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.

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