Monday, April 30, 2012

Taking advantage of the 'pont' as we call it over here (stretching a weekend across to the bank holiday) to go through piles of discarded drafts and false starts sitting up in my oh-so terribly tidy office. It's not as gruelling and teeth-clenching as I'd feared. In fact, there's a load of stuff that if I jack it up on the ramp and tinker underneath could actually be road worthy. Despite appearances, things have been going on. Which is massively chuffing and for the first time in ages I feel the start of a little song in the heart. A chuff finch, me.

In the process I hit upon an earlier go at a sonnet - impending senility means I'd forgotten that I had posted it back in 2008. Never mind. I chuckled at it fondly as one might old photos of your kids wearing silly hats and chocolate smeared around their mouths.

For those of you who weren't reading back then, here it is again with a few judicious tweaks. Not a sonnet anymore, or if you prefer a sonnet minus one. (Or maybe we take the title as part of the whole?).

A Rolling Stone Garottes Kate Moss

A stretch in Thame saves Nina
while a nibble a day keeps Thea’s daughter a waif

It's an ill Will who brings no goat
and every Claude has his servile leaning

No paint cloying over spoilt Mike
but it’s ruining Kate and Doug

Tim writes for Norman
Betty lied; Evan wed her

Mo hates; Les peed
Ill Hortense rang Dee

Di moans after Hedda
Thin Gus cursed

Cy lends a gnomon


Right up there with 'Shall I compare thee ...' of course.

Walking back from dropping E. at school I see a plumber's van parked at the top of our road - 'Doctor House' the name of the outfit.


News from the UK concerning the installation of missile pads on the roofs of apartment blocks in the eventuality of terrorist attacks. This follows on from other reports that it will be forbidden to take amateur film of events (say on your iPhone) and all food, drink and even fittings in competitors' accommodation must be by event-approved sponsors.

Surely someone other than a hard-bitten cynic such as myself must be thinking that the original spirit of the Games has been not so much forgotten as utterly crushed under a burly weight-lifter's foot? Wasn't it the Munich Olympics that proclaimed 'keep politics out of sport'? Well, why not let's have a new initiative 'keep marketing out of sport'. And for any smart arse who says how naive and that in this day and age the professionalisation of sport means events can only take place with enormous corporate involvement etc. that's precisely my point: go back to amateur competition.

L. has started doing doing Classics at school & piped up over dinner last night that weren't the Olympics originally for the gods? What disillusionment awaits ...


Breathing more or less back to normal, catarrh drying up, the vague aches across the shoulders have disappeared. And the inner body climate seems to be more in line with what's going on outdoors. In short, I'm feeling better.


News, too, from the UK of medical research into shrinking hearts. No doubt perfectly in line with government cuts and symptomatic of the culture as a whole.


Thirty days have September, April, June and ... which means this is the end of pwoermd month 2012. Glancing back through the daily posts I reckon there's sufficient for a Sticky Pages volume and maybe I'll even do a separate little 'tomato' book. It'll be good to get the presses grinding again. I'll keep you posted.


Day thirty


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day two of the not-quite flu but sufficient to keep me home yesterday and away from the early dip this morning. On the positive side, it's not so disabling as to stop me reading. So I've had an enjoyable time working through some essays by Alfred Brendel, some letters by James Schuyler (in Just the Thing) and a story by Arthur Machen ('The Inmost Light' collected in the new Penguin volume).

For a couple of months I've been exploring a series of Blogs kept by women artists/photographers. They all seem to lead wonderfully aesthetic lives judging by their posts and photos - although quite how they pay the rent remains unclear. I click through pages of exquisite shots of interiors, glossy magazine-quality table settings of food, atmospheric views across mist-shrouded bays. Most seem to live in converted barns or cottages in the middle of nowhere (Sweden/Norway/Denmark in particular) or beautifully spartan apartments in various north European cities.

I don't see much evidence of kids and significant others are absent or implied. There seems to be abundant 'me' time to go flaneuring down town, dropping by secondhand bookshops and cafes before picking up a piece of fabric or objet d'art in the local flea market. And a particular visual trope: lots of photos of shoes.

Also of note are their studios - without exception impeccably arranged so that even the messiness of work in progress is made to seem somehow artful.

Well, to cut a long story short, I made a Herculean effort to clear out a corner of my so-called work space (bugger all going on for a while now) having been embarrassed into it by these creative women. And, yes, I know there are sites that will tell you that sorting out clutter is a great way to clear the mind and get the inspiration going. So down to the basement with an absurd number of cardboard boxes and other salvaged materials I've been hoarding on the basis that one day they'll be pressed into service. If I need them then I know where they are.

Much as it pains me to admit, I do feel 'lightened' in some hard to define way. And, in the process, have rediscovered various bits and pieces I'd forgotten about and that now suggest a way of working. So thanks to all those Stines and Miekes and Marthas out there.

