PC 79 They make you want to get up and dance.

We Brits rather pride ourselves in doing things well and there is a general consensus that the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London was brilliant. A recent documentary on the BBC showed the year’s work that went into that spectacle; absolutely amazing. So we anticipated a similar spectacle for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, particularly as the Brazilians know how to party. Straitened circumstances meant less money was available but all agreed it was, in the event, a great opening.

The closing ceremonies are often a little less dramatic, the contests over, the medals won, time to go home. But in Rio, somewhere in that kaleidoscope of colour, fireworks and electronics was a dance group that took my breath away. Probably if my memory serves me well, some 8 men and 8 women, dancing a modern composition  that I found completely mesmerising. Such fluidity, such confidence, such elasticity, such timing. You can tell I thought them pretty damn good! Further inquiry revealed them to be a troupe from Grupo Corpo, a dance company from the State of Minas Gerais, whose style is to mix their own Afro-Brazilian genre with other familiar contemporary styles. The group performed part of their show Parabelo and new dancers appeared dressed as clay dolls, a common sight in the festivals of Brazil’s north east.

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Grupo Corpo Parabelo

It helps to have a Brazilian wife! No sooner had I said I thought they were wonderful, she tells me who they are. I am not a dance aficionado but have watched classical ballet and don’t quite get the whole thing. The story of Billy Elliot, about a northern boy who wants to dance, was captivating from the story point of view but the dance? Nah! Have even fallen asleep watching Sylvie Guillem at Saddlers Wells. Actually if the truth were told, every time I go into somewhere dark and cosy and warm, be it a theatre, cinema or lecture theatre, I can nod off quite easily; even the latest James Bond movie we saw last year couldn’t compete with the need to close my eyes. But I digress.

Then out of the blue I am told we have been given some tickets, through a cousin’s father who worked at the Theatro Municipal here in Rio de Janeiro, for Grupo Corpo. Wow! What a great chance. The theatre itself dates back to 1905, when work started to provide the city, then the capital of Brazil, with a major venue for opera and music. Completed in 1909, it’s a wonderful example of eclectic architecture, where the imagination was allowed to run riot.

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Theatro Municipal Rio de Janeiro

 Mosaic tiles, stained glass, gold leaf, and large sculptures adorn every nook and cranny of this building. It’s been given various make-overs during its lifetime and today just under 2500 people can watch ballet or listen to classical music. The restaurant Assírius in the basement is peculiar in its impressive Assyrian decor. The connection between ballet and the Assyrians somehow escapes me. Any learned readers out there?

We watched two pieces from Grupo Corpo’s repertoire, their recent Danca Sinfonica (2015) and Lecuona (2004). Both quite different and visually stunning in so many ways. There is something about watching people with skill and energy tell a story, interpret music, that gets under the skin, almost as if you want to get up and ….. dance?

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I saw from the little programme that the group has toured extensively, particularly in the UK, including Brighton. Maybe we’ll see them when they come around again. Said cousin, Bel Gasparian, found the link for the Parabelo performance and has posted it on Facebook – and shared it with me. So if you didn’t see it at the time, go to my Facebook and have a look courtesy of ‘You Tube’.

And these definitively are mere scribbles …… but hopefully you’ll engage in the technology and see what I mean.

 

Richard 22nd September 2016

PS “If you can talk, you can sing; if you can walk, you can dance; anyone can juggle and ride a unicycle, including you; but you have to want to.”

 

 

 

 

PC 78 I know who is missing!

On Wednesday evening Neia skilfully negotiated her taxi through the evening traffic, in from the Rio de Janeiro international airport, around Lagoa and on to Sāo Conrado. We arrived in the warmth of a tropical evening, 11 hours out of England, 4 hours behind British Summer Time.

We metaphorically fell out of the taxi as Celina’s mother came down the steps to unlock the gate and let us in; the number of suitcases suggested we were staying for a month ( I wish!). Gradually we carried them inside the house ….. and took a breath. Something, someone, I sensed, was very definitely missing. After quickly unpacking the essentials, for bed beckoned, it wasn’t until I was actually in bed I realised what it was that I craved – the reassuring presence of Celina’s father, now departed from this world some nine months. Not that we normally saw him when we had arrived in the evening in the past, as it was way past his bedtime; a man of habit if ever there was one  but you sensed his presence.

