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Reading Week

Maytime, week one. Highly unusual weather for Brighton Festival! For the first time since 1984 it's warm and sunny! We booked very sparingly, after my bitter complaints of the late nights spent shivering in rain-dripping beer tents last year, looking for the fun . . . Gabriel came down for MOOT's production of Stockhausen's Inori, his "great musical prayer", at St Nicolas (it means adorations; Stockhausen was living in Japan at the time, had become very keen on all things Japanese). Alain Louafi, the original collaborator was mesmerising. Then it was Yanis Varoufakis in conversation with Paul Mason at the Dome. Packed house for another very classy act. I agree with this man about most things, but never seen him live. A different person from the goofy guy on Youtube, lamely informing Google apparatchiks that "money is not a good . . ." (Good luck with that one, mate) money is politics (now you're talking). I had no idea he was so adored in the "People's Republic of Brighton". Varoufakis for President!

& then it was Gabriel and Marianne's concert, sadly going to be the last for a while plus all of us gutted by the sudden news that the EU Youth Orchestra is about to fold (& not only because Marianne works for them). Please sign and share. Moving on for me and Peter to a scifi event on Portslade Beach: possibly aiming for a "very early Dr Who episode" sort of ambience. Beach wonderfully desolate. Event: Lame. Didn't work at all. I herewith apologise publicly to my partner. Saturday, we walked over from Lewes to Glynde to go pond-dipping in the dewpond where the water-boatmen dwell. I did not kidnap any! Although sorely tempted. The downs there awash with cowslips, I never saw so many, and these were endangered, almost vanished, just 20 years ago. & hurrying back to our second MOOT gig, the Ligeti Quartet & Shabaka Hutchings playing "Octavia" (Octavia Butler, that is) the composer (Hutchings) on clarinet. But I got distracted thinking about the programme notes, which cite Butler's "reverence for change" and her "belief that adaptation to change is a form of worship". Ah, I do know that theme, but no, I don't like it. Reminds me of a certain kind of grim feminism you get in Doris Lessing, a take your sh*t and eat it girl feminism. In a pig's eye will I ever reverence changes that I detest. Never! (and yet "The Morning, The Evening And The Night" is my favourite Butler story). Turned out I liked the opener, a spiky, airy Milton Babbit string quartet that must have been a devil to play, best of the whole programme. There was a Morton Feldman piece after Octavia, but it was so sonorous, so unshaped, so dreamy, it just put me to sleep. (Not literally, thank God).

Week Three, and calming down.My Dinner With Andre (part of our revisit the video library project); the video tape lost, the movie found (on Youtube), as mysteriously enthralling as ever. It's just two blokes. All they do is talk,at a stuffy old NYC restaurant. I don't even like "theater people". So, no explanation. A mangled seagull chick on the garden path, sniffed at by Milo & thank goodness v. thoroughly dead already. The massive predator's beak and taloned foot already distinct. Poor thing, and our poor chimneystack friends, that's two lost children, two years in a row; even if they did eat our goldfish. It's the jackdaws, of course. & this week re-reading Helen Merrick's The Secret Feminist Cabal. Still fascinating, but I was disappointed that Helen moves so completely away from developments in fandom into academe, once the Tiptree Award's established (I'd forgotten that). But how different everything is now! How differently the battle lines (appear to be) drawn, when Obama can be warmly praised for getting it right about toilets; as if trans-identity was now the whole problem with gender issues

Each and every one of us is a mosaic of male/female cells; "genes"; traits. Fine. Some of us have known that for a long time. But what the writer fails to note is the horrible, ugly price that people born functionally female,and called women, the world over, are still paying, and it's getting worse, despite this "liberating" revelation. Is it really, after all, "the old Adam" we have to fear. Not "men", being functionally male is innocent, but certain utterly destructive and callous male traits, however embodied; whatever the gender of choice? And if so, then what?

