Saturday 3 January 2015

A smile from a veil

Earlier in the week I was seized with a sudden curiosity to look up someone whom I had gone to school with, whom I shall refer to by his initials, in this instance DBS. DBS was a strange fellow, and I was never ever quite sure where I was with him. When it came to languages, he was one of the few boys alongside me who chose to pursue his studies in Latin, yet he seemed to prefer to copy extracts from the Penguin translation of Tacitus to the actual text which we were presented with. Also he would exploit my friendship and (hoped for friendship). He didn't bully me in the strictest sense of the word, but he took advantage, knowing when he was on to a good thing and I, in my naive attempts at forming and retaining friendships went along with it for a number of years. In the end, over a game of cards where I was being cheated and being called various unkind names with other boys I considered friends, the straw finally broke the camel's back and I got up, threw my cards down (or maybe at them) and I finally had the strength to walk away. I ended my alleged friendships there and then and an irreversible chasm was forever built between us. In some ways I think to this day it was one of the bravest things I have ever done in my life.

As my friends who know me well will understand, the album 'Wish You Were Here' by Pink Floyd is one of my favourite albums of all time (although it isn't imbued with as much sentiment as 'The Division Bell') I have often felt that some of the words in the wonderful songs found therein could almost be autobiographical.

'Come on you target for faraway laughter'; 'So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.'; and '(and) you didn't like school, and you know you're nobody's fool'

So imagine my surprise when I discover in my quest to find DBS, who to my knowledge was a solicitor, was in fact dead.  He had died two years ago. Of cancer.  He was 38.

Normally such news would surprise me or even dare I say it upset me, and yet I felt nothing. Not glee nor sadness, but only indifference.  Not even his relative youth made me feel a pang of remorse and the nearest I felt to any emotion I must confess was to say to myself "Good riddance to you, you northern bastard!". For this was someone far worse than the mean spirited boys who had bullied me by abusing me and by hurting me, and had kicked and punched me in the underpass on their final day but the fact that DBS and my so called friends had been there with me and left me to be hurt, humiliated and to suffer. The final insult was his greatest act of cowardice - where he accused me of vile calumny, in fact it had been his so called best friend who said it, and punched me in my back (whilst it was turned) and tried to push me around. I cannot recall what I did in retort, probably nothing, but this tells you of the low cowardice he was capable of.

In the last week or so I have been traipsing down Memory Lane in some way or another but focusing as best I can on the good things. Watching documentaries on YouTube about the Voyager missions (the Solar System, it's moons, etc fascinated me when I was 15-18), listening to music, re-reading books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, and playing computer games like Atic Atac and Twin Kingdom Valley.  I could even remember my way through some of the mazes, etc and I hadn't played the games in 25 years !  I also talked about the Romanovs and their disappearance/murder and remembered a good number of the books, facts, etc.  How strange the memory is...

To conclude on a positive note, although I admit one with a slightly bittersweet taste, I sign off with the closing words of 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond'.

'Come on you boy child, you winner and loser,
Come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine!'

Pink Floyd: Welcome to Machine

Thy dawn, o Master of the World, thy dawn...

A new year has started and it has been a considerable number of months, despite my promises to myself to re-start my writings, since I last wrote anything, never mind anything of any thought, length or substance. So here we are, 2015 has begun, the dawn of a new year and I am sitting here listening to Jim Morrison intoning his "waiting for the sun" - an apt metaphor for (hopefully!) a new and positive year after 2014, a year of mixed blessings and curses in perhaps uneven measure.

I have chosen to open this entry with the lines uttered by Diana Rigg (as Contessa Teresa - the doomed wife of James Bond) to Telly Savalas (a subdued Ernst Stavro Blofeld) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  I recall teaching myself the little poem by watching the video cassette I had of the film (taped off TV) and writing down the words, and narrating them to them myself and then attempting to recite them in sink with Miss Rigg.  Other poems I tried to learn from this time included various sonnets by Shakespeare, 'Kubla Khan' by Coleridge and 'The Listeners' by Walter de la Mare.  As well as various other bits and pieces along the way as well as various pop songs. So perhaps, owing to the music I am listening to, etc I am enjoying something of a nostalgic trip to my late, post school teens.

For those uninitiated, the poem in full (and taken from an adapted version of 'The Caliph's Dawn) runs as follows:

Thy dawn, O Master of the World, thy dawn;
For thee the sunlight creeps across the lawn,
For thee the ships are drawn down to the waves,
For thee the markets throng with myriad slaves,
For thee the hammer on the anvil rings,
For thee the poet of beguilement sings.

