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Shakespeare anecdotes

24 Apr

A writing blog I’ve been following relates a few Shakespearean anecdotes, because of the 400th anniversary celebrations that are going on.  I’ve decided to do the same, but very much in note form. I remember our English teacher telling us about why he had just had his haircut which tidied up his trademark unruly hair :’my mother,’ he told us,  while we were studying All’s Well That Ends Well. Or the time we went to see the great Paul Scofield as Prospero in my favourite Shakespeare play The Tempest at Leeds Playhouse. A very imaginative production with spirits standing on top of ‘clouds’ and singing down at the stage and with of course great performances.

I saw a lot of Shakespeare plays while I was at school, and I always wanted to play the Fool in King Lear, for reasons that are still obscure to me. I never did get to play the Fool (nor any other character in King Lear), but I did get to see that difficult and brilliant masterpiece a couple of times.

I’ve also seen an awful, truly awful production of The Tempest done by the Pip Simmons Theatre Group – they decided to go for a Freudian interpretation of it and it was , when it boiled down to it, mostly orgy-on-stage and trying to get the audience to participate… Unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

And Shakespeare starred quite recently in my post about the Zlotow inter-schools drama competition a few years ago.

The man from Stratford-Upon- Avon keeps cropping up, though I’m not complaining. My wife,  on seeing Millais’ pre-Raphaelite painting of Ophelia said: ‘I know where I’ve seen that painting before: they’ve paid homage to it in a pop video with Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue.’ So, we you tubed it and yes, there was a red-haired Kylie lying in a pool of water and singing before she drowns in the same way as in the picture, only placed the other way round. And from a TEFL teacher’s perspective,  you only need to google the phrases and expressions the Bard has given to the English language to see how much of his language we still use today.


The novel is near

23 Dec

Yes, this is to say that I’ve published my novel The Burning Chasuble.  At the moment, it’s available from the feed- a – read website, but they only deliver books directly to the UK, the US, Germany and Spain, so for my Polish readers they will have to wait for a few more weeks if they are interested in purchasing it, when it will become available on Amazon. I will of course make my second announcement when that happens. It’s a thriller set in Poland but it’s also a tragicomedy about human relationships. I will leave a link later.


The Burning Chasuble by Daniel James Villiers is available from feed a read


This is one of the poems I talked about in ‘Poetry Weekend’

28 Dec

Poetry weekend

27 Oct

While I was still a student, we had a memorable session down at the pub called Poems and Pints, where, after a swift pint or seven, we all read poems we had prepared for the event. This was all done in  the spirit of fun and getting rather drunk.

It might even have produced a poem or seven, but I have saved only one of my scribblings from that evening, and that particular poem has the nostalgia of the escapism which I relentlessly pursued in my armchair during the eighties, the yearning to leave the shores of Britain for somewhere new. In those days I was equally likely to write stupendous nonsense as anything that could truly be called meaningful. What the hell, for example, was I on about when I said: ‘the tennis racket hurling the net/ the girlfriend stuck in a jet’ ?

No, this is not a paean to travel. I am reminded of that same poem while I work on my latest effort in that rarified literary field. I am not a big poet, and I am certainly not a great poet. I write very little poetry, as I feel more comfortable with prose. With poems I have to wring words, juggle them around, or make them run like the spinning delivery of a fiendish ball when bowled, and then – surprise! – the ball is tipped for four runs. Enough of cricketing similies: my poetry is on the village greens of this medium, not in the test matches. I am not charged by adolescent angst, more by the joy of the sounds and rhythms even of the freest verse, but therein lies the danger that my early attempts at this difficult medium probably failed to tackle. It’s all very well sounding beautiful, but what does it all mean?

I understand my latest poem very well; it’s about teaching English in a foreign country, and it’s going to accompany a project I’ve been working on with a colleague.


Students and native speakers and promiscuity

2 Apr

I remember a Proficiency student a few years ago who had reached a kind of plateau at Advanced and had never really got beyond there; strangely, he still talked about ‘he go’  ‘she do’ or ‘it jump at you’. If you had isolated that one fossilised error that he still made in spite of every attempt to wrest out the vital -s ending,  you might be forgiven for thinking that he hadn’t really advanced beyond basic – say Elementary. Of course, in every other respect he had, and he probably had more grasp of English vocabulary than a few native speakers I know.I will never forget how a Wall Street Trader I met once was bragging about all the women he had succeeded in picking up in his halcyon trading days, and I asked whether it was he or the women he picked up who were promiscuous, and he had no idea what I meant.

Barbed wit is lost on people who don’t get it. I’m not saying that this guy was stupid – he was clearly as sharp as shark’s tooth, but for him language consisted of basics, because it was only basics – and the language of money trading – that he used. ‘Sleeping around indiscriminately’ are three words, one of which he wouldn’t have used, the long one, which  actually has more syllables than the one-word promiscuous. However, it’s important to understand that the indiscrimination of the sleeping around is crucial to the meaning of promiscuous.

I bet my student, though he was a happily married man and had never been a wild boy,  would have known  what the ‘p’ word meant. And yet he was never able to get his head round the third person singular ending.