Archive for November, 2010

U Gosi Polish Shop Ewhurst Road

November 28, 2010

The end unit in Ewhurst Road is now being turned into a Polish shop called ‘U Gosi’.  By analogy with Russian, that must mean “Gosia’s” or “chez Gosia”, where Gosia is a female name and it looks`as though it’s short for something.  And a quick Google tells me that it’s short for Malgorzata.  So the name means “Maggie’s”.

And Gosia is a pretty optimistic girl, since for the past few years there’s been a decreasing amount of Polish goods in ‘normal’ shops, Polish adverts and indeed Polish/Eastern European shops to be seen.  I wonder if it’s significant that it’s called a “Polish Shop” rather than a “Polski Sklep”.  There was an English family going past as I stopped to take this picture; the little boy wanted to know what it was all about and his dad said they could go and get their sauerkraut there.  So perhaps a Polish Shop not only for Poles..

January 07 2011

They’ve now put some further information through my door:

I suppose that Saurkaut is a natural response if you are forced to write your national delicacy in a foreign language, and German to boot!  They give an address (2c Ewhurst Road) but no opening hours nor even a phone number to ring and ask if they’re open.

It looks as though they expect more custom from Catford than from Nunhead, which I suppose is sensible enough.  I wonder why they show the 284 bus route and not the P4, which probably goes just a bit nearer…

Update 01 February 2012

It looks like the shop has now closed.  Mid-afternoon today it was shuttered up and there was a ‘To Let’ sign as well:

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

November 24, 2010


To start off with, I was very unhappy about reading this book for Try Books!  As everyone knows, we are in the Deep South (Jacksonville, Mississippi, to be precise) at the beginning of the 1960s and our heroine–Skeeter Phelan–has returned home from university with a degree but without a husband.  Not having anything much to do, she first of all takes over a ‘Miss Myrna’ column of household tips in the local newspaper, relying on information from Aibileen the maid of one of her friends, since she has no idea of how to keep house herself.  Then she gets drawn into wondering about the lives of the black maids who bring up white children that become just like their mommas, and with Aibileen’s help she compiles a book of interviews with the maids that is then published…

The question that will mostly worry people is what is a white person doing writing such a book, not only in the persona of Skeeter but also adopting the voices of Aibileen and Minny, two of the maids.  Well, what worried me rather more at first was that the infeasibly tall (and hence unfeminine)  Skeeter Phelan sounded rather too much like the tomboyish Scout Finch to me.

But when I read the book the first time, I was rather impressed.  It was all well done and hung together without anything that caused me to cringe; in fact, the words seemed to be right, which ought to be the main thing in a book.  Nobody could really disagree with Aibileen’s mantra of You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important for raising a child.   I didn’t really believe in the maids coming forward to give Skeeter their testimony–surely they had too much to lose and nothing to gain?–but I was interested to see how the author worked it out.  Suffering from a nasty cold in my hotel room in Brussels, I allowed myself some sentimental tears at the thought that people are people, in spite of the lines that divide them.

After a second reading, I decided that I did have some doubts about the words and other things, as follows:

i)  in spite of having spent her student years reading rather than husband-hunting, Skeeter never refers to any books apart from To Kill A Mockingbird (which Johnny Foote, a good white man is also reading) and The Catcher In The Rye;

ii)  similarly, although all the characters are described as spending a lot of their time in church, none of them employs any Biblical allusions or turns of phrase that I can remember [but maybe the idea is to take the essence of Christianity out of its formal setting and put it in the maids’ unselfish love for their charges];

iii)  some other issues seemed to be dragged in, such as the disparity between the Help Wanted–Male and Help Wanted–Female adverts and Aibileen’s worst experience being in a family where the son was regularly beaten for being gay.

