Archive for the ‘ Ramblings ’ Category

Boundaries of ignorance


The further you progress in the education system, the more you realise that there’s an awful lot you don’t know.  My MA in English Literature means I know a bit about the field in general, quite a lot about eighteenth-century novels and far too much about Henry Fielding.  But it also makes me realise how much there is about even my chosen fields that I don’t know.  Higher degrees mean learning more and more about less and less, but would I really want to study dozens of GCSE or A Level subjects and be frustrated, knowing that I had now scratched the surface of an awful lot of things?

A post elsewhere on WordPress really challenged me to think again about how little I know.  Continue reading

Born to play the role?


I’m very lucky.  In my theatrical ‘career’ so far, I have played four principal roles and two of them were so brilliantly suited to my abilities that it was almost unbelievable.  Herr Schultz in Cabaret was admittedly some fifty years older than me when I played him, but it was in a school production, so questions of age were irrelevant.  However, his mixture of quiet joy and pathos, combined with his characterful songs, made him a perfect match for me.  Gerald in Me and My Girl was just ridiculously right, as well.  Everything from the ridiculous accent and the old-fashioned singing style through to his complete ignorance of his own ludicrosity was so ‘me’.  I slipped into the role like a glove.  Not that it wasn’t hard work, it most certainly was, but it was all so right.

The trouble is, there aren’t many perfect roles for each performer, and I’ve already used two up before the age of 30.  And if I really was born to play Gerald Bolingbroke, as some people said, does that mean I’ve peaked, and it’s all downhill from here?  I certainly hope not.  But the idea does make me think – what roles would I like to play, and what roles am I ideally suited for?  Continue reading

What price justice?


There’s a lot in the news at the moment which is distressing, confusing or depressing, sometimes all three at once.  Wars and rumours of wars.  Corruption and scandal.  And, or so it seems to me, a disturbing new direction in criminal justice laws, often prompted by the so-called war on terror.  I don’t often ‘do’ controversial or speak up in a public forum, but there are times when it seems necessary.  One of the most recent rumblings that has put my back up concerns a possible UK version of ‘Megan’s Law’.

This is a law that would allow the ‘naming and shaming’ of paedophiles and similar offenders who have served their prison term and been released into the community.  Now, you won’t find me arguing with anyone who says that paedophilia and child abuse are terrible, terrible things.  However, I cannot see how such a law would be a good thing.  Continue reading

Things not to do in the library on a hot day


Imagine, if you will, that Great Britain – that damp, green, eccentric island – is experiencing a heat-wave.  Imagine, if you will, that the hottest July temperatures since the reign of Queen Victoria have been recorded.  Imagine, if you will, that there is a library, the Library of Doom, which has an interesting building design with lots of glass and a general lack of air-conditioning.  Imagine, therefore, lots of very hot and sweaty members of library staff.

There are certain things which you would not recommend doing in these circumstances.  Continue reading

Not just a case of the blues


Recently, I have noticed some of the warning signs that I might be heading for a thrilling return trip to the land of clinical depression.  So this weekend, one of my fun jobs has been to speak to various people I am close to, a support network if you will, and warn them.  It’s never a fun journey, either for me or those who accompany me on the road, so I hope I’m mistaken.

Come to think of it, a return trip is a fairly inaccurate description to use, as it is an illness which doesn’t tend to leave me completely, but bubbles away in the background.  Most of the time, though, I can deal with any minor symptoms that rear their ugly heads and just get on with my life.  The drugs aren’t worth the side-effects and psychotherapy has never helped, so I’d rather not have to seek medical advice about it ever again.

Clinical depression is a widely misunderstood condition, and I have spent quite some time over the last couple of days trying to write a useful, interesting post which could help others understand it.  No joy,I’m afraid, so poetry will have to suffice.  One of my poems on the subject can be found on-line already: The Flame.  The poem that follows is a less polished reaction, written during the Christmas vacation in 1998:

Tears come unbidden
Hidden fears rise
Confusion rears its head
as darkness moves in

All sense departs
Control is lost
Of emotion
Of thought
Of action

Sanity fights a losing battle
Joy and peace lie submerged
with personality

But life stays afloat
Spirit survives
In the safest of hands, I can never be lost

It’s interesting that this is the most optimistic diary entry from that time.  The rest are in prose, and are far less positive.  I’m also intrigued by that lone comma.  I don’t know if the poems or the post are at all enlightening for anyone, and I hope this hasn’t scared any of the readers of this blog who know me in the outside world.  I’ll be fine, but if I look or act more ‘down’ than usual, please don’t tell me to cheer up, or I may have to kill you.

