A Glimpse Through The Dark Glass

Two years ago, and I still haven’t re-discovered that quote.

City Jackdaw

A few of my recent posts have been a little time-oriented.

I came across a quote a while ago in a book, and now I can’t find who it was that made it, or exactly what it was, verbatim. But it was something along the lines of how we cannot appreciate the present because we are too caught up thinking about the past, and planning for the future.

Or was it re-living the past and fearing the future?

If only we could learn to live in the eternal now, letting nothing pass us by. Opening our senses to the full, letting life flood us as it is happening. If we could but appreciate and experience all the good things that are occurring, and attempt to deal with the bad, so that they can be dealt with and filed away. Not hinder us, tearing us this way and that. Splitting us…

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When The Stars Shone Brighter

Well, the Oscars are almost upon us. You know what? Current controversy aside, I have never watched a single Academy Awards presentation. Not a full show, live, anyhow. I may have caught the highlights the odd year.

Do any of you guys watch it? Maybe it’s because I like old movies, but, to me, the Hollywood of the past seemed much more glamorous.

The stars appeared brighter. More luminous.



Sunday Mornings, Lazy Mornings

Sunday mornings should be lazy mornings, leisurely mornings. There is a feeling of time slowed right down. This morning, at least, the sun is out, its light streaming in through half closed window blinds. Or are they half open? I guess it’s a question of perspective. The dilemma of whiskey drinkers the world over.

The children are asleep. My wife being away with my fourteen year old daughter, I had a late night with my two youngest. First, my son was placated with the latest Doctor Who episode, and then his sister wanted a Marilyn Monroe night. Being a fan of the shining, doomed starlet, she has her favourite movies, but we plumped for Monkey Business, a film in which she has a lesser role. The premise of the film is silly, but that doesn’t matter when you are seeking 90 minutes of escapism.

There were many laugh out loud moments. And, of course, my lad loves monkeys.

Ginger Rogers is brilliant in it. I used to think that she was ‘just’ a dancer, rather than an actress. For someone who professes a love for old films, I can be quite ignorant. But I am au fait with Cary Grant.

So now the kids sleep in, the morning crawls by, languid minute by languid minute, and I observe its pass with a cup of coffee and silent demeanour.

My wife returns tonight: I have a house to clean.

But I have a book to read, too.


Some Like It What?

My seven year old daughter Millie has recently become an enthusiastic Marilyn Monroe fan, after watching, and loving, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She danced along to the numbers like I never could.

Next in her sights was Some Like It Hot, after watching a trailer for it on YouTube.  We had not gotten around to watching it yet, despite it being locked and loaded in the DVD player for some time, when I saw online that it was being shown at the cinema in Manchester. I have no idea why it was being shown, it having been made fifty-six years ago and all, and so not an anniversary or anything, but I figured that this could well be the only chance for Millie, and I, to see this classic (and Marilyn) on the big screen. So off we went into Manchester this morning, Millie singing to herself on the bus : “wanna be loved by you, alone, boop-boop-de-boop.”

(You have no idea how difficult that was to type with my vindictive autocorrect continually cutting in.)


As it was only 10.30am, the cinema was quiet when we arrived. Nobody in the queue. So, technically, then, there wasn’t even a queue. Only two members of staff were manning ticket sales. They jumped to attention (if that is possible in a sitting position), and greeted us as the first customers of the day.

“Hi,” (my warmest smile), “can I have an adult and a child to see Some Like It Hot, please.” 

A young student-type guy turned to his screen. “Of course…..one adult and one child to see Some Like….” His voice trailed off as he peered at his shielded screen, a puzzled look on his face.

I was suddenly struck by self-doubt. The film, the old film, wasn’t on after all. I had either read it wrong, or Odeon had had the temerity to email me-they approached me, with the wrong information. I had wondered why it was being shown, and only once too:Thursday, eleven o’clock.

The eyebrows of Puzzled Cinema Salesman suddenly lifted in surprise:“Oh, it IS showing…” He punched a few keys then turned to us. “What exactly is it?” 

“It’s an old one, with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.” 

“I didn’t even know we were showing it.”

Why are you showing it?” I asked, without realising that any significance would not be known by someone who didn’t even realise it was on in the first place.

