When you are old

This afternoon I stopped in Wales and went to commune with the tree I tumbled from a few weeks ago. We were both feeling aggrieved. I’d ripped a good branch from it, and it had kicked me in the rib with a root when I landed. We had a little conversation in the rain and there’s no hard feelings. I’m definitely on the mend and it insists it can grow more branches. Next year if I go to The Willow Globe I will definitely climb it again. I’m the guy that doesn’t learn from his painful mistakes. Or I’m the guy that refuses to be taught to fear despite hard experience.


Concerning my cocktail of drugs, I don’t get on well with cocodamol. I tried some again last night and then wrote that godawful ramble (don’t) and fell asleep halfway through (like you will). I wasn’t even able to stay awake long enough to delete half of it and stick in an arbitrary picture. I had no option but sleep. I need to go easy on things that force that sort of thing on me.

I’m close to home now and the general pain is definitely better than it was. I can sneeze without wishing I was dead. So it’s time to cut back on the painkillers before my colon melts. I’m probably addicted to codeine too now, so worth nipping that in the bud. Especially considering it knocks me flat. I don’t need something that shuts me off. I’ve got too much to do.

After hanging out with my leafy aggressor I went back to The Willow Globe itself. I popped into their International Shakespeare Centre to find Phil, who planted the theatre with Sue. It’s becoming more apparent to me this week that we don’t have to be trapped in London to make beautiful things gainfully. Phil is giving opportunities to young companies to make things and to explore new ideas. His audience gets a lovely show, the companies get R&D time in a beautiful place. And people are inspired by it. Just a few months ago I was chatting to a friend who has made a theatre community in a mill in Yorkshire. He cited Phil and Sue at The Willow Globe as his inspiration. A small group of passionate makers in Wales sending ripples of loveliness to North Yorkshire. That group then made a show in Yorkshire which is now going great guns in London. There’s something to be said for getting out of town and making things where things are lacking. Then they can bring their loveliness to London. I’m taking my mind back to an old idea I tasted a few years ago regarding going to The Isle of Man and building a theatre. It’s starting to appeal to me again.

Although right now I am looking forward to getting back to London tomorrow. To throwing myself back into the craziness.

For now, though, I’m still happily in a quiet place. I’ve made it as far as Swindon and I’ve been sitting in the living room with Tristan and his grandparents. They’re great. They’re both in their nineties. I miss my grandparents, but in their absence I’m glad to borrow his. His grandma comprehensively beat me at table tennis three years ago. His grandpa and I like to sit and talk about Shakespeare. He’s an actor, although at 92 doesn’t get out so much. Michael Beint at Jessica Carney if you need to pay someone handsomely for a short time to sit in a chair and be erudite on camera. He’s been remembering Banquo with me after I told him about The Willow Globe. He probably played it at The National. The man was acting years before I was born. He’s a legend. It’s good to spend time with people much older than we are.

He’s the only friend I have who was doing what I do when I was born. He’s just told me about when he was playing Marcellus for Peter Hall at the Lyttleton three months after I popped out of my mum, and he got the call that he was going on for Dennis Quilley as the ghost and the king. I know all three of those parts and was right there with him. He’s gone into detail about the quick change before Claudius’ first scene, and company politics with Peter Hall, Dennis Quilley, Angela Lansbury and Albert Finney in the 1970s. Delightful.

He’s discovered I’m a diarist of sorts and has suggested I consume Peter Hall’s diaries. “You think you know a man, but then you read all that and you wonder if you did at all. Wonderful.” I’m tempted. Just as he went to bed, we got into poetry. Yeats came up. I’ve just had the most beautiful rendition of “When You Are Old.” I told him I’ll learn it, and in 50 years time I’ll recite it to someone in similar circumstances. Now I’m about to fall asleep in a room full of terrifying Edwardian dolls. Here’s a love poem:

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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