Poetry on the Hoof: Soz.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
I’m very, very sorry,
For the delays, the disruption, the chaos, we’ve brought
To your daily routine.

We’re sorry the tram stopped running,
We’re sorry the bus driver forgot to turn up for work,
We’re sorry the road’s been dug up over night,
We’re all sorry, sorry, very very sorry.

Sorry your tickets out of date,
Sorry your life style made you late,
Sorry you look the way you do,
Sorry your dog demanded a poo
On the high street before your very eyes,
Sorry you forgot to clean it up,
Sorry you have to listen to this.
It’s nothing to do with us, sorry.

Sorry for having to apologise.
Sorry we’ve got to listen to this.
Sorry for being sorry.
We apologise. We really do. Soz.

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Tips for Travellers: Epoca Restaurant, Craiova, Romania

If you’re staying locally in a hotel which will remain un-named at the moment, you will soon get fed up with their potential promises of restaurant food and head off to an actual restaurant which actually serves real, high quality dinner where the promise of potential is not only reached but surpassed.

This is a superlative dining experience, made even better by the waiter’s introduction of their home made Țuică (Romanian Rakia) – a pure pleasure.

A colleague and I braved the wintry conditions (minus 15 degrees and a biting wind) to find Epoca and we didn’t regret it for one minute. The only regret was the thought of returning to the un-named hotel which promised so much potential but delivered so little on the actuality front.

Tips for Travellers: Hotel Plaza and Restaurant, Craiova, Romania

.. as it hides a myriad of sins. The Hotel Restaurant Plaza has an impressive front and beneficial location. It has a hard working staff and a large spacious restaurant in which you might imagine all kinds of wonderful meals would be served up. Its bedrooms are warm; its shower-rooms come equipped with everything you think you might need for a comfortable stay. “It has potential!” as an estate agent might say when they show you a dilapidated town house whose ceiling is falling in and whose water pipes refuse to stop clanging when you turn the water off.

However, the Hotel Plaza’s reality has a long way to go before it meets its potential.

True, its front is impressive: but it is just that, front and nothing behind it. Seriously, hardly anything. True, its staff are very hardworking: they have to be as there only ever seem to be two of them on duty and they’re rushed off their feet most of the time, tending to several different duties all at once.

Breakfast is a variable experience and a bit of a lottery: one morning there’s a bit of cooked food which is over an hour old and no-one to serve anything else; the next morning the breakfast is much busier and staff who are only too happy to help and get you anything you need.

On the last night of my stay, our work group saw one poor member of staff taking food orders, drink orders, rushing in and out of the kitchen, back to the reception, back to the bar, and probably all points in between trying to find a cork screw. She found one eventually but it took a while. As did my meal, which, by the time it had arrived, was over cooked yet cold and consequently inedible.

True, the shower-room is decently equipped: but it takes for ever to get a decent running shower, by which time this traveller had to give up as he had a schedule to meet and hanging around for the shower to make up its mind and fulfil its potential was no longer an option.

Potentially, this hotel could be a real asset to the city of Craiova but with one member of staff openly admitting that she had no idea why people would visit the City, let alone the hotel, there’s a long way to go before the hotel can consider itself on the assets side of the cultural balance sheet.

The hotel management need to take a long hard look at how to invest in their staff and premises: otherwise that impressive front will soon falter as other more attuned hotels offer what customers actually need, not the promise of its potential at some time in the future.

Stories on Whall’s: King Arthur’s Hall, Tintagel, Cornwall.

