Friday, 19 November 2010
Just to be close to this wonderful creation was overwhelming enough. But to be invited to share an intimacy, a revelation, was too much for a tiny heart to bear as it thumped against its tender ribs. To admit a failing to this most perfect of creatures; how could that be?
Hitherto, I had been occupying the blissful ego-centricity of a four year old who’d achieved her deepest desire. I was at school, in the classroom of my dreams. Before me lay the best that A. & J. Arnold & Sons could provide: wooden animal templates to draw around endlessly, colour in and cut out. Thick, soft black pencils to make strong marks upon soft cheap white paper; paper cut with a ruler from a large roll. Coloured wax crayons, silver blunt ended scissors to challenge soft little fingers.
Alongside the visual stimulation of a brand new box of wax crayons, candle smelling and pristine in their black banded, coloured paper wraps was the feel of them; the texture of the paper wrap, the flat bluntness of their bottoms and the oily smoothness of the pointed end that quickly disappeared as it cack-handedly travelled across paper towards its demise. Inevitably, snapping and hanging in two, held together only by that promisingly protective paper. Then into the box of old crayons, divested of their wrapping (all sense of protection now long forgotten), rubbing alongside other misfits and picking up bits of debris which in turn incorporated itself into the surface texture of the crayon. No longer new, clean, unused, differentiated.
Plasticine went the same way but oh, the pleasure of its malleability; softened with the heat of little hands, colours swirling together until, ultimately, the homogenous mass became brown-grey. Then could the real job of creation begin: the rolling snakes then coiling them round and round as the linseed smell invited its user to drift unquestioning into an inner world.
Towards this bliss had I frequently wandered away from my home. I would fetch up at school, knowing the way full well as it was a daily chore to deliver and collect my older sibling. I’d glimpsed that world and I wanted it, so with no conscience off I went to get it.
Poor exasperated mother who, missing her child, had several untimely trips to school to retrieve the unconscionable creature, until the obvious dawned on the dim adults: If she keeps running away to be here, why not let her in?
And so I entered Miss Mustoe’s ordered world: pictures on the wall, little wooden chairs just the size of my bottom and the smell of scrubbed bare floorboards. Hum of contented children, innocently occupied beneath Jesus’ beatific Anglican gaze; suffering the little children to come unto him. (It was a drunken Irish Catholic priest who taught us that, in fact, Jesus had done the suffering and it was our miserable sinning had caused it. Ah the joys of comparative religion.)
But Miss Mustoe, how I loved that woman. Crisp striped cotton shirt, buttoned to the neck of its stiff rounded collar and always, always in place of a cravat, the knotted gold chain. Frequently as I listened to wonderful stories, my gaze rested on that knot, musing on how she could have fastened it so tightly against the collar button. Fully-fashioned seamed stockings emerged from neat brogues, polished like new conkers, to disappear under the neatest of neat grey flannel skirts; a skirt, the colour of her short iron-brushed hair, with a rear kick pleat, which skimmed her ample hips and followed the line of her legs as she calmly commanded her orderly classroom.
How could I tell this creature my horrible secret? The knowledge that gradually seeped into my consciousness as the usual humming routine of the morning was disrupted. One by one my fellow tadpoles were called up to ‘Miss Mustoe’s table’. There they each were sat upon a special chair, and one by one, handed a book into their own hands. Worst still, their grubby little forefingers were being guided along lines of words in that book and their lips were moving! Their lips were moving!
As I stood before her, ‘I can’t read’ eventually escaped from my lips, along with the miserable recognition that life was changed forever, that my entitlement to enjoy the benign countenance of that wonderful woman was lost, never to be recovered. But of course it was recovered, swiftly, as Miss Mustoe smilingly gathered me onto the grey platform of her lap and, with the back of my head pressed against her stripy bosom, she placed a book into my own hands, picked up my forefinger and guided it towards the first word. What indescribable joy did that moment bring. I sometimes wonder if Miss Mustoe was one of those spinster teachers who lost her love in the Great War. I’d like Miss Mustoe to know what she gave me that day.
Friday, 12 November 2010
Mind you, the close fitting French plait was preferable to its alternative: the Kirby grip. Oh, the Kirby grip. Sigh. How I longed for a pair of pretty hair slides; perhaps little white plastic Scotty dogs or pale blue plastic bows. But no, I’d once, carelessly lost one of a pair and, having sensed my failure to value its ownership, my mother wasn’t going to risk a replacement on such an unreliable and ungrateful child. And asymmetry had no houseroom there. So it was a pair of Kirby grips, which in those times had no little bobble of plastic on the end to soften progress through their journey. I swear if my hair was shaved, there’d be track lines on my scalp tracing the trajectory of those bloody grips.
