Monday, 25 October 2010

This Is The Life

I am typing this sitting on the swing seat in my garden. It's 70ft by 35ft (garden, not swing)_- which the mathematician in the partnership informs me is a golden rectangle, and I can quite believe it.

If memorial garden were not such a sad concept, I'd call my  garden that, for everyone I care for is present here, as are many of the places I have visited over the years. My mother, who's seven year anniversay falls today, loved sweet peas - they are aiming for the trellis at the sunny side of the shed.  My marriage to Ray is commemorated in the violets and primroses which are abundant here.  Thirty eight ago they were the posy I carried and were wreathed into my hair.

The evening primroses are the descendants of an ancestor grown from a packet of mixed wild flowers I bought at the Post Office in Talkeetna, Alaska. The iaxias, pineapple lilies and osteospernums redolant of South Africa and the beautiful white dogwood and the columbines take me back to the Pacific Northwest... I have one rose - a double-hearted white one that fades to yellow called 'The Swan', planted in November 2001, which takes me immediately to Stratford and fond memories of a dear friend -  far away now, with whom I enjoyed happy
hours in the company of the Bard.

Two Gentlemen of Verona - An Adventure in !Xhosa

It  was a privilege to escort our African friends to 'The Swan' theatre, Stratford for TGoV.  It was going to be a really exciting event for all of us - but especially for Nomvuzo who taught Shakespeare at the Senior Secondary School in Port St John's on the Wild Coast, but had never
seen a performance - anywhere.To say that our party stood out from the crowd is an understatement to say the least. Not only were our guests African, but Nomvuzo and Lindelwa
wore tribal dress. (I could have worn mine too, but it wasn't my night.)

The adventure began in the theatre lobby.  Coats deposited by theatre-goers were hanging on a rack and Landilesa had an idea they might be for sale.  He went and asked an attendant behind the desk, who obviously misheard the question and replied, 'Yes';  Just picture it, a black man
going through the furs and high quality woollens (in search of price tags as it happens).  We English are so polite.  No one said a word, but the horror on the faces of some of those present was really quite funny.  I nudged Nomvuzo who was closest to me and whispered to her,
urgently.  I now know what !Xhosa for, 'If you don't stop doing that you'll get arrested.' sounds like.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be experiencing live theatre -and the RSC at that -for the very first time?  Our friends were utterly spellbound.  They hung over the balcony and watched entranced. Audible cries of 'Yo, yo, yo ...' could be heard as the plot warmed up.

The audience were delighted ( I feared the opposite...) and it was soon evident that the actors were playing to one particular part of the gallery.

And What's This About Talkeetna

I defy anyone to find a weirder festival anywhere in the world than the Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival.  It's true.  I have the tee-shirt. I believe I may even have a preserved moose-dropping somewhere too.

Alaskans used to make a living in two ways - fur-trapping in the winter and gold-panning in the summer.  I suspect they still do. The town has a wonderful Museum in the Little Red School-house.  You can wander in, buy the Moose-dropping Festival tee-shirt in a range of colours and inspect the fur- trapping and gold-panning paraphenalia of bygone days. Then for a couple of dollars more you can buy a map of the town with the preserved frontier cabins circled for you.

Each one made of logs with a bed, a quilt, a stove a candle and a wash stand. And on the walls, pin-ups of Betty Grable, Lana turner and Marylyn Monroe;  The frontier in Alaska was alive and well in the 1950's.
The gardens were still extant too.  I vividly remember a strawberry patch with a sign that read,'Please eat the strawberries and pull a few weeds' (No, I'm not making it up - go and take a look:

Alaska is still a frontier state to some degree.  The Anchorage Times has lifestyle and cookery sections just like the London variety - but the front page still carries tales of bar-room brawls and close encounters with bears. I will recall the story of my encounter with a bear on Mt
Eklutna when I have ceased to have nightmares about

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