Sunday, June 22, 2008

Accidental Realisations Are More Fun

It was 23rd April, 2008, at quarter past three in the afternoon, in the heart of the Troodos mountains that I spouted accidental insight which made me stop in my tracks.

I can't really explain it except to say I didn't mean to say anything at all profound. But, I realised at once that I really was being shown something that I ought to listen to, despite the fact it had come from my own mouth, and since returning, I've been working steadily on preparing my way forward.

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The state of disillusionment is a frequently unhappy one, but disillusionment itself we should really welcome, as the freeing of oneself from falsehoods or wrong thinking is a necessary part of evolution, without which we are entrapped.

Just thought I'd mention it.

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Friday, June 20, 2008


Arnold Schoenberg the composer defined the creative process as "contracting into abundance".


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Funkpod Thirty Four

This could be the last Pod of Funk emanating from Funk Towers. Flat is back on the market, and tomorrow Men arrive to take Things away.

Soon I will follow things, innit?

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Annie's Horses

There are certain things I know. One of them is when I have gone far enough down a certain path and must turn back. Responding to this is difficult only when people are following and the path is narrow. In which case, I might have to leave the path entirely in order to get back to where I need to be going without treading on people's toes.

Another is when I should stand up to an accuser. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself not to give a flying fuck, no matter how intrusive, misguided or hateful the words, and to remember that whatever it is that weighs them down need not be any major concern of mine, however bad I might be already feeling about my own sins, past or present, real or imaginary, connected to them or not. Another one is that sometimes, no matter how innocent you actually are, or whether you meant to do harm, you should simply apologise if harm was the outcome.

I recall how focused I was when I was at art college, and the day-to-day glorious absorption of the time. Ideas and techniques flowed freely and unjealously from person to person, space to space, evenings and mornings were communal experiences of discovery, books were passed around like joints, and this shared experience created a living fabric of experimentation and expression. In this environment I thrived, learning, tasting and testing new things, passing on as much as I came to know. The majority of that learning was gained from my peers, as one particularly bright and sensible tutor, Norman Brown, pointed out one fine, sunlit morning, factory glass reflecting the fringe of his words with his scraggly rollup cigarette, inspiring me with his unabashed honesty.

From a starting point of clumsy social skills but quick intelligence, making many false starts I grew in confidence while at Middlesex, and as I did so, within a term or two lost an almighty dose of the ruinous self-doubt which had hitherto prevented me from expanding my heart, my mind and my prospects. For the first time in my life I was able to simply be, for good and bad, and my spontaneous self emerged blinking and mostly smiling. I started to glow with the red-orange of the sodium streetlights, which I had spent the preceding years oil painting into my semi-urban night landscapes.

One September day it was my fellow housemate Graham Gussin's birthday, and I took it into my head to create a large birthday card for him in primary colours. Although he hardly used his allocated workspace except to meet tutors and discuss earnestly with them the meaning of meaning and the poetry of poetry, sharing trendy brown licorice-flavoured cigarette papers, he was in college that day, and in my extravagant and affectionate way I wanted to amuse him and celebrate. I took an A3 piece of paper and some water-based acrylic paints to his space, and proceeded to paint there, in a deliberately naive and supposedly comic fashion a horse - a very bad horse - upon which I wrote, "A GeeGee for G.G." Ha ha ha. Satisfied with my tribute, I grabbed a coffee, and returned to my more serious endeavours in my own space a thirty or so yards away.

Twenty minutes later I became aware that Annie, one of the cute art students in my year, was upset. She was being comforted as she sat sobbing, bright, visible tears dripping off her nose, splashing onto the paint-spattered concrete. What was up, I asked her female friend, and to my surprise got nothing but a filthy look.

Perturbed I ventured nearer and discovered that Annie had interpreted my entire horse-painting episode as direct mockery, an out-of-the-blue, unwarranted personal attack upon her personally. The fact that I didn't even see that she was there as I gaily painted my birthday card was lost upon her. I had only vaguely noticed that she had been painting horses for the past few weeks, inspired by Chagall. I did not know how insecure pursuing her muse had made her feel over the preceding months, surrounded by clever, intellectual, Guardian-reading students who had sneered at her simple representationalism - I wasn't one of them. She didn't figure in my scene, I barely knew her, except to say hi, and admire her curves.

I really was aghast. Did she really think I was singling her out for some kind of mocking plagiarism? What kind of person would I have to be to be able to enact such an elaborate stunt? She was of course the centre of her own universe, but who was I to know how low she had fallen, crouched into her defensive posture?

I stumbled through my explanation, which, sincerely given, did much to reassure her. Annie was a good-natured girl, and we made up easily, with her laughing at herself. I was glad of it and always had a soft spot for her afterwards.

To be so misinterpreted that day has stuck with me ever since. I can still remember the sick feeling of guilt which fell upon me like a winter coat. When it has happened since, I remember Annie and her quick kindness, she who taught me the lesson of forgiveness for imagined slights, and showed me how blind one can be to other people's sensitivities, especially when on some single-minded mission which has no reference or relevance to them.