 

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Carlos with his first Grandchild Tiago

It was only in the morning we met him, at breakfast around the small table in the kitchen with Ze the green parakeet squawking his raucous calls from the cage outside. The first time, back in April 2012, it was a rather amusing meeting, him in his rather large GAP hoodie feeling the cool of a Brazilian autumn, me in a T shirt sweating in the warmth of a tropical morning – takes a while to get acclimatised huh! He loved his Oxford Coopers vintage marmalade and would be grateful for exports from England.

That visit we drove to their house in Buzios, three hours out of Rio, a small seaside town made famous by Bridgette Bardot and others of that ilk. Carlos and I walked along the sand and he told me of his life’s work, his fascination with what goes on inside our brains. He was a Professor of Neurology and well respected in his field. At times he lost me with his descriptions of experiments using animals, particularly Possums, for dissection, such was his grasp of the technical English of his trade. Around the lunch table he delighted in bringing out a Conde, a fruit that I hadn’t seen and one that I was invited to try.

And now he’s not here! We had sat down just after his 80th birthday, and talked through the new iPad that Celina had given him. “No! he’ll never use that …..” his son had suggested but step by step he mastered it just like he had any new technology that had come along. Interesting how slowly some grapple with the ‘swipe’ and ‘touch’ interfaces and then get it; in no time it’s old hat. Within six months he’d upgraded his phone to be constantly connected to the internet. But he had that old world charm, and if we were out at dinner, would abhor other diners using their phones rather than talking with those around them. The strength and continuity of the internet is not the greatest here, just as in some parts of the UK (!) and we often sat in his office, almost on top of the router, to download emails. Additionally being Brazil, we had to cope with the power cuts which are a regular feature of living here.

In September last year he showed me his rowing machine, something he used regularly to augment his time in the local gym; he seemed fit and took care of himself. Despite his career in science, which nowadays has a relevant and understandable explanation of how the world was formed, Carlos was a deeply religious man. For those of us who are not, it was a slightly unnerving sensation to be in his presence when he described his fervent beliefs in the power of the Christian message and of the omnipresence of God. The bookshelves in his study are lined with books such as ‘Monastery without Wall’, the spiritual letters of the Benedictine monk John Mann and a few on Padre Pio, an Italian priest who became St Pio of Pietreleina after his death in 1968. Carlos admitted reading few novels in his whole life, preferring the worlds of scientific facts and religion. He and Celina’s mother would meditate in the evening every day and he was convinced of the power of prayer.

When we first met he was already in his late 70s. He had lived in Paris, Boston and Washington, working on research projects, but was now content to stay at home, read, meditate and stay fit; a wonderfully warm and special man. And he’s not here. And I was not his son, had not known him for 65 years of my life, a time when he became a famous neuroscientist, but in those short weeks and months we stayed here in Iposeria, in this lovely house under the shadow of Pedro de Gavea, I felt very close. And get this! He even allowed me to load the dishwasher! You know how it is, everything has a place, and everything in its place. So why couldn’t others learn from him the ‘right’ way to do it. Me? I just observed, understood the importance (to him) and suddenly he says I could load his dishwasher, the only person given permission! Mind you, he was not a domesticated man at all, so it was funny to see how he had made this kitchen labour- saving device his own.

And he’s not here! But his presence is very powerful. Everyone struggles I guess with getting rid of the clothes of the recent departed and, after an initial clear out, the house still contains his possessions, still oozes his personality and character. And life moves on, thoughts turn to the future, and the ‘What?’ and the ‘Where?’ and the ‘Why/why not?’

In October last year, the last time we saw each other when we were both compos mentis (well, in my case that’s a debatable state!), we loaded up the taxi in the rain, another stay here at an end. Carlos was again wearing his GAP hoodie and we hugged and did all those things that you do when you say “Goodbye”, only this time neither of us thought it would be the last time.

And he’s not here! Actually, I think that’s bollocks. He’s here just as he believed his God was here, all around us, still guiding us, still loving us.

From a warm evening in Rio de Janeiro

 

Richard 16th September 2016

PC 77 A Small Affair

*Some of the music we played is shown at intervals in the text

In The Times on 22nd August 2016:

Mrs Maria Cecilia Rocha Miranda is delighted to announce that the marriage of her younger daughter Celina Guinle and Richard Corbett Yates took place on Saturday 20th August 2016 in Brighton, England. After a reception at Amber House in Hove, family and friends gathered at Blanch House in Kemptown for an evening dinner party. The honeymoon will take place in January 2017.”

