10 December, 2006

Sheffield Oboe Player

"Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony...
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good, for free."

-- Joni Mitchell

He busked nearly every day on the high street in Sheffield. I would leave rehearsal to get dinner, and there he would be; playing with his gorgeous, dark tone. Sometimes the classics, sometimes folk, sometimes those recognizable songs buskers always play.

Once, I saw him call out to a kid, a young boy of about eleven or so. Hey kid, he seemed to say, would you hold my oboe for a minute while I grab a Mars bar? I'll give you a quid when I get back. The kid seemed to think this was a great idea, and so the Oboe Player carefully handed him the instrument and took off to the newsagents.

Whilst the Oboe Player was away, the kid examined the oboe as if it were a relic! Or made of gold! He didn't dare try to play it, but he did fiddle with the keys a bit... it was pretty adorable. The Oboe Player returned a minute or so later with a mouth full of mars bar, a crumpled wrapper, and a pound for the kid.

And then, picking up the oboe, he began to play again. He closed his eyes. It was Goosens. I knew it because Lilly played it for Concertos at Interlochen. And the kid stuck around, he listened too. And then, without making a fuss, whilst the Oboe Players' eyes were still closed and concentrated, the kid put the pound the Oboe Player had given him, into the small pile of change inside the oboe case. And he sat on a nearby bench until the piece was done.

29 October, 2006

Auntie Al

So. Aside from excessively bad hair (due to a combination of a bad seat on public transport and less than desireable humidity levels in The Smoke), these are some pictures of Auntie Al and Neice Hannah in action. Note: white fuzzy jumper thing was chosen with great effort, finally finding it a lovely baby gift shop/pharmacy/communist propaganda & leaflet distributor (a mish-mash sort of a place...)

Anyway! She is pretty incredible, and I cannot escape the delicious feeling of belonging to someone. I can be there for her and take care of her if she is ever in trouble or needs Aunt like advice.
I might be the crazy Aunt: the one with a very strange nocturnal lifestyle who reads The Fountainhead as a bedtime story.
I might be the cool Aunt who brings you along to West End rehearsals or lets you sit on the set whilst filming.
I might be the faraway Aunt. I AM the faraway Aunt, let's not be pedantic.
Anyway. It's great. And it is just the beginning.


27 October, 2006

Photography: Redheads

Redheads
Continuous study 2004-Present

Models: Alley Scott, Sherry McNamara, Juliet Alderdice, Joanne Cummins



14 October, 2006

Flying over Greenland...

Flying over Greenland....
... it feels as though I am in the middle of a poem.
The craigy fijords of frozen water, accentuated by miles of clean, immaculate white.
Expanses of icy land.

The scene has inspired a sense of gratitude, awakened a well of emotion deep within and kissed it gently with frosty breath. And this pool of warm feeling has nestled up against the frost, frozen over, and displayed tiny shards of ice patterns, like a blush.
It is all renewal, all possibility.
It brings cold tears to my eyes.
The kind that freeze on your face, and sting.

Greenland has filled me. With gratitude, with hope.
Take heart, Al. The wonderous icy mountains have selected you, said hello.
This vision that has been seen by few has reminded me there are things at work greater than one's self.

Here, there is clarity, purity, peace.
Here, above the top of the world.

11 October, 2006

Jake



My cat. Oh my beautiful cat. How I miss him, how he has restored so much that has been lost. How he takes care of CV.
So, meet Jake.

Jake, everyone. Everyone, Jake.

Hello.
Meow.
All that.



video

19 September, 2006

Letter to Kit

Kit,

Apologies for 10 days to reply.

I went up north to the woods to see Interlochen, see D & R, reflect on the passing time, teach the "kids," (a phrase I am not entirely used to...) I didn't know what to say. I decided to do it in two parts. One, to make a list of things I have learned over the "years," Two, to answer their questions.

A sampling:

Things I've learned:

1. Wearing panty hose with a dress may feel a little, well, bulky but honestly it is pretty slutty not to and we all know that is how you get yeast infections...

2. Life isn't fair. You are entitled to nothing. The sooner you get over that, the better.

3. Never wear shoes wear the toe points up at the end, unless you are auditioning for the role of an elf, and even then use extreme caution.

