Friday, 27 March 2009

A Little Brief Authority

Last night I drove my son and a friend from Sixth Form College over to Guildford to see Measure for Measure at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (with Alistair McGowan as the Duke, and the action transposed to a "Victorian" Vienna). As they are studying it for exam purposes, this rare chance to see one of Shakespeare's weirder plays in performance was very opportune, and easily worth an hour's drive each way.

I don't know about you, but every day I live the cliché that every adult of whatever age is, under the skin, eternally 18. It sometimes feels as if the last 37 years have been a peculiar dream, and that any minute now I will awake in my bedroom in our fourth-floor council flat in Stevenage, full of energy and plans, ready to get on with my proper life. "I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was..."

But, for once, driving back through a very dark, very starry night -- part concentrating on the road, part turning over the play in my mind, and part listening to the chatter of two very bright soon-to-be 18 year olds -- I felt the full weight of 37 years of reading, listening, looking, learning, working, succeeding, screwing up, and -- above all -- daydreaming. I am not 18. Even -- especially -- inside.

It was not an unpleasant feeling, and I sat in a happy silence, slightly high with the sense that just continuing to turn up and pay attention is, eventually, an achievement in itself. Perhaps the only achievement worth going for. That's not a lesson I was ready to hear at the age of 18.

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