Saturday, December 31, 2011


Rain. Rain. & more rain.

The rain it raineth.

Rain reigns.

Not even Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi is rainier than this.


The last day of a tired old year. Good riddance. A sad year. A frustrating year.

Too many farewells. Too many obstacles. Too much energy dissipated. Too little accomplished.

I spend the morning sorting out bookshelves in the bedroom to then house the overspill in other shelves (upstairs, downstairs, in milady's corridor ...). It's a therapy of sorts and good for clearing the mind.

This afternoon I've been wandering from shelf to shelf jotting down names and titles trying to form clusters of interest. Is it depressing or invigorating to discover books I'd bought during the year and forgotten about or started and shelved for later? Not sure. Or volumes from further back which now seem newly relevant and indispensable. Probably. Either. Maybe.

In the bedroom, John Ashbery now rubs shoulders with Elizabeth Bishop, James Schuyler and Peter Gizzi (they'll have plenty to talk about). In the corridor, Christopher Hitchens and Geof Dyer have Sontag, Eco, Beerbohm and Benjamin for company (imagine!). Upstairs, Delillo, McCarthy, Barthelme and Foster Wallace are jostling for room against Dick, Bester, Ballard and Gibson (should be fun). And so on.

A Caliban cabin cribb'd and unconfined - this house is full of voices ...


& resolutions? Rather intentions. To read. To write. To make. The usual in other words. (So get on and do it!).

Strange to see I managed 220 posts throughout the year (I had imagined fewer).

Strange, too, to see the daily page views when - so often - so little is going on. (For some reason the Alan Measles post is consistently popular).

And strangely reassuring to see that the notebooks pile up suggesting something is going on behind the scenes. (Now to turn the dross into gold).

Anyway, if you're reading: a happy and productive New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

"And I learned from a whole childhood of looking in fields how the purpose of things ought perhaps to remain invisible, no more than half known. People who know exactly what they are doing seem to me to miss the vital part of any doing ... ". ('Finding', Guy Davenport)

Thanks to John Latta for sending me back upstairs to my copy of The Geography of the Imagination. An essay that reads like a great corrective to much of what I see going on in current education. Timely.
Browsing Amazon I see they're trying to tempt me with 40% Off deals on power drills. Great to see customer profiling getting it so wrong.

I'm relishing the time to read at whim through a series of volumes. It's all by way of preparation for teaching Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows - the essay on its own will seem somehow isolated, bereft of contexts.

I'm also keen to suggest other ways of writing and conceiving of essays as well as finding ways of reading the more established exhibits differently.

So this morning I started with Bacon ('Of Beauty'), moving on to selections from The Tatler and The Spectator plus Johnson in The Rambler ('The necessity and danger of looking into futurity'). On then to Lamb ('Old China') and a quick riffle through a Penguin selected Orwell. A search on the Internet threw up some useful interviews with d'Agata and his co-authored manifesto of the Lyric Essay at the Seneca Review site.

This afternoon I've just finished the first essay in his Halls of Fame collection - 'Round Trip' - a pretty good introduction to his concerns and methods. Clever stuff.


Three sentences:

Beauty is as summer fruits, which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last; and, for the most part, it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine and blush. (1)

It was almost Eight of the Clock before I could leave that Variety of Objects. (2)

That the mind of man is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity; and that we forget the proper use of the time now in our power, to provide for the enjoyment of that which, perhaps, may never be granted us, has been frequently remarked; and as this practice is a commodious subject of raillery to the gay, and of the declamation to the serious, it has been ridiculed with all the pleasantry of wit, and exaggerated with all the amplifications of rhetoric. (3)

And one more:

I say, "Wow." (4)

Anyone out there with further suggestions of interesting essays/ essayists please let me know.

1 Bacon 1612

2 Steele 1712

3 Johnson 1750

4 d'Agata 2001

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"I like the idea of reading the Appendix first, and if you are doing so, then you are in this way like me, and we can break bread together in friendship." (Neck Deep and other predicaments, Ander Monson).

Hit upon this sentence leafing through the volume (borrowed) this morning and deciding to start with the last essay.


All week the combination of pouring rain in the pitch dark makes for diabolical driving conditions. The street lights are reflected off the glistening roads and refracted through the rain drops then the windscreen then my own lenses. Multiple layers of distortion and dazzle.


At lunchtime deliver a speech on behalf of a departing colleague. It goes down well but I'm tired of saying goodbyes.


The impulse to pay someone a compliment but as usual it goes unspoken in a quandary of what ifs and better nots.


That rare moment of anticipation at the beginning of a holiday. Eighteen days (I've just counted them to make sure). What plans! What hopes!


Track down my elusive copy of But Beautiful (Geof Dyer) - tucked at the back of a shelf in the classroom. I must have taken it in to use for an extract or two. I read the first episode based on Lester Young and find more than I remember the first time around.


Strikes anticipated tomorrow - trains, buses, schools, airports ... - and the attendant chaos for anyone trying to leave for Christmas. That sense of the logics of the modern world slowly grinding to a halt.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


A trial post using Blogpress (as recommended by Stephen N.). I don't seem to be able to do tabs or other line layouts - or perhaps I'm just being thick.