Wrong note drag


I hate doing things wrong. No, I really hate it.  Really,. really hate it.  When it comes to things I do, I am an irritating perfectionist, with impossibly high standards.  Others can get away with many things, perhaps even most things that don’t involve apostrophes or murder, but I hate to get something wrong myself.

As a person who dabbles in theatre, I arguably have more opportunities to get things wrong publicly than most people tend to have.  Forgetting a line in a rehearsal is mortifying, and getting your legs in a twist reddens your face no end, but there is a truly terrible crime.  The wrong note.  Continue reading

Singing silence


It has struck me that I have written about various things here, but I haven’t really touched on singing, which is an important part of my life and forms part of the blog’s title.  So why not?  I’ve realised that singing is surprisingly hard to talk about.

Technically, I’m not a great singer.  I read music very slowly, and I understand very few of the concepts.  Yet I can vibrate my vocal cords, flap my lips and tongue around and create a noise which people tell me is very pleasant.  I can’t improvise a harmony as many people can, but I can learn a harmony and stick to it.  When I sing, I like to use the words and the emotion as much as (perhaps more than) the notes, so I’m probably more an actor who sings than a singer who acts.

So, it doesn’t make any sense to me, but it feels very right indeed. Better than right, in fact.  Continue reading

On blasphemous operas


A column in the Guardian prompted me to think, yet again, about the intriguing phenomenon that is Jerry Springer: The Opera.  This is a show that I feel rather strongly about, and given that I am an evangelical Christian, you might think that you can see where my thoughts are likely to be headed.  You’d probably be wrong.

Continue reading

On crossing the road


Hello, everyone.  My name is David and I am a pedestrian.

Sometimes I feel that this fact about my boring little self is sufficient to mark me as a social outcast, a strange and peculiar creature that should not be able to function within the bounds of modern society.  Yet somehow I manage very well, and have no desire to learn how to drive.  I’d be a rubbish driver, anyway.

Today, as I wandered the streets of Singinglibrarianville in search of a prescription for my housemate, I was struck by the many oddities of crossing the road, a routine pedestrian activity.  I am glad I live in the UK, land of the amusingly-named crossing places, and more importantly, a land where pavements (sidewalks) actually exist on almost all roads, and where crossing the road somewhere other than a crossing isn’t a crime against the state.  Anyway…  Continue reading

Higher education = Big Brother?


It has occurred to me that there are disturbing parallels between my work in the Library of Doom and the world of so-called ‘reality’ television. Both provide a vital social service, but the populace at large is probably blissfully unaware of this. We keep strange people out of the workforce and off the streets for a period of time, contributing to the overall sanity of the nation.

I do not watch reality shows very often, but it is sometimes unavoidable due to friends, relatives and housemates who devour them greedily, thrilling to the exploits of the publicity-hungry folks these shows tend to attract. Increasingly, the cast list of these shows (I’m looking at you, Big Brother) largely consists of strange, unpleasant people who I’m very glad I’ll never have to meet. For anything up to three months, these people are locked away in a secure environment, meaning that their interesting social skills are only inflicted on a dozen or so people. Thankfully, it seems that the British public decides en masse that nice people should win these shows as often as possible. And also, I have to admit (grudgingly, mind you) that Big Brother has probably done wonders for tolerance, acceptance and inclusion, in that the past winners have included a gay man, a male-to-female transsexual, a working class chappie and even, of all things, a practicing Christian.

Higher education performs many roles, but at least where I work, it fulfils the same vital function as reality TV. I see disturbing numbers of people every day with bafflingly low levels of knowledge, intelligence and common sense, people who surely could not function in the workplace. For three years, or possibly more, we shield society from these people and attempt to teach them the skills they’ll need to survive. We try to show them how to think for themselves, demonstrate how to interact in polite society and force them to fend for themselves without mummy or daddy to cook, wash and clean for them. “How long can you borrow a 7-day loan for?”  “Have you got any photographs of the Great Fire of London?” And of course the brick wall people, who make you feel like you’re either talking to or bashing your head against said edifice. Don’t you feel glad that the valiant staff of higher education institutions are keeping these people away from the rest of the world and at least attempting to turn them into functional members of society?

Maybe the analogy’s not valid, but it struck me recently, so I thought I may as well share it.

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