The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Remembrance with respect

21/12/2014

Those who know me well will recognise that I am unlikely to be the first in line to visit many military museums. It isn’t that I don’t have respect and gratitude for the service and sacrifice made by others – very far from it in fact. However, unless it is done well, these locations can (in my humble opinion) become at best overbearing and at worse a glorification of the worst aspects of service and sacrifice.

They would also tell you that I trust my partner’s advice, so when he suggested attending the Australian war memorial, I didn’t hesitate for more than a few seconds.

Anzac Parade

Anzac Parade

The first thing you have to say about the approach to the memorial from Anzac parade is how impressive it is. The red stone roadway (representing the central heart of Australia) is reminiscent of the best of the world’s boulevards and approach roads.

The fact that it is simple, understated and clearly forming the main link between the memorial and the parliament building simply emphasises its importance without the need for further ornamentation of any kind.

On both sides of the parade, at regular intervals stand a number of individual memorials and commemorative sculptures focused on a specific military conflict or engagement.

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Purely as an example the Korean war memorial is generous in its recognition of all nations taking part in the conflict with nothing sensationalising or glamorising the impact or horrors of the incident for those involved.

Each of the memorials commemorates a different engagement in which Australian forces were involved, many where I for one had no idea they were participants.

The parade is an impressive enough architectural and design feature forming a strong physical link in the built environment of Canberra. The impressive commemorations are both simple, uncomplicated and in my view extremely effective leading visitors along Anzac Parade to the main building of the Australian war memorial.

Wall of Remembrance

Wall of Remembrance

Interestingly, the initial walled enclosure is a large water feature containing an eternal flame burning from within the water.

Around this central enclosure are what appear to be endless names cast in bronze recognising those Australians who have died in the military service of their country since approximately 1880.

For such a dramatic and powerful act of remembrance there is never a hint of bravado. The atmosphere remains respectful and dignified, a skill which seems to have been missed in many other monuments of a similar nature.

A similar air continues through the museum adjacent to the memorial. Although the camera angle is different to the traditional European model/experience, the perspective is a welcome alternative view on the world.

For someone who doesn’t naturally focus on military history, I found we had spent four hours exploring the location. A remarkably powerful, informative and humbling experience well worth a visit if you find yourself in Canberra and want to learn something along the way !

Are you hiding your light under a bushel?

27/11/2014

Undoubtedly, we are all guilty of seeing those we know through what can sometimes be a very narrow lens. That is to say a work colleague can remain just that, a member of a club or society can be similarly pigeon holed and neither escape from the field in which you first got to know them.
However, that means there are times when you realise that you have friends with real skills. Sometimes abilities you had no idea they possessed or had an interest in developing.

I should immediately say this isn’t a paid blog entry or any form of advertisement – it’s just a means of showing how those we think we know sometimes have the capability to surprise us with their talent.

deer1Some years ago I was building a team of consultants and was lucky enough to meet Jo. She was (and is) a feisty, determined and straight talking individual who was very good with people – exactly what was needed. We worked together for the best part of ten years before our professional paths separated and went their own ways.

Throughout that time, I learned a lot about Jo’s personality. Her love of Las Vegas, poker, dogs and found her to be the only other person I knew to have heard of Anastasia Beaverhousen.  Yet, despite this I had no idea she was (or wanted to be) a capable photographer. It would never have been something I would have imagined as interesting her. It just goes to show how easy it is to make assumptions about those we think we know.

poppyIt was only this year when walking through a tube tunnel under the river Thames (another story) that I realised Jo had an interest in photography.

It was some weeks after that before I realised quite how capable a photographer she was becoming. All of the images on this entry are Jo’s and are (to the best of my knowledge) all taken within a year of her starting to take images as a serious pastime.

For me is started to raise a question about what other skills my other friends may have. Also, had Jo not decided to act on her private interests in photography I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have seen some of these very pleasing, artistic, technically skilled and often thought provoking shots. I can’t help but think that would have been a great loss.

tree1It made me want to urge my other friends (and indeed anyone reading this post) not to hide their talents.

Even if it turns out you don’t have the skill you would like, it must be worth trying. Life is far too short to carry many things you would like to try ‘one day’.

So if you have a long-standing ambition to learn a new skill, develop a new string to your bow or just try something for the hell of it – what’s holding you back. Who know’s you may find something at which you are equally capable.

Jo’s work can be seen in more detail and better resolution at her website  – www.jomitchell.co.uk There are some beautiful shots there. I would encourage you to take a look and maybe take some inspiration to find your equivalent skill.

Over the past week, I have received two unrelated emails which remind me how easy it is to accept unconfirmed but accepted ‘truths’ and how easily we can confuse cause and effect. The first email asked for my view as a former theatrical ‘lovie’ on whether a strong amateur operatic group would be wise to perform Gershwin’s …

Continue reading

Shang-a-lang a Holly-Nolly ding dong!