4. Never sing medleys. Ever.

5. Less really is more. Always.

6. No matter how much you may think you love someone, NEVER EVER merge your money with theirs. If they take out a mysterious life insurance policy on you, you are not being "paranoid" if you are concerned for your life.

7. I don't believe in luck. Not really. Doors open all the time, but if you haven't worked your entire life getting ready to storm through them when they open themselves for you, then forget it.

8. If you are beige, don't wear beige.


Then I answered their questions.
The questions were laborious and I will not print them, but the answers were:
1. Los Angeles, California, 1983
2. Yes
3. Abolutely not.
4. Ben and Jerry's half baked
5. The northern line, people who are rude to children and the elderly, people who are rude in general, people who say foyER, people who don't understand the very obvious boundaries of personal space, arrogant cyclists who can't decide whether they wish to be motorists or pedestrians, and don't even get me STARTED on the London Aquarium.
6. Weather and making salads
7. I'm fine, thank you.
7a. No.
8. Frankly, I don't think that is any of your business young man.
9. Sixteen
10. Someone once asked me what the capital of South America was. And I had this "music teacher" (note the quotation marks please) at RSAMD, who tried to convince me Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote West Side Story. Not only that, but that it was in fact their greatest work. But I have said some real stupid zingers in my life too. Take my uncool story about working with John Cusack. [insert story here]


What can i say?

Pffffft... [Gallic shrug] ]Your emails are great. Have no clue when I shall return. I'm hiding in Michigan. Don't tell anyone. Dark days. I suppose I will have to return to do that show I am working on. Well, we'll see.

How is life on the other side of the drink?

-- A x

Sound the call - Installment 4

I realised this morning it was Rebecca's birthday, and I had no way of contacting her.
It made me upset. Her phone number doesn't work. And I'm in the middle of the woods.
So I will send this out to the universe:
...Happy Birthday Rebecca...

* * *

Today I taught. It is a wonderful thing to be allowed the oppourtunity (or perhaps forced??) to articulate (as in out loud) my experiences and thoughts on this art, this business, this crazy profession. And to also be forced, in a way, to view it both realistically and yet, positively. There is nothing like having to find the words... when there are sometimes just empty expanses of dull, cold suffering. It was great for them, but also really inspiring and affirming for me as well.

A lot of them asked me about various colleges, and my thoughts on types of training, auditioning, business detail things. And of course the WIW experience. I don't know if those thoughts are particularly interesting in this kind of forum.

But then some really thoughtful questions about the business versus the art, and one thoughtful boy asked me about failure and disappointment. Interesting. I was sort of caught off gaurd by these two words. They are thouhts that come up so often in the artist's conscience, and yet they can be confused with one another...

I was able to really delve into the serious differences between failure and disappointment, and it was helpful for me to identify how I felt about those things. Sometimes we cannot help the fact that we have completely different reactions to certain projects. Sometimes an audition becomes about something else entirely. One desires the validation far more than the job itself. Getting a job can become about approval from others, at times it can even be taken the extent of a confirmation of your existence and overall worth. This is obviously bad. Really, Silber, what would Howard Roark say...?

Take Project E: Exciting. Huge. An unbelievably big deal. Amazing revival, amazing role, director, choreographer. Probably glory, money and all that jazz associated with getting it. ... Didn't care. Why? Who knows. The world may never know. Auditioned. Got down to the last four with some VERY accomplished people, people I couldn't ever DREAM of being the same room with, let alone up against for a role like this. Ridiculous. Didn't. Care. Auditioned. I was fine (aside from the 10:30 in the morning thing). And I didn't get it. And I still didn't care. Onwards and upwards.

Take Project Five: Small. Barely paid. Unglamorous. Actually a pretty bad piece of writing, and an utterly il-portrayed character when you get down to it. Would have done nothing for me but fill a time gap, and keep me busy. No glory, no artistic merit, no money. Nothing. And I needed it more than anything. I auditioned something insane like 5 or 6 times, I got the impression the liked me quite a bit. And yet I knew I hadn't gotten it. And I was devastated beyond articulation, all belief in myself thoroughly shattered.

Now WHY was this job/situation different from others? Other job prospects came and went without a thought. At first I had no idea,Ii just swam around that day in a fog. I wasn't simply feeling low, but silently verbally abusing myself in the most damaging and toxic of ways. That "VOICE" one gets... the one that tells me I just "don't have what it takes" or "some people have it, some don't and YOU DON'T" and as it gets worse and worse and worse "You are worthless. You are inferior to everyone around you."

