Saturday, June 16, 2012

Royal Hoorah

I admit it: I admire HM The Queen. The fact that my own mother is only a year older and has always looked very like Her Majesty is a complication I acknowledge and – I hope – set aside. It isn’t just the longevity that I admire, since I have other relatives who are older than either The Queen or Prince Philip, and some I like and some I don’t.

But… There has never been a breath of extramarital scandal about this couple throughout their exceptionally long and public marriage. This can’t be attributed to Royal pressure on the media, since there has been plenty of gossip about their children over the years, so I have to assume that there’s no gossip because there’s nothing to gossip about. The couple are clearly each other’s rock. That in itself is a remarkable and admirable thing.

I really don’t mind the fact that HM inherited a lot of land, and a lot of goods and property. It’s not as though HM goes out and personally grinds the faces of the poor in order to take money from them. Since 1993 The Queen pays tax on her personal wealth and income like everybody else, some £190 million a year, exceeding the amount paid to her by the Civil List, the Privy Purse, and the Grants-in-Aid for upkeep of Royal Palaces and for Royal travel.

I admire HM’s ability to manage a punishing daily, weekly and yearly round of travelling, meetings and public appearances. She’s done it for sixty years, she stays in touch with everything that is happening politically and she shows no sign of retiring. And she does it all with so much more poise and serenity than Murdoch or Sugar or their ilk.

I haven’t gone out of my way to watch the Jubilee celebrations, and truthfully I had forgotten that today was the 60th time HM The Queen has presided on Horseguards Parade. However, I happened to catch Trooping the Colour at a friend’s house this morning, and I was stirred by the sight of the fabulous costumes and uniforms, the men and music and horses and carriages. I know people moan about the expense of “all that military showing-off,” but if these amazing ceremonials didn’t happen, would the complainers be a ha’penny better off? Unlikely. Would foreign visitors spend so much money in England if the only displays were of grey-suited politicians riding in bullet-proof limos? I know I wouldn’t. So I admired the organization that must go into the pomp and pageantry, I appreciated it all as the splendid theatre it was meant to be, and I was glad I didn’t have to polish all that brass and leatherwork.

I know there are things to criticize about monarchy, but I’m deliberately not going to touch on them here. On this miserable wet windy Saturday I want to make a statement: I enjoy the bright side of it. It makes far better viewing than most “celebrities” do. So, to celebrate her astonishingly long reign, three cheers for Her Majesty.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What I did in the Holidays

OK, so strictly the holidays have been and gone, with all the flag waving, but there was a local arts exhibition yesterday. I took part. Ostensibly it was related to the "Cultural Olympiad" (search and it comes up first on Google) but it was resolutely NOT about either London or the Olympics, but about Shap.

I trialled some of my "Galloway Gate" poetry sequence on Great Writing before recording the poems, which were spoken by myself and Janni Howker. I added images to support the various narratives that thread through the sequence. I would rather have run it purely as video-stills, but the laptop tended to drop frames or drop sound, so clearly I was pushing it too hard! I had to go back to PowerPoint, running the narrative as one continuous sound file under the changing slides. I had tried running each sound file (individual poem) under shorter slide sequences, but PowerPoint randomly cut off the sound in more than half the instances, so that was not at all satisfactory!

PowerPoint was cowed into obedience by the full soundtrack running under 111 slides, but editing so that the slides fitted accurately was extremely tedious. There is no way to dip in and out of the sequence as you can with a video editor, so an adjustment at the end of the sequence meant listening from the beginning to almost the whole 30 minutes - and a further adjustment needed another 30 minutes - etc. Very, very boring.

The presentation ran all yesterday, and it went all right because I had taken everything I needed to the venue, and had not relied on anyone else providing cabling or speakers or even Blu-Tack for posters pointing the way to the room. I did have a whole room to myself though! It was bad in one way because people had to be directed to find me, but also good because it was a nice light, quiet room with lots of space for people to sit down, or read the pages of poems I had put out, and there were few other noises interfering with the spoken poetic narrative. Donations to the Walking for Wishes charity (raising money to send sick children like Naomi on their dream holiday or whatever) were small, but better than nothing.

The main point is that the people who came in and sat down stayed through the whole 30 minutes, and some who came in at the middle then stayed to see the beginning of the loop which they had missed.

Having listened to the sequence endlessly for several days, though, I'm glad I was needed at a meeting elsewhere during the middle of the afternoon!

My next move is to contact the local arts organisation and book a date to use their space in Penrith. It's a nice live space with a soup shop which will bring people in! They can offer a large screen TV on which to run the sequence, which will be more attractive, if less intimate, than viewing on the laptop.

And next time I will definitely take some books to sell!