Diana Rigg in OHMSS - looking at her best (!)
 One of the most positive things to come out of 2014 was to be able to add to my library of books. A haunt I enjoy frequenting is Any Amount of Books, one of the best and few surviving second hand bookshops in London. An unexpected treasure I found there was a library of books on illuminated manuscripts which included a number of facsimile editions released in the 1970s by Thames and Hudson, and the American publisher, George Braziller.  I confess to having paid five separate visits to AAoB over a fortnight and I came out with a few more editions each time.  By the time I had exhausted the shelves of any books that looked interesting, leaving behind some old tatty editions, I had nearly a yard of books on illumination, as well as a few other goodies including a copy of 'Venetian Colour: Marble, Mosaic, Painting, and Glass: 1250-1550' by Paul Hills, which was roughly the same price on Amazon Marketplace in reasonable condition, as I had paid for a nice copy and most all the illuminated manuscript books.  Over the year I have also managed to pick various other books, and add to my repertoire of interests within the Mediaeval and Renaissance period, including various collection catalogues, some monographs, and some difficult to find books at good prices. The last find of 2014 was Peter Humfrey's 'The Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice'. Here's hoping 2015 inspires a similar sense of bibliophilic inspiration (and location).

More later...and soon.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Renaissance and Rebirth

Finally, now that summer (what summer, some might ask) seems to be nearly over and as my 40th (!) birthday approaches I felt the need to return to my writing and to endevour to gain the creative bent once more.  Not easy when the weather has been so ghastly and has, in all fairness, impinged seriously upon my fraught attempts to be creative in either an academic manner on my other blog page (which is in desperate need of some sort of writing otherwise I will look like I have packed it away with mothballs and all, and it be allowed to grow tired and dusty) or to gush forth thoughts on here in an all too frequent and seemingly lugubrious manner.  Such is the way of things...

I confess and profess that my absence has been part due to the usual antics that winter and mournful, grey skies seem to bring and prevail upon my well-being.  The winter this year seemed to be be merciless, unflinching and never ending so much so that when it was finally May; well, Spring seemed to have been bypassed altogether and Mother Nature decided to give us  slow, infrequent bursts of intermittent sunshine (which in the end doubled up for a feeble attempt at Summer).  It confused me, it confused my system and even the plants and trees seemed confused by this turn of events.  My free time therefore has not been spent enjoying sporadic trains of thought nor creativity but merely, mostly a "chugging along" with life and all its slings and bows.  

It hasn't been all bad, I promise.  I just haven't felt creatively enthusiastic nor enthusiastically creative.  In between the quotidian humdrum of simply living life, I have allowed my brain to be occasionally stimulated and my cultural senses to be re-awakened.  In terms of cultural jaunts I have been jolting my brain back to life - be it by going to an occasional exhibition at the National Gallery (such as 'Barocci'), at the Royal Academy (such as 'Manet' or the acclaimed 'Bronze'), or the Queen's Galleries (a handful of visits to 'The Northern Renaissance' to indulge a craving for Holbein, for Schöngauer, for Durer and Memling) even a fleeting jaunt to the Louvre to see 'Late Raphael'; a drive to Haughton near King's Lynn; or endevouring to engage the eardrums in some live music once again whereby Stephen and I attended a performance of 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at Glyndeborne.  

Glyndeborne itself has a wonderful feel and unique otherworldly charm about it; being able to polish one's shoes and wear a waistcoat and black tie, enjoy a picnic and walk around the lake and in the gardens which surround the opera house are quite inspiring.  There is, as there will always be at such places, a slight air of pretension and pomposity by those who attend not with the intent of enjoying the music but to brag that they 'were there'.  This certainly rings true (in a carillon worthy of a great cathedral) would be the apparent, nay obvious, intent of a certain, particular (and particulière) individual (of old) who we encountered.  She was and is filled with such self-import at being there, dressed in shabby cheap (not shabby chic for sure) and whilst others possess elegance - she is  possessing of all the looks, charm and marginally more teeth than the Stygian witches combined.  Certainly Glyndeborne seemed rampant with Graeae in the truest sense of the word.  But one does not go to look at the audience otherwise it truly would be fifty shades of grey.  In conclusion, and on a positive note, to sum up, the actual work briefly - well, one couldn't deny the music was wonderful but I did question the rousing applause given by the audience to the performance delivered by the Composer in the piece (hammy would be generous and kind) who rather resembled k.d. lang (and mirrored her in the second act - where she/he shouldn't have been there at all!); and as for Ariadne, she was so enormous I considered a re-titling of 'Ariadne as Naxos' might have been more apropros.  An iffy production by any standards, but a pleasant evening nonetheless.