Little wonder then that this was my first LP
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Andrew Motion read The Death of Harry Patch this morning in which there was a lovely line about the mangled battlefield (ex-Poet Laureate said it better and I need to listen again to get it). The imagery remained, except that the mangled mud has been softened, repaired, covered, coloured. The place where boys' last cried for their mothers, are fields now. All over. Let's hope the ascendance of science, the discovery of genes that determine this, that and the other don't overtake us again, eh?
Happy Birthday Steph, you know this is your song...
Monday, 8 November 2010
Such a little thing, a colleague recommending a book, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. Nothing remarkable there except the suggestion that maybe I shouldn't read it just now. Just that, a small kindness. Enjoy the music, Adagio in G Minor (Albinoni)
Friday, 29 October 2010
They call her Maria now
She dies the Liverpool way
As she paces through the night
Longing for the brightness that
Will tell her she has another day
Waiting, not living
She used to be Lucia
Within nationally and locally agreed guidelines
Strong limbed, wilful
Running through hot fields
The richness of dark waves
Flapping against the sweet
Young sweat of her straight back
Favourite uncle has the horse ready
An assessment of the person’s needs
Frusting, stamping, hot in its saddle
Waiting for the virgin’s firm ass
And strong brown legs
Kicking, thrusting, laughing at the sun
Glorious in the toxic worship of life
What could hold her youthful joy?
An expected outcome or goal from having that care
Blood; warm, charging, pulsing
Youthful worship, worshipful youth
Vanity supreme, health, and heat
Thoughts bursting through feelings
Feelings become thoughts
And no thought at all
Industrial sounds invading rural dust
Clear information about care and who will deliver it
Horny weight and stallion flanks
Beating at the earth’s door
I’ll be with you soon enough
But for now, I’ll ride
With strength and vigour
Living, not waiting
For it’s all before me
Maria Lucia Caruso
Sunday, 17 October 2010
But this chance mistake led to an even more pleasureable experience. As I explained to the smooth-skinned beauty at the cinema that she'd better get used to sorting out this type of mistake as, by 2029, 43% of us will be over 50, she smiled beautifically at me and I loved her for it.
We re-booked our tickets to Complicite's wonderous production of A Disappearing Number (the story of two love affairs separated by a century and a continent). An appropriate admonishment for my failure to read numbers correctly.
Numbers, numbers... and now my birthday, not five but five and seven, the mongrel age and how appropriate, which makes 12. A Disappearing Number covered convergent theory: the approach toward a definite value, a definite point, a common view or opinion, or toward a fixed or equilibrium state. Thank you Wiki! Mathematically, convergent theory covers the concept of infinity which, applied in various forumulae, consists of constantly coming closer to a number with each calculation but never actually reaching it.
Even more wonderously, there are many infinities and when you think about it, yes, there are. But who thinks about it? Anyway, there we are growing up so quickly, no ponies or two kinds of ice cream but I got the gifts I wanted so I thank those who love me and who remembered and who are part of the many calculations of my inifinity.
Actually, in my defence, I read the numbers but not the context. Maybe it was because I wanted the film to suit our timing because I really wanted to be there with her next to me, hair re-growing, fit and sparkling with life.
And because yesterday was my birthday (and it's my blog), I get to choose the music, and to waste precious minutes (nay, hours) cruising YouTube to find it! The first LP I ever bought was Hair and no-one I knew seemed to understand why I chose it but it felt like something I wanted a piece of.
PS 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 .... ad infinitum = 2
I got it!
And this too!
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Already I know this. I know that is to do with trash and shit, and that it is wrong in time. Time's ArrowWhat base connections create a little narrative here today between Will Self, Martin Amis and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Actually Will Self only got in there by the skin of his teeth as he perpetuated a theme that started on the 11 June post but which has exercised my mind frequently since then.
If only STC had had the benefit of Movicol, Lactulose and Normacol, he may have been more moved by nature. But then he would dabble with the opiates so what could he expect? Will Self? Well, he appeared on television recently talking about how extraordinary is our attitude to bodily function and how we really ought to eat in private as, inevitably, it is a process that ends the same for all of us.
There's another process that ends the same for all of us and sometimes it is wrong in time and sometimes it is not. I just wish it could be sweeter.