And as an artist it is difficult. So many people in life feel a status, a validation and purpose associated with their jobs, however menial or distinguished. One can feel constantly inferior to their friends and non-artist peers because their peers often have a status associated with a job, while we often, do not. The validation must come from you, and you alone.

Referring back to the original question: I suppose I believe, after it all, that disappointment is more often than not associated with circumstances, and the way we choose to view those circumstances; while failure is about The Self, and also, quite often, a choice. One may fail to get a role, but one is not a failure, unless one chooses to be. Ultimately, the only choice we have as artists and thus, sensitive people, is to use these moments as opportunities for evolution and growth. That is what life is all about: choosing growth, choosing to rule over the evil, the negative, the toxic, the damaging. "Timshel," Thou Mayest...
...And we have to understand that they are more often then not, these professional things are totally arbitrary.

At this point I needed a sip of water. And David's kind eyes twinkled from the corner of the room. I needed those too.

The boy looked at me after that longish answer. He paused for a while, then smiled.
"If you HAD gotten Project E or Project 5, would you be able to be here at Interlochen right now?"
I said no.
"Well then, I'm really glad you didn't get them... "


Thank you, thoughtful boy. I owe you one. I did not, in fact, do all the teaching today.

17 September, 2006

Sound The Call ... Installment 3

David and Robin are wonderful people.
They are my family.
I feel closer to them more than ever before, and my respect for them as educators and creative people only grows with time. We have had so many talks, so many discussions about theatre, acting, and art; but also about time, age, evolution, growth, life.

Yesterday David and I went "messing" (as my Dad and I used to call it) and played a game Dad invented called 20 turns, where every time you come to an intersection you have to chose right, left or straight, and after 20 turns you find something fun to do. It was wonderful. After 20 turns we got slurpees and chinese food and spent the day LAUGHING and talking and it was one of the best times I have ever had with him. He loves me. And I him. And it just means so much.

Sound the call - Installment 2

I went around to Judy ("Lady") Chu's yesterday for brunch. She is expecting and looks amazing, one of those women that gains exactly 8 pounds and just genuinely healthy, perfect, gorgeous and "glowy." I didn't realise her and husband Robert were "older parents," and because of this she explained Madeleine would be her first and last child, and I waxed on about the joys of having older parents, and on the pros and cons of only-childhood.

Robert cooked us some beautiful omelettes, complete with fresh vegetables (courgettes, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes...) straight from their GLORIOUS garden in the back! Judy had also made lovely savoury muffins, still warm from the oven and garlic butter they had made themselves (who does that?! It's remarkable). I was so overwhelmingly impressed by their life.

They are both such interested and interesting people. A joy to talk with, and both endowed with this fantastic quality of observation-- noting and cataloguing things the average person might miss. And these details they discover and reveal to you with such beauty. It makes one experience that buzzy, "a little bit more alive" feeling... Their lives must be so rich. And how amazing parenthood will be for them, and childhood for Madeleine.

And it is sweet to see how nervous they are about screwing up their child. I think I intellecutually understand. Like Steve Martin's character says in Rob Reiner's "Parenthood," "when they are brand new, fresh out of the womb, it is like they are pure, you haven't screwed them up yet..."

They will be fine. As I reminded them, plenty of people have absolutely insane parents (look at both of my parents!) and they turn out just fine. At this, Robert brought up the concept of "Insanity Insurance." Insurance for your kid before they are born to pay for therapy and prozac, should you really fuck them up. I think it's a great idea, and I bet it would be a real seller.

Well anyway, it was gorgeous and I was so happy to see her. She is my friend. A very special and important person in the chronicles of my life, and I was happy to discover on this trip that perhaps I am that for her as well. I love when in life, you receive a confirmation that a relationship is reciprocated as you hoped it might be... those moments are vital.

David and Robin picked me up from Lady Chu's house and we drove up the coast to the very edge of michigan! It was beautiful, and we had a gorgeous drive. We stopped at the coast to look for rocks (in michigan we don't really have "shells" to speak of) and then in a small viallage called LeLenau and ate at The Bluebird reteraunt before heading home. A perfect day.

Tomorrow I teach a few classes and speak to the students. I am nervous.

