Posted by at 5:07 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 292011

C. That sounds like my name being called out, although it can be hard to hear over all the noise of the waves pounding up the beach. I have said before it wasn’t the name I started out with, simply the one I inherited. Like Ernesto Sabato said about his, I inherited it from my dead brother, it wasn’t my real name, the one I had at birth, but I had no choice in the matter.

She/he would welcome a real name too, so let us call him/her “C”, maybe C for Charlie so we do not have to concern ourselves about sex. She. He. Or it, like you say. It, meaning less than human, something altogether more creaturely. Or, on the hand… No, simultaneously… More than human, something less creaturely.

Unwilling to discuss such niceties concerning an entity who might equally be thought of as the Angel of History, the Colonels with their dark glasses looking down at their clipboards are ticking the column with their pencils headed “Lice”. Decision time. Head this one straight for the incinerator.

Or C for Cool. Cool, like cool for Cool Hand Luke. What we have here is a failure to communicate. Then a single rifle shot breaking the glass of the church window, and down goes blue eyes. The bullet has gone straight though his neck, so that after that all he can do is gurgle and gasp. No point trying to listen to what he is saying now.

We’ll take care of things from hereon in.

No point trying to listen to an animal, or an angel. It has, in any event, been an unmitigated disassster up to this point, all C has done until now is complain how everything has gone wrong.

This is not the right attitude to have, subject C.

Of course C is  living in a fantasy world, deluded, or worse, psychotic. You took it for something else, the whitecoats tell Charlie, you kept thinking it was real, and it was all a dream. Thank you, thank you, Charlie says, I am feeling much better now.

That is also C for Cuckoo. One flew over.

I get a nudge in the ribs. They are calling your name, somebody says. On your horse, it is your turn. I leap forward, like Sogn Gieri leaping the Rhine, taking his turn in the march of history with that dazed expression* and look of amazement on his face…Romansch Pix 2011 041 
…and on my face as if I am genuinely surprised to find my spear has gone clean through the neck of the dragon. I can’t believe I just did that. Did you see that. I can’t believe it.

* That dazed expression: what Uncle Wally calls erstarrte Unruhe, or ‘Petrified Unrest’.

Not her real name??

 Posted by at 12:13 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 252011

As though one ever knows the real name! Let me draw out from the convolutions of memory maze what happened some years ago when I picked up a hitch hiker who loomed up out of the mist and driving rain of the upland moor. Perhaps I should not have been driving; too tired, drained from long frustrating days of not achieving the planned progress on two important projects. Wanting to get home, but I should I have found some quiet and cosy B&B and slept for twenty-four hours. But there I was, as it was getting dark, trying to keep my eyes open and not hit the sheep that were straying across the tarmac. Then this particular sheep fixed me with its dull eyes and stretched up on its hind legs and lifted an imperial finger to indicate, yes, she/he would rather welcome a lift.

    I opened the passenger door and yelled out into the rain and wind:

    – Where are you heading?

    But he/she/it didn’t seem interested in answering my question; simply shouldered its way in and shut the door and sat, slumped and breathing audibly, and waited for me to drive on. There was hair and there was wool and whilst my mind attempted to fix on human it failed to fix on male or female, I could not quite rid myself of the first image of sheep. And the smell didn’t help – rank, wet wool, yes, the creature stank and it was in my car.

    I might have muttered something or other but on I drove and as we drove into the night the creature next to me began to mutter; a sort of talking to itself, although if there were words I didn’t recognise them.

    From then on the road begins to drop in height and as we dropped in height I could see the twinkle of lights in the occasional farmhouses. Home was about an hour’s steady driving but for sure I didn’t want to arrive home with the hitch-hiker. Which meant I would have drop “him” (let me refer to him as him) somewhere or other. But where?