There's a window in my house that looks out at nothing now but used to be a little toilet so to solve a problem, by making it an architectural feature, it's now a stained glass window, casting small pools of colour into the hall. Trapped in the fused glass are allegorical symbols for each member of the family. Quaint, sentimental, but the worst of sentimentality to fix people in a point in time. So to ameliorate the offence, there is etched the following:
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
A low denomination coin from 1856, the Kingdom of the Two Scicilies, produces a commonplace Italian kitchen utensil, cheaply bought and passed from mother to daughter, but not before it takes on the power of loss...
Dirty grey pastry
In tiny hands
The sticky mess
Fixed to surfaces
Don’t eat it
It’s not cooked yet
Through something soft
It doesn’t have a purpose
Doesn’t go anywhere
Won’t sustain a body
Ting, the wheel
Spin the coin
Feel the weight
Taste the copper
Roll, cut, screw up
Sunday, 8 August 2010
As the spare room emptied of her careful store of restored furniture and the £35 washing machine from Ebay; please god it works, what's left is twenty six years' of discarded debris which lessens with every move. I breathe a sigh of relief that collatoral damage to walls and floors is minimal as I pace the void picking up, replacing, returning to order an insignificant part of life - a room. The room where she came when she woke, playing with trinkets from a basket whose lid was arranged with an aborigine's breakfast (gift from Australia). How many strings of beads did those little fingers break as her parents snatched a few moments more rest before the day began? And how many of those dried seeds heads did those little fingers manage to prise from their settings?
But today, as I spun the wing nuts on her discarded flower press back to the birthday when she received it, I remember the pleasure of choosing the best one our limited budget could afford with anticipation of the quest ahead, of finding suitable pressing subjects.
And there the remants of those days are revealed: four organic scraps; brown tissue petals with traces of purple lingering until the light of day sends them the way of dead things. Two dessicated leaves in prone relief. Thinking of the gentle little fingers that laid them carefully there. The reason why a rose can not be pressed entire and, 'oh, why does the colour have to leave?'. The stain of lost sap in the paper layers like blissful memories of protected times when a kiss would make it better.
For sentiment's sake then, a bit of My Girl, who will always bring sunshine on a cloudy day... hey, hey, hey.
Friday, 23 July 2010
A scoopful of water in a swallow's beak, cutting through the heat of the day, thinly shrieking as it swoops across the pool.
Cafe Meletti at Cafe Meletti with fabulous Anisetta - lips numbed and senses soused against tight-lipped disapproval.
Everyone in dark glasses looks cool, wants to be cool - an uninterrupted view of what they are trying to say.
Then night, fireflies strung together without wires, our frame of reference struggling to comprehend how light can appear without human intervention. A full moon with shadows cast before us, shadows of friends, dear friends.
Monday, 14 June 2010
Friday, 11 June 2010
So said Walter Walter Benjamin about Karl Kraus so I hope he'll forgive me for placing his text next to the toilet in my bathroom. After all, he quotes Adolf Loos as saying:
'If human work consists only of destruction, it is truly human, natural, noble work.'
Sunday, 16 May 2010
Sartorial choices made that evening almost identical: black flares, boots and polo necked sweaters – seriously cool. More spectacularly both in fur coats.
We drank our wine, suavely picking tobacco from our lips with thumb and fourth finger as we exhaled our Gauloises into the glow of candles, fire and our own self-love; talking with hands and eyes. Soundtrack?: As time goes by - atmosphere set for a dramatic evening and in an instant both consented to play.
Next, to an empty club – drinking and smoking on the mezzanine, talking dirty we took in the club’s centrepiece, a glossy black grand piano. Soundtrack?: Well the staff could see as well as us how the night was panning out so they helped things along with Je t’aime. Laughed of course, savouring the music.
Gasping with delight entered the restaurant, ordered our food and looked at each other over the glow of yet another candle; recognising how special the evening was, how incredible the coincidences, and how absolutely wasted they were. In the complete absence of frisson, we shared only the delight of superficial stage management played on us by the gods that night. What a tragedy but what a great memory. And oh the music and the night and the youth …
So here’s to you Mr Floyd, thanks for the sorbet, frozen solid in half an orange skin and thanks for the memory. Just about summed up the evening – looked great, smoked steam, tried hard but couldn’t get into it…
Friday, 14 May 2010
As a photographer, Moon's work is as haunting as her image and I quite forget my original thread as I lose myself in its labyrinth.
The caption to accompany this picture reads:
'Avril, his fiancée, follows him everywhere and stays silent. She is ready in her mask and her golden dress. She keeps hearing her name being called as if her turn will come.”
