June Is All About Celebration!

June has always been my favourite month: not just because it contains my birthday (and now also my younger son’s birthday), but also because in my childhood it meant the end of the school year (with all the resultant parties, shows and sports days). Plus. it’s the month of Midsummer, long days, nice weather even here in the UK, gardens looking their best…

So I’m determined to ignore any negativity currently haunting the fringes of my life in the shape of one single misguided person and keep June light and giddy with joy! As you know by now, joy usually accompanies cultural events in my case, so this is what I’ve been up to lately.

On the 1st of June, I attended a graduation show at RADA 3 Winters  by Croatian playwright Tena Štivičić. The play has been described as ‘a  family drama that moves between three alternating time periods and four generations of one Croatian family. From the 1945 victory of Tito’s communist supporters, to the 1990 break-up of Yugoslavia, to 2011 and the brink of EU membership – the fortunes of the Kos family are entwined with that of their country as political upheaval mirrors familial struggles. I found the content very moving and the young actors were pretty amazing, it goes without saying, but I also had the pleasure of sitting next to a young woman who was graduating in technical theatre, and specifically in lighting. She was taking notes throughout – that kind of professional dedication just fills me with joy!

I also had a funny experience at the interval. The people behind me were wondering loudly about the historical events mentioned in the play, they didn’t understand the allusions to the Yugoslav War in the early 1990s. It turned out that most of them had been born after that war had started (or even ended). So I couldn’t resist turning around and explaining things to them – a womansplainer, I believe that might be called? To be fair, it was more of a Q&A session, and the young people were genuinely interested (and shocked) and wanted to find out more. Then, at the end of the play, an older lady, who had heard me talk to the audience members at the interval, asked with awe in her voice: ‘Are you the writer?’

On the 11th of June, I had the great pleasure of attending the English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer competition. Six finalists, three men and three women, showed us their dancing skills in a classical pas de deux followed by a contemporary solo. I thought the women in particular were hard done by with the choice of contemporary pieces, so it was not surprising that a man won: Daniel McCormick. He was, however, very gifted, and his leaps in the Le Corsaire pas de deux reminded me of Nureyev. My favourite ahead of the show was the Romanian ballerina Francesca Velicu (McCormick’s partner in the pas de deux) and she was certainly formidable in both her fast spins and the perfect balance in her slow pirouettes. During the show, I also fell in love with the cheeky charisma of Fernando Coloma (who reminded me of my younger son, so my friend was amused to hear me calling him ‘Cutie Pie’). Above all, it was delightful to see all their friends and colleagues, lots of young dancers, out in force to support them.

I’ve also been busy writing (not my poetry or fiction, unfortunately, but better than lazing around). The story of my inspirational grandmother Troy was published on the Women Who Made Me website.  If you haven’t heard of this initiative, I would encourage you to have a mosey on that website, as it’s all about hearing the hidden ‘herstories’ and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. I could equally well have written about my other grandmother, the one I am named after, matriarch of the family, mother of seven, who had both German and Soviet soldiers  during WW2 bayoneting the hay in the barn searching for my grandfather (who happened to be the mayor in the village). I used to lap up their stories when I was a child and think that my own life would seem very tame and boring in comparison to my grandchildren. But then I took part in a revolution… So hey-ho, you never know what life will throw at you.

My beloved grandmother in one of my favourite places on earth, the Vienna Woods.

I’ve also recently reviewed the historical novel Savage Liberty (set in pre-Revolutionary America) and Baby Blue (set in post-austerity Athens) on the Crime Fiction Lover website, and my first batch of #20booksofsummer books on this blog. I’ve written an article for the Asymptote newsletter, comparing translations of one of my favourite books Tales of Genji (I had to cut it to half the original size, as I can waffle on endlessly about this topic and own five copies of the book). If you want to subscribe to the free fortnightly newsletter, you can do so here. Even better, do join the subscription-based Book Club to receive a monthly delivery of high-quality fiction in translation. I think it would make a perfect Father’s Day gift [and that’s the only mention of Father’s Day that you’ll get from me this year].

Entirely gratuitous headshot of Aiden Turner here – to turn heads.

The celebrations are set to continue over June and July, both via writing (I am writing three features on: German crime writers, Deadly Summers and When Detectives Go on Holiday, all for CFL) and by attending events. Next weekend, my actual birthday weekend, I’ll be partying in Berlin with two of my oldest and dearest friends who live there and who are also celebrating the same milestone birthday this year. I’ll be seeing the gorgeous and talented Aiden Turner in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, going for a gin-tasting with my local friends, chalking the White Horse at Uffington with a former colleague and our ex-boss, seeing a bilingual version of Tartuffe to celebrate the 14th of July, attending the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol (I’ll be volunteering, to keep costs down) and going to a production of Romeo and Juliet at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon on my way to a course in Warwick. Interspersed with lovely meals and conversations and cosy World Cup games viewing with my youngsters and cat – and life couldn’t be better!




