Thursday, December 11, 2008

Strange Harmony of Contrasts

(The quadrangle at Trinity College at dusk )

I entered December decidedly not in the Christmas spirit. Now, as it happens, Protege's delightful blog is one of my absolute favourites, and it was this and other wonderful posts describing her Christmas plans in Denmark - and past memories - that seemed to flick the switch in me, and get me excited at last for what is my favourite time of year.

It was a beautiful weekend... I bought my tree and decorated it, and Tibby was very intrigued by the process, and he is photographed below with the tree while it was still naked.

I got the gingerbread dough ready, baked the Christmas cakes and attended a service of lessons and carols at Trinity College Chapel, in the most excellent company. It's held by candlelight only, with everyone holding a taper. This makes the service more enjoyable for me as I have something to concentrate on, specifically not getting melted wax all over me, which is a challenge as I love playing with it.

Upon our return, we watched - as is my tradition - The Snowman (1982) and had a warming supper of - they're back! - lamb shanks in red wine.

And this week... a slight shift in experiences. I finished Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut) on the recommendation of a wise friend. This is a book to experience over and over. Billy Pilgrim travels through his own life, hopping back and forth along the time continuum; from his childhood to his adult life as a seemingly mild-mannered optometrist, to his blackly hilarious war experiences - particularly in the time leading up to the bombing of Dresden. This book will have to be revisited, and the book I bought with it, Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, is sixth in the pile of books on my bedside table. I can't wait to reach it! Strange little story: when I went to buy the two books, I found a sign on the fiction shelves where the Vs were, telling me that for Vonnegut I was to ask at the information desk. I did so. It turns out that all the Vonnegut books and Hunter H. Thompson books (the other author I was advised to try) were kept behind the counter as they were the ones most likely to "walk." Interesting.

I'm lucky to live within short walking distance of several different theatres and Wednesday evening took off to attend a play: Frank McGuinness's Someone to Watch Over me, a powerful work in two acts, directed by Tegan Shohet with a cast made up of three of Canada's finest actors: David Ferry, Ryan Hollyman, and R.H. Thomson. The play, first produced in 1992, tells the story of three men, an Irishman, an American and an Englishman (no joke), who are imprisoned as hostages in Lebanon of the early 1990s. The theatre was intimate and the set was a simple, stone-walled cell. The curtain music for both acts was Ella Fitzgerald singing - sublimely - the song for which the play was named. The relationships between the three men were inspired by the very real experiences of men like Brian Keenan and John McCarthy. I just read one review and it wasn't very positive, but I hardly read reviews any more, most of them are just a load of bollocks. I found the production moving and mood/thought-provoking. The relationships between the men were beautifully drawn and evolved so naturally over two hours, from hilarious to terrifying, tender and rage-inducing. There are moments I'll never forget, like the expression in R. H. Thomson's eyes as he looked from one of his cellmates to the other, seeking reassurance - one of the benefits of a small space. I felt very good coming home, very grateful at this season, and all others, to have a warm home and to be living in relative safety.


Edward Hegstrom said...

I'm glad--and maybe a little surprised--that you liked SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE so much. It, like much of Vonnegut's work, ranks among my favorites, but I must admit, when I return to his books now, I see that they're probably best experienced in youth, as teaching materials for how to live your life. They don't, can't, mean quite as much to me now as they did then, so it's heartening to see someone who has already formulated an outlook on life--a fully realized adult--coming fresh to Vonnegut and finding much to appreciate.

Protege said...

What a wonderful tree! I love the way Tibby watches it; my Samson is always very intrigued by this new addition to my house as well. I also like the first picture of the view from the old window. It is all very seasonal and magical.
And I am so happy and so very flattered that some of my posts were an inspirations to you; your kind words mean so much to me.;))
I wish you a wonderful Holiday Season.

Cowboy said...

What a beautiful tree, and your experiences, it is so much fun to live your life vicariously though your blog...A very Merry Christmas to you!

phil said...

Ah, Tibbster is scoping the tree planning to launch when it's fully decorated.

Glad you got through S5.
Now take a look at the movie version when you get a chance.
And go straight to Breakfast of Champions!

Betsy said...

I've missed your nice to see him again...he's a nice BIG cat like those we've had at our home! :)

Beautiful tree...yummy baking...gorgeous are definitely in the Christmas mood now! I'm going to check out that blog that got you in the mood!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Lovely Christmassy post and beautiful tree! Book reviews, good food, and The Snowman!

glamah16 said...

I ma glad you are finding the hoilday spirit. Just wanted to wish you well. I will be out of touch for a few weeks. Merry Christmas.

Steve said...

That play is so good. I had a brief stint at Drama school and we did the excerpt where they sing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and imagine flying out of their prison and home. It was always very moving.
Great pictures, btw. I really like it when you get a sense of someone's style through their pics.

Rebecca said...

Wonderful post! I love Lessons and Carols..Has to be my favorite service...

Blog Princess G said...

Edward: Well, you're assuming I'm a fully-realized adult. I may be needing a bit of a refresher course right about now. :) What I find interesting is that he seems very much to be a man's writer.

Protege: There is something magical about old windows and looking out of them. I think sometimes I might see something from another time through them. A fanciful thought I know. :)

Cowboy: I very much doubt you do any living vicariously, but thank you for your kind words! A very merry Christmas to you and yours!

Phil: Yes, I'm very intrigued to see how they handled the movie! I shall be sure to post a review here once I've seen it.

Betsy: Protege's blog is a delight!

Pamela Terry and Edward: Just missing a fireplace now, but my dvd fireplace is crackling in the background as I type this!

Glamah: Hope you are having a wonderful time in Germany, you glamah-girl! Merry Christmas!

Steve: Thanks for the kind words re: pics. Welcome to my blog. I love that you know this play. Shall be over to visit.

Rebecca: It certainly gets me in the mood each year. It marks the start of the advent season and the start of a magical time for me personally. :)