Apr 262012

Sometimes, in conversations, in responding to what others are saying, we (I) say what we want to be, or that we believe should be, true rather than what is true. As usual watching our politicians is enormously instructive in this regard. It is not possible to say nothing because, well, they are supposed to be pretending to be in charge, to be responding positively to whatever crisis has arisen. But on the other hand they often have nothing intelligent to say, they are in fact overwhelmed, but obviously can’t admit it, so then they are dependent on slippery advisers to dream up some form of words that they hope will hide their nakedness. Time has become so condensed and is in such short supply that effectively there is no time. All those who cannot pretend to keep up fall by the wayside. In fact, it seems that we need new migrants coming in with each tide who are desperate enough to work flat out for any number of hours for a pittance before they are reduced, burnt out and the next wave are ready to take their places.

    At least they don’t lie about ‘trickle down’ these days. The gloves are off: this is how it is; you better get used to it. How long will it be before the financial elite and their propagandists persuade us that democracy is actually not working and it should be jettisoned in favour of . . . what? An unelected national unity government?

    Hello, this cosy little foxhole on Dartmoor is getting rather crowded – surely we can’t all fit in. Alright, alright, I’m moving up, don’t shout.

    Don’t get in a panic, our current form of democracy was always a bit of sham, a bit of a first attempt; after all those two arrogant posh boys – Giddy Osborne and Pinky Cameron – have been educated at the country’s finest establishments, so they must know what is best for us.

    You are right, of course, we are endlessly corruptible. Perhaps the only person existing on this planet who isn’t must be Aung San Suu Kyi. The rest of us are constantly caught with our trousers down in the midst of overwhelming confusions of desire. I want to fit in but I don’t agree with you. I wish I could be you but I can’t, I’m not; there are these different thoughts in my mind but on the other hand it’s a bit too scary to be separate for more than a few moments so I’ll shut up and agree with you even if I don’t agree with you. It’s simpler this way and maybe I’ll get something out of it. You know what I mean!

    I mean, could you, you know, make it worth my while.

    Anyway, what do I know?

    Did you see that grinning buffoon James Hunt after he was outed by all those emails? And the only way he managed to stutter though his statement in the Commons was to have Cameron’s finger thrust up his fundament. Or two fingers, perhaps. Come along, Jimmy, let’s see if we can talk our way out of this one. At least there was a submissive special adviser ready to fall on his sword to protect the boss who knew nothing about what was going on.

    Oh, what endless fun. A sudden possible insight: has something been done to our politicians, some surgical procedure performed in an exclusive private hospital to change politicians into stand-up comedians. And are the real politicians those who have admitted to being stand-up comedians? Or am I simply a slow learner and politicians have always been stand-up comedians?

    I think you should institute an immediate investigation.

    And I suppose by this time you have already ordered that book, but please don’t talk about being alive to Giddy and Pinky. Nobody has told them. Yet. They will have such a shock.



 Posted by at 2:22 pm  Atelier, ON the STREET, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Apr 252012

Thank you for the warning not to stop and look up when that delicious voice calls down to me to come up for a good time, but I fear your warning comes too late. Resistance ("Lead us not into temptation but deliver is from evil") is joined at the neck and crop with desire and excitement, and curiosity as well as doubt and confusion over what is going on and what is possible, whether I should be stopping to look up or head down keep marching on. Am I supposed to resist, or is resistance resisting? Yes, as you can see, I am already – and have been for some considerable length of time, if not all my adult life – lost, impossibly well and truly lost.

We are, as I recall, in the process currently of making a list, and slowly ticking off the locations where resistance arises; curling up in a foxhole on a rain swept Dartmoor for one, or advancing into "the strange world of life beyond 60" for another. But even in those two locations, my perception of resistance is clouded. Even as I sink down in that foxhole, or count off the grey hairs on my ageing head, I seem to be reworking the story. So I may think of these locations as resistance but to others, to those who stumble accross me in these locations, I am more than an event. We are all implicated.

So we have our growing list of locations, (Yes, yes, be patient! I'll get back to that delicious voice in a moment… my feet are already on the creaking stairs leading up) but having a list is not the same as having a map perception of landscape. The list tells us the destinations, but it does not describe the intimacy of the route.

