Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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
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
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.
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
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."