Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Entrances and Exits

I know, it's a hackneyed theme, but I feel as though I've been in and out of so may doors this year and it's barely April. I knew my dear stepfather would die fairly soon, but that doesn't make it any easier. I shall miss him. He was one of the few people I could really sit in companionable silence with. And this might sound odd, but it's a privilege seeing someone die, or at least very close to death. Birth and death are very similar. They're both a struggle and you are probably never more individually you than when you're entering or leaving. It's your beginning and your end; no one else's.

My American Aunt died just before Christmas and my uncle - her baby brother - died  early this year. One of my cousins said we should stick together more. Pretty soon there will be no one left. We're shuffling towards the door ourselves, of course, and a few of us have already lost our siblings. I buried my cat last week too. You might say it's only a cat. Well, yes, but it was still a life and there is no such thing as an unimportant life. I loved the way he sat in the sun and yawned.

There have been work doors, too. I've finished my second poetry residency in a care home and begun a third. I really like working with older people. It's very hard to be preoccupied with your own little corner of the world when you meet so many people who have lived longer than you have. Today, for example, I met a man who had been an actor in Sri Lanka and had toured India, Pakistan and Afghanistan before coming to England and converting from stage to a screen career. Across the table from him was a woman who'd been sent into service on her 14th birthday. She said she'd hated every minute of it. Accidents of birth, entitlement, year, country, cultural heritage...One woman spoke last week about looking down from a plane and seeing the human race as dots. It's hard to be self-obsessed.

The intergenerational project with Oxford Concert Party starts in two weeks. One of the joys of intergenerational work is the complete freshness of young people and the meeting place they create with older participants. Wisdom is not the sole provenance of people who've been around longer.

I greatly value working with musicians and composers. I learnt much from Oliver Vibrans earlier this year and welcome any opportunity I can get now to think about the relationship between music and words.

And finally, my cultural radar has tended towards radio recently - the excellent production of The Skriker on Radio 4 and chancing upon Eric Whitacre's extraordinary 'Cloudburst', a version of which you can see here:

Words and music...and much more.

And Heaney's posthumous gift to us - his marvellous translation of The Aeneid, Book VI. A must. But be quick. There are only 12 days left to listen. You can always buy it, of course, and read it for yourself again and again.

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