Last year I walked into the Aldeburgh cinema office on Friday morning and got tickets for all. This year had even abandoned a waiting list.
‘Too many big names’ was one explanation given.
Rupert and I (another difference between this year and last) arrived with tickets for 3 out of 12 events, an inevitable disappointment. However, there was consolation: poetry. This years Doc Fest coincided with a new incarnation of the poetry festival, running parallel, and as it transpired, most equitably. Poetry in Aldeburgh had set up base opposite the East Coast cafe (one of our bases for the weekend), and here we met Daphne, an immediate admirer of Kali (Oh do bring him in), having 5 dogs of her own, her husband charge of their husbandry over this weekend. With warm welcome, relaxed atmosphere, new faces, poetry back in Aldeburgh town, our disappointment disintegrated.
We pitched our camper down Slaughden Road, (Slaughden is the name of the narrow strip of land stretching South of Aldeburgh towards the Martello Tower and Orford Ness), just before the Aldeburgh Sailing Club, not surprisingly were were the only ones there. Our view was over the marshes and the meander of the Alde inland. At the end of our first walk to the Martello tower and back we passed a line of intensely silent birdwatchers, intent on finding little Auks who were rumoured to be around, but notoriously difficult to spot.
Ants on a Shrimp (Friday night)
Rene Redzepi is Noma, the Copenhagen Worlds Best Restaurant (whatever that means), and is the pivot of this documentary. Closing Noma for a month, he takes chefs his team to Tokyo, for a one off creation of a 14 course menu using only Japanese ingredients.
Why? he is asked. Because it is amusing, a need to move out of comfort of fame zone.
Two things struck me.
It was a film of men – although there was one girl, (who created a dish of sperm) – men on bicycles, men body building, men tatoo’d, men in the kitchen.
Rene had developed the art of put down, the chastising. But the reason for his critiques were not explained, say in terms of taste, or chemistry or style, rather ‘You know this does not work…. No use just copying and pasting from Denmark to Tokyo’. The only course I remember was boil sweet potato for 4 hours. The turtle, thank goodness, didn’t make the final menu. Turned over, the poor animal extended its threatened neck. I was glad to hear it had a potential to bite.
Maurice Dekkers was in conversation with Rowley Leigh, with pert questions by Diana, standing in (brilliantly) for one who was too ill. The cost, we discover is on average at Noma, E250, but for the 14 courser, E350. The message from Rowley was don’t forage (become too popular), use farming.
Oh Jo Charles, you bringer of happiness, you fixer and mixer. All those gaps in desire were fulfilled with your finding of tickets. The first was for Joanna.
Joanna Lumley (Saturday)
She started making documentaries in Sarawak. Someone knew she would be able to do the physical hard work, having been bought up in India. She was interviewed by Vanessa Engle, who was her antithesis.
‘I noticed you did not wipe the blow pipe before you blew into it yourself’ Vanessa said.
‘I was bought up never to wash my hands before a meal, and eat anything from the floor. So we developed a healthy constitution, and i am never ill.’ Vanessa, one could see, was not in accord.
A hitch at the beginning meant the trailer had no sound:
‘It’s as if I am so old I am in Silent Films’ she quipped spontaneously. Oh she was brilliantly bright. But she was also something else, compassionate, empathetic, a good listener. We saw, in the series of interviews she did with ordinary folk, how she leaned into them, listened to them, was naturally curious.
1994 Girl Friday – a precursor to many similar series since. She cut up her bra (one cup for each toe end foot) and stitching them to the insoles of her always wet running shoes, made a successful indoor foot protection, to counter the razer edged volcanic rock she had to climb over.
Life is too short for either vanity or pampering.
Will I am / Greek Oddessy / Northern Lights, Svalbad . Next stop is India.
She ends with a story of Ethiopian girl athletes who have ambition to run in olympics. They invite her to their village, 7km away, their daily walk. One girl shows Joanna her home, which is little more than a pile of twigs.
