Saturday 2 October 2010

Wicked Little Angel

There was an elderly pigeon walking along Finchley Road today. When he tired, he paused to contemplate a few sodden autumn leaves. London in the rain, he shrugged morosely. His glum little figure became a thing of memory as traffic moved and our taxi driver apologised profusely for his squeaky shoes. It's the rubber soles, he offered politely. Yesterday's taximan swore blue murder at an intrepid pedestrian, words that shocked my mother! But surprisingly, even he apologised at the end of the drive, with a somewhat complex tale about a cousin who wound up in prison because of... there are seven million detailed biographies entwined on these streets and no one is what they seem.

We have been swanning around in taxis in rainy London because Mum tumbled down a few mossy stone steps and a golf ball sized swelling bloomed around her ankle. But ice and my reiki righted the pain and we have travelled down Rotten Row where the horses canter, and past the Serpentine, spent hours in the National Portrait Gallery where the newly acquired bronze bust of Nelson Mandela resides beside portraits of Amartya Sen and Dorothy Hodgkin. This time Mum didn't return home determined to tear up her portraits as she is dramatically wont to do...

We are in London for my childhood friend's wedding at Langhams Hotel. A swanky affair! I wore a floaty sort of green ensemble, empire line, very Regency. Byron would have approved. And Father danced with far too many women. And almost no one knew I had just emerged from Rituximab infusions less than two weeks ago. And none of that matters anyway when I stand in awe of the magnificent exhibition of Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes at the Victoria and Albert Museum, surrounded by the living art of Karsavina and Nijinsky, Stravinsky and Massine, Leon Bakst, Jean Cocteau and a huge drop curtain detailing Picasso's Women Running on the Beach for Le Train Bleu.

Most moving was the performance of the Little Angels, an all-female children's folk ballet troupe from Korea. Sadler's Wells theatre was full of Korean war veterans, for whom the troupe was created in gratitude, in 1963, for laying down their lives in a faraway country in civil strife.

So there has been sculpture and sketches, ballet and marriage vows, but when I shut my exhausted eyes, what I hear... is singing. Have you seen Wicked, the musical? It is... well, wicked, really! Witches before they were witches, and why the monkeys became winged, and why Elphiba flings Dorothy into the cellar, and there's a man, (there's always a man), who first loves Glinda the Good and then decides it is the green Wicked Witch of the West he truly loves and suddenly everything changes... and I know, as Elphiba does...
"It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap...
It's time to try defying gravity!
I think I'll try defying gravity!"
... and perhaps the return to a bed on the floor of a room in Cambridge, will not seem quite so dull after all.
First two images:
Nobel prize winning chemist and crystallographer
Dorothy Hodgkins, by Maggi Hambling, oil on canvas,
Opera singer Adelina Patti, by Camille Silvy,
photograph, 1869


Cloudia said...

Do hope MuM feels chipper soonest!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Ruth said...

It's extraordinary when I stop and consider all the intertwined stories in any given day on the street.

Your London outing sounds full and beautiful. I just love the National Gallery, and seeing Nelson Mandela's bust must have been a treat.

And how sweet those Korean children must have been. I remember the Korean Orphan Choir as a child.

I might be the only person who has not seen Wicked. Sounds fun.

I hope you're feeling fine, Shaista. It's good to see you.

Wine and Words said...

*sigh* I haven't seen Wicked either. I also loved the way lives intersect on the street, and have come to understand that patience and understanding are required of all. They all have a story, a sadness, a success. Last nights experience transforms interactions into something more than what we assume.

SERENA said...

gorgeous description of your comings and goings.. huge love to you and your mum and dad. hope her ankle feels better soon... you've also reminded me to visit the national gallery again real soon. i also love it there xx

Ruth said...

I would love to join my students going on the Literature in London program next summer, and join you, if Wicked is still playing. I don't think it's possible, but I can wish! :)

Claudia said...

I haven't been to London in such a long time! Early Autumn is the best season to visit, I find.

The existence of myriad unphantomable stories all around us, unsuspecting passersby in big cities, is something that also fascinates me. Sometimes I like to guess at them, in a cab or a bus.

I haven't seen Wicked either. Might take my girls during the half-term.

Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

When my son Ben was a little boy I lost him. We got separated in a busy market in Thailand. I was frantic to see the whisp of his hair. After some hours he was returned to me, having trotted into some basket store having a grand old time there with the shopkeeper. I cried with relief to see him and in his little boy voice trying to explain his adventure and an excuse of why he had wandered off. I didnt care. I just was happy to see him.

I have just had this same feeling to see your post. It matterns not a thing to me what you post, just that you are back.

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