Saturday, 8 November 2008

Nature and culture

In search of wellbeing, it being a lovely Friday with a forecast of a miserable Saturday and Sunday, and reading that poverty (and by extension, I presume, relative wealth too) ain’t so bad healthwise when it’s borne in green surroundings, I took my endorphins out for a spin down the river from Hampton Court to Kingston. (But unfortunately not my camera.)

The river was doing its classy autumnal stuff: the water was broad, slow and brown, geese and swans performed their ornamental offices, a cormorant provided a spicy note of evil, a grebe brought overtones of fen and mere while ducks diverged on urgent voluntary errands (1); a barge displayed washing, geranium and a cat; and in the trees alongside leaves deferred their final fall for one more day and even the single green parakeet seemed visually, though not auditorily, appropriate.

Little Dorritt (BBC1) is failing to engage me. This isn’t because it isn’t well done: it’s the usual Andrew Davies job, uproariously excessive and sensitive, and avoids what usually sticks in the gullet about Hovis ads and costume dramas (e.g the recent Tess). I don’t find any of the characters appealing, though they’re well acted, and the plot is too complicated. I'll no longer make a special point of watching it.

But it doesn’t matter because I've discovered a new programme that provides gripping viewing for hours on end; in fact, not a programme but an entire continuous channel: the Parliament Channel. Excellent background for ironing, but if I were teaching English these days I'd actively use it: so far I haven’t seen any committee sessions but have appreciated the expert expositions in the Lords. I'd give the kids a current Bill (stripped down), get them to prepare amendments and government defences in groups and debate them; then watch some of the actual debate. Something like that, maybe, if I could make it meaningful. The point being that English teachers should be teachers of rhetoric, in the sense of the deployment of language (spoken and written) to affect states of affairs. Rhetoric isn't the full brief for English, but it should be a big element.

And my disappointment with Love’s Labour’s Lost (see previous posting; no more Peter Hall for me) was made up for last night by Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, ‘new version' (dir. Rupert Goold): tense, funny, surreal, effects-laden, constantly surprising, acted by real actors of whom none could in my book be faulted.

1. Ans: Auden, ‘Look, Stranger’

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