Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell

Another period drama I couldn't get into and only watched the first episode of. What is wrong with me? Am I simply tired out? (Well, yes. My health has been taking a total battering of late.) I realise it makes me come across like an ignorant chav: "Oh, historical TV. It's so boooooring." Not what I think at all. But I think I must be picking up the attention span of my four-year-old.

I haven't read the book. It's been sitting on my bookshelf for at least two years since I picked up a copy for 10p in the charity shop. There is always a copy of it in the charity shop, a bit like Fifty Shades Of Grey and The Da Vinci Code. Only a better book, by all accounts. I will read it one day, but it always seems so outfacingly long. And now, having seen the first episode, it seems similar in style to Erin Morganstern's fantastic (in more ways than one) The Night Circus, so this will further postpone my attempt. I read The Night Circus only very recently, and I don't want to end up confusing the plots. That's the sort of thing I do now that I am in my forties, you see.

I hadn't realised Mr Norrell's York connections. The York Society of Magicians don't do any magic. They just sit around a table arguing. But then Mr Norrell turns up (sort of) to answer a wager, and brings all the statues in the Minster to life. Only they kind of reminded me of the Purple Man who sits on his bike on Stonegate every day. But at least this scene was genuinely filmed in York Minster. And the Magicians were meeting in St William's College next door. St William's College does well out of period dramas - it was the backdrop to several scenes in Death Comes To Pemberley too.

And then they went off to London and I lost interest.

But I never tire of York Minster, at the heart of my city. This vast, glorious building, visible for miles across the Vale of York. The original twin towers. The Rose Window. The East Window, the size of a tennis court. The Blue Peter bosses high up on the ceiling destroyed by fire in 1984. The resonant echo. The giant Advent crown at Christmas. The sense of humour of John Sentanu. Its permanent chill. Its vertiginous Great Central Tower (once climbed, never to be repeated), and underpinned undercroft whose gallons of concrete stop the tower from collapsing.

I go for the music. The choir at Evensong, the opening solo to Once In Royal David's City during the Nine Lessons And Carols. The Early Music Festival concerts in The Chapter House and Nave - the Sixteen, the Tallis Scholars. The terrible university choir, with Peter Seymour wielding the baton. I was once among them, performing Verdi's Requiem, the ground shaking beneath our feet as the drum banged the opening to the Dies Irae. The boom, that echo. And Bach's Christmas Oratorio, singing with a sore throat in the cold that December leaving me hoarse for days.

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