Outside of such highly cultural jaunts which have been few and far between, life has been quiet.  I have been enjoying adding to my library of books by exploring remaindered, or secondhand bookshops and charity shops to add every now and then something or other.  As I have a small cornucopia of mediaeval literary tidbits and, as such books (or commentaries on them) are difficult to find, I have leapt forward in time somewhat to the Renaissance (one of my first loves in artistic terms) and been seeking out monographs on paintings, or on particular artists, or even exhibition catalogues from this time rather than far too many generalist non-specific works.  I initially considered limiting myself just the the Northern Renaissance but have decided to more wide reaching although I admit that of all the periods that seem to resonate within my soul, I am finding myself especially drawn to the fifteenth century, with an occasional foray back into the thirteenth and fourteenth, and also the sixteenth.  In between my quests for literary gems, I do enjoy looking for books for others - if I can find them.  I used to sense and now recognise Stephen's frustration at not finding much on his chosen period - that is Baroque and Rococo with his leaping forward into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  I have managed to find him a few special treats I am proud, not least one on an American 20th century architect which I can safely say, he never expected to find, new or otherwise, in this country. 

So, here we are - a brief catch up, a somewhat succinct explication as to my absence over this hiatus since 2012.  I shall boast myself, attempting to find strength and desire, and fulfillment of creative yearning allowing my inner self to sum up the inspiration to scribble some pensées;  in the vague hope life shall start to prove more stimulating and I can allow my pen to run away with me, once more, once more.... 

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Un anno dopo...

Nearly a year has passed since I lost doodled my thoughts and ideas on here and even longer on 'Echoes From the Gnosis'.  Time to rectify the situation, methinks, me hopes.  So hopefully more pontificating upon the quotidian existence or streams of thought like a sixth river (though my mind often feels like it has drunk from the Lethe and savoured Lotus fruit-pie) - and to flow through the Erebus that is my mind, hopefully bypassing Tartarus and who knows, maybe a whistle stop tour to the Isles of the Blessed via the Elysium Fields before safely arriving upon Gaia's shores once more.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Talent and Trauma

In the Huffington Post

What trauma and angst the poor, young KK must have endured; for an older man to be looking at her in a "pervy" way.  After all, anyone male - heterosexual or bisexual, who has ever looked at a young woman with an attractive face or figure,  must surely be branded as being perverted and disgusting.  Every man who has appreciated a woman for looking attractive is now automatically to be dubbed a sex fiend, for any woman can surely not, nay, MUST not to be looked on as attractive, sensual, and beautiful. 

I am only hope that the payment which Ms. K was paid by a British glossy magazine of such fine quality (much akin to the ones who published the photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge enjoying private moments with her husband) for the story of such harrowing abuse to have been looked at by this arch fiend in a "pervy way" will pay for the treatment she will clearly require to have had to deal with such humiliation and indignation at such a young and vulnerable age.  Such talent, such star quality, and such celebrity as Ms. K is recognized as possessing in the Fame Game surely does not deserve to have endured such a vile miscreant and his conduct especially when she is of such national importance.   Not that she could possibly be seen as relishing in dragging the name of a dead man who made many millions for charity through the mud, nor heaven forbid, perhaps using the opportunity to make a tawdry penny when her own star quality is so dim as to be almost indistinguishable.  No, of course not.  But the trauma goes deeper.  Savile also "had that look about him".  Her powers of perception stagger disbelief.  Clearly Ms. K in her youth had ability to identify criminals, especially ones so guilty of such heinous crimes as those perpetrated by the late Jimmy Savile.  Perhaps she might be better placed as an "expert witness" rather than being the once, oh so talented chanteuse she once was, whose albums and hit singles are known and appreciated by many throughout the United Kingdom and beyond.  Perhaps Ms. K and her astute, perceptive nature could be used to pinpoint such terrible criminals, including terrorists, and murderers.

A pathetic attempt to re-ignite celebrity status?!  Who on Earth could think such a thing?!  One can but hope that Girls Aloud, having newly reformed, shall be appearing on stage in a variety of fetching abayas, hijabs, burkas and veils, just in case anyone in their expansive audiences should think of looking at them 'in a pervy way'. 


Of late, there has been rather a lot of escaping into the past for me.  By my own admission this has been, at times, rather tumultuous in nature and despite the occasional outburst of tears, it has been rather calming and soothing as well. This escapism has ranged from watching a film - My Week With Marilyn - which despite my initial reservations over watching Kenneth Branagh, an actor I find most awfully over-rated, playing a rather credible Lawrence Olivier to an excellent performance by Michelle Williams who captured some of the magic that was Marilyn Monroe, from the ridiculously ephemeral turn by Emma Watson (she of that irritating franchise that is Harry Potter) to both Judi Dench and Eddie Redmayne; fine actors who evoked the period in which they were cast.  A film which I must confess I did not expect to enjoy but found myself doing so.