A package was waiting on the kitchen table yesterday afternoon - two new volumes by the phenomenally productive Geof H. (how Autocorrect yearns to add that extra 'f'). It's far more than I deserve given my current lack of production. I even owe him one if not two volumes that have been (mal)ingering upstairs.

Geof's books are such object lessons in being in the word/world. An eye that seems insatiable and ever on the qui vive. Just how many projects does he have on the go on a daily (hourly?) basis? What Faustian pact has he struck to multiply his writing selves?

I can but wonder ... and admire ... and enjoy.

Happy Christmas


"It's raining cats and dogs outside"

"I know - I kept stepping in poodles"

(work e-mail exchange)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quite early on (i.e. in my twenties) I realised that the way to get through Christmas was to give myself a present. Thus I'd buy the lp - later CD - that special someone with similarly exquisite taste would have known I lacked but had to hear. No matter what else might end up beneath the tree, there was always the consolation in knowing something good awaited my ears.

Another tactic was to ask for a large omnibus edition. This kind of volume lends itself to intermittent reading - the kinds of sporadic acts of consciousness permitted by days of over- indulgence and fugged brain. The Complete Sherlock Holmes one year, The Complete Father Brown another. Then the Penguin Jazz Guides and The Oxford Encyclopedia of Wine. More recently it's been cookbooks - Nigel Slater's various Diaries were ideal ways of dreaming of meals for the coming year.

So this year? It looks as though I'll have plenty to keep me amused: Geoff Dyer's Working the Room and Christopher Hitchens' Arguably.

I've already started dipping into the latter and hit upon this in the introduction:

"The people who must never have power are the humourless".

Let's drink to that over the turkey and stuffing.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Tried to put this up last night before discovering the iPad can't cope with Blogger image loading.

Another interesting discovery: the iPad can't exchange via Bluetooth with mobile phones.

So much for living in this connected world ...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

For my Dad


"He had big hands, strong hands. Yet hands that were capable of great delicacy. You only had to see him hold a pen. And for me so much stems from this and why rather than a photograph Mum and I decided to place a signature on the cover of the service sheet.

You see it says so much: the sense of line, restraint and yet expression. It had been instilled in art school - a sense of proportion : of a letter, of a man, of a building. And it was something he was keen to pass on to me - the importance of handwriting, the sense of a page, when less was always more ... ".


It feels very strange to write this post - and I have been wondering whether it was even appropriate. From the start there have been things off limits on the Blog - work-related matters, family stuff.

Yet if I'm honest, my father is one reason why I do what I do and so it's only fitting to mark his passing.

The past three weeks have been very strange. As were the months leading up to it - a sense that something was going to happen increasingly sooner rather than later. It's evident in the Blog: fewer posts, scattered attention, hardly anything written or made for months.

During the week leading up to the funeral I knew I wanted to make something using one of my father's pictures and - of all things - a poem he must have scribbled a matter of months ago. It would be our first collaboration. Perhaps there'll be more.

As I was making the funeral service booklet I kept wondering what it all amounted to: drawing, writing, book making ... - there are certain moods when everything you touch seems thin and flimsy. Why bother?And so it was heart-warming to find an e-mail from Jill Magi in my Inbox the very moment I printed off the last copy of the funeral service. Jill had just opened a little book I'd sent a year ago (the library of last resort) and wanted to tell me how much she'd enjoyed leafing through the pages: "Art, teaching me to live. Life, teaching me the art borne of sheer trembling—compassion." She couldn't have known and yet the timing couldn't have been better.

So I'll go on making things no matter how thin and flimsy. You never know who might be reading and how what you've made gives a shape to live by.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

BBC Radio 4 programme on H.D..

I'm putting up the link as a way of reminding myself to listen when I get back.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two verses from Emily Dickinson to stand for the past few days.

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here's something. Reading Peter Gizzi's volume Some Values of Landscape and Weather I pause on the title of the first poem in the opening series A History of the Lyric. I'd always assumed 'Objects in mirror are closer than they appear' was lifted from a work on optics (school textbook, Isaac Newton, some such source). How wrong can I be? As any U.S. citizen and car driver would know - this is a phrase required by law to be found on side mirrors. Doh! My reading feels not so much depleted as enhanced by such a discovery - although there's an uneasy sensation of how many other such citations I'm missing or misattributing.


Spring and All arrives today (finally). I love the plain blue cover and what I assume is a facsimile printing (erratic quotation marks etc.). To hold it in the hand as a single volume is a real pleasure.


Reading Philip K. Dick with renewed interest. That he once shared a house with Robert Duncan makes sense - his massive Exegesis in some ways an equivalent to The H.D. Book? Both cat lovers, too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Starting to rethink my days. (That Kenneth Koch phrase? Make your own days ... - something like that.)

According to my calculations I seem to spend some two and a half hours before starting work (waking up, the three Ss, breakfast, travel); seven hours are contractually required for work; then there is a 'grey area' of return travel, picking up daughters, tea, homework supervision, shopping; a further two and a half hours preparing, eating, clearing dinner and getting kids into bed; before - finally - unallocated time (one and a half ... two hours? ....) before hitting the hay.