The full moon a misty silver coin on pewter in my window, as I prowl around, struck by insomnia, and this week it's more Louis Malle, Vanya on 42nd Street, his last movie, just wonderful, wonderful, & the old videotape playing without a hitch. In time for the weather to break, we have bought a new tent! (previous tent given to the refugees), it's a Vaude again, the Travel Mark 3P, very roomy and sturdy. Sunday 22nd I was invited by Friends Of The Earth to decorate my twitter profile pic with a "twibbon" for Five Frack Free Years, but somehow I thought I wouldn't; sure enough next day, North Yorkshire Council's planning committee, overturning the local council's decision and despite overwhelming objections from the community, voted to approve Third Energy's plan to frack its existing well in Kirby Misperton. There will now be a pause, says Third Energy, but I didn't notice one. Looked more like an instant gusher of renewed assaults to me War has been declared.

& so farewell again, Elementary, farewell Sherlock, Joan, Captain Gregson and Marcus; farewell the fleeting presences of Mrs Hudson and "Mittens". And I almost wish you were gone forever, if the looming, glooming, blight of Denethor (I mean, John Noble as Morland Holmes) is the price of season 5. Can't stand that guy.

Then came the cowslip,
Like a dancer to the fair,
She spread her little mat of green,
And on it danced she.
With a fillet bound about her brow,
A fillet round her happy brow,
A golden fillet round her brow,
And rubies in her hair.

I finished my next-to-last run-through of Proof of Concept on Friday 27th; so now I'm having a reading week. I have studied the mystery of Joanna Russ's relationship with Vladimir Nabokov (I mean, I've read Lolita**, Pale Fire, Nabokov In America); I have looked into the crucial "To Write Like A Woman" essay (Willa Cather: O Pioneers, My Antonia). I have read Cherryh's Chronicles of Morgaine (which I liked very much, long ago, but not quite as much as Serpent's Reach or Downbelow Station ); including the v interesting Andre Norton intro; and Delaney's Triton. Moving on to The Dispossessed when I've posted this. I have to go to Liverpool, to read The Country You Have Never Seen, and see what else Andy Sawyer can do for me, but soon I'll be ready to start writing about Joanna Russ. That controversial figure.

And Barnsley beat Millwall and have joined the Championship! (I went along to protect Peter, a fan since he was a child at boarding school; it's a long story). Verdict: I preferred the Nou Camp. The Nou Camp has bats! Also, people don't fidget, they stay in their seats, apart from when it's obligatory to leap up, wave your arms and roar. At Wembley it was fidget, fidget, fidget. Up and down, coming and going, the whole time (this is not counting the actual fisticuffs). Got on my nerves

The swifts arrived on the 6th, classically, on a sunny blue morning, as I was hanging out the washing. Haven't seen much of them since the weather failed, but every day I hear the sparrows, tuneless and charming, calling loudly, up and down the gardens, and that's a new development. Time was, 15 years ago, we thought they were gone forever. Now, here's hoping, they seem to be making a comeback. & there's an end to May.

& here we are in June, with that stupid EU referendum ever closer.

Ads and Bookmarks

My Dinner With Andre

The H.G.Wells Society is holding its conference in Woking this year. I went to this show a few years ago at Kent University, and it was very interesting & enjoyable. Also a fine bookstall. If you're interested in Wells, I suggest you book your place:

Clarion Writeathon needs you! Start date 19th June!

The EUYO needs you too!

& here's Ruth Hayhurst's June Calendar for fracking issues, meetings, etc. There seem to be a lot of them.

*Sydney Thompson Dobell. As quoted in "What To Look For In Spring" Ladybird Nature Series.

**Never been able to read Lolita. Couldn't get past the loins. I'm allergic to loins. I trained myself to endure D H Laurence's loins, but at least they aren't on the first page, first line! Also hated the exculpating fake intro. Needs must, so now I know it's a powerful story, beginning and end, although far too fat in the middle & I don't personally like Nabokov any better.


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