Katherine Gregor

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Katherine Gregor (a.k.a. Scribe Doll) is a literary translator and scribbler who has also been an EFL teacher, theatrical agent, press agent, theatre director, complementary medicine practitioner, and one or two other things. Perhaps that's why the literary characters she relates to most are Arlecchino, Truffaldino, Gianni Schicchi and Scapin, and feels empathy with crows, squirrels and cats. She lives in Norwich, Norfolk.

The Alchemy of Turning Darkness into Light

A text message the day before, signed in both names, gently confirms that H. and I are to go the the Castle museum entrance a few minutes before the ceremony.  

It's a grey morning but unusually mild for December.  We walk over the bridge leading to the Norman keep, where for centuries, those convicted of crime were hanged.  I've always had an uneasy relationship with Norwich Castle.  For one thing, I find its sugar-cube shape on the hill dominating the city rather ugly.  It lacks the charm of Durham Castle's irregular edges, or the Gothic feel of Edinburgh Castle.  There is something eerie about its bland squareness.  I first set foot in it about ten years ago.  I walked in, bought my ticket, caught a brief glimpse of a series of busts on display, and promptly and almost involuntarily dashed back out at full speed, overwhelmed with a totally unfathomable feeling of terror.  I couldn't account for my reaction, which seemed utterly irrational, so the following day, determined to act like an adult, I went back, bought another admittance ticket, and marched in.  I saw the busts again and, as I drew closer, saw that some of the faces had twisted expressions.  I read the signs and only then realised that they were the death masks of men who had been hanged. Men who had been murdered by legal means, by the laws of other men who thought their right to judge and punish was equal to that of God.  Laws that respond to violence with more violence, to evil with more evil, and to despair with more despair.

But this morning, I am here not to visit a museum that keeps the memory of fear and suffering alive, but to attend a wedding.  The Norwich marriage register office has recently moved many of its ceremonies from the beautiful building near St Giles to the Castle.  We are shown into the waiting room and are welcomed by the sister of one of the grooms.  With a broad smile, she introduces us to the other eight or so guests, although I protest I'll never remember everybody's name.  It's a small gathering but international.  English, Polish, French and Italian, among others.  The variety of accents all giggling with excitement at this happy occasion immediately dissolves my innate nervousness at social events and I mentally bite my thumb at all the Brexiteers out there.    

Photos are snapped in various combinations of family plus friends, then more photos, in case some don't come out well.  Everything must be done to immortalise the day and, especially, crystallise its happiness.

After a few minutes, the door to the ceremony room is opened by a tall, elderly lady with a kindly face.  H. and I give a little exclamation of pleasant surprise.  She reciprocates our grins.  "Did I marry you?" she asks. "I'm sorry, I can't remember but when people look at me like that, it generally means I've married them."

She squeezes my hand and hugs me with the tenderness of a dear old friend.

When the two grooms walk in, I am struck by how young they look.  I know they are both in their middle years and yet today, there is a youthful glow about them.   

They stand by the registrar's table.  Vows are exchanged.  For ever. There is a slight crack in the voice, a moment when tears are kept in check. When an overwhelming burst of gratitude, relief and unbridled hope fills the room.  Rings are slipped on fingers.  Gold, like sunshine.  Circular, like perfection.  Like timelessness.  

When the ceremony is over and names have been signed in the large book, the registrar comes up to H. and me, and tells us this castle has a special meaning for her.  "When I was fourteen," she says, "a friend and I came for a walk here one afternoon, to see if there were boys."  She gives a mischievous grin.  "But we got followed by two American G.I.s – it was at the time they were stationed here – and got scared.  So we walked up to two local boys and I said to one of them, 'Can we stand with you until the two G.I.s go away?' Well, I've been with him ever since.  We've been married fifty-seven years." 

And now, over half a century later, she officiates at weddings in this very castle.  "I love doing weddings," she says, and her beaming smile makes it clear that she does, indeed.

It truly is a Good Day.  Into this Norman castle, a building scarred by violence, fear and despair, these two beautiful humans who have just embarked on marriage are bringing love, kindness and hope.  And all of us in that room help shine some light where darkness has lingered for centuries like a sticky cobweb.  It's time to infuse joy and love into these tear-soaked Caen stones.  Little by little, one wedding, one promise to love and be kind at a time.  One beam of light, then another, and then another, until the shadows have faded away.

