Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy

The summer break has allowed me to take a family holiday in Norfolk which coincided with beautiful weather and swimming at Walberswick, Suffolk. The absence of teaching committments has also let me catch up with nitty gritty stuff like getting my guitar amplifier serviced and getting a strap button fitted to my guitar. Spanish guitars don’t usually have them but I want a Chico Chica show to be an upstanding experience (for me at least).

What a fabulous place East Anglian is at this time of year. The landscape is more Kate Moss than the West Country’s Dolly Parton- what it lacks in spectacularity it makes up with understated beauty. But while lying on a Suffolk beach my mind was in Wessex and Thomas Hardy’s tale of a love rectangle. Jude The Obscure features two married couples. Though I love 19th Century novels there’s one thing that keeps occurring in them which really annoys me: the love interest is between cousins. I know it’s scientifically okay but it just feels wrong to me and it I find it spoils the story, but never mind. The story rolls along and has me nodding my head to all the sensible modern views about marriage and I was thinking what can go wrong? It didn’t feel like a Hardy novel. We usually get intimations of tragedy early on. But then it hits you. Everything suddenly is turned upside down. I remember the precise place where I was reading, I was sitting under a tree admiring the way the sun dappled the light on the grass and I was contemplating the gloriously luxurious feeling of warmth and idleness I was enjoying. Then Hardy brutally reminded me that marriage is made in heaven and you mess with it at your peril and the fates will find a way of getting back to you with a lesson. And the way they do that is through the children. If there’s a moral we should refer to Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man. So there you have it, two country and western divas mentioned on one blog post about Thomas Hardy.

The novel also follows the attempts by Jude Fawsley, a self-taught scholar, to become a student at Oxford which Hardy insists on calling Christminster. I’ve never understood why he has to pseudonymise his place names. But Jude was born at the wrong time and working men had to know their place. He used the the phrase ‘equality of opportunity’ which is a modern political soundbite which seems to have its origins here. Though the novel was published in 1897 I felt the story took place a lot earlier but Hardy seemed to have the same reticence with dates as he had with place names.

Chico Chica will be playing at the Café in the Crypt , St Martin in the Field, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 4JJ 8pm Wednesday 13th August 2014. It promises to be a great fun night of original song, spoken word and improvisation. We do hope you can come along.




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