Saturday, 31 December 2016

Convolutions, resolutions and a Roman God.

In a few hours - and fewer hours by the time you get to the end of this procrasti-ramble - it will be another year. 2016 will be in the past and 2017 will open its doors and lie before us. Which is all pretty obvious really. This being 31st December. What perhaps isn't so obvious are the hopes and aspirations we invest in this passing into the New Year. The promises that we wish upon ourselves and that we call resolutions.

Brief intermission in the ramble for a picture of the end of a winter's day

The New Year's Resolution is a gift in the hands of a procrastinator. Hours ... no, days ... spent planning exactly what to pick; which dissatisfaction with oneself to correct; which dream to commit to; which impossible ambition to clamber towards. Note the words dissatisfaction, dream and impossible and call me a cynic. Or a realist. Or a resolution agnostic.

Why do we accede to the annual resolution humiliation?
Where and when did resolution-making start?
Why do I have convolutions and resolutions in this blog's title? And a Roman God?

New Year - new beginning and, as in my title, I'll start with convolutions.

Convolution - definition: complication, entanglement, complexity. Muddling something up or making it more difficult than it needs to be.

In Maths, a convolution involves Fourier transforms; theorems; integral operations; variables in three dimensions; infinite limits;  vectors; proofs; crystallography; a French aristocrat born in 1755 called Parseval; and something referred to as a Gaussian, which arguably is about as convoluted as a definition could possibly be. Thankfully, I am not a Mathematician. I frequently inform people that one plus one equals more than two. Which it does. Sometimes. But ... I will cease this procrasti-ramble and tackle resolutions next. Then attempt to blend convolutions and resolutions ... which is kind of what Fourier did with convolution integrals ... but I am rambling again. Maybe I should resolve to stop rambling?

Resolution - definition: something we promise ourselves; usually aimed at self improvement, but weighed down by self-delusion and unachievable peaks of hope. Frequently abandoned by the end of the first week of the new year. And if not abandoned then reinterpreted, and redefined into a mutant form of its lofty ambition and dropped, smothered with excuses, by the end of January.

Although we've had longer to practice, apparently those of us over 50 are most likely to fail - you'd really think we'd know better. By now. But no. On and on we go. A broken record of promises, of January debuts and January disappointments. Of diets stuffed; abstentions spoiled; early rises snored through; exercises stumbled over and  endless hours of bargaining and deception as if somehow we might turn a blind inner eye to our foibles and our if I do this then that won't count and it's only a little cheat which doesn't mean I've failed. Little cheats become big cheats. And not counting soon snowballs until the not counting no longer matters, because failure is failure is failure. We really need to stop tying ourselves up in convoluted resolutions we can't keep. Or stop making them altogether.

Can we improve the keep-ability of the resolutions we make? Perhaps the history of resolution-making might give us some clues -

Google suggests that the ancient Babylonians made New Year's resolutions - how do we know? And can we assume they were honest in the records they made? Whatever scrap of papyrus or piece of stone those records were written on. We wouldn't write down the promises we made to better ourselves that burned before the end of the month. It would be akin to saying 'look how strong and noble and committed I am,' followed a few days or weeks later by 'oops, you know what I said about being a better, stronger, braver person, well it turns out I'm none of those things; turns out I'm the same fat, lazy, selfish slob that I was last year.' No, we wouldn't record that. The Babylonians probably didn't either. But I'm no historian, perhaps they did. Them and the ancient Romans who apparently did the same. They - the Romans - named January after the god Janus, who being two-faced could simultaneously look forward and backward. On the eve of the New Year, the Romans mimicked Janus by looking back at the year just past and ahead into the year ahead. And made their ancient resolutions - probably to fight with a firmer fist and to love more passionately and to drink less wine and to strive for a fitter physique. Not that different to many resolutions now.

Take a look back at 2016 - how was it for you?

Collectively, it was a nightmare, pinch-yourself-to-check-you're-not-dreaming, car-crash of a year: Syria, Brexit and Trump; Bowie, Prince and Rickman; Sacks, Wogan and Wood; Fisher, Michael and Wilder; Kurdi, Daqneesh and Arbash. The last three names so difficult to find. So hard to remember. So terribly hard to record. All four of them; the two Arbash children being just two of the estimated 50,000 children killed escaping from or in the Syrian conflict. It would be harder to stand with apparent indifference before the people of Syria, if we knew the names and lives of every child and mother and son who died. We grieve for the lives of departed celebrities, as we should, because they touched all our hearts. But we should weep too at the loss of others who remain largely unknown to the world.
But ... but ... but 2016 also saw massive strides taken in the fight against malaria and measles. And a corresponding leap in global life expectancy. And the Olympics in Rio. And coffee was found to be good for you. And Dory was lost then found. And Newt Scamander arrived in New York and introduced us to a new Harry Potter world. And Leo won an Oscar. And Rylance became a Knight. And Andy achieved the Number 1 spot. And Froome won again and again and again. And ratification of the Paris Agreement by enough countries means that it starts the fight against Trump standing. And *add here anything else that was good about 2016*.

What of 2017?
Into what world do we leap at midnight on the 31st December? The Romans believed that the gate of Janus was open at times of war and closed during peace. Will we pass through an open door or knock before pushing open a closed one tonight? Perhaps, like children, we shall peep round the door to check for monsters. I suspect some of the resolutions we make are to prepare us better for meeting those monsters.

If we make our resolutions too complicated - I will get myself an x if I lose y in weight; I will treat myself to an a if I achieve b; if I successfully give up c then I will do d - we risk making convoluted resolutions. And if our convolutions involve too many variables they risk blending as per Fourier and becoming an overlapping mish-mash of too many promises. Too much bridge building across a maze of resolutions that can only be solved mid-January by a box of matches. And a hope that neither of Janus's heads is watching.

Procrastinator that I am and also a Capricorn ... so a two-faced Janian (Janusian?) ... who on the one hand sets out with lashings of disdain to put down the shenanigans of resolution-making, but on the other worries (as per) about what my resolutions should be, not wanting to miss out on the ritual, annual humiliation of breaking them, I will more or less reluctantly make the following resolutions for this year ...  Or a selection of them. Or just the first and last ones ...

spend less on chocolate, or more on good chocolate but less on cheap chocolate or just more on chocolate that is good


... yawn ... lose weight/get fit/learn how to abuse my new fitbit (or should that be abuse myself?)


do something to stretch my teeny brain like learn Italian, or cook more Italian food, or just eat more pasta


aim for a dog walk every day, which might have the side-effect of achieving my second resolution, unless I stuff my pockets with chocolate


fingers crossed ... work less and write more, or turn writing into work, or just write and forget about the work until I run out of pasta and chocolate (see above) and have to do something that actually pays


what about some resolutions I could keep?

give more to charity

phone family more often

drink more water

alter my diet - opt for that Italian, Mediterranean, delicious style of healthy colourful cooking and eat less meat/more chocolate


read, read, read


write, write, write.