© Sarah Moon
"Of course, if something is really bad then I will retouch it but only very little and never trying to make a woman more beautiful. I don't need to do that. They are beautiful and it is my job to work with the light. I don't feel it is my place to make any sort of moral judgement on people who choose to work in that way, but I suppose it does falsify the approach to a human being."
What I like about this photograph, (not Moon’s work) is that the soles of the model’s feet are dirty. Well of course they are she’s been walking on dusty floorboards. Souls become dirty too when the protective
layers of religion are removed. But I think we see our humanity better with bare feet.
Choosing music to accompany this post is easy. Hot summer night in that city flat, full of youthful yearning, leaning out of my window listening to this song waiting for life to start, a voice in the darkness spoke, expressing the same feelings. Spiritual experience? Nah, the bloke in the flat next door, also leaning out, yearning into the night and loving the moment and the music. I wonder if he remembers…
Sunday, 9 May 2010
More recently trying to describe to a very dear friend how things were going (in response to a question that sprang from kindness but wanted reassurance) I said I felt I was hovering on the surface of life trying to keep it all together. That notion of hovering (feels more like hoovering sometimes!) took hold: skating on the surface, gliding, sliding but not breaking through the surface tension of life to the depths below, not really feeling because that would be dangerous. Is that what it is then, to be an adult; to lose our emotions? Over-investment in the superego - because the id’s gonna take us to places we can’t go right now - the ego too perilous to trust - may not provide enough stability. And certainly not enough balance.
Fantasy then takes a hierarchical place way below in the depths where we want to go but can’t afford to in case we don’t climb back out. Placing it below in that hierarchy implies it is inferior and I don’t believe it is. For a very long time, I’ve been trying to reconcile the attractions of Enlightenment and Romanticism which could easily fit such a structure, be it vertical or horizontal: height / depth, left / right or, more sensibly, co-existing in a mutually beneficial relationship. Acch, this needs scholarship. There was a woman centuries ago who knew the perils and benefits of both and if I’d been a smarter, braver person, I’d have found a better way of expressing the double dialectic but it’s been done by others so that’s alright.
So how do we reclaim fantasy when it becomes elusive? Well there’s music, poetry, wine, food, friends and love… Here’s Baudelaire’s La Musique having a similar problem between spleen and ideal:
On the abyss
Rock me. At times dead calm, a vast reflection there
So when a beautiful butterfly embroidered silk kimono comes along - that slips and slides, billows and floats - well, the id takes over and despair is banished. There’s only one piece of music that could possibly do justice to this silky piece of fantasy and that’s Puccini’s coro a bocca chiusa from Madame Butterfly, which is the first opera I ever saw live and is currently entering the public’s consciousness as the Asda supermarket music. Ah well, at least more people get to enjoy it…
Friday, 16 April 2010
... a creative investigation of ‘place and its accrued layers of meaning in the twenty first century - whether personal, aesthetic, social, historical, political, ecological or spiritual - through a number of artistic commissions in a variety of media, contexts and environments across the UK. It is anchored around the importance of ‘place’ to the enhancement of identity, belonging and creative possibility in life and art, both individually and collectively.(Arts bollocks some have called it.) It involves the work of a number of writers, artists and photographers including W G Sebald and that chimes so well with my interest in the legacy of war, families, loss, identity, stuff. And going to see I Am Love this evening. How exciting is that? Not exciting that I might win the tender and get to do the work but that there are people out there who are involved in this work and, tangentially, it comes into my sphere. And to be invited to the party is nice too.
Here's the poem...
Who lives only for oneself
Deprives others of oneself
Deprives oneself of others
Atrophies and dies
- Jan Werich.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
In life new dancers join, others retire; sometimes with grace, sometimes flung madly out on their tangled strings. One thing for sure, until our music stops we must keep dancing. So in this glorious season as we smile at familiar spring flowers breathing gentle sweet renewal, and even before the warmth of the sun chills on our faces, we feel immediate nostalgia for our loss.
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
Tilda Swinton talking about the making of a film about family: I Am Love, with Luca Guadagnino describes this about the film; the lonely journey and the relationship of love to loneliness, as:
‘…the last great taboo of modern western civilisation. Capitalism is built on the idea that one can go out and buy another scented candle and get less lonely somehow. But I think the deal is that you are fully lonely, and the sooner we accept and embrace our loneliness, the healthier we are. And that real love has nothing to do with that romantic idea of oneness, of distracting and healing each other from our loneliness; it’s about witnessing each other as individuals and saying: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.’
