Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A 92-year-old woman in the year 1971

So I went to see Mark Ravenhill's A Life in Three Acts (Part Two) last night, which okay, a sort of pseudo documentary type thing about the life of drag performer Bette Bourne, divided into three parts that happen over three nights. Can see why it went down well at Edinburgh, through was a bit baffled as to why it remained split into three in London, as Part Two was a svelte 45 minutes long, which seems kind of a rip. Though there were two for one cocktails and I did end up sat next to Ian McKellen (endearingly annoyed about price of the programme and the fact Cosmopolitans weren't included in the two for one), so I suppose that was added bang for buck (or 'the full gay' as I suppose it isn't very appropriate to call it). THAT IS NOT THE POINT THOUGH.

So at one point Bette Bourne reminisced about somebody who lived in the same commune as him being visited by his 92-year-old mother, and this was back in 1971. Now, this seems really fucking unlikely - we saw a photo of the son at the time, and he looked thirties tops, so unless his mother had a really, really amazingly weirdly, freakishly good womb then I sincerely doubt this is correct.


Ninety-two is unusually old, but there must have been a fair few of them around in 1971. That's just crazy. To still be a teenager in the reign of Victoria. To be thirtysomething when WWI broke out. To watch Hitler on the news as you shuffle into middle age. To spend your sixties being blitzed, to spend the Fifties watching the birth of rock and roll, to still be around for Dylan and the Stones and the Beatles' best years, to still be kicking and breathing and having progeny on the planet as the civil rights movement rages around you, the world still in such palpable transit at the end of your live. For radiation to be discovered when you were 13, for atomic bombs to be dropped when you were 65. To live from Oscar Wilde to the Jackson 5. I mean, what a fucking interesting span of time to be alive.

Obviously it's dumb to romanticise it - two world wars for starters, while it'd be profoundly unlikely that she'd really have spent her seventies and eighties and nineties grooving to that funky music. But it just really struck me, that bridging of 'now' and such a deep, deep 'then'. I dunno, I can't help but see there being something utterly enviable about that... we worry so much about the world changing for good these days, and, y'know, obviously many of those outcomes involve some sort of global cataclysm. Which is not good. But if I hit 92 and the world had changed half so much - even for the 'worse' (such a relative concept - fall of the British Empire was 'bad' I suppose, though again, that thing about global cataclysm) - I hope I'd be able to see something magical in that.

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