What resolutions will you make?

Finally, in this season of recognising what is good, could someone please explain why David Nott wasn't given a knighthood (look him up if you don't know who he is and be prepared to be humbled and awe-struck and give thanks to whatever you believe-in that men and women like him exist).

Ok, so that wasn't quite the final words it suggested it was - this is the final finally - have the Happiest of New Years and a prosperous and safe 2017.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Doing a Kim

Doing a Kim Kardashian will go down in our family annals as a moment when my embarrassment was acute and I managed to make everyone in the room ache with laughter. Proper belly laughs. Holding of sides. Tears running down cheeks. Collapsed back into chairs or rolling on the floor. Yup - proper rocking from side to side rolling. For what felt like minutes but was probably only ... minutes. My face hurt with the intensity of the laughing and burned with all-consuming embarrassment.

Kim Kardashian it said.

The paper scrap I'd drawn from the pot.

Kim. Kardashian.

Describe her in three words. Actions allowed. Ums and ehs and erms all contributing to the three word rule.

A huge dinner was nestling inside my tummy. With rather too many glasses of bubbles, then wine, then pudding and more pudding.

Kim. Kardashian. In three words.


Well - yes; probably.

Unless. Unless. Unless you make the near-fatal mistake of thinking it would be a good idea to stand up and mime the big rear. While bending over. With all those bubbles. Waiting to escape ...


I don't think anyone heard my three words.
Or cared!


Saturday, 24 December 2016

Lists and listing. And being an FCP.

Are you a writer of lists?

I used to be an avid list writer. If pushed, I'll still write one now. I have pads of paper that prompt list writing; my favourite is headed 'This Week ... or next ...' which sums me up perfectly. An average procrastinator will put off the listed activities to another week, another time, another dimension, perhaps. A fully committed procrastinator - or FCP - will put off the writing of the list! I am an FCP ... most of the time - carrying around bits of lists in my head; forgetting to do the things I might have remembered if I had written them down; and, until I am reminded, remaining blissfully ignorant of my many failings. Many failings that are obvious only if categorised and the only way to categorise them would be to write them down. So, as I am not going to list them and I defy anyone else to, perhaps those failings, ultimately undocumented ... or unlisted, can be forgotten. Who, apart from someone with narcissistic tendencies, wants to make lists of their own life and its foibles anyway?

Why dedicate a blog to lists? And what for that matter is a list?

List : noun, definition - a sequence of connected items; usually arranged vertically on a page. Also, verb - to record or chronicle or arrange into a list. And verb - what happens when the mother-ship is overburdened with festive jobs and put-off tasks that can no longer be put off - such as the wrapping of presents - she lists to the side or heels over, usually following the wine glass into a comfy chair.

The making of lists by those of the non-FCP persuasion and very occasionally by a desperate FCP is a fairly benign activity. It is not particularly threatening. Nor particularly interesting. And is definitely of no interest to other list writers. There isn't a tribe of biggest and best list writers. No one will tell you your list sucks. Only you will find that out. For yourself.

Yes, I know, there are collaborative lists. Lists drawn up by committee. Strategy, planning, delegation, in fact management in general, is all about divvying out a list of jobs. Jobs from exciting, potentially life changing, unique opportunities to mind-numbingly repetitive, menial tasks; lists come in different shapes and sizes -

lists of favourites; of friends; of places to visit; of music; of ingredients; of television programs; of names in a class; of books; of shopping; of invitees to a party.

Generally, lists are a declaration of interest or an aide memoire or a pleasurable, harmless, accumulative passtime.

Until you add the words to and do.

Add these to any list and the pleasurable element tends to disappear. It evaporates quicker than you can assemble the list. The list grows into a stick to beat yourself with. Yes' it's still an aide memoire, but it's now one with consequences.
If it is not completed, there will have to be a new list with more severe consequences.
The whole to do listing activity can rapidly escalate until the keeper of multiple unmet lists becomes fearful to make another. Scared into inaction by the fear of failure.
In my hands, to do lists are put-off-doing lists.
The lists of an FCP are lists of dreams not achieved, tasks not completed and self-promises never kept. The put off doing list is a pointless list.

So ... why do I still sometimes write lists?

I am surrounded by successful list keepers. And I say keepers rather than writers deliberately. They keep their lists. Successfully created, nurtured and met. What do I do wrong? Perhaps, mine are too aspirational, too improbable, too long, or too impossible to execute. Although, in the case of execution, scissors or flame or simply crumpling up into a ball destroys them pretty well. And violent execution of a dead to do list is joyous because of the angst expunged. And the removal of any further self-humiliation. But I digress ... still beating myself up at the presents not wrapped; the cake only just iced; the vegetables not yet peeled and the red cabbage not sliced. I list when I have to.

I made a to do list today. 24th December. And drum roll please, I have successfully completed about half of it. If I don't complete the rest, it doesn't matter. Too much. And the after midnight programs on television are usually pretty good when I sit wrapping the presents and Shhh! drinking the big man's tipple.

Have a very happy and restful Christmas.

And come back soon for a pre-New Year blog. And a list of resolutions ...

Monday, 12 December 2016

The giggle-monger, Christmas, many feet and trying to worry enough.

What makes you happy?

What makes me happy?
Finding good words written on a page; discovering adventure in a book and not turning back; laughing and calling my daughter a Giggle-Monger and finding that she liked it and laughing more; shopping for presents; eating too much food in good company; planning Christmas and remembering Christmases past when little hands decorated the tree with a skirt of decorations, all at 1-2 feet above ground level and the top of the tree bare; cooking a feast; sharing the feast; hugs; ice-cream ... always ice-cream; and chocolate; a pale crisp white wine or a fruity beaujolais, and feet. No, not the smelly, hair-sprouting, thick nailed sort. No. Definitely not! The fall of feet - the feet of my children and their friends and our friends and family - as they walk into our home and do a soft-foot-settling-contented-happy shuffle. On my floors.


Feet on floors.

The footfall of passing lives. Here. At home. At Christmas.

But ... but ... but ... warning: this is where light and breezy and a faintly unhinged procrasti-ramble clouds over and shadows fall across faces and brows become heavy ... what of the unheard footfall beyond our homes? The silent sound of thousands of fleeing feet. Of feet running from terror. Of feet hunting for food. Of feet ripping a deep rift across the earth looking for the child whose hand slipped from theirs as bombs fell.

