Thursday, 23 February 2012

Boozing and the work of a lifetime


Just to show it isn't all fun and muppets here... yesterday, whilst doing my chores, I listened to a radio play about a pair of alcoholics by Scottish writer A.L.Kennedy. Kennedy must write about alcoholism a fair bit because I read her book "Paradise" (2004) a few years back and that was its subject matter too (it's reviewed by Ali Smith here). I didn't enjoy "Paradise" much... but then I guess I wasn't really meant to (it's fairly grim). I got a bit fed up with all the drinking because whilst I've done my share of drinking (and beyond) I don't think I've ever been anything remotely like an alcoholic. I have, however, encountered a few and my goodness they are usually enough to put a person off drinking forever (how boring! how predictable! I worked in a real "alky's pub" back in my youth, it was revolting...). That doesn't sound very kind, does it... so for balance I will add that there are other ways of being boring and predictable (and indeed revolting) and I'm sure I've been guilty of some of those myself over the years... at least now and then. Also we went to an A.A. picnic in California last year (here) and I was pleased to learn that recovering alcoholics can be some of the least boring and predictable people on the planet - what a great party, that was...

Anyway, the radio play ("That I should rise") is on the i-player for two more days (here). It's an hour long, not bad and features some good performances from actors Tim McInnerny and Harriet Walter. My favourite bit of the whole thing though was Kennedy's introduction. In it she says (in that inimitable A.L.Kennedy I-dare-you-not-to-take-me-seriously way):

"I wanted to look here at the opposite of ruin, at how someone might save themselves or be saved. I wanted to look at how any of us might realise that living in the moment and loving those we need to love as well as we can is pretty much all that's important; the work of a lifetime and all that's important."


Then came her less appealing side (see comments...).

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13 comments:

Mark said...

I try and avoid A.L. Kennedy as much as possible after hearing her on Radio 4 a couple of years ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTxsg_9HAFc

Rachel Fox said...

Wow - you never told me about that! Yes, she doesn't dig herself out very well either... following up "ginger" with "faults" and "sacrifices"...

OK, I'll avoid her now too. Silly cow. Never liked her.

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The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Rachel, I am afraid she is not on my list of people I wish to read either.

Rachel Fox said...

Oh dear. Maybe I should delete the whole thing...
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Dominic Rivron said...

That youtube video certainly got me seeing red...

Rachel Fox said...

Mark says he did tell me about this bit ALK at the time but I either didn't hear or had forgotten. There are a lot of people (who should know better!) who make stupid comments like this about redheads (we don't use the g word here). I'm the only non-red in the house so obviously all my favourite people are very red of head. Possibly the most stupid thing anyone has ever said to me was when I got together with Mark and a friend, of sorts, said "oh, but you'll have ginger babies". Well, yes... we did (one)... and people tell me constantly how gorgeous she (and particularly her hair) is. It's jealousy. Pure and simple. Eejits.
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The Bug said...

I always always wanted red hair - but not just red hair (I could always dye mine) - I wanted to BE a redhead. My favorite aunt had red hair & I thought she was the most divine thing there ever was... I even wanted her freckles. Sigh.

That's probably why I always cooed over H's pictures - you're exactly right - jealousy! Totally!

Rachel Fox said...

Good job the play's only online till Saturday... I'll post something else then!
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Titus said...

Hi from the land of red-haired husbands! To balance, I think 'On Bullfighting' is brilliant and I really, really enjoyed and admired 'Day'.
Just off to watch the clip.

Titus said...

I love the faults and sacrifices! Poor dear.

Rachel Fox said...

I have "Day" on the shelves here... unread as yet. I'm guessing it might stay that way for a little while now... I have a lot of other books to read.

It's a shame really - I posted this to applaud something Kennedy said and look how it's gone... And the lesson from this, people? Never use redheads as an easy target for weak humour! Revenge will be theirs!

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Rachel Fenton said...

I put a divide between the writer and their words, so will try to read ALK and not think of daft things she's said.

Rachel Fox said...

Well, yes I do too (make some divide)... Larkin stayed my favourite poet through all the biography business, after all (and from what I remember there was more than daft in there). I think partly that was because I'd liked his work for so long by then that I couldn't really unlike it. But with living writers... it does change how I think about them... and something like this would make me less likely, for example, to spend money on something by this writer (I'd still read it but I'd borrow it, not buy it). I think the copy of "Day" arrived by a BOGOF a while back... and I will read it at some point (I think I started it once but realised I wasn't in the mood for it and put it back on the shelf). Titus' praise of it makes me more likely to give it another go too.

But the "ginger" thing is a matter close to our hearts... and on the one hand it may seem trivial... but at the same time that's part of why it isn't. This is one of the few insults about a person's physical appearance that is still "allowed" in the public sphere... and that means it gets used a lot these days (by people who obviously want to make half-arsed jokes at others' expense). A so-called intelligent/thinking person should know better, should think about words and people and the effect they have... and so that does have an effect on how i think about the writer too. Some people (see first comment) grew up with this aspect of their appearance being used against them constantly. They don't take kindly to it still being thought of as fair game.

To me Larkin... he was a great poet (really great) but a total arse - I'm glad I never met him! And Kennedy... living in a different era when writers are much more under the microscope (not just them - everybody is). She's done a lot of stand-up comedy as well as writing... so was she just keen to get the easy laugh in this instance? See my piece on Stewart Lee a few posts ago... Easy laughs are nothing to be proud of. A good laugh takes work.

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