Since last writing, there have been three important annual calendar dates to mark the changing of the year:
The Winter Solstice:
The actual Winter Solstice occurred around 16.00 on the 22nd. At that point, the Sun is returning to the Earth – or, so it seems. I sense the shift immediately.
For me, then, Epiphany – 6th January – is the time when we first notice the strengthening in the light. More traditionally, this is Imbolg – 2nd February – Candlemas/ St Brigid’s Feast. Soon after it if the Chinese New Year – Welcome the Water Tiger!
So, time are auspicious – although there is still plenty of bleak news about the Pandemic, political situation, climate. And, a general ‘head in the sand’ syndrome.
To counter the sense that in response, I am becoming a little nature focused, I should say that plenty of reading and writing occurred during this time as well. I seem to be going through a bit of an Irish renaissance. So, writing by that fine commentator of things socio-political Fintan O’Toole as a reflection of his life in Ireland. Someone once said to me, ‘The English never remember history and the Irish never forget it’. And, so, I found it to be true when I lived there. Also, the kind of magical seduction the country and culture exert of one – unknowingly!!
And, so more reading of the crazy fiction of Flann O’Brien (aka Brian o’Nolan 1911 – 1966). The Third Policeman: Part surreal, part socio-cultural commentary, part poetry, one is pulled along in the heady mix. As another Irishman once said to me, ‘how is it that Irish, having lost their first language, became so good at their second language’ ? – in turn Irish and English. Their answer had something to do with losing touch with reality!!
Then more music from Sean O’Riada. Irish music tends to be of two extremes: very slow and sad or very fast and happy – somewhat reflecting their innate nature. O’Riada takes on board both and also expresses the innate faith of the Irish.
Winter retreat proved a snowy affaire:
Lots of online theater. Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler; a new re-write of Salome; and Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art.
So, three plays all with a woman as their focus. The Ibsen was an interesting modern interpretation that did not quite catch the sociopolitical issues the original implied. The Salome received bad reviews but I liked it: a kind of sound-visual-poetic collage. Experiential/ elegiac – so you had to go with the flow. The Habit of Art was Alan Bennett’s reflection on art, theatre, gay-dom, the turning of the years, etc. Based around the meeting of Robert Graves and Benjamin Britten it was a typical Bennett play: amusing but philosophical.
This month also saw the twentieth anniversary of my friend and mentor Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002).
A new book by me about his philosophy is in the pipeline. So, more on that in due course.
Book of the month!? Well, everyone is reading it!!!!:
And, some African music from the great Tanzanian musician RemmyOngala
Sorry to read that Norma Waterson has flown away. One of the greats of the English Folk revival of the 1950s’ and more or less a co-founder of modern traditional music along with her associates and family. Here she is on one of her last appearances: A Bunch of Thyme – and yes, the analogy is intentional