Monday 30 August 2010

Throw it Back, Quick, We're Already Over Quota!

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Having posted this, yesterday, I'm looking at the picture and thinking a little more what a disturbing image it is. I've always liked sea pictures, and been fascinated by the way in which painters portray water, but am also fascinated by the stories told in paintings.
Semiotics again, the undercurrents, the unstated, the stories not voiced.
There's no way we now, in our time can read this painting as the viewer of the painter's time did.

The painting is "The Sea Maiden" by James Herbert Draper.

'A song of drag-nets hauled across thwart seas,
And plucked up with rent sides, and caught therein
A strange-haired woman with sad singing lips'

(from Chastelard, by Swinburne.)

There was,  at the time, something of a fascination with mermaids and sirens, amongst painters, and Draper painted a number of paintings of mermaids, sirens, water-nymphs.
We're in the late Victorian era, 1894, when this painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy.
In the era, whilst ladies were buttoned and covered, chin to toe, the market for classical or fantasy nudes was huge. Households where man and wife possibly never saw each other naked,  proudly displayed pictures like this, and bronze nudes, which often became strangely shiny where hands caressed.

The girl in the picture is a strangely amalgamated young lady, her body is that of  a Miss Bowry, but the face is that of Ethel Warwick. I can't be sure, but I wonder if that's the Ethel Warwick whose portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery in London, she who became an acclaimed actress, and a feted beauty.

The men in the boat? Luigi De Luca, Domenico Mancini, Angelo Colarossi and others. They were italians, from Rome, professional artist's models, and this group of ruffians appear in the works of many artists of the era

The painting, I would describe as disturbing, though I joked about it. We see the hunters and the hunted, our mermaid is fearful of those reaching hands, the men rapacious and lustful, the next few  minutes bode ill for all.
I think it's pretty clear they're not about to wrap her in a warm blanket and give her a cup of hot cocoa.
The cost to all will be high.
A mermaid is immortal, but has no soul, until she couples with a human male. Yet her embrace is fatal to men, her kiss contains poison. Men are entranced by her, and in that trance lies their doom.  So she, in the near future, will be in possession of a fishing boat, the men, one by one, will meet their fate and slip, senseless, beneath the waves.
How, I wonder will it play out? She can not return to the sea, for she will be pregnant, and must have her child upon the land, can she sail the boat? Speak the language of humans? Because she must come ashore, find a home, be a human  woman.
It may be, in the future, posing perhaps as a shipwreck victim cast ashore, speaking no english, she'll meet someone, start a new life, no longer toxic to her lover, she'll raise children, but some stormy night, she'll feel the pull of the tides, a day will come when she walks into the breakers, and swims again, back, far away, back to her sisters.

Oh: by the way, if you wanted to own this painting? it would have cost you £937,250 ($1,383,318) at Christies, London, in June 2010.

Serious News

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In Ilkley this probably classes as excitement. There's probably an awning in Brook St. with stripes that are a quarter inch too wide....

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Saturday 21 August 2010

The First Car in Shipley.

What can I say?
Mr Brooks was obviously the coolest guy around.
Loopy as a loopy thing, but cool with it.
One very small horsepower.
No shit.
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Friday 20 August 2010


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins

Sunday 15 August 2010

Where Have I Been Recently?

Well, it's a long story.
This lady's been taking up a lot of my time. Just a short while after this picture was taken, she got married, and her second child just happened to be me.  As a child, I suffered a lot from severe asthma and eczema, and she had more than her share of sleepless nights, hospital visits, nursing, and worry. Now it's my turn to repay some of that debt.
This year has been difficult. Bit by bit, time is stealing her memory. Clarity comes and goes, some days she's sharp as a tack, doing the crossword, telling me stories of people long gone, and it's all there and fluent, other days, she'll repeat several times what she's just told me.

This year, this year might be the year in which I say, "I lost my mother". The memory thing seems to have started over the last winter. Then there was/is the lump.  The lump. In her neck. Scans, mri, ct, x-rays, biopsies... I've been taking time out of work to take her on hospital visits, luckily, my employers are very understanding.
This week, we finally got the diagnosis, Hodgkins Lymphoma (it's causing trouble in her spleen too). On friday, she started chemotherapy.

Then there are balance problems. A couple or three weeks ago, I got a call at work, from my sister, who lives about three hours away, that my mother'd called her to say she'd had a fall, had been helped by a passer-by, taken home, but was in pain and seemed confused.  I left work early, got the doctor to see her. No bones broken, just lots of bruises.

This week she started the chemo, took a double dose of some of her drugs because she couldn't remember .... So now we've had to get a visiting nurse to come, every morning, to be sure she takes the right ones in the right amounts. I go there every day, make her a meal, make sure she's eating and drinking regularly. 
Some days she's up, positive, full of ideas and plans, other days, she's had enough. Wants not to be here any more.
It's not easy, I'm not any sort of expert at being a nurse. But then nor was she, in those years when she would sit by my bed through the night.

It's my turn now.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Comment Spam.

I've been getting some odd comments, on older posts, they're like comment-spam, but seem not to contain links of any sort. The poster is anonymous, obviously english is not anon's first language, and usually the comment seems to have little relevance to the post.
Consequently, I've enabled moderation for older posts, and I'm reporting as spam, then erasing anything that doesn't look like a bona-fide comment.
I like people to identify themselves in some way, comments made as "Anonymous" are likely to be summarily executed.

