Add to Technorati Favorites Janette Griffiths: February 2009

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A plea for Cultural Vagabonds and Existential Chancers

I can't plan. And no, it's not an excuse. It's a lack somewhere in my brain not unlike the lack of ability to do crosswords.  Planning ahead strains my brain in much the way that thinking about infinity makes most peoples' brains ache.  I've kept quiet about this failing - and failing it is. Most of the people I know plan mercilessly.  Their diaries are filled with entries for dinners, lunches, theatre outings, hikes, holidays and on and on it goes. If you happen to come along, and I always do, after a line has been entered in the diary for that day, well, tough, you will not be seen. Merciless.

For years, and this very much feels like coming out of a closet,  my diary was empty because most of the time, work aside, I don't really know what I will be doing in five hours let alone five days. Make that not 'don't know' but 'can't know'.  I do my best but some strange mist seems to drift into my brain  somewhere between me and the future. I try to imagine those distant five hours but remain stuck, welded into the present. Zen masters, Taoists and probably the Dalai Lama would probably applaud my own personal 'power of Now'. Most of my friends, with three glorious exceptions (morning Don, Fleur and Keet) loathe it. And in the end they drift away.

Airlines, railroads, hotels, theatres, restaurants consider me a loser, a bumbling fool whom they can exploit at will. (Try getting that elusive Eurostar £59 return when you want to go to Paris like, um, now.) 

But this week in The Independent, Howard Jacobson vindicated me in his article on buying tickets to the opera.
 And  he admitted to being one of us, or is that 'one of me'?  If, he says, you  attempt to get a decent seat at Covent Garden without booking months in advance, they look at you as though you're insane. But, explains Jacobson "Opera itself teaches that our lives change from happy to sad, from purposeful to pointless in the course of half an aria."  Nonetheless seats at the ROH are 'bagged years in advance by people prepared to bank on a) their continued existence b) their precise whereabouts and c) the music they're going to be in the mood to listen to." 

Of course theatres (and airlines, restaurants, railroads and friends) have to plan. But Jacobson puts in a little plea for theatres to reserve just a few good seats for us - the people he describes as "opera's natural audience - the existential chancers and cultural vagabonds of our dull society?"

So, at last, I have an identity. All those years of shame and humiliation and loneliness and it turns out that I'm an 'existential chancer and a cultural vagabond.'

Jacobson also dares to utter a word that occasionally passes through my mind in relation to this ruthlessly planned society - "dull".

Yes, I know bridges have to be planned to be built, theatres have to know if they are going to have any bums on seats, airlines and railroads have to prepare schedules, and calculate how many meals they need to load. The majority of the world, and the life on it, has to be planned.

But not all of it. And not all of us. So this is a plea for the 'existential chancers'. Why not give us a chance occasionally? Life might be a little livelier and more fun for everyone if just a glimmer of spontaneity were allowed into this stuffy world. Eurostar could offer  just a few standby seats at a decent rate for the last minute brigade. So could Covent Garden. 

As for the General Public and my friends in it, you too should give us a chance. We're really quite nice you know; most of us eat with our mouths closed and keep our elbows off the table. Our bumbling, freewheeling lives can lead to some fairly entertaining adventures that are probably more fun to hear about (at that last-minute dinner we would love to share with you) than they were to experience at first-hand.  Everybody loves my story of getting into Bayreuth for the last act of Wagner's Die Walkure ("blimey, she went all the way to Germany and stood outside hoping for a ticket!") but the joy of hearing the music only marginally outweighed the nervous tension and energy expended in sneaking inside for those magnificent final  moments.

I can hear the planners now:"Then you bloody well should have applied for a ticket years in advance like the rest of us, like the sensible people." I know, I know but the thing is I can't because I'm an Existential Chancer. We're the latest oppressed minority, and we need your tolerance and understanding. 

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Stalked by Stephen Fry

So, in a bored moment yesterday, I decided to tweet. All I did was click on 'join', fill in my name and come up with a user name. I got very pissed off at this point because all my choices (TheValkyrie, SnowQueen etc) were taken. Finally I came up with LaValkyrie and then got fed up with the whole business and went back to some semblance of work.

That was that, I thought, but five minutes ago, I got a message saying that Joe Rich is now following me in Twitter. Looked up Joe and he seems to be a Jesus fan in Florida. Was digesting this when another message tells me that 'Stephen Fry is now following you on Twitter.' Cripes.'I think Stephen Fry is following about 5 million people but that's bi-polar for you.

Now what am I supposed to do? Do I follow them? Won't all this turn into a cyber version of the Hampton Court Maze scene in Three Men in a Boat? All of us going witlessly round and round until somebody climbs up a tree and calls out some sensible instructions.  You're the tallest Stephen and you've got the deepest voice. I think it's going to be up to you.