Friday, 30 December 2011


Realism or pessimism? There is a view that overly optimistic people are more prone to depression because they tend to over-estimate what they can do (leading to a more frequent sense of failure) than the pessimist who has learned to say 'no, I can't do that'. So how is that I can both over-estimate what can be done but am also dogged by a very realistic sense of my inadequacy to actually do it. Stuffed? No, not really, it just means I worry more about what I do, then get on and do it. Wouldn't life be great if all the energy spent worrying could be re-directed?

As I embark upon a course of study that relies on my need to intellectualise the daily phenomena of two people's lives, I have to realise that, what Lukacs calls, 'the clouds of mysticism which once surrounded the phenomena of literature with poetic colour and warmth and created an intimate and "interesting" atmosphere...' may be what I am trying to escape. But it's also something I need to harness to keep my reader's attention.

Furthermore, in attempting to work out an ethical position in my forthcoming creative endeavour, I have encountered a fairly simplistic binary: misery memoir -v- romance and have recoiled from both. That leaves me in limbo as to how to manage what I am about to undertake.

Hitherto my only anchorage has been Schiller's 1795 treatise: On Naive and Sentimental Poetry. Every now and then something like this comes along unexpectedly and speaks directly to a problem I have been struggling with. Although I don't recall the detail, its essence enabled me to continue more confidently, knowing that naivety - so often used as a pejorative - is a noble virtue and the pursuit of the ideal, which for me is the truth (as I see it) is far superior to mere sentimentality. Now where does romance sit along that spectrum?

Back to Lukacs then who throws another ethical lifeline when he talks about how much more genuine humanity '...attaches to the acceptance of truth with all its inexorable reality...'.

When he writes about the philosophical pessimism that existed between the last two world wars, so deeply rooted in the period's social conditions, and then says there is 'plenty of darkness around us now, he was writing from a post-WWII realistic perspective. So rock-on Tolstoy, today I am eastern European.

I've done a lot of southern European sentimentality in this blog; it's been so easy to find attractive pictures, write a little cameo, then whack in some morbidly sentimental musical accompaniment. And I've often been conscious of how contrived it all is, even to the point of rejecting a good recording if the accompanying video doesn't complement the tone of my text.

So Happy New Year from a slightly less-confused, liberal-humanist-realist with agnostic undertones who still believes in the perfectibility of humankind.

Now what music might go with that?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


I'll stay forever young if everyone else will.

Climbing out of a pit is easier to do when the sky is high as it is today but who wants to know about pits at this time of year? Surely here is a festival that gives us some respite, that allows a brief escape with colour, lights, food, drink, family, friends and kindness. Surely we can resist the worst, or at least harness it, for a brief period. Away with humbug then. Grown ups need joy as much as children.

The festival brought to me beautiful, healthy young people who were not embarrassed or ashamed by their desire to escape the family home. And equally, were not ashamed to love being here.

I watched them search their father's face and I saw their plans, thoughts and responsibilities flit behind their eyes. I saw a revision of their unpreparedness and I saw their maturity, love and individuality.

The festival also brought a single ticket to the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition. Speechless.

Then on 10 March we see this beautiful woman with our friends who were also speechless when they received this Christmas gift. But first, we deal with 4 January.

Friday, 23 December 2011


Today in the no where space

No where matters

Where is the no where man?

The no woman where?

Where the no where space?

Where nothing matters

Except what is real

In that space

In that time

For ever


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Laugh a little

Cancelled: Report Writing Workshop, 9.30 - 11.00am, Tuesday, 13 December.
Reason: Busy writing a report.

But first, tomorrow, Monday, 12 December, we say goodbye to Betty who danced so well and had beautiful blonde hair. Her advice to me:' always make sure your hair looks good from behind; you never know who's watching.

Laugh or cry?

music later ....

