Here is my take on the eye-opening performance of the play ‘Les Blancs’ written by by Lorraine Hansberry., currently streaming on YouTube by the National Theatre. I think this is what reality theatre should be highlighting. The unacceptable face of a whitewashed history.
Take a shack, place it in the middle of a revolving stage. Surround it with throbbing beating African music and let the story unfold. Except this was no story, this was the largely untold and hidden history of the horror and abject cruelty of racist imperialism. The hidden history of many European countries who colonised parts of Africa and bled the inhabitants dry of resources and treated the inhabitants as slaves or lesser members of humanity. This play obviously focussed on British imperialism, although it was written by an American, Lorraine Hansberry. Three African brothers are drawn together to attend the funeral of their Father. The shack represents a mission, where the local hospital is located. At the same moment an American writer arrives to research a book he’s writing on the situation in this unnamed part of Africa. The brothers are all from different spheres of life. The first of the brothers we encounter and who plays a leading role in the play has traveled from the USA, where he is married to a white woman, with whom he has a child. The second brother we meet is a priest who is preaching the white man’s religion and is thoroughly imbued with the white man’s culture. The third brother is a helper in the mission and appears to have a relationship with one of the white medical staff who provides him with alcohol and cigarettes. He is a half brother, conceived as a result of a rape of their Mother by an Army officer. There are a melange of important characters who make up the white colonial cast, including a blind elderly lady missionary, two doctors, one male and a lady doctor. The dialogue and the interaction between the various players is a powerful statement of the undercurrents of racism and revolution running through the country at a certain point in time. Revolution against the imperialist invaders is always in the background. The music and the scenes of cold blooded murder, by both the oppressors and the oppressed. There are rumours of white families including babies slaughtered by the rebels as the revolt against imperialism builds apace. Watching and recording everything as it happens in this racist microcosm of African life is always the American writer. Observing and questioning the background and behaviour of both the native rebels and the imperialist invaders. The language and the portrayal of the white supremacist treatment of the natives is shocking and the murders take place openly. The background culture of the lady missionary and the lady doctor as they try to make sense of an insensitive situation is an education in itself. The military presence is portrayed brilliantly by a cruel, racist military officer who has no qualms about shooting and killing a suspect in cold blood. The tension builds as the revolt draws closer and closer to the mission and the white population are ordered to evacuate and leave the area. As the American writer leaves, the lady missionary pleads with him to, ‘Write it and tell it as it is.’ The play makes its way to the final scenes. The remaining two brothers are arguing in a passionate scene and the priest is killed by his brother, who returns to his tribal roots and joins the rebels. The revolution arrives with fire as the mission shack is engulfed in flames. The reality behind this extraordinary play is the hidden history behind the story the author has vividly brought to life. This is the reality of a history that is never taught in schools, perhaps because the establishment is ashamed to draw attention to a past that will always be a stain on the conscience of imperialist colonialism.
Sadly I think very few people will see this performance as the bulk of the viewers will be too busy watching soaps to tune in.
Today is Midsummer day and the celebration of the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire. I’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of experiencing this amazing sight in reality. To my delight, English Heritage announced they would be setting up a live stream to enable people to view and virtually celebrate the Solstice at Stonehenge. We tuned in to YouTube and set the live video stream going. At first it seemed to be something of an anticlimax. The sky above the iconic stones was quite cloudy at 21:10; sunset was predicted to be a 21:27. There was no commentary but the camera occasionally panned around the standing stones. At one angle the setting solstice sun was quite bright and obviously the view from the other side was almost black, full of interesting evening shadows. I remarked to Margaret that it would probably feel quite uncomfortable if you were there alone.
The wealth of mysterious legends and fables based around Stonehenge are enough to fill the culpable mind full of awesome dread of Stonehenge. The Druids are a religious sect who once used Stonehenge as a temple, in fact I believe the modern day equivalent Druids still use the ancient stones. The famous sacrificial stone is a highlight of every visit, although there is no direct evidence it was ever used for sacrifice.
