In the funny, nice way this happens, it was Brenda in Toronto who pointed me to the blog of Rachel, a London advertising executive who was in one of the underground carriages blown up on 7 July. And Rachel’s blog sent me to read her article in yesterday’s Sunday Times. She’s a wonderful writer and it’s a shocking, upsetting read, but also hopeful. I’m glad I read this.
Peckham Rye Park, South-East London, November 2005High among the things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving are the kind, talented, interesting people encountered and the beautiful, surprising, funny, sometimes searing writing and artwork discovered in the past year of on-line wandering.I've been feeling tired and depleted by an awful cold and high fever, as well as many practical worries (nothing dreadful). Going through the motions of the days, with nothing left over for blogging. But will be back.
On an ordinary cold day, a throat-clenching, swan-song beauty : frost melting on full blown roses
Words. Poems. Hands.
Susan wrote once about an experience I know well. Normally an avid reader, she went to a bookshop and alarmingly found nothing that appealed. Strange how this sometimes happens. I know by now not to fear that it will last. It never does. One day: nothing. Next visit: new treasures on every side; excited anticipation; must contain myself and not be too extravagant.
It’s the same with blogs (except that they’re FREEEE!!!). Long periods go by when I just keep reading and enjoying the same dear friends. Then suddenly I’ll find a whole load of new bloggers who I know at once will become well-loved, frequent ports of call. I recently mentioned a few new blogs I’m thrilled about. And I’ve also been finding, through happy, serendipitous links, some people who’ve been there all along - I should have known them and I didn’t, but I’m so glad I do now.
Just three for now. Through Moose, I found another fine poet, Stranger Ken. I haven’t really ever been a big reader of poetry. But just now I’m reading more poetry than anything, buying books, going to readings, and it’s all down to blogging poets like Dave, Ernesto, Leslee, Susan, and most recently Moose.
Then, because she linked to me and someone else linked to both of us, I found Adriana. She started blogging right when I did, and we have a lot of links in common, and I can’t think why I haven’t been reading her all along.
And today, I happened to click on Claude’s blogroll, and found L’Homme Qui Marche whom I knew at once I’d keep returning to. And, yes, look, of course he’s linked to some of my favourites - how enchanting and enchanted this international circle is. What drew me first was his post and PHOTO, Doigts, which reads, translated:
I was on the underground and I found the woman opposite me very beautiful, especially her hands. I took some photos of them, discreetly. Then she took a camera-phone out of her bag and took a photo of me. Exchange of smiles. No words spoken. She got off at “Place de Clichy” and I got off at “Liège”.
More shots from the same spot as yesterday's
click on pictures to enlarge
Black and blue
Unretouched. Really. The light so cold and clear, making everything sharp outlines and dense contrasts. The trees are fed by traffic fumes, shaded and channelled upwards by tall, old buildings, concentrated into patterns on the sky. Stare up at them long enough and when you look down the garish shop windows and full-colour people seem all wrong. You expect to see Javanese shadow puppets.
Riveting stuff in the National Portrait Gallery’s current exhibition of self-portraits. That look. The steely, sometimes sidelong, sometimes straight-on look. The deep, defiant, shifty look we only give ourselves. How unusually quiet the rather crowded gallery was, people murmuring at most in their companions’ ears, more often wrapped in their own trance of staring, catching, looking back.
And then Mr Munch at the Royal Academy, also including many self-portraits. What a harsh, unblinking, but rarely unkind gaze into his own face. What unexpectedly glorious colour and pattern and cold, dense Northern light. Our fixation on The Scream seems like a typical media obsession with only the bad news. (okay, The Vampire is pretty unforgivable).
So self-portrait paintings, the ultimate in self-obsession, reach out by compelling attention and empathy. Does the same apply to self-portraits in words? Which brings me back to qualms about self-exposing blog-posts, qualms which linger despite moving links and unexpected positive feedback. Oh well, done now. Let them go.
Edvard Munch at the Royal Academy.
High and low
Made myself late for work today because I stopped to take photos. (Not to mention nearly falling over backwards in the process, trying to take the very, very top of the tree). Must resist this. Or leave home earlier.
But recording what I see on the journey to and from work may be useful. I find the journey so exhausting and traumatic. Looking at these two photos together - a minute, a few yards, between them - I think one reason for this is the contrasts. The almost endless walls of concrete and walls of noise shutting off space and fresh air and growing things. And the surviving patches of trees and sky and river, of grand and interesting architecture. It’s a struggle to hold these two realities that jostle together so richly and bewilderingly. Maybe the main reason I find the city increasingly not for me is not so much a craving for beauty as a craving for simplicity.
Alison and Horatio
Weeks after its unveiling, and although I work just up the road, I only got to see the much discussed new statue in Trafalgar Square last weekend. Ready to love this work for showing a disabled woman naked, pregnant and beautiful, even if it wasn’t great art, I found her grave and entrancing. She’s measured up, I think, to the monumental backdrop, settled in. The pigeons think so too, lighting on her back like tattoos, on her hair like ribbons. I like this very much.
Tamar's just words have been much in my mind today. In this context, the decision to put this tribute to a beautiful, brave, creative woman up there alongside Trafalgar Square's monuments to military might does give me a little bit of hope.
Dulwich Park, 28.10.2005 (click on photo to enlarge) Rather obvious, but perhaps it bears repeating: as long as there's the utter joy in an ordinary moment of light, welling from the stomach or the heart or wherever it wells from, things will probably be ok. Maybe the greatest gulf is not between success and failure, good and ill fortune, or even strength and weakness. Maybe it's a matter of whether you have the ability to lose yourself in beauty, pleasure, empathy - something outside yourself. I have a strong memory, from when I was 9 or 10, of watching my aunt (the 'sister' in the previous post) sink with a sigh into an armchair, put her feet up and slowly, lasciviously, unselfconsciously, drink a hot cup of tea. In that moment she gave herself up totally to pleasure. "I've never seen my Mum do that", I thought. It really struck me. I knew which of them I wanted to be like.