Sunday, 15 July 2012

Magical Lanterns

I travelled from Brighton to Lewes last night, on the most crowded train in the World, and arrived at the station feeling like an old sponge. 

I was so incensed by the journey, that I immediately went to the station master's office to lodge a complaint: if that many people had to crowd onto one train, then they either need more trains, or more carriages, or they have to regulate the numbers getting on the trains in the first place. 

Mez picked me up from the station and drove me round the corner to the Priory Gardens, where her performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream was about to take place. 

We sat "backstage", in a little pergola, in the middle of the ruined Priory, whilst the rain lashed down around us.  The wet-weather alternative for the evening was to perform the work underneath the branches of a tall oak tree. It sounded like an utterly insane idea,  but the tree provided a huge amount of shelter from the rain, and simultaneously offered a space that was both intimate and very good acoustically.

Members of the cast had been asked to bring torches and lanterns, and anything else that lit up that they could get their hands on. A group of us spent half an hour attaching torches and the most surreal assortment of light-yielding objects to the internal boughs of the tree.

It was guesswork, really, because until it got dark, we had no idea what kind of light they would create.

As it happened, the rain stopped, and the show was able to take place in its original setting among the ruins of the Priory. A very small audience came to watch: many had assumed that the show would be cancelled. Those of us who were there, were rewarded with a truly magical show. As the light began to fade, the lit tree, which was to the left of the stage area, began to glow. Seeing how wonderful it looked, Mez made the enlightened decision to run act five of the play under the tree anyway. It was like something from The Magic Faraway Tree. Something like a hundred bulbs and candles shimmered and glistened in the branches like twinkling stars. I have seldom seen a more enchanting sight, and felt remarkably privileged to be there. 

It was astonishing how the entire cast, and the audience, fitted so comfortably under the boughs of one single tree.

After the show, Mez and I went for a celebratory drink, followed by a celebratory pizza, and chatted late into the night. 

Today the sun shone, although every time it disappeared behind a cloud, a chill returned to the air. It was Jago Selby's first birthday party, and Uncle Bill and Rupert laid on quite a spread in a park in the middle of Lewes. Raily and Ian were there, and I was finally able to give my Godson Will the Playmobil figures I had bought for him in Germany. When Will's sister Jeannie grabbed one of them (fair enough), and shouted "I want THAT one," Will turned to her, and said very calmly, "Jeannie, they're not yours, their ours." Something tells me that Ian and Raily have brought their kids up very well. 

Baby Jago is a charming child, with a lovely temperament, who barely grizzled for the entire day. We went back to Uncle Bill's for a pasta meal, and it was a great delight to spend time with her, Rupert and the lovely Isobel, who is now every bit the young lady. 

It is with a smile on my face that I greet the week to come…

350 years ago, on July 15th, 1662, Pepys worked from four in the morning, until late in the night. The first part of the day, as usual, was spent in the Navy office, and the afternoon was spent on the Thames with one Mr Cooper, talking about ships. Pepys' wife, Elizabeth, had been out all day, and by all accounts, had had a lovely time. Unfortunately, the jollity was brought to a swift close by the weather. Unlike 2012, it obviously didn't rain very much in July  in the 1660s, as Pepys had chosen that month for some serious home improvements, which included having the roof ripped off, to add an extra floor to his house. Not a great time to the rains to arrive, and Pepys was royally "vexed".

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