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Laurence Inman’s Blog

A SLICE OF FLANN

24-04-2008

In a diverse week, Laurence Inman checks out Hapgood at Birmingham Rep, suffers a recurring bout of pavement rage – and discovers a new heroine, the American writer Flannery O’Connor.

An interesting week on many ‘cultural’ fronts.

I always put the words ‘culture’ and ‘cultural’ in inverted commas, because they are so often codes for ‘my interests are better/more worthwhile/more expensive than yours.’

'Culture' is something a middle-class, expensively-educated person is expected to take delivery of a chunk of now and again, and enjoy, or appear to. The kind of people who infest Stratford.

Anyway. I went to see Hapgood at The Rep. Paula Elenor has already reviewed this and I have little to add (see link here). Stoppard is a bit of a smart-arse isn’t he? But this was very entertaining, in a cerebral sort of way.

On Saturday I found myself at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End to see God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton.

The cast is Ken Stott, Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig and Janet McTeer. They are all totally brilliant. The play is the funniest thing I’ve seen for years. Go and see it while you can.

It deals with the masks we all put on to cover the bestial nastiness of our real feeling under the slick surface we present to the world and to others. That sounds fairly heavy – I promise you there is nothing remotely Brechtian (or any other –ian) about this production.

I emerged into the throng of Shaftsbury Avenue with a clearer and more indulgent view of my fellow humans. I was even willing to forgive the pseudy turds who sat behind me and made absolutely sure that everyone for ten rows around knew that they knew the director, and ‘Jeremy, who’s doing wonders down at the National,’ and every other bleeding actor currently working in London.

Why do they always end up sitting behind me ? Unerringly ? Every single time?

Most excitingly, I have made a literary discovery, always nice for someone my age. Actually, it would be truer to say it was made for me.

A little while ago I mentioned that two or three people had independently praised Flannery O’Connor, an American writer I’d only occasionally heard of.

I went out and bought her novel Wise Blood and the collected stories.

She is an out-and-out genius. I can’t think how this brilliant stuff has escaped my attention for the past five decades. And I know exactly what it is I love about her. It’s that she has, despite being born and bred in the southern states of the USA, an authentic Brummie way of looking at life, in all its quirky insanity.

Get your hands on anything she’s written. You won’t regret it.

The week ended with a sudden revelation about what the Lib-Dem councillors are really up to with the pavement in Amesbury Road.

I was running down it (slightly downhill towards Salisbury Road.) This is always an annoying experience because of the exaggerated undulations of the pavement – the residents of the twenty houses there wanted high kerbs and slide-rule accurately-level-with-the-road personal driveways to their car-ports. (All this, despite the fact that no one either parks in the street or walks on the pavements – I was the first pedestrian to use this particular incarnation of the paving.)

Then I noticed that there were extra dips. Ones not there the last time I ran down the road.

They’ve only gone and had smaller ‘walkways’ sunk into the pavement, leading from their front gates to the road!

Why ?

I say again, with amazement, WHY??????

So that they can wheel their bikes to the road without bumping their precious wheels on the gutter?

WHY ????

But I think I’ve hit on the only possible explanation.

They are Platonic pavements. The ideal pavements by which all other ordinary pavements strive to be measured and judged. That must be the answer. Visitors come to the city; after seeing the buildings, the parks, the roads, one may ask: ‘But what about the pavements?’

And they will be ferried over to Amesbury Road. ‘Soon, all our pavements will be as wonderful as this,’ they are told.

Phone them – Martin Mullaney and Emily Thing – and see if I’m not right.

Go on, do it. Before the election.

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