But I suppose my chief objection is the way that the characters who react in what we might take as an adequate way to the situation described are marginalised.  Lulabelle, the white-looking maid’s daughter who returned to insult a DAR gathering; Gretchen, the maid who expressed resentment and revolt at Skeeter’s project; and Patricia van Devender, the high-class white girl who slept with an integrationist are all relegated to the margins…

So we’ve got a kind of To Kill A Mockingbird aimed at the higher, rather than the lower, end of the Young Adult age range.

St Paul’s Sinfonia (St Paul’s, Deptford) 19 November

November 20, 2010


Not a very comprehensive picture

Haydn – Symphony No. 43 ‘Mercury’
Alan Rawsthorne – Divertimento
Schumann – Symphony No. 2

So a pretty successful first visit this season to St Paul’s Deptford.  The Haydn symphony was pleasant enough, and then the piece by Alan Rawsthorne was fresh and interesting (though not perhaps marked by thematic consistency).  I was certainly enwrapped by the elegiac sloe movement of Schumann’s Second Symphony, though I didn’t share the vview of the people behind me that the Finale should have gone on longer; in fact, I felt the first movement could usefully have gone on shorter.  I imagine that being played by a chamber orchestra helped with the scoring and the hearing what was going on in the different parts…

Next performance is on 17 December.

The Robbers New Diorama Theatre 18 November

November 20, 2010


Picture of blackdrop and letter from thefaction FB page

I didn’t know the first thing about The Robbers before attending this performance, and afterwards I had the impression of someone trying to get in references to all of his favourite bits of Shakespeare and at the same time inventing melodrama.  (I guess the Roald-Dahl-flavoured chocolate mention by Franz von Moor was down to translator/adaptor Danny Millar.)

So the idea is that Maximilian von Moor has two sons Franz and Karl.  Franz stays at home and alienates his father from Karl as a result of which the older brother turns his university pals into a band of robbers in the woods of Bohemia.  Then after convoluted plotting he returns in disguise to the ancestral Schloss but cannot free himself from his evil deeds and companions and so his long-lost sweetheart Amalia and almost everyone else end up dead.

Kate Sawyer put in a very strong performance as Amalia and even looked German to me, which is going beyond the call of duty.  She was also very good in their version of Kabale und Liebe,  and surely deserves  to act in front of something more glamorous than black paint–and indeed to act fully clothed.    There was a lovely recognition scene between her and Karl (played by Michael Lindall, though the programme said somebody else).  At that stage, I rather feared a happy ending, but my anxieties were groundless….

The corps de ballet of robbers had some interesting crowd scenes, for instance invading the Schloss von Moor in slow motion–perhaps Diorama means slow motion–and there was an effective directorial coup as the confrontation between Karl and a priest come to talk him out of his wicked ways was plunged into sudden darkness and the interval began.

*I* think this is Michael Tindall as Karl von Moor (from the FB page again)

I had difficulty keeping track of (or caring) which of the robbers was which, and on occasions I also had difficulty in making out what they were saying (especially the uncredited person who was really playing Schweizer).  I would surely have felt some empathy with the coldly-manipulative and finally-ineffective Franz, but Richard Delaney seemed to me neither evil nor pathetic enough.

The black-painted black wall exerted its usual soulsucking effect on me, and the business of chalking correspondence and a ‘Wanted’ poster on it just seemed to take up time rather than adding suspense.  But generally I think thefaction came out ahead in this round of their heavyweight match with Schiller.

Nox (Anne Carson)

November 14, 2010


When I read the reviews of this work, I thought that the combination of raw pain and classical learning would appeal to me, and I was quite right.  But it’s a bit hard to say what it is!

Physically, we have an accordion-style scrapbook in a box. In general, the left-hand page carries a dictionary entry relating to the words from Catullus 101,  an elegy on the poet’s dead brother, while the right-hand side illustrates the troubled death and life of Carson’s brother Michael.