Why can't we hear them? The silent feet; that fall.

What are you worrying about, right now?

What size of turkey to order? Do you have turkey at all, or opt for beef, instead? Or duck? Or goose?How do you cater for the vegetarians joining you for the big day? Have you finally finished your present shopping? Why are crackers legally classified as fireworks? Do you need a Christmas joke? Will you break with tradition and actually remember the punch-line? What about last year's Christmas jumper - will anyone notice if you wear the same one again? Will it fit? Do enough of the family/your guests like sprouts/Christmas pudding to bother with either? Where will everyone sleep? Does it matter if Stir-up Sunday is on 15th December in your house (as it will be in ours); not a Sunday and too late for a fully boozed-up, matured cake on Christmas day; and can last year's cake be dynamited and used to build the foundations of a lego castle?

I worry that everyone will like their presents. I worry that we won't get a dry day and will be prevented from walking Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins. I worry that if I admit here that my pair of faithful companions won't be getting gifts, some of you will judge me mean. They're dogs. Dogs don't need Christmas.

I worry. Most of the time. But ...

I don't worry that my children might go hungry.
I don't worry that I may never see my son again, after all the young men were taken away.
I don't worry that I have no medicine to give my asthmatic child when her throat is sore and she has a fever. And there is no hospital to take her to if she gets worse.
I don't worry that all the doctors have gone and that my neighbour died in childbirth.
I don't worry that I still lie at night dreaming her screams.
I don't worry that I may not wake up.
I don't worry that living may be worse than dying.

I don't worry. Because I am not one of them. And I don't hear their feet.
I don't hear them and I should.

I should worry about nothing else. All my worries are joys. They are privileges; indulgences. Freedom and blinkered selfishness.

I want to worry. About peace. And compassion. And hearing their feet.

I want to worry enough to make a difference. To make time to worry about them.

Think about it: insert the name of your favourite charity here *           * and make a gift. Easy-peasey!

Then stop worrying; worry about nothing for a while and have a happy Christmas. But keep back just enough worry to listen for feet in the New Year.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

#amwriting - a book review. Perfect word mixology and not giving up.

Whisper to the wind, 'This is how to write.'

No, not these inexpertly assembled procrasti-rambles but words discovered in a book that I have been promising myself I would read for many, many months and have now started. My ascent so far has taken me to chapter 4.

What a journey those first chapters have been!

I am daily transported to India.

All its scents, noises, lights, people, traffic, food, grime, poverty, politics, fabrics, fruits, spirits, humanity, hysteria, tragedy, faith, prostitution, drugs, hospitality, bribery, corruption, travel, cosmopolitan enlightenment, tolerances and intolerances in just four chapters; sixty or so pages. A portrait of a place so immersive and with characters so bright that they light up each page with the intense shine of their being. Reality is not merely being created for the reader - this setting and its characters live and breathe (even if some of them are fictional).

What a lesson in how to write!

I don't remember now what took me so long to open this book. And to plunge utterly into it. I last found this sense of wonder at story-telling when I lost myself in Kipling's Kim. Many years ago. Seldom do any stories I read or invent get close to kindling that sense of complete delight. It is like spending a life looking for a memory of a taste; hunting through menus and recipes, sampling foods that are similar but fail to ignite that remembered flame, until one day, you stumble into a kitchen and a rainbow fills your brain, the clouds clear and there on your tongue are the flavours you longed for, and you weep and laugh and don't know why you're crying. And your eyes are swamped with sunlight and music erupts in your ears. Reading this book is like that. But with a hefty lump of awe tossed into the recipe.

The repeated choice of perfect words hints at a mixologist so confident in his language that I feel I have stumbled upon Nirvana and found it humbled beneath the shadow of a genius.

Where did an Australian convict learn this craft? Can you hone such skills in enforced confinement - in a place without the moon and stars (his own description of prison)? Was imprisonment a writing retreat of sorts? Or is his book his redemption?

I need to read more. You need to read it, if you haven't already. This brilliant writer is, I suspect, not a man I would like or warm to. I do not agree with the things he freely admits he has done. I do not condone any part of the drug or people trafficking trades. I despise them and the harm they do. But, as someone who usually abandons books where I struggle to warm to the protagonist, I will continue to feast on his words because his words are just so beautiful. And his characters so very, very real. Phrases leap off every page; quotes that I find myself reading again and again, and going back to, just to check that I have remembered them right and that they are as good on second, third and twentieth reading as they were the first time; quotes I could carry with me beyond this book.

I can't ever hope to emulate his word-smithery. Where do you learn an imagination that lets you describe a face as something carved by a rush of river from volcanic stone, or the emotional vocabulary to admit that you grieved loved ones' memories and lives into your own mind until they became your own life?

Who is he?

My older children know. They discovered him before me. It is one of their fraying and battered paperbacks that lies heavy in my hands. I am almost reluctant to read more, partly because a bit of me doesn't want it to end, but also because I have heard hints of gritty stuff to come. And I prefer my grittiness with rounded edges and happy endings.

So, try this book for yourself - Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts. I can recommend the first four chapters. Wholeheartedly.

To myself and my writing friends out there or anyone else worrying about the mountains they dream of climbing and fearing that they don't have the strength or ability to carry on ... do! Carry on. Don't give up. Adjust, reset your goals, but never lose sight of your dream. Check your route. Modify it. Do everything you can to remove the hurdles strewn in your way. Just keep reaching for it. And if you need motivation, try this 'it is hard to fail but worse having never tried to succeed.' Perhaps, when you reach the peak of your mountain, you will look down and see it is more of a hill. Surrounded by other people on smaller hills and some, like Gregory Roberts, on mountains. But you will have got to your summit. And if you're not there yet, keep climbing.

Bertie Baggins and Four-legged-friend have no mountains to climb.

No dreams other than those that make them sleep-bark and twitch as they chase imagined rabbits and deer.
A good life? Hmm ... perhaps.

But I prefer a life with words.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Broadband, memories of a weekend, a flame fairy and why we shouldn't worry.

