Friday, 29 April 2011


Foreign Travel (II) He’s Welsh You Know

I can’t resist a Bertrand Russell quote.  So I went all the way to Penrhyndeudraeth, and had a charming time.  As usual there was the wit and sharp intelligence; and as always I learned something new…

I couldn’t remember where in Wales Russell died so I checked on the AA’s route finder to help me get the exact location. What do I find: Russell was born in Trellech in Monmouthshire.  He is Welsh!   

Joking aside the exchange is interesting, I think, for what two people can achieve when they share similar views, but disagree on some of the detail.  It may also reflect a certain bias in myself – perhaps I overrate the power of cultural constraints.  I’m not sure, it is more, I think, we are coming from different perspectives, but it is something I’m reflecting about.

Foreign travel (I)

I decided to take a holiday. I wandered around the coast for a few days, and came close to renting a caravan.  I was having a great time, everywhere I went, on every cliff top and empty beach, I got my soapbox out.  I was having a wonderful time talking to the waves and the seagulls, curious as ever; and always free with an appropriate question.  What an audience!

Then a human turned up.  He didn’t like what I had to say.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Miles in Bed with Benjamin

I have always remembered this.  Miles Davis telling John McLaughlin “Play it like you don’t know how to play the guitar”.  It was, I guess, to get him to play much simpler, with a little uncertainty, more fragile and tentative, and spare; to create some space for In A Silent Way to breathe.   I also remember McLaughlin’s commentary:

Miles always spoke very cryptically, but at the same time you knew what he was saying was really it … He plays and you know, and that’s what he likes.  He makes you creative.  He puts your creativity on the line.  He’ll make you do something that’s you, but also in tune with what he wants.  That’s hard, but it’s an incredible challenge that everyone should have because it makes you aware of areas you can go that you wouldn’t normally get into…  (Miles Davis, by Ian Carr)

And Dave Holland too, I remember him.  Though his comments are more of the time, but not wrong for that – spot on in fact:

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Something Better

I was going to post something about Japanese Art, by Joan Stanley-Baker.  Then a terrible thought came into the house and stole it.  Oh how I ran to catch this thief.  She was just too fast for me.  So quick in her short pink dress and black tights; her heels at least three inches high…   I’ve put an ad out, and the cops are searching.  I have great hopes they’ll succeed.  Are there many women these days who wear pink high heels, and whose hair is done in a topknot?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

On Reaching The Delta

It seeps through you
This river
Its channels
The stories you tell

The stories
Small deposits
And the river
Goes on its way.

It flows around you
This river
Its islands
Old stories you tell

Old stories
What remains
After the river
Embraces the sea.

Friday, 22 April 2011


The Deep and the Shallow

Have a read of this…

A mother had, for their education and betterment, given her children Aesop’s fables to read.  Very soon, however, they brought the book back to her, and the eldest, who was very knowing and precocious, said: ‘This is not a book for us!  It’s much too childish and silly.  We’ve got past thinking that foxes, wolves and ravens can talk: we’re too grown up for such nonsense!’ – Who cannot see in this hopeful lad the future enlightened Rationalists? (from Essays and Aphorisms, by Arthur Schopenhauer)

…and tell me: who were you thinking of when you quickly jogged through these sentences?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

All Around You

CCTV has changed over the years.  Today they stalk the ordinary person, following him through the streets, keeping an eye on the fancy property, to ensure the wealth and privilege, that towers all around her, is given the respect it deserves.  Be good.  Be peaceful.  And above all be law-abiding, they quietly remind us; and gracefully accept, they insist, the robberies of the rich; who use those same laws to steal from the public purse.  The cameras watch, and they keep her to the centre of the pavement; far away from the barricades in the middle of the road.  Revolution is only for thugs and lunatics their pictures tell us; and as we can see for ourselves all too clearly on the evening news.  Though sometimes they record the strangest things; and we watch as young men smash up the Ritz, while police officers stand aside

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lost in Chauvet

We watch as two albino crocodiles stare at us. Are they twins? Both are looking through the glass; trying to find the creatures within. Curiously and acutely they look; staring now through our dark windows, catching the vague shadows that float, dissolve and disappear. Maybe, just maybe, there is something for them to catch…

Sunday, 10 April 2011

No Shame

I was talking with a friend the other week and Japan, inevitably, appeared in the conversation.  First wriggling around the margins it found its way in, and took over all our sentences.  We couldn’t get it out of the room.  My friend was yelling blasphemies, and I was trying to be reasonable; of course.  But it would not go away. 

How did it get in?  Like a good salesman with a simple slogan that promised great riches: he could sum up one country in a word.  Shame.  He had great teeth and his eyes were clear and bright, and shining with the translucency of fanaticism…  There is only one thing you need to know about this great civilisation: it is a shame culture.  We let him in, but he quickly bored us – he had nothing else to say.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The original

professional amateur:

…the amateur is not necessarily inferior in skill to the professional; the difference between them is simply that the former does because he wants to what the latter does for pay.

In journalism, this means that the amateur is less vulnerable to the pressure of the market, and so to what I regard as the most corrupting influence on art and letters today, that of the cheap cultural goods sold in bulk to the mass public.  The amateur may not know as much about any particular subject as the expert does, but what he does know (which may be rather impressive) he knows as part of his own life and of our culture in general, instead of in the narrow way the specialist knows it…  The amateur, even the dilettante, would seem a necessary figure if our culture is not to dry up into academism.  (from The Responsibility of Peoples)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Hard Sell

What happens when a salesman is let down by his product?  He so much wants to believe there is no rust under the freshly painted bonnet; and that the brakes were not broke long ago.  He would like to tell us it is wonderful, and he would, if we gave him a chance.  But though polite, we are very firm: look at those two tyres there, aren’t they flat?  And those headlights, is one not smashed, and the other missing?  The words stumble at his lips, and his sentences fall all around him…