(found sculpture/ Porte de Namur/ a Richard Tuttle?)
Half aimless wandering en famille, coffee, dribs of Christmas shopping, tram back & the opportunity seized for a jog (a round of the woods, forehead set against the prevailing wind, walk back exhilarated to have snatched a space in the day, cheeks rosy in contrast to the December grey). Full of beans - & tip more on toast for lunch. 57 varieties, men on a raft.
Billie Whitelaw has died - odd how yesterday I flipped through a Beckett biog. & started in on Texts for Nothing.
"I think that it is an uncovering process, and I try not to necessarily accept the first or easiest solution. Making a work is a digging down process. I was thinking about it last night — how one of the things in practice is to really be in the moment and accept things as they are. And I was wondering about that in terms of the dissatisfaction aspect, because often one of the problems in art is that people are too easily satisfied. There needs to be some kind of sifting process, where you take the time and patience to work through the easiest and most superficial solutions in order to discover something deeper.
I always think of the way that I work as similar to making a soup. You have vegetables and then you put them in the water and then the vegetables stay vegetables for a while. You just allow them to be separate — the carrots are carrots, the peas are peas and everything is just simmering. You’re working very slowly, and little by little the vegetables start boiling down, and then little by little the soup becomes absolutely essentialized. That’s what I really think the process is about. And that takes some time and patience."
What seems a lifetime ago I taught a handful of students from Shimer College as part of their Oxford Programme. I can remember their faces & enthusiasm (& excruciatingly bad prose) as well as the conversations - but the names ... sadly no. A Kelly, an Eric maybe? Strange to think they'll be in their mid-forties by now.
Strange, too, to read that Shimer has been rated as the "worst college in America" (at least according to an article in The Guardian). The usual caveats apply but it really does seem that the institution is struggling - numbers dwindling, the educational philosophy out of synch with the times.
I remember being struck by the earnestness & unabashed confidence with which they talked about ideas it would be fair to say they barely understood. I mentioned Beckett - "oh yeah, we did him last year in Nothingness". The Hundred Great Books (the very concept jarred with my Critical Theory riddled intellectual soul) were ploughed through at an alarming rate.
However, without Kelly & his mates I might never have realised Talking Heads were worth a listen. & how a farewell remark by their supervisor - "you know, they really dug your classes - you should teach" - lodged somewhere despite all the denials that were screaming in my head & perhaps began to shape a future of which I was utterly unaware.
Since then I have taught many generations of students & found almost without exception that the ones I warm to are the 'oddballs' - the very characters to which a college such as Shimer offers a home.
In a university climate which is increasingly determined by student-consumer 'value for money', career advancement, cynical self-promotion - or pure hedonism - maybe Shimer is exactly what's needed. Dispense with the secondary texts. Read for yourself. Have an opinion. Connect what's on the page with your life. Care about ideas.
Isn't that what going to college is really all about? ...
This week: outings on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday & today (30 mins, 30 mins, 30 mins, 25 mins respectively).
I've now worked out a circuit in the woods which depending on mood I take clockwise or anticlockwise taking in the ducks & the pond (or not). The beech leaves are darkening into a deep red. New hellos - yellows, but I like the auto fill for once - from the chestnut trees.
Yesterday I left earlier & ran in the pre-sunrise dark along the roads. There was a soggy pink notebook on the ground near the tram stop which I placed on the bench. (Good deed for the day). Few cars but it's not the same running on pavements with only the street lights for company. Give me the birds & the trees any day.
Obviously only an idiot would decide to take up jogging in the approach to winter - ever later dawns, ever earlier dusks, rain ... drizzle ... ice ... . However, I'll persevere. Some secret hunger within my Puritan soul is being assuaged. The girls wince at my outfit - bobble hat, amorphous layers, clashing colours. Who cares? I defy Lycra!
Russell Hobbs recalls exploding irons that 'burst into flames' ...
... I read & just for a moment think now why would he do that? A surrealist Proustian epiphany? A missed episode of some Reality TV show?
& then the penny drops.
Good name for a character, though, in that novel I am perpetually not writing. Armitage Shanks another. & I remember Kimberley Clark from Bristol days & Jacob Delafon down in Burgundy (but Keith Waldrop nabbed him). Otis in the lifts ... & those two Belgian lads Villeroy & Boch ...