16 September, 2006

Sound The Call - Installment 1

I am sitting here in beautiful Traverse City on a breathtaking day. The air is clear and crisp, and smells so clean and fresh. It possesses juuust that hint of autumn that makes one feel so thoughtful, and makes one feel so connected to universal sorrow and joy. Hard to explain I suppose, but this place does render me speechless at times. I have just returned from a glorious drive through the countryside seeing all of the sparkling freshwater lakes to the various fruit orchards and and vineyards. Northern Michigan is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen... certainly a worthy addition to a list of paradises.

I arrived saturday after a brief (35 minute!) flight. David greeted me at the "airport" (more like glorified runway), to pick me up and take me to the campus. It was amazing to see him, and he greeted me with such excitement and familiarity, it felt so wonderful. He is in every way a father figure, and his opinion and guidance is more meaningful than ever.

Once on campus, he escorted me into the theatre and showed me around all the new facilities! About three summers ago I sang at the groundbreaking ceremony and actually physically put the first shovel in the dirt outside the theatre on what was to be an extension-- and now to see it in all its glory, my...

I am so proud of this place, and to see it growing and improving fills me with additional pride. Anyway, a huge new rehearsal room (identical to the theatre dimensions--how practical), a massive new set and costume shop underground, new fly space, offices for all the teachers and a full dressing room area. All of these things would certainly outdo my own drama school, and I am sure the dressing rooms alone are nicer than any off-broadway or fringe facilities. I was impressed. It was really remarkable and I was beaming.

There are also so many new things. The most beautiful hunter's lodge-esque library full of academic and artistic reference books, and an entire music library on the ground floor. Every play, video, CD or sheet music you could ever dream up is there...

A new greek amphitheatre!
A new creative writing building with a poetry recital stage.
A new MOTION PICTURE ARTS major and a full professional editing studio and movie theatre! (this is the swankiest thing i have ever seen)

So beautiful...

I was then let loose for an hour or so to explore the rest of the campus and I had quite a trip down memory lane.

My old summer cabins - Intermediate Girls Cabins 1, 4 and 18... I saw my name written in permanent marker all over the boards when I peeked through the windows. I felt the ghosts of childhood all around me. My father's smile was right behind me.

I walked along all my old paths, put my feet in the lake, sat in he gazebo and in my favourite, and very special tree outside the dance building.

The smell of the place: musty, a little mouldy and damp but naturally damp. It penetrates the nose and fills your chest with the essence of pine...

27 August, 2006

'Crimson'

There is a man in the suburbs
Whose heart keeps leaking.

Crimson creeping
     up into the cotton
of all his best shirts.
County police,
International doctors and scientists
investigate
with fascination.

Confused,
they concede to take him to the Undertakers
for sugar.

Tonight, while he sleeps
Mummified tightly in gauze,
his wife grips
his hand, and whispers a confession.

I have begun to regret your injuries less.

Squeezing the hand harder,
she smiles softly at the crimson
spreading across the surface,
infecting
one fibre at a time.

10 August, 2006

The Proms and John Adams

What an evening.

The Proms.

How to describe watching John Adams conduct his own music?

Like relief from an unknown hunger?
Like a cure for a disease I didn't realise I was plagued with?
I suppose I didn't realise my spirit was so malnourished, until John Adams revealed what I was missing.
Thank you John Adams, you have enlightened my existence.

Art is necesary. I knew that. But until tonight I only understood a sliver of the necessary. 1 - 7. He has opened 8 - infinity.
And 8 - infinity is necessary. As necessary as breath.

I have unpicked my brains for this.
I, so lost and small in this unforgiving place;
at times terribly alone with only my sometimes inflexible and intolerant personalities for company.
I have glided along the thoroughfares of spiritual banality,
the cobblestone alleys of indifference,
and arrived awake and beaming,
Here.

O John Adams,
Pure and unassuming man,
you allow me to fathom a life without limits.

And yet, that said, there is no way to justly articulate the experience I had tonight.
Not without limiting it. Not without cheapening it. Not without killing it completely.
Best leave it unsaid. Let it exist in another world, the world of memory, the effemeral...

This art, this music, this super food.
Yes. John Adams is the QUINOA of music.
Worship him.

