Friday, August 18, 2017

BLIND SPOT

To the South Bank last night to hear Teju Cole talk about his new book Blind Spot.

I went with Jean Morris, Rachel Rawlins and Dave Bonta, all of us old friends of Teju's, part of a group of about a dozen bloggers who met online around 2003, when blogging was a new, uncrowded and exciting platform. Somehow we found each other's blogs via common interests in reading, writing, art, ourselves, seeing and interpreting the world through rainbow-coloured glasses. Then we met in real life, in New York, in London, and over the years followed each other's lives and work.

Teju Cole's career took off with Every Day is for the Thief in 2007, soaring steadily ever since and there's no doubt at all that he's headed for the stratosphere. Unsurprisingly, fame hasn't changed him a bit and I mean that in a good way. His warmth, humour and insightfulness are always genuine and of-the-moment. When he answers an interviewer's questions he takes his time, thinking on his feet, coming up with answers which you know are born right then and there. This is a quality I particularly appreciate when so many public utterances, on any subject, are so often calculated soundbites, selfie salestalk or rehashed re-heated rehearsed rhetoric.


Teju Cole and interviewer, Royal Festival Hall, 17 August 2017

Teju Cole, Royal Festival Hall, 17 August 2017

Photo by Teju Cole from Blind Spot

Clouds above the Thames, from the Royal Festival Hall, 17 August 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A HANDSHAKE

I was in Costa this afternoon paying for my coffee at the counter. A man who had been sitting at a table facing the entrance comes up to me and shakes my hand politely. I look at him, wondering if I know him. I don't. He sits down again.

I take my coffee and sandwich and sit at a table towards the back where I can observe him. He's a small, thin, balding man with glasses, nothing remarkable about him, except that he suddenly breaks into a recitation in a high, sing-song voice. I can't make out the words but it sounds like a multiplication table that a classroom of children might recite in unison. The man repeats exactly the same refrain every ten minutes or so, the palms of his hands resting flat on the table, as an obedient schoolboy might do, sitting up with straight back. He's not agitated but calm and concentrated on his ritual, looking into the distance. 

I thought he might go up to other people who enter the cafe and shake their hands but he doesn't. I seem to be the only one he chose for that gesture.

Obviously the man has mental problems. I feel enormous compassion, almost affection for him. I imagine the reasons why he ended up like this - perhaps he was beaten in school or at home for not keeping up with the others... or perhaps... There's no way I can know his story. I wish I could give him a hug but that might not be what he needs. I don't do anything at all.

A rage overwhelms me about those parents or other adults who abuse children in so many ways, unaware or not caring that they may be wrecking their lives forever. Those mothers or fathers I often see in supermarkets slapping and shouting and berating their little kid for some minor misdemeanor, or for nothing at all.

By the time I finish my coffee and sandwich the man is gone. I'll never know his story. But he did shake my hand.

Monday, August 07, 2017

BIRTHDAY

Born at midnight on this date long long ago in some distant galaxy.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

MORE AUTO AND BIO

Another short update to the autobio. I'm just going to keep adding to it in small chunks like this rather than wait until I've got many more pages.

Painting in T's kitchen

Monday, July 31, 2017

AUTOBIO UPDATE

Have added part 25 to the autobio and also altered parts 21-22. There's so much editing to do and so much digging into the pile of old diaries, photos etc. that I can only proceed at snail pace and in short installments.

One of the difficulties is to decide how confessional to be and I'm hopeless at making up my mind about this. How to be a censor/editor of one's own life? Any advice from you writers out there?

There are links to each installment on the starting page so you can click on wherever you left off, if you've been there before:

Sunday, July 30, 2017

VERY STRANGE

The following incident took place on 25th July. I described it on Facebook where it elicited quite a few kind comments, concerned that this might mean I was having a stroke, or a detached retina, or some other variety of disaster. They urged me to get to A&E asap. All of which was perfectly plausible and sensible but instead I went to Google and found an explanation which fitted my experience precisely. I had witnessed an Entoptic Phenomenon  and fascinating it was too. I have had similar visual experiences before but never as startling as this one.

Couldn't sleep last night, drank coffee after dinner, foolish. Stayed up writing until 3 or 4 am then went to bed. Pulled the sheet over my head to hide from daylight, closed my eyes, couldn't sleep. Opened my eyes. OMG what am I looking at?

