I came home on Tuesday to find a small package waiting for me. I wondered what it was as my fingers eagerly pulled on the Scotch tape. I was very much surprised and happy to see this lovely shirt from Brian Hock of Simple Hydration. I was one of the winners of Brian’s Run Simple shirt giveaways that he did as a thank you to all of his fans.
I own a Simple Hydration bottle and love it (my review). The bottle goes with me on all outdoor runs, except for short ones. What I love the best about Simple Hydration is that it really is simple. You fill it up, and tuck in it your shorts or running belt and off you go. I love that I can carry water with me without having to carry it in my hand. If you don’t one, I think you should get one, because it really is great.
The holidays are here. For me, it means a few different things: 1) things get really crazy at work, 2) racing season is over, and 3) going to see/hear Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
Last Saturday we went to the 4th annual What the Dickens? at HousingWorks bookstore. Different authors and actors come to the bookstore to read every word of A Christmas Carol. It’s a four hour literary feast. I particularly enjoy the reading when the orator performs the piece, rather than simply reading aloud. Some of them get creative and add “special effects,” such as ghost’s moaning when the spirits come to visit. Last year, a couple of the speakers brought props with them and did a mini puppet show. This year, a few of the intended readers had to drop out because of the flu. It was a more subdued affair, but I still had fun.
One of the best things about listening or reading a great novel over and over again, is that you can discover something new that you had overlooked earlier.* This time what caught my attention was this line:
In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the milkman.
There, did you catch it? Her brother’s particular friend. Why would Dickens use the word particular to describe the brother’s friend, unless it’s to draw subtle attention to the nature of their relationship. I do believe that Dickens was alluding to a gay couple in A Christmas Carol. The phrase particular friend has been used as an euphemism for a sexual partner. I do think that it’s interesting how Dickens portrayed the lives people in various classes. Homosexuality would have had been hidden during his time, but people knew if someone was gay. It wouldn’t have been talked about openly, but one knew. Homosexuality was visible, but hidden. The relationship between the cook’s brother and the milkman symbolize this. Their relationship is acknowledged in the text, but not overtly, and it’s further accentuated by the fact that the cook’s brother is not at all in the scene.
I do relish carefully poring over text and discovering little nuggets.
*Read this excellent article on the power of patience and immersive attention by a Harvard art historian, Jennifer Robert.
Last week Ben surprised me with a pair of tickets to see A Christmas Carol, adapted by Patrick Barlow, the creator of the Broadway show 39 Steps. Ben had seen 39 Steps and was a big fan. The concept of this A Christmas Carol was that five actors played all of the characters. Yes, there were constant character switches, except for Peter Bradbury, who played Scrooge.
Bradbury was excellent and the adaptation was quick-witted and clever (Scrooge sardonically asked Bob Cratchit, “I didn’t catch it, Cratchit.” and another great line from Scrooge was, “Or it’s the hatchet, Cratchit.”). Bradbury’s Scrooge was more sartorially splendid than the stereotypical Scrooge, who’s too miserly to spend a penny on himself. The rich waistcoat accentuated his greed and power when a poor woman begged for a short term loan, which Scrooge agreed to at an outrageous interest rate. Bradbury was masterful in his portrayal of Scrooge. While I like most of the other four actors, I did get weary of listening to their patently false British/Cockney accents. It was forced and sounded like what Americans think a British/Cockney accent sounds like, rather than actual British/Cockney accent. I’m sure if any actual Brits listened to their accents, they’d laugh at the stereotypical take. I preferred Bradbury’s more understated and nuanced performance.
Accents aside, the show was 90 minutes of pure rollicking Dickens glory. The show is at St. Clement’s, which is a functioning church, but moonlights as theater. When you first enter, the auditorium is quite smoky and foggy. As the show progresses, the smoke gets thinner and thinner, and the air clearer and clearer. The smoke and fog represent the darkness that cloud Scrooge’s soul. As Spirits visit him, Scrooge repents and starts to let love and happiness back into his heart. The darkness in his soul vanishes with the fog. At different points in the play, carols are sung and the audience is encouraged to sing along. I was actually the only person who started singing for the first carol because I read the instructions in the program to sing along and I have no shame. I don’t sing well, but I don’t care.*
It was a wonderful show and a fantastic start to our lovely holiday season.
*Nonethless I still hate karaoke.