Friday, 2 December 2011

Then there are good days

When the puppy sleeping before the fire has been walked to exhaustion, the music is mellow, the fridge is full and dinner has been decided. A dull December day melts away leaving little to fear on the immediate horizon . This time no long motorway journeys. Gloomy thoughts are put aside for dream fodder as the inexplicable joy of a session on Endnote beckons. Hmm, maybe a cup of tea and slice of Somerset apple cake at four o'clock. All's well.

Friday, 25 November 2011

We know nothing at all

After two weeks of incarceration I have a dear one home again. Far from knowing too much, it appears we know nothing at all. Nothing that is except closer knowledge of the internal workings of a sick institution that claims the authority to repair human beings but doesn't know how to repair itself.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sometimes it's hard

I want to write something today but I don't know what it is. Curious how the gravity of external seismic shifts in people's lives - the economy, employment insecurity, natural disasters - have a way of immuring us from the possibility of a personal immanent threat.

Just as the accretion of the last disaster becomes visible, another storm presents itself on the horizon. And the heart / mind wonders at it all. At this moment, this precise moment, there is silent calm and emptiness but there will come an onslaught of confusion, pain and grief. whatever the outcome. There's always an unimaginable impact. Where will it be projected this time? How to manage community expectations? How soon the recovery? For whom will we create an optimistic future? We know too much.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Maria Salomea Skłodowska-Curie

Is 144 today, or would be had she lived beyond her 67 fruitful years.

To stand on the pavement outside her birthplace in Warsaw in 2006 engendered unexpected dismay. Dismay because I never knew she was Polish, I was never told about her extraordinary life and I should have been. To be ahead of your time, emancipated, independent and uncorrupted by fame are characteristics worth passing on.

There are heroes everywhere, all nations have them as well as their share of villains but it would have really helped my sense of identity had I a few heroes like her in my back pocket where I was growing up. So this here is a birthday gift for Maria Salomea Skłodowska-Curie. I hope she would forgive the militaristic nature of the heroism portrayed here but her end of life in 1934 meant she didn't have to see what was coming.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Dark water

‘Is she asleep?’

‘Nearly, she’s in the half way place, gone into her own world. [Silence] Do you know what I mean?’

‘Yes, yes, of course I do.’ [Too quick to be convincing]

‘Where are you going? What are you doing, I've just settled her.’

‘I won’t wake her, I’m just going to see her.’

‘No, no don’t, she’s been on the go all day, I’m tired, leave her, you’ll wake her.’

'You said she wasn't asleep. I'm just going to say goodnight.'

Monday, 17 October 2011

Inheritance of loss

Little did I realise my dying mother’s need when she tried to press upon me her old sewing machine. ‘It’s good you can use it, I know you have a new one but this is strong, it works well and see Bruno stripped it down, it runs like new.’

Like new, unlike her, ‘Here take my sewing machine, I must know it goes on because it represents the self that was lost in my migration from southern Italy,’ she was really saying. The seamstress, once respected, who supported hungry post-war siblings and parents marked out as different through her design skill and use of technology. And, as difference often does, made her a target for a narrow-minded rural community who vilified her for her stylish clothes, her vivacity and her desire to escape.

The arrival of this sewing machine in our house, a symbol of her being from which my childhood clothes emanated, partly restored some reputation. But often she’d lament her loss of past status, unable to start her own business due to fear, ‘I could have been somebody but your father said “no Lucy, the authorities, we don’t want to attract attention…”’ But of course that is exactly what she did want.

I have to keep it.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Had we but world enough, and time

Ha, my friend writes about cashmere. Well why not? This time last year my mother was alive with still some pleasure to be had from life and from buying cashmere. The expense justified by the redundancy of a lifetime's self-denial. Why postpone the cashmere and all the luxury it represents when the body's spirit craves soft warmth? She never wore it. She took mine instead. Her's wasn't enough. She wanted mine.