The challenge being within these hours to find the time to read (news, magazines, current texts), write (type up current notebook material, daily pages, work on texts), make books (new & old projects), watch (useful documentaries, BBC archive material, films), listen (stored sound files, CDs, podcasts), walk (what happened to the daily constitutional?), swim (currently weekends and a hurried Weds 7 a.m.) not taking into consideration the mass of work related matter (grading, reference writing, admin. stuff) or time to simply stare at the clouds going by.

On the one hand I'm with Tom Hodgkinson - why count? Break the clock watching inner Malvolio. On the other hand I'm appalled at the frittering away of hours. Like Faust I want to prise the hours, the minutes, the seconds apart - find time within the time.

Impossible. Then again ...

Any suggestions?
Not only has the hour gone back but I've the distinct impression they've started shortening time: the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days ...

As Quentin Robert DeNameland stated: the eons are closing ...


New product from Sigur Ros as I discovered in Fnac yesterday. A typically minimalist package: grey toned covers, double exposed photos, little by way of information beyond track listing (admittedly more than on ( ) ). As I type fljotavik is just starting (track 2, CD1) and there's disc 2 plus a DVD to enjoy. I gather there's no new material - it's all live recordings of concerts. No matter. Good stuff. And the kind of production that confirms why you still want to buy music as an object rather than simply download off iTunes.


While on the topic of downloads ... the new toy has been a distraction (perhaps contributing to the sense of lost time). Naturally I'd done research on Apps - the 20 best paid, free, etc.. In case anyone is considering buying an iPad and would appreciate some advice, here's mine - based on five days' use:
  • get into the habit of switching off WiFi & automated updates. Reason? Saves battery life.
  • get a cover front and back (Smart Cover & Belkin seem good - but a bit pricey).
  • invest in Instapaper (lets you store and read content when offline).
  • be suspicious about ebooks i) why do they cost so much? ii) free ones are of questionable authenticity and accuracy - who typed them in/proof read and which editions are being used? iii) after the recent LRB article - be on your guard for 'ghost' annotations (your notes being registered by a central Server: Big Brother mutates into Big Librarian).
  • try out the BBC iPlayer (Worldwide version if you're outside the UK) - there's an excellent range of programmes dating back to the 60s - and at about 7 euros for a month pretty reasonably priced.
  • subscribe (free for two months - that's good) to The Guardian and see what they've done to reinvent a daily newspaper into a screen-based medium. I am - despite everything I might have said before - impressed. This is not a simple Web-to-Screen compromise. They've thought out page selection, movement from section to section, and the quality of both print and images is outstanding. If there's one thing I miss living outside of the UK it's the ability to buy and read a quality daily (even Belgian friends admit Le Soir etc. are dull beyond belief). In January I'll be asked to subscribe - ten quid each month for six issues a week. Do the Maths - I think that's very good value and (unlike the ebooks) shows a sense of what costs of production are being saved. When I heard about this App it tipped the balance on whether or not to get an iPad. Reading articles every day only convinces me the more.
  • get the 10W USB-mains adapter for recharging. Unless I'm doing something wrong, the iPad seems to take a long time via the USB-computer connection.
  • avoid buying Angry Birds or your kids will want to play it all the time.
  • try not to bore everyone by extolling the virtues of iPad ownership or swapping lists of Apps ... just like this post. (Enough free Apple advertising, Ed.)
Thursday night we were invited out to Le Fils de Jules a Basque restaurant off Avenue Louise. When you see cassoulet listed on the menu there's really no point debating - just order it. If you're in the vicinity and feeling hungry - go along. In a word: superb.


More technology: over the break they sneaked into my classroom and erected an ActivBoard - I think I'm just about the last person to get one. The trusty old whiteboard is still there but shifted a couple of meters to the right. During fee periods I've meddled about with the new one and - as with the iPad - find I'm pleasantly surprised with what it can do, what it allows. It's rather like having Adobe Photoshop on the wall - and that suggests all sorts of new writing possibilities ... Hmmm ...


More bread making this weekend and I even tried my hand at a Victoria sponge (with assistance from my sous chef). I don't do cakes - as a rule. However after hearing Ian Hislop's attempt on I've Never Seen Starwars I thought I should give it a try. And here's the result:

& it tastes good.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

So O.K. I've given in. It just seemed too good an opportunity with a colleague travelling to the States over the break and the current dollar to euro conversion rate and ... well, it's always easy to find justifications for what we want to justify. To cut a long story short I've invested in an iPad (this post being the first attempt at using the clicky keyboard).

Already downloaded are a nifty television app which seems to allow access to U.K. television; The Guardian's free two month trial; the complete stories of Lydia Davis (by way of seeing how I might cope with reading a book on screen); as well as Pages and Drop Box (because everyone seems to feel these are essential).

However I waited until the girls came home before unboxing the thing. Much as I loathe to admit it, Apple packages its products so damn well. As we lifted the cover off and saw the slim little tablet it was hard not to feel a thrill. Commodity fetishism or some kind of techno-epiphany - call it what you will but the girls' astonishment was real and tangible. Maybe one of those moments they'll look back on as I remember our first colour television or my Dad's new car.

Will it mean more regular posting? Well, that remains to be seen.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

"For me, drawing manifests itself in two distinct ways: in the urgency of a doodle, or the obsessive labour of intricate detail. In the middle of the night I awake adrenalised by thoughts of a forthcoming project. Images spin and meld in the golden half-light of my imagination. This is the time when the shy creatures that are my ideas creep out into the clearing of my consciousness. It is at this moment that I click on the bedside light and fumble for my glasses and a pen and paper and scribble a sketch.