What is it? We take it for granted. We think we sort of know what it is. Do we?
A ... broad ...  band ... ?
Broad as in wide? As in encompassing a wide range of frequencies. The frequencies of multiple messages that, because the band is indeed wide, can be transmitted simultaneously.
Or not.
When it fails, picture a band that's so broad it frays and curls in on itself at the edges; rolling itself up into a tight constipated tube that no information - even information backing up like logs behind a beaver dam - is ever going to burst through. 
Broadband at its most basic is simply electrons bumping into each other. It inhabits the earth and the air in a variety of forms, a broadband spectrum of electron collisions, if you like.
In my imagined spectrum, there's SS broadband - the slow, stuttering but mostly working variety. 
This is almost but not quite as bad as FaFFF broadband - the type that falters after faultless fast functioning. Worst, however, by a mile - or several miles, plus many minutes filled with frustrated get-me-caffeine cups of coffee and rather too many hours of if-it's-still-not-working-after-I've-been-for-a-dog-walk I'll hit something - is ST broadband - that non-form type that despite government promises to rural communities, moves apparently at its own definition of slow time rather like a southern dwelling toad who's decided that siesta time is all the time and has to unfurl each limb from incipient rigor mortis in order to summon sufficient momentum to move forward anything approaching a measurable distance and does so with all the enthusiasm of a sloth who you've just invited to take a bath. It's taken two days for these photographs to load. The weekend is no longer the weekend. I guess I could move closer to a settlement with faster internet speeds. Speeds ... I dream of speeds; of never sitting in front of an annoying little circle with a dot or line or light going round and round and round and round and round ............ I HATE buffering! I could live without ever having to see buffering again. If I have muddled my broadband with my internet, and my download speed (currently 4.18Mb/s) with my band width, and my megabits with my ping (705ms) then I apologise - it's all goddledegook to me; a bit like expecting me to define a quark or explain fiscal strategy to you. All words that I recognise. Vaguely. But - although I could make a stab at the quark and have a wooly impression of what fiscal might mean - I couldn't stand up in a room and explain any of them convincingly to another person. So ... back to broadband or narrow, barely there, frequently broken band and last weekend - yes, that is correct - last weekend. The one before this last one. The one in these now week-and-a-half-old photographs.

It was a lovely weekend. The best that autumn in Southern England chucks at us.

Clear skies. Light winds. Dry. 

A frosty start

Time to think. To dream. To while away the hours.

To gaze through autumn leaves at the moon.

To take some pictures and while away more time turning them into something arty. Or nearly arty. Or as arty as you can get with an i-phone and limited knowledge of filters and photo-editing.

And a time to bounce.

To run. To live. And to see beautiful things.

To be honest, I'm not sure if Bertie Baggins bounced because of the beauty around him or because of the excitement of a two-legged friend being outside with him. 
Actually, I am sure. 
He's a dog.
He likes the company.

Even when the company does odd things with the brown stuff that's fallen all over the ground; raking the slippery, rustling, mushroomy-smelling mess into piles of slippery, rustling, mushroomy-smelling mess. 

And picking the piles up.

And using them to build an even bigger pile. Before poking the bigger pile and making a lot of noise to wake up something called the hedgehog. And after ensuring that the hedgehog has gone out for tea or decided to sleep somewhere less noisy and less populated with dogs,  turning the big pile into something warm, that made an odd sort of growling sound, like the noise lots of twigs would make if you stood on them all at once - clearly the bonfire thing was not a very brave animal. Even if it did turn out to have a secret weapon - lots of smoke that hurts eyes and made Four-legged-friend sneeze. A lot. So much and so violently that he bumped his chin on the ground mid-sneeze, which was a great surprise to him. And no doubt quite painful. He ran off and found some long, damp grass to plunge his nose into and comfort himself.

This was him later. Guarding. Or asking, aren't we done now? I'm not sure which.

It was probably the 'aren't we done now' question because pretty soon he was here.

And not helping any more.

Which perhaps explains the heart  - the bonfire beast with the suspect growl was lonely

and was setting its fairies free

I can't be the only writer who worries about my grammar. I know I'm not. I while away many an hour procrastinating, choosing words that sound right, finding all sorts of reasons not to write - like constructing a bonfire.  But do I while away or wile away? A quick internet search reveals that they are not interchangeable. Whiling away the hours means filling them with idle pursuits (I hope that's not an oxymoron - can you idly pursue, doesn't pursuit imply activity and thus a lack of idleness? Does it matter if it is an oxymoron?) Wiling away the hours or specifically wiling means employing cunning and craftiness and deceit or trickery or generally behaving like the fox of fairytales and nursery stories. Arguably, procrastinating could be the procrastinators way of wiling away many an ultimately wasted hour.

I procrastinate too much.

I worry too much. About everything.

As Newt Scamander brilliantly says in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, "Don't worry! Worrying means you suffer twice." He was facing annihilation and maybe had more reason to avoid suffering twice; I face only wasted hours and fretting about which are the best words and a suspicion that I write only for my own entertainment, so worrying is wasted on me. But it is good advice for life. Don't worry. Don't indulge in suffering twice.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

New York state of mind

My goodness, jet lag does funny things to your head. One minute you're functioning fine: you can hold a conversation; remember people's names; have a pretty good idea what time it is, even correctly guess the day; begin to understand the enormity of the political landscape in the country you are visiting; read a book, and (almost) manage to navigate without causing a major fall-out. The next (and it can literally be the next) minute you are unable to decide what to wear and realise you have been staring blankly at the suitcase for ten minutes; you have no idea if you told your host a particular anecdote earlier; you stand in front of a written description of a painting at a gallery and realise that on the third reading you have still failed to process any of the words, and you come over all my goodness using words that you normally only observe spoken by the very young. 

And you start taking photographs of buildings and pavements and paintings and wonder if that's normal. And then realise that it is. For you. And then post them to a blog - very slowly ... owing to the dilemma of word and photo selection and only intermittent access to an internet connection. And take three days trying to assemble the paragraphs into a good order ... any order! ... in order to construct an actual posting. And realise that you have spent five-lines-and-counting describing what you do usually, by way of the word-picture-procrasti-ramble that normally appears here. Six lines. So you may as well instruct your jet-lag-addled brain that is now procrasti-looping to get on with it. Eight lines. And make that six days. 

No, seven days. 

And now, eight ...

Time to get going again -

Day 1 (last week...!) in New York and a walk from the Upper West side, across Central Park to this

The Guggenheim and a lesson in modern art and purpose-positive architecture and mistiming 

The building was both stunning in a I-look-like-a-small-concrete-car-park-from-the-outside-but-am-much-prettier and clever in a I-am-really-a-roller-skate-helter-skelter-with-art-gallery-imposter-syndrome-that-provides-shelter-in-my-spirals-for-paintings-while-providing-a-pleasant-and-gentle-uphill-stroll-which-is-much-suited-to-the-jet-lag-enfeebled-and-generally-fatigued-of-mind.

Mis-timing as in challenging. The Agnes Martins on show are hard to appreciate if modern art isn't your thing. Quite hard even if it is. 