Let youth embrace crisp fabrics, sharp and sparkling. Age requires brushed cotton, washed linen and cashmere soft enough to kindly fold itself around about, cradling not crackling wisdom's edges. Buy the cashmere. In every colour - there's an art to it.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The colourful variety of my ignorance

So to write a long blogpost about gaps in my knowledge as I scan around for inspiration, there is colour all around in postcards; little fragments, pinnacles of fabulous places I have been able to see on frugal travels, then I spot the anthology bravely supporting its little layer of dust; testament to inadequate domestic skill. Here’s a list to toy with: Baudrillard, Horkheimer, Adorno, Le Corbusier, Nietzsche (of course), Venturi, Deleuze, Hegel, Peirce, de Saussure, Heidegger, Foucault (yay, almost a friend), Jencks (who?), Hassan (yes, I think he popped up somewhere else recently), Lyotard (philosopher in Lycra?), Guattari (lost without Deleuze, where is he?) and, of course the incomprehensible Habermas!

Bless dear Herman Rappaport who pressed it all into our lives not knowing that all the time I was wondering if we could organise a 'find and replace button' for ‘man’ and ‘he’ and ‘mankind’ to make these wonderful texts more meaningful to me. I found my marginal note in the anthology, under a chapter sub headed, ‘The Illusion of Plans’ by Le Corbusier, it said ‘where are women’s eyes?:

‘The Plan proceeds from within to without; the exterior is the result of an interior.

The elements of architecture are light and shade, walls and space.

Arrangement is the gradation of aims, the classifications of intentions.

Man looks at the creation of architecture with his eyes, which are 5 feet 6 inches from the ground. One can only deal with aims which the eye can appreciate, and intentions which take into account architectural element. If there come into play intentions which do not speak the language of architecture, you arrive at the illusion of plans, you transgress the rules of the Plan through an error in conception, or through a leaning towards empty show.

So how strange it is to find myself currently leaning towards an empty show because of an enormous error in the conception of a Plan. In fact, there appears to be no Plan that I can detect at the moment; the architecture of my new job is there for me to construct but without foundation or guidance am I building a lean-to or an out-of-town shopping complex? My eyes and mind seek to appreciate the aims and intentions but this creation has been envisaged by eyes other than mine which leads me to wonder what becomes of intentions in these days of flux; would it be possible, for instance to remain in this limbo for several weeks, maybe even months? I’ve recently taken to describing my experiences thus: Day 1 in the Big Brother House, etc. I see myself as the new housemate but I don’t have a bed, a desk, a tea-stained mug or a PC on which to load my anchoring software. Permissions have not yet been granted to access files so I tap away at my old life on an external hard drive wondering if anyone knows where I am.

I was lost once before, in a hospital where I, in turn, lost a baby; shunted off to a general surgical ward to await dilation and curettage in the dead of night. ‘They’ll lose me’, I whispered to C as they took me to general surgical instead of gynaecology (the gyny ward was taken up with men’s urology – I've never forgiven that and here I am today plagued by a man with urological problems; and his passing stones). ‘Don’t be silly, of course they won’t lose you’. Well they did. The horror of that night lingers but stronger still the memory of waking alone, so alone, wearing the stains of our shared blood still, the only remains of my child and no-one in the world to wonder where I was. And I wondering where my child had gone alone into the night without me.

So every year on the 27th May I watch the chestnut trees flower and the meadows’ sweet, sweet grass and imagine my lost child suckling in the early morning light, just us both, watching the most glorious of seasons awaiting us while 5 feet 6 inches from the ground, man looks at the creation of architecture with his eyes. Is that it then, we are doomed to write about our domestic lives because we’re not tall enough and we don’t have a ‘find and replace’ button?

Monday, 29 August 2011

The mean reality of our condition

Or, I got a puppy!

I’ve seen the ballast carried by dog people, swinging wrapped in plastic at nonchalant arm’s length, as if they could divorce themselves from knowledge of its content. It’s an indisputable condition of ownership that one cleans up after one’s dog and lord help those who don’t hereabouts. This fact was the last barrier to fall before capitulation to Teddy’s charms. Hopefully my affection will expand commensurate with the size of his do-do, which is commendably tiny for now.