It may only be a few lines of automatic writing, a cipher containing the gist of the inspiration. This done I can flop back into sleep. This moment - when an idea first pops its head above the parapet - is crucial to its survival. I have noticed over the years that even though I will go on to redraw and refine the initial idea, more often than not I will plump for something that closely resembles that initial doodle. These doodles are the nearest I come to making elegant gestures." (Grayson Perry)

(full the full article see:

Emma's joke

A madman is writing a letter to himself in the asylum.

The nurse asks: "What are you writing?".

He replies: "I don't know - I haven't read it yet."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Bake bread ... Play the ukulele ...

Picked up a slightly grubby copy of How To Be Free from the ever-reliable Reading Oxfam bookshop. It seemed true to the spirit of the text not to pay full whack & to be side-stepping the Dark Forces of Waterstones, Amazon, etc..

It was Gavin P-P's cloud book that led me to Tom Hodgkinson & his first volume: How To Be Idle. However, scratch away at the low brow Self-Help-style marketing and you begin to realise there's a very serious argument - maybe aesthetic is a better word - being presented. In fact, I'd put money on these books being re-worked academic research for a never completed doctorate (something that appeals to me enormously). Of course, you could argue that writing and publishing two such volumes is a contradiction in terms - would a true idler ever submit to such discipline? Never mind, these are valuable documents in adverse times. And while the bibliographies read like lists of good old friends (Debord, Vaneigem, Ruskin, Lawrence) there are one or two gatecrashers I need to get to know better.


Friday, November 04, 2011

"I always listen to The Fall when I reach a creative block because Mark Smith is a great example of I'll do it my way I don't give a damn about anybody else. He's a real chairman of the awkward squad and I think there's something aesthetically about the music of The Fall that always reminds me that ... follow the line of most resistance." (Grayson Perry talking on BBC Radio 4, Desert Island Discs)

He then goes on to play Hip Priest.

Of course.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Alan Measles


The BBC Grayson Perry 'Imagine' documentary was on too late last night - but who cares? One of the joys of being over in the U.K. you get to watch yesterday's television today thanks to iPlayer.

Go to:

to watch the programme


for more on Teddy Bears and the concept of the Sacred.

Strange as it is to say but I think Ruskin would approve.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Space ... the final frontier ...

"Space" is the theme that runs through much of what the protesters say. Their first agreed principle is that the current system is unsustainable, undemocratic and unjust, and they want to create the space to think of alternatives. First that means taking key symbolic public space – this is the politics of geography – to use it for conviviality, living, learning and participation. That's no easy task in a city designed to facilitate only three activities – working, transport and shopping – with as little human interaction as possible. Metal fencing is springing up around even small public spaces in the City of London to preclude new camps. The protesters' aim is to open up space, physically and socially, for people to connect and thereby open up space in people's imaginations.

Read more at:

... If only it could be life and not as we know it ...


The great excitement of opening a new packet of cereal goes back to the 60s when there'd be something genuinely worth finding: a plastic alien, 3-D effect animal cards or - best of all - badges (see above) which you could parade on your school sweater.

These have been in the cupboard for a good forty years. They don't look much the worse for wear. No doubt someone somewhere would covet them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A la piscine ...

... a new joke shared on entering at opening time (7 a.m. weekdays). The lifeguard comes with a bunch of keys to unlock the gate leading to the changing cubicles.

"Bonjour, Saint Pierre" quips one old man. We laugh. And yet.


Keep listening ...

... to the first track on Second Coming - the point when the rather formless intro section suddenly shifts into a funk groove. One of those transitions that gets you mid-way down the spine.


Sense of loosening up ...

... that moment when you feel a class beginning to gel, you're in gear. What's called 'chemistry' I suppose.


Whereas ...

... every sheath interposed between men in their transactions is felt as a disturbance to the functioning of the apparatus, in which they are not only objectively incorporated but with which they proudly identify themselves. That, instead of raising their hats, they greet each other with the hallos of indifference, that, instead of letters, they send each other inter-office communications without address or signature, are random symptoms of a sickness of contact. Estrangement shows itself precisely in the elimination of distance between people. (Minima Moralia, 41)

How Adorno would have loved e-mail & emoticons ...


I mean to say ...

... "Which words come to mind when you think of this student?" (College Application Form)


P.S. ...

Madame XXX established a piano in the Alps.

One of the great lines from Ashbery's Rimbaud translations.

(I notice that in the CD reading of the original French text, the actor simply leaves a blank for the "XXX". I'd been reading 'eeks-eeks-eeks' a more cartoony - indeed, Ashberyan - effect, than was perhaps intended.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What seems to be - increasingly - a weekly appointment. For a variety of reasons there just don't seem to be sufficient hours in the day once all the obligatory activities are factored in (washing, driving, teaching, collecting, shopping, cooking, eating, sleeping, not sleeping ...). Life reduced to pure function. Lamentable.


In the salvaged hours ... reading: Ashbery (still) especially the selections of April Galleons in the later Selected Poems and his Rimbaud translations of The Illuminations (terrific). Writing: daily 'spoolings' which are to be typed up and worked into (eventually). Listening: The Stone Roses (everyone is excited that they're reforming - I'm excited that I've just heard their second album).


