Talks & Lectures

In a recent newsletter, Gail-Nina Anderson outlined the situation:

... And perhaps then we can seriously get back to thinking about lectures and courses, which I know have started to loom large in our minds. I have been looking into this, I promise, but everything depends on the ever-changing rules, the specific facilities at the institutions where I hire teaching rooms and audience expectations about comfort and safety. A lecture which could not include coffee or socialising, seated a maximum of 30 and involved the wearing of masks throughout might not really fit the bill. There has been some talk of delivering talks via Zoom but my technical expertise and equipment are both sadly lacking in this area and this doesn't seem like the best time to consider upgrading my computer or finding the necessary assistance to help me with new skills and systems. Personally I don't hugely enjoy watching Zoomed talks on screen and I positively loathe looking at my own face, but I have been discussing matters with the Lit & Phil and will let you know as soon as I have any feasible suggestions for you to consider.

In the meanwhile:

Gail-Nina writes ...

Today (no idea why I'm writing on a Wednesday) has already brought its due meed of excitement, for this morning the date/time I had to pre-book over a week ago finally came round and I was permitted to donate two bags of books/cds to the local Oxfam bookshop.

Just before I sat down to write this I checked my email and discovered a photo that simply has to be included (thus proving that what Horace Walpole termed serendipity does indeed sometimes find us.) As you'll probably know, my good friend Adam Bell works for South Shields Museum and during current restrictive times he has kept up a lively public link by posting on Instagram about smaller items from the collection and images from the files. The fabulous photo attached here was just too good not to share at once - here's the accompanying text:

Museum staff with stuffed cats, as described below

The location for this wonderful image is the back lane behind the museum and the date is March 1967. It is captioned: "Animals from the Runciman natural history collection during cleaning and redisplaying by Miss B. Christopher, Natural History Officer of the Council for the Museum Service of the North of England". George Harley, the caretaker, is holding the crouching leopard.

And how can one follow that except by telling you that on Saturday, despite having already indulged in several postcards, a bunch of chrysanths and a full English with extra black pudding, I succumbed to temptation in Sainsbury's and bought a "giant mango"? Yes, such things do exist and said fruit is indeed as big as a very big mango indeed. Now all I have to do is eat an awful lot of mango salsa or maybe move into smoothie territory. As has been remarked before, though I'm by no means a vegetarian, getting me past a good display of fruit and veg is almost impossible. But I shall take a special pleasure in considering that I am consuming the national fruit of Haiti, a fact that I know only because I once gave a lecture on Zombies and Vodou. And I once attended a lecture on Zombies where the speaker pointed out that though the concept was first popularised outside Haiti by William Seabrook's 1929 book "The Magic Island", he tended to think that what really alerted people's interest was a handy rhyme picked up that very same year in Cole Porter's song "You do Something to Me"

"Let me live 'neath your spell
You do that voodoo that you do so well."

Now there's something you didn't expect to learn in a weekly newsletter from West Jes.!

But then news is thinner than ever as our lives become so circumscribed that I suspect an outdoor coffee enjoyed with Alison this morning has pushed us both into several categories of dangerous criminality, which does at least add an edge of danger to a large latte and apricot Danish. And speaking of criminal behaviour, if you can bear the genuinely ghastly subject matter, then I can recommend the three-part mini-series "Des", recounting the arrest and trial of serial killer Dennis Nilsen (available on line via ITV Hub, as is a documentary on the same subject.) Watching this provided me with an unexpected interface between reality and dramatisation in that one of the on-screen characters was someone I have met. This is Nilsen's biographer Brian Masters (played by Jason Watkins), with whom I later became acquainted because he wrote a biography of E.F. Benson. But the series is worth watching just for the sterling central performance by David Tennant (who, Sue delights in telling me, has been just been voted the nation's favourite Doctor Who, while the incarnation gathering the fewest votes was Peter Davison, whose daughter is, as chance would have it, married to David Tennant.)

But that's enough from the glittering world of show-biz - though in fact I'm quite glittery myself today as my black tee-shirt is decorated with a very shiny gold motif of the Hogwarts' crest and motto, Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus, which seems like sensible advice. Sue's pointed comment on this piece of sartorial glitz was "I hope you didn't buy that new!" Naturally, I didn't.

Alas, my much-anticipated Sunday lunch in Fenwick's Café 21 booked weeks ago by generous friends was cancelled by the restaurant first thing Friday morning, when the stricter local regulations came into play, because eating with them would have constituted two households socialising together. I no longer hold out any firm hopes for Christmas with friends in Whitby either, but these decisions are not at the moment ours to make. I may take up tatting to keep the devil from my idle hands (or I could try cleaning the flat, I suppose, but that's going a bit far in the other direction.)

I'm attaching a political cartoon because it references Lowry -

Cartoon, Keir Starmer as character in a Lowry cityscape

a visual joke combining classical art with dishwashers -

Statue of discus thrower shown failing to throw plates into dishwasher

and a little manuscript illumination of an equally little owl because it appears to be tentatively embarking on the Hokey-Cokey - You put your right claw in -

Medieval marginalia: owl raising one claw

For those who have kindly asked I must report that, despite receiving daily dollops of the approved glue-like medication, my wart isn't much diminished from its initial size. Raymond has suggested that, because of the acidity therein, I could try sitting with my finger in a bowl of pulped fruit. If no recipes suggest themselves this might, after all, be the fate of the giant mango.

And now I shall return to reading a scholarly article entitled "Pagan Truths in Moominland" - and you know I'm not making that up, don"t you?

Stay healthy and happy
Gail-Nina xx