Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Blake Morrison's talk

D. Court writes:
Having attended school in Skipton at the same time as Blake Morrison I had looked forward with anticipation to the evening at Haworth when he was talking about his life and work.

It was very evident from the start that, although now based in London, his roots are very much in the North and this is reflected in much of his work. He talked about his poetry - The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper and Pendle Witches which had been illustrated with drawings by Paula Rego - a name familiar to Parsonage visitors - who had had an exhibition there of lithographs based on Jane Eyre. He described how, after much encouragement from Barrie Rutter of Northern Broadsides, he had written a play, which will tour in the autumn, portraying Chekhov’s Three Sisters as the Brontës. It was interesting to hear about the many parallels in the story- three sisters, an unpredictable, temperamental brother, sorrow and tragedy - but also the many differences- with Chekhov the father is dead, Patrick is the sole survivor of his large family.

Morrison talked about And when did you last see your father?  his memoir of his relationship with his father – which was later to be made into a film of the same name. He amused the audience greatly by reading how his father, a local doctor, embarrassed the family after getting increasingly impatient in a long traffic jam on the way to a motor race. Driving an Alvis convertible car,  Dr Morrison hangs his stethoscope on the mirror and sails past all the cars. Turning into the first gate he sees - of course it is not the correct one for his ticket - he somehow persuades the steward that he has been sent the wrong ticket, has paid for the correct one and is allowed in. Morrison  talked briefly about the complications of finding out that someone he called ‘ aunt’ was actually the lover of his father. 

He talked movingly about the death of his father and how he had insisted in the film that in this scene after his father had died, and he and his mother are at each side of the bed - just as it had happened on that day - the sheet was not pulled over his father’s body. His mother had wanted to look at the face she loved for as long as it was possible.

After writing this memoir of his father he went on to write Things my Mother never told me. He had never known that his mother Agnes O’Shea- also a doctor who had been born in Ireland - was one of twenty children.  He described finding letters his parents had written to one another suggesting various names for her instead of Agnes and she was always known as Kim. 

He ended a very enjoyable evening by reading from his book The Last Weekend - a story of rivalry between friends- one a leading barrister and the other a schoolteacher. He read about Ian’s struggle as a teacher and he left us wanted to know how things worked out for him as, after dealing with a particularly difficult pupil by leading him to the head teacher by his ear, he has to face disciplinary action, maybe termination of his employment, when the boy’s family make a complaint. Perhaps at the school in Skipton, when we were there, this thing was probably part of the school day.

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and, although maybe a little different now in colour, it was good to see that Blake Morrison still has a good head of hair, which I remember him for, and still has great affection for Skipton and the local area!  

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