A dense black and white pattern, like and unlike flowers or insects, slowly moving, pulsating, not going anywhere but contained, like something observed under a microscope, thin fronds around the edges gently swaying. I'm looking at this with my eyes open, not asleep, lying on my right side, right cheek pressed against the pillow (thin pillow, better for the back) left hand under the sheet. I move the hand to see if the 'vision' will disappear. It doesn't. But what the hell is it? Sort of beautiful but also scary. Why is it moving? An optical illusion, a trick of the light? I bring my hand closer and now the hand metamorphoses, turns into a pulsating pattern of dark and light layers, the solidity of the hand is gone, as if it was never there, but the moving, floating layers of plasma remain. 

I'm astounded,  I raise my head up and look around the room - full daylight, everything normal. After a while I manage to get a few hours sleep. When I wake up, I put my head under the sheet to see if the phenomenon is still there but more like a reconstruction of light effects.

Here's a Youtube video explaining the phenomenon scientifically in great detail which is probably more than we want to know but interesting nonetheless.

Friday, July 21, 2017

HEART BRAKE

I'm working slowly on updating the autobio. But meanwhile, nuggets of poem-like things suddenly pop into my head. I might or might not illustrate them. Here's the latest.

HEART BRAKE

That one
wears his heart on his heart
like a badge.
It says
THIS IS NOT A HEART.


But if you believe it
and turn away
the badge stabs
its sword
into his heart
and he cries.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

STOLEN FLOWERS

You gotta love a man
who brings you flowers
little white ones
cut from a neighbour's hedge
with nail scissors
he carries for this purpose.

A passing taxi driver
saw him doing it
and he was ashamed.
You gotta love a man
like that.


INTERNET CRASH

Internet connection went down for nearly 48 hours and it was like having a limb cut off.

No it wasn't. That's a wild and foolish exaggeration. It was a damn nuisance and of course I assumed it was all my fault, my computer's fault, and everything was going to crash. Moreover there was spectacular thunder and lightning last night.

So I backed up everything to my external hard drive, just in case apocalypse was at hand. Hard drives survive apocalypses, right?

Back to normal now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

HELLO


Some sounds I made can be heard here.

And some moving pictures, already posted before, are assembled here.

INS and OUTS

A non-sequitur occurred to me. Here it is, for want of something more relevant.

INS and OUTS

When couples break up
it's often because of an in
or a whole list of ins
for example:


Infidelity
Inequality
Inattention
Insensitivity
Incomprehension
Inflexibility
Intolerance
Insecurity
In-laws


And when they look for a new love
they simply delete the ins
so their wish list
looks like this:

Fidelity
Equality
Attention
Sensitivity
Comprehension
Flexibility
Tolerance
Security
Optional in-laws

MORE POETS

On Thursday night upstairs at the City Pride pub Katy Evans-Bush and friends celebrated the launch of her truly marvellous poetry pamphlet Broken Cities. She is one of the winners of this year's Poetry Business competition and Astrid Alben and John Clegg joined her to read from their own new work.

I was happy to be there and to meet a few faces I'd only seen on Facebook before. Unfortunately the roar of trains outside the pub window blurred my already dodgy hearing and I had put the aids away because wearing them makes the world invade my head like Genghis Khan's army.

Never mind - I read the poems live on the page and the poets' voice spoke to me.
And I took some photos.


Katy Evans-Bush

John Clegg
Tom Deveson in foreground. I don't know the others' names.

Astrid Alben





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

POETS AT PHOENICIA

Ramshackle, unpretentious, seriously attentive ambiance and audience at the legendary Torriano Meeting House on 9th July. Grateful to have been theret to hear my friends and colleagues, excellent poets Dick Jones and Dave Bonta, reading from their respective books: Ice Mountain by Dave Bonta and Ancient Lights by Dick Jones.

Their publisher is Phoenicia, created, animated and independently run by writer-artist Beth Adams and photographer Jonathan Sa'adah from their studio in Montreal.

Dick Jones

Dave Bonta

Thursday, July 06, 2017

PLANT LIFE AND PAST LIFE

Today at a local garden centre, surrounded with beautifully chattering plant life, a tiny moon-coloured cactus type of thing humbly asked for my attention. It was named, the label said, Echevaria which sounds Paraguayan and reminds me of Mexico and I love the pale moon colour and it was only £3.99 and weighs almost nothing so I took it home. I can only offer it a kitchen windowsill but I think it will be happy.



I'm taking up my online autobiography again, after a very long hiatus, and hope to have a least another chapter up very soon. If anyone wants to browse previous installments of The Burial of Mickey Mouse, they're here.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

BACK TO FRONT

Writing backwards is not as easy at it looks.