    I had ceased attempting to listen to his muttered litany and began to be involved in my own muttered litany: effing and blinding my way through the frustrations of the last few days and hoping to distract myself from the stink and noise of my guest. But then my ears picked up a sound that I could make sense of: sea, or for that matter, C . . . anyway I took it to be sea. The hitch-hiker was nodding sagely and repeating the word, sea.

    – You want to go the sea?

    More sage nodding.

    Well, okay, I checked the petrol gauge, feeling grateful that this would prove to be a solution to the problem of how to get rid of this unwanted guest, and so navigated westwards in the direction of the sea. Eventually we arrived. A particular small pebbly cove had come to mind as a place to head for. It meant parking the car and taking the small narrow path down the low cliffs to reach the beach. I opened the door for him and he scratched and scrambled his way out, pushing against me, so that I had to grab hold of the door to prevent myself being shoved over the edge. And then he was taking the steep, twisting path in great strides and then as he disappeared from view I had the sudden realisation that this must be a dream. Of course! I’m asleep. Thank goodness for that. And now I needed to piss. What a relief.

    The moon was up and laying its silver mantle on the sea. Small waves rushed up, throwing themselves eagerly at the pebbles. I peered down hoping for a glimpse of him, the question of dream or sleep or some other sort of reality put on one side for the moment. Here we go, I thought as I slipped and slid down the path, hanging on to handfuls of tough grass, tearing the knee of my trousers and probably the skin, down to the beach with the insistent gnawing of the sea close at hand. There were items of clothing, a coat, a shirt, a roughly cut sheepskin. I was now at the edge of the sea, the waves lapped at my shoes, but I took no notice because my attention was on something or somebody that followed the motion of waves, up and down. Was that the head of seal? Watching me and then in a moment of panic, I thought it was smiling at me, and then, well, it slipped beneath the surface. And that was that.

    I would like to say that I woke up in some nice, cosy B&B with one or two images from a near forgotten but strange dream. But there I was sitting on a beach as the sun rose through the mist and there around me was an old tatty, smelly sheepskin, a jacket of some sort, a shirt  . . .


Funny Turns

 Posted by at 10:17 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 212011

Yes, last week took a strange turn for me too. Nature Walking. And she, who was our guide leading us a merry dance – Let us call her Zoe, not her real name of course – at one moment an ancient hag, another a seductress, and another a young abandoned child. Not a moments rest, and all about as far as the planet Saturn from the possibility of the internet so that writing last week was out of the question.

With Zoe. We had spent the week walking the wild flower filled high valleys of the Grissons, a people who live in an area of the southern Alps. They speak a language which they call Romansch, a mix of German, Italian, French, Latin and, I have strong reasons to believe, Byzantine Greek. Salve, they say to each other when they meet, along with many other ancient sounding words, which reflect their position throughout history at the crossroads not only between north and south, but also between east and west.

With her, an angel of history striding across this crisscrossed land which used to be known as Raetia, like a St Martin or a St George (Sogn Gieri they call him here), but a knight strangely transformed into a weeping female form of Don Quixote.

With Zoe – Or ‘Bare Life’, as it is in Greek – pressing on relentlessly. And along the Jacobsweg also visiting some of the churches, along the gorge of the Via Mala (the ‘Bad Path’) in driving wind and rain to gaze up at the ceiling of the church of at Zillis, struck dumb, as if again in St Sophia. …

… in the Grissons, as the saying goes, “You need three people to pass from life to death: a Salis ( a willow twining up the left arm), a Planta (a creeper twining up the right), and a Travers (a crossbeam)”.

View from the sick bed

 Posted by at 4:50 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 172011

And whoops, like a slip on the ice or a greasy flagstone, and for most of a week here I was horizontal or nearly so. Activity reduced to reading, dozing or more dramatically, gripped by hallucinatory dreams, heated by spikes in temperature, I assume though I realise I have never invested in a thermometer, so checking was not possible. A mid-June bout of flu: a self-diagnosis, it’s true but it will do as I seem to be on the road to recovery; my trip out this morning a little further and longer than the one yesterday, the loss of appetite slowly changing shape in to an increased sense of hunger. Tuesday seemed the worst day when I was even unable to read.

