In many ways yesterday was something of a ‘monster’ day, four chunks of time spent doing very different things – one of which was astonishingly moving…
The first two of these time-segments – me, alone, working in my study – were pretty run-of-the-mill: a read-through of Crash, and some drafting of “C”. In terms of the latter, it strikes me that I could finish the first draft when I’m away on retreat in a couple of weeks. A target then.
In the last two events I was very much not alone.
The evening finished with April’s Contextual poetry reading. We had five readers and nineteen attendees, and as usual were blessed with a range of styles and subjects from our readers. Thanks to Alex, Ama, Jim, Laura and Jenny – and to all those who attended. (News of May’s date and readers will follow in the next week or so.)
The stand-out of the day happened in the afternoon when I attended a Society of Authors Zoom event: an interview with the South African playwright, actor and director, Athol Fugard. During the hour, Athol (who is now 90 years old) said that what he was working on now was going to be the last thing he would ever write, that he’d done all he could and no longer had the strength (and possibly imagination) to carry on. All he now wanted to do was to sit and look at his garden, watch the birds and the rain, and relax in the last ‘two or three’ years he might have left.
Moving enough. But then he read – with some difficulty – from this final work, based on real events in South Africa’s past. It was a moving and haunting experience. At the end of it, Athol was in tears. There was anger in the tears at what South Africa had been like under Apartheid, but also I think tears in that he himself would be able to shed a light on that history no longer. I am sure many people on the session were in pieces.
It was the kind of thing once witnessed, never forgotten…
All of which inevitably puts today‘s likely efforts in the shade somewhat; indeed, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do just now. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. Not today.
But what that session with Athol also demonstrated by how precious our time is, how important it is that we do what we do, and how – when I’m planning my future work – I need to set the bar far higher that I have done to-date. I need – in Athol’s words last night – “to make an appointment with myself”.
That moment I witnessed yesterday – “I can’t do it any more” – is coming to me, to all of us. Important to try and leave as little unsaid as possible, don’t you think?
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