Friday lunchtime: weird autumnal system shutdown: post Parent:Teacher conferences I was intending to go for a lunchtime drink with colleagues. Instead, I sat in the car in the car park and felt utterly exhausted with one of those over-the-eyebrow pile-driver headaches beginning. The very thought of a beer made my stomach churn. In such circumstances there's only one thing to do: go home & go to bed.


Wales lose to Australia. France lose to New Zealand. & I lose interest.


Phone calls. Pumpkin soup. L's birthday.


Here's an interesting book: Listening to Noise and Silence by Salome Voegelin.

"The ideology of a pragmatic visuality is the desire for the whole; to achieve the convenience of comprehension and knowledge through the distance and stability of the object. Such a visuality provides us with maps, traces, borders and certainties, whose consequences are communication and a sense of objectivity. The auditory engagement however, when it is not in the service of simply furnishing the pragmatic visual object, pursues a different engagement. Left in the dark, I need to explore what I hear. Listening discovers and generates the heard."(4)

Each page throws up something of interest - questions about the relation of visual and aural 'meaning' (she prefers the Merleau-Ponty term of "non-sense"); the nature of sound; what it means to go for a walk and hear what surrounds you; what it means, indeed, to put a CD on. And - by extension - the nature of a poem: as visual text or aural manifestation.

Simultaneously, I'm excited and depressed: her name-checking of Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger and Adorno in particular necessitates a serious re-reading of texts that have been on the shelves for twenty years. & the time required to properly engage with her ideas ...?


Watching clouds a few weeks ago. Now simply listening.




(pwoermd for Salome Voegelin)


This time next week I should be over in the U.K. staying until the Thursday. If anyone is in the vicinity ...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The older Wafflette's weekend homework was to illustrate a poem by Jacques Prevert.

Dad assistance consisted of image printing and cutting into the pages with a scalpel (we didn't fancy the hours in Casualty otherwise). As for the rest it was down to her.

Not a bad effort at all.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wales 8 : France 9

Once again a major sporting event is spoiled by poor decision making.

Given touch judges and a 'third eye', why does a referee at this level not seek confirmation before issuing a red card that will so clearly tip a game?

For Wales to go out to a manifestly weaker French side makes a mockery of the Final.

There are times when you feel - physically - a sense of injustice and this is one of them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This came back to me today, how, at prep school, we would sit in morning assembly. Most days there was a hymn, a reading from the Bible, a prayer. Then we would troop out and on to classes. The important stuff.

Every now and then we would have a special visitor. There would be the obligatory hymn and a short talk. Then we were told 'let us pray' - and nothing happened. Silence. Little boys being little boys, there'd be nudges and whispers: he's fallen asleep ... he's forgotten the words ... . Minutes went by. Much shuffling and fidgeting. Then the headmaster would clear his throat and we knew that was it. Assembly over. Off you go.

It took some years for the penny to drop that this was normal Quaker practice. A silent waiting, listening, for - well, whatever. It would be presumptuous to say.

Or like the time we were told about a concert where the player with the triangle (you know what a triangle is I take it boys ...) waited all through the piece and played only once or twice. However, we were told, these few notes were as vital as any others.

Nothing was insisted. Nobody rammed a moral down our throats. Yet - as this post confirms - the words and the silences went deep. And stayed.

As I say, thinking about this today.


Just as a matter of interest, Bunting went to the 'big school' just up the road from mine (although many years earlier). And hated it.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Rain. The tiles on the roof opposite glistening wet.


Finally made it through the second half of Minghella's version of Highsmith's Ripley. Good as the film is it's not one I watch with pleasure. (Some three weeks have elapsed since I watched the first 50 minutes or so - and that was after abandoning it a year ago).


The past week has been given over to reading Ashbery's Rivers and Mountains and (inevitably) straying around (his essays and - last night and today - John Clare). It's strange to read such a very English poet through Ashbery's eyes - opening facets I'd probably not otherwise have noticed. And the point about the distance of poet to the poem - that's something that hadn't really occurred to me before.


The heating's on & the radiators are hot. A sign of the year turning.


It's interesting that Minghella has Tom kill Freddie with a bust of some Emperor. Convinces me of my earlier reading of Highsmith's novel in terms of an American searching for identity in the Classical past. Strange ghostings, too: the actor playing Peter is a kind of Alan Rickman: Jamie (the same languid well-spoken manner). And at one point Tom at the piano has some resemblance to Juliet Stevenson: Nina (it's the hair falling forward or the jaw). Films haunting each other.


Many things I could (& probably should) be doing.


Friday, October 07, 2011

Stumbled upon while reading Ashbery's Other Traditions ...

"Words never consent to correspond exactly to any object unless, like scientific terms, they are first killed. Hence the curious life of words in the hands of those who love all life so well that they do not kill even the slender words but let them play on; and such are poets."

(Edward Thomas writing about John Clare)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The fullcrumb series gets a mention in a recent article by David Berridge:

Thanks to Geof H for pointing this out.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

8:25 a.m.

A thick blanket of grey & thin drizzle. Altostratus shading into nimbostratus.

