Friday, 3 October 2008

Davros, Stavros and Christopher Reid in Women in Love.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa I have been remiss in posting. I make no excuses other than the fact that I have not simply been lying down in a darkened room contemplating my naval or should that be navel, I have always had a soft spot for maritime people and verbal dyslexic tendencies have got me into more trouble than I care to contemplate. I was at the Kings Lynn Poetry Festival last week-end and seemed to spend half the time making linguistic near misses (this is the verbal form of having to call on the camera to decide whether a ball is in or out at Wimbledon; nearly, nearly in but just swerving over the line at the last minute) which cannot be subsumed under the heading spoonerisms or dottiness.

In a conversation about Dr Who and the Daleks, which was initiated because a member of the Kings Lynn Festival committee happens to have a life sized Dalek in his house (complete with egg whisk hand and plunger eye) I, as a keen Dr Who watcher since childhood referred to Stavros as the creator of the Daleks. After a short pause the assembled company came up with every possible way of doing a Dalek voice with a Greek accent and summoning up the vision of Harry Enfield’s character saying something along the lines of ‘Well it’s extermination ain’t it peeps.’

Last year at the same festival I managed to congratulate Anthony Thwaite on his poem about two dogs on a roof which of course I knew was by Christopher Reid but some how it just tumbled out. I love Reid’s work he can be precise and observant, tender and witty all at the same time. In this poem he manages to describe a tortoise going down some steps with tender funny precision. But of course this mistake on my part was a simple matter of idiocy and poor memory combining to make for a buttock clenching embarrassing moment rather than a prime linguistic moment of 'just skimming the line'.

My mother was always one for taking words and phrases and either twisting them or losing the thread somewhere. She talked of condescension on the windows, people dying of pantomime poisoning (ptomaine), rules having to be stripped related (stipulated) and the lady up the road had an hystericalectomy. She once told me that a thing of beauty is a boy forever and that someone was barking up a dead herring and that to become a saint you had to be beautified. This was way before the Alzheimer’s took hold and after that a mixture of her natural tendencies and aphasia served to make me a past master at clever interpretation of intent. I knew instantly that when she told me ‘the clicker needed battering’ that the TV remote control needed a new battery. ‘The Duke of Kent is wanting a whip round’ meant that a picture of my father needed dusting (for some reason she became convinced that she had a number of photographs of the Duke of Kent in her house and I think my father would have been pleased to have been upgraded to royalty).

So when I start to think of Stavros as the Dalek creator and that DB Pierre wrote Vernon Little John I shall only be following in my mother’s verbal liquidising which might not bode too well for my career as a writer and a poet but then again it does mean that language becomes a surprising thing now and then and those strange synaptic leaps in the brain that suddenly join up to apparently unconnected dots may be one way of thinking outside the box.

I was telling someone about this Stavros/Davros mix up in the office yesterday and in order to prove that I really did know the difference told her that I even knew that Marlon Molloy played Davros and also Mike Tucker in the Archers. It wasn’t until she had glazed over and escaped that I realised it was Terry Molloy who had played Davros and Marlon Brando who had played the role of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. See what I mean about the memory ball just skimming the line, but then Marlon Brando playing Mike Tucker moaning that he could have been a contender for the parish council may be happening in a parallel universe somewhere, with Robert de Niro playing Sid Perks and Meryl Streep as Jolene.

I saw Terry Molloy (the actor not the character) in the flesh as he had a role in a friend’s stage play ‘Frobisher’s Gold’ when it started life in Cambridge. It went on to play at the Shaw Theatre in London with Janet Suzman giving her imperious Elizabeth I. Fraser Grace the dramatist now has a website up and running so you can check that play and his other work out for yourselves.

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