Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gardens are like Countries

I have a garden. I love it and have taken care of it for forty years. It is tiny, just about three quarters of a tennis court. It was bare and empty when I first arrived but over the years it has filled up so now it is overflowing.

At first I took everything I was offered even if the plants were not suitable for the small space. Friends were happy to give me plants and still are. Some were invasive and crept in from the garden next door.  Just one tiny cutting could within a few years become a menace if allowed  to take over which they would do and all the natives would be swamped but some menaces are so pretty that I keep them firmly under control. I remove all weeds ruthlessly as the endanger my natives.

Some plants I love but it is a waste of time growing as they are not suitable for our sub tropical climate. I cannot grow any plants that require a good frost like peonies, apricots, apples, Tea roses. I used to have a go but they constantly let me down so now I am very picky about the plants I choose. Plants that require frost or all day sun are not suitable for my tiny garden. They would thrive elsewhere but not for me.

The plants I have I look after. I spend money on my garden. I know every plant and I look after them. I water and feed them at great expense but they look healthy and they are worth it. My garden is beautiful.

Now my small garden is full. My friends still want to give me plants but sadly I have told them that there is no more room. Plants are living things and I have no time or space for any more. Sadly I have told them no more plants at the moment. I never say never.

Countries are like gardens.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Traveller's Club 2014 - Penises only!

Traveller's Club - Wiki Creative Commons

Today the Traveller's Club one of the pillars of the Establishment surpassed itself by voting to continue its practice of discrimination against women. In 2014 the ownership of a penis is still a valuable commodity and screams out that any man however silly is still better than a woman even the Queen!

The Guardian reported this and as usual invited comments. I use these comment opportunities and this is what I wrote: 

This must be a record. Not one single comment from a woman on the topic of male clubs and their reluctance to accept women members so I suppose I must show the flag. It seems women are not interested in joining these last bastions of male privilege where the price of admission is the ownership of a penis and can you blame us.

However it is insulting to all women, insensitive, discriminatory and offensive that this could continue today. The Taliban is a good example but the Freemasons are another example of an all male club where if I were a penis owner I should be readily accepted.

By chance ladies I caught a glimpse of this all male club in action so you might be interested to know what you are missing. This may be moderated. I taught ballet and for 11 years used the local Freemason's Hall. It had a very ordinary entrance hall.  One night just before Xmas my little fairies had a dress rehearsal at about 7 pm. To our amazement the hall wall had disappeared and in front of us were about 50 men all dressed up as crusaders with swords and dirty white unironed tabards which had obviously not been shown to their wives The look on their crusaders faces when confronted with 15 little six year olds was something I shall never forget.

Here were all the notables of our small town looking silly. My fairies were astonished and so was I being the only adult female present. Consternation followed as obviously no woman was allowed to witness this and I am not surprised. It was so funny. I wondered if these men's wives were aware of what their husbands were up to.

Ladies they are playing at dressing up! They rehearse this sort of stuff.

Anyway red faces all around. The Masons were not amused. The hall walls were reassembled and we were asked to leave. I stuck to my guns and continued with my rehearsal. All Freemasons halls have a secret room I found out. This one was very well hidden. The Masons found the incident embarrassing. My fairies loved it.

I am not afraid of men. I was raised in this club having no female companions. I am allowed to join in most things, like trainspotting, stamp collecting, frogs spawning but I am not allowed to join their clubs! Why! because I don't have a penis. This makes men feel good. It is ridiculous.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lucian Freud Kate Moss's Ticket to Immortality

Some women inspire great artists and Kate Moss is in this class. She has inspired more than one and for that we should all be grateful.

Lucian Freud is why Kate Moss will be remembered in future centuries. Through him she has secured her posterity. She does not have to do anything else. Freud was the master of painting skin and his nude portrait of her in 2003 is one of the most beautiful nudes ever. The quality of the brush strokes make me tremble!

Love her or leave her it makes no matter. Her image will be around when all of us are long gone. Only the lucky few have the chance of immortality by meeting and inspiring a genius. She must and is very special.

For all her critics and she has many who do not get her, Kate Moss will have the last laugh. Nothing they can do will airbrush her out of the  history of art. Her image will be stand the test of time.

Strangely I have been fortunate too but that is another story.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Is a Citizen's Income the way of the future?

 The society our politicians are shaping is defined by the idea of "something for something". What would happen if, instead, we were given something for nothing? A new campaign for a "citizen's income" asks exactly that.
Replacing the costly, complex benefits system, a citizen's income is an unconditional payment granted to every individual as a right of citizenship. It's not a high figure – barely enough to survive on alone, and below the minimum wage – but it is designed to prevent all of us from falling into poverty traps. Compellingly, it removes the stigma from state support. There is no difference between a student, a person managing life with a disability, a pensioner and someone struggling to find stable employment if we all share the same basic starting point. Guardian

A Citizen's Income sounds a good idea to me. The advance of technology means that millions of boring repetitive jobs are no longer available and the rise in populations means that in the future jobs for all is unsustainable. Many are going to lose out.