We have our growing list, and one of the locations is her (or should it be Her?) wherever she is to be found. Herumhuren! I am on the first floor landing now and wondering which door I should approach. I shouldn't, but I must.

In recent conversation with a male friend, who is an artist. "Now I am in my sixties, it is finally a relief that I have less sex drive. I get so much more work done," he said. At the time, to get out of disagreeing I sort of mumbled back without real words in a herumhuren (half-cough) kind of way, but my mind was far away elsewhere enfolding the film Walkabout (1971) which I had seen for the first time the night before on tv. If you don't know it, it is a film set in the Australian outback about being lost, and a boy and a girl meeting. I missed it when it came out in 1971. Just as well too – "While the boy goes hunting, she swims naked in a deep pool" – it would have thrown me into a complete crazed frenzy if I had seen it back then.

Reworking resistance in the wilderness in my sixties: what was possible in 1971 (How did Nicolas Roeg the director get away with it – "While the boy goes hunting, she swims naked in a deep pool" – and Jenny Agutter being hardly sixteen?) is not possible now. Less sex drive, but no less desire, and capacity for doubt and confusion. Resistance… meaning I shouldn't, but I must.

Of course, I agree there is commodification everywhere, and even the outback and wilderness has its share these days. But still whenever I hear that delicious voice I can't resist. Today it was the Amazon hooks which were in me, a crafty email offering me the chance to 'Look Inside' a delicious sounding new book by Tim Ingold Being Alive. Resistance. One click and I am by her side.

Apr 202012

Or at least spying out the cracks that allow some sort of resistance. What is the nature of our intentions? Resistance? Yes, that must be high up on the list, but what form might this resistance take?

    Shivering on Dartmoor? Yes, tick that one.

    Advancing, not terribly bravely, into the strange world of life beyond 60? Yes, tick that one.

    What about that hooker, that our old friend booksmith talks about? Does he have s someone in mind? Is Michelle available? Is she cheap? The first and last prostitute I knowingly had anything to do with was one who shouted down to me from her first floor window in Berwick Street. It must have been 1970 or 71 because that was when I was working in Soho. There is no memory of how I responded. And for that matter, I can’t remember what her precise words were. ‘Do you want to come up?’ she might have said. And I might have responded, ‘no thank you, darling.’ Though it was probably without the darling. These days I seem to have started using ‘darling’ or ‘my dear’ to almost anyone I might have met once or twice. Perhaps all vaguely intimate contact is something to be treasured.

    Though working in Soho for what was probably a few months or at most a year must have meant that I encountered (in passing) any number of what have become better known as sex workers. What was my work? Just in case you were wondering. Overseas Telegrams. How quaint! The  technology of teleprinters and sticking strips of paper with their stream of words down on what I assume was an A5 sheet of paper has been completely superseded except for the nostalgia of wedding telegrams.

    Resistance must primarily have as its target the huge industrial force of commodification with its accompanying reduction of human value. I guess what it mostly amounts to is a tiny (but maybe not irrelevant) action of human solidarity. Like walking. Which is where this all started – something very simple: walking. Doing it and naming it. And even in the face of the divine comedy, talking and writing: endeavouring to nail the fragile sheet of paper, with the ink running, obscuring, losing the possibility of anybody actually reading it, in the howling wind and lashing rain of the night. ‘For f—ks sake, everything is fine; keep shopping’ is what they said when I protested.

    Can we put our little shoulders to the wheel of Debord’s détournement. Turning it round. But it’s hard not to feel trapped by the appearance of Beckett’s angel- tramps seemingly stuck in some sort of purgatory, sensing the ticking of the clock, the winding down of one’s life force, and standing back in amazement as the younger generations come forward to take their places in the world, full of creative pizzazz.

    It feels like a narrow passage that I have to force our way through . . . sounds rather like another session of rebirthing doesn’t it. Oh dear, do I have the energy?

    Yes, come on, get on with it. OK OK. What sort of soap opera is this? Is there anybody there?