The sunset was incredibly dark and obscured by a cloudy sky.
The sunrise in the morning will be at 04:52 and should certainly be more of a spectacle.
Sunday 21st June 2020
I woke up in time to view the live stream video of the sunrise over Stonehenge. The sun rose at 04:52 but unfortunately the sky was covered with thick clouds and the spectacular sunrise didn’t occur.
I snapped a screenshot from the live video. Sadly a gray dreary start.
We watched a performance of ‘A Small Island,’ screened by the National Theatre. This is a play based on a novel by Andrea Levy, who sadly passed away from Cancer before she was able to see it.
This play is based on the Windrush scandal. A reflection of the time when many people from Jamaica in the West Indies arrived in England as citizens. Many of these people had earned their citizenship by fighting for their colonial Mother country of England during the Second World War. Jamaica was a colony of the British Empire and this gave these people the right to take up citizenship in Britain.
The play focussed on a few unfortunate people who had arrived in England from their homes in Jamaica to live and work.
The play started in the West Indies by highlighting the shortage of employment and the frequent hurricanes and tropical storms that afflict Jamaica. England became something of a paradise, where jobs and houses were freely available and the expectations of these people’s dreams were clearly evident.
Some had dreams of taking up professional careers or joining the forces when they reached England.
The play focused partly on one couple. The man Gilbert, joined the Air Force and had plans to study to become a lawyer. The scene when he was interviewed for his career was illuminating as he was promised a high position. This never materialised as he was immediately placed in a menial position as a driver. The first example of the huge letdown most of these people would experience.
A young light skinned, half caste lady, named Hortense, wanted to go to England but single young women were discouraged from applying and she was at her wits end. The only way she could get accepted was to go through a marriage ceremony with her friend Gilbert who would then send for her as his wife. Hortense was a teacher and she planned to continue her teaching profession in England.
Meanwhile Gilbert had settled in England and after he had left the Air Force, he desperately tried to get a job. He had little success, due to the overt racism of the times. He was subjected to some terrible racial abuse during his employment and was attacked at his place of work.
He tried everywhere to secure some comfortable accommodation to rent but once again ingrained racism reared its ugly head with landlords refusing to let their properties to black people. He finally managed to rent a shabby one-roomed bedsit from a landlady named, Queenie, who desperately needed the income from a few rooms in her house and she was happy to accept black and coloured people.
Eventually Gilbert sent for Hortense, who arrived and was shocked to discover the living conditions in the bedsit.
The racism and the trials and tribulations this couple went through were harrowing to say the least. This story is riddled with some obnoxious scenes of the horrible challenges facing black people in England during this period.
Queenie, the landlady gives birth to a black child, the result of a liaison with a former tenant. Meanwhile her husband had unexpectedly returned from a forces posting in India and is revealed to be an extreme racist. He demands that Gilbert and Hortense get out of his house immediately.
Gilbert and Hortense find somewhere else to live and the play finishes with Queenie, the landlady, begging them to take her black child with them as she believed this would be the only way her child could ever expect to be accepted into British society.
I was vaguely aware of the so-called Windrush scandal, when thousands of black people arrived in England looking for a better life. This eye-opening play revealed the shocking depths of racism that was ingrained throughout society at that period in time. I’m sure there are residues of these cruel, unfortunate, unforgivable attitudes running through all strands of our society still. I think by screening this play the National Theatre has done a powerful service to the Black Lives Matter campaign.
Today I will focus on our Asparagus beds on the allotment The photograph above was snapped earlier today after I had spent a couple of hours weeding and manuring the beds with compost.
The compost I’ve used is a mixture of well-rotted horse manure and some of our waste kitchen vegetable matter. There’s also a good portion of grass cuttings and some shredded paper. A good combination of nutrition for these greedy feeders. Over the past 25 years of growing Asparagus on allotments, I find this is a potent mixture indeed. In my opinion it’s wise to feed the plants twice a year. I choose to feed them in the early Spring and again when I’ve finished cutting the spears.