Though I did like this one

Because it whispered Rothko at me.

We were tired.

Our somnambulant discombobulation was slightly ameliorated by the sleepy demeanour of the gallery staff. I agonised about including this picture of the staff member at the top of the spiral because I don't have his permission. But you can't see his face. So I hope it's okay. I'm sorry if it's not. But his crumpled appearance and relaxed, easy pose unwittingly turned him - in my head - into a work of art. Every bit as poetic as the Agnes Martins. I'd entitle it 'Watching the Watchers, New York 2016.'

From the Guggenheim, we wandered down the east side of Central Park, snacking outside the Metropolitan museum and sleep-walked into 5th Avenue.

Where we found some pretty buildings.

I have been called a pretty building myself (by one of my daughters; not very long ago. I wasn't sure at the time how to respond, but the name stuck. And I've grown to like it. It evokes the spirit of something solid (!), lasting, and homely perhaps. I hope it does. There could be worse similes. And my building hasn't fallen down yet. Hopefully, its foundations will last a few more years, even if the thatch on top is thinning.)

New York appears to be full of both pretty and pretty ugly buildings.

New Yorkers like their buildings tiered and decorated at the top. Walls of glass reflect like sheer water the rush of clouds past sentinel towers.

Multiple towers and millions of windows and worker ants rushing about and looking out everywhere.

At street level, Halloween window shopping

and fantasy shopping.

I have no idea if fairy princesses inhabit New York. Clearly, D&G think they do. And that they want pompom shoes with crystals. Maybe, their hope is to distract from the clamour outside the building next door.

Whose owner must have an enormous ego, judging by the size of his ... well, I could get rude here but I will not descend to his level of abuse-speak. It's a big building. He has several in New York. All big. All perhaps, trying to compensate ... no, again, I will stop myself. He's a ... you can fill in the blanks yourself.

Yup! The name in gold confirms whose tower it is. Immense ego confirmed.
The pay (bribe ...?) he reputedly gives the supporters who turn up every day, outside his tower and shout and whistle - a lot! - confirms the throw-money-at-it-until-all-your-troubles-turn-to-dust-or-are-permanently-tied-up-in-legal-tape, squeaky-clean, screaming-with-misappropriated-rightious mire that his ego is balancing upon.

This ego is a gift to cartoonists - with his little shouty mouth and lips that look like they've just licked a parrot's arse - I'd nominate him for frontrunner in a gurning competition. But not the Presidency.

Surely, please, not the Presidency.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Autumn or Fall or whatever you want to call it. In England this week and somewhere else next

'Summer has o'er-brimmed' and we find ourselves in Keats' 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.'

Of brambles, apples and crumble.

Of falling leaves.

Long shadows

And flaming sunsets

'Autumn settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favourite chair and fills the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he had done since he last saw you.'
Stephen King 

Stories ... 

We find stories everywhere. And if we don't find them, we make them up. Stories for ourselves and stories for sharing.
Usually, they are good stories. 
But sometimes they are bad.

Bad stories make me feel uncomfortable.

And this autumn, I am a little uncomfortable.

No, I don't mean a little uncomfortably shivery around the edges? It's not a the-nights-are-drawing-in-and-we're-holding-out-like-we-do-every-year-til-November-to-put-the-heating-on seasonally induced uncomfortable.

Nor is it uncomfortably starting to count down the days to Christmas and dreading the what-on-earth-do-I-get-for **** insert name of the person you find it hardest to buy a present for *** angst.

Nor is it the woodsmoke down the chimney that gets up your nose and reminds you that you forgot to call the sweep.

Nor is it the uncomfortable feeling that dozens of small whiskered faces are watching our every house-bound move, eager to see if we drop any crumbs or fail to sweep up the drifting dog hair that will line their mouse nests for the long chilly we-don't-waste-the-heating-by-having-it-on-all-day winter nights that are coming soon.

No. It's the autumn television schedule; specifically the glossy series filling Sunday evenings, like visual hot chocolate and treacle pie and wooly socks and takeing-us-gently-into-the-winter television schedule. Does anyone else feel a little uncomfortable watching Tutankhamun?

We were an arrogant, expansionist, greedy, self-serving and imperialist race. Weren't we? What did we think we were doing? What would our response have been if Egyptian archaeologists had come here, bossed us about, treated us like the mud on their shoes, looked down their noses at us, ignored our centuries of scholarship, pillaged our land, abused our misplaced hospitality - and if, having had the inspirational idea of digging in Suffolk, had discovered Sutton Hoo. And then having dug it up, had packed it into crates and shipped it back to Egypt? We would have had something to say then about finders not being keepers. And about the found belonging the the state from whose ground it was taken. Yet, put the shoes on the feet of history and our forebears clearly thought it fine to move in, conquer, belittle and steal. 

Forget the fact that the cast are all rather nice to look at; Howard Carter would have been particularly flattered that Max Irons is playing him, given that Carter was short and squat while his acting double is altogether more dashing. The cast are highly accomplished actors all. I just can't get the bad taste out of my mouth.

Something about the discomfort sits worse, when I remember that Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon et al were alive in living memory. There are those alive now whose grandparents might have known them. That closeness feels like a hand-shake away, a simple arm stretch across history. I remember my grandfather. I remember his tales of colonial Africa. I remember him as a good man. But I am pretty sure that he would have held the views of his time when it came to race and empire. Perhaps, that those were the views of his time is almost an allowable excuse. Perhaps, I would have learnt to think that way too, had I lived then. Nonetheless, those views were wrong and to most of us today are deeply offensive. At its simplest, the story of adventure and discovery of the boy king's tomb is a good one. It is its setting that turns it bad; that makes me feel uncomfortable.

Stories that we tell ourselves. 

Stories that we tell ourselves to make the world a better place. Be blind to colour. No - don't even see colour. See the person not the colour of their skin. Where we don't and where we get the story wrong desperate things can happen. Fear of the black man behind the wheel of a car. Fear of the middle-Eastern business man getting on a plane. Fear of the tattooed youth smoking outside the newsagent's. We see, we judge, and we invent a story. If we are going to live together, we need to learn to invent good stories. We need politicians who tell us good stories too; not ones whose stories give us nightmares about murdering immigrants, and encourage us to see women as less strong, less talented, less intelligent and less in control of their bodily functions. You know which story teller I'm referring to. What a story teller! Watch this lady's impressive, eloquent quashing of his stories, NEWSFEED.  We need honest stories! Not stories that beget injustices.

