Generally Speaking

A grain or two of truth

W.S.Gilbert put a lot of himself into Jack Point, the tragic jester in The Yeomen of the Guard – the nearest thing to serious opera he and Sullivan wrote together.

Yeomen of the Guard 2004 me as Jack Point

I was lucky enough to play Jack Point myself, one of a number of roles I had over the years with our small town’s amateur operatic society. Alton Op & Dram – AODS for short.

Naturally, people see Gilbert first and foremost as a jester – his wit and brilliance with rhyme and meter have rarely if ever been equalled.

But I remember being aware as I played this role that there was another side to Gilbert, that he also wanted to say serious things about human nature, about society, about scandals in high places. Which is exactly what he is saying, through his character Jack Point in this great song that I – a recently retired doctor in the town, no less – had the joy of singing:

Winnow all my folly, folly, folly and you’ll find
a grain or two of truth among the chaff

Gilbert’s librettos were full of truths, surely one of the reasons why so many amateur companies did little but ‘G&S’, and in some cases nothing but G&S, for generations.

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Grandmother’s clock

grandmas-clock-caseThe old hall clock struck four at twenty minutes to six this morning. And then five at six. It’s almost like a code – but, as my wife points out, without that element of consistency which codes require to make them really useful.
I mention this because, endearingly, the old thing behaved itself perfectly all through this Christmas. I had finally given up on it a couple of years ago (when it struck something like twenty five at something like seventeen minutes past three) and since then it had stood, a beloved but silent sentinel, in the hall of our home. But this year, when I was putting the seasonal holly and tinsel in its hair, I suddenly had a whim to give it another try.
I hauled the weight up on its chain and circled the ancient hands to set the time, and as I did so I noticed with surprise that the correct number rang out as they passed each hour. So I gave the pendulum its little push and tiptoed away, pleased that I had restored, if only for a short time, the house’s ticking heart. But, as I’ve just said, it then surprised us by keeping time and striking the hours correctly right through the new year, asking only to be wound each night on my way upstairs to bed.
The way this happened was really quite weird, because now the festive season is over and we have hit 2017, it immediately reverted to being just as erratic as ever.

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