On Sunday night, I went to the Phoenix in Leicester to see the closing night of the Leicester Comedy Festival. There were five unknown comics (well, unknown by me at least – the best were compere John Richardson and deadpan Yorkshireman Alun Cochrane), and headliner Stewart Lee, whose set was sadly shorter than usual, but as good as always. It’s his style, as much as the actual material, that makes him so entertaining, especially as he uses his peculiarly slow delivery to, at times, deconstruct the whole process of comedy. That, thankfully, sounds a lot duller than it actually is – in practice, the laughs still come thick and fast, but you’re also led to think about exactly what you’re laughing at.
I got back just in time to see the start of The South Bank Bank Show, which was looking at WH Auden, and ended up recording it and watching it on Monday. I have to confess that I’ve read far less by and about Auden than I should have done, and so it was hard to form an opinion on a lot of what was mentioned, including his decision to leave Britain for the USA just as World War Two was looming.
I did, though, find myself admiring his decision to expunge certain fairly early poems from his canon because he decided, years later, that they were just not honest, and that he had overdone the rhetoric for poetic effect. I don’t think that’s in any way arguing that poetry has to be straightforwardly emotional, or literal, just that the kernel of emotion at the heart of each piece has to be ‘true’. It was also a reminder of that old thing about poems never being really finished – if someone of Auden’s stature can keep having second thoughts, I don’t feel so bad about my own constant dithering.
I would have got round to posting this yesterday, but spent the day testing telescopes for work at Rutland Water, which was fun but doesn’t half leave you cross-eyed! And then on the way home, I went in to give blood, and found myself volunteered to go on the machine that separates your blood products there and then, allowing you to give twice as much. I decided typing counted as the strenuous exercise they warned me off.
The bird lists are steadily growing. The overall list is on 111, courtesy of four Smew (two male and two female) yesterday, plus Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Little Owl at the weekend. The patch list is creeping up towards the century mark, with those last three all counting towards it.
I got the Little Owl near Sawley Marina, close to the M1. Despite the road, it’s a very quiet spot really, and has been attracting a lot of Short-eared Owls lately, so I went to have a look. It’s certainly SEO heaven, habitat-wise, but none showed. Still, the Little Owl was consolation and a reminder that part of the fun of birding is that in looking for one thing, you find another. The Derbyshire birding website says the SEOs are still there though, along with patch rarities such as Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher, so I’ll have another look this weekend.