Quite incredibly, it's been nearly a year since my mother passed away, and although my emotions aren't as raw as they were in the weeks immediately following her death, there remains a great sadness when I think of the almost constant loneliness she suffered during her final years. I have an old bureau that was originally purchased by my grandfather around the time of WW1 and which always held a prominent position in our family home. I associate it with my parents, and since I've inherited it, whenever one of its glass doors swings open unannounced (a matter of a worn-out locking mechanism, not ghosts!) my wife and I always greet it with a cheery, "Hallo Mam!" Occasionally both doors open simultaneously and when this happens we welcome my Dad too. It's comforting to own a piece of furniture that connects me to family - its very presence brings to me an incontrovertible sense of belonging at least somewhere in this great big world! I can only imagine how devastating it must be for refugees fleeing from an oppressor, still an all too frequent reality, people running for their lives and forced to abandon all else.
On Saturday we drove the twelve miles into Cardiff, enjoyed its marvellous shopping precinct and met up with some friends for a chat. We were very lucky with weather, and just as it began to rain with a not unprecedented ferocity for Wales, we were fortunate enough to be heading east along the M4 towards our new accommodation in Wiltshire for Saturday night. We were given impeccable directions by our hotel receptionist to the birthday party's location, which turned out to be a terrific evening. The entertainment was provided by a really accomplished local band called The Dubious Brothers. They must've known I was coming because they covered just about every one of my favourite songs from the last four or five decades! We drove home on Sunday morning and after picking up the week's shopping, didn't overtax ourselves for the rest of the day.
Yesterday we had another late night as we'd booked to see 'Hamlet', an NT Live encore production to mark the National Theatre's fiftieth anniversary. We were told that the showing marked exactly fifty years since Peter O'Toole's performance as the Dane in the National's very first production of the play, then staged at the Old Vic and directed by Laurence Olivier. The central role in our version was comfortably inhabited by Rory Kinnear, Patrick Malahide brought the corrupt Claudius to sleazy life, James Laurenson was a powerfully moving ghost and David Calder brought much warmth and humour to Polonius. I shan't go on with listing, it was directed by Nicholas Hytner with crystal clarity, and for this reason might have been especially worth seeing for anyone coming to the play for the first time. I for one found myself totally engaged throughout the entire performance.