Neither is the fact that you only ever see yourself backwards.


POETS GALORE GLITTERING

Life-enhancing evening at the British Library on Thursday in honour of Gwendolyn Brooks.

See George Szirtes' page for full description. He was one of the 20 poets who ran up to the stage and made the air vibrate with the music and passion and integrity of their words and their personalities.

I was a spectator but it was impossible to be an outsider in such an atmosphere of belonging. And the fabulous colours! I took some photos.








Tuesday, June 20, 2017

WHEN COMPLAINING IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH

I have a knack for efficient and stubborn complaining. Probably from the French half of my DNA. In my adult life I must have written hundreds of complaint letters, some for myself, some for family or friends who thought I'd do a better job of it than they would. In all fake humility I must admit that, in most cases, (maybe in all cases but I can't remember) my complaints got the desired result.

Thing is, I'm not afraid to rock the boat. Especially when a boat is demonstrably and outrageously leaking. Injustice, deceit, misleading advertising, shoddy goods, negligence, broken contracts, slander, exploitation etc. instantly light my fire and l'm ready for sharply worded battle, all evidence in hand. In my next life I might be a lawyer for human rights. If any humans are left on the earth by then.

Sometimes a local or global crisis starts the complaint wheel spinning in my head and I lie awake inventing stratagems. Admittedly some situations are too big, too complex, too stuffed with experts and deskperts and despots for my little knack to be of any use at all. But the Grenfell Tower tragedy has been in my thoughts and in my heart ever since it happened and now there's also the issue of all the other tower blocks which are at risk of a similar tragedy. Yes, 'authorities' are now thinking about it and there will be meetings, committees, proposals etc.

 But HOW LONG will it take before action? Months? Years? Not good enough!

Look at THIS
and THIS
and tell me if anger as well as despair is not justified. Constructive anger, anger which triggers and energises immediate constructive, effective action.  In a month, maybe less, the tragedy will slip under the carpet, that vast carpet which hides a mountain of wrongs. The issue will be postponed yet again.  Positive anger has a role to play, a vital role.

I had a thought this morning while walking in a cemetery:

Could the families of those affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster lodge a complaint with the Consumers' Association about inferior material used in the cladding? Residents of the building were, after all, consumers. They paid rent and taxes to the Council and therefore all of the building's appliances were products they bought. Could a case be made for them to sue the suppliers of the inferior, dangerous merchandise? As well as the Council, of course. Just as you could sue the makers/sellers of a sofa which burst into flames even though it was labelled fireproof.

 Astonishing clairvoyance in this 1993 House of Cards televison series.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

THINGS I THINK ABOUT IN THE SHOWER

Could the world be run on kindness?

Could a to-do list be made of all the things that need to change in human nature?

And then could we just do it, on ourselves?

And if we can't completely change, could we change on two days a week, like that fast diet?

And if we still need to be selfish, greedy, power-mad, corrupt, intolerant, indifferent, deceitful etc. could we be a bit less of all that on the other days of the week?


And if that works, what would be the increase of kindness in the world?


Any answers?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

STATISTICS ON GOOD AND EVIL?

In the balance sheet of good and evil, what's the score? I wonder if anyone's ever compiled statistics. My ignorant guess is that the good far outnumber the evil, but the evil that the evil do is so terrible that it wipes out vast numbers of those who were doing good, or would have done good had they not died as babies. So statistics are useless.

Look at this devastating tower block fire: even if it started accidentally, it is not an accident. It is a crime and those responsible for it happening cannot claim innocence - they're on the side of evil, active or passive. The heart-stopping evil of strangers.

And look at the good pouring into the neighbourhood, bringing help, support, shelter, food, clothes, sympathy. The heartbreaking kindness of strangers.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ARTIST TRAPPED GOING DOWN A WHITE CUBE!

Got stuck in a lift yesterday. A lift in a cube. A white cube. Have never been stuck in a lift before, ever, so it had to be in the White Cube Gallery in St.James, Piccadilly.

After looking at the few Wayne Thiebaud paintings parsimoniously spaced on the white cubish walls of the upper gallery and been disappointed (they're better in reproduction) I decided, foolishly, to take the lift rather than stairs to the rest of the show in the cube's basement.

Pushed the appropriate going-down buttons and waited. And waited. And waited and waited again and again but no doors opened. I'm not the panicky type and not particularly claustrophobic but this was beginning to worry me. 