There seems to be a recurring theme to these blog posts which, in these extraordinarily challenging times, seems irrelevant to the mean condition of our reality (note the nifty transposition there).

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Still waiting

Monday came and went, then Tuesday and Wednesday. Still nothing. A quick review of objective reality settings suggest more than a little arrogance on my part. It would appear that this was more a case of mindless gnat flying into window than butterfly's wing flapping. Ah well, might as well concentrate on finishing up in style before I enter the dark satanic mill and take my proper place in the Big Soc. Write one hundred times:
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will cease futile attempts at individualism immediately
I will ...
I will ...

I will ...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Did the world spring into existence five minutes ago? Reviewing my perception as it was blogged eight days ago I can remember being absolutely certain that something momentous was about to happen as a result just of posting a letter. Well, as I sit here feeling the pressure to be clever, it occurs to me that this particular butterfly's wing has not yet flapped. Anxiety levels have fallen to a manageable flutter, no-one has punched me in the nose and a walk to the pub is promised this evening. Wonder what Monday will bring...

Thursday, 21 July 2011


An odd and confusing day. It would be so much easier to drift, not to attempt to exercise will. But the only certainty seems to be that whether action or inaction is chosen, all decisions will result in some reaction. These reactions cannot be known, they can be anticipated and even multiple scenarios can be carefully calculated like playing chess.

Unlike chess where we know the pieces can only move in a finite number of directions, human beings are at the whim of a number of unfathomable variables. Fortunate are the folk that can accept. Unfortunate folk that suffer emotional ambush.

Monday, 11 July 2011

A little bit of jouissance

Greek Orthodox festival at All Saints church on a balmy Sunday evening; people enjoying themselves to lyra music and a priest so beautiful his movement among the crowd was accompanied by a barely audible sigh. Two little girls, watched over by their grandmother start the dancing early, bobbing their gaudy balloons.

Observe the blue unicorn and the tiger. The tiger's owner negligently lost her balloon early amid tears from admonishments by a frustrated yiayia. Naturally, the little beauty got a replacement while the good girl stayed close and protected her lovely flying unicorn. As the evening wore on tiger girl danced, delighted in her world while unicorn girl stayed close and protected her unicorn. Granny fussed and fixed, tugged and tutted at tiger girl, who accepting
these strictures, nevertheless took what she wanted from the night. So absorbed was she in her stream of bubbles she was only brought back by granny pulling her machine away with further admonishments. Anyone watching that evening might wonder what these two little girls will become. I know I did, I wondered if unicorn girl would have a pleasant easy life and whether tiger girl would struggle to be free in a world of convention and submission. I hope you won't be bored unicorn girl but here's to you tiger girl - keep blowing your bubble machine, one way or another. By the way, check out the motorbike balloon top left of the photo; it was tiger girl's second choice.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Is this matrix working?

Joyless humming expanse of open plan office space, human heads bent towards soundless computers, contained within a linearity that denies the human spirit any release. No waste bins or personalisation of work stations permitted. And definitely no art in case it's not to someone else's taste. Heaven forbid that unseemly passions should be stirred in the breasts of local authority workers - where on earth might that lead? Independent thought!? Swoon.

Performance management. Promoting Attendance Procedure. Uniform rows of grey lockers to store personal possessions and working documents at the end of each day. And oh, the misery of park and ride. Blank faces morning and evening herded like cattle to muffled milking stalls. Living the nightmare, and to think that only last week there was the Ionian Sea and Ouzo. Shh, don't tell - whoohoo! I don't know whether I loved this song because it was a youth anthem or that it shocked the adults around me so very, very much.

Been there, done that

And it was good

Friday, 17 June 2011


Today, a reflection on endings and beginnings. By chance I met my son's ex-girlfriend of four years ago; a lovely girl whose eyes betray her hurt feelings still despite her assurances that she's happy. And my own girl, loveless too long has ended a relationship that put pain in her beautiful face. Ah me, what it is to be young, and not so young. How we yearn for love, to love and to be loved in return.

