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The journey is the thing

The Odyssey is one of the oldest written stories – an epic; a tale that even if you haven’t read it is something that is so entwined in our culture that you use and understand the references from it, often without even knowing that’s what you’re doing.

Let me introduce you to Odysseus (in Roman Mythos it’s Ulysses). A Clever man, a brave man, a trickster, a sailor, ladies man and loyal husband. Resident of a World of Patriarchy, War, Poetry and where the gods are capricious and unpredictable. (One sometimes wonders whether and how far this very Greek viewpoint of the un-predictability and potential cruelty of the gods has infected our Christian view of Yahweh.) Here is a man simply going home from War – a war that was particularly gruelling, where honourable men found themselves on opposing side and where no honour was found in the victory. And Odysseus himself perhaps suffered some guilt in his part of the victory – although there is almost an element that the horse was introduced in order to reduce the loss of life – rather like the argument the Americans used for the use of the Bomb in 1945. So he’s heading home and the fates (for a reason which escapes my memory just now) conspire to keep him away from his wife who loyally and faithfully refuses to accept his death and has to use all her wiles and wisdom to fend off the men who flock around her – men who are essentially predators, parasites even, jealous of the riches and success of the absent husband.

And it’s a story that has been told and re-told and packaged for each new age. For words on one of the most recent retellings of this tale, I turn to a good friend. A Lady who lives and loves and is a great mum and an adventurer and knows what it is to wait. The rest of the words are from my guest Ruth – a Fellow Northerner who lives in the foreign land that is the south. One really Great gal! 🙂

I have to admit that there is nothing like being asked to guest blog to precipitate a raging case of writer’s block!

However…

Do you remember your dreams? The ones where everything is familiar, but just ever so not quite right… where you find yourself back at school again after 20 years and can’t find the right books… where you are dressed in weird stuff… it is colour or black and white (I’m never sure!)… where you are trying to do something/get somewhere/find something and you keep getting side tracked… where you are flying! … where you wake up with your heart going like a train and you are sweating with relief…

Which brings me to ‘O Brother where art thou?’ (produced by the Coen Brothers – who are rather good at this sort of thing) and one of my favourite, favourite films. Loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey (in case you aren’t aware, the main protagonist’s name is Ulysses) and having mulled it over a lot over the last couple of weeks, I think what really clinches it for me is the music. Music is powerful stuff – the jaunty strains of ‘Brim full of Asher’ by Cornershop still has the power to leave me feeling queasy – and all because the lady worked in a lab playing non-stop Radio 1 during her first pregnancy. In this film though, the mix of up-beat tunes and what can only be described as dirges (but in a good way) combine to produce the slightly swimmy, dreamlike quality that pervades the film. In fact I have been warbling happily to the soundtrack as I wrestle with this – I’ve had a lovely time…

It’s not just the music, fabulous though it is, that builds the dreaminess there is the quest, with promises of riches in a valley due to be flooded, so a sense of urgency; betrayal by family desperate for reward money; a blind prophet; a man who sold his soul to the devil; rocking up at a radio station and cutting a record; the Klu Klux Klan; them thar si-rens; a strange dependence on Dapper Dan Po-made; denial by an exasperated wife…and a test – to prove he’s a worthy husband – find the one ring my precious (um… wrong film); there’s a law man with a grudge – * an idea that crops up often in stories – think Inspector Javert in Les Mis, Fumero in Shadow of the Wind, Herr Flick in Allo Allo (no one said this was going to be high brow) – in this case Sheriff Cooley (who might just be the devil, with his empty eyes and big dog) hunting down our ‘hero’ to fulfil justice… or revenge?? … that near lynching before the flood came – can you feel your heart racing?

Then there’s the colour… throughout the whole thing the colour has been tinkered with and washed out – leaving the look and feel of an old, hand tinted photograph…

Set as it is in a community where Bible Belt Christianity is completely ingrained – so much part of people’s everyday landscape – where we find a congregation walking to the river for a baptism – where the Everett girls sing about ‘working for their Lord’ – where there is talk of salvation, but if your face doesn’t fit there is no redemption, just retribution… you deserve to be punished! …don’t we all? Well, we all muck up, all the time (though I have never pretended to be a lawyer! …) but we have a redeemer who paid the price and sets us straight time and time again, if we’ll let him.

Please excuse the stream of consciousness and overuse of brackets and thank you for reading…

… one last thing I LOVE the way Penelope ties all her children to her with string (I have been sorely tempted to try that with my tribe on a few occasions – but for string read gaffer tape…)
Hehe, Me too Ruth, me too 😀

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