Friday, 18 April 2014

Walking With Luciano


Black dogs are everywhere. 'Be More Sociable', a University study says.  Another one says ‘Fake It ’Til You Make It’; or there’s the one that advises you to ‘Compare Yourself With Someone Who is Worse Off Than You’. As if I cared about someone else’s misery when that black dog has me by the throat. ‘Listen to some sad music or read a sad book’. Weep. Apparently, that’s catharsis, about which the ancient Greeks knew a thing or two when they invented the concept. Guaranteed to make you feel better.

So there I am, one black dog scampering at my heels, the other one firmly clamped atop my shoulders, pushing my head forward and down. The blackthorn is in full bloom. I have a smile on my face, a rictus grin to split the atom, but I still can’t ‘Make It’. That one is a waste of effort. The sociable bit is better. Luciano* is with me, pretending to be Cavaradossi waiting for his execution in the morning, but admiring the bright stars anyway.  E lucevan le stelle. Yes. He is definitely worse off than me, particularly since Tosca, the one he loves, is going to throw herself off the battlements, although he is spared that knowledge, since he's dead by the time she jumps. I once saw her do that and bounce back up. They’d made the mattresses too springy.

The company of Luciano/Mario and his sad story should, according to the professors who research such subjects, have had me gambolling like a new born lamb. Instead of which I plodded along. Perhaps Pete** would help.  He might not have been the most cheerful folk singer but he was wise enough to know that the seasons must turn, turn, turn and that there is a time for every purpose under heaven.  He also says that We Shall Overcome, aiming this splendid mantra specifically at people with a pessimistic outlook.

I was humming along to Luciano and by the time I got to Pete, I actually sang a verse or two. Things were looking up until i remembered that I was walking with dead men.


Visiting Llareggub (try reading it backwards), the sleepily subversive Welsh town of Dylan Thomas’ play for voices Under Milk Wood which, according to the (also dead) actor Richard Burton is ‘entirely about religion, sex and the idea of death’ suited my mood perfectly. We went with friends, both alive, which made my grumpy rude mood unforgivable. I should wear a warning sign round my neck : Beware Of The Dog.

The play was brilliant. Polly Garter, the ever pregnant girl who scrubs floors and sweetly sings about her lost love, little Willy Wee, and sleeps with everybody who asks, almost made me cry. I covered it up by concentrating on the pure and pitch perfect voice of the singer. Then there’s Gossamer Beynon, the schoolteacher who thrills to the ticklish sensation of a sailor's "goatbeard"; Bessie Bighead "kissed once by the pig-sty when she wasn't looking"; and Dai Bread who dreams of "Turkish girls. Horizontal". And has there ever been a more poignant image of spinsterly unfulfilment than Myfanwy Price's "lonely, loving hotwaterbottled body”?

If you can’t make it to a performance - it’s coming to the States too in this, the centenary of Thomas’ birth, and the 60th anniversary of the BBC’s posthumous premiere of his final, never-quite-finished masterpiece, at least read it. The language will blow your mind. It’s sheer poetry.

Catharsis guaranteed.



*Luciano Pavarotti
** Pete Seeger


37 comments:

  1. A very nice piece of writing, Friko. Strange how the black dog can often stoke our creative fire like this.

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  2. huh, will have to see where it is coming here in the states...it sounds like one that i would enjoy...
    buggerall...ha

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  3. I saw Under Milkwood Years ago, and laughed and wept my way through it.
    Sadly the black dog takes me for walks more often than I like. Many things help, but it leaves in its own time - not mine.
    I hope it is about to desert you too.

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  4. Lying low and being exposed to the least amount of triggers seems to in the end send my black dog packing. I don't know if I would have the attention span to sit through a whole play, no matter how good it is. I enjoyed your post because you describe the effects of a visit of the black dog well. With enough black humor anyway.

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  5. I do not know your references but I do know the subject and your writing made it so that the former did not matter.

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  6. Well ... llareggub ... at least the black dog has not wrestled your sense of humour to the ground!

    For some reason your post reminds me of Winston Churchill in 'The Gathering Storm' "I've lived too long, I'm in the ruck, I've drunk too deeply of the cup, I cannot spend, I cannot fuck, I'm down and out, I'm buggered up!"

    Hang on ... this too shall pass ... as it has before.

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  7. P.S. Don't be seduced into believing anything the black dogs whisper in your ear. 99% of what they say is not true. Just tell them to fforaggub!

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  8. Ah, bugger all, how nice that you got to the radio play, though of course I would have loved it if you'd been able to go to the opera version, too, and given us an eyewitness report! As my J notes, if Metcalf hadn't got it right, he might have been lynched (or, perhaps more ethnically appropriate, hit with a leek). As it is, the opera has received huge praise throughout its run. So nice to see. We are hoping it will come stateside, too.

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  9. Thanks for the tip, I may be mature enough for the play now.
    It doesn't last - or hasn't yet! Thank goodness that I'm dis tractable enough that I get distracted from the black dog eventually....


    ALOHA from Honolulu
    ComfortSpiral

    =^..^=

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  10. Ah we have the same cousin overstaying his welcome. Not that we welcome. Remember to starve him of both attention and shelter and he will get bored.

    Meanwhile - hugs. And recognition.

    XO
    WWW

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  11. Yes, the photo over your intriguing post, with which I closely identify --"as I was young and easy under apple boughs"-- served well as introduction. I know the dog, so did Churchill --we're in good company. My compliments and admiration, Friko.

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  12. I am glad you found the right vehicle to silence the black dog.

    This post was very well done.

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  13. I'm sorry you're having such woes but glad that you're able to express it in writing and work your way around it some. Your sense of humour has to be of help.