The nutritional benefits of eating Asparagus are many and this makes the effort of persevering with growing these attractive plants, worthwhile. Asparagus is a low calorie vegetable that is an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals especially folate and vitamins A C and K.
The cutting season for me lasts about eight weeks, from the moment the spears first appear in the middle of April until the 15 June. This cut-off date is extremely important as the spears have time to develop into the attractive Asparagus fern. The ferns soak up the sunshine during the remainder of the Summer, which swells the roots to encourage a good crop of Asparagus spears the following year.
The most important threat to Asparagus is an infestation of the dreaded Asparagus beetle that lays its eggs on the emerging spears. They eat the spears as they lay their eggs, they also excrete a substance that is unsightly on the spears and the plants. The larvae eat the centres of the red Asparagus seeds and strip the leaves of the fern.
Over the years I find frequent cutting during the harvest season keeps this pest from laying eggs in the early part of the season. However the danger of infestation for me lies in the period directly after I’ve stopped harvesting, when the spears first appear before they transform into the impressive ferns. On the neighbouring allotment gardens there are many small patches of Asparagus plants growing and as the Asparagus beetle is a flying pest there’s a good chance of infestation from these sources. The only organic cure for the Asparagus beetle appears to be physically plucking the beetles and their eggs off the plants by hand and immersing them in soapy water.
At the end of the season the ferns turn yellow. This is the time to burn them, as opposed to composting them, to prevent any further infestation of the Asparagus beetle.
When first planting Asparagus crowns its best not to cut and harvest the spears for the first two years. Once they’re established Asparagus plants will continue to crop for over 20 years, if they are well looked after.
‘In mythology, Asparagus has been renowned since ancient times both as an aphrodisiac and medicinally, for its healing properties. … With its active compound asparagin stimulating the kidneys, bladder and liver, Asparagus is a powerful detoxifier.’
We decided to book a parking slot and visit Felbrigg Hall, a National Trust property.. We did try to book a visit to Sheringham Park, also part of the National Trust but there was a high demand for parking slots and we were unlucky. The after-effects of the partial lifting of the lock-down restrictions due to the Coronavirus has created a high demand for places in these open air environments.
We parked our car in a lovely spot overlooking acres of fields full of cows, sheep and lambs munching the luscious green grass.
We set up our chairs and sat ready to enjoy our picnic lunch. We were a little early and we spent an hour seated, reading and taking in the sounds and sights of Nature. It was a pleasant day to spend doing very little, just relaxing, watching the grass grow as it were.
After lunch we took a stroll towards the main building where we came across a small herd of cows feeding on and under some trees.
As we passed a large black cow stepped up towards me with her head down.
I stepped back and she took another step forward. I would have given her a friendly stroke or a pat on the head but I noticed her head was full of flies, she was that close. Margaret and I decided it was time to move on and we made our way to take some photos of Felbrigg Hall.
We passed a pretty, well-cared for garden at the front of the building. There was a notice to inform visitors that although the walled garden was closed to the public, the Head Gardener was still working.
I snapped a lovely photograph of a small tortoiseshell butterfly sipping nectar from a large lavender bed. The plants were literally covered in insects and butterflies.
We continued strolling around the front of the house.
Finally we made our way to our car where we enjoyed a nice cup of hot tea from our flask before we made our way home.
These photographs show an amazing tropical tree that mysteriously appeared in our garden about 10 years ago. It grew from a tiny shoot and became larger and larger until it is now over eight foot tall.
Our next door neighbour has an older, even larger version of the same tree and we can only draw the conclusion our tree is an offspring of that splendid specimen. We think somehow a seed, perhaps delivered from a passing bird or insect was transported to our garden and took root.
This year is special though as it has burst out with a huge white branch of small white flowers. Google lens identified it as a Cordyline australis, or a New Zealand plant.
