I have had a rather decadent weekend. It has been delightful.
I have not blogged about it sooner because my period has come charging in like a bull elephant and flattened me rather, so when I have not been gadding, dosed up on painkillers, I have been asleep.
But the good news is that I was able to gad despite the period, and the pain killers are keeping the worst of it at bay, and even better, it was bang on time for the first time in about a year. I would say that that is progress.
Anyway, moving on from ladybits tales, let me regale you with my activities this weekend.
Yesterday Andrea and I motored down to London. The traffic was flowing beautifully, we did not get stuck diagonally across fourteen rickshaws on Marble Arch, or arrive to find that three quarters of the city had been cordoned off. As such we arrived with plenty of time for a leisurely lunch in Chinatown at our new favourite haunt, Plum Valley.
This is a picture of our starters. To the left is a heaping plate of some of the nicest chilli and salt squid I have ever tasted. The dish in the middle is slices of roast duck with slivers of mango and sprinkles of pomegranate seeds in a sharp lemon sauce. It was heavenly. After that we had a mixture of sea food in a sharp, spicy broth cooked in a clay pot, and roast duck in a piquant Szechuan sauce, served with steamed Jasmine rice.
After eating far too much, and drinking about forty pots of Jasmine tea between us, we swished and rolled our way to St. Martin’s Square and The Noel Coward Theatre to see Gatz.
Tickets for this were astronomical, but as it was a theatrical reading of the entirety of The Great Gatsby, and came in at eight hours of theatrical viewing, we decided to push the boat out. It’s not something that is going to be on offer every week, and reviews had been great, so it had to be done.
I’ve read The Great Gatsby several times, and studied it at university. Andrea has never read any Scott Fitzgerald and just took my word for it that she would enjoy it. By the time we got there I wasn’t so sure she would and began to feel a bit like I had promised her the sun, the moon and the stars and was about to produce a torch in a box.
I needn’t have worried.
It was an absolutely mesmerising performance. It starts off in a dreary bonds office in New York. A chap wanders into the office first thing in the morning to find that his p.c. doesn’t work, and there is a copy of The Great Gatsby in his rolodex. He starts reading it out loud. Gradually his co-workers get immersed in the story and start to take on the roles and dialogue as he reads.
‘He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.’
It sounds bonkers, and it really shouldn’t work, but it totally does and I have nothing but admiration for the main reader. Whole swathes of the book he read from memory, and he managed to bring the novel alive. He showed me again the beauty of Fitzgerald’s language, the patterns and repetitions and motifs that make the work shimmer like a piece of fine cloth:
‘I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.’
Most surprisingly of all, the reading really brought out the humour of the book.
The Great Gatsby is an achingly sad story. It is bleak and shattering in places. In places it is very dark and violent. In all the times I have read and written about it I have never before seen the sharpness, the wit, the humour in the way that came alive for me last night. It was astonishing.
It reminded me once again why good theatre, good art, good books, are ones which you can turn to again and again and never get bored with, because they have so much to say to you, and can mean so much to you in so many different ways at different times in your life.
So despite our numb backsides, our desperate hunt for caffeine and sugar to make it through to the end, our wrestling with some particularly vocal and stupid people sitting behind us, and the fact that we didn’t get home until half one this morning, it was worth everything.