‘And here is my bed’, repeats the girl with pride to Joanna.
And Joanna repeats (over a dislocated question from Vanessa), moved as she says it to recall it, and in it , is all the depth of the girls modesty and poverty.
Robert BlyRobert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy
A film made by California-based filmmaker Haydn Reiss about about this great Minnesota poet, who I had never heard of. Of Norwegian roots, he was an unconventional and inspirational polymath, always based in the natural world (his father was a farmer, and he never left for a city but remained rooted in the land) : a poet, an ecstatic, a visionary, who described life in powerful metaphors and imagery; an activist – when he won the National Book Award for The Light Around the Body, he contributed the prize money to the Resistance against the Vietham war). a translator – of unknown Norwegian writers, of Rumi and Kabir.
He is best known as the author of the bestseller, Iron John, which launched a million men drumming in the woods. Coming after this divorce, which led him to lead a series of seminars for men. Whereas woman’s mode of feeling is to do with pain and being devalued, men don’t feel devalued, but have more unexpressed grief. Poetry deals with feeling. Grief a door to male feeling.
More recently (1998) he wrote a poem every morning a collection which became Morning Poems (1998), which garnered much critical praise.
He somehow knew what his soul needed / A firebrand / Hands and arms moving / Norwegian jumpers / eyes focused steady.
Harry Burton chaired the discussion afterwards. (We’d bumped into his father when we first arrived, looking for tickets.) of Ruth Padel, British poet and Darianne Pictet, a Jungian practicioner.
The rag and bone shop of the heart. Quoted Robert Herrick and Gerard Manly Hopkins
An unscheduled docu drama. We were just about to tuck into a perfect evening of fish and chips in the van, washed down with delicious Cote de Rhone, sampling from Slaughden wine shop, when I said ‘Dog’. I’d stupidly put him outside to feed, when Leiston fireworks started up enlightening the sky. Called out hopelessly, Rupert wading out into the night to ask fishermen if the’d seen him. (later to prove more apt than I imagined at the time) There was nothing either of us could do, frustratingly. Night broken with dreams, fears yes, but I woke up aware of always finding Kali in the night dreams so woke optimistic
At day break the Brundenell were accommodating. My phone out of juice, they let me charge it, served us delicious tea, for which they wavered the charge The first phone call was from Charlie. The next a stranger. He’d picked up Kali a couple of miles outside Aldeburgh at 1 in the morning, and taken him to his home outside Ipswich. Oh the joy. We motored to east of Ipswich to collect him.
After a swift breakfast at East Coast Cafe, we chanced it and joined the unticketed queue for the main event. We got in! Sitting in the 2nd row, next to the Trustees, who Magic.
Norma Percy’s Inside and Outside the White House
Chaired by Nick Robinson, Paul Michele and Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
Where else would we get the inside connections except Aldeburgh Doc Fest? (Danced with a man who danced with a woman who danced with the Prince of Wales.)
The Syria decision – Obhama changed his mind. The UK vote influential and seemed somehow small minded in comparison.
Obhama care – ‘Psychologically, I’m a natural optimist. I take the long view.’
We were under strict instructions, no Trump questions, with a promise of some star gazing at the end.
Obham’s campaign won on one word Hope, and that word now the antithesis.
Hope and faith then. Why the loss of faith?
Inherited shit: ‘Black man given worst of jobs’
I was not aware of the deal Obhama made with the Republicans on a financial stimulus package that Bush would never have got through otherwise. Naturally Obhama hoped tit for tat. No such luck.
How decisions are made.
Republican party traditionally invite the President for an annual get together. He asked for it to be filmed. (This won’t happen again!)
Pointing to a Republican sitting in the front row, he effectively mirrored what what happen after this meeting ‘You’ll go back to your team and analyise what I’ve said and how you can counter it.’ Sadly that’s how we do politics, these days, we don’t find the common thread, we find the battle ground.
