A Happy Story

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“So go on, tell me a story.”
I wish I knew how a happy story began. Instead I start with “it happened with the whispering folds of a satin curtain sliding down a staircase. I hid behind the library door as the rasping breath of the priest added to the dust expiring from the floorboards. Every cell of his body strained towards the silver signet ring that dangled tantalising from the bronze statue. He was consumed by desire, iris’s dilating as he imagined the power that would soon course through his veins…”
“This doesn’t sound promising.”
“Cindy can you stop interrupting me?” My seven year old cousin sighs. Her lips are pressed together in a disapproving smoulder, like a dried apricot.
“Once upon a time,” I try again “there was a girl who lived in a cottage, shrouded by a crab apple tree and a blue summerhouse, and a yellow rose bush that blocked out all light.” The beginning sounded crap but I hoped the faster I spoke, the less chance I would be interrupted by her majesty, the story critic Queen. “Sombre ideas flittering in her mind like dancing piano keys. She dreamed of a castle in the sky made entirely of ice crystals, where a figure in a black suit roamed the corridors carrying nothing but a candle, searching. Searching for someone at least, and until he found her, he would not rest. Now, when the light of dusk faded, the clouds shot fountains of ink like a canon, with lanterns to herald the-”
“Bored.”
“You hardly listened.”
“I just want a bedtime story.”
I take a deep breath. The bobbled underside of my slippers make a plastic squelch on the vinyl as I meander my way to the bookshelf, past crushed pizza boxes, phone charger wires and Fanta in sticky glass goblets. I yank a book viciously from the pile, fling it open and prod the black and white illustration with my index finger.
“There, the Blue Bird. It’s a great one.”
“I don’t want a Grimm’s fairytale. How old am I?”
“You tell me.” I try to match her sarcasm, but instead my eyes bulge like a dead fish as I try to maintain the wide eyed look of intimidation.
“Forget it. I’ll read myself.” She peels away the covers and vanishes from the room. I feel oddly cheated. And it is in this state of being pissed off that I drift to sleep curled like a python at the foot of the bed.

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Copyright © 2014 by Kate W J White (All Rights Reserved)

The Nine Day Queen

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“The Execution of Lady Jane Grey” by Paul Delaroche completed in 1833.

A Story

There’s something about it. Something…..The way her arm reaches for the chopping block, the way her dress gathers, cream satin-

This is her last moment. The priest, the executioner, her ladies in waiting but it is not their death we have come to see.

*

This beard and a brown tweed jacket thinking ‘she’s so young’, ‘how beautiful the crook of her arm’, doesn’t see the people trying to wedge themselves to his left and right because they’re all looking up into her pure little face like she’s the Virgin Mary. She has the attention of the whole court with the reach of her arm and poor Lady Jane Grey doesn’t even know because she’s blindfolded.

 
This trench coat and fur trim thinking about the executioner’s tight leggings. Eyes narrow and move from left to right, left to right, wondering why the girl in the picture is wearing a night shift and why the leggings leave nothing to the imagination. ‘If they didn’t want to ruin her lovely clothes’ she’s thinking, ‘they could have chosen a better colour than white.’ It’s cream not white. This is a big difference for someone with an eye for detail, a connoisseur of Art, but fur lady has already moved away.

 
The coffee cup Identicals thinking ‘Lady Jane is our cupid’. Looking at the girl in the painting as they bring their faces closer together, to kiss, to pull apart and look at her again, as if she would bless their union. Thinking, ‘the poor girl she will never get to experience what we have, this happiness.’ The Identicals cannot walk from the staggered weight of each other. They are blind, like Lady Jane is blind, when a painting isn’t even a painting to the couple but a canvas supported by a frame.
Mr Tie not straight, back to the portrait of the Comtesse Vilain XIIII and her Daughter. Fingers move over imaginary rosary beads, counting the structural arches of the building. Checking the phone, waiting for a business contact or client? Art related or leisure?

 
“What’s Monarchy mean? Oh….we learnt about Henry VIII but not, not Lady Jay Grey.” Says a voice then another- “Jane, she was called Lady Jane Toby.” “Mummy, what time does the Science Museum close? Because you promised.” “I told you in the car, Grandmother wants to see the paintings first…” “I know, but, but…”
Chances are they will leave within the hour.

The Science Museum. Now that was an idea. The awkward-weird-self conscious you feel going on your own, using the touch monitor sensory games with no-one to laugh with, getting lost on the top floor with no lift to take you down, you can say ‘what’s wrong with going yourself, you’re at a gallery on your own aren’t you?’ and the red dress on the bench- me, telling herself to stop being a smart arse.

“Does it even matter she was beheaded in private?” “It was a show of respect from Mary”, “So what, she was going to die anyway.” “Still…” “There is no still. Mary showed her respect by killing her sixteen year old cousin? It’s a bit late for that.” “I wonder if they saw the irony.” “What irony?” “It’s all jealousy and treachery. They are willing to kill their own family for a higher position and to be one step closer to the throne. They sacrifice their life for it. They’re brought up as kids to love the crown, to be loyal to it, to die for it. A war starts, one side loses but they go off to lick their wounds and years later they’ve got together an army, they come back stronger than ever to reclaim what has been lost. But it’s also because of family, to give your heir a better chance to succeed the throne. That’s why they fight in the first place.”

Teenagers thinking about current day politics. Teenagers hating politics, thinking, ‘there’s no telling what will happen.’

For a gallery there’s a lot of talking.