The title Nox is of course Latin for ‘night’, a word that doesn’t actually occur in the Catullus.  Instead, the dictionary entries on the left-hand side are steadily invaded by the word nox in its various forms and by references to night, for instance:

muneredebita nocti munera gifts owed to night

cineremTroia virum et noctium acerba cinis Troy, bitter ash of men and nights

intereacontra ius interea solum nocte against the law yet only at night

quaequod homo est non est hoc nox a man is not a night!

manantiaomne supervacuum pleno de pectore manat the whole pointless night seeps out of his heart

atquesimiliter atque ipse eram noctuabunda just like him I was a negotiator with night

valeparum valent Graeci verbo the Greeks have no precise word for this (but we call it ‘night’)

Some at least of these are variations on phrases from Latin authors, for instance Troia virum et virtutum omnium acerba cinis (‘Troy, bitter ash of men and every noble deed’) from Catullus 68b.

The right-hand pages include some scraps of conversation with Michael (and with his widow):

I study his sentences the ones I remember as if I'd been asked to translate them

and also some lines from other works of Carson’s, for instance As in some cave may lie a lightless pool.

And there is elucidation if you work at it:

Take the word “entry” as used of the arrangement of the contents of a lexicon.

What if you made a collection of lexical entries…

…I came to think of translating as a room,….,where one gropes for the light switch.

In one sense it is a room I can never leave, perhaps dreadful for that.  At the same time, a place composed entirely of entries.

You could ask whether this–at least the right hand side of this–is something that ought to be exposed to the public gaze.  Certainly the Canadian mother with the hard blue gaze on her deathbed is far too near my own experience for comfort.  Of course, Catullus 101 doesn’t tell us anything at all about his brother, but I think that’s just playing by the rules of Roman elegy.

Tate Modern 10 November: Gauguin and Sunflower Seeds

November 14, 2010


So this was a nice day for a visit to the Gauguin exhibition, as I thought.  The first thing to strike me was that the painter looked like a Frenchman in his self-portraits.  Well, obvious enough when you think about it I suppose.

The second was that the visitors to the exhibition were rather older (by a factor of three or so) than those to the main collection–well, you had to pay for the exhibition…Then a lot of the paintings were pre-staled by familiarity–you’d seen them in reproductions and it seemed as though you’d always known them.

My companion felt that the Yellow Christ merely looked tired and I agreed that a nasty attack of jaundice would leave you feeling lethargic.  But in the very last room we were certainly impressed by the bare-breasted Tahitian maidens.

Joanne said that Gauguin got better as he got older [which is undeniable] and he was interested in his subjects as people, not merely as objects [which I have my doubts about–maybe you need ‘sex objects’ in place of ‘people’].

And after lunch we ended up returning for the porcelain sunflower seeds, all 100 million of them.

And this is the nearest I got to taking an unblurred close-up:

I was much more impressed by this:  in spite of having seen pictures in the papers, I still found the contrast between the detail and the mass fresh and unexpected, and the viewers were also much more like what I expected Tate Modern denizens to be.  Well done Ai Weiwei!  Well done Tate Modern!

Huis clos encore

November 13, 2010

Interior of 100 Parliament Street

GARCIN ….Et dehors?
LE GARÇON, ahuri Dehors?
GARCIN   Dehors! De l’autre côté de ces murs?
LE GARÇON   Il y a d’autres chambres et d’autres couloirs et des escaliers.
GARCIN   Et puis?
LE GARÇON   C’est tout.

Лондон Елены Отто

November 12, 2010


Ну вот.  Обложка данной книги обещает Реальные истории русских эмигрантов, живущих и выживающих сегодня в самом роскошном городе.  На самом деле, она включает в себе разные рассказы,  эскизы, размышления, связанные с авторским опытом (и опытом её знакомых) в Англии (не всегда в Лондоне) и вообще за рубежом.