As we age we take on more and more people, we learn to love and cherish them, especially the ones who come from outside to love our children. It is the hope that after we are gone there will be someone special. But they have to be able to dance, laugh and live, they really do.

The Greek father calls his son a couple of days before Christmas and says, "Niko, I hate to ruin your day, but I must tell you that your mother and I are divorcing - forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Mba mba, what are you talking about?" Niko screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer, We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister Toula and let her know."

Frantic, the son calls Toula, who explodes on the phone."No way are my loving parents getting divorced!" she shouts.

She calls Dad immediately and screams - - "Patera, you are not getting divorced! Don't do anything until we get there. I'm calling Niko back and we'll be there tomorrow. Do you hear me?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Endaxi,"
he says,"they're coming home for Christmas and paying their own way."


Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Bring it on

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Today is a down day - only scored 41% on Moodscope. So there you are, it's official, I don't have to try to be upbeat because it's a 41% day. Apparently on these days one is supposed to contact friends to let them know so they can be supportive. Hmm, I have a finding for this mood management technique.

All alone in the office, facing the prospect of diminishing job satisfaction without my long-term colleagues and a dearth of interesting stuff to do so off to the Oxfam bookshop. What should I happen upon on my 41% day but The Bell Jar - irresistible. But the best part is the inscription written inside it:
love G '82
(well not that sort of love
more a kind of creeping attachment
to your personality actually. And
almost definitely a reaction to
recent events).
If that don't make you smile! And wonder. Enough to amend a 41% score.

Tomorrow evening NT Live is screening Minghella's Madama Butterfly at the Met and I'm going to see it with Ruth. So there can only one choice of music, yes? Ah yes, personality will do it every time.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Death was waiting for us on the platform at Ribblehead Station. Well actually it was Mikhail who sang so beautifully and looked so cool in the evening sun that he must be without sin because he’d be so very, very, easy to forgive.

And so began an interesting journey that took us to artistic interventions in Ribblehead Quarry on Friday evening, across 12 miles of Yorkshire dale on Saturday, culminating with our assent of Ingleborough at 7.00am Sunday morning in 50mph winds. The idea was that by Sunday we’d be vulnerable - and vulnerable we were. Hectored by mountain rangers to stay down we huddled like a penguin colony against the wind, grinning and gurning at each other (depending on our skin’s elasticity – work it out) in amazement that we’d made it.

During the assent two ideas came to me: firstly that we were bodies in extremis - well as much as it was possible for a bunch of middle class wannabes to be – and secondly that this is what some people actually had to do to escape a grim fate.

To feel oneself tried to the limit of endurance but have to carry on alters the focus of preservation from the other to the self. What better illustration to show what happens at the immanent end of life, when all other considerations are irrelevant, that we are drawn upon our own resources and instincts for life, for the will, to continue? We find what we need, what has worked for us in the past, and we use it. We use it all.

The second consideration was in applying this idea to people who are in the process of escaping malfeasance of some kind. I remember hearing of stories gleaned from refugee women who were asked to bring objects of significance to a museum focus group (how to make British museums relevant to ethnic minority groups). One story tells of a woman who brought a humble cooking pot. She carried it over the mountains in deep winter, heavy in her pack and it’s been close by her ever since. Why? Because it belonged to her grandmother and to one of her earliest memories, it symbolised everything she lost in her flight for life. Her grandmother’s hearth, her love, her homeland. A simple pot that cooked food to nourish a family, to grow them strong, to help them work the land, to make more food, to nourish a family, to grow them strong…

What euphoria was shared with our fellow travelers in that descent from Ingleborough – that we were always going to be safe was never really in doubt. The mountain rangers like sheep dogs invested in our protection and we, like sheep, allowed it, happy for someone to be in charge. The euphoria came from knowing that in gamba sono ancora. Our boys and men were safe, our homes were still ours, our cooking pots weren't wanted because our families were fed, nourished, thriving and there’d be hot food for us at base camp, smiles and congratulations.