I'm on a roll here - rant, rant, rant ... and hop, skip, jump to another injustice. Another story. Imagine for a moment that I have an uncle and that he and his partner were convicted in their twenties for committing same sex offences. Now, imagine that one of them died last week; after a lifetime of being an excellent and generous uncle, the sort that takes you out to tea and dainty sandwiches and pink cakes when you're little and takes you to Harrods to buy a tiara when your nearly old enough not to need one and gets you champagne with Wimbledon tickets when you're older. He can now be pardoned for living his life as the man that he was. His partner can't be. Because he lives.


Because the private member's bill to pardon living homosexuals has failed to progress through parliament. Both of my (fictional) uncles were alive last week but only one - the newly dead one - is pardoned. What a punch in the chest to the living. Your criminal record - c-r-i-m-i-n-a-l record - still stands. What you did in the past before it became legal will still hang round your neck; a historical conviction from a dark time. Shame on all of us for doing that to you.

Sometimes we meet people who make us smile. For whom we think, 'this is what makes life good.' I met one yesterday, aged ten who had the fragile seed of a fashionable-hat-wearing, arty, cultured, Gok Wan-like self-confidence that was lovely to notice and that I hope no-one knocks out of him. He was funny and different and intelligent and full of character. It was a pleasure to meet him. I hope society is kind to this different little boy. I worry that it might not be.

As procrasti-rambles go this one has been quite a ramble. A bit ranty, a bit dreamy, a bit it's time to wrap myself in a duvet, pull up the long socks and sip hot chocolatey. 

Autumn; a time to think, perhaps?

A time for two more quotes - for the first, think long walks in air cleared by the first frosts, along footpaths cleared of leg snagging crops, and next to hedgerows cleared of swarms of biting beasties.

'It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn, when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.' PGWodehouse

Nora Ephron asked, 'Don't you love New York in the fall?'

... I don't know. But I'll tell you next week ...

Monday, 17 October 2016

The art of storytelling; Caravaggio, Pinter and a Bear of Very Little Brain.

A life without stories would be impossible. Look for something that doesn't have a story and resign yourself to never finding it. A grain of sand on a beach; a petal on a flower; the broken handle on my cup; the rusted rivet in a metal bridge; and the gum stuck to the pavement, all have a story. Everything does - there's the how did it get there; where did it come from; who put it there; what happened to bring it in front of me at this precise time?

What is a story?

Story - definition: a true or fictitious account of a sequence of events and characters; its purpose being to entertain or inform.

We constantly ask ourselves, what's the story? Or, what's in a story? Different questions, but essentially addressing the same thing: we like to know. And if we don't know, we like to make an attempt at explaining things - we pry, we wonder, we invent - who did that, why, where, what happened next? We fill in the gaps. Not always accurately. But we fill them anyway, because we don't sit comfortably with ignorance.

Life becomes a series of stories that we tell ourselves. We pile story on story, constructing a personal library of tales that define us. A library that is without walls, colliding with other people's libraries and sharing its bookshelves in a vast lending and borrowing and stealing narrative ecosystem. It begins with a few words announcing our birth and collapses at our death; ripping, as it does so, into the overlapping libraries of the lives we have shared and announcing this story is no longer available; it has ended. Nothing more will be added to it beyond its expiry date.

Brief aside as this procrasti-ramble veers off on a slightly different path: real brick and stone libraries filled with real books should be preserved as the treasure houses that they are. Perhaps, that's the subject of a ranti-blog that I'll save for another day. Though, to be honest, I don't think I could add more than has already been said by Chris Riddell on this subject - look at his on-line presence if you want convincing that he is a laureate on a worthy library-saving, literacy-promoting mission.

Back to stories - obvious stories told through word of mouth or written in a book. Not so obvious perhaps, the stories in a poem or the words and, sometimes Nobel winning, poetry in a song. But cinema, television and radio create stories too - fiction, non-fiction, news; all stories. What about photography and paintings? Can a painting have a narrative? Not the story behind the two dimensional construct of canvas and paint. But the picture as painted. Yes, of course it can. Visit any art gallery and listen to the newly woken words inside your head - dancing and joining hands and splitting apart - as you order and formulate a narrative to explain the image.

Some artists are better at story-telling than others. Caravaggio - see Beyond Caravaggio at the National Gallery until January - was a master story teller. No words. Just paint. An an acute sense of the dramatic; the confidence to stray into scenes of everyday life; and a deep appreciation of light and dark. If what follow fails to convince you, visit the exhibition and decide for yourself.

Let me tell you some Caravaggio stories -

Caravaggio takes two friends; close friends it appears, as one is kissing the other. Both are men. The scene is set for his story. Who are they? Are their names of significance? If I tell you they are Judas and Christ, you'll perhaps guess where this story is going. The kiss is not innocent. It is an act of betrayal, that will have enormous consequence. What Judas does in identifying Jesus by kissing him is irreversible, deceitful and shaming. Caravaggio builds on this moment by surrounding the figures in darkness and shows not just one Roman soldier but a crowd of them. You gaze at the picture and feel the oppressive crush, the jostling and the heat. You imagine the noise. Then you notice a lamp, held aloft by another man - a stranger, not a soldier, not a disciple, but Caravaggio himself; the artist as illuminator. Light shines on the soldiers' tunics and helmets - its searing sharpness heralding the something wicked that is to come -  and drops harsh shadows across their faces. A softer fragile light falls on Christ. We can imagine what happens next. Caravaggio makes story-telling look easy.

Another painting and another story. Caravaggio paints a supper, and tells us it is in a place called Emmaus; it's an ordinary domestic scene with fruit on the table and seated men talking. Nothing more, perhaps, than ordinary life. But being Caravaggio, the story unfolds the longer you look at his painting: there is an overly ornate table cloth; the man on the left has fallen on hard times, there's a rip at his elbow, and he is pushing himself hurriedly out of his chair. Light again casts shadows, picking out details - a glint in the eye, a fold of fabric. The background is dark and the picture's focal point is the seated man directly opposite the viewer. There is a pale luminescence to his skin, quite different to the lines and ruggedness of the other men's faces. All these fine details add to the story: who are they? Are they friends or were they strangers before they sat to share this meal? What has occurred in the life of the man with the ripped sleeve to make him look so dishevelled? Caravaggio is playing with us. Leading us from beginning to middle to end - it is, of course, the risen Christ, sitting centrally, and his astonished disciples rising as they recognise him.

These stunning paintings sparked a Caravaggesque style - narrative art heavily dependent on chiaroscuro and the drama of everyday life. (Chiaroscuro - a technique of manipulating light and dark in a painting, where the light jumps out and slaps you on the face; imagine shining a torch on a picture, anything white will shine and you can pick out other parts while leaving the periphery in darkness, then take the torch away and step back and see astonishingly that the light is still there. The artist has illuminated his picture with white and yellow paints and the contrast between light and dark creates atmosphere and drags you in, forcing your participation in the story.)

