Sunday 20 January 2013

Stony-Hearted Misanthrope

That was a busy week that was. I hardly noticed the snow. It's been a busy January - all in a good cause and mercifully not so much fire-fighting (though of course there is always some of that in a large organisation) as taking up development opportunities and planning an exciting year ahead, not least in campaigning for delivery, delivery, delivery on the Mental Health Measure and the new strategy "Together for Mental Health" and its Delivery Plan.

Hence my inattention to this Blog which may be a matter of indifference to you but for me this is important therapy!

Early in the week we met funders to report on the first year of Time to Change Wales, the anti-stigma campaign which we are running with our colleagues in Gofal and Mind Cymru.

There have been many initiatives across the world aimed at reducing stigma but the jury is still out on what actually works. However, I'm more than ever convinced that success depends absolutely on ordinary people with a mental illness "coming out" in their communities, work-places, and elsewhere to challenge stigma courteously but assertively.

That's a tough call but we are right to give priority to building a mass movement of people with a mental illness and their families who are prepared to speak up. Hafal's role in the initiative has been to support these courageous champions to deliver formal and informal training to the wider public and so far they've done just that to nearly 2,000 people.

Meanwhile, to be honest, I would have got the Blog done if I had not also been leading a full social life...

On Tuesday I was expecting a night in with my feet up but a friend handed us tickets at the last minute to see the Royal Opera House's production of La Bohème broadcast live from Covent Garden to...Screen 2 of the Apollo Cinema in Carmarthen.

Good fun and well-sung if also a little well-worn. ROH are very pleased with themselves that this production dates from 1975 but I think it shows a bit - although the production is traditional (so ostensibly could be from the 1890s when Puccini knocked it out) somehow it looks dated. Also annoying was a pre-recorded lecture before the performance aimed at inducting the cinema audiences around the country into the mysteries of opera - irritatingly patronising to an audience of what were quite obviously Carmarthenshire opera buffs who knew more about the subject than most of the actual audience at Covent Garden (bored executives sucking up corporate hospitality).

But this is the greatest of operas and the most accessible art-form on the planet contrary to popular belief. A stony-hearted misanthrope could not fail to weep as Mimi consumptively coughs her last.

Before the performance I notice that our tickets are for senior citizens. Mrs Blog is all for just ignoring this and walking in but a combination of honesty and vanity makes me insist on offering to pay up the difference. The kindly box office person smiles, shakes his head and suggests we don't worry - and sure enough the ticket inspector on the door doesn't bat an eyelid. Ah well.

On Thursday we are out again (but this was planned) to see a performance of the National Theatre's current stage hit The Magistrate, a sort of Victorian farce by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and starring American star John Lithgow whom we saw playing Malvoleo in Twelfth Night a couple of years ago. The live production is beamed across the ether to...Screen 2 of the Apollo Cinema in Carmarthen, now our home from home.

This is slight stuff first produced in 1885 - 10 years before Puccini's masterpiece. Lithgow and the rest of the cast play it in a cartoon-style frenzy padded out with some song-and-dance routines which are unrealistic and don't add anything to the feeble plot and rare jokes. Still, I did enjoy it - it's an interesting period piece and races along fast enough.

The biggest star on both Tuesday and Thursday was...Screen 2 of the Apollo Cinema in Carmarthen. Compared with the agonising discomfort and grotesque cost of West End theatre the plush leatherette seats, drinks-holders, limitless leg-room and fair pricing of modern cinemas are a real bargain and true luxury - and surely the reason cinema attendances have risen three-fold since 1985.

And today we do a massive walk right around St David's peninsula in freezing cold but intermittent sunshine which makes me feel young again and dispels any tendency towards misanthropy...