Friday, 3 June 2011


In the wind, hands reaching out, pulling in. The wind so strong. At night, in a dream, in the dark a hand reaches out. The night so dark.

As long as there are hands that reach out there is hope. Sometimes that's all we can do.

And all the while this song going around in my head....

Friday, 27 May 2011



Thursday, 19 May 2011


What is it about running that makes me feel so emotional? - it happens every time. Maybe it has to do with mornings like today's when the sun is rising, the sky is big and blue, the clouds are freshly washed hung out to dry and the hay meadows are showing whippets of swaying grass so sweet smelling it's almost possible to taste them. Just running past those meadows makes me want to tumble into them, rolling and laughing for pure joy. Like a child, remember that? Ach, childhood is long gone.

So maybe the emotion's there because everything is so clean and beautiful and alive, because on days like this I remember people who won't be running any more. So even if the left knee's getting dodgy, I can still run. Cue a bit of Andrew Marvell. Life is good, we don't have to follow the wraithes just yet, we can live if we choose.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


I am generally suspicious of gendered activites and it would be fair to say that with three men in tow last week's event could not reasonably be described as exclusively feminine but that's how it felt. Women gathered, conspired, to bring another woman home. To bring a woman back from 58 years of exile, back to the warm earth that held her parents, back to a country that accepted her from the moment of her birth to the moment of her return. From the florist to the stonemason to her sisters there was approval for the rightness of what we did. We brought one of theirs back and they were grateful for it. And the tears came and came and came and haven't stopped coming since. It is done and done well. And it seems as though all the living of the last 58 years was ancillary to the first 27 when another life was lived. Curious.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


No time for anything - have a picture

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Out on a limb

There is a leg, perfect in its strength, proportion and usefulness. That leg is unapologetic, it says, ‘see what a man is’. It walks, it runs, it has muscle, sinew, memory; its structure is transparent, everything about it proclaims its nature. Darkness defines its shape, protects, and connects to its masculinity. Strength leads eye, mind and body to dangerous places. Pleasure and death that leg says, ‘look at me, see what I can do, put me to use, I’ll wrap myself around your soft body, imprint myself on your life’.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

More mutability

This is the moment before the moment. Gamblers have a name for it: 'tilt'. That time when the cards are good, there's money in the pot and the wise and sensible player knows how to bid; what to throw, what to keep, how to win. And then?

And then they sabotage themselves. Freud says it's because of our inner divisions, that I know. What I don't know is whether, in this moment before the moment, I will understand the implications of the 'tilt' I am about to make, or even care. It really doesn't matter if I'm 'tilting' at windmills, it really doesn't matter. Rather tilt at the windmill of your own making than that of others'

Ten years or so ago, I held some cards and played them; then - a wise and sensible player - but now? Well now the world is changing, some change invited, some not, some on a global scale, some domestic. Whichever it is, the gods hold up a mirror to us and say, 'Well? what are you going to do now, you little people?'

Tomorrow afternoon a group of decent, intelligent, hardworking people will gather to be told their fate, the day after tomorrow I will decide my own.

There can really only be one track, and one singer...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Time was away

There are big things cooking in the kitchen; a real banquet with birds stuffed into birds, bright rosy apples trapped by roast suckling pigs competing for attention with the stuffed peaock. Not to mention the sauces, sweetmeats and gold covered pastries.

Oh but my diners will face such challenges and indigestion that, frankly, it wouldn't be a gift of food would it? It would be a great big fat, in your face, 'look I've sweated over this so you're bloody well going to eat it and digest it, if it kills you' arrogance.

Whereas, some olives, good strong bread, oozy cheese, maybe warm, ripe tomatoes and sharp/sweet grapes. Oh! and a zingy wine, almost as green as the vines growing overhead. That's a meal that says, 'sit with me, eat with me, let us drink a little wine and pick at the grapes while we talk and laugh at our follies'. That's the one to write.