‘Cordyline australis, commonly known as the cabbage tree or cabbage-palm, is a widely branched monocot tree endemic to New Zealand. It grows up to 20 metres tall with a stout trunk and sword-like leaves, which are clustered at the tips of the branches and can be up to 1 metre long. (Wikipedia)’
I came up with the following information from the internet. Some comprehensive facts on the edible parts of the tree and how the Cabbage tree got its European name and the many interesting uses discovered by the native Maori people.
The huge flowers are too high on the tree for us to experience the reputed fragrance. There are many bees and insects visiting this unusual tree so there should be some interesting flavoured honey in a hive somewhere nearby.
I remember an unwilling, uninspiring English language teacher several years ago, who demonstrated some individual views on life that would have been highly criticised today. His major goal in life at the time was a high degree of self-promotion. His outward role was to attempt to instil in his pupils, (subjects), an interest in writing and appreciating poetry. He would start a session by reading his personal examples of poetry, then invite comments, which were obviously expected to be positive. The class would then be invited to write a poem on a set subject. An hour later our teacher would sit and take them apart piece by piece. The session would end by him handing out a subject to take away and use as an impetus to write a piece of poetry. When I wrote the above poem, I was influenced by some of his views and his comments. I included a couple of sentences that to this day I hope he noticed and took away with him.
Of course I’ve reworded and rejigged some of the words, since I resurrected it. When I look back, I can’t help thinking perhaps he wasn’t a bad teacher as he certainly stung me into action.
I worked extremely hard today potting our tomato plants into their final pots. I have 30 really healthy plants sited in our back garden. I can never believe the size these large healthy plants have grown, when I look back and consider the tiny black seeds I planted. Although Margaret is unable to eat tomatoes as she’s developed an allergy to them we both enjoy growing them.
Our geraniums are looking splendid this year, I always find these wonderful standby plants so easy to grow. Geraniums require the absolute minimum of attention and they come in some glorious colours.
These photographs show our beautiful blue tea rose. I bought this rosebush as a present for Margaret 12 years ago and it has rewarded us with a multitude of magnificent blooms, year after year. This is certainly the most successful floral present I have ever bought for her. The blooms get bigger and better as the years go by. The blooms have an extremely delicate perfume, so fresh and enticing to easily intoxicate any passing bees and insects to promote pollination.
However in my experience, roses are one of the hardest plants to grow in the garden and need a great deal of tender care and protection. In Spring the shrubs need to be pruned and all the dead wooden branches removed and a good measure of rose food needs to be applied around the roots. They need careful, regular examination to detect any attacks by pests, in the shape of greenfly, black fly or aphids. A good quality bug spray needs to be applied at the first sign and regularly throughout the season. Then there is the dreaded rust-like fungal disease that looks unsightly and causes the leaves to discolour and drop off. A regular spraying with a fungal deterrent is the only method I know to counteract this.
Regular watering in the dry spells is essential to encourage the buds to swell to produce new wonderful blooms. Another measure of rose food should be applied halfway through the Summer.
Sometimes spurs pop out from well down below the bush, I always remove these as they take energy from the bush that could go towards promoting the flowers. Finally at the end of the flowering season, which can last through to the years end, I have to prune the branches right back to prevent wind-rock. The winter wind blows fiercely and rocks the plant, loosening the roots in the soil, causing weakness or in extreme cases, death.
In my mind looking after my roses is simply a replacement for taking care of small children, keeping the roses fed, watered and protecting them from predators. The reward of my labour is the smile on Margaret’s face when she picks a perfect rose to photograph and view again year after year.
I took this brief paragraph of the origin of roses from Wikipedia, there is a lot of information, myths and information there.
‘Ornamental roses have been cultivated for millennia, with the earliest known cultivation known to date from at least 500 BC in Mediterranean countries, Persia, and China. It is estimated that 30 to 35 thousand rose hybrids and cultivars have been bred and selected for garden use as flowering plants. Most are double-flowered with many or all of the stamens having morphed into additional petals.’