So. To the Edinburgh Fringe. At least, for an afternoon. I saw one show: Fearnot Wood staged by UCLU Runaground. This is not a review (there is no point reviewing it a month on), but  an observation on one part of the play.

As it proceeded it turned out one of the sub-plots was based on the film In Bruges. Very closely based. In fact, too closely. It is conceivable that this was sold to the director, by the author, as a witty tribute to the film, which would make the audience chuckle knowingly. Unfortunately, the two parts of the audience I was with groaned.

“But hang on,” the writer might say, “William Shakespeare borrowed all the time.”

He did. But as he borrowed he transformed. And that I think was the problem with this borrowing: there wasn’t a transformation, more of a cutting a jigsaw piece out of the film and dropping it into the play. And for me, it just didn’t work. Sorry.