16/11/2014


Anyone who has been reading or following this blog for any length of time may be familiar with my less than overwhelming enthusiasm for the festive season. (See Saturnalia)

However, once in a while something comes along which whilst not entirely changing your point of view, could be described as a refreshing change! One such thing is this year’s Christmas advert from Sainsbury supermarkets in the UK.

The  choice of a World War I themed advert may not have been entirely surprising given the emphasis on the centenary of the start of the Great War throughout 2014. However, having said that it eluded the competing retailers and advertising agencies leaving the field clear for this four minute gem.

The only branding in this piece is the name flash at the end of the video. Even that is shared with the recognition for the Royal British Legion. Furthermore, there isn’t a single piece of product placement – not even the featured chocolate bar.

The attention to historical detail is impressive and although there is an undoubted sentimentality it isn’t aimed at supermarket products (at least not directly).  Some have already indicated they find the advert distasteful apparently hijacking the historic events to boost Christmas sales. I for one don’t share that view.

Congratulations Sainsbury for taking the time to give this real production values, historical integrity and resisting the temptation to scatter it with subtly placed stock. Having seen the seasonal offerings from competing retailers, the risk was well worth taking ! A real Christmas present.

Oh you are awful …. but I like you !

07/10/2014


Dick Emery

Dick Emery

Any comic or sit-com actor will tell you that catch phrases can’t really be planned – they just take off and work their way into the psyche of the audience.

The other characteristic of a catch-phrase is their longevity. A case in point happened today when I was walking through an office reception and heard a rather plummy female voice utter the phrase ‘Oh you are awful !’

Cut to 1979 and the now virtually forgotten comedian Dick Emery who had a vast array of characters in his then iconic Saturday evening comedy show. One of those characters a young lady called Mandy found herself subject to frequent end of the pier double entendre and always responded ‘Oh you are awful … but I like you!’ – Followed by a swift left hand shove.

Instantly I heard the comment in the reception area I mentally finished the punch line, even though I hadn’t heard it for at least 30 years and was a young child at the time.

Then I began to wonder why Dick Emery had been erased from British Comedy? Others such as Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and the like are held up as major comic influences on others. Considering some of his material it certainly wouldn’t be considered PC but its certainly harmless.

The clips above show a range of the characters Emery created. Now although not rip-roaringly funny in this compilation, some of his work was ground-breaking. He was one of the only commedians in the 1970’s and 80’s to feature an openly gay (and yes camp) man – but one who was clearly enjoying all aspects of gay life. Something we rarely see even today.

So today I found myself saying thank you Dick Emery for making me laugh as a child and for raising a smile some 30+ years later. That has to be some record I’m sure.

 

A chance view of a photograph on one of the numerous channels of rubbish on my television was like being thrown unceremoniously into a wormhole and emerging in 1979 – at least momentarily. For those of a certain age, (those who were teenagers in the late 1970’s)  you will probably understand the feeling I’m describing. For others, you can’t understand …

Continue reading

Surprised by things you didn’t know you remembered

02/10/2014


Isn’t it strange how some things impact on you and the rational state of your particular universe. Often, these things (at least to me) seem to be things which I was only partially aware of in the first place.

The news broke today of the death of a female singer songwriter from the 1970’s. Lyndsey de Paul was not immensely well known and wasn’t someone I particularly followed or even liked as a child. However, I do remember her singing Rock Bottom with Mike Moran in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1977. I was around 12 at the time and despite these events forming nothing more than a passing blip of recognition, the news of her death has had a significant impact on me.

Given her relatively young age (64) it isn’t perhaps surprising but it does make me wonder if I’m firing on all four cylinders at present. I often find that these rather random events gain greater significance that perhaps is due when I’m slightly off kilter.

Some people notice they don’t sleep well, others spot memory lapses or loss of appetite. I notice that I get a bit sentimental. Perhaps Rock Bottom has more significance than I had previously thought.

Oh what a lovely disconnect

27/09/2014

Oh what a lovely war !

Oh what a lovely war !

Today I was lucky enough to see and reflect upon a local production of Oh What A Lovely War by a local amateur group. It was made better by being shared with my partner who was able to make the evening. Despite being overly hot in the Arts Centre, it wasn’t a bad production given the demands of this semi-surreal play.

The Phoenix Players have something of a reputation for tackling worthy and challenging productions. Although as a group, their star may have waned a little it was a credit to their skills. Chosen to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War this stretched the theatre and the available space rather more than the actors.

After watching it, I was struck with the disconnect I felt with the play. Was it the capability of the cast, the difference between the play and it’s better known film counterpart or the production values chosen by the Director and her team. After some thought, I came to the view it was none of the above !

