April 15th, 2013
In a couple of hours Cathy & i are setting off for Brittany (St Malo) via Poole... From St Malo to Roskof (spelling? ive only heard it spoken)... The other capn advises warm clothes. Jeans, jumper, good shoes : I dont have many options!!! Raincoat? Forget it!
Y'day bus ride to West Bay to see the Paul Jones exhibition at the great Sladers Yard gallery. Yes, it has a café too! Scones with jam & cream + hot choc, coffee etc But dont spread that around! I'm supposed to be shedding weight!
Paul Jones on a continuum with Nicholson, that is clarity, precision; but then the Tapies-like metallic, mixed-media patina throws the work somewhere else. I guess the Nicholson connection is the constructed abstracted landscape, and the sculptural aspect. Also the topographical element, internal & external map. Looking at a work such as this (and perhaps ANY work) I cant help but 'see' all of the associations as though enabled to review the lot!
Seems to me that West Bay has 'developed' somewhat since last visit [September/October, 12]; like the place is it's own now, not a bedraggled stop before Bridport. Loved the little harbour, and the dramatic cliff wall, and the big seas & spray like steam off the water.
John Anderson recommended S W Victorian coast as nearest to this cliff/sea/green apposition after I returned from late '80s English trip raving about Cornwall, Devon, Dorset coastline... remembered this & John himself as we watched the little kids dare the white seas catch them on the sand!
So, folks, off to Brittany, and probably out of touch til Thursday when we're back to Weymouth again... Salut!
May 1st, '13
Scoured EVOLVER [Wessex Arts magazine] for likely shows to see and find Lucas Weschke exhibiting at the Bridport Arts Centre... Bernard has told me abt occasional meetings with L W in Weymouth... I knew the name Weschke as of Karl Weschke of St Ives school associations [died 2005, German expat, settled in Cornwall, intimate of Wynter, Hilton, WS Graham et al]... Sure enough Lucas is K W's son...
Contrast of hard, sober lines & apparently whimsical figures tho' the titles suggest o/wise... Exhibition in foyer, 'continues in cafe'... thank goodness we didnt have to peer over coffee & cake patrons to see the linocuts! On the other hand, the large upstairs gallery perhaps too cold & cavernous for L W's pieces...
PS : May 8th,'13; Heathrow to Bangkok
Captain speaking : 10 hours &15 minutes flight...
There's a general spreading out from allotted to what're perceived as better seats. Christy allows himself gleeful chuckle sufficient to alert jovial ghosts though not fellow passengers. Historically aching legs now have 3 seat spread to flex in.
12.52, here we go, here we go, here we go... turning, turning, following American Airlines flight to the runway...
Altitude 735 feet hitting the cloud but English fields discernible...
Lost in the fog, says Ed, where blue is sea or sky, archipelagos on high. And Christy spies the drinks trolly though Ed it is who calls it like it is : even better with G&T, he snaps.
From his angle peering up the aisle, Christy sees gowned nurses with portable drips...
At 19,000 feet see the leaving of England, darling strands of beach, the Channel, encroaching the breadth of Europe. The bumf says Eddie...
May 19, '13
I'll take advantage of the Boswell Festival's focus by thinking aloud, at a tangent, about a contemporary writing that's in & out of (i say 'in & out of' because 'simultaneously' not quite right) biography, autobiography, memoir, history & commentary. 50 years years ago Mailer's Advertisements for Myself wowed me; 40 years ago Hugh Kenner's The Pound Era, with its wonderfully novelistic beginning; also the many forms of the New Journalism... Then there's Iain Sinclair's writing, notably his John Claire book... and a book i'm currently reading, David Caddy's Cycling After Thomas & the English...
In fact, now that ive begun this survey it's as though the 'in & out of''s more the rule than the rarity! In this time of which we're writers, 'in & out of' , with its begging of categories, sits happily beside pure biography & history... Local examples would include our friends Robert Kenny (The Lamb Enters the Dreaming) & Evelyn Juers (House of Exile)...