The Belgian weather returns.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A few websites worth following up after yesterday's trip to Mariemont:


(not forgetting Luc Fierens' work - but I don't have an e-address to hand)


Tomorrow the weather's meant to change. Out: the Indian summer. In: autumn (season of ... etc.).

And who knows - maybe some clouds?


Thanks to my Frimley correspondent for the rugby link. I had a look but didn't fancy the sign up requirement. I'll just have to use my imagination (there must be a finite number of ways a man can cross a line with a ball after all).


A student tells me of the Swedish saying for an Indian summer: "that time of year when it continues hot". Perfect.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I'm aware that Wales hammered Fiji this morning in the Rugby World Cup. I caught the first ten minutes and then had to go out. This evening you'd think that somewhere/ somehow I could find highlights of the match. Not a sausage (& I've just spent the best part of half an hour going through the ITV, BBC, French & Belgian TV sites). About the best I can do is YouTube where a young Welsh lad (I assume) has rigged up a camera to watch clips on his iPad. Sadly he didn't bother to check the angle and most of the action is obscured.

Tomorrow I'll post about the book festival down in Mariemont. Some lovely stuff.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Off to Mariemont tomorrow & the Marche du Livre (assuming we can dodge the Brussels Marathon).

Information at:


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I am the clouds
I am embroidered
Ich bin der Autor aller Felgen
Und Damast-Paspeln
Ich bin der Chrome Dinette
Ich bin der Chrome Dinette
Ich bin Eier aller Arten ...

Unusually chirpy this morning having listened to Martin Clunes on Desert Island Discs last night. Ever one of my favourite comic actors - not forgetting The Voice of Kipper - it transpires that his favourite composer is ... you guessed it ... Frank Zappa. In fact, he went so far as to say he'd trade in the entire works of Shakespeare for Zappa's back catalogue. Furthermore, he admitted that a desert island was probably the only place he could enjoy the music - his wife and daughter walking out of the room the moment a track begins. (Sounds familiar ...).

In celebration I bung You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. One into the car stereo and sail through the low lying stratus shrouding the Ring humming along to Sofa and The Mammy Anthem. I've probably said it before but I'll say it again, no one's music affects me as much as Zappa's - that immediate feeling of being plugged back in to whatever energy he was tapping into.

Have a listen to Clunes (you can track it down on the BBC Radio 4 website/archive). He's a Good Bloke.

(& Nelly - if you're reading this - I know I owe you an e-mail).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:"

(Craig Raine, A Martian Sends a Postcard Home)

This has always been my favourite line by Raine - something to do with the sly name-checking of the band of the Sixties. Yet now I see that what had appeared mere poetic whimsy is - in fact - perfectly true. Good old stratus, as Gavin P-P explains. The clouds coming - literally - down to earth.

As was the case driving along the Ring this morning (7:55 am, a little later than usual on account of the holiday and a sneaky swim before breakfast). The road dips and there shrouding the trees and tarmac a band of obscurity.

Such mists! Such fruitfulness!

Monday, September 26, 2011





& more just fiddling around ...



fiddling about this evening

the sushi banquet


(learning to make California Rolls)


thanks for the photos to Yuko & Mark

2:50pm (now)

altocumulus stratiformis undulatus/ perlucidus.

7:30 am (this morning driving out of Brussels)

altostratus undulatus - beautiful bands of mauve & rose stretching out across the sky. I'd seen this for so many years but only now know the 'what' and a little of the 'why'. A good feeling to have.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


the sky 7:28


Stratocumulus ... " a patch of low clumpy clouds is just called stratocumulus" (p 94).

Noticing that as I write & break off to read a paragraph the mauve-grey mass is now lit on the top left edges. (Do clouds have edges?) Darkening below but gilding the top fringe.

Right now a faintly pink burst of white of one cloud framed by the darker masses above and below. & I think autocumulus forming higher up. A very, very slow ease leftwards towards the rising sun which is the source of light on the left edges.

Later, at breakfast, L. notices England passing by in the sky. Where did it go?


"The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can't get over
how it all works together ..."

(James Schuyler, 'February')


HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?

POLONIUS: By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.

HAMLET: Methinks it is like a weasel.

POLONIUS: It is backed like a weasel.

HAMLET: Or like a whale?

LORD POLONIUS: Very like a whale.

HAMLET: Then I will come to my mother by and by. They fool
me to the top of my bent. I will come by and by.

(Hamlet, III, ii)


"I want to be able to draw clouds"

(John Ruskin) - see my post 17th August 2010


Jamie and Nina sitting at the window, staring up in the clouds, pointing out people. (Anthony Minghella, Truly Madly Deeply)


Saturday, September 24, 2011


Fnac is selling off a series of discs by Brad Meldhau - someone I'd never heard of either by name or sound. I take advantage of the offer and take three: Art of the Trio Vol. Two, elegiac cycle and this. The CD covers are perhaps a little too precious and insistent: Chet Baker ... Bud Powell ... Glenn Gould ... are names that spring to mind and the liner notes - by Brad himself - are dangerously close to Jarrett at his most posturing. However ... the music is spot on. In Vol. One I'm particularly taken with 'Blackbird'- his arrangement of the Beatles song.



cloud drawing (coming up to 9 a.m.)


