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Staying Alive

I’m sharing an edited quote of a letter sent to The Times newspaper. Some of you know what I am going through at the moment. The writer has written the letter after learning that a study is saying that if we give everyone in their later years statins, we could be saving thousands more lives. His next sentences encapsulate my current life experience.

It is, however, not possible to “save 8,000 lives a year”, but only possible to delay the death of 8.000 patients each year, at best. Would I rather die of a heart attack or stroke in my active late 70s or 80s, or have my life prolonged in order to die of cancer or slowly suffer decrepitude in a care home when my other systems are no longer able to sustain an independent life?

My parents are both in their 90s. My mother has 24 hour care (at the moment by my brother and myself far from our home and working lives, but previously by my father) as she dies of nothing but old age. She is almost completely deaf and does not speak. She is isolated in a world of silence. My father is in hospital and I found out this week he has cancer of the mouth. This man has loved to eat and talk all his life and continues to do so.

My heart is in pieces and I am totally powerless to do anything,

Quote (s)

I’ve never yet met a man who could look after me. I don’t need a husband. What I need is a wife.

Joan Collins

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.


Nobody’s Songs

I’ve let this blog slip rather. I’m not sure why. I’ve written two plays – well I am just finishing up a second one. Written straight out of my head onto the page so it’s a bit strange. The other one I completed some time ago is out and about. It’s a waiting game as places that take unsolicited submissions are snowed under, so it usually takes a matter of months to hear back.

That aside I have been keeping a sort of journal for some time now. It’s intended as a spewing forth of whatever comes between brain and pen but inevitably a lot of it is “what I did yesterday.” But that’s a good record, especially at a difficult time. My mind feels like a sieve.

Thirdly the majority of what I have to write about is private. It concerns my parents and I know they would be utterly horrified if I was describing their lives to the world. So it’s hard to know what to write.

I’m working on a great show: Songs For Nobodies. It’s performed by Bernadette Robinson and written by Joanne Murray-Smith (who also wrote Switzerland, a play about Patricia Highsmith I was previously working on). It’s a series of five monologues, by five different fictional ordinary women (the Nobodies of the title) who each briefly (fictionally) encounter five great singers; Garland, Callas, Piaf, Holiday and Cline. Robinson not only acts the monologues, each in a different accent, but then sings in the style of the five singers. It’s an extraordinary performance on so many levels, and she does it night after night after night. Murray-Smith is a writer who looks at the world and its people from a slightly sidelong perspective. I’ve seen three of her plays and and her quiet wisdom in her perception and portrayals of people stay with me. She writes a lot about women and her portrayals are deceptively simple. She writes with warmth and compassion, but she writes about flaws and failings. Her plays aren’t dazzling. They are quiet but they get under the skin of their characters and bring to life humanity on stage.

But added to that are the musical numbers. Robinson has a three piece band behind her, a simple set and no costume change (though lots of lighting changes – I’m busy), and yet with her voice and simple gestures brings the spirit of the five great performers to life on stage. For the minutes of each song she does “become” the performers. And she needs to because this is a play about the extraordinary people who have fame, and of those who don’t, but are still extraordinary. Of how a small act can change a person’s life. Of how we do not know the stories of people we are quick to judge. But for me there is still a lingering air of melancholy about each mould-breaking singer. Each one died too soon. Each one fought physical and mental battles to be who they were in a (man’s) world that is afraid of mould-breakers. It was their unhappiness perhaps that made them great, and then destroyed them.


Copyright MrBert


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


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.