Have I lost you in this procrasti-ramble of story telling? Yet? ... Not yet? Can I tell you a couple more?

Picture a tavern and a motley gathering of souls, both old and young, experienced and inexperienced, wealthy and not-so-wealthy. They are all men and are singing and drinking, in several degrees of inebriation. So far, a common enough social scene. But now for the story - there's a knife on the table. One of the men has a sword. At the back a hungry servant is stealing some food. One of the drinkers  has spied the thief. It's a game. Seed some doubt, scatter a little jeopardy and crank up the tension by turning down the surrounding light. Illuminate from only one lamp which casts long shadows and ripples of reflected light across the scene. It's menacing. Who are the gathered men? The story sits at a precipice - jump and it's going to turn nasty. Murder even. Bartolomeo Manfredi knew what he was doing when he painted this story; he drew us in, with lots of visual clues and atmospheric, discombobulating lighting, just as in the art of his inspiration, Caravaggio.

Last story (for now); last picture - it is of two young women and an older man. The girls are standing together at the man's side and he is seated. Even though he looks a little worse for the wear already, perhaps he's drunk, they are pouring him a drink and helping him to drink it. Have I seeded the picture in your head? You need to think classical painting. No mini-skirts; no mobile phones. I hope you're wondering who they are. There are more clues in the painting. The girls are clearly wealthy - one has beads decorating her long pink dress - it has the lustre of silk - and they both have fine lace at their breasts. Are they prostitutes? Have they tricked the man and plan a night of debauchery which he won't remember in the morning? Are they wealthy perhaps because they are thieves and he will wake hungover, stripped of everything? Or ... are they his daughters? No, surely not. Not looking at him like that. But wait a minute, notice how the lights are lowered. Wonder why. Shrouding them all, in the background, is bleak darkness. The only light is from a single lamp and it shines on their stricken faces. The old man is their father. His clothes hang off him and he looks exhausted. Beneath, his body is bare and wrinkled and weak. His name is Lot. His daughters believe he is the only man to have escaped Sodom. And that he is their only chance of conceiving. They love their father but they touch him with the lightness that we reserve for something we find repellant. So they encourage him to drink. If you get to see the painting, look into their eyes (if not, imagine a look of fiery hatred dulled by awful resignation). What you will see is the brilliance of the artist Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri. A story both haunting and horrific and wonderfully executed.

Is it possible to look at anything without our brains leaping like enthusiastic olympians to fill in the gaps? I think it isn't. Caravaggio et al exploit this when they paint stories. Photographers and film makers do the same.

Our hunger for stories makes us look everywhere. Sit at a pavement cafe, watching the world pass a few feet away, and invent stories for the people you see. Do this with a friend and observe how your stories differ. What features do you both notice and include in your stories; what mannerisms; what hints from the dress and the way they walk? Did you see different stories? Sometimes, we look at something and see the same story. But sometimes, the same story is the wrong story. What about this one - a story made famous recently by social media? A small boy is running to rescue his smaller sister from a car; the sand at his feet spitting into the air as a sniper aims at him. Awful and shocking. The video was assumed, by millions to be from Syria and went viral. But what we all saw was the wrong story. It was later attributed to a Norwegian film crew, filming in Malta, with Syrian refugees. Our interpretation was collectively wrong. Our shock however was justified as worse is happening every day in Syria and that apparently was the motivation behind making it. We got it wrong but our emotional response was perhaps right.

So we can't stop seeing and telling ourselves stories. They flow in our veins. We find them in pictures, in cinema, in words, books, poems, songs, and in music.  How we interpret what we read or see depends on where we come from, on our experiences and beliefs, and on the particular stories that we as individuals reference in trying to understand what we see.

If we want to create stories for others to enjoy, it is best always to show, never tell. The best writers know not to tell. Some of the best writers, write for the stage and create dramatic stories. Their skill is to show the audience just enough and leave all the rest open to interpretation.

My trip to London last week, took me first to Beyond Caravaggio at the National Gallery (national gallery) and to No Man's Land (nomanslandtheplay) in the evening. What a joy! What a treat to see two knights of British theatre! And what a story. Pinter gives a masterclass in the slow reveal, leaving the play open to interpretation on so many levels. His two old men are overly-fond of alcohol, and have a shared past and polarised literary careers. The only other characters are two parasitic con-artists who live with and off the wealthier writer, whose mental capacity is affected by drink and possibly early dementia. Who is likeable? Where do our sympathies lie? Pinter drip feeds the back-story. The successful writer, in a lucid moment, reveals himself to have been an arrogant cad. And is thoroughly unpleasant. Where now do our sympathies lie?
Apart from wanting to call social services to report the imprisonment of a vulnerable elderly man, I wanted to know what happened next. Would he slip into death after the prolonged hopelessness of his entrapment? Indeed is that what he deserves? Or could the two old men outwit the younger less educated wordsmiths and escape into a second after-no-man's-land life; freedom in a twilit heaven on earth? Pinter didn't fill in the gaps. A consummate story-teller, he knew just how many words to use; just how much to show and just how far he could push his audience's imagination.

Story-telling has its greats. They are the threads running through the corridors of our personal story libraries. Different greats for each of us, they enlighten and help to make us who we are.

One of my greats is AA Milne and his Bear of Very Little Brain. I am endlessly moved and cheered by his gentle stories. This quote makes me smile and perhaps sums up the muddled story-telling and words in this procrasti-ramble -

"I don't see much sense in that," said Rabbit. "No," said Pooh, humbly. "There isn't. But there was going to be when I began it. It's just that something happened to it along the way."

Happy 90th Birthday, Winnie the Pooh.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Something's missing. And a pedant in deep water with Canaletto.

According to Tate Modern -


I wonder if it's just me ... just me - the sufficiently pedantic one, who bothers to be bothered by this declaration? Everyone else simply walks on by. If they notice the words, perhaps they glance, read, shrug a 'yes, whatever' and walk on. Me - I glance, read and the words trigger an agitated avalanche; a silent screaming 'Whaaaaat?!'

Surely, something's missing.

Perhaps, a comma. Or any of the following: when, how, where, if, and, as. 

All would fit. Wouldn't they? Or am I alone in my nit-picking, pernickety little world; worrying what these words mean? What the intent was behind displaying them large above the brick wall of the iconic Tate? What they are meant to say? But fail to say. Perhaps, the point is that different people will read different things into them. If they bother to read them at all. I'm still bothered, though, about what they mean to me. And what they clearly don't mean? Or perhaps they are not being clear about not meaning anything? Am I'm trying to read something into what is essentially a meaning-free hoax? If the Tate's intention was to prick my ire once a fortnight, when I walk over the Millennium Bridge, it has certainly succeeded.