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And now, pray silence for the groom.” Well, we didn’t have a ‘master of ceremonies’ so it was up to me when to tap a glass to ring for quiet! What a lovely group stood in front of me, all expecting I guess that I was going to say something funny, poignant, romantic, risqué or was I just going to be my boring self?

‘You’re the Best’ by Tina Turner

Those who know me well will appreciate that this wasn’t the first time I had had to make the bridegroom speech, and my long-suffering brother needed thanking first. I hope he was reassured that this would be the last, the very last time he would have to listen. Relatives from Brazil and from New Zealand, some old acquaintances and some new friends; a gorgeous warm loving bunch waited expectantly.

‘Je T’aime, Till My Dying Day’ by Enigma

I recounted how I had started going to Bikram Yoga in 2009, plucked up courage to talk to Celina sometime in late 2010 as we lined up for the next session, and was delighted that she agreed to have supper with me a year later. “One day at a time.” we promised ourselves as we came together, out of our individual tactile and sexual deserts ……. and then it was a month and now, on the 16th of this month, five years. Wow! The naysayers had said it wouldn’t last and I know how complex an emotion love is. One always thinks ‘This is it!’ and then time moves and we move and suddenly the love that was contagious and all-embracing is destructive.

‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ by George Michael

Indeed, during our ceremony earlier in the Regency Room, at Brighton’s Town Hall, our readings had reflected the opposites of love’s effect. The romantic poem from Christopher Marlowe ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his love’ starts: “Come with me and be my love, and we will all the pleasures prove.” This was the first, and the male guests collectively contributed to its optimistic view. Sadly Sir Walter Raleigh’s reply on behalf of the Nymph recounts all the things that go wrong – “The flowers do fade, and wanton fields to wayward winter reckoning yields” – until the promise in the final verse “….had joys no date nor age no need, then these delights my mind will move to live with thee and be my love.” So a realistic pragmatic view read by the ladies in the gathering.

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Sometimes in life you read something that hits the spot, just at the right time. We’ve all read the rather syrupy rather saccharine sayings that are meant to lift our hearts and an example of this genre, a daily quote from Brahma Kumaris, is available to read in our local Hot Yoga studio. On the day of our wedding (yes I went! Well; I had time to!!) it said: “Relationships are like a tapestry. The fabric is strongest when the threads are spun from openness, love and trust.” And that’s how Celina and I have spun our tapestry, with honesty, openness and trust – and enormous love!

 ‘The Power of Love’ by Jennifer Rush

The recent Olympics had its part in our decision to get married! Celina’s parents wanted to escape Rio de Janeiro, so booked three weeks with us here in Hove. I had this thought; we would surprise them during their visit by an innocent visit to the Town Hall. But then Carlos became very ill in mid-December and I told him of our intentions by hand-delivered letter. So the cat jumped out of the proverbial. Anyway, he had always called me his son-in-law – so no pressure then – but I guess he saw the happiness in his daughter and was acknowledging what was apparent. He also promised to assist me with the development of my spiritual side, something he saw as abysmal! Celina’s mother came over as planned and the participant numbers grew.

 ‘Tell Him’ by Celine Dion & Barbara Streisand

Three weeks of warm weather descended into an Autumnal-like low pressure system the day before the wedding. The day itself was characterised by sunshine and torrential rain showers and blowing a hooley. Two days later summer returned with 28C. You can’t say God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

‘A Million Years Ago’ by Adele

I looked around our guests, some eating the rather doorstep-sized egg & cress sandwiches (I had imagined something more delicate, with the crusts removed but ……!!) all relaxed. Jonathan found my Royal Artillery Officer’s sword and that was used to cut our Clementine cake, which my daughter had very kindly made. Before we toasted the bride, love and life, I did remind everyone that my great grandfather Richard Sydney Corbett had been born in Recife, Brazil in 1850 and that there are still Corbetts, living relatives as it were, in Brazil. So this South American connection was well and truly re-established with our marriage.

‘Santa Monica Dream’ by Angus & Julia Stone

We were spoilt by the generosity of our guests, despite imploring them that we really didn’t want more toasters and that, if they felt they couldn’t come to a wedding without buying a present, they should buy something for themselves! So it was such fun to open our gifts the following day.

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By the following Wednesday the apartment was empty, apart from ourselves, so now we can really start to enjoy our married life. Did something happen? Just a very public display of the love and affection we hold for each other …… oh! and a little band of gold on that third finger of the left hand.

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These are slightly more than ‘mere scribbles’ but I hope you’ll get a sense of what happened on that lovely day.

Richard 2nd September 2016