Saturday, 3 July 2010
Bundled up with Richard Branson, Dean Parkin and Martin Figura
I have somehow skipped an entire month not in life but in blog posts. Are blog months somehow different to real months, are they like dog years; one month missed equivalent to seven months in the passing of internet time? I am told that the art of blogging is to do little and often so you keep on the radar of those that follow blogs. I seem a bit of a binge blogger, weeks without then maybe a few posts all bunched together. This is how life is sometimes; famine and plenty, all or nothing, three buses at once or hours waiting for one…all the clichés you can imagine to describe bunching. No doubt there may be a serious mathematician out there who can tell me that you could actually produce some formula if you gathered enough data from blogs about frequency of posts that would indicate the likelihood of long silences and then a bundle of blogs all at once.
Speaking of bundles I have been having a Victor Meldrew moment with Virgin my broadband provider. I seem to be paying far more for just my broadband than other people; I discussed it in my office. They all suggested I phoned and said I was thinking of leaving them and this should trigger a flurry of better offers from them as they became twitchy meerkats at the thought of losing your custom entirely. But no, dear reader, it thrust me into a strange Kafkaesque conversation with a young man who was probably reading from a script but who couldn’t seem to grasp what I was saying or perhaps what I was saying did not make any sense in the media services world view.
I would have to continue paying £20 for 10MB of broadband no matter what but, and now he beamed down the line at me, but what I can do is offer you 20MB of broadband for the same price. I pointed out I didn’t need 20MB, I don’t live with several teenagers all downloading as if their life in the Matrix depended on it. I, as he confirmed from the data he was obviously accessing on screen, am a very light user. Offering me more was like offering to deliver me three bottles of milk per day when I could only consume 2 bottles per week. Even my milkman who due to lack of light and sleep and the resultant vitamin D deficiency could sometimes be a little slow on my scribbled messages now and then, could understand that argument. So I told him I did not want to pay the same for more I wanted to pay less for the same. This did not compute. I asked if it cost Virgin anything to upgrade my speed to 20MB, he couldn’t answer this as he knew it was the Catch 22 question……If he could give me 20MB at no extra cost to the company why did the company not give me this facility as a matter of course? If it did cost the company something if only a pound or so why couldn’t I have this amount deducted from my bill and stay the same as technically I was saving the company money by saying no thanks to 20Mb at the same price. This seemed logical to me, not to him because he said he did not have the ability to offer me that or it wasn’t in his script.
Then he says, well for £29.99 you could have broadband, phone and television. So I say phone and TV must cost £9.99 if broadband at my speed had to cost £20. No, he said, Broadband bought in a bundle costs far less than that. So says I, leaping onto this statement, like a lioness on a wounded gazelle, I want that bundle minus the TV and Phone. But, he whines, Broadband only costs less if you have it in a bundle, it is not possible to unbundle anything and buy individual components. The clue is in the name of the deal…BUNDLE. I could tell he was getting testy with me by now. So I say by way of final clarification. So I can have more for the same, far more for a little bit more but never the same for less, despite the same costing less when bundled. Exactly, he sighs, as if at last I had grasped some great economic and philosophical truth. Thank you, I reply, I will go away and think about it (…and write about it in my blog as well…and keep an eye out for Richard Branson if he ever passes within hailing distance of me). I may have a Jack Nicholson in a diner moment with him
Brief pause for a slurp pf tea and a deep breath whilst I take off my grumpy old woman head and step down from the soap box.
Went to see Dean Parkin do his one man show called Dean’s Dad’s Ducks. This was his trial run before its appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in August. It was fabulous; by turns funny and poignant and even downright heart breaking. You found yourself laughing and then suddenly thinking, wait a minute this is really sad should I really be laughing? It mixes poems, monologue, sound effects, songs, audience participation and a plastic duck all to serve the real life tale of Dean’s dad’s world in which he makes toys and lives a strange shuttling life between his family and a woman called Denise. Life in a small Suffolk village has never been so closely and bizarrely observed and at times it makes the world of The League of Gentlemen seem rather ordinary and tame. Go and see it if you happen to be at the Festival or live that way, if you don’t find out where you can see it in the future, it is worth the effort.
The one man (or woman show) and poetry seems to be on the rise at the moment. Martin Figura under the Apples and Snakes banner is also launching his show called Whistle at Ledbury Festival next week-end. His is a serious look at how his world fell apart when his father murdered his mother, it uses poems, photographs and monologue but also letters to tell the story. As I know Martin I have known many of the poems used in this show for some time but I have yet to see it brought together with the full experience of photographs etc.
I think the key word in both these shows, different as they are, is the word ‘story’. Each of them draw you in, not only because we are listening to a well constructed and suprising narrative but also that it is a tale of real life. Neither show would, I think, work at all if these were fictional, a dramatic fictional monologue would somehow be almost distastefully inauthentic. However the heightened language of poetry allows you to thread through these memoir pieces a sense of observation, of stepping back and regarding the world they both experienced as a child and later reflect on as an adult. Of course lies are told, the truth is always something elusive, even unobtainable, when we talk about family. We all have our own truths about how we survived and flourished inside one or despite one. A fact is not the same as truth; how we interpret fact or even perceive it at all, is the mystery of how we come to see ourselves and forge our own identities.
It is good to see the Arts Council putting money into these shows, in times of huge financial cutback it is good to see them funding work that reaches beyond the usual poetry audience and allows people to see that poems can truely be a part of real life, anyone's real life. Go see these shows; I think they will both leave you thinking about what you believe to be true in your own life and not just about the life of the person delivering their life and truths up there in the spotlight.
PS I have. for those who have popped in for a look before, changed the blog template. Variety may not be the spice of life but I thought I'd just see how this felt for a while. If anyone hates it or thinks this template is too busy and unreadable I am more than open to persuasion. I did resist the template marked ethereal that had twee flowers etc on it and also the one that was very dark and all crisp design lines. This may be because I am neither a flowery person nor a cutting edge design sort of person. Rain on a window pane seemed ok, well for now at least; it reminds me of the bizarre variety of postcards and adverts stuck up on the window of my local corner shop. I like the thought of a blog being like a changing postcard advertising for a lost cat, lost poem, lost something or other plus also mingled in with those wierd self revelatory adverts in the 'room to let in a clean, nicely appointed, non smoking home for a professional only, must not be allergic to cats. An interest in Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals and Cage Fighting would be an advantage' ilk. ( True newsagent postcard advert I once spotted in a nearby town and had to write down)