Advent Calendar Day 2: Frankfurt!

Picture: Michael Probst/AP
Picture: Michael Probst/AP

The Christmas market opens in Roemerberg square in Frankfurt, Germany (poor things, getting rained on…).

Petition to allow Anglican clergy to bless civil partnerships in church

David and Jonathan
Cheery and not even slightly suggestive image of Jonathan with David, the latter sporting gorgeous must-have-this-season dead!Goliath accessory. Found in St. Giles's Cathedral, Edinburgh, photo by Lawrence OP.

Provided in the comments to my previous post, “Born This Way” and the Sanctity of (all) Marriage was a link to the following petition:

Petition to allow Anglican clergy to bless civil partnerships in church.

In December 2011, it became legally possible for civil partnerships to be blessed in houses of worship. Currently, Anglican clergy are not allowed to do this, but a growing number seek to do so openly and without threat to their careers. A letter to this effect was printed in The Times, and signed by over 120 clergy from across the Diocese of London.

For me, this is only an interim step – I want to see gay marriage within the Church of England, during my lifetime. That is, gay couples being married to each other using a recognisably Christian marriage service, inside Anglican churches, by current Anglican priests, then signing marriage certificates and having the option to use marital titles (e.g. husband/wife) if they so choose, with the same religious, social and legal standing as heterosexual couples, without

a) it making the blindest bit of difference whether either or both parties are ordained ministers, priests, or Rowan Williams himself,

b) anyone feeling entitled or obliged to question whether the couple are in a sexual relationship, because it is neither a problem nor anyone else‘s business, or

c) the celebrant, assistant, or clergy in the congregation having to worry about the ramifications for their present and future careers.

This is a long way from what the Diocese of London is asking today. However, I truly believe that the success of this petition would be the first step to achieving everything I’ve described. So, if you sympathise, please sign here.

{not the} Thursday Retrospect

Previous Thursday retrospects can be found below! Some were even published on Thursdays.

  • Travel plans are afoot; Berlin in June/July, Kent in August and (I so hope) Positano (with Ravello and Sorrento, oh my god) in November. Recommendations for Berlin & Positano extremely welcome!
  • It was my birthday! I am now 24, which is older than practically every fictional character I’ve ever loved, except for Harriet Vane and several of the Forsytes. I am also the proud owner of MANY SHOES, a dress, MOLESKINES, lovely jewellery, my very own tiny turning-into-John-Simm watch-on-a-necklace, Henry Holland tights with the Eiffel Tower on (from Chloe) and Much Ado tickets (<3!!). Yes.
  • Continuing the #acquisitionspam, I am now reading Keith Osborn’s Something Written in the State of Denmark and will shortly begin The Invention of Murder.
  • How to get The Selby in your place.
  • I have taken my own advice from a year ago, and registered for Britgrad 2011.
  • On that note, if you need to write on .pdf forms electronically, PDFExpress is your friend. One of the most useful things on the internet.
  • I am tempted to get a Tumblr.
  • The final articles have been chosen for Issue 4 of Victorian Network, which will have the title Theatricality and Performance. As Submissions Editor, my part in the cycle is largely over… as Editorial Board member, I’m sure there will still be plenty to do.
  • Also, this cartoon.
  • My favourite Easter poem is after the jump. Continue reading “{not the} Thursday Retrospect”

In Memoriam: Postman’s Park and George Frederic Watts

(c) Ingrid Newton, 2011.

Fellow dead Victorian things enthusiasts may well enjoy photographer Ingrid Newton’s latest, absolutely beautiful post on London memorials. I am a big fan of Ingrid’s work, but particularly enjoyed this photograph. Ingrid describes the Postman’s Park memorial to those who have died via acts of self-sacrifice. The designer, as the above image shows, was George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), the first husband of Ellen Terry (who, of course, is a major subject of my thesis – though Madge Kendal may usurp the no. 1 spot). Watts had proposed a national monument to unsung heroes to coincide with Queen Victoria’s 1887 jubilee; when he received no response, he decided to go ahead with the idea himself. I suppose the online memorial sites, newspapers, and things like the Pride of Britain awards fulfil a similar function today, but there’s something infinitely more poignant about the little ceramic tributes. They remind me of the tablets offering thanks for answered prayers you find around shrines in French churches.

Notre Dame, 2009. In a shock twist of fate this was taken by my amateur self, notice how the most interesting tablet's in the bottom-right corner and I have OMITTED it.

