Monthly Archives: February 2011

As near as flying

Now that my bones are getting a little too brittle to do such dangerous things I’m grateful that the young take the time to share the experience. I guess in my own way I still fly. Happy Saturday!


There Must be Music

Just back from a quick visit to London where I managed to fit a great deal of art and jazz and food into a day and a half.  I had forgotten it was half term and London was packed with noisy school children, doing in museums and galleries what we used to in orchards and fields in my youth. I pushed on regardless.

The highlight of the trip for me was a face to face encounter with Adam, carved in pink alabaster by Jacob Epstein. This is a monumental statue of such virility and power, that I had to sit awhile and wait for the palpitations to die down. First of all there was the full frontal encounter with a massive shiny schlong,  before which sophisticated men were making silly remarks. Then there were the elephantine legs, the off- centre crack in the huge buttocks and the almost uncontainable expression of feeling in the upper body. All found within a massive piece of rock. It was very exciting to behold.

Epstein in his book ‘Let there be Sculpture'(1942) admits that when the form came to him he was listening to Bach’s D minor Mass and that the music came from ‘a great distance away’. I like the idea that the whole of this beautiful creation came to him lightly, like a poem arrives. It gives one a sense that there is a power beyond the human will and the need to cut into stone until something of meaning emerges. It came from him and returns to him, this feeling, and one day, having worked and worked on it, the sculpture is finished and there it is -the problem solved. No wonder the artist so often prefers the beginning of the process to the end.

When the process is over, the feeling has been expressed and all that is left is for others to gather and be impressed, embarrassed, shocked or awe struck. Whatever. In my case the feeling I had when I was walking around the feet, looking up, was that I was accompanied by the sound of all the voices that have ever lived, crying their collective sorrow from a great distance away. How very different from the buzz of flies that accompanied Damien Hirst’s Let’s Eat Outdoors Today later in the exhibition.

Lost and Found

This week I have lost two things; an old but much loved kilt pin and my credit card. I’ve cancelled the latter before anyone helped themselves to my account and I have other kilt pins, so no harm has been done. Other, that is, than the feeling of madness rippling through my nervous system. It feels like the tree that holds me together has a high wind blowing through it. I don’t like losing things.

Maybe this was what my system needed in order to get my creative juices going. I’m a great believer in the idea that nothing happens by mistake. And sure enough this week I have been swept away by the creative thrust that I’ve been waiting for since I finished “The Pebble Jar”. I’ve known for two years that the next book in the trilogy is called “Blue’ and on Sunday the opening paragraphs were given to me. I say ‘given’  because that’s what it feels like- a gift of grace, perhaps, from a place that isn’t actually within me. So off I go on my next literary adventure.

Writing a book is a solitary pursuit. I suspect that it will by chapter 10 take me like a lover and my friends will start wondering where I am and my blog will start to look a bit ragged. But it is the most exciting adventure imaginable. I have mapped out the plot on a table sized piece of greaseproof paper in three colours of highlighter pen. Whether I follow it I cannot say. If character IS destiny, I would hazzard a guess that I wont. I have always been the sort of person who pushes on doors clearly marked ‘pull’.

But I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have that piece of greaseproof paper to gaze at and imagine. For it is imagination that is the thrusting tip of evolution to my mind.  A person sitting alone in a room creating a world of romance and adventure through their own thinking process is magic of the best sort. This is the way we have the best chance of discovering the ‘word that has been lost’ that the Freemasons talk about(or don’t as the case may be).

So here I sit waiting for a deeper pattern to emerge. Imagination is the key to open the door to the future. As Jonathan Black says in The Secret History of the World, ‘each individual mind is a protrusion into the material world of one vast cosmic mind.’  the world that will come into being through my imagination over the next weeks will be one that enquires deeply into mysteries and phenomena. I firmly believe that here in the Western world we are being lulled into an unthinking trance-state. Anything that encourages us to imagine possibilities that are not mapped out by science are discouraged by a savage fundamentalist skepticism. The world that is teetering at the tip of my fingers is one that recognises that science is not certain-it is  a myth like any other, representing what people want to believe at this time.

But the wind that is blowing through the tree that is my sympathetic nervous system is indicating that change is on the way and it is imagination that will light the torch that leads us into our collective and brilliant future. So, in truth, I lost nothing this week and found much.

Flip Flop Boating

This morning I am thinking about creativity and the art of expressing oneself. I’ve had to stop reading Life by Keith Richards at bedtime, because it was overexciting me. After a couple of sleepless nights, I cottoned on to the fact that I was high on the rhythms of  Keith Richards’ speech patterns. Now that’s some achievement,  as it’s not even as if he wrote the book himself. It is ghosted by one James Fox, who has done a brilliant job of capturing Keef’s highly individual and charismatic voice. He must have recorded the words and transcribed them with the skill of an identical twin (or alchemy of some sort)

People are extraordinary and life is full of wonder for someone like me, who has the time to look and see the creativity around. Take for example the flip flop boat I happened upon the last time I was in Marrakech. Who would have thought that a discarded slipper could be transformed into such an elegant little display. But what is it for? I can hear someone say. There is no answer. You either see it or you don’t.

I’ve been struggling to turn a poem of mine, about the correlation between the arctic winter and the state of marriage, into a villanelle. Again the question arises. Why? Because it is a challenge Dylan Thomas rose to superbly with Do not go gentle into that good night and  doing is a good way of learning. I am always learning. I am under no illusions that mine will be as good-I will be happy enough it it becomes a villanelle at all.

I work every so often with two young performance poets who wouldn’t know form if it hit them on the nose and yet who write poems that clutch the heart and make it skip a beat. It keeps me humble working with them. They give me youth and rhythm; I give them banana cake. They question every assumption I ever had about poetry and a lot else. Together we are reaching new heights. That’s creativity.

Cleaning Windows

Even Google is at it. Happy Valentine’s Day indeed! I was never the sort of woman who was sent Valentine cards by men, so I’m glad the boys at Google remembered me. Come to think of it I once had a boy friend who did everything by the book, including Valentine day treats. He’d arrive on the doorstep with red everything, roses, card, trinkets chocolates. Very sweet but I hated it. To me it felt like emotional viagra-unreal and disconnected from that treasure I’ve spent my life searching for. My body detects the slightest schism from authenticity. I used to call it painting by numbers and I remember how much it repelled me.

The thing that surprises me about this is the fact that I was brought up on the The Book of Life/Hollywood version, which is all about acting. Yet a good film doesn’t feel like painting by numbers. Creativity is the heart of cinema. Watching a good film is much like cleaning windows-afterwards I get a better view.

I’ve lived my life from an internal script that I make up as I go along and most of my leading men have been fantastic. Literally. Take Cary Grant for example. Now there’s a man who can strut a suit. Just watch him move about in North by Northwest, getting off and on trains without so much as a wash bag (or a ticket), yet he manages to stay neat and tidy and together through plot twists and turns, largely because of those twists and turns-he even gets fresh clothes delivered to his room before the film’s climax on Mount Rushmore. How cool is that!   He always looks immaculate-and he kisses the same way. From the inside out. I like that in a man. Towards the end of the film you see him with just a towel wrapped around his waist and you know why his suits look so good.  When I was young I thought his kisses very tame. Now I revisit them with delight. They are confident and slow and always backed by wit. Talk has always been my favourite part of foreplay.

So this morning I am not sorry to be watching from the sidelines as the red roses and garage flowers get bought and dutifully delivered. The sun is shining and eternity sits around me purring like a cat.  I gather my pail and mop, my dusters , sponges and step ladder and I clean my windows and place daffodils outside my door.

And while I do this I think about couples meeting and going for expensive meals together tonight, locked in their delight. The memories of  being a couple are a lot  more colourful than the experience, to be sure.  I am alone this Valentine’s Day and I’m content with that.  But oh how I miss the kissing!