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  14. Whatever black dog humours were wandering around in my head have now been replaced by the thought of Tosca bouncing back up. I'm laughing to myself because Dick and Lindy are both asleep.
    Since Luciano didn't cheer you up, I'm glad Pete got you humming and singing a verse or two. Good man, Pete.
    Luv, K

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  15. You might be walking with the black dogs but your sense of humour hasn't deserted you.

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  16. One word " Luciano" - I do not need to finish his name - he has thrilled my heart and taken me to very warm spaces for a very long time - always a favourite. This was just a truly interesting post - I have never had a Black Dog creep into my mind. Happy Easter dear Friko to you n yours :)

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  17. Work seems to go best when my life is off the rails. If it weren't for the dead, I'd have no real conversation at all. You're doing good, Friko. They're just dogs, don't you know?

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  18. The black dog buggers off when the black dog decides to bugger off...so I stroke my real black dog and bugger on with buggering on until it does.
    I can outlast it.

    Under Milk Wood? Illicit thrills for the unco' guid...

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  19. You get Dylan Thomas nearby and I get Bob Dylan (who took his moniker from Mr. Thomas). You get to have all the cultural richness and I get a briefly blowing blizzard out side my window. Llareggub!

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  20. May your lack dog scamper off into the underbrush, and sooner rather than later. Mom used to say 'Buck up Buttercp' but I won't offer any platitudes

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  21. Sounds like a good one. I will check it out.

    Glad you vanquished the black dog for the time being…Why does that rascal always seem to keep coming around? Next time, you might consider James Taylor. He banishes the black dog every time for me. And Rosamunde Pilcher ain't bad at it, either.

    ;)

    PS. Hope you can hop by my blog and then click on my new, updated poetry site. Putting it together has kept me too busy to see that old black cur, let alone interact with it.

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  22. Ah, malady of old age and cloudy days. Time for entertainment and a change of place.
    Just talking and writing about such things helps the writer as well as well as the reader.

    I shall look for Dylan Thomas and thank my lucky stars for sending me to you today.

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  23. So sorry to hear the black dog has you again. I get a bit down sometimes, but never have the black dog hanging around. I hope he runs away from home very soon. Had to laugh at you visiting llareggub !

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  24. Ah, the genius of Dylan Thomas, who also wrestled with his own demons, if not the black dog. I hope its visit soon ends, leaving more room for spring in your life, Friko.

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  25. Ah Friko - black dog? I was very confused and Wikipedia did not help much. Never heard of such a saying - uuuuaa, I understand now it is kind of a syndrome of really low down bad mood? Forgive me for being so uninformed, but I think I understand now.
    Anyway, take it with humor, everything passes, seldom something stays the same. I am so glad you still have things in your life you love very much - including that real black dog! :-)

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  26. Friko, thank you for this post. I read it last week when I was having a bit of a situation myself. Your word helped me.

    And so, feeling much more cheery on this sunny day, after a walk over to the annual Fifth Avenue Easter Parade, I am back to wish you a very Happy Easter. I've already had my first piece of chocolate, and it was delicious, dark chocolate.

    xo

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  27. I walked that dog many miles over the winter and early spring. I have found that it comes and goes pretty much as it likes.
    I wonder if we will see this work above the 49th parallel? I'll have to check.

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  28. Yes , Under Milk Wood has always made me smile . Find somewhere quiet and just read it aloud to yourself ... it's a remarkably cheering way to spend an afternoon .

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  29. Take that black dog for a long walk and exhaust to the point where it hides under the bed for a while. Art in the form of song and theater is a great medicine I think.

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  30. This time of year should not be marred by the black dog, but I've read it so often is. Walking, thinking, singing, engaging the mind in other things, and writing about such things, must help to quell this force. While it seems the dark moods and writing with such clarity could ever go together, you illustrate that the opposite can be true. I hope the dark mood has lifted.

    Seeing Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood on stage would be an incredible experience. I should read it in anticipation to trying to see the performance.

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  31. How I adore "Under Milkwood." The reading of it is splendid but nothing beats hearing it read aloud (by a skillful reader) or seeing a production. Very lucky, you are!

    I miss Pete. And Richard. And Luciano, for that matter, though not as much. Their voices so unique to them, so different from one another. I know there will be others. There already are. But nonetheless....

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  32. I never saw that movie or the play. Now you had me look it up on Netflix at least. ;)

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  33. Hi Friko - the black dog is such a hang dog for those who live with that sort of dog - I hope the mood has lifted somewhat ... peaks and troughs usually. What a good day out - albeit a Dylan voiced "Under Milkwood" .. must have been very evocative to have been in that setting .. and voices - they do draw us in .. I'm hoping to see more this year and explore the world of learning and culture ..

    Enjoy the walks with Millie and I hope you can walk with lighter shoulders .. Hilary

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  34. Dear Friko, you are a woman of wide and varied interests. So erudite. And I find myself, while reading your posts, thinking how wonderful and stimulating it would be if I lived close to you and could attend with you all the plays and readings and soirees about which you what. You. Are. One. Interesting. And. Intriguing. And Mysterious. Woman. and I so feel your angst when you write about the darkness that dwells within us all. I hope days are better. Peace.

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  35. Dear Friko, I wish I could help you carry that black dog, puppy or fully grown. Alas, and it was the moment I knew my son was fully grown when he observed, casually: "In the end we are all alone".

    Sorry about the above bit of cheerfulness and "comfort": Sometimes I think that the truth, just saying as it is, better than sweeping things underneath the carpet. Not, of course, that any self respecting housewife would ever do that.

    Yes, Richard Burton. Love that man's voice. Milkwood on tape as it were.

    Affectionately,
    Ursula

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  36. I am so enjoying being able to read a real, live writer who uses words like "gambolling" and describes towns as "sleepily subversive." You are a balm to my brain after yet another year of reading student writing.

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