What struck me was the lack of credibility of the leading characters – not the actors – the characters. In simple terms the dismissive view of life portrayed by the play’s characters would now be simply incredible.

This was perhaps the greatest insight I gained from the evening. If the characters (or more accurately caricatures) portrayed as army generals, field marshals and politicians were ever accurate – and I believe they were – they certainly wouldn’t be now.

Of course, I have tried to make allowances for the fact that the play originally produced by Joan Littlewood in the 30’s may have aged not the characters. However, whichever is the more accurate it’s refreshing to realise that we have moved so far from a conflict which robbed the world of a generation.

The finale was understated but immensely powerful. A stage washed in red light with two solitary soldiers with downturned rifles against a backdrop of one of the Commonwealth War Cemeteries. A welcome touch for me was that the backdrop contained markers for both English and German soldiers. Whilst the last post sounded and the poppies fell the curtain closed in silence. A brave and powerful production. I’m just so pleased to realise that this now feels so alien and impossible in today’s world.

Unrecognised by an Old Friend

24/09/2014

Wyvern Theatre Stage

Wyvern Theatre Stage

A quick call to assist with a couple of photographs took me into the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon today to assist with a friend’s university application.

I found myself on a very familiar stage. I have been fortunate enough to perform on this particular stage more than any other locally and know it well. The challenge of some sight lines to the side stalls, the proximity of the ‘pit’ to the stage apron (potentially very easy to make an unexpected visit to the orchestra) and the relatively shallow depth from upstage to down. All very familiar to me.

However, what struck me was how much time had passed since I last walked on the stage in any performing capacity. It was most certainly as though the theatre didn’t recognise me. Perhaps that isn’t any bad thing as I wasn’t perhaps my most engaging when treading those particular boards, but I did realise how much I missed the feeling of belonging which comes with this particular stage.

Some friends now gone shared some happy times here, some friends now moved away similarly shared rehearsals filled with laughter (in the main) and the thrill of performance. Perhaps one day I may put some of the directing skills I have been working on into practice – there are certainly a good number of plays/pieces I would like to get my teeth into. However, for now I feel I caught a glimpse of a friend from the past who, to my disappointment, didn’t recognise me.

Same walls different posters

30/08/2014

folliesI was invited to a meal today in a part of Theatreland, London. Nothing unusual there – but on walking into the venue (which I have absolutely no intention to name) I experienced something of a temporal anomaly. I found I was existing both in 2014 and circa 1986.

Today’s meeting with my better half and a mutual friend was pleasant, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. Interestingly though neither of them could have shared the periodic time shifts I experienced in this amazing and very comfortable venue.

Close to a theatre in which I had performed this venue had always been something of an underground hit. Popular with the lovies and thesps of the West End, it was somewhere I had known since my mid twenties. However, ironically, it wasn’t somewhere I had visited more that twice before. Now I can afford to eat and drink there without too much trouble – but in the 1980’s as a struggling actor anything other than a coke (diet coke was still to hit the market widely in the UK) was as pipe dream. But you could make a drink last a while and hope to be seen by someone interesting and important (not that it ever happened).

Perhaps it was because this venue had become something of a special treat symbolising potential future success that I remember it so well. Having a feel rather like Cheers bar (some of the London lovies will need no more to identify it) this bar had it’s own long standing pianist and a myriad of show posters decorating the walls.

It was one of these posters I remember being prominently positioned over the bar in the mid 80’s. A classic poster publicising Follies which was the latest surprise hit from Wythenshaw (where I was I believe lucky enough to see Meg Johnson rock the north west) which looked like it may make it to the West End in due course.  Many other posters were prominently positioned until each wall was covered with a scattering of the most successful shows from the past five years. But with it’s orange and blue tones being an amazing counterpoint to the subdued lighting in the venue this poster was seared into my mind.

Now, far away from the bar and in one of the secluded corners of the room, I find myself having a meal some thirty years later. Having been engaged with the conversation I hadn’t really looked around at the details of the largely unchanged room. They – as if reaching back through my personal life I was drawn to an art-deco scroll just out of sight to my right. I didn’t really need to check further but looking at the unchanged poster (now relegated to the wall near the kitchens) it was as if the intervening years had suddenly slipped away.

For an indeterminate amount of time I recalled voices, songs, even the feel of tap shoes past across my mind briefly as they clicked and snapped their triple time steps hopefully across the bar between matinee and evening performance. How strange that such an unexpected collection of memories are what came back to me first.

In part, it felt like a different life, a different me. Some friends now long gone could be heard for the first time in over a quarter of a century and details of the bar I hadn’t consciously noted seemed strangely familiar. At the same time, I never felt more like myself. A home from home and somewhere I felt both welcome and real. It won’t be as long before I return to this oasis in theatre land.

%d bloggers like this: