Tuesday, 15 April 2014

In the garden

Recently I've been having a "bit of trouble" as Frank Spencer used to say.

The trouble itself isn't the subject of this blog, it's the catalyst. I'm hoping that by writing it down the ameliorating warmth of catharsis will kick in and I'll feel a bit brighter.

There's only one person I want to see at times like these and that is impossible. Death has that way of rendering infinite unavailability to those we love.

Even now, three years after I said goodbye for the last time, she's still the person I think of first in good and bad times.

I was walking and crying on Sunday and more than anything I wanted to be sitting in her company.
In the garden of the little house that she'd been able to buy for us after her divorce.

It was just a rotovated plot then, which she planted with new plants and with a small number of cuttings that she tended carefully from the garden of our old house.

These plants were a connection she had to my brother who had tried to take over the tasks left by our father when he'd left.

Michael's heart condition was gathering pace by then.

It was taking his breath, which should have been being used casually, to chat up girls, but instead was being fought for furiously and secretly just to keep going. His failing heart was weakening by the day but as it was made of integrity he kept going. No one knew for a while, how ill he was.

So these cuttings were more than precious.

I understand gardens as memorials.

They capture both the stillness of loss and the renewal of life through the plants and the seasons which dictate them. Domestic gardens are full of the effort and interest of their owners and it's almost as though they absorb and reflect those attributes with serenity. It's a reciprocal arrangement and research shows the beneficial effects of gardening on mental health.

So that's where I'd like to be.

Yet the sight of a tearful stranger; a woman who you don't recognise, turning up on your doorstep and asking to let her sit in your garden can be overwhelming, so I didn't think I'd try that.

I just walked on.

I suppose it doesn't really matter where I am. The memories of mum still live in my mind that's  the sanctuary I crave really because love isn't a space, a place, a building, or a grave.

Those are just the structures which take you to memory.

As long as I have those she'll be beside me.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Derek 2

photo  @rickygervais

As I’m reviewing a new show by Ricky Gervais permit me to get the following paragraphs out of the way, then those who seek negative appraisals may be satiated and move on and those who don’t will understand the peril inherent in a review of his work that is positive.

“Ricky Gervais the aggressively atheist, controversial, shock comic, who attacks at will, leaves no hateful stone unturned, no minority group in peace and no celebrity un-shamed has done it again. But this time he’s come for “the disableds”. We know he's answered that question here but we're determined.


“This man is no ordinary man, he gave us The Office then sought to destroy our confidence and his reputation by not giving us The Office again. If he had continued to give us The Office again for the subsequent decade of his career we would have complained bitterly that he was unable to be original but he didn’t so we can’t.”


“Let us closely examine his mind because we want to and his choices because we must and let us find both the man and anyone who enjoys his work pathologically lacking in compassion, emotional intelligence and discernment.
Whilst there is a Ricky Gervais we can’t be Ricky Gervais and the level within entertainment to which he has risen, serves as a reminder of our own position and life choices; we’re not happy with that fact at all.
Publicly sharing our negative opinions is an activity that keeps us bathed in a warm glow of comfort. LoL”

Hope that helps.

Derek 2 begins as series 1 ended, with the focus on the relationships of the residents and workers at Broadhill Retirement Home.

Derek’s father, Anthony, underplayed very nicely by Tony Rohr, has moved in and the addition of the  excellent Colin Hoult, as a truculent new care worker, prompts one character to move on.

I can’t give plot spoilers by revealing who it is because this is the internet and I’d have to leave, but it’s not Tim or Dawn, they’re in a show called The Office.

Young care worker Vicky, is fulltime now and her character, once again beautifully realised by Hollie Dempsey, has the naturalness and lightness in performance which is the hallmark of all Gervais’s projects in terms of casting. We see that worse people than Kev do exist in the brief but highly memorable appearance of the shapeless, shambling form of his brother Cliff.

There is more light shone on Hannah’s relationship with Tom and Kerry Godliman is excellent again. Brett Goldstein comfortably demonstrates his ability as a comic and serious actor, as the couple traverse a fraught path emotionally. 

photo @rickygervais

Due to more transitions, the burgeoning bromance, between Derek and Kev, gives some wonderful moments of physical comedy. There is more range and scope for this to be explored in Series 2. We know them and trust them now.

David Earl reinforces the view that no one "plays disgusting" quite like him and continues to move skillfully between comedy and pathos without diminishing our engagement with his performance in either respect. 

The central themes established in Series 1 remain intact and elaborated on in Derek 2.

This is a show of self contained fables, of modern naturalistic fairytales weaved into every episode.  The women are lionesses kind, caring and fearlessly protective and this is a notable and familiar facet of Gervais’s writing.

All his women characters are stand-alone characters, human, truthful and real who never serve simply as a conduit to the storyline of the male leads.

Gervais as ever disappears into the character of Derek and again it’s an extraordinary, lovely performance.

A man regarded as acerbic, cynical and knowing; an A lister who is friends with most household names and possessed of more swagger than a Gallagher brother on Red Bull, disappears so completely into character, not caricature, in a gentle way which details the love he has for Derek.

Most importantly Gervais has a definite appreciation of the value in crafting stories from the truth and a very welcome and sadly uncommon, understanding of the value of vulnerable people’s lives.

I watched the whole series from start to finish in a single night. 

I love this time between watching it and others watching it, because as much as I know it will be loved and hugely enjoyed, I also know that some, whose job it is to give their opinions for money, will rip and tear at the show in the way they always do.

But I feel a great sadness too.  There is almost an OCD-esque need from some to denigrate anything he does which some critics who formed an entrenched opinion about Ricky Gervais’s work a decade ago, would do well to move on from. 

It imbues their writing and is nakedly dull.

Derek is a show, which requires you to suspend cynicism in order to enjoy it.
It doesn’t insult your sensibilities, it unashamedly invites you to view genuine compassion and lasting love as greater achievements than material wealth and knowing sophistication.

It is, I feel a tribute to Gervais and by Gervais to those who he cares for.  To his parents, his brothers and sisters, to his family who’ve worked in the care service for years and to bestselling novelist Jane Fallon, his partner of more than thirty years and the perfect muse for his depiction of Hannah, in my opinion. 

photo @rickygervais

In essence the show is funny and kind and intelligent and warm hearted, the characters unaffected by the cynical world outside, open to challenge, clear about what’s important and asking for nothing more than an open mind. 

Just like Ricky Gervais.

Derek returns to C4 on 10pm on  23rd April and to Netflix on 30th May

Monday, 7 April 2014

Music and lyrics

Firmly put back in her place, she wonders, does she know that face,
producing words of pain and haste,
Depressingly familiar.

Time obscures some memory, the truth of what had ceased to be,
It lives this act of cruelty,
Through music.

Does he remember that they said, “The ending of the book ahead,
The pages turned and pages read,
We’ll write it”

A taken chance and now it's done, the truth of what they were, is gone
The battles fought aren’t battles won,
Just shadows.

This woman here, I used to know, she falls as she attempts to go,
Still smiling daily, if as though,
Not broken.

And whilst he’s breathing through the pain, of all the loss, of secret gain
Outside the gentle summer rain,
Falls silent.

When did his life become his plight; a dead man’s walk into the night,
A tortured dream of dynamite,

Now everything that’s left unsaid, a fleeting thought, an unmade bed,
A rainbow's end that empty head,
All broken.