King Arthur’s Great Hall was built in the 1930s by a custard millionaire whose company is thought to have invented the confection “hundreds and thousands”. The Halls of Chivalry are built from 53 different types of stone and are big enough to hold 1000 people. Whall designed 72 stained glass windows which tell the story of King Arthur and show the Coats of Arms and weapons of the knights involved. (List of works by Veronica Whall)

Stories on Whalls: St. Marys Church, Bleasby, Nottinghamshire

St Mary’s Church, Bleasby. Nottinghamshire 1910,  known as the “Magnificat” window and the easternmost window in the south wall of the nave, this window is a memorial to Henry Lewis Williams, who was the vicar at St Mary’s for twenty-two years, from 1888 to 1910. It has three lights with St Mary with the child Jesus in the central light. The two side lights feature angels playing musical instruments. The principal inscription on the window is the opening words of the Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify The Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour”. In the bottom right hand corner an inscription reads: “To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of Henry, Lewis Williams: for twenty-two years Vicar of this parish 1888–1910”. (List of works by Christopher Whall)

There is something mournful about seeing a solitary maypole in a field outside a church. Despite the cheerful “Welcome to Glebe Field” sign on the gate which leads to it,  the solitary maypole spoke of pleasures long since past whilst it resolutely stood upright in a small bit of pasture which seemed not to mean much to anyone.

They’re called orphan spaces in some parts of the world: not large enough to be anything particular and usually un-noticed and unloved, even though they may be used for a variety of purposes like walking the dog (although not here), fireworks, bonfires and camping (although also not here).

The Nottingham arts production company, Excavate, for example, work on how to create interventions in spaces which draw attention to the histories and identity of orphan places, amongst others. They use the atmospheres and challenges of spaces to interrogate their value and potential future use; and find ways to create spaces in those places where people feel able to sit and talk and share ideas and stories.

Whilst St. Mary’s Church hasn’t orphaned its Whall windows,  the maypole in the field next door is looking a bit unloved. Perhaps one day the church will be able to extend the hand of friendship to the field and bring the orphan space, complete with maypole, back into the fold.

Stories on Whalls: Leicester Cathedral.

“Christopher Whall completed two windows for St Martin’s Cathedral in Leicester. These were an East window and a West window in the inner South Aisle. The three-light window was installed in 1905 and has St Martin in the central light. The East window, dating to 1920, is a war memorial window. In “The Buildings of England. Leicestershire and Rutland” this window was described thus “In an Expressionist style with many Pre-Raphaelite memories”. The lower left-hand light features St Joan of Arc.” (List of Christopher Whall works in cathedrals and minsters)

Two windows were completed by Veronica for the Cathedral’s St Dunstan’s Chapel(List of works by Veronica Whall)

Imagined conversation between Christopher and Veronica, any time between 1905 and 1920.

“Veronica, go and tidy up those glass splinters, there’s a good girl.”

“Dad, I’m busy. It won’t take you long. You do it, if it’s so important to you.”

“Veronica, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”

“You can’t order me about.”

“I’m not ordering you about. I’m asking you, as I would ask any apprentice of mine to tidy up after themselves.”

“Yeh but no but yeh but no but I’m not any old apprentice am I?”

“That’s besides the point. Just do as I ask.”

“You’re not my boss.”

“Yes, actually, I am.”

Look, I’ve got this window to finish. Just put a sock in it. If you’re stressed about a few pieces of glass, go and get a cleaner.”

“Veronica, I will not be talked to like that.”

“Whatevah.”

Plus ça change.

Give Us This Day: a Toast to Toast at Gray’s in Leicester

What’s for breakfast?
Tea and toast? Well…
Fry up? Er…
Organic muesli and yoghurt? Hmm.. not sure.

All of the above plus lavish helpings of the most idiosyncratic contemporary music around complete with references to Delia Derbyshire, Kevin Coyne, Flaming Lips and all points bezerk? Ah yes, that’s for me, definitely.

If you’re one of those people who need an aural fix in the morning alongside their habitual brew, then Gray’s is for you. Snuck in off one of the main precinct streets in the City of Leicester, right in the heart of its cultural quarter, Gray’s is open from 8.30 and is guaranteed to open up your sound and taste buds from the off and get you in the swing for the day.

It’s a heartening change to the diet of greasy spoons and predictable chains that are scattered through the rest of the city and consequently is one of those businesses which defines Leicester’s character. And you get a decent bacon barm into the bargain.

My Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen and Members of the Jury, please raise a toast to Toast at Gray’s in Leicester.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Toast: read all about toasting here

Can we provide an excellent cultural education without involving schools?