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
Katherine, Well, I had to Wikipede (is that a verb? Like Google has become?) Norwich Castle and, far be it from me to criticize, i... Read More
Monday, 19 December 2016 00:12
Katherine Gregor
Thank you for commenting and researching! There is no white stone in Norfolk, I don't think. Our local stone is flint, which clad... Read More
Monday, 19 December 2016 11:03
Rosy Cole
It's so important not to feed dark, or any kind of negative, energy by 'buying into' its theme, but to transform the 'vibes' by ac... Read More
Monday, 19 December 2016 12:02
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4 Comments

Sunday Concert

It's a string quartet today.  Beethoven.  It's what people enjoy.  The folding chairs have been put out.  The seat cushions have aged flower patterns and were last washed probably sometime at the end of the last century.

 

Audience members, mostly in their sixties and seventies (though the odd fifty-something can be seen, too), and regulars at this venue, collect their tickets and photocopied programmes from the table at the entrance.  Glances scan the room, lips on smile alert, in search of familiar faces to greet or impress.  In all the rush of opening their handbags and manoeuvring their purses while paying for their tickets, many women have forgotten to put away their car keys.  These jangle in their fingers, the pendant with the car manufacturer's logo swinging prominently.  A homage, perhaps, to their husbands' career – or financial – achievements.  

 

The room begins to fill with block-coloured jumpers and block-dyed hair, faux-silk (a.k.a. polyester) floral scarves, large pearl, plastic and wooden beads around necks and wrists, as well as smiles that bear witness to the uncommon bliss of self-approval.  Many have known one another since their children were small.  Children who now have children of their own.  Some wave at other people who, just like them, have a holiday home in South-West France.  They did consider Italy and Spain when they were younger, but they already had some school French, and with so many other Brits already in that area, it was practically home from home.

 

There is a predominance of chequered and stripy shirt collars peering out of the men's crew-neck woollen jumpers that look like old favourites.  They trudge with modest, respectable stoops behind their wives.  It's as though the latter know best, after all.  They're the ones who always organise everything.  They're amazing, really.  What with keeping track of the children and grandchildren, remembering birthdays, getting the wallpaper replaced and volunteering one day a week at the charity shop, and lunch with the other female friends every second Tuesday, of course they've never had time for a job.  Many probably have a very uninhibited relationship with their husbands' credit cards, even using them to buy their spouses' birthday presents.  

 

Before the music starts, I take out my little notepad and scribble away furiously in atypically for me small handwriting, so nobody can read it over my shoulder.  I look around.  I am not a huge fan of 19th-century chamber music, but an aficionado of people watching.  I giggle to myself.  I wonder what these people make of me and if they've made up an entire backstory for me, as well.  H. asks me what I'm finding funny.  I share with him, sotto voce, a few of my observations.  He frowns.  He doesn't like my social generalisations.  

 

He is a kind person.  

 

I am less so.  I, like Mr Bennet, think, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

 

Then the members of the quartet walk onto the stage area.  Four young people.  Much younger than anybody in the room.  They bow and take up their instruments.  They start playing and the music, uncompromisingly Romantic, speaks to each and every one of us equally, yet with different words.  I stop writing, and think that, actually, 19th-century chamber music can speak to me, too.

 

Scribe Doll

 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Never mind the performance, just write a mischievous review of the audience :-) Remind me never to send you a pair of opera glasse... Read More
Thursday, 15 December 2016 11:27
Katherine Gregor
Oh, I bought my first pair of opera glasses for my sixteenth birthday! :–)
Thursday, 15 December 2016 15:38
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The Secret of Winter

When winter envelops you in its embrace, the only place you can look is within.  Summer makes you look outwards.  It entertains you with a spectacle of colours, intoxicates you with its heady, floral scents, dazzles you with its bright sunlight, distracts you, takes you out of yourself.

Winter is about turning inwards and making peace with yourself.  It's about contemplating, imagining and trusting.  It's about guarding – and, if need be, keeping secret – the flame that those who fear the infinity of its possibilities may try to extinguish.

Summer is for those who believe only what they see, while Winter favours those who see not just with their physical eyes but also with the eyes of their soul.  For those who can speak with animals, trees and the winds.  Those who love Winter are not afraid to let their inner flame grow and burn with endless possibilities.  They do not allow their imagination to be fenced in but dare picture wonders others declare to be impossible.  Those who love Winter are those who trust, those who can already see what cannot yet be seen: that the tree's bare branches will bloom with bright green leaves again, that the desolate-looking soil will yield fruits and crops anew, those who sense the miracle of birth and rebirth in the darkness of the earth's womb long before the first green shoot springs out onto the surface.