Another foray has been into my own past.  Thinking and pondering over things and I readily admit, this has been the cause of much of my tears over the last couple of days.  Perhaps, as usual, too much soul searching and over analysis on my part - unable to change things yet somehow seeking to understand, digest and move forward. This isn't always easy; especially when so much of the present is undone, stressed, seemingly angst ridden and confused. My life is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts, a change if you will.  Some of those in my life are aware of this, some are oblivious and others still remain ignorant; not wishing to know, understand, or perhaps even just turning a blind eye to all the proceedings that are going on.  I have been reflecting somewhat upon past mistakes, errors of judgment and misfortunes, as well as my own stupidity and gradually - I hope, somehow, I am turning my back on such events and their outcomes which have seemingly impinged upon my life.  In short, although at times I feel close to the edge of a metaphysical, metaphorical abyss; I don't want to fall in, and have a nervous breakdown before the age of forty.

So, this afternoon, I went to the Dulwich Picture Gallery.  Slightly outside of my usual "comfort zone" if you will, in terms of both the art and period I know and understand.  Having been dubbed both a "Renaissance man" and a "mediaevalist" in recent times (both compliments glad received); I chose to spend an afternoon in the company of artists such as Poussin, Gainsborough and Rubens.   This might seem to those who know me best as being rather a daunting undertaking, and certainly rather alien to my being to say the least.  In terms of art, despite the occasional and rather daring foray into more modern works such as Uglow, Modigliani or Klimt, I rarely step beyond the late sixteenth century.  Yet earlier, I found myself transfixed unexpectedly by the glory of some of the works which I was witness to, and despite the crowds around me - found myself largely able to shut the majority of the other spectators out and concentrate upon the glorious spectacles in their gilt frames in front of me.  For me, it was like discovering the glory and beauty of a whole new world, and something which rather ridiculously I had overlooked.  For those who have long since dismissed art they do not understand, I say to them, open your eyes and look, and your ears and listen.  For indeed, there is beauty all around.  Not to say that I am going to start listening to rap, hiphop, or dance music - nor appreciate graffiti (or 'street artists') and start to sing its praises but maybe, just maybe as I approach my forties next year, I find myself being more accepting, appreciative and open minded; lifting the blinkers and enlarging my scope and panorama.  Even at times when I feel that I am so set in my ways, I enjoy to be pleasantly surprised and discover something new.

Le Triomphe de David - by Nicolas Poussin -  in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

At present, this seems to be a time of καιρός, hence the heading.  Rhetorically speaking, kairos is
a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.  I am not there yet, yet I feel that moment beckons and is close at hand.  I can only hope that I do not miss it, and the opportunity does not bypass me (once again?).

Friday 28 September 2012

What lies beyond our memory's confines.

Recently, I have been discussing all sorts of everything with a close friend and we came to discussing a lost Holbein that came up for sale a few years ago in London.  The work, a painting of Thomas Wyatt the Younger, has proved contentious over the years with various scholars over the years arguing over the veracity of the picture.  Certainly, Sir Roy Strong, the leading art historian of Tudor and Jacobean portraiture considered it to be a Holbein, however, Dr. Susan Foister of the National Gallery has declined to pass comment upon the picture.  To me, a mere enthusiast with admittedly no training nor qualification in the history of art, but only saddled with an enthusiasm for mediaeval culture, literature, art and architecture have read the Weiss catalogue in which the portrait is illustrated. With this, and having read various works on Holbein, I cast my own thoughts and opinions. I too, in my humble opinion, believe this painting to be a true Holbein.  The reasons vary from my understanding of Holbein's work to an understanding of his style, technique and some of the more complex reasonings presented by professional art historians as to it's veracity.  Certainly it is atypical of his work in terms of construct, but Holbein was, in many ways, avant garde without always conforming to strict confining regimen of his day.  Surely it should be a matter of celebration to have re-discovered a work by one of the greatest artists in the 16th century in England rather than condemn it to obscurity.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger - a lost Holbein (?)

Currently I am reading The Book of Lost Books by Stuart Kelly, who has captured my interest and indulged my fascination in lost works by telling his history of literature and poetry through a series of chapters named after a relevant author contemporary to the period which he is discussing.  Equally so, it will be hard for even the most hardened bibliophile to not feel his or her eyes becoming moist at the tremendous sense of loss we have endured throughout history.  Furthermore, how much of the basis of our understanding of our times, both ancient and more recent, are based upon guesswork, assumption, speculation and possibly the element of hope that exists deep within our souls - part of that very essence which makes us human.  The ecstatic sense of discovery, when a lost work of those who came and went before is rediscovered; and how, through that rediscovery, whether read or realised or even recognised, by the many or the very few, can reach out and touch our lives.  This can be in relation to a lost painting, such as one of the beauty of the Holbein above, or a lost poem by Pindar which was found torn up in the scrap heaps in Oxyrhynchus.  Such discoveries should enthrall as much as inspire us, for they are glimpses into our past which (sadly) can never be revisited in both body and soul -  only through speculation, imagination, reconstruction and an endeavour at understanding can they be, albeit tentatively, recreated.