Political decisions used to be made in smoke filled rooms. Now, everyone leaves Washington, no one seen here. Tea Party pressure. Lost generation.
Economy – inherently boring subject but Kirsty the star
US recovered faster than Europe. Dealt better with the banks that UK. The main reason that some bill didn’t pass was that 40 million people would be given an aid package – that’s a lot of votes, so Republicans blocked it. Nothing to do with the appropriateness of the policy, all politics.
Obhama Care – Nick Robertson’s good analogy: Like our green belt. Despite the fact they are not the best houses, or the best layout, or the need for more housing, we in the comfortable greenbelt just don’t want to build more houses.
Republican effective slogan: ‘Government take over Health Care’ became the effective Republican slogan.
Obhama empathy – i’m not just president of Democrats.
Arab Spring / Iraq / Syria – changed his mind. Red line defined, then rejected. Argued by X this was a weak message to the Chinese and Russians. Lost his credibility.
His reasons: Not an existential war. What are our interests?
In Egypt we didn’t and it went wrong / In Iraq we did and it went wrong / In Syria we didn’t and went wrong. Who knows if two days bombing would have been effective.
Cuba – he didn’t need Florida to re-elect him.
At the Climate change meeting in Copenhagen, there were tears in my eyes. He’d heard there was an unofficial meeting happening with eastern axis countries united against climate change upstairs. He broke from his main meeting, spontaneously, parted the red sea of people, turned up to the room, getting passed the security, and stood inside. We didn’t hear what he said. But he was invited in, called it how it was, and made the deal – yes a compromise, no figures agreed.
We were forbidden to ask about Trump, except right at the end.
‘Hilary always been secretive – and it’s always come back to bite her’
Obhama end of 60 years of liberal democracy?
No. Transitional moment. The old outgoing conservative school fighting hard to retain what they are inevitably going to loose.
Obhama an optimistic pragmatist not an ideologue.
Louis Theroux in conversation with John Sargent
Or was it about John Sargent?
Very popular with the young things next door to me. Geeky, loveably, unharming, Louis Theroux, walks into the edges of those who challenge our boundaries. Skin heads, prisoners, etc.
Gaythorn’s, I am Ali Wallace.
I am Ali Wallace’: The Malay Assistant of Alfred Russel Wallace.
The famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who collected natural history specimens throughout Southeast Asia from 1854-1862, employed a local Malay assistant Ali from Sarawak. Gayrhorn seeks to bring Ali and his role in the expedition out of the shadows.
Gaythorns’s tatoos. Quirky film, taking the micky out of itself: made in a week, with inexperienced team, and no actor for Ali who speaks English! About the making of it more than the story. The stuck on beard was most unsuccessful.
Click to access 2015,%20John%20van%20Wyhe,%20I%20am%20Ali%20Wallace.pdf
Sunakali – Teenage Girls Journey to Glory
Introduced by Bill Nighy, who loves football, and I gather was once with to Diana Quick for 27 years. Perhaps documentary overload, but also it lacked the imaginative edge and story of Addicted to Sheep, that ended last years festival, I fell asleep for most of it.
Great last night in van with Rupert. Wind rocking us. We awoke to find we had our own moat around us.
Leiston, St Margaret’s church opened for us.
‘Built by a rogue architect’, explained the Vicar who opened up for us.
Both of us wooed by the stain glass.
The wreck of the Iona, sometimes called the Ionia, is visible as a structure on aerial photographs from 1940 to 1972. The Iona was one of 6 unseaworthy Lowestoft trawlers bought and grounded on the saltings of the River Alde with the intention of being broken for parts. Three of the ships were broken, two sold for storage and the Iona was converted into a houseboat in 1872. The ship was used as holiday accommadation for a number of years but eventually began to rot, and by 1975 had become unsafe and was destroyed.