A barely visible bell icon on one of the silver buttons indicated it was an alarm. I pressed it. It was a telephone. After several rings a languid voice spoke. Asked me to state the address I was speaking from. Whaddya mean the fucking address I didn't say. I said, sternly, that I was trapped in the lift at the White Cube Gallery and the fucking door wasn't opening. I didn't say fucking door, just door. The voice asked again for the address and this time I must admit I shouted. I shouted that all they had to do was talk to the receptionist on the other side of this fucking lift.

 Finally the door opened and the surprised receptionist, cubishly cool, calm and collected, said "I never heard you". She turned to a visitor and asked "Did you hear anything?" The visitor shrugged. I emerged from the lift and exited the Cube, fuming. Never saw the rest of Wayne Thiebaud's pies and ice cream cones. 

On my way home on the tube, a woman coughed in my face. 

It was one of those days.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NdA IN BRITISH LIBRARY

On the British Library blog today, excellent post by Jerry Jenkins, Curator of Contemporary British Public Collections, about some of my artist's books recently acquired by the Library. My thanks to Jerry Jenkins, to Richard Price, Head of Contemporary British Collections, and to Ian Cooke, Head of Contemporary British Publications.

A few individual prints from those editions are available for sale here.
And a list of other public collections where some of my artist's books can be seen is here.

Here are the four bookworks acquired by the BL recently. Full details can be found at these links:

1. For A Song 1980  Seven poems & etchings by NdA
2. Fungus & Curmudgeonly 1980 Play by Simon Meyerson, images by NdA
3. The Creation from the Book of Enoch 1992 Extract from the Book of Enoch, etchings by NdA
4. The Word Accomplished 1974 Text by A.B. Christopher, etchings by NdA





Monday, June 12, 2017

IS THIS A POEM?


Sitting in Archway café
small Americano
milk on the side.
Young blonde mum
tête-a-tête with
young blond baby.
Baby's liitle face
turns to observe
the room
takes it all in
takes it all in.
Wahwah soundtrack blaring
blurring my eyes and ears.
Behind the counter
keep-fit manager explains
boxing moves to bored
Brazilian barista.
Baby takes it all in.


REAL FACTS VS FAKE "FACTS"

I posted this link to my Facebook page a few days ago in reply to someone's comment about Jeremy Corbyn's alleged anti-semitism. I want to post it again here for the sake of accuracy of information.

If anyone sees Corbyn as a messiah I'm definitely not among them. But every individual, whether public or private, deserves to be judged on the actual facts of their life and their actions rather than on smears, mis-representations and downright lies.

One doesn't have to agree with a person's political, social, religious or aesthetic stance but disagreement doesn't justify spreading or taking for granted certain assumed "facts" about them without bothering to investigate whether they are facts at all.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

TABLES TURNED

What is so wonderfully encouraging about the result of this election is that even a relentless campaign by all the powerful mainstream media as well as by individuals in all parties, including his own, to undermine Corbyn in every possible way did not succeed - on the contrary, it backfired and brought him new supporters.

What's more, it demonstrates that a politician doesn't have to insult opponents, flash charisma or spout robotic slogans in order to be a credible leader. No, Corbyn is not Prime Minister but even those who were scoffing, snorting, huffing and puffing at the very thought of it are now saying it's possible and filling column inches with reversals of what they were asserting so confidently only a little while ago.

 Here is a summing-up of this election with the inimitable humour of John Crace.

Friday, June 09, 2017

SLEEPLESS ELECTION NIGHT

Stayed up until 4:30am and am back up again now to check the latest. Have to say that there was some compassion in my heart for Mrs. May when I heard the break in her voice and guessed the tears behind her heavily made-up eyes.

I hope she leaves but I'll wave goodbye and give her a piece of my rye bread & butter pudding.

To Jeremy Corbyn, however, champagne, strawberries & cream and a hug.

More here.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

PUSH-BUTTON SOLUTIONS

Further to the Would you push the button? question:

Herewith  some facts for anyone who believes the Push-Button Principle makes sense, spending billions renewing Trident makes sense, and all other nuclear "deterrent" politics make sense.

And here.

And here.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

CRUCIAL QUESTION

In the history of stupid questions the most insanely stupid question of all must be:

Would you press the nuclear button?

If you answered YES to the above question, here's a quiz.
Are you:

a) Insane?
b) A criminal?
c) Ideally suited to be a world leader?

Friday, June 02, 2017

SAVE SPRING NOW!

