Ballet and cats

I hardly know where to start.  There has been so much going on. Perhaps with something as apparently simple and lovely as ballet.

I accept that ballet is one of those things that people either love or hate.  Obviously I am in the former, having travelled to Sydney recently to see the Paris Opera Ballet, and this weekend I went to see Dendy’s screening of The Pharaoh’s Daughter.  

The Pharaoh’s Daughter was first staged by Marius Petipa in 1862, and it was a lavish production.  This most recent production by the Bolshoi was no different.  Three acts, with different scenery and costumes in nearly every scene and the entire company, so it seemed, on stage.  Unlike many of the stories from the nineteenth century, this one has a happy ending.  Boy meets girl, faces danger and betrayal, girl returns favour, and they live happily ever after.  Sort of, given that its all a dream sequence.  It was based on a story called La Roman de la Momie by Theophile Gautier. It’s available at Project Gutenberg and has been added to the ever extending ‘to read’ list. I was unaware until I started to write this that Gautier also wrote the scenario for Giselle, which is what I travelled to Sydney to see.  

 It also appears that he was a cat fancier, if the cat quotes are anything to go by.  ‘If you are worthy of its affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave’, he said.  Indeed, as I said to the Iron Paw this morning at 5.33am, ‘What did your last slave die of?’

The Paris Opera Ballet was performing Giselle, and despite a) being evacuated from the theatre and b) the annoying child behind me, my friend and I were entranced.  L says that seeing Giselle as a little girl is what entranced her.  I suspect that the girl behind me felt much the same, but sweet as her interest was, she was far too young to be attending.  Her constant questioning and commentary to her mother distracted everyone around her and detracted from our own enjoyment.  Especially as L had crossed the continent to see it!


I am crossing the world soon to see the Royal Ballet perform La Bayadere!  Most extravagant birthday present ever.  Fortunately it is not a matinee ticket, so I am unlikely to be disturbed.  


Ballet restores something in me.  Whenever I am tired and sad, or in lament, I can lose myself in the grace and delicacy of ballet.  I know full well that this grace is acquired through relentless work, and I treasure it all the more.   



Cakes for ghosts

Today would have been my Dad’s birthday.  He would have been seventy nine, the threshold to true old age.  Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my Mum’s death.  So, this is a difficult time for me, in addition to having my fifty first skin cancer partially removed today.

Is it any wonder I feel, well, a little bleak?

I have baked Dad birthday cake.  Strictly speaking, they are cupcakes which are currently sitting on the bench cooling, awaiting orange flavoured icing.  While he was alive and after Mum died, I used to bake him a cake and post it to him.  For this one needed to choose a recipe appropriately, something firm and dense that would pack well.  It also had to be dairy free, given that his body had developed quite a violent aversion to all things creamy, cheesy, and buttery.  Chocolate beetroot cake turned out to be best, which I baked into muffin sizes and wrapped individually, so he could just put them in the freezer.  Anyone living solo, whether by choice or not, cannot get through a whole cake even if it is their birthday.

Dad was so wrapt up in his grief that it never actually dawned on him that I had been living solo for some time and that perhaps, I might have some tips to share on that state in life.  Does a parent ever see that their children can teach them?  Mine certainly didn’t, or if they did, they kept that a secret.  Not that I am pretending for even a nano second that I could understand the loss of a life partner.  Mum and Dad had been married in 1958, and in my view should have been unmarried soon after, but the world was not like that then.  Both came from families that were…how to express this?   My short list of adjectives is lengthy and dismaying.  I shall settle for the simple word ‘miserable’.  I think my parents were cultured in misery and it went through them the way an onion can permeate warm milk.  They did not know any different.  

Recently, my brother sequentially rescued two birds who had sought refuge in his backyard.  When the second bird arrived, the squabbling started.  My nephew joked that it was Granny and Granpa come back to visit.  Everyone laughed in instant recognition.  Their relationship was hardly warm.  Which is why I find these two particular days, Dad’s birthday, and Mum’s deathday, so hard to bear. One reflects forward, hopes for a year to come.  The other reflects backward, on how a life was lived.  Collectively they represent the mystery of those who you shared your life with, and remain completely perplexed by.  

At least cake is not mysterious.  


Flower talk

My sister lives a two hour plane flight from me, and, to complicate matters, we did not grow up together.  I am a decade older than her, having been given up for adoption at birth.  We first met when she was 11 and I was 21, but we didn’t meet until I was 31 and she was 21.  

I don’t know if she liked perfume then.  Quite possibly.  I certainly did.  But age, and circumstance and distance have made the getting to know you process rather slow.  There’s that word again.  Its taken until quite recently for me to winkle out of her important details like her favourite flower.  It’s gardenia.

Does a flower say something about the one who adores it?  In that case, my sister is ravishing and intense.  What would the gardenia say to R?  Probably not something as banal as ‘Thanks’, although gratitude is never banal.  The adoration of flowers, in general, says something about the recognition of the importance of beauty, and diversity.  I don’t know how many flowers exist in the world, although I should probably find out.  (And would you could cultivars or just species??)  The gardenia is right for a girl born in the tropics.  ‘I am a traveller from distant lands’, it says to R, ‘bringing serenity and love’.  That makes her gardenia sound like a bodhisattva.  What a happy thought!