Of Mobiles and Reading

I did a reading last week - a very short short story, but one that depends heavily on atmosphere - so as reader, concentration is important. I don't usually have too much trouble - I enjoy public readings, like the opportunity to be ... well, theatrical. This was in a small but very congenial gathering in a room in a hotel. And all was going well, until a mobile rang and the middle aged professional man (old enough to know better) sitting to the right of my eyeline, proceeded not only to answer it, but also to have quite a long, if muted, conversation!
Of course what I should have done - when I thought about it with all the benefit of hindsight! - was to stop the reading, ask him if he wanted to take the call outside the room, give him a moment to go - and then carry on. But a combination of extreme surprise (oddly enough, this has never happened to me before) and innate politeness made me soldier on. It was alright, but only just. My concentration had a wobble, and the rest of the audience was clearly outraged but too polite to say anything. Now that it has happened once, I think I'd react more swiftly next time. I'd ask for mobiles to be switched off first, and then if one did happen to ring, I would almost certainly stop. But in my experience to date it has become habitual for most people to switch off their phones before a reading or performance of any sort. And as somebody said to me afterwards - lots of us have had the embarrassing experience of forgetting, but if the phone rings under those circumstances, there's a mad scramble to switch it off. You don't answer the thing unless your wife is about to go into labour, and even then, you take it outside the room!
A friend, pointedly, asked him afterwards, if he had been 'on call'. He hadn't and he did apologise, saying that he thought the person would ring off, but frankly, that's not good enough.
It's getting to the point now where younger people have better 'mobile phone etiquette' than the middle aged. I sat next to a pair of women in a cafe the other day, friends sharing a coffee. One of them took three long and essentially unimportant (I know, because I could hear every stupid word) phonecalls, while her friend sat there, staring out of the window, drinking her coffee, and mentally, I have no doubt, drumming her fingers on the table. I have a 'friend' who sometimes does it too, usually moving outside the cafe to take the call. It drives me nuts. Even my son, who might be expected to take a few liberties with his mum, never does it when we are sharing a coffee and a chat. He switches his phone off, and says if it's anything urgent they'll text him or leave a message. The oldies really should know better.

Playing About

Went to Glasgow at the weekend, to see a director about a play. It's an idea I've been mulling over for a while - in those moments between trying to earn a living - thinking - as you do - 'I want to write about that, that person, that situation, that time and place, and those ideas' - but not quite sure how to find a way into it. The director is young, and that's good too: uncynical, full of imagination and enthusiasm. I love writing for theatre, but periodically become disillusioned, mostly because finding outlets for drama is quite hard, even with a track record. But there's a part of me that adores collaboration, that loves the process - you work away at something in the privacy of your room, in the privacy of your head, and then you take a deep breath and dive into the development/rehearsal process. What emerges is - often - somewhat different from your original intentions - but if you're lucky, it's better! I love that precarious sense of holding on, and then letting go - the sense that it could all go horribly wrong, but usually doesn't, the sense of something growing and changing which is what theatre is all about. But I couldn't work like that all the time - I confess. Which is why I spend a lot of time writing prose as well. And then I get sick of my room, the blank screen, the loneliness - and have a sudden hankering for plays and players, for looking at interesting spaces and faces, and listening to words - for the sheer excitement of working in theatre all over again.

Transitions and other things.

Couldn't keep away, could I? Back at the beginning of August, I had decided to wind down Wordarts, and concentrate a bit more on The Scottish Home. Well, I took a break, did a lot of thinking, read a few books, talked to a few friends working in other artforms, did rather a lot of work on The Scottish Home in general - and my antique textile business in particular - and now feel ready to reactivate Wordarts again, a bit sooner than I had expected, even though I'm still in what I now realise is something of a transitional phase between one way of working - and another.
Two of the books I read were recommended by The Sunday Times Style Magazine's 'Aunt Sally' - so thanks to her for Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. It's very funny, and very wise and for those who like lots of little 'exercises' to do, it will be ideal.
But even better from my point of view - and for creative individuals everywhere - is Transitions - Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges. This is an easy book to manage - it doesn't demand very much of you except thoughtful reading - but it gives a huge amount back, perhaps because its author rewrote his original book in the light of all that he had learned in the thirty years between his forties and his seventies - and it shows! It's a book full of poetry, wit and wisdom and I was a lot happier with myself at the end of it than I was at the beginning. It helped to explain me to myself - and I'm rereading it again right now.
Both of these books seem to have helped to get me back on track with my writing. Bridges in particular offers no glib solutions. But he does offer the distilled wisdom and reassurance of his own considerable experience. As a result, the book is full of profound insights and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is in the middle of one of those phases of change and confusion that beset all of us from time to time.