'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Sunday, 5 December 2010

I went to Cirencester for lunch the other day. You know you’re getting on when you hear yourself saying you went to Cirencester for lunch. OK, not all the way from London. I’m not that old thank you. I haven’t started drawing up lists of restaurants yet and traversing the country in search of gastronomic paradise. No, I was staying with friends near Cheltenham.

We went to a place called Bobs. Bob gets a big talking up over those parts. Bob’s quiche. Bob’s lasagne. Bob’s cappuccino. Bob. Bob. Bob. Ex-Bibendum you know. Apparently the Catholic Church is considering issuing canonisations for the best plate of scrambled eggs outside the M25. And why not? Bob has led a life of almost perfect epicurean virtue. In the egg department certainly. A plate of scrambled eggs in the Shires is much the same as a plate of srcambled eggs in London if you ask me. But when in Rome you know, one’s got to get into these things.

Bob was sporting a movember when we went. Very dashing. Or at least very noble. And who cares about looks when you have virtue on your side? Well, me I suppose. Virtue’s never really done it for me. There was a hint of the rogue about Bob though that I rather fell for. Although perhaps that was more the mustachio. Anyway, facial hair aside as it were, we bellied up to enjoy our cappuccinos and found ourselves looking straight into the chef’s pit. Although I’m not much of a gourmet I do enjoy a visual feast and this was definitely one such. I’ve never seen food prepared with so little effort. It was quite wonderous.

It did cross my mind though that Bob might want to have a little look at the lighting he’s got there. Mood is one thing but this seemed to totter dangerously close to the wrong side of semi-darkness. I had a bit of a job reading my menu actually. And I was quite horrified as I was manoeuvring it discreetly nearer a light source when my friend barked rather too assertively I though: “if you can’t read your menu without moving it under the light Bev it means you need spectacles.” Spectacles? I don’t think so darling. I don’t know, you know someone since you’re eleven and suddenly they think they can say anything to a person and that’ll be fine. It’s perfectly shocking.

When I got back to town I phoned a friend or two. Friend One (who shall remain anonymous to protect the guilty) said she’d had a funny turn in the British Library recently and had gone home on the bus sobbing certain she had a brain tumour. Her husband suggested a trip to the optometrist and… guess what. Friend Two recounted the story of home improvements: “Oh,” she said, “I spent thousands of pounds having the entire house re-wired and fitting ten extra spots in each room before I acknowledged the fact that what I really needed to do was go to the chemist and get some glasses.”

Right. The “accoutrement of old age” it is then. Good. In that case I shall certainly be needing an older man. The one thing guaranteed to make a girl feel younger is hanging out with someone half as old again. And of course they do tend to be more interesting. I shan’t be going back to Cirencester though. Bibendum or no, that was one emotionally expensive plate of eggs.
Finally, I am a convert to Shakespeare. Finally, I do believe, I’m starting to get it. Which is to say I watched a Shakespeare play from start to finish last week without once glancing at my watch. I’d go as far as to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I feel very pleased with myself. It’s not dissimilar to the experience I had the first time I watched the X-factor just the other week. I felt a whole new world opening up to me. Suddenly I had some connection with this thing huge swathes of the population spend their time engaged with. It’s a bit like the difference between going to France as a French speaker and going to France as a non-French speaker. Either way you’ll get by, but one way reaches out whilst the other withdraws into itself. Shakespeare and the X Factor. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Although admittedly Shakespeare probably does penetrating observation with a soupcon more depth. On the other hand, that Simon Cowell… nobody’s fool.

It had been the vicar was supposed to be in charge of my induction to Shakespeare. But that never got off the ground somehow. And now we’re not speaking. C’est la vie. Luckily I seem to have stumbled upon what could turn out to be a rather better instructress. She suggested we start with the easy stuff and I appreciated the gesture. She’s from California you know - a little less snobby than our home grown and occasionally somewhat self-aggrandising literary types. As You Like It. Or As You Like It as George Bernard Shaw apparently liked to refer to it, presumably by way of indicating that he himself in fact didn’t that much like it. Ghastly crowd pleaser I suppose he thought. Personally I’m not averse to a crowd pleaser now and then. Apart from Gauguin obviously. But a Seventeenth-Century precursor to Friends with a bit of cross-dressing thrown in. Smashing. Just up my street as it goes.

I was rather mesmerised by Phebe, the frighteningly un-self-reflexive character who pours scorn upon the skinny little wet lettuce Silvius and his continual professions to her of his undying love, whilst she in turn professes her unrequited and thereby undying love to Ganymede, aka of course the charming and beautiful Rosalind. Rosalind - smart enough to acknowledge the foolishness of romantic love without wishing to ostracise it for those foolishnesses. A balanced life which contains no loss of balance is not a balanced life. Sadly one cannot simply delete those parts of oneself that one finds a little unsophisticated. And denial is far easier, but ultimately far more damaging, than acceptance. No amount of health and safety precautions will ever immunise us against this life. In the famous words of (apparently) one of the greatest heavyweights of all time: “you can run but you can’t hide”.

So, all of this and more, free of charge save for a donation if you feel so moved, at Lamda until 9 December. Complete with well stocked, reasonably priced bar and a beautifully simple and effective set designed by Richard Bullwinkle. Bollocks to Jude Law I say. Check out the next generation in a theatre the size of your lounge.

“If thou remember’st not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into
Thou has not loved”
As You Like it by William Shakespeare (2.4.36)