He shrugged. Then his female colleague, sat beside him, piped up: “You’ve never heard of Some Like It Hot?”  Again, the enigmatic shrug. She piled the pressure on further: “You’ve not seen that scene where Marilyn is walking along the platform, and all that steam shoots out from the train, and the guys are just stood there with their jaws open?”  Ah yes-that scene.

Of course he hadn’t. I tried to help him out. “Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon witness a hit and have to go on the run from the mob. They dress up as women and join Marilyn Monroe’s all-female musical band.”

Blank stare. Slight shake of the head. Maybe it was an age thing. I was about twenty years older than him. The film was twelve years older than me. I added one final thing, defensively, as though justifying why we were there. “It was voted the all-time greatest comedy in Hollywood history.” 

As his colleague sympathetically nodded her head, he merely handed me the tickets and said “I might slip in and check it out.” I didn’t believe him.

We made our way towards the escalator that lifted us up to those magical silver screens. That are white.

As we did, I glanced back to see the lad’s regulated smile back in place as he welcomed a Scandinavian-sounding couple, complete with kids in tow. The man opened his wallet, and I heard him say “Two adults and two children for Some Like It Hot, please.”

The lad actually sank back in his chair. If it didn’t sound so dramatic, I would have said he collapsed back, the air knocked out of him, no doubt wondering about this celluloid  phenomenon that had somehow slipped by his guard. Finger on the pulse, kid, finger on the pulse.

I chuckled all the way up with an entirely perplexed young girl by my side.

The cinema-experience of the movie was great, almost allowing me to believe that we were watching a film back in the halcyon times of Hollywood’s golden era, when the films were short on special effects but big on story and acting. The effect of Monroe’s luminosity was evident for all to see, huge and imposing, dominating the screen. The partnership of Curtis and Lemmon was inspired, my daughter particularly giggling along to Lemmon’s comic capers. (She did call the Curtis-Monroe kissing scenes as gross, though.)

She is now asking me about The Seven Year Itch.

Come on Odeon, let’s do this! Imagine that dress blowing up above the subway grate-thirty feet high!

I shall scour all of your future emails eagerly. And it would be really cool if you could arrange for that same employee to be working, too.

A sly photo, taken by my wife, of my daughter and I watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

A sly photo, taken by my wife, of my daughter and I watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

On Books And Obsessions

So today is World Book Day.

The school run this morning consisted of me taking a wild, red haired Merida (from Brave-I was given the Death Stare for mistakenly calling her Meridian), and a gun toting Woody along the usual route, turning heads before we merged into a colourful sea of Mad Hatters, Supermen, and Wicked Witches at the school gates. We were greeted at the door by a grown up Hungry Caterpillar.

It was like something from a surrealist’s dream, or a drug taker’s confessional.

My contribution? Well I didn’t dress up. I know, I’m such a bore. But let’s face it, a guy who won’t use his daughter’s Frozen umbrella when it’s pouring down is not going to skip to school as Pennywise the Clown, is he?

No, my book themed contribution was to call at the local library on the way home to pick up 1984. Somehow, I have made it to forty-three without reading any Orwell, which I’m going to remedy after reading Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms.

imageLike all good book lovers, I have a backlog of stuff to get through, and this one is next in line now that I’ve just finished Norman Mailer’s Marilyn.


 This is now the last Monroe biography I’m going to read. I tend to get fixated on a subject, read two or three books on it, then move on to another temporary obsession.

Marilyn is brilliant writing from a double Pulitzer Prize winner. I shall leave you with the moving, closing words of his book, which, appropriate for this day, also name checks another great author:

Once, across the years, she sent Rosten a postcard with a colour photograph of an American Airlines jet in the sky, and on the back, in the space for message, she put down, ‘Guess where I am? Love, Marilyn.’

Rosten wrote:’I have my own idea but am keeping quiet about it.’ Let us not hope for heaven so quickly. Let her be rather in one place and not scattered in pieces across the firmament; let us hope her mighty soul and the mouse of her little one are both recovering their proportions in some fair and gracious home, and she will soon return to us from retirement. It is the devil of her humour and the curse of our land that she will come back speaking Chinese. Goodbye Norma Jean. Au revoir Marilyn. When you happen on Bobby and Jack, give the wink. And if there’s a wish, pay your visit to Mr.Dickens. For he, like many other literary man, is bound to adore you, fatherless child.

Marilyn Said

All of my heroes are creative people.