    There were some very interesting, exciting gifts of poetry that arrived at around two in the morning on at least two occasions: such glorious intensity . . . but, as is the way of these things, mere dust in the morning to be scattered in the wind.


Can we find a way into this conversation?

 Posted by at 3:31 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 102011

And how I long for her steely gaze to soften their challenge. Do I really have to do something? Be something? As though under the inspection of those eyes (let alone those curves) I become aware only of failure. Perhaps her power is projected in the first place through eyes and curves. So, I wonder, in a moment of panic, what will happen when she goes on to speak beyond her initial question?

    At the moment she is everywoman I (we?) have met over the years and perhaps, in particular, all those women I (we?) have not (yet?) met. Bash, bang, wallop! Indeed! – with bells on. Was it sensible to set out on this foolish quest? Don Quixote and Sancho, screwing their eyes up against the harsh light that exposes their illusions (delusions?); their friends unsure of which treatment to try next. Have they reached the end of the line?

    Jeanne d’Arc meets Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon . . . actually quite a crowd assembles . . . including Colonel Gaddafi, Pinky Camisole and other assorted opportunists . . . and we all sit around waiting for, well, whatever it is we have in mind to be waiting for. Oh look, there’s Dawkins the Evangelist. We know who he is waiting for: St Gene, our selfish saint who gets on with his/her work in a quietly determined way.


        –      The thing is . . .

    But I’ve no idea what to say to her or what to ask. Should I have brought a goat to sacrifice? What sort of present should I have waiting in my bad for an opportune moment? Should I have wrapped it up in pretty paper?

       –      Would you like a drink? I mean, may I buy you a drink?


    And yes, she wants a dry white wine. And so I order a bottle and while I’m about it I order three little plates – tapas – I think we could call them: potato and chorizo; grilled peppers; chicken and asparagus.

    I get stuck in, juices running down my chin; I’m as hungry as though I’ve been locked away, denied food. As though I can’t remember the last time I ate (which is, of course, nonsense). And she wants to discuss Miguel de Cervantes.


       –     Yes, let’s,

    I say, between mouthfuls of succulent chicken and gulps of wine,

        –    and not Teresa of Avila.


The Various Curves of her Body

 Posted by at 11:16 pm  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 072011

Dreams have this way of helping to make everything leak out and ebb away. Through the night and during those other times it happens that our heads slump forwards, and we nod off. It is during our waking hours that we seem to get caught up into everlasting uncertainty and agitation.

It is only me. It is only us.

What a state you are in, she says.

Yes, there is a disturbing uncertainty. About this meeting with her, what does it all mean? With this woman it could turn out any number of ways.

For one thing I am still not sure who she is…

Have we been introduced, I could say but that sounds like a feeble opener. I think better of it. Keep smiling.

She seems truly veiled at this moment. Almost hidden. So that I am now not even sure she is the one I have been so desperately wanting to see. Emma? Or whatever your name is. It is become sort of virtual. But not really. She is no allegorical figure. This woman is flesh and blood. Spectral maybe. But properly constructed. Real raw curves.

Yes, there is a disturbing uncertainty, a dislocation. I don’t know how it will end, but I have this sense – No, it is stronger than that, because it is mixed up with my desire for her – that it is going to end badly. I am not talking about being pessimistic or simply a little less than my normal wildly optimistic self. It really isn’t about me at all. It is just that during this state of exception, this state of emergency that has been in force since I honestly cannot remember when – it seems like forever for all of us -  our lives have been subject to an irremedial exposure to the violence of history (BY ORDER.: signed Pinky Camisole et al): Bash! Bing! Bang! Wallop!

