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Firstly to wish you all a healthy and productive year ahead, and thank you for staying along with this ride which has been rather more intermittent than I would like. But I have got a lot of writing done this year: a play (and now onto a second one), handwritten letters home each week to my parents, a Newsletter to the lovely team on Beginning, and a fairly regular handwritten journal/stream of consciousness.

Despite the sadnesses of illness and deaths this year I have one very big celebration. My job on Beginning at the beginning (haha) of 2018. Turned my life around and put me back where I started and where I am at my happiest – the theatre. It was the most beautiful play written by a man of such generosity of spirit and kindness, I am in his debt (and probably owe him a pint). It is a rare thing to work in a team of people so in tune with each other, and indeed generosity and kindness abounded throughout the whole run. And of course it meant I met Wilson.MThen in February my wonderful Mother-In -Law died. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Then my aunt, who was so important to me in my childhood. And now my beloved parents are reaching the end of their lives. Mum is peaceful and happy. My Dad is broken, though a lot because of exhaustion through lack of sleep. I never thought I’d see him like this. His thirst for life, his curiosity, his humour and his love of food are all gone. He has handed over the care of his wife of 70 years to strangers, and his purpose has gone, his home no longer his own. Part of me is angry with him ofr seemingly giving up, but I know gentleness and kindness are needed now.

My family and friends are giving me so much love and support. For all the transience of the theatre I have met people who stay in my heart Kindness abounds around me. I may be living day to day with uncertainty as a hard master, but I have a good life and no regrets. Everything will be all right. And I’ve just thrown my tea all over the train table. Again.

3. Christmas 2018 (Quote)

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?

Bob Hope

2. Christmas 2018

1. Christmas 2018

Mum

I am on my way to what I still think of as my home – my parents’ house in North Yorkshire where I grew up.  My mum is just starting to receive end of life care. I don’t know how much time she has left.  She isn’t ill, her body is simply in decline from old age.  My Dad is distraught.  They have been married for 69 years. There’s not much I can do, but they are together in their home.

The Accordionist






The Accordionist Book Cover




The Accordionist




Three Evangelists





Fred Vargas





Vintage




2018




P/B



I'm not going to write too much about this book because as regular readers know I am a huge fan of Fred Vargas. She writes hugely enjoyable, eccentric but layered in history (her other profession is as an archaeologist) mysteries in two series: the Inspector Adamsberg stories and The Three Evangelists. The two series also interlink characters.  This is the third and final - for obvious reasons - of the Three Evangelists novels. Don't start with it if you have not read any before. Go to the first one whose English title is The Three Evangelists. I love them.  I suspect some people won't. Her style is certainly individual, and the world she immerses the reader in is both recognisable and totally her own. Life would be greyer without her novels.

Love and Fame






Love and Fame Book Cover




Love and Fame





Susie Boyt





Little Brown




2017




P/B



I have to  say the title of this novel  and its cover do it an injustice, for its real focus is grief, which is not to say this is a depressing book. The reason I picked it is because it is about an actor, a profession I am fascinated with. It doesn't have to be said but Susie Boyt is daughter of Lucien Freud and granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. (Somewhere in the story two characters talk about psychoanalysis.) Its other appeal for me was its being about the beginning of a marriage, something not written about enough. I didn't love this book as a whole but I am so glad I read it. I wasn't too caught up in its middle class setting or the general plot, but what really engaged me was Boyt's writing about grief from a wife's and a daughter's perspective. I found it at times deeply moving and was left realising that the complexities of grief are almost unbounded. It left me feeling a tiny bit prepared for the un-preparable, and that it had given me insight into this complex topic. That said, this is a novel and not a manual and the interesting, well drawn characters and slightly unpredictable plot kept me turning the pages. If this review sounds a little luke-warm that is not what I intend.

Wise Children






Wise Children Book Cover




Wise Children





Angela Carter





Vintage Classics




1991




P/B



I first read this many moons ago and it swept me away from page one. With a stage version in sight I decided to re-read it. I am not a great one for revisiting the past as I find my passions cool over time. However  this book caught me in its spell once more, fresh as a daisy. Charting the lives of twins Dora and Nora, by default of their professions as "hoofers", the book charts the history of show-business, from actor-managers, through end-of-the-pier, vaudeville, revue and a major trip to Hollywood.  The plot is a family epic. Carter weaves Shakespeare constantly through the book, both literally and by reference. The plot which involves twins, foundlings, confusion, coincidence, mayhem, melancholy, sex and death certainly feels Shakespearean in spirit. Despite its intricacies Carter always guides the reader through with her magnificent storytelling. It is very, very funny, unsentimental and has a huge life-force to it which makes me never want it to end.  The Vintage Classics edition is worth buying for Ali Smith's introduction. For me, a classic

Quote

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realise just how much you love them.