Some people do not like to do conventional work. They are not good at it and would prefer to do nothing or pursue their own interests for a very low standard of living. Artists are good examples. They are not good employees in conventional jobs if forced into them.

Having a Citizen's Income would mean that those who wanted to work and benefit would find getting work easier and those who didn't could scrape by and not bother the rest of us. It would also mean that employers would have to make their low wage, boring jobs more attractive than a subsistence income which they have no incentive to do at the moment.

The Romans had a similar problem of what to do with their unemployed citizens and their answer was Bread and Circuses so a Citizen's Income is not a new concept.

Good on Switzerland for having a go.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Lady of the Camellias Evgenia Obraztsova Bolshoi

On March 22 2014 Evgenia Obraztsova partnered by Vladislav Lantratov danced in The Lady of the Camillias at the Bolshoi with choreography by the American born but Hamburg based John Neumeier. Obraztsova is my favourite ballerina of the moment as for me she has not only the technical dance ability of a great ballerina but she is also a consummate actress. There is no one to touch her.

Neumeier is the Prince of Story Ballet choreographers with a string of memorable ballets to his credit so it was with much pleasure that I watched the excerpts of the three ballerinas who are sharing the principal role for the Bolshoi season.

I did not know the ballet well as it is so new but fortunately Paris Opera and Bolshoi are not afraid of YouTube and the full Paris version is here to see as well as excerpts from the Bolshoi. Not much else written about it is to be found on the web so I have had to piece the story and history together. The one thing that did sadden me and the reason that I am writing this review is that nowhere could I find a review for Obraztsova. The other two  Bolshoi ballerinas, Svetlana Zakharova, the present prima and Olga Smirnova the young pretender were mentioned and reviewed but not Obraztsova. 

In fact Obraztsova was not even first cast or even second. She came in third and quite honestly the other two could not hold a candle to Obraztsova's performance. Like the Juliet danced when she was just 18, Obraztsova is the perfect Marguerite Gautier. Young but not too young, naive, beautiful and abused means Obraztsova does not just dance the steps she brings the character to life. She is The Lady of the Camellias.

She is brilliantly partnered by the young, handsome and virile Lantratov who too is perfect for the part of the headstrong thoughtless young lover under the thumb of his father. What a looker, so romantic and strong. She is just the right height to perform the difficult and numerous lifts that Neumeier has included unlike the other two Russian ballerinas plus the elderly and soon to be retiring Agnes Letestu. They were much too tall and although made an admiral job of the role it was a little like watching Gorilla and ant as the Armands struggled to keep them aloft bringing visions of the Hippo and the Alligator pas de deux in Disney's Fantasia.

It seems the Bolshoi is almost ashamed to own Obraztsova. When in London with the company in 2013 she was not given a review performance and it seems the same thing is happening in Moscow. Admittedly she jumped ship from the Kirov who refused to promote her above principle and denied her the Swan Lake required to promote her to ballerina. She was not alone is parting from her home company as the Kirov is going through a bad patch of favoritism with its selection of dancers. Thes best do not always get the roles.

Perhaps it is because that although Obraztsova is so much better at story ballets than either of her two Bolshoi Colleagues they are Bolshoi trained and so get preference. To be fair she is given the roles but then she is the best and the audience will demand her but she will not the first nights and therefore misses out on reviews and becoming a ballerina assoluta which she deserves. She has had to fight for her position. It has not been presented to her.

But she gets my review. Of the four ballerinas on offer for this role she is my pick and that goes for Lantratov too. I also love the dancing of Semyon Chudin who danced Des Grieux. He is still my pick when it comes to Siegfrieds in Swan Lake. Bolshoi's too as he dances with all the Swan Queens.

The music is by Chopin, all the bits not in Les Sylphides, some orchestrated some not. Not sure this works as a piano can make a performance feel like a rehearsal but Neumeier has given us a remarkable Dame aux Camelias by braiding the ghosts of Manon Lescaut into the plot in a way that adds interest. The scene where Armand abuses Marguerite is very well handled.

The true story of Dumas Fils and Marie Duplessis is more extraordinary than the book, play opera or ballet. His father Dumas Pere was the original lover of the famous young courtesan and he handed her over to his son who was so in love with her he dug her up after she was buried! This was an age for digging up lost loved ones, Berlioz did it and so did Heathcliff. Marie did not die in poverty but in England in the house of a wealthy banker in Berkshire. That she was the victim of the double standards of her age there is no doubt.

So enjoy this YouTube of Obraztsova and Lantratov. Hopefully they will be able to perfect their performances as time goes by.