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs):
Time was away and somewhere else.


God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify the body's peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


'She went back to him and a little more of her died each and every time he hurt her again.' Oh how we sighed over that one. 'Yes, yes' we said, 'that's how it is'. Can't remember where it came from, something big at the time like The Thorn Birds but it wasn't. Garish, gold covered book I think. Anyway, it passed from female hand to female hand and served to reinforce our victimhood. Ah, those were the days, the endless days, the helpless days, believe me.

Something like forty years later reading Saul Bellow's The Victim; does my heart ache for victims? Not sure it does when we could have invested our puerile energies into listening to the Kink's version of those endless Days and written a different narrative for ourselves. Sung here by Kirsty McColl.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Laughter, jouissance and all that

Don't they look like they're having fun?

"Laughter? Do people ever care about laughter? I mean real laughter, beyond joking, mockery, ridicule. Laughter, an immense and delicisious sensual pleasure, wholly sensual pleasure..."

So Kundera quotes Leclerc in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and because Valentine's Day is so ludicrous let's laugh...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A virtuous circle

So, a day for clearing out and a day for throwing away a nasty little piece of paper dated 29/12/2010- a tag for cleaning that was never done - attached to a coat that was only divested of its plastic wrapping on the sixth of January. What would be gained by telling the shop owner of the hurt I felt on the day of my mother's funeral when his subterfuge was detected? Nothing. Best throw the tag away.

So why, then, when I spilt a packet of seeds, was it worth my time to pick up every one, rolling hither and thither over the table, under the table; every seed returned to the pack (easy-grow fragrant mix, quality guaranteed, sow by 2002). Simple, because they might still grow into hardy little annuals; something good, sweet smelling. But sharing my grief with the dry cleaner won't grow into anything.

So on to a female poet of 15th century Rome for the romantic season:

Vivo su questo scoglio orrido e solo,
quasi dolente augel che'l verde ramo

e l'acqua pura aboree, e a quelli ch'amo
nel mondo ed a me stessa ancor m'involo,
perche expedito Sol che adoro e colo
vada il pensiero.

E sebben quanto bramo l/ali non spiega;
eppur quand'io 'l richiamo
volge dall'altre strade a questa il volo.

Ed in quel punto che sorge lieto e ardent
la ove l'invio; si breve gioria avanza
qui di gran lunga ogni mondan diletto.

Ma se potesse l'alta sua sembianza
formar quand'ella vuol, l'accesa mente;
parte avrei forse qui del ben perfetto.


I live on this rock, horrible and lonely
like a suffering bird that avoid the green branch
and the pure water, and from whom I love
in the world, and from myself, I fly away
to let my mind go as fast as possible to my
Sun that I adore and love.

And even if my love doesn't open his
wings, when I call him back from other
directions, he flies towards me.

And it's there that he rise happily and
ardently, there where I send him, and a
small joy outshines all the greater joys
of the material world.

I would like to form his beautiful image
in my burning mind whenever I want,
so that I should have a small portion of
perfect love.

For you Joe...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

My Boy

A day with my boy yesterday. Because he was 26 on the 26th we spent the day together and it was good. Almost a man; he told me some things about his life and I told him some about mine. We laughed and ate and then we parted. As I watched him walk away my heart was squeezed with the same feeling I had the first time I watched him take his first walk into independence, away from me. He's going to be just fine.

So, although they've never met, he has something in common with his grandfather in this photograph. It was sent to a young Italian woman in 1945 and on the back was written: ti ricordo questa uomo? Not a bad way to tell a girl you've survived a war. And I guess it squeezed that woman's heart because the rest is history. Ah, the ability to squeeze a heart. Well the faeries have my boy now but he gives me a day now and then.

Monday, 31 January 2011

There's something I want to say about arms but not sure how it's going to come out. It is generally accepted that this Aphrodite is beautiful but I wonder if, for some people, her beauty comes from her lack of adornment and, more importantly, her lack of arms.