The emotional impetus in Postman’s Park seems far sadder – but, then again, Watts’s memorial is still about thanksgiving. Several of the tiles commemorate children.

As Ingrid’s post reminds us, the length of time for which someone is remembered is a fraught issue. Who is remembered, how, and by whom? It’s an issue I’ve been grappling with thanks to an unexpected and exciting development in my research. When I started investigating the writings by these actresses, I automatically discounted the possibility of contact with anyone who knew them. Even “discounted” is too strong a word: it didn’t enter my head. And yet, I am now in correspondence with one of my subjects’ granddaughter and great-granddaughter, and hope soon to read some of their family manuscripts. The granddaughter is now 91; the link is there (there are other issues, about biographical vs academic remembrance, and whether some people should be remembered at all, but that’s a different post).

My next London research trip will probably constitute a return to the Garrick Club Library, but one of the many tangential/side project/should-never-see-daylight .docs attached to my DPhil describes an alternate tour. Without particularly knowing why, I started listing places where Victorian actors are buried. My supervisor’s built a fantastic SAA paper out of recording examples of the Early Modern &c, but somehow I doubt my tramp round Brompton Cemetery will have the same result…

These thoughts are rather disconnected, but then I am mid-chapter-edit. Alex is between drafts, in that glorious limbo of “free”/anxiety “time”. I am not. So type type type.

Joseph Lunn’s “Rights of Women” [1843]

Mrs Stirling and Mary Anderson (1882).

While Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things
the fate of emperors and the fall of kings
While guards of state must each produce his plan
and even children lisp the rights of man
amid the mighty fuss just let me mention
The rights of women merit some attention.

Mrs Blandish, Prologue (first played by Mary Anne Stirling, who lived between 1813-1895, performing everything and everywhere. She was Cordelia to Macready’s Lear, and the Nurse to Mary Anderson’s Juliet.)

 

 

Call it an early present for International Women’s Day (tomorrow). Now, back to the chapter.

Victorian Scandals & Glittery Skulls

Emmanuel Ray, Gisele Ganne, AW 08

Last night, I stayed up (too) late reading about family scandals, hatred, illegitimacy and death in the supposedly idyllic domestic life of one of my thesis’s subjects. The actress in question is Madge Kendal (1848-1935), an incredibly successful, powerful Victorian actress – and just about one of the biggest hypocrites I’ve ever (literarily) met.

The past few days have involved a lot of reading about Victorian marriages – the bride, the wedding night, divorce laws and annulments, and rituals surrounding mourning and death. My love of genealogy and my love of scandal are both growing exponentially with my doctoral research! Last night I found exactly what the Kendals’ youngest daughter did, to warrant being disowned, and it shocked me horribly.

Today I’m having to be good and get back to hermeneutics. But then I saw this image, and it was so gloriously, gaudily, bitterly self-indulgent with all its splashy Victorian mourning glitz that I had to include it.  It reminded me so much of all the accounts of mourning I’ve been reading – in public, theatrical, self-indulgent form. It’s Gisele Ganne‘s mourning-inspired jewellery collection, and the model is Emmanuel Ray. I love it, Madge Kendal would hate it, and since her sustained vileness to her offspring deprived me of my sleep, that seems an excellent reason to reblog!

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market, London, 2010.

The first Columbia Road market was conceived in 1869 as an attempt to wean costermongers from the streets. Today, the Sunday morning flower market in Columbia Road and nearby Ezra Street has become something of an institution. Selling cut flowers, pot plants, herbs, trees and even mature shrubs, the market spills out into back streets with all the charm of Camden, but none of the commercialism and none of the goths. Get up by dawn.

Adapted from The London Encyclopedia (1985), by Hibbert, Weinreb, Keay & Keay.

Columbia Road began its life as a pathway along which sheep were driven to the slaughterhouses at Smithfield.

Columbia Road (2010).

“I have been trading for 35 years on Columbia Road. I sell herbs including Fern Leaf Dill, Rosemary, Purple sage, Sweet Basil, Coriander, Lemon Thyme. My father worked in the Romford markets and he came from a family of fruit sellers.”

Simon Grover, Columbia Road trader since 1973.

Stratford-on-Avon PPCs: Zahawi, Johnston, Turner et al (and why you should save your spin for the Bodleian)

My prized collection of spin, hope and lunacy.

