Literature comes to life

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Wendy Elliott

“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobbled-streets silent and the hunched courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishing boat-bobbing sea.”

 

One of my favourite pieces of literature will be coming to life starting this weekend at the Al Whittle Theatre. Under Milkwood is a poignant, yet humourous account of a spring day in a small Welsh coastal town. There is a lyrical and universal quality to Dylan Thomas’s play.

It was written as a radio play over the decade leading up to his regrettably early death in 1953 at the age of 39. Under Milkwood was an instant success and its popularity has not waned in over 60 years.

"The first poems I knew were nursery rhymes," Thomas once told a student, adding that he learned to love the words long before he understood them. "What mattered was the sound of them as I heard them.... And these words were, to me, as the notes of bells, the sounds of musical instruments, the noises of wind, sea, and rain, the rattle of milk-carts, the clopping of hooves on cobbles, the fingering of branches on a window pane, might be to someone, deaf from birth, who has miraculously found his hearing."

The redoubtable Jeremy Webb and his excellent counterpart Susan Stackhouse carried Thomas’ lyrical voices with ease. I saw their production when it was staged recently in Halifax and urged them to bring it to Wolfville. Hopefully, local audiences will want to visit the fictional village of Llareggub.

 

Bee man weighs in

Last week’s column on bees prompted local beekeeper Perry Brandt to write to me. He noted that he is only too aware of the existing problems. When the tests that are done to determine the safety and effectiveness of these chemicals are carried out by the companies that produce them, he said, we should all be concerned. Normal winter losses, usually in the 10 to 15 per cent range, are now hovering around 30 to 35 per cent. What industry can be expected to absorb those kind of losses year in and out? Not only pesticides, but fungicides, considered somewhat less harmful, are turning up in pollen collected by the bees to rear their brood. Add into this mixture the indiscriminate spraying of crops at all hours of the day, especially during bee forage times, is it any wonder that bees are in trouble? Rather than strengthen and protect the industry here, government has decided it is easier to relax border issues and allow for the importation of honeybees from other provinces in an effort to meet pollination requirements. I would hate to think of the cost of our food if natural pollinators are eliminated and it has to be done by hand as in areas of China.

 

Remarkable visitors

Two British Columbia parents, Ginny and Kerry Dennehy, founders of The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, captured my admiration recently when they stopped their cross-country bike ride in Wolfville. Faced with the death by suicide of their 17-year-old son a dozen years ago, they got busy raising money to improve mental health services for youth – first in B.C., then nationally.

According to 2009 figures from Statistics Canada, the Canadian suicide rate for the 15-19 age range is nine in 100,000. A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that teens who knew of schoolmates who took their own lives were more likely to consider it or attempt it themselves - a phenomenon the authors called ‘suicide contagion.’

When I was in Grade 12, two classmates of mine committed suicide. Looking back, I think the first desperate act spawned the second one. I remember it was as if they both dropped into a vortex. There was no counselling offered, no mention of their names. Hopefully, society has begun to clue in by linking schools to medical professionals.

The Dennehys are holding rallies everywhere they go. They want to create a culture, whether that's in schools, homes, and in communities, where people feel comfortable talking about mental health. They especially want children to feel comfortable seeking help if they're struggling with their mental health.

I hope they reach their fundraising goal.

Organizations: Al Whittle Theatre, The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, Statistics Canada Canadian Medical Association Journal

Geographic location: Wolfville, Halifax, Llareggub China British Columbia

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