Defenceless, certainly she and that might make her appealing to some appetites. But it is thought she had orginally been looking at an apple that she held up in her left hand just below her eye level, whilst her right hand was resting on her raised left knee holding up her slipping drapery. Add to this that it was thought the statue was intended to be viewed from the right side profile then, to quote my source, the wonderful Wiki, ...'the sensuous juxtaposition of flesh with the texture of drapery, which seems about to slip off the figure, adds an insistent note of erotic tension that is thoroughly Hellenistic in concept and intent'.

So here is our entry to speak of arms and of love and beauty and whether beauty does, or should, matter. I think there's a beauty that comes from confidence, style and negligence. What S would call effortless style. That which does not appear so but which is actually highly contrived. Cue poem, Delight in Disorder by Robert Herrick:

A SWEET disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantoness :
I see a wild civility :
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

So back to arms, of which Patti Smith is possessed a most beautiful pair, with hands to match. Fascinated by her style and, having watched Steven Sebring's 2008 documentary Dream of Life, I think I detect that negligent contrivance; in her shiney clean shoes and fabulously sensuous arms and hands, and all that happens in between, Ms Smith has created her style.

Rooted in Ginsburg and Blake to mention but two, and still delivering beat poetry, she manages still to beguile her audience. And for the record, I think Ann Demeulemeester has a lot to do with it. Last Saturday evening may have been considered dated and lazy delight, but when she sang this, the audience was transported once again. Look out for those arms on the album covers - I am not alone.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

New year resolutions 1976

I will be strong.
I will be resilient.
I will be independent.
The thought of going to pump my tyres,
Will no longer send me to a mirror,
To practice helpless looks.
I will walk into a pub alone,
And buy a drink alone.
Large dogs that run up to me in the park,
Barking fiercely,
Will be sent away - by me.
I will no longer wonder ,
Was it me that almost caused that accident,
I will tell myself - it was him.
When winning at cards,
I will feel no pity for my opponents,
And when losing - I will expect none.
I will do everything to promote my own happiness.
I will not apologise after every argument.
I will not allow people to borrow my books.
When wine is spilt all over me,
I will not be nice about it,
I will not be cowed,
By large shop assistants.
I will be tough.

Well the dog thing still needs some work. But, you know, toughness is hard work, and there's a special feeling that comes from finding that someone has already bought you a drink and that it's there, waiting for you, on the table, by the fire.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The summer of '69






Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Not yet

There will be a time when something safe can be said but not yet...

... in the meantime, Damon Galgut can say something for me.

I remember every accusing word, including my own, like a knife in the guts, like something that has shamed us both. Yet she herself is untouched. Later that same day, for example, Sjef and Paula and Caroline all arrive together to help me. In an attempt to bring down her temperature we buy ice from the canteen downstairs and press it all over her body. She wails and protests but also smiles, look at me, she says, I have a whole team working on me, and in that moment she is angelic again, my coy and flirtatious friend, and the awful exchange of the mornng has disappeared. She remembers none of it, nothing of what is said and done, even by herself. She floats above all the pain and grief and guilt that she's created, looking down on our scurrying and striving. There is a very real element of contempt in the way she treats us now, a quality of mocking laughter at our concern. She is far beyond us all, because she's not afraid of death any longer, which is both her weakness and her greatest strength.

It's only now that the full force of what's happened begins to hit him. Until this point he has been constantly in action, at the receiving end of calamity, with no chance for reflection. It's like a hurricane has blown through his life, flattening every structure, and in the aftermath the silence and vacancy are immense.

There is nothing to do, but his body struggles to accept it. He is constantly on edge, constantly prepared for crisis. He sleeps badly and lightly, and wakes long before dawn. The days are empty and he doesn't know how to fill them.

His body slows and eventually accepts the aimlessness, but inside, deep down, it's like an engine with a missing part, forever turning over, screaming in the same high gear.
In a Strange Room

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Dip, dip, dip,

my little ship,

sails on the water,

like a cup and saucer ...