May 21st, '13
Recall late 60s, copy of the Village Voice at Betty Burstall's La Mama cafe-theatre in Faraday Street, Carlton, --at least i think it was Village Voice? --could have been I.T.? --no, Village Voice --and there was a pic & article about Jim Morrison & Michael McClure --Morrison staying with McClure in latter poet's loft. Mention this as important music/poetry connection in our casual education them thar times. Years later realized that McClure & Manzarek were touring --in Europe i think. Manzarek's novel about Morrison, The Poet in Exile (pub Thunders Mouth, 2001) has its moments; "You son-of-a-bitch," I said, 'Don't tell me the rumours are true." (Morrison replies, "I haven't heard the rumours.") Retta reminds me, singing "When the music's over, turn out the light..." Except it isnt ever over!!! Ray Manzarek, RIP
May 23rd, '13
Exactly as Mandy Pannett says, the kind of thing i also love! Must see if i can order via Ingram for Collected Works Bookshop...
"Original and fascinating" a review of: Cycling After Thomas And The English...
22 May 2013
Mandy Pannett "wordshopper"
"This is the kind of travel writing I love. Not only is its journey inspired by Edward Thomas, one of my favourite poets, but David Caddy's imaginative counterpart to the linear route he takes is a lateral one, full of anecdotes and observations, everyday tidbits, reflections on literature, history, geography and nature - a broad and intriguing canvas. Robert Frost's poem `The Road Not Taken' is based on the many long walks he took with Edward Thomas and the way his friend would try to show him lots of things at once, all in different directions. There is something of this outspreading, this reaching out to grasp the essence of things, in this book. In the chapter on Salisbury, for instance, the author, stands on a spot where Constable painted and describes what he sees, but the next paragraph begins `I could cycle north west to Salisbury Plain where Wordsworth walked' and in the paragraph after that he muses on the fact that `I could cycle north and east a few miles along the A30 to Figsbury Rings.' Edward Thomas would have understood such dilemmas very well.
The quest (which is how the journey seems to me, a quest that is both physical and spiritual) begins with the author's desire to repeat the poet's travels by cycling round parts of southern England. At the same time there is a wish to pin down the intangible and find what it means to be `peculiarly English'. In this context, throughout the book, certain key words recur: heritage, topography, local, identity, tradition, freedom. We are offered no definitive conclusions, no answers to the questions, only hints and suggestions and the joys of exploration.
`Cycling After Thomas' was inspired by Edward Thomas' `In Pursuit of Spring' (1914). David Caddy's motivation is clear: `When I reread this montage of stories, quotations, voices, literary criticism, digressions and odd juxtapositions, I knew I had to emulate the journey and see what was left and who had subsequently lived along the route.' From this reading begins the bicycle journey that starts and ends in Dorset with many digressions and stopping off points along the way.
There is a wealth of material in this book, too much to cover here. Like David Caddy and like Edward Thomas I could say I'll refer to this, I could talk about that, I might discuss a comment or digress to an anecdote - but since that would be distracting and haphazard I'll just mention parts of the book that interest me most - possibly because they take place in areas I know well. I love the chapter about Box Hill where Jane Austen sets the picnic in `Emma', the discussion on Vaughan Williams' `The Lark Ascending' together with the whole background and roots of folk music, and the wonderful chapter on Winchester where Keats began his `Ode to Autumn' and where, near the water meadows, `by squinting and removing all the cars and car parks there is still a strong sense of the natural world present.'
There is more, lots more. This book entices me, as I'm sure it will other readers, to follow the quest for myself."
I dont have Edward Thomas's In Pursuit of Spring, and since David described it to me, in the Dolphin couple of weeks ago, I've been intrigued, but have found two extracts in a Thomas anthology i do own, Edward Thomas on the Countryside : A selection of his prose & verse, ed Roland Gant (Faber, '77)... Read them last night before sleeping : lovely stuff! And can imagine the encouragement David felt for his own heightened reportage from ET's noting & quoting.
June 1st, '13
Thank you Andrew Kingsford for yr tip : I regret to say that if i have even heard of Raphael Samuel it's only the merest echo in my thick head...
[See : Bishopsgate Institute - Samuel, Raphael - The Raphael Samuel Archive www.bishopsgate.org.uk Raphael Samuel Archive at the Bishopsgate Library]
The context for Andrew's suggestion was my description of conversations with David Caddy last month in which I wondered about the reception David's book, Cycling After Thomas & the English, might have received in England. In my mind was a sense of a general avoidance by sophisticated criticism of questions of 'identity', characterizing it as passe at best & more often a dangerous distraction. In the conversation with DC, he confirmed his tradition as Christopher Hill, EP Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm... Andrew agreed there was a left-wing shrugging off of 'identity' but not all them, he said : Thompson, Raymond Williams, and crucially Raphael Samuel...
