This blog is in a state of suspended animation

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    'But you say she has only got one leg!'

    'She is as full of mischief as tho' she had ten'.

            Lady De Courcy and Mrs Proudie discussing La Signora, Barchester Towers

only after i posted that last photograph ('nothing') did i realise that it was here, one evening in 1920,  that 'mouse', the son of kenneth grahame, died under by a train, aged 19. suicide almost certainly. mouse was the monstrous, beloved and over-pampered model for toad in the wind in the willows.



the vile, pious, scheming mr slope meets his match in la signora. fantastic.

"Mr. Slope tried hard within himself to cast off the pollution with which he felt that he was defiling his soul. He strove to tear himself away from the noxious siren that had bewitched him. But he could not do it. He could not be again heart free. He had looked for rapturous joy in loving this lovely creature, and he already found that he met with little but disappointment and self-rebuke. He had come across the fruit of the Dead Sea, so sweet and delicious to the eye, so bitter and nauseous to the taste. He had put the apple to his mouth, and it had turned to ashes between his teeth. Yet he could not tear himself away. He knew, he could not but know, that she jeered at him, ridiculed his love, and insulted the weakness of his religion. But she half-permitted his adoration, and that half-permission added such fuel to his fire that all the fountain of his piety could not quench it. He began to feel savage, irritated, and revengeful. He meditated some severity of speech, some taunt that should cut her, as her taunts cut him. He reflected as he stood there for a moment, silent before her, that if he desired to quell her proud spirit, he should do so by being prouder even than herself; that if he wished to have her at his feet suppliant for his love, it behoved him to conquer her by indifference. All this passed through his mind. As far as dead knowledge went, he knew, or thought he knew, how a woman should be tamed. But when he essayed to bring his tactics to bear, he failed like a child. What chance has dead knowledge with experience in any of the transactions between man and man? What possible chance between man and woman? Mr. Slope loved furiously, insanely and truly, but he had never played the game of love. The signora did not love at all, but she was up to every move of the board. It was Philidor pitted against a schoolboy".

i doubt the evening standard will give me a right of reply so i’m doing it myself…

i was at the west end opening of curious at the apollo theatre on shafestbury avenue on 12th march. it was an astonishing evening in so many ways. certainly the most uplifting night i have ever spent in the theatre.

i was sitting in the circle. will gompertz, the bbc arts  editor, was sitting 3 seats away. we’d met a couple of times before and said a friendly hello. after the curtain call at the end of the play he got up to leave and i suggested that he hang on for a couple of minutes or he might miss something (i won’t spoil it for anyone going to see the play by saying what). that was the entirety of what passed between us.

two days later an article appeared in the evening standard, titled gompertz confesses to curious lapse of memory about the night-time dog. it ran like this

will gompertz, the bbc’s arts editor, confessed to an embarrassing encounter with novelist mark haddon at tuesday’s press night of the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.

compering an event at the barbican last night, gompertz told the audience he was seated next to the author of the book-turned-stage production at the apollo theatre and as the lights came up, he said: “well done. but why aren’t the actors taking their curtain call?” haddon replied: “because it’s the first half, you f***ing idiot.” gompertz swears he has read the book but was swept away by the production.

i would never talk to anyone in this way. and i'm really uncomfortable at the idea that many people now think i talk to people in this way. 

if 5% of the evening standard’s readership read the article that’s 35,000 people.

it’s generally assumed that you should grow a thicker skin if you appear in newspapers or on tv. i think the obligation should be on journalists not to insult people for entertainment.

(god, it's a long time since i've been here...)

a strange thing (not unlinked to 'tiler serendipity below): it wasn't until after i'd written polar bears (a play for the donmar warehouse a few years back) that i had pointed out to me the blindingly obvious link between the title and bipolar disorder from which kay, the main character, suffers. i assumed it had been my lazy unconscious at work, i was rather embarrassed at the obviousness and rather wanted to wind the clock back and choose another anmial and another title (a polar bears also appears in anthony neilsen's play about bipolar disorder, the wonderful world of dissocia, which i hadn't seen at the time).

the other day, however, i was re-listening to nowhere by ride, an album i've been listening to on-and-off for a long time (i owned a cassette of it - that long), and the lyrics of the song polar bear jumped out at me.

She knew she was able to fly / Because when she came down / She had dust on her hands from the sky. / She said, 'I touched the ground'. / She felt so high the dust made her cry.

this, i realised, was what i must have been thinking off when i was writing the play (kay does think she can fly when manic). and i knew that song had affected me because i'd done an etching and called it 'polar bear' (see below - rubbish scan thereof).

i'd forgotten all of this.

footnote: a brief google reveals that the lyrics are an adaptation of a paragraph from j d salinger's franny and zooey. the chain goes on...

i've just downloaded both the ibook facsimile of the shakespeare first folio and the shakespeare's sonnets app, both of which, in their different ways, are great things.

the first folio was published in 1623  by john heminges and henry condell. 18 of the plays had been published before in quarto but this is the main source for the texts of pretty much every play we know was written by shakespeare. the ibook is exactly what it says on the tin, a photographic digital version of the first folio. you can flick through and you can zoom. that's it. but if this is your bag, and it is very much my bag, then it's oddly thrilling. it seems expensive  at £14.99 but the norton facsimile on paper is £142.50 which makes this version a bit of bargain.


the sonnest app contains (deep breath)... the notes from the arden edition of the sonnets, a commentary by don paterson, a facsimile of the 1609 quarto edition and video readings by fiona shaw, cominic west, kate fleetwood, david tennant... all synchronised to the texts, marginal notes, a series of little video essays by experts (as opposed to semi-informed celebrities) and doubtless some other stuff i haven't found yet.

it's like the wasteland app (also by touch press) but better.

don't be put off by the sight of stephen fry on the touch press page. obviously, stephen fry is perfect in certain contexts and he does indeed read a sonnet here but his picture belies the seriousness of the project.

this, i think is the future of the ebook. not sinking it's digital teeth into the neck of the physical book industry but doing what can't be done on paper: video, audio, interaction, hyperlinking, synchronising all these things...