Bands - no swathes - of cirrocumulus - looks high up - stretching far out across the city & overhead. A decisive line of jet stream* like a minimalist rainbow running from the roof of the apartment & arching over behind the roof of newt door. As I write it's beginning to dissolve, a slow white bleed into blue. In places the cirrocumulus is more weft-like - as if partially erased, suspended second thoughts, a hasty gesture of start again. Scrubbings out - where the eraser is the cloud itself. Self cancellation in mid-air.

& leaving the pool, I looked up & saw wefts : pulled apart fragments of Swiffer dusters. Looking in the book this might be cirrocumulus lacunosus?

* & I learn a new word: contrail for this phenomenon



For once the publishing cliche - "a book that will change your life" - is true. This is a precious volume. I'd heard about it from the Cloud Appreciation Society website but assumed (wrongly) that it was only available to members. In fact, a geographer colleague had a copy & graciously passed it on to me to read. I can't recommend it highly enough - well, up to at least 40,000 feet (round about the top of an angry cumulonimbus).

It's learned - but wears its learning lightly. There are lovely asides and digressions which make it clear we're talking about more than clouds: it's a way of looking and thinking about life. Taking time, changing the direction of vision, lifting the eyes above street level and mundane preoccupations. (And I notice that Pretor-Pinney is involved with The Idler).

The implications of this volume stretch far, far across the horizon. Simply look up and there they are - and you don't need an App.. How good is that?

Monday, September 19, 2011


This is pure joy from beginning to end.

Watch it and weep for what it so obviously implies.

(It seems to be a bit off centre here - maybe try and see it directly on YouTube).

Asemic Tea










Sunday, September 18, 2011

"In that epitome of modern bureaucracy, the dotted line, the same principle taken to its logical extreme. Upon this line that is not a line the movement of life is collapsed into a series of instants. Lifeless and inert, it neither moves nor speaks. It has no personality whatsoever. It is, if you will, the perfect negation of the signature that comes to stand above it. Unlike the wayfarer who signs his presence on the land in the ever-growing sum of his trails, and the scribe who signs his presence on the page in his ever-extending letter-line, the modern author signs his work with the trace of a gesture so truncated and condensed, and so deeply sedimented in motor memory, that he carries it within him wherever he goes as a mark of his unique and unchanging identity. It is, as the graphologist H. J. Jacoby put it, his 'psychological visiting card' ... To sign on the dotted line is not to lay a trail but to execute a mark on the things to be found and appropriated at successive sites of occupation ... Nothing better illustrates the opposition, central to the modern constitution, between individual idiosyncrasy and the determination of the social order." (Ingold, Lines, 'Up, across and along', p 94)


Thinking about the Latin word ductus (the visible and invisible traces of the hand in movement during writing) and its relation to the English word conduct.

Thinking, too, of the teacher as conductor: i) the accompanying person on the journey (e.g. on the bus or tram); ii) the orchestral director - both interpreter (of the composition) and facilitator of the performance (co-ordinating the many instruments); iii) the person who moves through the text, who weaves the reading; iv) the channeler of energy (e.g. lightning), who earths and who transmits (the Tradition).

"the conduct of a thinking mind on its way through a composition" (cited by Ingold, p 16)


Tidying the upstairs office. As ever therapeutic. & the benefits - immediate.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

"My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require." (Edward Elgar)

Heard on Radio 3 yesterday.


Then there's the woman in England who has "do not resuscitate" tattooed across her chest. And, on her back, "P.T.O.". (The News Quiz, Radio 4)


"You've been studying English for so many years and you still need to look words up in the dictionary." (L., just now).


"Who can I emmatate?" (E. yesterday evening).


Saturday, September 10, 2011


I've just discovered Elizabeth Bishop.

Gosh, she's good.


"I am tired of breathing this eroded air"
(The Monument)

Too right.

(from the CD booklet accompanying
Do Whatever You Want All The Time)


I don't know much about Ponytail beyond the fact that i) this CD was playing as I was about to leave the Mediatheque, ii) that Molly Siegel sounds a hell of a lot like Annabella Lwin, iii) the music, too, has the twangy spasm tom-tom quality of BowWowWow, and that iv) three tracks in it's good stuff. Titles such as 'Easy Peasy' and 'Beyondersville' just have to be worth a listen.
I've only managed four of the planned six sestinas this week. (Daughters returning from school trips ... minutes to type up ... assignments proving to be more engaging than anticipated ... meals to cook ... & so on & so on).

Today's comes almost with grace. It's easily the best of the lot - the others don't, I think, merit posting.

The logics of the sestina form are intriguing and the way the lines seek each other out in ways beyond any conscious control.

For what it's worth, here's today's:

SESTINA (Saturday)

That it should be so
sitting looking out
without reaching for it at all
feeling, that is
that which is insisted upon
that’s it, isn’t it?

Surely that’s it
isn’t it always so?
On and on
trying to find out
if that is all there is
the point of it all.

And through it all
thinking about it -
that this is how it is
and depends upon being so.
Without leaving out
but simply going on.

So it goes on
as if nothing at all.
Only writing it out -
what is the point of it? -
only keeping it from being so
and that the word simply is?

And there it is
an opening on
like “thus” or “so”
as though nothing at all.
Only a turning toward it
it turns out.

