A Weekend Diary

…words and images from England's green and pleasant land…

Archive for the tag “poetry”

The Shanghai Ballet Company at The Coliseum – Jane Eyre

I confess straight away that I have no pretensions at all when it comes to an appreciation of ballet, and it’s a very rare event indeed for me to buy a ticket to watch a live performance of it. That said, I was intrigued by the idea of a Chinese ballet company giving an interpretation of an English classic novel. Moreover, I’d never visited The Coliseum before to watch anything, so that is just where I found myself on the second night of this brief four night season.

A newish addition to Gerrard Place, in London's Chinatown

A newish addition to Gerrard Place, in London’s Chinatown

The Coliseum, home of the English National Opera, at the southern end of St Martin's Lane

The Coliseum, home of the English National Opera, at the southern end of St Martin’s Lane

View of the theatre's stage, from the Balcony

View of the theatre’s stage, from the Balcony

And a (mono) view upwards from the Balcony

And a (mono) view upwards from the Balcony

Despite being a bit of a philistine when it comes to an appreciation of ballet, it was a very watchable performance, and I particularly enjoyed Fan Xiaofeng’s portrayal of Bertha Mason, which had an utterly compelling beauty, and was well worth the price of the entry ticket alone (£20 for a Balcony seat if you were wondering ;)).

The cast page in the bilingual programme, which cost eight quid, but I was always going to buy one

The Cast page in the bilingual programme, which cost eight quid (but I was always going to buy one)

This rare night at the ballet triggered the memory of a poem that I’ve long loved, Louis MacNeice’s ‘Les Sylphides’, published in 1939…

Life in a day: he took his girl to the ballet;
Being shortsighted himself could hardly see it –
The white skirts in the grey
Glade and the swell of the music
Lifting the white sails.

Calyx upon calyx, Canterbury bells in the breeze
The flowers on the left mirrored to the flowers on the right
And the naked arms above
The powdered faces moving
Like seaweed in a pool.

Now, he thought, we are floating – ageless, oarless –
Now there is no separation, from now on
You will be wearing white
Satin and a red sash
Under the waltzing trees.

But the music stopped, the dancers took their curtain,
The river had come to a lock – a shuffle of programmes –
And we cannot continue down
Stream unless we are ready
To enter the lock and drop.

So they were married – to be the more together –
And found that they were never again so much together,
Divided by the morning tea,
By the evening paper,
The children and the tradesmen’s bills.

Waking at times in the night she found assurance
Due to his regular breathing but wondered whether
It was really worth it and where
The river had flowed away
And where were the white flowers.

The Coliseum, after sundown

The Coliseum, after sundown

After the performance I wandered the short distance to Trafalgar Square, and listened to a reggae busker for a while before heading for home.

The National Gallery, looking north from Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery, looking north from Trafalgar Square

Moon through clouds, near my north London home

Moon through clouds, near my north London home

As so often happens in life, synchronicities manifest themselves at times like this, and on two occasions in the following couple of days, I found Jane Eyre staring out at me from the window display of a charity shop in North Finchley High Road. Yes, I think I owe it to Charlotte to read the original ;).

Some reading to catch up on ;)

Some reading to catch up on 😉

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A Cuxton carving, some Covent Garden pottery and a Steep monument…

I plan to visit my sister in the Kentish village of Cuxton on Saturday next, and here’s a photograph dating from my last visit to Cuxton, on Boxing Day, 2011, of a carved bench on Bush Hill…

A carved bench, Bush Hill, Cuxton, Kent

A carved bench, Bush Hill, Cuxton, Kent

And on the theme of handicrafts, here’s a stall I came across at Covent Garden Market in central London, in 2007 I believe it was…

A pottery stall, Covent Garden Market...

A pottery stall, Covent Garden Market…

Our after-work rambling group has its first outing this coming Thursday, around Swanmore in Hampshire, so here are a couple of images from a previous outing, in the vicinity of Steep, near Petersfield, also in Hampshire. Steep is associated with the poet Edward Thomas, who died at Arras in the First World War. The two images here are followed by Thomas’s poem ‘Adlestrop’, which happens to be one of my favourites, so here it is…

A misty Steep landscape, early spring 2011

A misty Steep landscape, early spring 2011

Hillside monument to Edward Thomas, at Steep, Hampshire

Hillside monument to Edward Thomas, at Steep, Hampshire

Adlestrop

Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

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