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Another one bites the dust

September 6, 2020

Oh, damnit!

Now André Ptaszynski’s dead.

Don’t say ‘who’. He was a big deal André was. One of the three people I knew at Oxford who went on to be big cheeses in the theatre business. Only one of the three ever employed me and it wasn’t André but none the less I’m feeling sad and sentimental. A man does that at my age when he sees someone he’d known in his youth die.

Good sense of humour, Mr Ptaszynski had, which you need if you’re going to be a big cheese in theatre and a sense of history too. When the Savoy theatre (was it the Savoy?) burned to the ground while he had a lease on it he took a bottle and a glass outside it so he could quote what Sheridan said on a similar occasion: “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”

And here am I feeling sorry for myself because my foot hurts and though comfortable I have no prospect of doing anything significant with my life. Sad, self-pitying old git.

I didn’t mark the anniversary of my father’s death last weekend because I had nothing new to say. The isolation of the current emergency isn’t helping me create wonderful new things but rather is making me celebrate the tiniest victories of life, like making it to the shops and back or finding a new book I enjoy. The victories are getting tinier by the week, I tell you.

And what is more I’m getting more forgetful and crankier. I need to be politer to people, even bus drivers who go past my stop. Perhaps especially those.

You think I’m being miserable now? You wait until the winter comes! I won’t be able to take a trip to some sunny tropical island this year!

Ah, well. Back to the next project which is finding a good viewpoint and plot for a writing project and getting the research done for my next on-line RPG. We had a good session today as the Vampires of Oldcastle and it really should have cheered me up more than it did.

But then I had to go and flick through the obituaries in ANSIBLE and discover that another old comrade had gone. I should know better at my age.


Not having posted anything here for a while I went back and read a lot of my earlier postings…

Which puffed up my vanity a bit and helped me feel a little less depressed.

Unfortunately, it also brought me to read up on Dunbar’s Number from a comment of my friend Roger’s on one of my posts.

And it strikes me that my number of relationships seems to have dropped a lot over the past year and I’m not sure I was ever near the 150 that Dunbar thought was our top limit. My memory for faces and people is bad at the best of times.

But what really got me back into my grumpy mood is the mention of our social networks being evolved from primates grooming each other. Fat chance of me doing any grooming of anybody just now! Not even a cat to brush! I’m even forgetting to comb my hair before going out most days.

I wonder what counts against Dunbar’s Number anyway? People where I can remember who they are and most of the times I’ve spoken to them are at the core. I suppose there are a few dozen of them.

Then there are the people who I know and I can even remember their names and faces and the contexts I’ve met them in… But I’ve never had a serious conversation with them and I couldn’t tell you their opinion on anything.

And then there’s the people where all I have is a context and maybe a name (“Mr what’s his name at the chemists”, “The nice lady at the library”).

But then there are the people who I don’t get frequent reminders of their existence but who I’ve woven into stories about myself that I keep telling myself. Is Mr Greenhaulgh my old Latin master (dead these many a long year) part of my relationship map? Is the boy who bullied me in primary school? Is Chris Davies (Hi Chris if you ever read this!) my old school friend who ended up a LibDem MEP part of it? Haven’t seen him for about a decade but he’s still alive. What about all the people I acted with: dozens more of them.

It’s no wonder I’m running out of space in which to note that I’ve just hung up my coat and put away my walking stick. No wonder I find myself suddenly further along in my routine than I thought I was with no memory of having done the intervening stages.

My brain needs a good uncluttering: been saying that for decades.

  1. What writing project? And what does “significant” mean in a world in turmoil when we are, more than ever, just little warm creatures scurrying over a tiny blue planet somewhere in the middle of a huge galaxy which is one of many?

    • You really know how to make a fella feel better don’t you?

      Well, as one insignificant speck to another I’ve started pottering at another writing project. It’s not yet showable to anyone: it’s barely a set of scenes and notes for scenes. About an English Prince who went off to become a wizard and now has to face the court as Regent for his nephew. All very alternate history. It’s got a nice set of villains and a rather vague team of protagonists. Bits of it are all right but it’s not got a voice of its own yet.

      And I think if I’m going to write about a wizard I need a stronger sense of what it’s like to wield this particular sort of magic. I’m reading a weird book at the moment (HARROW THE NINTH by Tamsin Muir) the second in a series of books that could be characterised as teenaged-lesbian-necromancers-In-SPAAAAAACE. It has a very clear and rather disgusting sense of what being a necromancer would be like. It’s one of those books that are very clearly by people who are cleverer than me and possibly better writers than me which nonetheless end up annoying me greatly.

      So I need to find a sense of what magic is that’s as strong as that and not as disgusting. (Honestly, the woman likes to list every bone and organ in the body as her characters use them as weapons and tools against each other. And I am running out of patience with her tendency to mention corpse fat every few pages.)

      And this morning my old school magazine THE WACONIAN arrived through the door and I saw that the sports master who tormented me in my youth has died. He got an MBE. I wonder what for.

      EDITED TO ADD: For founding a charity that took children on camping holidays, first boys only and then both genders. And it turns out he lived the last years of his life in Amersham, not a cough and a spit from me. Wonder if we ever passed each other in the streets. Small world. The fact that he died full of years and honours unfortunately doesn’t lighten my resentful memories of him which is petty of me I know.

  2. David permalink

    Hello. Talking of Latin and acting: 30 years ago today, you made your debut in my favourite TV series as what would become one of my favourite TV characters: self-deprecating, talking of insobriety and larceny, quoting Marlowe and of course joking in Latin. In my story, the road to my Classics degree began here.

    Courtesy of the ITV Children’s Classics YouTube channel, here is the scene:

    The watching approval of David Learner makes it even better. By delightful coincidence, this episode of Knightmare was Episode 42. And Episode 4.2.

    Thank you for Brother Mace. He, and you, are significant to me. Pax vobiscum.

    • Well, thank you for those kind words. I am a greedy old gentleman however and I want more significance and adoration and all sorts of other things I’m unlikely to get at my age.

      It’s odd about that first appearance: I was bloody terrified at the time that I’d lose it because the writer/director, Tim Child, had as was his habit given the character far, far too much dialogue for his first appearance and rather too much of it in Latin. I had crammed it all into my brain as hard as I could but to my eyes (looking back now) I was giving the dialogue (well, mostly my monologue) all the welly I could and barrelling through the scene at speed and volume. I don’t know that anyone else sees the fear there but I can.

      It was Tim’s habit to overwrite until he became confident that you could improvise and work from a brief. It wasn’t too long before he would send me on with just an outline or a couple of paragraphs especially as Fatilla the Hun. I’m quite pleased, looking back over the years, with what I managed to do as those two characters especially when the youngsters chose to bowl me a googly.

      I’m glad I had a net positive effect on your career, assuming of course that’s what a Classics degree turned out to be.

      Et cum spiritu tuo, Adventurer!

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