I had some great role models as a kid, and I’m a football fan, but it is the poets, the writers, the songwriters, that I have always admired.

I have never particularly been a fan of Marilyn Monroe the sex symbol/Hollywood actress, and know next to nothing of her life story. But, on discovering that there are books containing her own writings, as opposed to merely other people’s biographies of her, my interest and curiosity was piqued, in a similar fashion which led to my recent post about Ingrid Pitt.

The first book that I read is called Fragments, and contains poems, letters, and yes, fragments of jottings, made on hotel letterheads, in notebooks, etc, shown here in her own handwriting. Flicking through the pages you get a sense of uncensored intimacy. There is a letter included which details some of the things that happened to her when she was confined to a psychiatric hospital until Joe DiMaggio’s intercession.


I particularly liked her unrefined, undeveloped poetry and prose.


I am both of your directions

Somehow remaining hanging downward

the most 

but strong as a cobweb in the

wind-I exist more with the cold glistening frost.

But my beaded rays have the colours I’ve 

seen in a painting-ah life they 

have cheated you

In a footnote, it is revealed that Marilyn wrote several variations on the theme of the twofold course of life, and gives an example that can be found in Norman Rosten’s book:

To The Weeping Willow

I stood beneath your limbs

And you flowered and finally

clung to me,

and when the wind struck with the earth

and sand-you clung to me.

Thinner than a cobweb I,

sheerer than any-

but it did attach itself

and held fast in strong winds

life-of which at singular times

I am both of your directions-

somehow I remain hanging downward the most,

as both of your directions pull me.

We all come to her writing with our own prejudices and ideas, and of course it is hard not to read it outside of the context of what we know about her life’s end, (conspiracy theories not withstanding), which imbues some of the lines with a melancholy.

Oh damn I wish that I were

dead-absolutely nonexistent-

gone away from here-from

everywhere but how would I (the words ‘do it’ are crossed out)

There is always bridges-the Brooklyn


But I love that bridge (everything is beautiful from there

and the air is so clean) walking it seems

peaceful even with all those

cars going underneath. So

it would have to be some other bridge

an ugly one with no view-except

I like in particular all bridges-there’s some-

thing about them and besides I’ve 

never seen an ugly bridge

The second book is her autobiography, the manuscript being published over a decade after her death.


In it she throws light on her early, troubled life as Norma Jean, a girl from an orphanage, plagued by fears of hereditary mental illness, and devoid of friendship and any real sense of belonging. She tells of the time she was molested by a ‘respected’ adult, and nobody would listen to her. She went from one foster home to another. Then, as she got older, her body began to develop and, suddenly, for the first time in her life, people began to notice her, particularly the boys in her school. She got her first real boyfriend, a twenty-one year old who believed her to be eighteen rather than the thirteen year old that she actually was. She fooled him by ‘keeping my mouth shut and walking a little fancy.’

When he informed her that they were going to the beach, swimming, and having no costume of her own, she rushed to borrow one from her ‘sister’ who was smaller than she was.

It was there, in her ill-fitting bathing suit, that she discovered even more that the unwanted child who nobody minded was now garnering the attention of others, both men and women.

I paid no attention to the whistles and whoops. In fact, I didn’t hear them. I was full of a strange feeling, as if I were two people. One of them was Norma Jean from the orphanage who belonged to nobody. The other was someone whose name I didn’t know. But I knew where she belonged. She belonged to the ocean and the sky and the whole world.

In the part where she rejects the advances of the head of a studio, rather than sleep her way to her big break, there follows the poignant:

I drove to my room in my car. Yes, there was something special about me, and I knew what it was. I was the kind of girl they found dead in a hall bedroom with an empty bottle of sleeping pills in her hand.

The book goes on to tell how Marilyn went from a bit part player to the hottest thing in Hollywood, the manuscript ending when she marries Joe DiMaggio and goes to entertain the troops in Korea. It is a pity the story ends there, as I would have loved to read her personal account of the rest of her life, but, alas, we will have to turn to the writings of others for that. I loved My Story, and will now read a biography of her life (I have in mind the Donald Spoto one), but it is to these two books that I will undoubtedly return. She comes across as a complex character, in equal parts intelligent, erudite, charming, witty, fragile, and vulnerable. There was much more to her than the Hollywood image that she was portrayed as. She was many things, but she was definitely not some dumb blonde.