Friday, 16 September 2011

Toe Stories

I'm squeamish about injuries to toes. Sharon and I talked about this over a bottle of wine. We discussed various mishaps our toes had suffered over the years. She once had a woman tread on her big toe in stiletto heels which caused her excruciating pain. When I was about  nine years old I a bully, Billy Miller, a big red haired brute of a kid whose name is etched on my psyche for ever, stamped on my big toe . This hurt a lot. I felt something crack but never went to the doctor and whatever injury I'd received healed on its own. I can't remember the pain very well but I do remember the feeling of humiliation that went with it.

I'm writing a book [probably unpublishable due to bad grammar and weirdness] about my childhood in the West of Scotland. This has thrown up some wonderful memories and some bad ones such as the encounter mentioned above.

This is another bad one [sorry, I'll write about the wonderful ones another time] : Ronny Smith, who was sometimes my best friend, told me his father had been in Holland as a prisoner of war and was forced to dredge silt from a canal in the company of some Dutchmen. They used spades and wore no boots on their feet. One Dutchman chopped his spade into his big toe. He crawled onto the dyke. The big toe was hanging by a piece of skin. The Dutchman cut through this with his penknife. Then bled to death.

This story haunted me. I used to think about it when I was on  my own in my bedroom.

I wished I hadn't remembered it. But it helps me understand why I'm squeamish about toes.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

One hundred million opinions.

I'm horrified by the rioting but I  can't say I'm surprised at it. Trouble has been simmering away in the background for years.

Before I go any further I apologise for adding my opinion to the 100 million opinions on this topic that have already been expressed in print, on blogs, in pubs, amongst friends and so on. 

I would also like to remind anyone who reads this that explanations are not justifications. Just because I try to understand why people riot does not mean that  I condone their actions. In fact I'd definitely fight back if my community was threatened.

What I am curious about is the mindset of the rioters. What is going on in their heads? How do they justify their actions? They no doubt do; they might not be educated but they are not stupid. How do they see the world they find themselves in?

These are uncomfortable questions for us all because we love to demonise others. It is one of the great dirty pleasures of being human. I do it myself. Three or four pints of beer and  I 'm saying all chavs/NOW reporters/social workers/traffic wardens/public school boys/fruit and veg traders/ local council officials/Daily Mail readers/Co-op Bank staff/psychiatrists/Jeremy Clarksons or whoever else has happened to upset me during the day should be shot, tortured, castrated, sent to live in Coalville, and worse. Ranting is such fun! No doubt a scientist will tell us 'research shows it activates the pleasure centres of the brain'. But scientists are just a bunch of f...g geeks aren't they?

Demonising is a process that is opposed to empathising. Empathising is what I'm talking about. What would be interesting would be to hear what rioters say about themselves and their actions. Of course this would not be popular, but it might help us to diagnose the sickness that afflicts our society.

Another note: empathy is not sympathy.

In the course of adult life I've talked to quite a lot of bad and mad people and have found it illuminating to discover their paranoid views of the universe, that is the real or imaginary entities that are their demons. These include Galactic conspirators, the Mekon, Muslims, anyone from Africa, Social Services, the Illuminati, the Marcone, Communists, Capitalists, Zionists, the Insect People, Irishmen...It's hard to distinguish the insane from the political and the religious.

Likewise with the rioting tribes: they will have a shared view of the world , they will have their demons. Knowing what these are will be help solve the problems we face collectively. We can guess what some of these are: the police, immigrants, the middle classes and so on. The rioters are part of the great stinking, sticky mass of discontent, anger, frustration, depression, envy, greed, that sits in the middle of our society, that we all contribute to. It needs to be dealt with before - and this is my great fear- it is exploited by political extremists. Check out history and be frightened.

Apologies if I sound like a vicar or an opinion column in the Independent.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Fable of the Eyeglass. Lee Brilleaux 1967.

It's L.B. Memorial Concert  this week so
here is something for those that like Lee's surreal side.
Age fourteen.  Sweyne school  exercise book. 1967.
In tune with the Zeitgeist.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Green Man

We do lots of Green Men in pewter. Here are some Sharon has done recently. They include a smiling Green Man we did as an order. Personally I don't think the Green man ought to smile but this one was done for a special occasion so I suppose an exception is acceptable.

I usually have a pewter Green man as the centre piece of our display on the market or craft fair. He always attracts attention. This goes beyond fashion. He strikes a chord with how many people feel about the world. People ask me: What does he mean? I can't give a straight answer to that  because I don't really know. Books on the subject give all sorts of answers to this question from the full blown New Age interpretations in which he is seen as a Pagan deity, to the prosaic, scholarly ones that ascribe no meaning to him at all.

My view is that we invest him with with the deep feelings we have about Nature. We are animals that have lost touch with our senses and, therefore, struggle to connect with the natural world. We yearn to be reunited with it. The Green Man offers path by which we can do this. He invokes that sense of the numinous that we get hints of now and then from walking in the woods, watching the sun set over the sea, creating a garden or watching birds.