Berlin, City Centre

 Posted by at 12:34 pm  Atelier, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Apr 172012

Last time we were here talking about 10 days ago you reminded us not to forget about walking, and to look at our feet from time to time to check that we were still on the move. Or I could just walk away, you said. Or I could just walk away. It was shortly before the Easter break, a break as a result of which I appear to have forgotten what it was I was thinking about before. I guess I have moved on. I guess I have.

This forgetting, it is the nature of this flitting about the world, the wildness of thought, or the wilderness as we refer to it in the language of this particular sort of thinking we call walkingtalkingwriting. A wilderness, whether we mean a boggy patch of Dartmoor, or the break between sleeping and waking, or somewhere similar. It happens that way.

It is any location where I am aware of having forgotten how it was that I got to be there, between doubt and certainty beyond that death which awaits (Not “beyond that death awaits me” as I wrote in my last error-strewn piece, written at the beginning of that crisis of biblical proportions, the Easter break that included the circuits of my desktop PC going ‘POP!’ on Palm Sunday, my electronic notebooks spilling all over the editorial floor, and my running around in such a flat panic attempting to restore them that I tore a muscle quite badly in my right calf on Easter Day, ‘POP! POP!’, in the hopping-mad limitations-of-age-forgetting rush).

A location like the Easter break, in which that awareness arises which prompts a resistance, the same intention that demands we stop long enough to meet the deadline of this serial-feuilleton writing. Resistance. The demand of that awareness arising – a search for coherence? A thought experiment? The process of discernment? – in the midst of a crisis, a tear, a meaning gap marked by at least apprehension, if not (more likely) outright fear and terror.

Or a location like the first time in Berlin, City Centre. Resistance. It was several years ago now, and – November 2008, Alexanderplatz – it is a location to which I periodically return, indeed am almost required to, as it were, by force. Resistance. As in this beginning:

c l i p p i n g s
09 April 2010

When I opened the window
Fishes swam into the room.

I don’t think I can stay here.

(from ‘Where I Live’ by Gunter Eich, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n06/gunter-eich/five-poems)

Memory like glass architecture has surfaces that are part reflective and part permeable, and so it was as I recalled my early morning waking in the new city, new because I had never visited it before, and first looked out of the hotel window…

This beginning which I wrote: it is a story, here of unknown length and kind, whether something which might be called a novel or a piece of (so-called) non-fiction, which is both subjective and universal. For instance, the ‘glass architecture’ appears to be based on a twentieth century methodology defined by (among others):

Robert Walser. Berlin Stories (NYRB tr. 2012)

Alfred Döblin. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Continuum tr. 2004)

Joseph Roth. What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-33 (Granta Books tr. 2005)

Anselm Kieffer. Berlin Tempelhof Airport (Canvases exhibited at White Cube
Gallery, London 2011)

The resistance of the location of Berlin, City Centre; I have told it before and will no doubt tell it again, next time perhaps (‘triangulated’ c20,000 words) in pamphlet form.

There we were, walking . . .

 Posted by at 4:53 pm  Atelier, Fundamental Perversions  Comments Off
Apr 052012

Of course you should have been tipped out of your hammock, dreaming in that brief but welcome sunshine of early spring. Tipped out to suffer minor abrasions and some bruising; although we can never be quite sure to what degree you will wake up. What sort of waking up could we hope for? Even at your great age! The apprentices had gone wild, running amok. In the past it would have been safe to assume their gender/sexual identity – young men longing for a sight of a young woman – but let’s not make any assumptions in that direction. Let us simply assume the rising sap of spring, the spring in the step of those young apprentices, let loose; what were the authorities thinking of, taking their eye off them, indulging in lazy lunches with bottles of strong red wine that appeared as if my magic amidst the mounds of succulent dishes on the increasingly stained white table cloth. A slurring of words, coarser humour, raucous laughter leading to amorous fondlings or simply sleep.

    There we were, walking with little thought of direction or destination and there’s a point when the legs are tired after many miles, perhaps the feet are sore, and hunger begins to gnaw at the belly. My thoughts are worn thin and few coins sit in my pocket. Is that the junction of paths where I espy a tantalising beauty? Perhaps there will be no going back. Already the myriad paths behind me are shifting, bending their way to a new tune, new possibilities, forcing a future that I didn’t know I wanted. A glimpse of beauty has me by the nose. Sweetness beckons me into the dance to the tune of the dazzling, rippling of the stream.