Give it a month and it will be a pig sty again but just for now ... I might even take a picture.

Day twenty eight


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In that vague state of consciousness between sleep and waking I heard one of these variations on the radio early this morning. Suddenly I realised I had to hear the entire work - thinking, as I have been, of variations (poetic in particular).

After lunch I drove into town knowing the Bozar would be open on a Sunday and just might have a version (Brendel seeming to be highly regarded).

Fruitless attempts to find a parking space above ground meant I had to give in and go into the below ground car park near the Gare Centrale. Absurdly expensive for even half an hour (remind me next time).

Anyway, no Brendel or other recognisable (to my limited knowledge) performers but there are several copies of Paul Lewis' recording on Harmonia Mundi. I dither and then think well, why not? A good comparison if little else.

So much for my knowledge of the current star performers. Back home and just three minutes in to this performance and you just know it's good. Better than good - terrific. And it just so happens he studied with the Great Alfred.

I'm now thinking of getting hold of his complete Beethoven Concertos and then heading for the Sonatas. (A good year's worth of listening).

Back to the Diabellis: at just over thirty, I intend to listen to one a day for the next month in an attempt to really get a feel for each variation. You can do the same if you like.

An exercise in slow listening.

I think it will be worth it.

Day twenty two


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day nineteen

18 different varieties


















apologies for not being able to do chemical formula layout for 2ma2O on this device - but you get the idea

horrible new interface for Blogger I see

Monday, April 16, 2012

By way of an apology for offloading my bile upon my one and a half readers, here's a quip from the wonderful Steve Wright - just the tonic for Monday evening blues ...*

"If sometimes you can't hear me it's because sometimes I'm in parentheses."

Surely that's got to be a great title for a book?

*I can't believe it but I actually wrote 'Martin' in a first posting - a comedian (if we can use such a term)I can't stand. You can see I'm not in my right mind ...
Great news. Not only was my car vandalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (passenger wing mirror broken off by two guys who did the entire street) but I've just learned that my policy doesn't cover such acts.

Which makes you think there's two types of criminals at work, the ones that do the damage and the ones who ...

This after my mother was informed of a 300 pound hike in her AA car insurance for the coming year.

Someone's making money out of all this & it sure ain't us.


On a brighter note, there were two volumes waiting for me in the post room this morning - that old trick of deliberately ordering before a holiday to have something to look forward to on the return.

The first: Charles North's selected prose 'No Other Way' - the very first essay on Bloom on Ashbery is worth the cover price alone. North reads (and writes) well. Right up there with that Alice Notley collection.

The second: the new Penguin Classics Arthur Machen - perfectly timed to fit in with Belbury Poly studies etc..

It's just as well I sneaked these in earlier. Bang goes next month's book budget on a bloody garage bill.

Not happy you'll have gathered.

Day sixteen


Sunday, April 15, 2012


Out to dinner last night and The Wall came up in conversation. We talked about why it was such a landmark (Floyd hadn't recorded anything since Animals), how out of place it was - John Peel's punk-inflected observation after playing Another Brick in the Wall that the guitar solo wasn't dead after all - how it was - is - for better or worse a key part of white-middle-aged-middle-class male audiobiography. A time of gatefold vinyl album covers, incredible expectation of the day-of-release, the reverential first playing on so-and-so's system, your ear close up to the speakers to "get that bass". Dolby noise reduction ... Technics ... Memorex ... BASF ... C90 ... C60 ... these were phrases to conjure with. Heady times.

Anyway, I mentioned in passing the Tommy Vance interview with Roger Waters that I recorded off Radio One the weekend the album was released. I remember it as a Saturday afternoon, Barton Street, London and sitting glued to the radio with Nick Brookman (and even more obsessive Floyd head). Was it like that? Never mind. To hear Waters' spoken voice - this was something special. But where was the cassette? Chucked? Buried in a cardboard box in a cupboard back in the UK? Long recorded over? Or simply a spooling mess of tape ribbon?

No. In a box here in Brussels. And not one but two tapes. Agfa C90 LOW-NOISE. Wow!

And better still: it plays just fine. Not the digitized crispness we've come to expect, more a resonant warmth of some thirty years ago. "This is Thomas the Vance ... The Friday Night Rock Show ...". Friday night? Was it repeated on the Saturday afternoon? Maybe.

Who cares? Thank God for analogue technology: still there after all these years - no file conversion necessary, software compatibility issue nor plug-in. Simply rewind and play.

Day 15


Thursday, April 12, 2012

After Geof's recent post, puzzles are in the air. Here's a favourite cryptic crossword clue I give students now and again:

abcdefg ... pqrstuvwxyz (5)

That's the entire clue. And the answer is a 5-letter word.


And here's another:

Regna (4, 4, 2, 5)

Give it a go.

Day twelve


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A grey & uninspiring day. I don't think the rain has let up once. I can hear it on the Velux right now - scratchy little kitten claws wanting to be let in.

