Extract from the Daily Mirror
The emergence of this wrecked Beaufighter after more than 75 years struck me as interesting for a variety of reasons. Rather as memories emerge from traumatic periods in the past. It seems to me that much of the current political debate over Brexit and other matters is connected with unresolved conflicts from the past. Also there is the contrast or juxtaposition between the terrible last moments in the cockpit, as the engines failed, and the discovery of the wreck by the arrival of the dog bounding across the sands so many years later.
Thinking of the variety of persons lost from Leslie Howard, the Film-star in 1943, Antoine St Expupery in July 1944 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_de_Saint-Exup%C3%A9ry) and the disappearance of Jazz Band leader Glenn Miller in December 1944, I came across this famous poem by W.B.Yeats.
An Irish Airman Forsees His Death
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
This great poem exposes what sometimes is forgotten – the treatment of the Irish in the shady forgotten history of British imperialism. Kiltartan by the way is not far from Galway.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
So writes T.S. Eliot in Burnt Norton, the first of the Four Quartets. It makes one wonder what memories can be recalled of this particular Rose Garden. A slightly strange venue to choose surely? Maybe the door ought not to have been opened? Most will recall the unfortunate and strange meeting that heralded the unfortunate Coalition Indeed, it was another Special Adviser, Julia Goldsworthy who was to finally conclude, “Many Liberal Democrat activists would have found the Rose Garden love-in between David Cameron and Nick Clegg “sick-inducing”. Perhaps it was to give a green tinge to distract from 260 miles or more of carbon emissions.
It is not just the receding hairline of Cummings that brings G and S’s Mikado character of Nanki-Poo to mind. This histrionic and grumpy individual needs a trickster or Jungian alter ego. Remember it is Nanki-Poo who sings-
The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Breathe promise of merry sunshine —
As we merrily dance and we sing,
We welcome the hope that they bring,
Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.
And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.
Tra la la la la,
Tra la la la la,
The flowers that bloom in the spring.
This indeed is the Topsy-Turvy World where the Rose Garden becomes the stage for attic antics. Incidentally, Topsy-Turvy is an excellent film directed by the redoubtable Mike Leigh about the making of the Mikado.
The Mikado is relevant here too in more serious ways- it is about a fiercely autocratic society. There is the haughty nobleman, Pooh-Bah.There is making the punishment fit the crime. In Leigh’s film there is drug addiction- there is social distancing and the overwhelming distance brtween performance and the dark and stark reality. In both there is meiosis, a drastic understatement of the situation. Which brings us back to today’s performance attempting to come up smelling of roses.
Durward Lely as Nanki-Poo
Arte is a brilliant source of great programmes on various topics, many of which are cultural or historical, in French and in German. Here is one in French in which it is possible to hear the absurd inequalities of the English class system spoken in French. This naturally has the effect of being somewhat amusing. The voyeuristic pleasure which the lower orders are supposed to derive from the spectacle is supposed to distract from other concerns- like properly funded public services.
The French and German subtitles are useful too, Here is another view of one aspect of English education by a great teacher, novelist and poet.
The Oxford Voice by D.H. Lawrence
When you hear it languishing
and hooing and cooing, and sidling through the front teeth,
the Oxford voice
or worse still
the would-be Oxford voice
you don’t even laugh any more, you can’t.
For every blooming bird is an Oxford cuckoo nowadays,
you can’t sit on a bus nor in the tube
but it breathes gently and languishingly in the back of
And oh, so seductively superior, so seductively
We wouldn’t insist on it for a moment
but we are
you admit we are
A more gentle and highly amusing perspective on a smaller scale perhaps is the radio series Plum House. It is a Comedy about the eccentric and inept staff at Plum House, former country home of minor 18th-century poet George Pudding. Written by Ben Cottam and Paul Mckenna. It may be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07hk30x
The above photograph comes from an interesting website called http://www.streetphotographyintheworld.com/masters-of-street-photography-by-carlo-traina/masters-of-street-photography-robert-doisneau/
How might we read such a photograph? It has a surreal quality about it that we might associate it with Magritte. The artist, musician and his instrument appear in a classical composition like the three graces. They are starkly outlined against the white Paris sky in front of the descending staircase. The two men seem isolated in their solitude and their is a feeling of expectation and a gentlemanly respect for the instrument whose feminine shape seems implied.
