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Monday, September 24, 2007

Ave Atque Vale

There comes a time when you begin ticking them off. Those you've seen, those you haven't and, now, those you never will.

I saw Laurence Olivier give a shockingly powerful performance as Shylock on his return from a heart attack. I worked (briefly) with Sir John Gielguid but never saw Dame Peggy Ashcroft and I wish I had. I saw Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts and Gordon Greenidge in their savage, graceful pomp but never saw Viv Richards or Ian Botham. I saw Jack and Bobby Charlton work their strange magic but never George Best. (Although I did once meet Gordon Banks). I worked on stage with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre when they were only a jagged footstep away from Martha Graham but never saw the great dancer herself. I saw the Rolling Stones three times in their early days (but there's plenty of time to see them again) but never the Beatles (although I did hear them when they were playing on top of the Apple Building and being filmed for "Let it Be"). I saw the Who and Pink Floyd and even The Grateful Dead (although their all night session bored me to tears). I saw David Bowie when he was a lad called David Jones at a John Peel concert with the Incredible String Band and, I think, Ivor Cutler. I have heard great orchestras and operas. I have seen Michalangelo's David up close and personal and been awestruck by Botticelli's Prima Vera and disappointed by the Mona Lisa. I once listened to Michael Foot in full flow; he was probably past his best but still one of the great orators of the 20century (Ah, how long ago that seems). I was on the march to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square (although I melted away when the fighting got going) and grovelled in the mud of a few festivals but never Glastonbury.

And now: Marcel Marceau. I saw him in London in the sixties when, sadly, I didn't realise his significance. His act contained much that I had seen elsewhere and I was too dull to realise that he had minted most of the coinage. But what came over, more than all the walking-against-the-wind stuff that you see in a thousand shopping centres up and down the country on otherwise breathless summers afternoons, was the sheer humanity of the man shining through his deadpan act. I am proud that I saw him but I can't describe what it was he did. You had to be there... And now you can't.

"Through many countries and over many seas
I have come, Brother, to these melancholy rites,
To show this final honour to the dead,
And speak (to what purpose?) to your silent ashes,
Since now fate takes you, even you, from me.
Oh, Brother, ripped away from me so cruelly,
Now at least take these last offerings, blessed
By the tradition of our parents, gifts to the dead.
Accept, by custom, what a brother's tears drown,
And, for eternity, Brother, 'Hail and Farewell'. "


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Flexigesis - an explanation

I had an e.mail from Simon Waters pointing out that Flexigesis would be a good target for a Googlewhack. But I'm not sure that it counts if you've made the word up yourself. So in an effort to promote the word for the Oxford English Dictionary here is a definition.

Flexigesis (n) An attempt to explain something that you are unsure of. An explanation of something that changes as you are explaining it. An explanation in which the explanation itself becomes part of the uncertainity.

Uncertainity (n) When things really get out of hand on the explaining front. Makes Heisenberg look like a man with pipe and slippers sitting in an armchair stroking Schroedinger's cat telling his grandchildren what's for supper.