OK, let's get ready to read!
A Melbourne connection with the generality of the above is an argument i began shaping in response to Waleed Aly's opinion piece in The Age (May 17,'13), headlined "Tory Politics : pact to the rafters in contradiction" & sub-headed "Tea Party in the US, the UKIP in Britain --Abbott better beware of the rising attraction of conservative splitters"... It seemed to me, though interesting, that Aly's piece was misleading insofar as its marxist or at least economic template prohibits any mention of questions of identity expressed nationally though deeply, personally experienced. I'm not across Tea Party or (Bob Katter's) Australia Party agendas like Waleed Aly, but have followed the discussion in England for several decades and recognize UKIP as a player in an utterly proper & necessary cultural questioning. (Questioning as critically remembering & celebrating...) At one time the contrast was with the USA --for example the discussion of British & American English (WW1 to the present) as prism for shifting authority (--poetry's foremost in this poet's mind but economic & political power's caught in the same wash). Ever since Britain's entry into the EEC, 'Europe''s been the necessary issue, and certainly what most exercises the minds of any number of people in Britain, let alone UKIP... This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and needless to say my response to Aly (probably a book and as much autobiography as political critique) hasnt left my notebook!
In his article, Waleed Aly's political-economic analysis contends, "We're entering a new phase in which the Western world is no longer globalisation's biggest winner. Bob Katter's constituency have long been globalisation's losers. (...) Katter and UKIP are, in some muddled way, attempting to capture what conservative politics lost when it got radically liberal : an abiding concern for the local, and privileging of the local, and a rejection of political programs that bring huge structural change." Aly's phrase 'muddled way' perhaps acknowledges the establishment's cliche depiction 'loony', but that aside, he's got the equation right : globalization & the local. And in the heart of the local is the cultural, the identity question. Not at all sure what parallels can be drawn along that line between Australia & Britain. The people ive talked to, as recently as a few weeks ago, are concerned abt sovereignty vis a vis the EEC's bureaucracy. None of them have yet voted for UKIP! Their's is a concern on behalf of a 21st century multi-ethnic Britain against a version of the global emanating from Brussells wch depersonalises & decontextualises a society, an economy, a culture... I'm at one with them in a happy, whole-hearted struggle for particularity against abstraction! Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....
From a review of Raphael Samuel and relating to my interest :
"Theatres of Memory: Volume 1. Past and Present in Contemporary Culture
[Verso, 1994, 479 pages] [Review from Political Science, ?'94]
The idea that the past is a plaything of the present, or a 'metafiction', is only now beginning to disturb the tranquillity of professional historians, but for some twenty years it has been a commonplace of epistemological criticism, and a mainspring of experimental work in literature and the arts. Thus in 'magical realism' or 'modern Gothic' the fairy tale can appear as the latest thing; while in the visual arts, futurist installations offer themselves as parodies of Old Masters. 'Back to the future' is also a leitmotiv in commodity marketing and design - something discussed here under the heading of 'Retrochic' - while in Britain, as in other advanced capitalist societies, conservation has been the cutting edge of the business recolonization of the inner city.
According to critics of the heritage industry the current obsession with the past signals not a return to tradition but the exhaustion of history's grand narratives. The postmodern condition, so the argument runs, is one where the future has spectacularly parted company from the past. Nostalgia is the sigh of the historically orphaned, heritage a symptom of national decay.
In this book - the first of a trilogy - Raphael Samuel takes issue with the heritage baiters. He offers an alternative genealogy of resurrectionism, relating it to the environmentalist movements of our time. He argues that we live in an expanding historical culture, one which is newly alert to the evidence of the visual, and which is reconnecting the study of landscape and townscape to that of the natural world. It is also, he argues, more democratic than earlier versions of the national past, and much more hospitable to hitherto stigmatized minorities. The volume is prefaced with a long essay on unofficial knowledge and has an Afterword on 'allegories of the real'. "
Hmmm. Well, we'll see!