And from then on out
so it is
it is - isn’t it? –
from now on only on.
This is all.
As it was and always so.

And so did we find out
the point of it all? What is
this insisting upon and an ‘it’ that isn’t it?

Down in the library yesterday pulling out volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica to check certain dates and publications. I enjoy the experience of leafing through the bulky volumes, catching sight of other entries, the quiet of the room, the rhythm of getting up-going to the shelf-sitting down.

I catch myself thinking how this has become a rare activity (and pleasure).

A depressing thought.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Looks like this will be coming out in October - and not before time. Series One has been available on DVD for a while but Series Two was always my favourite. (This has absolutely nothing to do with Joanna Kanska as Greta Gretowska).

"Altered Priorities Ahead" - that sign on the approach to the campus. Now, more than ever, it seems pertinent.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

This week's project: to write a sestina each day.

Today's words (supplied by C.) were quite a challenge:







The method: to jot down lines at odd moments during the day without any thought to coherence. Then sit down and construct the poem observing the basic rules for the form.

I've written so little for so long it's a way of oiling the engine. And it might lead somewhere. Who knows?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Reading (re-reading) The Talented Mr Ripley (Highsmith) in preparation for an essay I have to supervise.

This time through I'm struck by the frequent descriptions of drinking and the states of altered consciousness. No doubt an area of particular expertise for Highsmith and - equally probable - the topic for a thesis at some university or other.

Parallel to a rather predictable Oedipal reading - the Greenleaf father at the beginning and the police Ripley dreads at the end - runs a more intriguing cultural theme: the American's obsession with Europe. That Tom arrives in Crete at the end - symbolic of the cradle of Western civilisation, site of the labyrinth and fittingly associated with the liar paradox - seems more than coincidental. And yet what does this desire mask? (A seemingly sterile existence of anticipatory life and empty possessions). More to think on ...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

At 9 a.m. I look down and catch sight of my left foot - an orange sock! Not a good match with today's pink shirt. An irritating mistake but hardly the end of the world. Who'll notice in any case?

Midday and a student asks why I'm wearing different coloured socks. Yes, I say, I know - orange socks and a pink shirt don't go.

He corrects me: no - it's not orange socks (plural) but sock. The right one is pink.

I hadn't noticed and simply assumed they were both the same. To make matters worse one is patterned with bees, the other zebras. A sartorial disaster. (Or 'faux pas' I suggest hoping for a laugh from the French speakers.)

It goes to show the dangers of fumbling for a pair of socks in the half-light of the bedroom at 6 a.m..

One lives and learns. And wears socks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This arrived today - a postcard from A. . Flipping it over I see it's by Jan Fabre and should read 'Bic-dweil / Only acts of poetical terrorisme' (sic).

But what about that official blue sticker? A deliberate act of obliteration (censorship)?* Or itself a kind of poetic intervention (creativity)? Or involving no human hand or thought at all - the card shot though some label machine (automation)?

And the hovering nature of the message itself: the rather chummily inclusive "we". The conciliatory "may have" (although stopping short of apology). As against the politic use of unspecific terms: "the sender", "an alternative service". What kind of alternative service I wonder? Carrier pigeon? Lame postman who has to walk the distance? Slug?

Oh the joys of reading.


* if so, the obliteration in fact accentuates the potential offensiveness - the block capitalized "TERRORISME" now shouts from the bottom of the card.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I happened upon this DVD at the Mediatheque (the old habits!) and it's led me back to ( ) - playing as I type - and on into their entire catalogue.

I'd always imagined them to be a group of blond Icelandic longhairs (wot cultural stereotype?) - sort of Reykjavik's answer to Yes. Jonsi hits the kind of searing high notes that Jon Anderson sustained on Relayer.

How wrong could I be?

In fact they're a long way from Prog rock celebs. What's lovely about the first disc of the 2-DVD set is the low-key makeshift nature of their music: improvising on slates, setting up on a mountainside, or playing in what looks to be a school assembly room. Accurate or not, the overriding impression is of a group with a close fan base - wives, girlfriends, extended family, friends they went to school with. There's no rioting, no gobbing, no chucking fireworks on stage. In such a climate few would tear off their tops - chunky fisherman's sweaters are the preferred choice. (Jonsi seems to like a cap with earflaps. I don't blame him).

The DVD intercuts footage of the band with pans of the Icelandic landscape: sea, mountains, streams running through ferns. You get the impression that the usual tantrums and narcissism of the Music Biz would be given short shrift in such a context.

Little people. Big old world.

And let's not make a pun on rock music.

Have a listen, anyway.

I've set up a new Blog at a rival provider (deliberately to keep things separate).

The new Blog will be exclusively concerned with teaching and the new IB course and so may - or may not - be of interest to my usual readers.

You'll find it at:

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Our job is to keep our receiving equipment in good working order."

( 'Art Objects', Jeanette Winterson)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

... been going through my mind ...

"The loving cup of strawberry ice-cream soma was passed from hand to hand and with the formula 'I drink to my annihilation', twelve times quaffed. Then to the accompaniment of the synthetic orchestra the First Solidarity Hymn was sung.

Ford we are twelve; oh make us one,
Like drops within the Social River;
Oh, make us now together run
As swiftly as thy shining Flivver

... "

(Brave New World, Huxley, p70)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...