Monday, 3 March 2014

Thank you Mr Putin

It's been a busy weekend.  Although not on Saturday, when the only two things that occupied me were staying bed for as long as possible and a trip to Sainsbury's to get supper.

Of course, the weekend starts on a Thursday these days, so Thursday evening we went to the cinema to see The Book Thief.  Neither of us realised it had only just opened, but that would explain why we hadn't read any reviews.  It was probably a good thing we hadn't.  The reviews range from awful to very awful.  Not that it mattered to us...we both rather liked it.  We hadn't read the book either so had no expectations on that level either.  Anyway, it is (roughly) about a girl adopted by a Bavarian family.  Her brother was also supposed to have been adopted but he dies before they arrive.  The mother is gruff, the father a sweetie. They hide a young jewish lad in their cellar...and no more before it all becomes a spoiler.  For us, the beautiful setting (there's no getting away from the fact that Bavaria is a beautiful part of the world) made the tragedy of war, and the Jews in particular all the greater....the parts were generally well played all round, and there's nothing wrong with some obvious emotional string pulling is there?  If you want to see a weepy, this is the one.

Friday night and we headed off to see A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney which is on at the National at the moment.  At the time this was a quite shocking play, particularly as it was written by a nineteen year-old. Many of the issues that it deals with - unplanned pregnancy, mixed race-relationships, homosexuality, bad parenting and impoverishment, are commonplace in the media now...but it wasn't hard to imagine the impact fifty years such an extent that if you closed your eyes during the performance, it was easy to imagine the whole thing in black and white.  Apart from some overacting in some places, and one or two odd directorial issues, the whole thing was superb.  It's unusual for me not to fall asleep in the first half of a play these days when the performance has been preceded by a glass or two of red wine, but I stayed awake, alert and totally engrossed.  The play makes the point that despite the awfulness of some people's lives, life just goes on and on and on in an endless cycle which just repeats itself time after time...and it made it very well indeed.  In itself it's a perfect period piece, and does make you reflect on modern day issues...

In a much more elegant way, we had a great evening at the Sam Wannamaker evening of Mozart and storytelling.  Not much to say other than it was a gorgeous candle-lit evening, and it's always a joy to hear Mozart played on original instruments, especially when there's some good commentary to go with it.

So, back to my header.

This is the passport photo that made the border guards smile when we went to Moscow a couple of years ago...there is a passing resemblance to Mr Putin, pre-plastic surgery (his not mine).  One of subjects I studied at Uni was Soviet politics, and I was always quite resentful of the fact that the USSR collapsed not long after I finished my seemed three years of my life had been wasted.  But what has been clear over the last several years is that Vladimir is on Old Soviet Leader, and he would like to return to the good old days.  I remember well that when we were in Moscow, there was a tremendous feeling amongst the Muscovites we met that it was better in Soviet times, so it's no wonder that the leadership is heading in that direction.  It isn't surprising in anyway that Russian troops are all over Crimea, and I wouldn't be surprised if they headed into East Ukraine as well...there will be blood.  But Russia has always had a high level of paranoia about The West and the countries surrounding it, and to see the heart of the nation (in may ways Ukraine is more Russia than Russia) turn to the EU, was never going to be something that was allowed. We're not quite in Budapest 1956, but we're not far off...and at best if there is a Ukraine that leans to The West, it will be half the size of Ukraine as it's drawn on the map at the moment.  So I'm glued to all the commentary, absolutely fascinated by what's going on and to see whether my opinions, analysis and predictions are in anyway accurate.  But don't think I don't recognise that this is a tragedy in the making, and there will; be an enormous sadness for any lives lost....