The John Johnson Collection, the Bodleian Library’s Archive of printed ephemera, are collecting material related to the General Election. If you have received any leaflets/postcards/scratch ‘n’ sniff perfume samples from your PPCs, don’t throw them away! Election ephemera can be sent direct to the relevant librarians – email me at clamorousvoice [at] gmail [dot] com to learn more.

PPCs for Stratford-upon-Avon (as of 29th April):

Conservative: Nadhim Zahawi
Labour: Rob Johnston
Liberal Democrat: Martin Turner
Green: Karen Varga
Independent: Neil Basnett
English Democrats: Frederick Bishop
UKIP: Brett Parsons
BNP: George Jones

What I’ve learned about these candidates, so far

In February, the blogosphere claimed that Zahawi had received “the promise of a safe Conservative seat” in Stratford – “ultra-safe”, according to the Voter Power Index. For a while, Jeffrey Archer’s crony looked set to become the Midlands’ latest British Asian Tory poster boy, along with the charismatic Allah Ditta, Worcester’s first Asian Mayor. Now, however, Independent Neil Basnett has frothed up to split the right-wing vote. He’ll do well – if Stratford’s unhappiest Tories are too blinded by bigotry to notice his lack of policies.

Meanwhile, Rob Johnston’s got himself a PPC webpage – even if it is empty – and was sighted at Alcester Grammar School. A schoolfriend of mine claims he bought her a drink and was nice (perk up, Johnston, I agree being given S-on-A to fight is shitty, but there’ll be another election soon and important people are watching). Martin Turner‘s a Baptist and knows a sheep farmer. Vince Cable likes him (Turner, not the shepherd). Karen Varga may just be a conspiracy theory. No, wait, she has a blog. The most recent entry starts “Weapons kill – no seriously“. I think I’ll vote for the sheep.

Stratford also boasts three nationalist-slash-racist-slash-embarrassing candidates, in the form of Frederick Bishop, Brett Parsons and George Jones (I shan’t link to them). From what I can gather, the English Democrats hate everyone who’s not English, UKIP hate everyone who’s not British, and the BNP hate everyone who’s not white (and British. And Christian. And straight). George Jones doesn’t look quite as hilarious as the pencil sketch I posted two weeks ago, but does resemble Fagin’s seedier half-brother.

Which is ironic.

I can’t vote Labour. I think the Liberal Democrats (and, realistically, a coalition government/hung parliament) are our best hope for a) change and b) the destruction of the New Conservative dream. I just hope Nick Clegg doesn’t meet any bigots in the forthcoming week. I bet Murdoch wouldn’t have broadcast Cameron with his microphone left on.

[Interview] AMERICAN AMAZON “I wouldn’t want some dumb actor getting credit for my language”

AMND 2007 (backstage before the final scene)
Cast members backstage before the final scene of A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2007. Photo: Satbir Singh.

Not that it is possible to “inflict” cancer on another human being, but I’ve  never been able to say “I’d never wish what I’ve been through on anyone.

Emily is the author of American Amazon, and  answered my Interview Meme a little while ago. She’s 25, and a brilliant writer, actress & teacher. We met when she auditioned for my production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in Spring 2007. We were in this bizarrely named basement in Exeter College, Oxford. I was in a bad temper with my producer for booking said basement, convinced that nobody would be able to find the auditions. In fact, I ended up meeting two of my favourite people that day – Karina (Helena), and Emily, whom I cast as Cobweb / First Fairy.

I always end up casting actors I think I’m going to like, but who intimidate me as well. Emily came through the door like a hurricane – I don’t know if she was in character or just pissed off – and did the audition incredibly fast. She was very thin, very mobile, with amazing eyes.  She and my Puck played opposite each other so well that their rehearsals were the easiest part of the process: constant insight & fun, with much directorial amazement at somehow getting two such talented people to turn out for me.

Ten months ago, Emily was diagnosed with Grade II breast cancer. She’s had chemo, a mastectomy in August, and is now back in the US & on hormone therapy for 5 years. This is not the most interesting thing about her, or the only reason you should read her blog. But it informs some of the questions I ask her, and some of the answers she gives. I asked her five questions — on cancer, mothers, poetry, lust and fame (one very weird dinner party) & she was kind enough to answer. The first Q&A is below:

1. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever imagined inflicting on another human being?

Cancer.
Cancer.
Yep…cancer.