According to Terry Eagleton (WB, or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism. 1984) Uncle Wally has been telling us for quite some time about these endless cycles of violence for which we have three options:
1. Regress to an imaginary past – find somewhere to escape to – like “La-La Land”.
2. Maroon oneself in a symbolic order – like therapy that works but… – “… demystified, but to the same degree impotent”.
3. Somehow  acknowledge our crooked positions AND – strangely simultaneous this possibility! – enter the domain of political and ethical acts

Yes, there is a disturbing uncertainty, a fissure, a gap. She is waiting. Oh dear, she has been waiting for such a long time to see what I am going to do. And all the time I keep looking over my shoulder at the “what has been happening in my life”…. because – Hey! – it is like watching a crash in slow-motion on a motorway. The mayhem! The harm and hurt. And then there is the thought that maybe she could stop it. Yes, that she really could. Me getting together with her. She being the angel of history, and real raw curves. Once and for all, me and her, put a stop to it. But…

But there is still a disturbing uncertainty. Either. Or. Either as a result of our getting together she becomes mixed up in this whole process of creating violence endlessly herself. Or as a result of getting together with me she is distracted from sorting out the past violence and putting things right, which is what she is  here on the world to do.

You wanted to see me?

Yes, I am looking for a way out.

Sometimes the wheels seem to turn so slowly

 Posted by at 11:02 am  Atelier  Comments Off
Jun 032011

Exactly where are we walking, talking, writing to? Who is it we want to sleep with tonight? Although it remains to be examined as to whether that ‘sleep with’ is suggestive of ‘having sex with’ or merely sharing a bed. Who could guess?

–      Do you know where I can find a Mrs Wilkinson, Emma Wilkinson?

I’m asking the woman behind the bar. Is there such a colour as ash blonde? It comes to mind as I look at her face of excess living – ravaged, drugs, a victim of violence, a woman in recovery? And bad teeth I see, as she opens her mouth to snarl:

–      Who’s asking?

Needless to say, I’m out of my depth here.

–      Only me.

Which is as true as I know anything is true; my energy, my agency. But was her greater knowledge and experience of this territory making my claim to be completely risible? Her intuition is picking up on some hidden, behind the curtain, person or persons whose existence I cannot begin to imagine.

And my orange juice probably fails to impress in a culture of excessive alcohol consumption. Nonetheless, I give her what I hope is a dazzling smile. The resulting smoker’s cackle is unnecessarily humiliating, but I square my shoulders and persevere.

–      So, do you know her?

She doesn’t bother to answer but takes the £5 I offer, examines it and pushes it into the back pocket of her jeans, half turns, takes a step and parts a bead curtain. Some indistinct words are uttered to some sentient being or other in the back room.

I really am trying to concentrate. Perhaps I had been working harder through the day than I realised. It is becoming hard to keep my eyes open and then, well . . . and then, there is a brief sensation of falling and then, well . . . I’m not sure but the world seems to have gone all squiffy on me.

How much time has passed I have no way of telling. What is dream and what is actually happening in what we generally call the real world I have no idea. Though, I remind myself, this is a world in which we seem to have given permission for the gangsters to take over.

There is what must be a dream sequence of endless walking along rough tracks, stumbling, falling, being dragged to my feet, stumbling on. Then the same piercing eyes boring into my skull and questions in a language that means nothing to me.

I do manage to vomit a few times. Then on I stumble.

As time passes ‘they’, whoever they are, seem to forget about me. Have we reached a destination? I’m left in a corner and occasionally somebody gives me a biscuit – chocolate – rather nice actually. But no tea to go with them; instead there are tiny blasts of coffee which leave me shaking, though not without a certain pleasure.

I slowly come to an awareness of a woman sitting nearby. Woman, I ponder, trying to remember how to think. The various curves of her body cause me to search out and connect with lost memories, forgotten aspects of what I once took for granted.

After what I estimate to be a couple of weeks, she speaks to me:

–      You wanted to see me?