Arts · Books · Thoughts

Fingers in my Ears

A Midsummer Night’s Theme

It’s been a funny old week. The sort where it feels like the world is spinning too quickly underneath one’s feet, so you end up falling on your backside. But then, because you’re siting on it, the world carries you along too quickly and you feel sick. So I thought I’d try a sort of mish-mash post, since my aim is to do more of a variety of blofferings this time.

The infamous poplars were cut down on Thursday. I really wish they’d done it back when I’d built myself up to it. (Or, of course, not at all. I’d been hoping they’d decide they couldn’t be bothered. I should probably stop judging people by my standards.)  I’ve spent several days trying to figure out how to describe how I felt, picturing both friends and enemies being murdered in my back garden. I don’t want to accuse the poplars of doing something awful, even if they were dangerous. Perhaps I’m ignoring the truth. But to me they were innocent and beautiful and, I admit, volatile. So this week I’ve been sitting with my back to chainsaws, trying to tell myself it’s a truck driving past or a phone vibrating.


“Ruth”, said Big Grandma impatiently, “you would make a good ostrich!”
“Just because you personally can no longer see the gravy drips down the front of your jumper does not mean that they are no longer visible!”
“I thought my hair covered them up.”
“Just what Lady Godiva said.”
– The Exiles, Hilary McKay.


I have a frustrating tendency, whenever anything is too upsetting, too frightening, to pretend it’s not real. I spent most of the run up to referendum burying my head in the sand. I haven’t paid attention to the news in years. Assuming I’ll be less depressed not knowing. Burying my head in the sand was not enough. Neither was sticking my fingers in my ears and singing loudly. The thoughts trickle in. Once the results came in, I picked them up, shook them out, and help them up in front of me, at arms length. And I thought that if anybody else’s brain is like mine (probably some are better and some are worse), nobody has ever been able to think clearly enough to make a decision, ever, and we should all just stop trying. This is, I recognise, impractical. I’ve started reading the news again. I’d rather have too much in my head than not enough.


If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
All this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.
– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.1


Every year, I feel inadequate because I don’t do anything to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve. Although given that it’s usually raining and a school night, I can hardly leap over the fire and eat cake like in I Capture the Castle. This year I had the bright idea of watching the recent adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which has few days left on iPlayer if you’re interested). I couldn’t quite decide how I felt about the fact that Oberon’s train are all noticeable darker-skinned than Titania’s, but apart from that I thought it was excellent. Somehow, despite adoring both Shakespeare and fantasy, I’d gone through all my life never having seen or even read A Midsummer Night’s Dream before. A very risky business, given that it very nearly replaced As You Like It as my favourite Shakespeare play. (Fortunately, they filched a song from As You Like It, so I got through unscathed.) Still. It’s all simple and cheerful and it all gets sorted out so easily. It’s so beautiful. And too, too good to be true. I think the best things are the ones that leave you still a little bit sad at the end. Just manageably so.

The concept of darkness has become alien. I fall asleep and wake up in daylight. I can sleep with the sun shining into my eyes. We didn’t know what was going to happen. But there was elm behind the poplars, and it fills the gap well. It’s easy to feel like the world is free-falling, but the reckless, spontaneous part of me that I want to learn to listen to more often, points out the free-falling is freeing. What fools we be, all of us. All of us.


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