Grantchester (and others)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I haven’t written in 2 weeks. But you could all see that coming, couldn’t you? I mean, if it wasn’t obvious that I had given up from the fact that my last post was written drunk and ABOUT A HOT WATER BOTTLE then you must have been able to interpret all the, ‘oh, God, this is so boring, oh God, I don’t want to write, Oh God, why don’t I just reduce every day’s experience down to one teeny-tiny sentence so I don’t have to do anything anymore’ writing that I was very close to giving up the ghost (giving up the goat? I am no longer certain which term is right. Or even if that is the right term for this particular scenario. Don’t judge, I only had 4 hours anxiety sleep last night). Well, you would have been able to realise that if I had been bothering post any of that crap to Facebook, but since I stopped doing that (because it was all crap and ABOUT HOT WATER BOTTLES) you probably all just think I died in the past four weeks and someone neglected to tell you.

I have also been working hard fo’ da money and also writing ACTUAL THINGS (like PLAYS), so I have had to neglect the blog. And, look, in all honesty, I think the neglect was probably a good thing. I wouldn’t want to spoil the blog with too much love and attention. Giving into its every whim and desire will only make it grow into a selfish and demanding blog with unmeetable expectations that no partner blog will ever be able to fulfil at a later point in life. You know? Yeah, you know.

Ah, goddamn, this was going to be a thoughtful, serious and introspective post. Something that I could post, with pride, to social media. And now look at it. I apparently can’t help myself. Also, how now to segue into seriousness and contemplativeness? Or… I could just sneakily change the title and do the seriousness somewhere else entirely, where it won’t be sullied by silliness…

BOOM. Done. This is now a different post.

So, last week, after I had worked 14 days in a row fo’ da money (no weekends! 10 hour days!) I got 3 days off. I decided the best use of those 3 days was to squish 14 days worth of activities into 72 hours, so I visited my brother in Oxford on Wednesday, visited my cousin in Cambridge on Thursday and went to Brighton for a show on Friday. I don’t have a car, and these places are best reached through London, so I did 3 day trips in a row and spent a lot of time on public transport. Which I don’t mind at all, because it gives ample time for staring out of windows and listening to music, but it was tiring.

Oxford was lovely – my bro is (sadly) heading home this Tuesday after completing his degree, so it was good to see him before he left. I will miss him. I am sad he is leaving because I have never seen him happier than when he was in Oxford and, also, more selfishly, I liked having an excuse to visit Oxford now and then. Oxford feels about 2 hours and 50 years away from London.

Cambridge was up next and it was a stupidly pretty day, so we decided to walk to Grantchester, which is something my cousin and I had attempted previously, but the weather turned and so we ended up eating carrots on a park bench near a canal and bitching about academia and the arts instead. But this time we were actually going to get to Grantchester!

Grantchester is a sillily English place. It is unbelievably Cambridge-esque. Apart from the river that you can punt along from Cambridge to Grantchester, there are blackberry bushes you can pick fruit from; rolling green hillsides filled with leaping frogs; gamboling dogs with country folk dressed in tweed; and styles that you can climb over. According to Wikipedia, Grantchester has the world’s ‘highest concentration of Nobel Prize Winners’ (bet you didn’t think that was a demographic that people measured). People who used to regularly hang out there included Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf, Wittgenstein, Keynes and E. M. Forster (who, with others, made up the Grantchester Group). But, none of this I was aware of until later. All I was aware of was this:

The Cam (river), Grantchester

The Cam (river), Grantchester found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grantchester

And this:

Grantchester Orchard. Found at: http://www.orchard-grantchester.com/

Grantchester Orchard. Found at: http://www.orchard-grantchester.com/

And this:

When we arrived at The Orchard at Grantchester it was 3:05pm and we discovered that they had stopped serving lunch at 3pm. Not to be discouraged, we turned our attention to the large selection of cakes. I asked my cousin’s boyfriend if it was silly to get two scones. He answered it was silly to NOT get two scones. Which made me like him all the more.

We sat under the orchard trees with their dropping fruit and their disconcertingly bold wasps and discussed the state of the world, and in particular, left-wing politics, in a manner that I hoped was suitably ‘Cambridge’ or ‘Nobel Prize’, despite that fact that none of us were actually students at Cambridge (anymore) and none of us have (yet) won a Nobel Prize. It was a beautifully restful afternoon and my (two) scones with jam were in no way a mistake.

My cousin then headed out to a cafe for a proper dinner (which I couldn’t actually eat because I had recently eaten TWO scones with jam) and chatted for hours. She fixed the play I had been trying to write for the past 3 years by making me realise that the reason it wasn’t working was because it all hinged on one character coming in and demanding something that they would never ever demand. Like, ever. So, we talked more and more about it and it became even clearer that I’m going to have to cut 3 characters, change the plot entirely and salvage what I can of the 180-odd pages I have written since 2010. It’s one of those things that makes you break out in hives when you first consider it and then, gradually, gradually, you come to realise that this is an incredibly liberating feeling, that you’re going to hack through all the crap ideas and thoughts and feelings that you tried to hang on this flimsy plot and narrative and finally express what it was you actually wanted to express all along. It seems like I do this a lot with my plays – for the first draft I put absolutely everything I possibly can think of into it that is in someways related to what I want to write about and as the days go on, I keep having more ideas and put them in too until the play is so big and ambitious and unwieldy that I doubt even the most experience of playwrights (Stoppard! Chekov! Shakespeare! Kane!) could make sense of my ideas. And, then, just when my frustration with all these competing strands reaches a fever-pitch, there is a burst of light and my brain goes, ‘Actually, all you want to write about is x. Go, go now and write! Write!’ And I do. And it gets done in record time. And it is good (usually). Usually this happens on my own, this time around I had help. My darling cousin let me ramble on for a good hour, told me lots of useful things as well as making excellent suggestions (my play happens to be around her area of research) and put me on the bus with renewed enthusiasm for my script and hope that it might, one day, turn into an actual play that people would pay actual money to see on an actual stage.

On Friday I saw the dress rehearsal for an actual ‘play’, but one that will not be on an actual ‘stage’. Or, Brighton is the whole stage. It is a hugely ambitious play-game using digital technology in the form of mobile phones and earpieces to keep the game-players in contact with their team leaders and hearing the story. I’ve been involved in the trials that led to the production getting to the stage its at and it’s terribly exciting. Combining game-playing with theatre is quite a new and exciting thing that I’ve only become aware of in the past 2 years or so and I’m really happy to have helped out, in some small way, for this production. It’s on in Brighton this weekend and also in York in early October. I’m hoping to travel to York to see it.

Saturday I actually managed to spend in London. But, that is all for my serious, contemplative piece later on today. See you there!

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