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.