Prospects of Leningrad

A visit to the [now former] Soviet Union I made as part of a school party in 1987 took place at the height of Glasnost and Perestroika. Gorbachev was in command and communism was re-inventing itself. Hope was in the air. As yet, the war in Afghanistan had not created Al Qaeda, and Global warming was a long way from cold winters in Britain [or Moscow]. However, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher still worked to undermine the evil empire, and ultimately they succeeded.

Everything in Russia was swept away, the drunken opportunist Boris Yelstin stopped a tank in its tracks, and the rest is history.

The suicide bomber invented a new sense of secuirity. Former soviet torturers became billionaires and owned football clubs. Gas supplies were held to ransome, and Europe prepared to shiver.

But the Cold War, at least, was over.

Arbeit Macht Frei – background

25 April 2012

Arbeit Macht Frei [Work sets you Free] adorns the gate at Auschwitz. It greeted all new inmates to the camp. It was intended to create the illusion of safety, and hope. It is one of the greatest statements of cynical deception ever written. I have imagined a current world, but one which follows a triumphant Germany, and a museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau that celebrates a different kind of shrine.

Norland – background

Norland was a ferry that went to the Falklands’ War, in 1982 – years later, she took a party of Cheshire teachers on a Shakespeare tour of Germany, which might be a more interesting theme! HMS Antelope was sunk in San Carlos Water, by the Argentine Air Force. The Battle of Jutland was an indecisive clash between the Royal Navy and the IHSF of Germany in 1917. The Herald of Free Enterprise was a RoRo ferry that sank off Zeebrugge because the man responsible for closing her bow doors was asleep.

Norland was scrapped in India in 2010. Lord knows what happened to the painting.

Ludwig’s Last Note

The pianist Murray McLachlan played Beethoven’s Last Piano Sonata [op 111, no 32] at a Northumberland Music Festival recital – and described the conditions under which it was probably written.

The second movement concludes the piece – no expected third – and it just winds quietly and thoughtfully to silence.

Ariel’s Magic

for Susan

Cut free from his forked pine by words –
see them sawing away at Sycorax’s wooden knots
through bark rougher than a mother’s tongue –
he [or in a show I once was in, a she] falls into a
different kind embrace, becomes its instrument –
a spelled out reading from another captured
heart, an island-limited old man in whose great books
are all the matter of his universe, his principality.
And in the air above a simple stage, set in a
castle ward, against its walls, the hate, the
vanished love of brothers for their other
selves, the grumbling venom of ambition,
lust and greed, the sleeping innocence of sex,
tumble out like swallows in the cooling blue-touched air
And far above, and all in ignorance of this
fine web of so much going on, a Boeing
rules a line across the space beyond,
takes west its own intriguers, courtiers,
lovers who have barely met, and men whose
words are destined to achieve their ends,
and then to vanish in the setting sun.

Alnwick
June 1995