Personally, trees give me that special feeling of connection with Nature particularly oak trees such as these ones in an area of old parkland near where I live. These trees and others like them are the source of our inspirarion for our Green Men  pictures. I took this photo on a bright misty morning last winter:

And here's a real live Green man lurking in a thicket in Belvoir Woods last summer:

As caught by Sharon .  Note Green Man T Shirt.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Oil City Confidential Filming

Cold Day Bare Trees

Hadleigh Castle, Chris Fenwick with the Thames Delta in the background.
Interviewing Rico. Julien Temple & George Hencken to the left.

Rico. The Salvager.

Myself watching ...apologies for anorak with asymmetric hood.

A cold day in march 2008. The first time I'd met up with Rico for decades. Just experienced that shock you get when someone you knew well in your teens appears and you find them totally changed. Then you blink and they are exactly the same person. No doubt it was the same for Rico. Who was this grey haired guy with funny ideas that got into trouble with him at Sweyne School!? Bleedin' 'ell it's 'arry! You all right mate? Odd memories sneak back. I recall Rico and I sniggering as we watched Lee write PHALLUS [a portent of things to come, eh?] in large letters on the back of the school notice board just before we all got caught and hauled up in front of  Mister Bowman, the Headmaster,  for interrogation and punishment.

Hadleigh Castle is a potent psychogeographical location for me. I used to go there on a summer's evening after it had been locked up, climb over the railings and ascend the tower, the one behind the sound guy in the above photos, and sit there and look down at Canvey and all the oil installations along the estuary. You could smell the burning oil from the cat crackers when the wind blew from the south west and as the sun set the 'towers burning' would become brighter and more ominous and more like the last panel - Hell- of the Bosche Triptych. I think we made this comparison even then.  Fancying myself as a yogi, I sometimes sat in the lotus position and chanted Om Mani Padme Hum. We did things like that in those days. It was the late Sixties after all. Looking back I can still sense the strange romantic optimism of the time. I still feed on that feeling. It helps dispel the sense of gloom that the current world gives me.

I was pleased that Julien and George tuned into the atmosphere of the place and the period. Almost uncanny it was.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Hull, the Hull Boat House and a Happy New Year

Scenes from the Boat House.

For New Year some people go to Costa Rica, some to Las Vegas, some to Trafalgar Square, some to the cupboard under the stairs [a sensible choice if you ask me] others to bed early. Us? We go to Hull, Kingston on Hull, an exotic location on the North Bank of the Humber. I am not using the term 'exotic' ironically. Hull is like Glastonbury, a place where the Dreamtime mingles with the Mundane, only it's darker and more sinister, absinthe to Glastonbury's cider and Magic Mushrooms.

Psychogeographically Hull is near the edge of the world which you can find, if you are interested, between Spurn and Bridlington at the crumbling clay lip of the Holderness coast beyond which there is nothing but sea and mist.
Hull has always attracted poets, mystics and maniacs. It's cheap to live there and there's plenty of urban and maritime dereliction to inspire an avant garde art work or two. However it ought to come with a Health Warning: Living in Hull can induce psychosis, drug dependency or alcoholism. That is not meant as a criticism of the place but simply a testimony to its mystic power. I love the place. I lived there for three years and those three years haunt and inspire me still.
Mike Bisby, one of my oldest, dearest and craziest friends, is our host whenever we visit Hull. Mike is the guy to talk to if you want to get beyond guidebook platitudes to the real stuff of the place. Currently he is working, with some friends, on a project to turn the old Hull Rowing Club into a centre for artistic activities, particularly those of a more adventurous kind.
The building was the home of Paul Burwell an experimental musician, Wikipedially defined as 'a thaumaturge and percussionist', who, sadly, died in 2007. I understand that there was some mystery around the exact circumstances of his death but it is certain that the Demon Drink had an involvement.
Mike and his associates are having to work hard to realise their dream. They have had to contend with many difficulties in their work. Vandals, leaking roofs, Japanese Knotweed, boats stuck in trees and the general disorder of the site have all been problematic.
Mike took me for a tour round. I found the atmosphere intense and disturbing as though all kinds of invisible forces were tussling with each other in the ethers. I felt odd little nervous twinges in my body and a simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion to the place. It made me want to embark on some grand artistic enterprise but I couldn't formulate anything in words. The influence of the place is still gestating in my mind. I feel like I might enter a trance and start speaking in tongues in my attempt to express it. So here I am waiting for something to emerge...
I took some photos during our visit which, I think, convey some sense of the Boat House. The ambiance of the surrounding landscape is in harmony, if that is the right word, with whatever it is that the Boat House is. On one side there is the sluggish River Hull on the banks of which are various derelict buildings and industrial sites. On the other a rather uncared for park, scrubland featuring assorted inner city detritus and a huge wind generator nicknamed, Mike tells me, Anubis, the Jackal Headed God, because when one of its blades is momentarily pointing straight down the other two blades look, respectively like Anubis' snout and the ears. Anubis was the Egyptian God who protected the dead and brought them safely to the Afterlife.
Our visit to the Boat House took place on the last day of the decade. A day of endings but also a day from which to look forward to new beginnings.
Writing this nearly two weeks after our visit, I find myself beset with a complex set of emotions that include both gloom and optimism. I feel that what I've written is incomplete. I want to say more, but don't know what that more is...