In talking to R about family we get onto the subject of blank spaces in our backgrounds, blank spaces that emanate from cultural alienation, born from seismic historical shifts leading to pan-European migration. In describing the personal impact of these shifts it’s impossible for me to lose sight of the fact that much of mainland
And so we sat in comfortable surroundings listening to Granny tell us about her youth, when, as a teenager crossing Italian farmland on her way to ride her uncle’s horse, she was fired upon by a passing German aircraft. Being seventeen, young and naïve she had no idea what was happening until she later described the green leaves falling from the trees above her head as she ran through woods. She tripped and fell accidentally, the aircraft flew off. Needless to say her wild roaming was quickly curtailed as she received the wrath of her family’s fear. More than sixty years later she recalls how, in her youthful innocence, she said, ‘But why would they want to kill me I’m just a girl?’
Why indeed. Youngsters, who just want to have fun, maybe go garlic picking with their friends in the woods, a trip away from mundane village life, a lark in the woods. Why would anyone want to kill them?
Then R recounted his grandfather’s flight from
Then there came the story of Mrs W, a woman I only knew as my parents’ friend. She had a number tattooed on her arm and her husband was so tenderly protective of her. She was a naïve teenager once, living on a Polish farm with her family the day soldiers came to take young people for forced labour in
How can we ever know these people, our parents? Their separateness from us is so vast; it is created by them for what parent would want to pass the burden of such pain to their offspring? And yet they do. In every denial of their own painful experience they distance themselves from their own created selves. In every protective carapace they manufacture for us to wear against the world, they distance themselves from their own created selves. When they were young they didn’t know they could be victims that would experience the shock of isolation in a perilous world. But they thought they could stop it happening to their own offspring.
Our own children don’t tell us the things they know will hurt us but we know anyway, we sense their pain with a parent’s instinct. As we instinctively sensed our parents’ discord. But not knowing the nature of the injury our role is to stand by helplessly and wait until they feel whole enough to come to us. Maybe food surrogates for feelings, the physical manifestation that says, ‘I see your hurt and I cannot heal it, it is your labour alone but take this nourishment, it is all that can pass between us in safety right now.’
Friday, 12 March 2010
berber camels and tuareg blue
but carpet really and that links backwards to recovery
still red and indigo are special too
the paint pot splash the violence of colour
the soft restraint the maddening brain buzz,
what’s silence for
there’ll be plenty enough in time
She always tied her laces twice
On Wednesdays she cooked couscous
And ate it slow to show how nice
Her manners were
It was small comfort to know that
She would outlive men by one year
Forty eight is still too young
A blog post, at least mine, is no place to treat such a complex subject so the only thing to do is signal the importance of being 'angry in the right measure' and understand that for some women, feminism is a luxury.
I remember learning that we cannot tear down people's cultural webs unless we have something to replace them with. We need to understand what webs people are in the centre of, how hard they fought to get there and what compromises they made along the way. Inevitably this brings back the notion of choice and how active or passive we are in the process but let's get on. (Check out Louise Bourgeois' Maman in the meantime.)
In 1963, Leonard Cohen published, what is described as 'his lyrical first novel'; The Favourite Game, in which he writes:
A thousand shadows, a single fire, everything that happened, twisted by telling, served the vision, and when he saw it, he was in the very center of things.I hope Mr Cohen will forgive me for appropriating his text as a metaphor for unconscious patriarchy, after all it was 1963, but it demonstrates, for me at least, the difficulty of cultural change, the length of time it takes, the setbacks and, sometimes, the sheer impossibility of knowing exactly what web we're weaving at any given time - where the true heart is, 'pumping stability and erections and orgasms and sleep into all the withering commercial limbs'.
One day what he did to her, to the child, would enter his understanding with such a smash of guilt that he would sit motionless for days, until others carried him and medical machines brought him back to speech. But that was not today.
It is only fitting that, having exploited his text, I finish off my cultural raid by posting this lovely 1972 version of Mr C's song to accompany the joyful 1922 painting by Picasso...
Friday, 5 March 2010
... is, for me, a haunting expression: ‘we won’t find it in the dark’ says Rodolfo whilst only pretending to look for Mimi’s lost key because he’s trousered it already. And so it begins, a relationship based on obfuscation. How’s that going to work? Simple people, they love, they work, they fight. Sometimes they forget why they loved in the first place.
When memory fails, imagine new worlds, employ strategic amnesia for the hurt and give yourself up to Mimi and Rodolfo (before it all went horribly wrong) but above all love. After all, what else have we?
Nine and a half minutes is a long time but they’re beautiful young people: