What better recovery from a long-winded MA than a visit to see Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre on Tuesday? I was slightly bemused by the message in the foyer that “There is moderate swearing in this production – but not as much as the film though”. Although this production has been open for five years, I hadn’t seen it. Theatre buddy and myself were deeply impressed by it – not only a wonderful production with excellent choeography, but a strong libretto (which modern musicals often don’t have, and the words between the songs often stick like mucus between the ears), acting standards resolutely high and a sense of true political integrity which is usually the characteristics of “straight” drama. I don’t know why David Hare should have all the fun when it comes to political integrity. Musicals should be a space where political passion can be formidably expressed through the tight medium of tap-dancing. Too many modern musicals play into the hands of those who think a night out at the theatre should be like pouring cosy, sweet semolina into the brains of the audience, and providing a light entertainment that barely skims the surface. Mamma Mia, you have a lot to answer for. All power to the politically engaged musical plot, I say.
For those of you who were struggling with the cut and paste from Google language tools, we’re reverted back to our English heading here at The London Bluebird and done away with the Italian grammar. We are now back on English soil, and our sojourn around the hills of central Tuscany seems as hazy and distant as the site of Shelley’s Viareggio drowning viewed from the city of Lucca. Mr Bluebird and I have pledged never to fly HorridAir again as it was just so frightful. A two hour delay at Pisa, being rammed into a distinctly unpleasant National Express bus at Stansted, rolling through the front door at 2am, weeping for a cup of normal tea and a hot water bottle.
Back in London the skies are darkening and winter is on her way, which is awful for me, as it is every year. I try to get into it. I roast chickens, baste animals that were happy clucking around a farmyard a couple of days previously, make stews, cook with cinnamon and hot hunks of ginger. I watch Strictly, try to think about all that nonsense about seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness but it doesn’t work. There is no mellow fruitiness on the Finchley Road (the Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents’ Association wouldn’t have it). Autumn is rife with narrow wintry awfulness. Instead, I’ve done what I didn’t think I would do. I have gone back to the library following the completion of my MA.
Glutton for punishment I may be, but I’ve gone back to the M E Braddon shelf diligent readers from https://thelondonbluebird.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/chick-lit-1860s-style/ will remember as that bastion of 1860s chick lit whose 70 novels are – with the exception of 2 – entirely out of print. The London Library has been the only place I didn’t want to leave. I have just read the ludicrous “Birds of Prey” with its murder in the first few chapters and dastardly goings on about inheritances and money in Baywater villas inhabited by sneaky stockbrokers. Next on the list is “The Trail of the Serpent” which has been recently republished with an excellent foreword by that denizen of neo-Victorian lesbian tomfoolery, Sarah Waters. I might do a PhD on her (Braddon, not Waters. Sapphic exchanges in down at heel music halls aren’t quite my cup of tea) and appear to have become addicted, not just to reading Victorian texts, but to the particularly academic manner of reading. The MA, in terms of its discipline has done its work and I have become indoctrinated in the art of sitting with book in one hand, hot-pink cartridged fountain pen in the other, noting, noting, noting, unsure of where it will get me. Meanwhile, on the commuting front, I am making quick work of the exquisitely honed Every Man for Himself, from one of my favourite writers, Beryl Bainbridge. A perfect accompaniment for soupy grey mornings on the bus to Oxford Street, blinking out onto roads with cars still with their lights on at 8am. Honestly, this being cold for the winter business. It’s shit, isn’t it?
The only thing I can think to do about it is get a job working from home so I can sit in warm pyjamas all day and not go out. But how many jobs are there out there in a time like this, for a fast-typing, fast-talking, musical viewing book addict with Victorianist tendencies and a habit of singing Rogers & Hart in the bath of an afternoon? If anyone has any ideas please send to Bluebird, Fourth Shelf, Fiction Section, Third Floor London Library, St James’s Square. If the postman has problems finding me, I’m the one cowering under the 1870s M E Braddon collection, weeping for the loss of summer.