Friday, December 23, 2005


To want something now seems a little selfish, to exercise a desire which is suggestive of action and force and demand.
In the line quoted above it is different: It is a lack of something - a thing needed, a thing not just expected but necessary.
The full effects of last winter on the farm are still emerging. It was an exceptionally long and cold one. The plum trees all lost their blossom to frost and the walnuts suffered equally.
So what?
Well, the year before we made well over 100 euros on the walnuts and were able to make over 30 litres of tuica (plum brandy to you).
100 euros is a whole lot of money in Romania - well over a month's income and more than enough to pay the annual taxes on the land. A signifficant amount of the walnuts are used to make cakes for Easter and Christmas - and add a lot to the local diet.
The tuica is what we drink to cheer us through the winter!
When Titania says this line - she knows its import.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rotten Corn

The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;

One result of the rains this summer in Romania has been the rotting of the corn - maize now, unlike the wheat of Shakespeare's day.
It is hard for all of those people who live in towns and cities to grasp the significance of this.
The corn is used for two purposes - feeding the chickens and livestock through the cold winter, and as a staple of the human diet. Bread is a luxury in many villages and there is nowhere to buy it anyway.
The traditonal wooden containers found in many farmyards, usually full at this time of year, are empty. The stalks of the maize plants are still standing - barren. Animals will have to be slaughtered, and chickens will go hungry, get smaller, lay fewer eggs.
People are going to go hungry, their diets will be limited and various degrees of malnutrition will set in.
This is the reality hidden in the words - a true horror to those who still live this life all over the world.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Titania's Speech

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come from my experience of the rain (previous post) is a realisation of just how physically real this speech is.

As we approach 2007 - the year when over half of the world's population will be classified as urban - connecting our personnel experiences with the natural elements of Shakespeare is becoming increasingly difficult.

I suspect, in Shakespeare's time, listening to Titania's speech was a much more powerful experience - it certainly is for me now - and physical/tactile rather than intellectual. There is an overwhelming sense of uncontrolled energy - an energy against which we are impotent.

My understanding of this is not now in terms of psychology - it is in terms of a concrete feeling based, as it must have been for the vast majority of Shakespeare's original audience, on being forced to endure a real storm.
Pelting rain is no longer just uncomfortable, it is a force to be reckoned with.
And this is not an extreme event (as it is sometimes suggested by people who have lived in the closed world of the ivory tower) - my experience was only on the edge of the really serious flooding that devestated parts of Romania.

Just as in the politic world of Theseus/Hippolyta, Egeus is being allowed to break the harmony and sends out the forces locked in the lovers; so in the natural world of Oberon and Titania, a dispute unleashes considerable natural forces, normally held in check.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Every Pelting River made Proud

The experience

We had our own Niagra Falls within seconds of it starting to rain: The guttering running the 20 meter length of barn roof was overflowing.

And I mean flowing - a solid, metalic sheet of water heaved itself off the roof and plunged onto the cobbles below. – I've lived on and off in the village for several years now and I'd never seen anything like it.

For well over half-an-hour the downpour hammered everything.

The yard was under several centemetres of water. Drainage was through the barn – soaking the bottom of the stored hay.

The tell-tale sound of flowing water signelled the road down the hill outside the main entrance had turned into a torrent – normally this only happenes in the worst of winter, when the ground is frozen – and rarely with such intensity; never for so long.

Plum and walnut trees seemed pressed down. Goodness knows where the birds had gone – they couldn't fly in this.

It was not dark exactly – the rain was light – but you only saw the rain – and how it was pushing against everything.

Inside, the chimney soon ran with water – the plaster was stained and I had to put down sponges and cloths to try to absorb some of the flow.

I moved the small icon I had bought in a flea market in Moscow, and the fine Chinese statue from Shanghai, off the mantle piece. A few old letters had already soaked through and were sticking.

I could only move things out of the way of the ever increasind drips and dribbles: The roof, not in the greatest of states, was incapable of holding out rain under this pressure: At one point, quite frankly, it seemed to me as if it had given up trying.

Back on the veranda the tiles were seaping. I saw one of the local house snakes glide up and into the summer kitchen – wether it was escaping the water or because it had scented a mouse escaping the water, I couldn’t tell – but at that moment any living thing I could attach an atom of sympathy to was a welcome sight.

There was nothing I could do: Whatever damage there was, there would be.

But damage was the wrong word – this was an unfocused, complete and all encompassing force – pressing squeezing, shifting – but not total. You knew it could do a lot more.

It was unmotivated, aimless, inpersonal.

One element – water – against … what?

Nature itself?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Shaddows . . .

... of Sheakespeares works move through my world continuously.

Sometimes a character pops to mind in a discussion, sometimes a quote, sometimes an action or event.

When I think about language, Shakespeare is there.
When I think about literature, or music or the media, a shoadow falls.

The dreadful floods and truely cruel winter in Romania - send my thinking about A Midsummer Night's Dream, into a different dimension.

This Blog is going to be all about these shadows, and reflections.