Inside my head, I see the words and groan, dipping into an resurgent OCD loop, as I start to juggle with the options

... if art changes, we change

and ... art changes if we change

and ... when art changes we change

and ... art changes when we change

and ... art changes how we change

Try the others. Inside your head ... where ... and ... as. All imply cause and effect - a nudge or a push or a shove depending how or when or where or if, that cause and effect occurred - art changes and we change.

But is the relationship necessarily that linear? That temporal? A time-line where one changes and then the other will change; later. What if change reflects a mutual dependence? Both change. Simultaneously. If the missing comma is inserted, like the fulcrum of a sea-saw the art and the us in we become dependent on each other; change in one causing an immediate change or effect in the other.
Put the comma in; it's suddenly brilliant.
Visually, simply and perfectly getting to the nub of the matter - art and life reflect a symbiosis that cannot be split. One depends on the other. Change one, change the other and evolve together. Life and the creative world joined. And balanced. They always have been. One cannot exist without the other.

Try replacing the comma with a full stop and watch as you blow the art and humanity synergy away: Art changes. We change.
The full stop rips the heart out of the relationship. Art changes ... who cares! ... We change too. Caring is the point. Man cares about his or her art. Art underlies our psyche, our history, our soul.

I know ... I know. I walk over the Millennium bridge a bit too early in the morning and my  brain is still under a duvet, dreaming of books and holidays and yesterday's garden bonfire and whether Littlest will remember the dates and details of the Battle of Bannockburn (she did!) and if Robert the Bruce was actually a murderer (he was!) and how any of us made it to the 21st century after the terror, pestilence, disease and poverty of history (we did!). Yes! Proper, early morning madness ... I know. But Tate Modern's four words woke me up. And were stilled when I found their missing comma.

Missing commas and words written high on an art gallery's wall are probably not going to provide a smooth transition to the pedant being in the water with Canaletto (see title). So, in something of a continuity blip and progressing in a rather wriggly line across London from a gallery celebrating modern art to one that, on the whole, takes a more classical approach, the procrastinating pedant arrives in front of the Canalettos at the National Gallery.

Canaletto - brief bio: lived 1697 - 1768, Italian, born in Venice. Painted for wealthy tourists. Had a workshop of artists producing paintings. Famous!

The crowded scene, the boats, the buildings, the light are all meticulously detailed and the overall composition viewed from a distance is mesmerising and rich in narrative. The water viewed up close is terrible.

Even when he nearly gets it right, he gets it wrong

beautiful bright light, accurately pulled reflections and in the foreground little white squiggles, carelessly drawn. So disappointing that I wish I hadn't gone to see them up close.

Water in paintings needs to be believable. Highlighting ripples with lines of white pain fails - it's as though Canaletto gave the painting above to an inexperienced junior artist, in his workshop, to finish. From a distance, a Canaletto is a magnificent Canaletto - perhaps, I should learn to stand back.

But ... contrast Canaletto's child-like waves with Constable's textured water in the ford of the River Stour

and the still water at Stratford Mill, rich in hue and complex in motion, reflecting the trees and the light-filled sky.

Constable painted water that would feel wet if you could reach out and touch it. Canaletto's foreground water would feel like peaked, grey, Royal icing spread on a grey cake; nothing more.

Monet, like Constable, achieves the full wet water look in a backwater of the river Seine, near Argenteuil. It is grey, swirling and luminsecent; water you could swim in and that would feel bitterly cold.

My favourite 'water artist', though, is Camille Pissarro. The National gallery has two of his paintings hanging side by side. In my non-artistic and humble opinion the one titled 'Boulevard Montmartre rainy morning 1897' is the best - rain in the sky and in the air and on the ground; water droplets everywhere convincingly portrayed. A wonderful wet watery painting. Which I was't allowed to photograph. You'll have to go and see it. It is worth seeing. Almost as good is this one - the same wet boulevard but now in winter. And photography was permitted!

I like quotes. I like quotes when they round off a piece of writing. I like these -

"A fine work of art has the power to silence the chatter in the mind and lift us to another place."
Robert McKee

"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun."

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sunset in pictures and a few words and a few quotes

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Albert Camus

Be my friend. Just take me for a walk. Please. Or I'll have to take myself for one. And then I won't have a friend -

Four-legged-friend discovered yesterday that he could hold his lead in his mouth. It happened by accident. There was something dangling at mouth level that hadn't been there before so what was a dog meant to do. It tasted leathery and smelt of friends' hands. Then, he appeared to realise what exactly it was that he had in his mouth. And having never done this before, he brought it to us looking for our hands, as if to say take it and take me for a walk. 
I thought you couldn't teach an old dog tricks. Four-legged-friend proved that wrong. Even if seven is not old old, it is pretty old in big-dog years.

While Four-legged-friend was happy to walk with a friend, Bertie Baggins was taken for a shimmy by Littlest. Oh yeah ...

Littlest who's never been one to stick to the common path - instead striding out across the road less travelled - the road not previously travelled by anyone, unless that anyone is a tractor driver.

In life, as in stomping across an actual field, 'If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.' Barak Obama

And the truest quote of all and the one that fuels this blog - 

'All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.' Friedrich Nietzsche

Shadow pictures; I'm always taking shadow pictures. They are more anonymous for the purposes of a blog and I think they are a little bit arty; is ethereal too big a jump - pictures that hint at the person without showing the person, that capture only their shadow - a fleeting, temporary but essentially unique and unchanging thing? These five long skinny figures are us stretched across the ploughed field - like the mysterious ebony Makonde figures of African sculptures - all leg and short body and interlacing togetherness.

Our shadows lengthened as the sun bit a chunk out of the horizon

Before setting (behind Littlest)

Sunset: word jumble that might be a poem or might just be a word jumble

Dragged below a distant hill and
in outstretched hand,
the dying sun -
blinking, burning bright - is
by hungry clouds once grey, now
in golden light.
Dreaming summer murmurations,
distant, dipping, earth-bound flock -
soaring, spinning, 
sudden dropping,
as a breaking wave 
on new bared soil;
a memory dancing briefly, 
skipping stirred up thoughts, then swiftly gone.
Fine ash of autumn stills 
with sudden sharpening 
winter chill.
And dimming light at dusk
sends our shadows running home.

One final quote on the subject of walking -

'If you are seeking creative ideas go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.' Raymond Inmon

Angels whisper at sunset too.