    But my steps are clumsy and unwelcome as I lurch across the green sward. I would grab but she’s gone on the lightest, fleetest of feet. My tiredness forgotten as I give chase – there is no chance that she’ll get away, evade the passions that suddenly command me; leave me no choice.

    I must enter the trap or die in the effort. The waters that close over my head are sweet and welcome.

    Or I could just walk away. Sorry, darling, I’ve got an urgent appointment. And I will jump into my BMW something-or-other and roar away, tyres squealing, back wheels drifting out in the loose gravel.

Or I could just walk away. After all, it’s where we started: walking. This fact of walking I was reminded of by the piece, in last Saturday’s (31.03.12) Guardian Review, by Will Self. He’s become a spokesman for walking, even quoting Rebecca Solnit who we discovered and valued several years ago. Of course, we were also reminded of our shared history of walking by the film Patience (after Sebald) which we both mentioned on this scroll recently. How far does the average European (let alone North American) walk these days? I mean in the course of their day-to-day life. We’ve been busy creating lives that exclude the possibility. Will Self mentions that a hundred years ago 90% of Londoners walked their journeys if they were less than six miles. It’s a great loss.


Apr 032012

A boggy patch of Dartmoor? It certainly feels damp and wet under me, and Schubert's music from the wind-up radio has not stopped playing about my ears, and green-minded, but the temperature and humidity appears to have risen considerably since last we met and spoke here a week ago. We seem to have progressed to another location.Where? Well, it could be below (or is it above?) the Tropic of Capricorn, since – My. My… – you have been busy during the intervening period! While I have been lounging and loafing in my hammock listening to the endless Schubertiade on BBC Radio 3 over the last week and merely considering the possibilities of threesomes and triangulations, you seem to have got right 'stuck in' taking hold of Smith and Dumezil in both eroticised hands ahead of me.

A Schubertiade, it is wise to make these observations this at the outset, is an evening occasion when musical pieces are played together in an informal way to be shared among friends – or "male companions", as you prefer to call the relationship, perhaps in a (none of that kind of sodomy thing) pre-cautionary thrust against Sappho rearing her shaggy head? But I think you are too late here, and will find the meaneads are already among us, and probably Achilles too in his young cross-dressing phase, and as well as Sappho, there is Gaspara Stampa and Mary W among a host of others.

A Schubertiade is also a kind of journey along side-roads and tracks. For instance, one of the musicians playing has been the pianist Paul Lewis, who, as the BBC Radio 3 announcer explained, had interupted his two year concert-hall worldwide odyssey playing the Schubert sonatas on Monday evening a week back to return to his home city Liverpool – for the recital he played 16 German dances, and then the two A minor sonatas D784 and D845 (a risky combo it was suggested), but… you will have missed it now -f you have missed it – as it will now gone past the 'Listen Again' option deadline.

What kind of journey? It is a series of unsettling journeys along roads where the destination is known, but where there is no prospect of resolution or attainment. However, fortunately in the company of Schubert's music there is always the quality of kindness, the journeys always being ones that "take you to the top of the mountain, but then brings you back down again". The destination, in case you need it spelling out, is of course the grave, where he gently asks, "Since that is where we will all end up, why not have a look now?"

Like in the Schone Mullerin I am feeling green-minded. "in Grunen… wieder Grunen… immer Grunen", it started off well enough in threesome-ness. I headed off into the wilderness and it was/I was green everywhere and there by the babbling brook there she stood, and I lost my heart to her… But then you came in and spoiled everything, you; the hunter, the man who wears green, is green, and goes by so many names, St George, El Khidr and others. So I am green-minded too, eroticised, and also politicised – one is reminded that in Schubert's days to be an artist or poet who goes wandering freely and beyond the jealous eyes and ears of the 'listening stations' of the secret agents (who are everywhere within the city) is to be political – and beyond that death awaits me.