Sunday, 16 May 2010

As time goes by in Bristol...

First Bristol wine bar c. 1976, Park Street: bare boards, coal fire giving off its gritty industrial smell.

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.

From there wrapped in furs, walked the streets silently to Floyd’s Bistro rounding a corner to the suspension bridge twinkling in mid air.

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

Memories, moons and moments

Off to Bristol this evening to a friend's exhibition preview; 'all we do we do for you' Then I came across mention of Sarah Moon, who, unbeknown to her, was part of the bricolage of my youth. A poster of her hung in my Bristol flat, with her smoky eye makeup and a look that said, ‘I’ve been there, I know’.

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 fiancĂ©e, 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

Appealingly she says about her fashion photographs:

"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

Chiaroscuro, Dali and some frivolous papillons…

I started out imagining reality and fantasy to be some kind of linear trajectory, where we traversed from reality into fantasy and back again; maybe palmate, branching out but always returning to a central core in order to preserve our integrity. After all, there’s evidence aplenty of those who fantasise and don’t return. One or two have been found with oranges in orifices and who wants to be remembered like that? Laurence Sterne describes the narrative of what we know about ourselves as a wiggly line, so a narrative for life then may be a synoptic process with our forays into fantasy enriching and developing our thoughts as we travel along in life but always anchored, rooted in what’s important: family, friends, people. But a journey nevertheless.

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

Of my despair!

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…