Sunday 8 August 2010

One for the Pencil-Loving Mule!

Imagine how many of those Derwent Watercolour pencils are inside this trailer!
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Saturday 7 August 2010

We'll Just Have to go a Little Faster,or We'll Never Get the Jump Right.

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I Was Disconnected.

I lost my internet connection.
I tried all the usual stuff, you know, disconnect the cable modem, allow it to reboot, ditto the wireless router and the computer, nothing worked.

Eventually I dialled the number on my internet provider's bill, to hear the automated voice tell me there were no known service outages in my area. Then I dialled another number, hit the right buttons, listened to the recorded messages for a while, until i got a human. The human listened to my woes, advised me to power down the cable modem......
Eventually the human decided to transfer me to the tech helpline... So I got the lady in India whose speech was very difficult to understand. "I vant you to take off the power supply to the cable modem please...." Can I just bang my head against the wall instead?
She told me they could not get any fault to show on my line but said "theres something very strange". She would not expand upon that statement, just that an engineer would come out on Saturday morning between 08:00 and 12:00.
In the meantime I could clean my house, read "War and Peace", and learn esperanto, perhaps.
I'd have preferred immediately, because having no internet is like having no phone. Disconcerting.
I can remember the days when our phones were wired to the wall, in the hallway.
I'm addicted, I realise.
So the day after, I went out to have a look at the internet connection box on the front of the house.
The cover was off. the connection splitter block was disconnected, and the incoming cable from the street, from the interwebs.... was connected, directly... to a black cable headed upwards to my neighbour's flat.
I reconnected them all to the splitter block. My upstairs neighbour is an idiot, a fuckwit too. I rarely see him. I took my doorbell out because I was sick of his idiot friends and ex-girlfriends pushing on it, when ringing his, banging on the door, and throwing stuff at his windows didn't work.
Today the repairman came. I didn't tell him what I'd found, just that it had been bust open and disconnected. He looked at me, smiled and said... I hear what you're saying. We'll have a record of any connection other than your modem. Here's my number. Just call me if it happens again.

So I'm back again.

For a while.

Although You Would Not Know This,

I write every day. I write blog posts every day. I write letters every day. Some days I write poems.
Yesterday I wrote four blog posts.

Yes, yes, I hear you. "Where are they then?"
"They're unpublished", I say, evasively. The thing is, I do my writing whilst driving, or in the bath. Or up a ladder, or whilst hammering at a piece of precision machinery, down in a hole beneath the earth, but always, always, in my head.
In my head.  That's where my novels are, and the plays, the screenplays, the collected works of me.

To steal somebody else's line, "I was born at an early age......." I was indeed. I was born in "The Imperial Nursing Home", in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. (my sister was born in a castle, Hazlewood Castle, I'm not sure, Imperial's pretty cool sounding, but a real life castle? One mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 a.d.? Damn. She wins in the cool birthplace stakes).
As soon as I could express myself I was making up stories, inventing invisible friends, creating an extremely detailed back-story for my teddy-bear. Ted Edward was a bit of a tycoon. He was, for the most part, choosing to live with me, a toddler in a small village in Wharfedale, but in his other life he owned a fleet of trawlers that operated out of Grimsby, into the high arctic, sometimes he was out there, skippering in the gales, north of iceland. Other times he was suavely dinner-suited, driving his Rolls Royce to whatever mysterious assignations grown-up teddy bears had.  And he had a big truck. With eight wheels.
Ted Edward would sit with me on the rusty bridge over the wharfe, and point out the great mysterious fish in the dark waters below. Bincontyles, and Boncontyles, they were. To this day, no adult has ever seen one, nor ever will. The bincontyle can grow to over seventy six feet, and could swallow a house if it wanted to. Boncontyles are somewhat similar, only green.
As I grew older, grown-ups ceased to always pretend to believe what I told them.
Ted Edward died, only about ten years back, victim of a flood caused by a burst water pipe. Gnarled old sea-bear, he'd survived so much, we'd been apart for years, I grew up, moved away, lived in other countries, and he, well, I understand he was travelling a lot, building a railway over the Andes, prospecting in the Yukon, I understand he was the first teddy bear to meet the Dalai Lama, and of course, the first bear of any sort to circumnavigate the globe in a steam-powered airship of his own design.
Some time in the early nineties, we were re-united, shared a house in Leeds, I told him of my mundane travels, he told me of the time he sailed Cape Horn in a bathtub, whilst escaping from pirates.
Then, one night, as he was hibernating, in my store-room, a pipe burst. Ted didn't stand a chance. The mould got into his sawdust. His growl disintegrated.
I was there at the end. Brave bear, the last few days he refused pain-killers, but swigged bottles of trawler-rum, raving about the old days, and... the island... with the wreck of an old wooden ship... chests of doubloons, preserved in the dry cold, they dragged them to a cave, covered them with rocks... that was during the war, after they'd drifted for eight days in the liferaft. They were taken off the island by a german ship. He thought it was the Tirpitz, but they were kept below, until it reached port. He escaped, built a boat out of packing cases and bedsheets, sailed home in time to be re-assigned to the pacific, and when he eventually returned home, his old log, with the coded map of the island had been destroyed in the bombing.

He told me "Find the island, my young emperor, on the island are the documents, everything you will need to re-claim your throne."