Category Archives: Telling stories

Christopher Isherwood in two moods

Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood was an English-American writer with works that include his 1935-39 ‘The Berlin Stories’ and two semi-autobiographical novellas inspired by his time in the German Weimar Republic. These enhanced his post-war reputation when his ‘I Am a Camera’ was first adapted into a play in 1951 and then a film of the same name in 1955.  In 1966 he gave us the stage musical ‘Cabaret’!

What caught me, though, is a comment Christopher made on 28th September 1959 when he wrote: ‘Last night I went to Elsa Lanchester’s.  Oh the horror of TV!  It is so utterly, utterly inferior, yet just enough to keep you enslaved, entrapped, on the lower levels of consciousness – for a whole lifetime, if necessary.  It is a bondage like that of Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott.’

My Fair Lady – Audrey Hepburn – and Aphrodite!

It was on Wednesday 3rd July 1963 that Cecil Beaton recorded the filming of My Fair Lady in his journal:

I had watched Audrey [Hepburn] during the tests, wearing almost no make-up and being photographed in a somewhat flat light. One took for granted her charm and vitality, but it was only when the result was magnified hundreds of times, that one realised that, as Jack Warner said, ‘She’s one in a million.’ Somehow, the celluloid accentuates her expressions of tenderness, humour, fun, hauteur and plaintive childishness. Her nose and jawline do not conform to the golden rule of Praxiteles yet add enormous character to the photographed result. 

After seeing herself without eye make-up Audrey pleased me by saying that, in the future, she was going to soft-pedal its use. The ‘Flemish look’, without make-up, is going to be a surprise. Suddenly, one realizes what a hard look the black liner gives the eye, and how its effect is to close up, and make smaller, the white of the eye. Audrey’s appearance without it will be quite a revolution and, let’s hope, the end of all those black-eyed zombies of the fashion magazines.

Just in case you wish to know – and are like me and did not know who/what Praxiteles was – he was a 4th century BCE Greek from Athens, the son of Cephisodotus the Elder, and was the most renowned of the Attic sculptors of the time, being the first to sculpt the nude female form in a life-size statue.

These happened in April in years gone by

Some while ago I compiled a set of 12 ‘It Happened in ….’ books – one for each day of each month of the year.  It was sold locally and went quite well.  However, various things came along and stopped me taking the ‘Happenings’ further.  Now – hopefully – this is the beginning of the next version of ‘It Happened in ….’ and we’re starting it in April.

April is the fourth month of the year and, by the Romans of times long past, was associated with the goddess Venus – and the word April may be related to her Greek name Aphrodite.  Both this and the traditional etymology, from the Latin aperire, to open (with reference to the opening of buds), was rejected by some scholars in favour of an ancient derivation from a word meaning ‘other’ that came from a time when March was the first month of the year.

As times and attitudes changed, traditions and expectations adjusted.  Linked to this month of April we find that Diamonds became the appropriate gemstone to be gifted to your lady.  If you just wanted to give your lady flowers Daisy or Sweet Peas were appropriate.

A traditional rhyme in Britain, however, tells the individuals or couples that:

Married beneath April’s changing skies; a chequered path before you lies.

Other traditions tell us that:

April blows his horn when it’s good both for hay and corn.

April floods carry away the frog and her brood.

April showers bring forth May flowers.

1606-7 – Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra III ii 43: ‘The April’s in her eyes.  It is love’s spring, And these the showers to bring it on.’

1648 – Herrick in Hesper – ‘First, April, she with mellow showers Opens the way for early flowers; Then after her comes smiling May, in a more rich and sweet array.’

1846 – Denham: ‘March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.’

Mid 19th century – ‘March brings breezes sharp and shrill, and shakes the dancing daffodil while April brings the primrose sweet and scatters daisies at our feet.’

We’ll tell the story of an airplane – and pilot! – next Tuesday