Wound Dresser:
http://www.earbox.com/W-wounddresser.html

09 August, 2006

Filming 1408

The scene is actually completely improvised, as is much of the movie, but was terrifying because you're thinking "Not only do I have to be in the presence of John CUSACK, but I also have to try to be unassuming, um, good and on top of everything else I have to MAKE UP THE LINES?!!".

So I was trying to seem very nonchlant and all, and my cool skills utterly failed me.
Utterly.

Example:
John Cusack: So.... have you made a lot of films?

Al: Um, well, no, this is my first film. My only other professional
job was in musical theatre.

John Cusack: are you serious? what musical? one in the west end?

Al: um yeah, the woman in white, the andrew lloyd webber thing?
i played the [bad self deprecating hand gestures that MAY have
included the quotation thing people do with their fingers]
"damsel in distress."

John Cusack: Right. That's great. Anyway, your first film.
well you are doing great, you really seem like you've
been doing this forever.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH...

[this is where i just don't know what to say. I SCRAMBLE for coolness, for nonchalance, for anything other than total akward silence... and it doesn't come. So out flies the lamest thing I've ever said.. and it is falling out in slow motion...]

Al: Thanks... YOOOOOOOU TOOOOOOOOOOO.

[WHAT?!!! really awkward pause. I AM AN ASSHOLE.]

John Cusack: Well... you know... I have....

[I know this. I saw him in The Journey of Naddy Gan. I AM AN ASSHOLE!!!]

Al: ... I know. I was... you know. it was supposed to
sort of be a joke...

John Cusack: uh huh...

07 August, 2006

Lonely today...

"And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea."

from The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot, 1917

22 July, 2006

Photography: Study in Blue

Study in Blue
Oxford, England, July 2006
Model: Karen Ann Light


Karen is a dancer I found in Oxford whilst visiting my friend Alley for the weekend. I saw her and instantly felt inspired. She is a deeply passionate woman, and this photographic process was very much a shared creative experience. As you can see, her intensity, focus and unusual piercing beauty make her photograph like a dream.



www.alexandrasilberphotography.com

17 July, 2006

Fuerzabruta


Kit took me.
The (RE)Opening of The Roundhouse. A great big deal.
And I was there.
But I wasn't.
The dark water had me.
And then Fuerzabruta took me under with it, and taught me about drowning.
It is sometimes necessary.
Else how would we know to fight, and remember exactly what we are fighting for?

13 July, 2006

Bastille Day at the French Embassy

Kit was invited and needed a swanky guest (me!). Knightsbridge. Embossed invitations. Full security detail. SWANK!

Bastille Day is the French national holiday, celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is called la Fête Nationale. It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern French nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. I know this because I received a full colour handbook about the event in both French and English. Bon. C'est fantastique.

Highlights included an Eifel Tower made of baguette.
A Tour de Triumph made of mereigue.
SO. MUCH. FOOD. that was very very small.
Red, white and blue flower arrangements (blue flowers = dyed carnations)
Many many women with perfect hair.
And many many men who shrugged Gallic-ly.

Verrrrrry civilized.

Then I got caught at the food table with a very boring Englishman who wanted to discuss the American deficit.
Then he wanted to talk about how much he loved squash, and how all people that didn't love squash were stupid.
Then I excused myself as politely as possible by pretending I knew someone across the... tent.
And whilst running away from him, I then proceeded to accidentally ambushed the Ambassador's wife in the WC.
"Pardon! Pardon Madame! Je suis désolé!"
Then Kit saved me from certain death and we hastily left.
Coffee.
Laughter.
Lovely. As usual.

Vive la France.

19 June, 2006

Conversations with Kandinsky

Murnau Street with Women, 1908. Oil on cardboard

Lonely today.

Went to the Kandinsky exhibit opening at Tate Modern with Kit. The Exhibit was stunning, stirring. But the truth is, I am still unbearably scattered, broken, sucked under by the black water. The sky outside the large, imposing windows of the Tate's main gallery was decidedly menacing.

I am pleased to know Kit. He has brought serious meaning to my life at present. Totally different to any other person I have ever known. We manage to attend some wonderful artistic events together (from Orfeo to Fuerzabruta to Avenue Q), and talking with him is an indescribable pleasure. Sometimes I think the universe sends us people, and Kit and I seem to need one another in the midst of a sometimes cruel and faceless London. We've found our "guide," if you will, for this part of the journey.

