Sunday, 26 February 2012

Such a Nice Girl

How much can you know of another person?  If Patrick Hamilton is to be believed not very much.  All you can see is surface; which you interpret badly; lead astray by your own desires; misled by the few signs that appear before you. The result?  You create your own paintings with your own colours; all bright and garish, too sweet to be real.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Get Out the Marx!

At the bedroom door she stopped, sickened.  There was her father, the little man with the plump juicy stomach, beer-smelling and jocular, whom she hated, holding her mother in his arms as they stood by the window.  Her mother was struggling in mock protest, playfully protesting.  Her father bent over her mother, and at the sight, Mary ran away….

Her father caught her head and held it in his lap with his small hairy hands, to cover up her eyes, laughing and joking loudly about her mother hiding.  She smelt the sickly odour of beer, and through it she smelt too – her head held down in the thick stuff of his trousers – the unwashed masculine smell she always associated with him.  She struggled to get her head free, for she was half-suffocating, and her father held it down, laughing at her panic.  And the other children laughed too.  Screaming in her sleep she half-woke, fighting off the weight of sleep on her eyes, filled with the terror of the dream.

We know the end in the first paragraph: black servant kills mistress.  The rest of the novel is a more or less straight road to that final destination, to the ramshackle house where the murderer has left so many clues.  There were intimations before, but the above passages are the culprit’s fingerprints, strewn all around the house for us to see.  Sigmund Freud is an accessory to murder; though we suspect he’s been involved in many others.  For it is Freud who has taken off her dress, and removed her underwear.  It is Sigmund who has fashioned the knife that has cut her up; her insides all over the living room’s couch...  Yes, it is.  It really is the revered doctor who has killed Mrs Mary Turner; goading Moses into the act by learned taunts and malicious subtleties.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Everywhere Freud

We stand on the beach, and we watch the waves come in.  Watching them, our eyes follow them, as they jump and crawl, sliding ever closer, until they fall back, slithering slowly away.  We concentrate so hard, willing the waves to stop; there are moments we think they even do so; but the tide rolls on, and the waves return; the last one the closest yet; swirling, bubbling, suddenly a foaming lake has engulfed our ankles; and we are running and screaming; shouting up the beach.

As a child we have so little influence. 

Just about everything is decided for us. 

We are done too, rather than doing.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Strange Fantasies

Everyone loves the Gnostics.  Reading Gibbon the other day I came across this:

The Gnostics were distinguished as the most polite, the most learned, and the most wealthy of the Christian name…  (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume One)

Years ago I had a discussion with a friend who argued that no mean or self-centred purpose lay behind Gnostic beliefs.  Their ideas, he said, were a sign of intellectual purity; for what material reason could cause people to believe something so obviously otherworldly and good?

Ummmm!  Let us think…..  What if…

Sunday, 12 February 2012


The Black Swan

A black swan
On a white pond
And you
On the other side…

A white face
In a black dress
And me
On this side…

Hands lost
In long black hair
It's you
On the other side…

 A black swan
   Breaks the white ice
On all sides…

A silent laugh
In a broken face
It's you
On the other side…

White tights
In black shoes
And me
On this side…

A black swan
On a white pond
And you
On the other side.

Friday, 10 February 2012

A Sea-Grape Tree

The Swan in the Evening is a curiously divided book.  Its first half is a highly sensitive account of childhood; which captures it evocatively.  Rosamond Lehmann’s acute sensibility recreating the texture of a child’s egocentric life; its absorption in their immediate surroundings, capturing her intense sensitivity; her almost supernatural awareness; it is a time of ripe vividness where everything has significance; and when particular things, pieces of furniture and the odd plant, are full of portent.  It is a world where so much is seen for the first time; new things creating explosions of new excitement; and there is much we misunderstand – our ignorance is our mystery.  It is a time when every day is a new day (and is made just for us!); and yet always there is the fear of getting lost – in strange woods or amongst the incomprehensible sentences of our parents.[i]  

Lehmann’s description of that world closes with one incident, which at first seems out of place, but later proves to be prophetic: she has a vision.  It is an odd experience for the reader, and initially very confusing, for it appears in an excellent, but nevertheless conventional, autobiographical fragment.  It is as if we came across George Eliot in the parlour suddenly speaking like William Blake…

Sunday, 5 February 2012


In deciding whether to leave my comfortable corporate VP job at Pillsbury to start over at Burger King, I asked myself one question: Will this put me in a better position to become president of a business?  I did not ask myself the wrong questions: How hard will my new job be?  What will my friends think if they see me making hamburgers in a quick service restaurant?   What will I do if this new position does not work out as planned?  As a CEO of Self, I knew that those questions were not the right ones to be asking.  (The ‘CEO of Self’, by Michael Tomasky)

The CEO of Self?  This is business management speak for the ambitious bureaucrat.  And like most of its ilk it sounds clunky and stupid, overwhelming simple minded and kitsch, to those outside the HR department and the senior management team.  Inside, in the rarefied air pockets of the company’s HQ, it is a different matter: always they have to acquire their own language, to protect them from the world outside; and their own staff.  Like most theology it contains an enormous amount of nonsense; and some little sense; the sense the bait that catches them.  But the nonsense?  Oh, a sign of priestly depth and profundity – essential materials for the management consultant, it advertises their quality.  Herman Cain, Burger King and republican candidate, is an adept at both the bureaucracy and the language game and proclaims loudly that he is a true believer; a sign for most of us that he is unreflective and pathological; like a conman telling us he is expert at fooling people.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Daytime TV

A red coffin on a white truck, and I the only mourner.  Gone!  To be squeezed and squashed, stamped, into an iron pizza.  Cars!  Suddenly so big, so enormous, when you give them away, to be broken up and buried in some suburban knackers yard.  Giving it away!  Something so large!  So expensive!  And all the money you have spent on it.  Valueless now… too young to be an antique it is too old to be wanted.  Though suddenly I want it, as it is carried away; wobbling on the back of a flat bed truck; disappearing down the industrial estate.  I am sad for a while; for a few lonely moments.  Cars.  They dominate our lives.  But then they are gone, and very quickly they are nothing; and we are free once more. 

My first car.  Then I really was sad…

Friday, 3 February 2012


Leaving the World Behind

Softly, so carefully,
Quietly, he loses himself
As slowly he sinks away.
A crowd of pines

Watch at the water’s edge.

As he drifts gently down
The lake quite leisurely,
So quietly, closes up behind him.
Raucously gulls

Gossip over the grey clouds.