As Nigel Molesworth might have said in Back in the Jug Agane ‘any fule kno’ that trying to involve schools in anything but their core business of delivering the national curriculum like milkmen used to deliver the daily pinta, teaching to the test, climbing up the league tables, providing full wrap around care 247, being the complete corporate parent, struggling to make their budgets balance, and avoiding, adapting or falling for the next policy imperative is a pointless task these days as they’re pretty busy already. Never-mind adding in things like additional sport, additional support, additional lunchtimes and additional adding up sessions. No wonder there’s no room in the school timetable for anything remotely cultural.

Most arts organisations experience schools ultra-busy business with something approaching despair which sometimes gets transformed into some ingenious ruse designed to get an artist in front of some youth come hell or high water.

But it’s no longer enough for a theatre company to promote themselves as having a riveting production of Pirandello’s 6 Characters in Search of an Author which all young people should experience before their hormones kick in. These days, any theatre director who wants to introduce young people to the work of Pirandello and simultaneously demonstrate their cultural education credentials, has to ensure their production of Six Characters in Search of an Author isn’t just a riveting theatrical experience, but that it meets many different curriculum objectives not only in literacy but also in numeracy, bio-physics and what was fondly called back in the day, domestic science aka cooking and ironing.

Not only that, but the riveting theatrical experience will probably have to accommodate a sponsored trampoline bounce half way through act one in order to generate the funds to pay the costs for the aforesaid riveting theatrical experience.

Budgets being what they are, schools can’t even begin to think about taking their charges out of school to experience riveting theatrical experiences in their natural homes i.e. theatres, let alone invest in the military logistics required to bring the outside world through the hallowed gates, hostile gatekeepers, barbed wire and booby traps that await any unsuspecting AOTs (adult other than teachers) who find themselves on school premises harbouring the delusion that a school might be delighted to have a theatre company join them for the day to help engage and shape the lives of the young people in front of them.

No, these days, the notion that a quality cultural education should be left to schools is something that has been well and truly buried by an age of austerity, academisation and neo-liberal accountability which knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

The sooner our producers of Pirandello realise this and generate some other ways to engage with the cultural life of the child, the happier they and our young people will be. Schools will also be relieved to get on with their core business of implementing government policy and will be much the better for it.

Stories on Whalls: All Saints Church, Little Casterton, Rutland.

 

 

“The East and West windows are by Whall and are in memory of former tenants of Tolethorpe Hall. The east window depicts St Hubert, “Christ in Majesty” and St Francis and is in memory of Hubert Francis Christian Harrisson. The west window features St George and dates to 1919. According to legend, St Hubert was an eighth-century nobleman who was converted to a religious life by the vision of a stag bearing a crucifix between its antlers, seen when hunting in an Ardennes forest on a Good Friday.”  (List of works by Christopher Whall)

Psalm 22: King James Version (KJV)

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, –that he hath done this.

If a shorter text is preferred, use 1 – 11 or 1 -20.

Thank goodness for the shorter text. Whilst the King James Version bible has a certain commanding theological gravitas,  the people who translated it appreciated brevity over gravity, and understood that the average congregation member may be unfamiliar with the strong bulls of Bashan (v12), and may not have much time to find out about them either. Such is church life it seems these days. Huge texts to communicate and illuminate and such little time to do it in.

Up the road at Tolethorpe Hall, they have a similar issue to contend with: huge Shakespeare texts to perform in a venue which is susceptible to the weather and liable to curtail their expressive tendencies at the drop of a Easter snowflake.

It was comforting to note that Christopher Whall’s work in the church was made in memory of the former tenant of Tolethorpe Hall – which in turn has memorised his work by installing their own stained glass windows in their splendid building.

Whether Tolethorpe Hall will produce a full rendition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – all 30,557 words of it – is probably as likely as the church congregation singing the full 31 verses of Psalm 22 – but they are both tasks worth stepping up to the dramaturgical ecclesiastical plate for. Even if the potential audience is likely to doze off after a short while.