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[personal profile] ashlyme
I'm spending a week down West with [personal profile] cybermule! Writing this at her kitchen table to the squabble of sparrows. Friday, we went to see China Mieville promote October, his history of the Russian Revolution, at the Bristol Festival of Ideas. It was an interview and Q and A session rather than a reading. One member of the audience asked Do you think we need a revolution here in Britain? Granted that China was juggling several other questions, the answer was a simple, emphatic but nebulous Yes.  The meaning of revolution, I suspect, lies with the rest of us. Came out of the interview impressed as ever with the mind that works beneath that shaven head and a vague shame that I haven't been enough of an activist.

Saturday, there was a belated-Beltane party: strawberry Pimms' punch and a patio fire. I was hogging the flames (in Aickman's words, I'm a cold mortal) when there was a brief eruption; perhaps something in the chipboard firewood went foom. It was a momentary shock and nobody was hurt but we found out yesterday there's a little crater in the patio. Sunday, H and her son and I went for a walk around the lake at Tortworth Court. It's all beechwood down there; the young leaves are delicate as silk to touch and the shade was delicious: a summer day come early. There was yellow archangel and comfrey growing alongside the path, and a flower like a blueish deadnettle I can't tell you the name of. Waterfowl ululating at the bank, maybe coots? I've seen them in the city but never heard them call.

Last night we watched Andrew Kotting's extraordinary film By Our Selves, which retraces the poet John Clare's long walk from an asylum near Epping Forest to Northampton in search of his first love, Mary, dead three years. Clare's played twice over, by Toby Jones (without dialogue) and his father Freddie (reading from both poems and diaries of the walk); sometimes leading a "straw bear" on a rope, often haunted by Iain Sinclair, who alternates between a goat's head mask and round mirrorshades, shadowed by present-day mummers. The black-clad Mary flits between trees, soft-singing, never once heard or seen by Clare. It could almost be folk-horror, with all its masks and paths and dappled treelight, an inverted trope: the present-day walking alongside and sometimes ahead of the rural past; but it's too full of absurdist humour to vanish up its own arse: the straw bear wandering acrossthe car park of a shopping centre is worth the price of admission alone. The soundtrack is gorgeous and spooked, a palimpsest, a mixtape rerecorded over and over again: snatches of archive readings of Clare's poems, blurred fragments of song; a voiceover from 1970 repeats John Clare was a minor nature poet who went mad like a chorus.It's no secret I'd watch Toby Jones do his shopping and he's great here, all patched jacket and wizened, pained stoicism. Freddie Jones rumbles and occasionally stumbles over Clare's words and he too is magical. It's just ninety minutes long and every one packed. Watch it (*coughs [personal profile] sovay * if she's not already seen it).

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