Those who truly love Winter are privy to Magic.  They smile indulgently – the way one smiles at a yet ignorant child – at the paunchy, red-clad, doll-eyed image of Santa Claus, and, instead, wink at a very different Father Frost.  It is a Sir Christémas with a knowing face and a cloak woven with the colours of the earth – green and russet and gold, sparkling with icicles and embroidered with silver and diamond frost patterns.  An ageless figure with hazel eyes and the arcane knowledge of Merlin, who knows words that can alter elements, can cast spells and brew potions.  A shapeshifter who appears to you in the amber eyes of the russet fox that glint in the street in the middle of the night.  Or the mysterious green eyes of the tabby cat that looks up at your window as you close the curtains in the early evening, and says, if you can hear it, "It's going to be a long, dark night, so guard the flame that glows within you well.  Cherish it, nurture it for when the time comes for it to grow into a fire that will turn imagination into reality.  A fire full of magic."

Scribe Doll 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Lovely, Katia. I remember the winter of 1970/71 when the weather conditions were such that there was rime inches thick for a coupl... Read More
Monday, 28 November 2016 14:46
Katherine Gregor
I wish I could see that. Thank you for commenting, Rosy.
Monday, 28 November 2016 14:52
Monika Schott
Beautiful, Katherine. I love your interpretation of winter and going within, and not being afraid to do that. Such excitement and ... Read More
Sunday, 04 December 2016 08:54
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6 Comments

Winter Lights

H. dislikes Christmas, which is why I am surprised he suggests we go to the Norwich switching on of the Christmas lights.  "Yes, but they've put up a tunnel of light that's supposed to look like the Northern Lights next to St Peter Mancroft," he says.

I decide to be cooperative, for once, and not mention my dislike of crowds, the cold, the rain, the absurdity of all Christmas-related events two weeks before Advent, and the fact that I simply don't feel like going out.  Instead, I put on my down coat, hat, gloves, boots – and a cheerful face.  

It has stopped raining by the time we leave home, and the remaining shreds of clouds are drifting away, unveiling brilliant stars on an almost black sky.  The residents of Norwich, from micro-people in prams, cheeks all red and eyes sparkling, to University students, to senior citizens, are gathering in the market place, outside the Millennium Forum and Town Hall.  There is something heart-warming about living in a city small enough to gather everyone in the same place on special occasions.  One gets the feeling of belonging.  In Norwich, the Town Hall is an important focal point.  It's where the 28 foot Norwegian spruce is positioned for Christmas, where rainbow banners are displayed on Gay Pride day, where an inflatable pumpkin leans out of the balcony at Hallowe'en, and where many of us gathered to protest against Brexit.   

University of East Anglia students are handing out flyers for a season of Russian plays entitled Тоска (Toska).  I try and explain to H. how the word can be translated into English.  I ask one of the students and, after a brief exchange of ideas, decide that's it's a blend of depression, boredom, melancholy, and sense of unexplained longing.  Very Chekhov.  Very Tolstoy.  Very Dostoyevsky.  Very Russian.  We promise the undergraduate we'll go and see at least one of the plays.  There's a smell of toffee apples, caramelised nuts and roasted chestnuts wafting through the street.  A small parade is marching across the market place, towards the Millennium Forum.  There are children carrying paper lanterns, emerald green-clad elves on stilts, and a rather slim Santa.  There are also the boy and girl choristers from the Cathedral, in cerise cassocks, singing carols.  We follow the procession.  While waiting for the official lights to be switched on, we strike up a conversation with an old gentleman wearing the blue vest of the tourist information volunteers.  He says he's been here since 1946.  An engineer, he was sent here and told that Norwich was "the graveyard of ambition".  He felt so at home, he never left.  Like the woman who cooks the delicious breakfasts in the café we frequent most Saturdays, who came here from Wales for a weekend party fifteen years ago, and decided to stay.  Like so many others.

Finally, the moment comes for the local celebrity – in this case Ed Balls – to switch on the lights.  A chorus of excited "Aah"s rises from the crowd as fireworks squirt up from the Town Hall and the rooftop of Jarrolds, the department store, bursts of flame shoot up into the air, festive images are projected on the façade of the Town Hall and the wall of the Norman castle keep, and the 50,000 LED lights making up the Tunnel of Light next to Saint Peter Mancroft are switched on, its flow of colours producing the effect of the Northern Lights.  We walk through it, everyone's face changing hue every couple of minutes, as the lights alter.

There is a gently joyous atmosphere in the city centre and, after over two years of doubt and feeling homesick for London, I smile to myself, and think I'm starting to like Norwich.  Truly.

http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/can_you_spot_yourself_in_our_photos_from_the_norwich_christmas_lights_switch_on_1_4782164

Scribe Doll       

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
How life is enriched when we celebrate it! But, for all your demurrals, you always capture the festive atmosphere of this season a... Read More
Monday, 21 November 2016 13:05
Katherine Gregor
Thank you! ... Read More
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 16:53
Stephen Evans
Тоска - just how I think of Russian literature, yet there is also that sense I find, in Chekhov and Dostoevsky at least, of joy or... Read More
Monday, 21 November 2016 22:46
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4 Comments

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