Thursday, September 30, 2010

tiresome Americans

Listening to Radio 4 I roll my eyes as some tiresome American is interviewed at 'ground zero' - that equally tiresome and technically incorrect euphemism for the site on which the Twin Towers once stood. He whines on in an irritating New York accent about Moslems who want to build a mosque at the location describing this apparently outrageous plan as 'emotional terrorism', having first prefaced his inflammatory remarks with the disclaiming "I'm all for religions..." I wait patiently for the interviewer to point out that a lot of US moslems died in the attack but she allows his bigoted rant to pass without challenge.

I seem to recall that Americans were rather less sympathetic to the plight of Londoners who braved Irish terrorist bombs during the seventies and eighties: indeed, they were quite happy to fund that 'terror'; but then that is my experience of Americans, it's never a problem until something happens in their own back-yard and when it does they pontificate and eulogize in the most sanctimonious way to the point where you feel like saying "just fucking deal with it". Thankfully, we were spared any mention of 'closure' otherwise I think the radio would have gone out of the window closely followed by a few choice expletives. Happy days.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mrs B

Mrs B died in her garden the other day. She was eighty something. Her husband of nearly sixty years died a few weeks earlier and she seemed to have given up. It wasn't a surprise to learn she'd passed. Guess it was the best way for her to go - pottering in the garden, the place she loved, on a beautifully sunny September afternoon. It has a poetic quality. Take care Mrs B.

Friday, May 07, 2010

brisk polling

They say that the polling stations are doing 'brisk' business. Sharon and I visit in the early evening. Aside from us, there are two electoral officials and a single sheep wandering about outside. I'm guessing that this is a brisk as it gets here in deepest Cornwall.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Woody smells

Spent some time in the garden recently cutting trees and trimming shrubs. Most of what gets cut is burnt on the open fire in the front room. One shrub I'd not pruned previously provided some nicely sized firewood. I've burnt branches from small trees and shrubs before and some of them have a very fragrant aroma. This one was certainly pungent; unfortunately, it smelt of dog shit.

Monday, February 08, 2010

something else I like

"The end is important in all things." Hagakure

open fires

As much as I love my open fire and the wood burning cooker, it can be a pain in the arse when you don't prepare properly. I've just spent two hours doing my best to raise a fire in both. I'm pissed off and I smell like a bonfire. Ah, it's one of those days when things don't go well - tomorrow I will make sure I have dry kindling!

Friday, February 05, 2010

the dangerous classes

I sit in my car. I'm in Barter Town parked outside a centre for young people excluded from school. As I wait for Sharon, who is inside at a meeting, I scribble these notes. From the car I can see into the building. Two men with shaved heads pace up and down an office corridor; two youths, who I presume to be their progeny, also mill around in the corridor. A woman appears from an office and ushers one of the men and a youth inside. The other man continues to pace. He seems agitated. The remaining youth is now at the window in front of me and casts an occasional glance my way. The expressions on his face suggest he is puzzled by my presence.
The youth has a cocky air about him and I have the feeling that he regards being at this place as some sort of accomplishment - the first step in achieving an ASBO perhaps. He sees me writing and says something to the pacing man who then comes to the window and looks straight at me.

Perhaps they think I'm a social worker or a copper, I am writing into a black note book. The tattoos on the man's neck and arms are clearly visible and give him a thuggish appearance. I dip my head and look back at him over the top of my spectacles - like judges do just before they say "take him down" - then I carry on writing. I half expect him to come out and ask me what I'm doing but he doesn't.

Having failed to intimidate me with his 'seven second stare', the thuggish man turns around and swaggers back down the corridor. His walk has that bounce that 'doing masculinity' seems to demand. I'm more concerned about taking a piss than being intimidated, the heavy rain now lashing the car windows increases my discomfort. Shortly afterward another office door opens and the man and his son disappear out of sight. About ten minutes later they re-emerge and leave the building. As they walk past my car thuggish man gives me the finger. Why, I ask myself, am I not surprised?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

it's in the name

I'm still on the train. The train 'manager' - they are not called 'guards' or 'conductors' any more, too imperialist I guess - advises passengers of the approaching station. His tannoy voice is weak and faltering and very distant. He sounds as if he is ninety years old and about to expire. The thought racing around in my head is "turn up the volume chap."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

on the train...

