Friday, 1 April 2016

Easter Joy

Easter occurs on the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal equinox. It’s not so difficult to work out, but who actually checks that their Google calendar has got it right? Many people think it’s an inconveniently moveable feast - even bishops are talking about fixing the date (it is Christianity’s prerogative to do so) - but I’m not sure it would make much difference to the nature of the beast if they did. Easter may represent a joyous celebration of the Christ’s rising or, in Pagan circles, the sap’s rising but, to me, it always seems to be tinged with desperation: I sense the stress of parents juggling their holiday entitlements to fit around variable school breaks; I sympathise with those on staycation who cross their fingers hoping for the best of the unpredictable weather; and I fear for those who travel south for the sun, nervously anticipating strikes by French ferry workers and flight controllers. This year we are in a state of enhanced desperation because of the imminent closure of yet another steel manufacturing plant and the social and economic catastrophe that will follow. The prospect of MPs being recalled to Parliament mid-jollies holds little promise of satisfaction, as they will surely not be able to agree that the only viable solution is re-nationalisation.
During this traditional week or so of stress and disruption - commonly known as a holiday - I endeavour to keep calm and carry on as if it wasn’t happening. I avoid travelling, popular attractions, religious ceremonies, chocolate excess and furry replicas of chicks - none of which, I admit, is easy if you have family obligations. But I am fortunate in being able to pursue quiet pleasures of my own choosing - things like taking a stroll between rain-showers, taking a drink during rain-showers and long lunches in quiet restaurants with friends who are similarly disposed. This week I have also spent time in the cinema, in the afternoons, when customers are thin on the ground and the seats are discounted. Usually I go to the local arthouse cinema, a place where children, although not actually banned, are never to be seen. What a pity, I thought, as the final credits rolled on Guzman’s Pearl Button, a beautifully rendered account of the brutality of Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Earlier I had heard a teacher complain that another teacher had shown pupils a film “instead of teaching them”. He seems to have missed the point that not all films are made to entertain. Some of them are based on biographies and historical themes and just might inspire children to learn more, especially those who are disinclined to read.
Not all the films I saw lived up to the promise of their reviews, of course. Like a dish of strawberries, some were tastier than others. But there was an unexpected bonus at one of the showings - a ‘short’ which, as in the old days, preceded the main ‘feature’. I anticipated perhaps a modern version of the cheesy, Technicolor travelogues they used to show while the audience settled itself but, if this one is anything to go by, a return to those good-old days is not about to happen. The film comprised artfully composed shots of a car being driven around a deserted multi-story car park. There was no story, no actors, no script and no avuncular voice-over: just an ear-splitting electronic soundtrack: and I was astonished to see that the list of credits at the end was almost as extensive as in a proper film. It must be a metaphor, I thought, for - something: it felt like desperation.

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