Not that it is possible to “inflict” cancer on another human being, but I’ve never been able to say “I’d never wish what I’ve been through on anyone.” I’m not a good enough person for that. Because honestly–I would. In moments of extreme self-pity and bitterness I have thought “better you than me.” Not necessarily toward  people I know, but toward pretty twentysomething girls on the street who seem so carefree and put together; toward stupid, senseless women who take their breasts out on television.

The most concrete, formulated wish for cancer-transference I had was in a Pret a Manger in the Hammersmith Piccadilly line tube station; I was waiting for an appointment at Charing Cross hospital, feeling sick and terrified, and I watched a woman scream at and smack her two-year-old child. I felt something so irrevocably wrong and unjust had happened in the world that I was the one with cancer, and she was the one with the child. It was also the moment at which I most truly and profoundly doubted the existence of God.

[for questions 2-5, with Emily’s answers, click here to visit her blog]

when women didn’t have to follow behind with the bucket (1916)

Primogeniture hangs heavy over the female genealogist, which is probably why there aren’t more of us in the field. For length of service, my grandfather (a man of index cards, clan tartans and a handsome volume in purple) takes some beating; for sheer sleuthing, the mother who found two aunts after fifty years demands respect. And now my grandmother is in on the act, demonstrating a laudable optimism as she scours Welsh BMD records for ancestors with such memorable Welsh surnames as Williams, Phillips and Morgan. Three shiny needles in an enormous Welsh needle shop.

I have a family tree drawn for me by my grandfather when I was about six or seven (the absence of my younger cousins gives the game away). Although one side of his family ran pretty quickly to yeoman farmers and conjecture, the family from which I take my surname included a whaling captain and an Anglo-Indian millionaire with a confusing will. I decided he’d been bumped off and circled him in red crayon to this effect, adding MURDERED?? in Penny Dreadful capitals in case anyone missed The Symbolism. My mum’s research was characterised by endless certificates and fits of hysteria in Bromsgrove Records Office, where we stopped just short of finding Quasimodo Crow but discovered all his Old-Testament-named, born-and-died-in-the-same-square-mile Black Country brethren. And my grandmother’s search? Well – photos.

Last week I scanned 130 for her as backups at her Cheshire home. Her aunt and uncle having been moderately famous photography pioneers, there’s a practical imperative: a biography for Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, or, er, the National Library of Wales. It’s also true that the joys of SCANNING and CATALOGUING and MAKING NICE LISTS satisfy the bit of my soul that genuinely enjoyed an academic term spent freezing in Magdalen Archives tallying the different ways in which Oscar Wilde wrote ‘A’. Most of all, though, I am a vintage photography junkie. I buy those depressing old pictures found by the tills in antiques shops. I turn to the picture pages in biographies before I’ve even read the title, my fingers rifling pages to find where the glossy paper begins. My interest in women’s education is analogous to my interest in genealogy – part self-obsession, part storytelling, part a historian’s belief in archives for archives’ sake.  One of my few bits of hagia sophia is the belief that everything you do, read, visit or think will be useful to you at some point. There’s no such thing as trash literature, or as time wasted (except, perhaps, on the internet). So I’m putting this picture out there in the hopes it’ll be interesting to someone other than me (and my gene pool).

So: above. University College, Cardiff (now Cardiff University), 1916. Education Class. My great-grandmother lies second from the right. She’s got brown hair, sunburned skin and many teeth, but it might be easier to tell you she’s the happiest one in the photo. Her name was Madge, and she moved into Aberdare Hall, the first women’s hall of residence in Wales, and the second in Britain. She became a teacher and rode a motorcycle and moved to Croydon and married a Welshman and had two children. Her father was a choirmaster and candidate for Most Welsh-Named Welshman of All Time: Evan Williams. Several sisters followed Madge to Cardiff, including a younger sister who’d die of tuberculosis before she could graduate in Maths.

The quad in the picture looks so like Oriel that it gave me pause (for those who know it — third quad, looking towards the war memorial). I didn’t overlap with my great-grandmother at all; she died when my father was little, having had a stroke within days of moving in with her daughter and son-in-law. At my grandfather’s funeral, my dad’s godfather gave me a different image of her: Madge, leaning against the fireplace, gin-and-tonic in hand, always laughing. It’s easier for me to reconcile that Madge with the sunny student than with the the invalid who died in the room where – eventually – her great-grandchildren learned to sing Sosban Fach.


If you have any old family photographs to hand, please do think about blogging them! I can’t be the only person who finds them fascinating, right?