I love Kandinsky. I like everything about him. His life, his birthplace (December 4, 1866, Moscow), his personal choices, and artistic integrity (in the form of the group Der Blaue Reiter at the Bauhaus).

He was often called the "Father of Abstract Art." Kandinsky trained as a lawyer in his native Russia, but discovered his true calling was in visual art. When and his wife moved to Germany, he studied art, while Mrs. Kandinsky filed for divorce. He went on to found the group Der Blaue Reiter and taught at the Bauhaus, always writing prolifically on the connections between art, music and spirituality (and found time to marry again). Much of his work was destroyed, as "degenerate", by the Nazi party.

He has some brilliant quotes:

"Every artist, as creator, must learn to express what is personally characteristic."
-- (The element of personality.)

"Every artist, as a child of his era, must express what is characteristic of this age."
-- (The element of style in its interior value, consisting of the language of the times and the language of the people.)

"Every artist, as servant of the art, must express that which is characteristic of art generally."
-- (The element of pure and eternal art, found among all human beings, among all peoples and at all times, and which appears in the work of all artists of all nations and in all ages and which does not obey, as essential element of art, any law of space or time.)

I fell in to his paintings. My limp, flimsy spirit fell head first into his spiritual world, in to his connection to something greater despite extreme adversity. And Kandinsky lightened me, lifted me up, released the burden, even if only for a moment. There is hope, there is always hope...

29 May, 2006

Welcome Hannah...

I'm an Aunt!

Hannah Virginia Silber born 29 May, 2006.
7 pounds, 10 ounces. 20 inches long.

What is there to say to describe the feeling of being someone's only aunt (or uncle for that matter). And in this particular case, Jordan and Maggie both being "only children" (aside from the very obvious fact that I am Jordan's sister but that is perhaps too complicated to get into right now), I am the only Aunt or Uncle Hannah is ever going to have.

So I better be good.
I have to get her the important books. And make sure I read them to her with all the voices.
I have to make sure she goes to the theatre!
I have to be the cool aunt, the crazy aunt and the faraway aunt all at once!

But I do love that J & M are going to be able to say to people in elevators: "Yes isn't that outfit nice? It was given to us by her Aunt, she is an actress in London's West End." That is fab. Well at least it will be fab when I am employed again. Ha!

But what joy.
An Aunt.
Forever.
It's forever.
And I love it.

17 March, 2006

Condensed Film Scripts: The Last Samurai

In case any of you missed this uh, AWESOME film, I thought I would save you the trouble of having to endure it. Life is too short. (This might have to made a serial...)

The Last Samurai

MAN: Please go to Japan and show them your awesome ways!
[wields sword with awesomeness]

TOM CRUISE: I will be better than all the stupid Japanese Samurai 'cos I am awesome.

SAMURAI: You fight so awesomely well that we will train you to be the best Samurai!

TOM CRUISE: Yes, I am that friggin' awesome.

[later...]

TOM CRUISE: I have become the best Samurai ever, and am totally more Samurai than the rest.

GIRL: I love you whitey Samurai.

The End.

24 February, 2006

Another note from Simon...

Simon kindly agreed to help with my visa application. A tumultuous task. He handed me the formal paper version of his letter whilst I was busy dissintergrating after the final performance of The Woman in White, which he kindly returned to witness. The next day I received this e-mail from him:

Dearest Creature, ex-Laura and Soon-to-be-Diva sublime,

Here is my little note. I will have delivered it to you in person tonight, but in case under the weight of all the emotion it got mislaid, or perhaps melted, here's what I wrote.

God bless you, sweet child.

Simon x


What a gem. What a marvellous man!

11 February, 2006

A Green Life


A Greener Life

Every day you are using water and energy, and creating waste. That means, every day you are impacting the environment. These tips will help you make choices with the good of the environment in mind.

* * *

Energy

- Conserve fuel by turning down the heat at night and while you are away from your home — or install a programmable thermostat. Turning down your thermostat by just 1°C could cut your carbon dioxide emissions by over 5% as well as saving you around £30 per year. Over 60% of our household carbon dioxide emissions are due to the fossil fuels (such as natural gas) which we burn to heat our homes. By taking a number of sensible steps we can reduce the heat we use, save money on our bills and substantially reduce our emissons.

- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They are inexpensive, and easy to install. Energy saving light bulbs last up to 12 times longer than normal bulbs, so each one can reduce your lighting costs by up to £78 over the lifetime of the bulb. There's a wide range of attractive designs now available and they emit 70% less carbon dioxide than normal bulbs. This is one of the easiest ways to make a difference!

- Insulate your home against heat loss and periodically check insulation. Insulating your house is one of the most effective ways of reducing your carbon dioxide emissions. For the average house 30% of the heat simply escapes through the walls and is wasted. You can also insulate your loft, floors and windows too.

- Fix air leakage with weather-stripping and caulking.

- In the winter, change your furnace air filters once a month. The heater uses more energy when it is full of dust.

- Avoid using cars and airplanes — walk, cycle or use public transportation whenever possible. The way you choose to travel significantly effects your impact on climate change. On average each us in the UK pours 3.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year from our personal car usage and a further 1.3 tonnes from our aircraft flights. It's unlikely to be practical for us to give up our cars and stop flying altogether, but we can make a significant difference by thinking about the choices we make and weighing up other options for how we get around.

- Avoid anything battery operated (or use rechargables or solar rechargables if batteries are unavoidable).

- Buy locally — not only is it good for the local economy, it will save energy because products haven’t traveled across the globe to get to you. Also keep seasonal foods in mind. Again, people aren't really meant to eat fresh strawberries in January, it means they have travelled a great distance and used a considerable a,ount of jet fuel to get to you, whilst losing a huge amount of nutrients along the way.

Waste
If everyone consumed the way we do in the UK we would need 3 planet earths!

Our contribution to climate change doesn't just come from our travel, our electricity use and our heating. In fact almost everything we do in our lives involves products or services that have consumed energy to be made or transported, thus emitting carbon dioxide and causing climate change.

We can have a huge positive impact by aiming to live and consume in a "sustainable" way. What's more we won't just make a difference by our own lifestyles, but also from the influence we have on others.

- Don't buy things you don't really need or want.Most of us far more 'stuff' than we ever need. Every time you buy a product you're responsible for the emissions due to its manufacture, packaging and transport. So only buy stuff you really need or will actually use.

- Buy local food to avoid unnecessary "food miles." When you buy food from overseas you're responsible for the "food miles" incurred by shipping that product to the UK. Why not reduce your impact on climate change by buying local produce instead? It tastes better too!

- Buy organic or grow your own. Conventional intensive farming methods use 25-50% more energy than organic farming per unit of product. Buying organic or growing your own significantly reduces your impact on climate change.

- Use a vegetable compost at home. Using a compost for organic waste is easy and avoids it decomposing in landfill sites where it will emit methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas which contributes heavily to climate change. It's also handy to use in the garden.

- Make an effort to recycle. We live in a throw-away culture, but if packaging, glass and other items can be recycled that reduces the energy needed for manufacturers to get the materials to make new items. It saves things ending up in landfills too.

- Re-use rather than throwing away. Every time you throw something away it gets buried in the ground and energy needs to be used to make another one. Save energy by keeping and re-using packages and bags more than once.

- Give unwanted items to charity. If you don't want something and it can't be recycled, don't simply throw it away. If you give it to a charity shop someone else can use it and that saves on unnecessary new products being made and energy wasted.

- Use refill packs. A great way to reduce on packaging for the products you use is to buy refill packs for items like soap powder - they use less packaging and therefore have lower carbon emissions from manufacturing.

- Buy less packaged food. The more packaging your food has the higher the energy that was required to make it. Try to buy produce and goods with less packaging and send a signal to manufacturers that we don't need that kind of wastage.

- Don't waste food. Energy is used in packaging, transporting and heating food, so if we waste food rather than consuming it that's a lot of needless carbon dioxide emissions. Think before you throw it away.

- Drink tap water instead of bottled water. Tap water is clean, fresh and free so why buy expensive bottled water? Energy is consumed for each bottle created, filled and transported, leading to unnecessary carbon emissions and yet more plastic in landfill sites.

- Take your own bags (canvas or cloth is preferable) to the grocery store. If you take plastic bags, use them until they are worn out.


Useful Links:
www.whatyoucando.co.uk
www.thenag.net
www.foe.co.uk
www.greenpeace.org

08 February, 2006

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