I dreamed I'd co-authored a book about how I came to leave the Church. I was leafing through the finished article and finding it very glum. My co-author was the Rev Dr John Armson- who was chaplain at my theological college. According to the dream he'd counselled me through the process; in reality (this reality) he had nothing to do with it- though he's someone with whom I've always felt I had some sort of link...
Dissatisfied with the book, I felt I wanted to add a postscript in the form of a Q & A.
Q: How did you feel about leaving the Church?
A: Like Billy the Kid.
I'm sure there's a version where the husband cuts his wife's head off and kicks it against the wall but I can't find it. Did I make it up?
Anyway I like it better than having him pin her to the wall, which is the sort of thing Zorro would do. Decapitation is far more medieval. Martin Carthy has him cut her "paps" off- which is a little too horrible.
Matty Groves is Child Ballad #81. Everyone sings it a little differently, with varying words and varying tunes- which is how things should be with the folk tradition. The eponymous hero is also known as Little Musgrave. And the man who kills him is variously Lord Donald, Lord Barnard, Lord Daniel and so on. I like him best as Lord Barnard- because Barnard Castle is a place you can find on the map (I understand they have a really good branch of Specsavers there)- and I like to think of the story having once actually happened in an actual place. The wife never has a name of her own- in spite of her being of "noble kin"- and this tells its own story.
The Ballad of Matty Groves/Little Musgrave is a tragedy- in the purest sense of the word. Everyone in it acts honorably and bravely, according to their wyrd. They do what they have to do- and the trap unforgivingly snaps shut on them. Even the servant who snitches on the lovers is doing the right thing according to the strict dictates of the feudal system in which he is embedded.
My favourite version is Fairport Convention's- because it's stripped back to essentials- and is not only a great song but a great poem.
I watched the movie The Limehouse Golem last night. If you take it as a fever dream of late Victorian London- as filtered through Jekyll and Hyde, Dorian Gray and the Ripper mythos- it'll pass muster- but it hasn't got much to do with actuality. Douglas Booth has fun- and is fun to watch- playing the great comedian Dan Leno as a cross between Lily Savage and the MC from Cabaret- but enough survives of Leno's own schtick to make it plain he wasn't that kind of performer at all. He lived just long enough to make some sound recordings- they're available of line- (and God bless me- they're still funny)- but the persona that is projected there is dry, precisely spoken, subtle, diffident and not at all raucous or camp. He started out as a clog dancer and wound up as a character comedian and pantomime dame, with a line in social observation touched by surreality. Like all good comics he wanted to play it straight- in particular he fancied a shot at Richard III- and was never given the chance. The nearest we can get to a visual impression of the kind of thing he was up to is through the work of immediate successors like Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Like them he was a little man- playing- whether in drag or out of it- a quasi-innocent at odds with the world. Had he lived a little longer he'd have made movies himself- but he died at 43 in 1904 of workaholism tinged with alcohol. He put so much of himself into the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane that his ghost has been seen, heard and smelled there. Apparently his signature scent is lavender.
Does it matter that the movie so completely misrepresents him? Well, he was a great artist- and it's rather as though you made a movie featuring Picasso in which he's shown painting soup cans and making screen prints of Marilyn. Would that be acceptable? Only if you being deliberately disrespectful.
I signed up to Amazon Prime inadvertently (they make it very easy to do) but since I've got it I'm going to use it to catch up with movies I quite wanted to see at the time of release but never got round to. Last night was Inception.
Inception is brilliant- and intelligent- but two questions:
1. Can Leonardo di Caprio do anything other than glower?
2. Why must all the dreams be so violent?