Won't sling the mud
at Amber Rudd
mud-slinger I am not
and tho' Paul Nuttall
needs rebuttall
my wit is not so hot.
But when Spring is spoilt by one false May
on Spring's behalf I cry Nay! Nay!
Let Spring be sprung
and bells be rung
on the eighth of June
a whole new tune!


THE LADY'S NOT FOR TURNING UP

Mrs. May was doing something called "going up and down the country" instead of taking her place at the crucial election debate in Cambridge.

Watched on BBC every minute of the debate. My conclusion is that it is now very possible if not probable that the Conservatives will lose. Apart from Ukip's absurd Nuttall, the rest of them all did so much better than Amber Rudd (standing there in lieu of Mrs. May)  that a coalition of Green, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Labour actually looks pretty good. In my view, Green Caroline Lucas was the most convincing of all but I'll still vote for Jeremy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

MAY and CORBYN face PAXMAN

May and Corbyn in the ring with Paxman: who won?
No contest. Corbyn is the winner.
Who's unelectable now, eh?


Monday, May 29, 2017

COMIN' THROUGH THE RYE...

You may well ask: what is that mess pictured below? It is a mess intended to be bread and butter pudding....RYE bread & butter pud with real rye bread, black and solid and made by hand in a small real bakery around the corner. A heavy rye loaf that weighs as much as a brick and if you had a shed-load of those rye bricks you could build a shed that would keep you warm through a nuclear winter and hot through a nuclear summer and if you got hungry you could chisel off a few slices and the walls would remain as thick as thieves trapped in an English lift or an American elevator

I didn't want to waste the left-over half loaf of this indigestible rye bread so I googled recipes and landed on one that seemed plausible though vague about quantities. What, for example, is 3550 of whole milk? So I vaguely followed instructions, reduced the milk, increased the alcohol (vodka-soaked raisins, splashes of vodka, splashes of sherry), added condensed milk, maple syrup, demerara sugar, more raisins, and 4 beaten eggs. Four eggs! I've never added four eggs to anything! Shoved the whole thing in the oven for an hour and this is what came out.

What does it taste like? Like sweet solid soggy rye soaked in alcohol. It's not entirely bad but not actually good. Ice cream on top helps. I can't give it to cats or dogs or birds for fear of turning them into alcoholics.

Friday, May 26, 2017

DIY REPORT

(This has nothing to do with the cat. He was just there.)

Sometimes I am amazed at my own ingenuity. I was repairing the latch on downstairs neighbour's front garden gate which was no longer closing as it should due to...well, probably due to the ground moving because of traffic or tree roots or something. Anyway I noticed that the gap could be filled with a block of wood. Easy to find among all the bits and pieces I save for my own constructions. Sawed and glued two blocks together, drilled some holes, but then, problem: 

Couldn't see where a hole should go on the lower half (too complicated to explain this). Scratched head for a while. Ingenius answer popped up: lipstick! Of course! Ran upstairs to fetch item, slathered red goo on face of old hole, pushed the wood tight against it and presto! imprint of hole marked clearly on wood showing where to drill. Job done.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

HAT TRICK

A little while ago George Szirtes posted photos of his grandfather and of himself in a hat and I was reminded of my father in this hat - not the same one of course - the kind of hat that men used to wear all the time, everywhere. When did this change? Why? I loved that hat, the look it gave to men's faces, rakish, serious, a bit louche, melancholy.

My father, Sacha, seemed to have this hat on most of the time, either leaving or returning from a trip. Here he is at three stages: in his fifties in Florence, in his sixties in Switzerland, in his nineties in London.




MATCHMAKER?

Hypothetical question:

If you have a dear friend, mature and single and wonderful, who is searching for someone (as yet un-met) who is also searching for a committed relationship with a mature and single wonderful person of the opposite sex, would you feel it was okay for you to play the role of...Matchmaker? Is such a go-between role legitimate, acceptable in the 21st century?

Monday, May 01, 2017

TAVIRA RETURN

My first short visit to Tavira in the Algarve, Portugal, was in 2009 after my brother moved there. The town and surroundings enchanted me and I applied for an artist residency, got it in due course, and went back for three months in 2010 (photos and blog posts of that time duly archived). Last week I was there again, spending time with my brother and becoming acquainted with the small and beautiful art/craft shop which he, with a friend, opened a few weeks ago.

Tavira is a small and unspoilt jewel in the Algarve which I'm reluctant to praise too much.  A festival was taking place during the few days I spent there this time featuring folk dancers in traditional costume and a long row of stands under peaked white tents selling regional produce and handmade goods.