There is a humane quality which suffuses Doisneau’s work- a magical charm. The photograph makes a nice comparison with the famous HMV poster. It is impossible to say weather the subject is more enchanted by the splendid device or the music emerging from the cumbersome, jolly gramophone. Probably he is entranced by both. His posture and beret adds to the general levity of the scene.
Doisneau photographed many great artists and this photograph captures the master, Picasso in his characteristic striped jersey with his penetrating gaze. The photographer makes a marvellous joke with the distorted fingers of bread rolls. It seems likely that this was contrived between them. A morphic distortion and also an interesting game with perspective too.
It is a time when political matters appear to be quite falling apart as the boring pedantic Johnson scrabbles his way to power. The badly led opposition seems occupied in necessary self-immolation.Consequently, everyone needs some relief from the current tedium and the dear old Radio Times proves useful as it suggests highly interesting programmes in odd recherche places.
New angles on post-war Germany and Austria
proved to be one such opportunity and last night’s programme compared by the heyzerik but delightful Anne McElvoy with Florian Huber, Sophie Hardach, Adam Scovell and Tom Smith have produced a very interesting programme. If you have time, you will find it at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sjx
Thefull details are at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006sjx-
Among the topics discussed is the work of the great Austrian novelist and prize-winner, Thomas Bernhard
The programme includes Bernhard’s account of his days in the Cafe Braunerhof.
.The following 1948nEast German poster sets the tone of the programme too.https://www.reddit.com/r/PropagandaPosters/duplicates/2znorc/this_east_german_postwar_poster_shows_how_the/
For anyone interested in literary podcasts and programmes, the following link may prove of use-
One of the better reviews on this film comes from Paul Whitington at https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/sunset-review-kafkaesque-melodramatic-enthralling-38163466.html where he writes:-
“Laszlo Nemes’ sumptuously photographed drama is set in 1913 in Budapest, where the existential anxieties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are embodied in the slender form of Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a young woman with a dark past.
She bears the name of the city’s most stylish hat store, Leiter’s: her parents died there in a fire when she was two, and Irisz was raised elsewhere but now returns, looking for work, and answers.
Instead she finds secrets, a wall of silence, and dark rumours about a murderous brother she never knew she had.
Full of dark portents of the continental carnage to come, Sunset is Kafkaesque, melodramatic, enthralling.”
This is not an easy film to understand and it certainly is not in the usual genre of an historical film. Much is about the contrast between the superficial elegance and the arduous and dangerous conflicts beneath this attractive outward view. However, it has to be said that I very much enjoyed the visual presentation of the surface; the milliner’s store with its stupendous colourful hats and the horse drawn carriages. History crept in when a news-vendor announces that the Austro-Hungarian empire is to launch another battleship- jogging the memory that this primarily land locked empire held a port at Trieste. As I have yet to visit Budapest, although I have visited both Vienna and Bratislava, this area intrigues me. This point in time too is the subject to much of the concerns of the novels of Joseph Roth and the magnificent films of that other brilliant Hungarian director, from a previous generation, stván Szabó. Also, for good measure, the Empress Sisi arrives from Vienna in a somewhat grumpy personification. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduchess_Elisabeth_Marie_of_Austria
In thinking about this film, I remembered that the famous psychoanalyist, Melanie Klein was living in Budapest at this time. She received her psychoanalytic education with Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest during World War I. She specialized in his advice in child analysis and became one of the first in this field. I mention this because much of the film really deals with states of mind like confusion, exclusion and certain feminist attitudes. It is interesting to see what the film is saying about issues in the contemporary world and in its concentration upon one individual’s perceptions and their attempts to understand relationships with siblings, we seem to be in territory where Klein’s work is uniquely valuable. Here is her photograph wearing an elegant hat.
A slideshow of Klein’s life and theories may be found at https://slideplayer.com/slide/6193313/
Watching this film, one is reminded that the film-maker has stated that he has been influenced by Stanley Kubrick and indeed some of the themes do seem rather similar to those Kubrick examines in “91/2 Weeks”. This latter film was an adaptation, of course, of Arthur Schnitzler’s “Traumnovelle” (Dream Story” but without the anti-anti-Semitic aspects of the earlier work which seems based upon Viennese secret societies. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/24/alternative-ending-discovered-to-book-behind-eyes-wide-shut