At least there is music ... here's some ear food to get through a wet Tuesday:




Day ten


Monday, April 09, 2012

Another speedy return trip from the UK - rain all the way. It must be Easter Monday.

A modest haul this time:

Retromania, Simon Reynolds (further research materials for Belbury Poly etc)

The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal (I liked his pots long before I realised he wrote on ceramics. And, it turns out, this book takes its departure from Japanese netsuke - one to add to the Tanizaki reading list).

What It Is Like, Charles North (quite a lot of duplication of the earlier Sun & Moon collection but there are enough additional poems to make it worthwhile).

The Essential T.C. Lethbridge (hard to find but at last I've got my hands on a copy. Fascinating theories on paranormal phenomena and energy fields. More on this soon).

The Context of No Context, George W.S. Trow (a name new to me - thrown up by John d'Agata's anthology. Another to add to the Modern Essay reading list).

Plus (not pictured) Janet Baker singing Mahler and Jonny Trunk's wonderful issue of music from Ivor the Engine and The Pogles).

Day nine


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012

Absolutely smitten with Purcell's 'Fairy Queen' (& no one more surprised than myself). I have Emma Kirkby singing an anthology of his songs on another CD and will admit to having managed two and then pressing the eject button. Too pure? Or the timbre of ancient instruments that somehow - like organic muesli - is just too much for my adulterated constitution?

Britten's recording has greater warmth, yet still manages to have a crystal quality. And as A. says, there's something about Purcell and the English landscape, tapping into springs - seasonal and cultural - that run deep below the polite crust of establishment culture. How strange to be listening to Belbury Poly one minute and the 'Fairy Queen' the next. Or perhaps not strange at all. For we are all Pan's People.

And here's a guilty confession. Who is singing counter-tenor back in 1970 but Charles Brett my one time music appreciation teacher. I can remember - vividly - nine years later how he tried to enthuse us with Beethoven's Pastorale symphony and the way we led him a dance. Bad timing on all counts. What I'd give now to talk about the recording, his memories of Britten ... . How we - I - squander opportunities.
poisson d'avril


A day late, but who cares? The tradition being in Belgium to sneak up behind someone and pin (stick) a fish on their back without - of course - them noticing. What fun!

Listening to the radio while waiting for everyone to get in the car to go off to the pool I was 'had'. The 8 a.m. news bulletin contained an item about removing 1 May as a national holiday as a way of remedying current financial problems (interviews with trade union leaders etc.). My ear not tuned to French language parody I was easy meat. But, on reflection, what is the line these days between hoax and political reality? For example, who a couple of years ago in the U.K. would credit a coalition government between Lib Dems & Conservatives? Oh, come on - you've got to be joking! And now it's a fact, it's an even bigger joke. Only nobody's laughing ...



The girls are off to flog old books from their baby years. Each one has to pass by me before permission is given. Here's a spread from Comment l'Elephant a Perdu ses Ailes by Marie Nimier and Helene Riff - a book far too good to leave the premises. The handling of paint and pencil seems somehow reminiscent of Cy Twombly. A lovely volume.



Remember the gym floor, the ancient reel to reel & curling up in a ball, very, very small? I do - and maybe you do, too. My researches into Belbury Poly, Broadcast and the online catalogue of Jonny Trunk have led me to dig out this gift from Alan of a few years ago.

How a page such as this one above speaks of very different times: a D-I-Y approach to teaching and a profound and sincere belief in the Imagination and the Body no matter how silly it must have looked (and felt) at the time.

Farming Today during the week carried an item about 'our' generation of parents being perhaps the last to still take kids for walks in the Big Outdoors. And the other day I took a class for a colleague in which each student settled down in front of their respective terminals, logged on and placed headphones over their ears. I signed 'OK?' and met glassy stares in return.

No need to supervise such a class. The virus has gone deep. Screenagers, indeed.

Surely there's something I can do with this book, though? Ripe for detournement ...



Despite the best efforts of Music Movement and Mime I am no dancer. However, certain forms of modern choreography leave me astounded - and this is one of them. Wenders' film in homage to the late Pina Bausch is well worth watching. I'd know her primarily from Fellini's film And the Ship Sails On where she plays an anaemic psychic Princess. And wasn't there also an anecdote of her sitting across from Samuel Beckett in a cafe - an encounter marked by the absence of either to say a word? Or perhaps I am confusing things.

The soundtrack is also good if rather overpriced in Fnac. Right now I am listening to track 15 of Britten's recording of Purcell's Fairy Queen ('See, even Night herself is here'). Wenders/Bausch use several pieces by Purcell during the film. Beautiful - and this from someone who does not get on with Purcell.

Which reminds me ... of an evening as an undergraduate snorting with laughter through The Indian Queen after a friend's inspired remark: What's Dryden won't come off even with Purcell ... . Those were the days!

Day Two


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