25 thoughts on “June Is All About Celebration!”

  1. June is a month I dread due to my major grass pollen allergy – thank you for reminding me it’s not all bad!

    It’s made me feel very old that people don’t remember the Yugoslav war. I was a young teenager, and I read a diary of a young teenager caught up in it, which really brought it home. There was so much news coverage and documentaries too. But I also remember the criticisms, that Brits were behaving like it was some remote conflict & nothing to do with them.

    I’ll definitely pop over & read about your granny, she sounds amazing. It’s great to hear these stories being told.

    Sounds like you have an amazing birthday planned!

    1. Yes, sadly, I see many at work really struggling with hayfever this month, so you have all my sympathy!
      I had friends from Yugoslavia whose ‘father was Serbian and mother was Catholic’, as they put it (they never realised they were supposed to be different as they were growing up), so it was a subject close to my heart even as a child.

  2. Well done on having your piece about your grandmother published, Marina Sofia! That’s wonderful. And thanks for sharing that lovely ‘photo with us. That play sound excellent, and what a great moment when you were able to explain a bit about the Yugoslav War. I’m glad you got the chance to see the ballet, too. What a fabulous month you are having, and I couldn’t be happier for you.

  3. Wow, so much happening in your life at the moment! Wishing you a Happy Birthday for the big day itself – it sounds as if you have some special celebrations lined up. Enjoy.

    1. Although I’m a bit shy about admitting my age to my colleagues at work (they are all so young!), I have no qualms whatsoever about reaching this grand old age. I’m looking forward to it!

  4. I am practically speechless with envy, Marina! The shows you’ve seen sound wonderful and those to come can surely only match or surpass them! (VERY much looking forward to your account of seeing The Lieutenant of Inishmore – nothing at all to do with a certain actor of course 😉 )

    Congratulations in advance on the milestone birthday; so good to hear you will be celebrating it in style! I’ll be visiting Women Who Made Me later, to read your piece and have an explore; it sounds like a resource I will take much away from.

    June and July certainly sound filled with good things. Hopefully enough to outweigh the more challenging happenings.

  5. For me, June is a mixed bag. It is the birthday of my best friend and myself. It is the Summer Solstice. It was also the birthday of a daugher that I was unable to keep. She died weeks before her second birthday. x

    1. Oh, Léa, I’m very sorry to hear of the mixed feelings that you quite rightly have about this month. I had a close call with my younger son (the one born in June) when he was just 12-14 months old and I don’t know how I could have recovered from that. And yet you have to go on…

  6. Sounds like you’re making the most of your favourite month. I can’t say I feel the same. I like other months more, especially those closer to autumn. My birthday is in October, so maybe that’s why. That herstories initiative sounds great.

    1. I certainly like other seasons more – it used to be winter (when my legs could take in more skiing), but not it’s mainly spring and autumn because of the colours. Summer is often too hot and I don’t really like going on holiday then. But June still makes me all happy and tingly inside.

  7. I’m blown away by all these cultural delights you have in store… Love the story about you in the theatre explaining Yugoslavian history, I bet that’s an experience the audience members will remember!

  8. Enjoy your birthday and your son’s. Yes, June is a good month. Still some spring before the very hot weather. I have allergies, too, but I try to enjoy it anyway.
    My favorite seasons are spring (despite allergies) and autumn.
    I remember events in Yugoslavia hazily, but now that you post about it, I am recalling what happened.
    I did demonstrate against NATO’s bombing of Belgrade in 1999 and knew some people from that city who were involved here in organizing protests. I remember the bravery of the Yugoslavians who stood on a major bridge to oppose the airstrikes.
    Your grandmother’s photo is lovely, and what a tribute that you published a piece about her.

  9. Happy birthday and congratulations on your publication! Wow, what a great month of June!! After all these great and exciting events you’ll be happy to rest (on your laurels 😉 !) when July comes… or maybe you’ll just keep on?

  10. Definitely ignore the negativity and think of what you have to celebrate! Lovely children, living in a very interesting city with lots of cultural stuff and getting published. And happy birthday! 🙂

    1. Intermittently lovely children and living in Theresa May’s constituency rather than the vibrant capital city, but point taken! Lots to celebrate!

  11. Well, at least you and your lovely children can take the train to London and enjoy its benefits and vibrancy!

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