And Then the Lighting of the Lamps

Lighting of the LampsLondon in the winter is a place that’s perpetually darkening — the clouds always seem to be moving in and evening comes surprisingly early, especially if you, like me, are sleeping in a different time zone and find it difficult to wake up before lunchtime.

Yesterday though was a breathtakingly clear, silvery winter day. After lunch (with the very, very nice U-Dad, with whom I ate something far better than hummus and apples), I walked home through Green Park and then through Regent’s Park, and as I walked I could see it becoming evening all around me. It was extraordinarily beautiful, and I was not at all sad to see the day end so early. Well, a bit sad — which is how I feel about having to go home tomorrow.

Tonight (after a really fun trip to Cambridge to see litlove — about which I have much more to say in my next post!) I saw the most amazing production of Much Ado About Nothing at the National Theatre. Much Ado is a comedy that’s perpetually darkening — the witty banter of Beatrice and Benedick, for example, is shadowed by Claudio’s brutal accusation of Hero’s infidelity just as he and Hero reach the altar. Beatrice and Benedick are the only middle-aged lovers in all the comedies (there is a strong suggestion that they have loved each other before, and that Benedick dumped Beatrice, so having a history together is what makes most directors cast them as middle aged.) And so love for them is a little more rueful than it is for younger lovers, although still giddy enough for this to be a satisfying comedy, and to keep the darkness at bay.

What struck me most tonight (aside from the wonderful performances, the great staging and the really terrific music and dance) is that very little separates Much Ado from Romeo and Juliet — they share, for example, a friar who has the bright idea of suggesting to a young woman in love that her troubles will all be cleared up if she’ll just pretend to be dead for a while. Now why didn’t I think of that when I was in my twenties? In one play she comes to life to reunite with her lover and in the other… well, not so good. There is also a challenge to a duel, one avoided in Much Ado and one unavoidable in Romeo and Juliet. Much Ado ends with marriage; Romeo and Juliet ends with death. But very little more than chance and luck seems to separate the lovers in the comedy from the lovers in the tragedy. Maybe that is the point, in fact.

And so to bed, after one last cup of tea and a little bit of packing.


10 thoughts on “And Then the Lighting of the Lamps

  1. It sounds like you are having a lovely trip! Lucky you to get to London again–I’m very envious! And I look forward to hearing about your visit with Litlove! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  2. I must hang out with ding-dongs because I once pointed out those very similarities between Much Ado and R&J. I remember the person I was explaining to was just not listening; she kept saying, “They’re totally different. One’s a comedy and the other’s a tragedy.” Oy.

    By the way, did you have really bad jetlag when you arrived in London? I always have an awful case when I go east…have a safe trip back.

  3. So glad to know the theatre was fabulous! Hope you have had a very safe and easy return trip and that you now have plenty of zen time to ease back into your proper time zone! It was just a delight to see you.

  4. We did, Courtney! It was so much fun — I know you’ve been planning other potential meetings, and I’d love to be able to make it to those. Of course, it’s also weird to present yourself physically to someone you’ve only known through words, but after about fifteen minutes, you stop thinking about it. As for London, I love visiting it, as I am sure is pretty obvious!

    And a delight to see you, dear Litlove. The flight back to San Francisco was indeed an easy one — and because I didn’t really ever get myself on Greenwich mean time, it hasn’t been too hard to get back to Pacific standard time.

    U-Dad: Haunted! I can believe that. There’s something about the way evening comes in that makes me believe quite readily that more than just us 21st century dwellers are present there.

    Mari — Dingdongs indeed! (I’m reading Midsummer Nights Dream these days, and I think it’s there — or maybe in Merchant of Venice? — that one of the songs has a “ding dong bell” line in it.) As for the time change, mostly I stayed awake during the day, and also awake during the night and discovered that I don’t actually need very much sleep when there’s so much fun stuff to do. I didn’t take naps or go to bed at weird times and that seemed to work for me. I also had no idea what the time was in California, and just kind of went with how I felt, which was excited and happy.

    Danielle — It was really a lovely trip. Nice to see my brother, and to meet litlove, and u-dad, and Ingrid from the wonderful blog The Girl in the Cafe. I feel like things in the blogging world are becoming increasingly three dimensional, which I like very much.

    Dear Ms. SofaDweller — I know what you mean. London is an extraordinary city. So much energy, so many things going on, so much history. I think it might be exhausting (not to mention incredibly expensive) to live there all the time though.

  5. How I wish I were in London. I spent two weeks there about five years ago and would move there in a second if I had the chance. I found your Much Ado and Romeo and Juliet comparison intriguing.

  6. Hello Nova, That’s how I feel about NYC from your many wonderful posts about the city, and your pictures of daily life.

    Stefaine, I spent a little time fantasizing about how I could get myself a job in London that actually paid enough so I could (a) go to the theater; (b) eat and (c) rent a place to live. Everything I came up with was highly illegal.

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