Vintage Allie

It’s been one of those cold, wet English Sundays, so what better than a phone call from my friend Mr Mango and the suggestion that we go to a Vintage Clothes Fair at the University. Inside the hall were stalls upon stalls filled with stuff from my childhood and adolescence. I grew up on jumble sales and have never grown out of them. Now that charity shops are getting greedy with their prices and all the real finds have been creamed off, perhaps it’s time to change one’s focus to fairs like this one. At least here the stallholders are all vying with one another and there is some point in bargaining. I don’t wear vintage dresses,jumpers or skirts, as these are not flattering for those of us who remember them the first time around, but vintage shoes, bags, gloves and scarves are what gives my wardrobe its zing. There were some fabulous- looking young girls there dressed up to the nines and each of them with ‘a look’. It struck me, wandering around, that this is intelligent dressing, requiring a creative eye. It is the opposite end of the scale from Primark, though the prices are probably equivalent.

So I had a really great couple of hours running my fingers through the past and came home to feed Tottie. Then I went back and tried on shoes, coming away with a very sexy pair of heels and a very unsexy pair of bedroom slippers. I had a conversation with myself about the latter, out loud I fear, debating whether they were a postmodern or regressive move. No one around me seemed interested in joining in the discussion, and as they were only 6 pounds, I bought them and have been wearing them ever since. They are warm and comfortable, as well as having the added advantage of thick rubber soles, should there be an electrical incident in the home. But I have to admit that they are exactly the sort of slippers my mother always wore and exactly the sort of slippers I swore that I never ever would, so they could be the thin end of a far from post modern edge. Oh help!

The other shoes are as comfortable as slippers, apart from the dangers implicit in a heel. But they are sexy in a sort of Prince Charming way. I would love to show them to you but I am being IT challenged as always and for some reason can’t . I also bought an exquisite pair of black leather gloves that are long enough to pull on in that measured seductive way, should anyone be looking. If not, I get the feeling,so all is not lost.


The Erotic Allure of Gloves

Today I write of gloves. And hands, those most expressive of body parts. Mine are ageing rapidly but there is little I can do about that, except slather on the Q10 hand cream and not place them too close to the hands of anyone still plump with collagen. Even Joan Collins can do nothing about her ageing hands. What we can do, both of us however, is cover them with kid.

Leather gloves have an added bonus in keeping the hands warm, so that the joints don’t rub together in that cacophonous way that leads to frowns that are so unattractive on older faces. I have worn my favourite gloves (black, soft leather, Lidl £9.99) all winter and am thrilled that I haven’t lost either of them. Lost gloves are less of a mystery than lost socks, because at least they go out and about and therefore live more dangerous lives, but they do get lost a lot and a long piece of elastic connecting them down one arm and up the other is not a good look if you are over three.

Apart from these practical concerns, it must be said that gloves are deeply erotic. One of my all time favourite paragraphs of erotica comes from D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow. I’ll go and see if I can find it for you. It’s a good way into Chapter X, should this wet your appetite.

“… he began with one hand to unfasten the buttons on her glove, to push back her glove from her hand, carefully laying bare her hand. And the close- working, instinctive subtlety of his fingers upon her hand sent the young girl mad with voluptuous delight. His hand was so wonderful, intent as a living creature skilfully pushing and manipulating in the dark underworld, removing her glove and laying bare her palm, her fingers then his hand closed over hers, so firm, so close, as if the flesh knitted to one thing his hand and hers…between them was the compact of his flesh with hers, in the handclasp.”

I think Lawrence, funny little man that he was, had his pulse on what a woman finds erotic. Even the rhythm of his words captures the slow, teasing, sensuous nature of a woman’s desire. There’s a lot more swooning and drifting on the following pages but you will have to find them for yourselves. I suggest you read the words out loud and swoon along with them(if you are a woman) or perhaps dismiss them as overwriting (if you are a man). In the case of the latter I fear you have overlooked an essential tool in the box of seduction. Voluptuousness. Something I have known well in my time.

‘Ah Allie, luxe,calme et volupte,’ as my friend Jean-Jacques used to say (with the acute of course, which I haven’t yet identified on this computer), as he surveyed me clothed to my armpits in soft black leather and little else. Yes gloves often have a story to tell.