I feel rather dazed as I sit in a brightly lit and bustling railway carriage on route to Plymouth. Behind, in front, and to the side of me there is incessant chatter. I turn the radio on and listen to Radio 4. The radio host announces that Professor Phillip Gross has won a prestigious poetry prize. I've never heard of him. He gives an interview - if you can call it an interview - the show's host says more than the deliberate sounding poet whose every utterance is preceded by a long pause: he's certainly not 'in-your-face'. The piece finishes with him reading a recently written poem. It is unremarkable and I silently question what poetry - this sort of poetry - is all about. I'm not sure I see the point anymore. Only one thing stands out from the interview; twice the poet speaks of words needing to be "exact." He's right, if we are to convey meaning our choice of words must be well chosen. Unfortunately I find nothing exact about the words he uses in his poem which sounds pretentious and is best described as waffle.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

what sort of school is this?

Watching 'School of Saatchi' on the BBC, which follows several young artists as they produce artwork for an exhibition in a stately home, I can see why people think art irrelevant and pretentious. What cutting or even interesting statements are these artists making? The works being showcased are puerile and the ideas leading to them inchoate. Hasn't anyone ever taught these artists how to think critically? It would seem not. One young woman is flummoxed when a mildly challenging observation is made about her installation; worse still, she can offer no reply to her critic. Much as I hate resorting to the 'when I was an art student' kind of witcraft, I seem to recall working very hard to defend and justify my art from the savage criticism of my senior lecturer, John Robson. Old JR may not have endeared himself to me back then with his critique but, with hindsight and experience, I realise he taught me how to think my ideas through and eradicate or amend the weak ones. Those involved with the school of Saatchi really need to do the same if we are to be spared the kind of pap that Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin produce; but then perhaps that is asking too much from a patron who has always preferred glitz to substance: more worrying, is that Saatchi's fondness for all that is trite is a sign of our times.

Lindy Hop

Sharon has had her hair cut very short. It suits her. Very Lindy Hop. Though she doesn't say it, I think she finds it liberating.

spiders in baths

After being snowed in for more than a week we are running out of food and decide to chance our luck on the icy roads. Living in a valley, as we do, all routes out involve going up steep hills; in this sort of weather we are rather like a spider in a bath tub. Surprisingly, the journey out is easy. Arriving at the supermarket, most of North Cornwall's residents are here - it's busier than Christmas. The gaps on the supermarket shelves suggest bread-making is undergoing a renaissance as are stews and casseroles: there is something quite old-fashioned about all of this. By the time we start to head back, the sun has set and the temperature drops to minus three. The journey back begins well enough, but less than a mile from home we find ourselves stranded half way up a hill;
having slewed backwards on sheet ice, we are wedged between two granite hedgerows. Sharon and I have a short 'discussion' about how to extricate ourselves and the word 'twat' is uttered more than once before we agree on a plan. After some slipping and sliding and wheel spinning, we get free and with a sense of desperation try another route; this one is also tricky but, as it turns out, not as bad as expected. Arriving home in one piece is a relief and with food enough for another week we won't be going out again in a hurry. I like this enforced isolation and it will be a shame when it comes to an end.

Friday, January 01, 2010

just another day

The ordeal that is 'New Year' is underway. As always, I participate reluctantly - it's just another day to me. The eve is spent watching the Hootenanny which seems, in the early stages at least, a tad lacklustre. I enjoy Florence Welch's performances: as a woman and an artiste she excites me - she's different in that manic and disinhibited way I find compelling. Sharon is less impressed remarking that Florence has a voice that needs to be "warmed-up"; she may be right, the vocal performances clearly improve as the show progresses. Looking older than twenty three, I'm struck by how she bears more than a passing resemblance to Esther Rantzen. Sharon, in contrast, thinks she looks like a "barmaid."