Сначала, автор должна пройти собеседование в британском консулстве в Екатеринбурге, чтобы получить нужную визу.  Она думает, что так как постоянно утверждает, что хочет изучать прекрасный и полезный английский язык именно на месте, то соответствующие власти обязаны выдать ей визу, хотя у неё совсем иное намерение–накопить деньги, жизненный опыт, построить себе карьеру.  Значит, например, она работает официанткой в одном джентельменском клубе, где ведёт типовый разговор с старшей прислугой (он, как не странно, излагает известнейшие шаблоны, касающиеся Англии, по полной программе)–делает вид, что умеет собирать яблоки–описывает, как соотечественники воруют в шотландских магазинах–передает читателю подробные, но неполные и неистематические информации о том, как ехать зайцем на местном транспорте–упрекает среднестатического соотечественника-эмигранта, строителя с вышем образованием,  в том, что не ходит в Британский музей.

Всё это как-то пахнет неширокой душой но, спрашивается, насколько соответствует содержание книги реальности?  Посмотрим на главу <<Роковая женщина ищет спутника жизни>> откуда кажется, между прочим, что английский директор Пушкинского дома в Лондоне работает под началом русской жены.  (Как это должно быть!)  Вдобавок, в том же месте мы читаем о презентации компакт-диска одной литовки по имени Нина, которую верно поддерживает муж-англичанин Брайан.  Есть, кажется, такие люди–и вдобавок они тоже занимаются пиявками.  Замечательно, просто замечательно…как нельзя лучше!

В общей сложности, книга пропитана мелочностью, злорадостью, собственническом складом ума–но, зато, рассказ <<Каштан>> оказывается по-настояшему хорошим произведением.

Книга занимала четвёртое место среди лидеров прoдаж магазина <<Русский мир >> в сентябре 2010-ого года.

Don Carlos Midsummer Opera Broadway Theatre 7 November

November 7, 2010

Left: Don Carlos (John Upperton), right: Eboli (Zoe South)

The start of this concert performance was delayed by a few minutes due to a queue at the box office, but unfortunately that still didn’t leave very many people in the Broadway Theatre, Catford.  And how many would there have been without friends and family of the chorus and orchestra…?  Perhaps I’d have been alone once again!

The performance was somewhere between concert-with-some-costume-elements and semi-staged-with-scores.  The format certainly allowed you to appreciate Verdi’s orchestral score, with the orchestra released from the pit–that was of course rather a contrast with Midsummer Opera’s Norma last year.  I certainly enjoyed the performance of John Upperton as a Don Carlos with a true tenorial ring, while there was a good deal of finesse from Deborah Stoddard (Elisabetta) and fire from Zoe South (Eboli).

As to what a concert performance is like, here it was rather like a church service as the ushers came and went on mysterious errands and the members of the congregation spread out to try to appear more numerous.  That’s quite appropriate for the Inquisitor-and-heretic tinta I suppose.

Pity there weren’t more people to see it, but that’s the modern church for you I suppose…

Iphigenie auf Tauris Sadlers Wells 31 October

November 3, 2010


The useful sheet of A4 we got with the completely uninformative programme described this both as ‘An opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck’ and ‘A dance-opera by Pina Bausch’.  And indeed singers sang from the ends of the second circle near the stage while dancers danced on it and players played in front of it.

The plot was perhaps rather complex to convey in surtitle-less German singing, and the explanation of Iphigenie dreaming both that Clytaemnestra killed Agamemnon (which has happened) and Iphigenie herself killing Orestes (which doesn’t happen) didn’t really help matters.

The dance involved quite a lot of dancers holding their arms in poses reminiscent of ancient pictures of dancing and also Thoas madly slapping himself on the arms.

At the interval, my companion asked why Orestes didn’t just say who he was (or sing or dance who he was perhaps) and let us go home an hour earlier.  I suggested various reasons, while skirting round the obvious one that recognition scenes were something that Euripides did quite well really (for a total bungler).

Towards the end, a young girl slowly strewed the kitchen table on which Orestes was to be sacrificed with flowers, and then a ladder was brought on, which procedure led to the people sitting behind us corpsing totally (though they certainly tried hard to suppress it).

I think my problem here was that there was just too much plot going on that was hard to understand…