Peter Pan, Poppins and The Importance of Place

peter pan

It was the array of colour, energy and the spectacle of Peter Pan on Ice at the Bord Gais Theatre performed by the Russians that I loved best. At first, I felt a little teary eyed at the ability of these Russian Ice Skating Stars. I was in awe of their magnificent skills and daring. How I have wasted my life, I thought, working in local government. I too wanted to twirl, slide, jump, twist and fly, my limbs and heart soaring! However, I completely forgot about such disappointment in the second half, and got sucked in – me and the six year old with the loud voice in the row behind (I think he may have a future in radio commentary), whooping and clapping Captain Hook and First Mate, Smee. I loved the crocodile. Mind you, the little boy behind was disappointed that he didn’t gobble up more of Capt. Hook. Captain Hook was sublime, a real pantomime pirate on ice, but Russian, exotic and handsome. The choreography and set were amazing. The trapeze work (the sails of the ship) was incredible. I loved the pirate ship scenes. Despite there being no talking, I always knew exactly what was going on…Indian squaws being kidnapped, lost boys being burned at the stake, mesmerising mermaids (wonderful costumes), battles. It was only brilliant, as they say here.

So, I am in Dublin, dog sitting for a friend who is cycling around South Africa. I have the joys of Emma, a bulky thirteen year old golden lab with the heart of a puppy. She gets so enthusiastic about walks and tickles, she jumps up and down on her four paws, two at a time, back then front. She can only jump a few inches so she looks hilarious, a sort of giant mechanical puppet.  Her two inch enthusiasm is particularly amusing because Poppins, my puppy dog who is with me, can literally toss herself four feet in the air, rather like the Russian Ice Stars. While I am tugging with both hands at Emma (who does not go off lead) trying to distract her from the apparently delicious delights of dried up poop (the pooper scooper skills of Killiney need serious dog warden attention), Poppins (who does not do leads) is leaping along the narrow ledges of the precipices and ravines of Dalkey gorge, frightening the life out of me and every other walker.

After the theatre, the daughter and I went to a great Moroccan restaurant where we discussed the office politics at her work place. Office politics! When I first worked, I thought it was only in my work place that the people were rather unhinged. But as life went on, I discovered that ‘office politics’ were a natural phenomenon, everywhere. People are extraordinary. They have so many talents, skills, abilities (whatever the arena, be it religion, law, acting, medicine) so much passion for their work, yet their every day energy is focused on jealousies, competition, and aggravation  that serves only to undermine what they do. There’s nowt like folk! While listening to daughter, I tried to imagine how the office politics of the Russian skating stars might pan out (ha ha, Pan….sorry)!

Anyway, it’s great to be in Dublin for a while. On Saturday, I went to the Stinging Fly workshop in the Writers Centre with writer, Kevin Barry, which I really enjoyed. I do like Kevin Barry. He has a practical, unpretentious bent to him and the most expressive face that moves or morphs into a range of characters when he is reading. He described himself (when he spoke to my MA group in Galway two years ago) as a slug bouncing a rubber ball again the wall of his office, an image that stays with me. On Saturday, I particularly liked what he had to say  about people and places, how the physical environment moulds and manipulates its people. I think that’s true. People grow out of the grime of the city, or root down in the country. It is ‘place’ that forms our culture and therefore our characters (fictional or real). Yes, ‘place’ does influence and mould. Every place has its charm, horrors, dark corners, vistas and every place sporns its people. Cerebrally, I knew this already (I am always contrasting my country life in Cavan with my city life in London and Suburban life in Dublin) but it hadn’t occurred to the writer in me.God, it’s a challenge living so many lives. I can never keep up with which bit of me knows what!

Oddly enough, my poetry assignment this week was also about place. So I will end this blog (as it is time to embark up the hill with Poppins and Emma) with the first draft of a poem.

Avalon in Suburbia

This is the place where pebbledash inclines to pine palace interiors
with white sofas, orchids, muesli and vast, glass swathes of light
softly lit.

This is the place of mock Tudor, port holes, red brick chimney stacks
secured by green laurel, heather, hawthorn, precise pampas grass,
shaped.

This is the place of prim gated estates, pristine porches with bays, pancake
mix faces, golden labs, shih tzus, petite poodles, range rovers, BMWs
on leads.

This is the place of vistas of sea, castles of dreams, piers, bandstands, proms,
pavilions, regency railings, gardens of ice cream, fountains, Georgian front doors, green
caterpillars.

This is the place of delicious, out of date fridges, air travel, suitcases on four wheels,
locks, security alarms, timers, deserted front gardens. This is the mythical place where no body
lives.

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