There’s another beheading in the room. It’s not the focus like Lady Jane Grey is, and the way rucksack girl looks at it and looks away instantly, is one to avoid. Red dress will tell you. It’s of the execution of Saint John the Baptist. The executioner is in the act of taking his head off with a sword. John the Baptist is kneeling on the ground holding a cross. Kid with the glasses is looking at it with interest thinking about the soon to be headless John the Baptist and the blood going everywhere and the screams of the woman in the painting, don’t forget the screams. Kid with the glasses doesn’t want to know what John the Baptist did wrong or why Herod wanted his head on a plate. The others in the gallery don’t want to know either, because they’re still looking at Lady Jane Grey.

Red dress, the last to leave the gallery, waits until the shuffle of feet find their way out into the night before looking up at the painting of Lady Jane Grey’s execution.
Finally alone with her.

The security guard is calling, “See you tomorrow. You better get on home sunshine.” He knows of her meeting with the board of directors and a delivery to supervise, so he’s trying to be sympathetic. Red dress thinking, ‘so what are your thoughts on the painting?’ but doesn’t ask. Turning off the light, locking the doors and with a smile, handing him the key she has been holding all day.

swirl-divider4Copyright © 2014 by Kate W J White (All Rights Reserved)

Bookilm Day 1: The Spirit of Robin Hood

 

Most people remember the outlaw Robin Hood as robbing the rich to give to throbin-hood-clip-art-10e poor. Yet this is only on the surface. In fact, the earlier ballads told of him doing no such thing. It was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that he has become known for this, his skill at archery- his ability to shoot arrows from a great distance to land its target and being good with the sword. Though originally he is shown as a Yeoman, (a commoner who cultivates the land) later on Robin is portrayed to have lands and position as Earl of Huntingdon, which have been snatched from him by the eager and cunning hands of the Sheriff. In the versions that followed, it is said that Robin went on the crusades to fight in the Holy War for King Richard the Lionheart. His acts of courage and battle hardy skills are all contributing factors to appoint him the leader of the outlaws.

So what do we know about Robin Hood? At first glance he is considered loyal and brave;a good leader. He would lay down his life for his men, and they for him. He does not harm women or children and always comes to the rescue at his own peril, to save those about to be executed; or hung or amputated.

No honour among thieves? Seems there is- he punishes the corrupt and is saviour of the oppressed.

In this way, Robin typically signifies a ‘concept’, a martyr of the people, those who are too weak to look after themselves and are taken advantage of by those in power and authority. The stories tell of his adventures as he one by one recruits his men, from Little John, to Allen a Dale, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and Much to name but a few, not forgetting his childhood sweetheart and heroine Maid Marian. In the retelling, their adventures often involve a fight in each chapter and the scrapes they get into, but Robin Hood and his merry men clad in Lincoln Green always triumph over injustice and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

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Marian

The character of Marian is depicted a spirited and outspoken lady who, not only is good at fighting herself, but often disguises herself as a man in order to avoid detection in and out of the castle. She is seen helping those in need and acts as spy for Robin and his gang in Sherwood Forest whenever there is need.

It is interesting to see the changes made in the adaptations of the original ballad, from modern day TV series to films that tell of Robin Hood and his merry men. There have been countless adaptations which have featured the happy outlaw and cater for a modern audience.

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Robin & Marian (Robin Hood BBC TV Series)

For Saturday night viewers, those who remember the ‘Robin Hood’ series starring Jonas Armstrong (before ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ & the results show)- it is a family show that caters for a younger audience. Robin is in his mid 20’s, with the attractive Marian who, along with the presence of Richard Armitage as the sneering leather clad Guy of Gisbourne, was one of the main reasons I watched the show. When she left, the show introduced a variety of meaningless characters with a plot bordering on the ridiculous. They were there for the sake of being evil, but nothing could bring Marian back, and shattered all hopes of Robin and Marian being together like they should be. The show only lasted three seasons before it ended.

To act as a further comparison, later films (including Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the popular legend and ‘Prince of Thieves‘) reveal a mature Marian and Robin, supporting a different take on the ballad. A more accurate portrayal, in my opinion, of the stark and brutal reality during Robin Hood’s lifetime.

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“Prince of Thieves” 1991 film

There is no denying there has always been comedy in Robin Hood. From the fierce yet frustrated sheriff who is always duped by Robin, to the adventures of the merry men whose presence it can be argued; is to provide comedic relief; there is something to make it light hearted and enjoyable for all audiences.

The fluctuation of character portrayals can be quite amazing. Let’s take Guy of Gisbourne for example.

In Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”, he appears as a stranger in the forest who is killed within a chapter by Robin in a duel. In the 1956 version by Roger Lancelyn Green, he is the right hand man of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who tries to woe Marian and pursues her any chance he can get. In the 1991 Kevin Costner version (of which the sheriff is played by Alan Rickman and Richard the Lionheart by Sean Connery) Guy of Gisbourne is portrayed as the Sheriff’s cousin, whom he subsequently stabs to death when he fails to succeed in the capture of Robin.

 

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Ridley Scott’s 2010 film

Now we come to the the most recent film directed by Ridley Scott. Guy of Gisbourne does not even appear in this, and the Sheriff is portrayed as a snivelling and power hungry lacky of Prince John who hardly makes an appearance more than three times in the entire film. Perhaps this is due to the vast number of villains, with Prince John holding a prominent role, along with the new character of Godfrey.

Ultimately, whether Robin Hood existed or not matters little. The ‘idea’ of him has transcended time- a hero to represent and defend the people against corrupt lords and the law of the land, inspiring others with his spirit, to address the balance between the rich and the poor; issues which are important to this day.