TV and Radio

Radio review: Sad stories told with beauty and vibrancy

Poet Aviva Dautch's story featured in We Sigh for Houses

Luxembourg Gardens - BBC Radio 4

We Sigh for Houses - BBC Radio 4

YES, it's maudlin, but beautiful too.

This play written by Katie Hims traces writer Katherine Mansfield's last day in Paris and her struggle to find a cure for her tuberculosis.

She resolves to stop writing and concentrate on getting well.

The doctor was not so sure: "Well dear," he told her, "You won't make old bones."

Mansfield died at just 34 years old.

But if the story is sad, the telling of it is rather beautiful and infused with her will to live life.

We trace her steps into the Parisian gardens to where small children play with wooden sail boats at the lake.

It's a French tradition that carries on to the present day. You can wander through gardens, past fountains and watch little ones tap their boats with a stick - each boat sports its own brightly coloured sail - and watch them sail off in the water.

This play is set at the beginning of the 20th century and is re-imagined from the writer's stories, letters and journals.

It is infused with Mansfield's sense of longing: "I shall have a garden myself and a child too..."

Unfortunately that was not to be.

In We Sigh for Houses, poet Aviva Dautch revisited her childhood as the daughter of a chronic hoarder.

Her father died when she was eight years old and that was when her mother started to hoard.

She was a bright professional woman with a severe problem.

Dautch talked about her biggest fear that the house would burn down and how would they escape.

She recalled teenage years when she took on jobs after school, went to art galleries and babysat - anything to be out of that house.

She chatted to friends like her former teacher Sherry Ashworth about the hoarding.

The guilt lies at the feet of people like me who heard the alarm bells and did not do anything, Ashworth told her.

Eventually, there was a house fire but Aviva was not at home and her mother escaped.

After that they became estranged.

In the time of lockdown, the idea of being trapped in a hoarder's house is all the more frightening.

Dautch and her poems brought that to life.

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