But the injustice of being singled out for having done wrong when no wrong has been done has always sat badly with me, and even though the lesson of apologising even though the mistake was made elsewhere is a valuable one, kept on the shelf alongside the twin tomes, "Fuck It" and "Fuck Off", sometimes I'm still torn between which pages to turn, and even whether to read the book, or simply, like a Paris surrealist, to throw it, aiming for the head.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Pâtisserie, Boulangerie, Charcuterie

Went to Paris this week - it was just like Paris - large, busy, bourgeois and full of itself. I had a day of business, an evening of socialising, a morning of planning, followed by an afternoon of leisure. Rescued from the rush by my evening train, I took myself off to Montmartre, climbing up La Butte from Pigalle, in the heat, carrying a none-too-light bag containing a change of clothes and my laptop.

I found myself in Place Émile Goudeau, a blessed space surrounded by tourists and film crews and sun. I sat and breathed in this shadowed pause, letting the city sink in to my old London bones, before climbing steadily up through the tourist trap which surrounds the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur.

I found myself in the courtyard of the church of St Pierre - St Peter, the rock upon which all churches stand; after a moment's hesitation, I entered the building and immediately felt very much at ease.

I entered a stone building almost 1,000 years old, the quiet relative of the gaudy Basilica around the corner. In contrast to the summer heat, over-priced drinks and busy cash registers outside, it was deep, cool and peaceful.

I walked once around the church, then sat on a left pew with space all around me. Not much to see, really, except ancient stonework, and modern stained glass. Off the nave, there was a library, through a large, impressive door, which after five minutes opened up suddenly at normal volume, a small child and a middle-aged man being greeted with love by the librarian, a grey-haired woman with a bright face.

A few visitors walked respectfully and slowly down the aisles, three young asian tourists making use of the wooden benches near the altar to repack their rucksacks and sort out their packed lunches. Two elderly women were a little in front of me and to my right, in a bubble of their own, one of them grasping the other's shoulder and speaking directly and precisely into her ear, ceaselessly whispering earnest words of comfort while the other listened and mourned. It was a touching scene, a truly valuable function of religion, played out in churches since time immemorial.

The noises abated, except for the murmur of solace ahead of me. I considered praying, remembering the last time I had entered a church seeking guidance and been promptly given it. This time, with no specific need in mind, I tried to dismiss my selfish desires and ask for guidance. Shutting my eyes, I found it difficult at first to remove myself from my focused concerns, so I just continued to wait, and to stay calm, to contemplate, and to listen, which was easy in the space. I felt unrushed, and in no need of reply, just wondering if there was anything I needed to know. My mind slowly quietened. It was as restful as lapping waves on the seashore.

I stayed in the church for thirty minutes or so, and eventually I did notice something emerging from my thoughts which if not a blazoned message, was certainly something I needed to consider carefully, attached to a subject which has been consuming me of late.

I left more content than I had entered, thankful and slightly surprised, wondering how I was going to explain my insight to other people, and realising it really didn't matter.


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Friday, June 06, 2008

21st Century Funk: Black Feeling

I must share with you the album I am most enjoying right now. I've played some of the tracks from this excellent compilation on Pod of Funk several times, but the album is wonderfully consistent and rewarding as a whole. Here I am right now, cup of darjeeling to hand, enjoying the summer evening and this wonderful, soulful, funky music. Shades of latin enhance the best piano and brass playing I've heard on these re-worked old tunes, old style grooves lovingly rekindled for modern ears. Retro funk for the 21st Century. Blog of Funk Recommended!

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Thursday, June 05, 2008


Cliques - London is full of them, based on class, race, sexuality, political persuasion, musical preference, district of residence, etc. There are cliques formed around information technology, and within that, devices, and within that, software, and of course, the software which is designed around this habit of human herd-formation is "social" software.

Do you have the N95? And if so, do you run this application or that application? Do you connect via WiFi or 3G, and if 3G then which network are you on? Are you online 18 hours a day, and if not, why not? Do you subscribe to this newest of shiny web platforms? Are you inside, an alpha tester? Then again, are you really inside, part of the inner-inner-circle or just inside for their convenience, in order to boost the kudos of exclusivity?

It seems to me that so many human interactions are based upon this formula that it must be part of our clannish baboon-like instincts, pre-civilised behaviour stemming from the limbic system, subliminal and covert signals designed to reassure - you, yes YOU - you are in the select band, and those other people, why, we are superior to them.

So, are you in, or out? Didn't you get the invitation? I'm not the kind of person to look on passively, indeed, I'm likely to comment, intervene, expose, which makes people feel uncomfortable, so I guess that means I'm out.

My feelings are truly mixed. I like some of the people, but I see it happening and it makes me sad. I don't have to join in, but I watch people who are intelligent enough to know better showing their weakness and insecurity by letting people down. I am so deeply uncomfortable with this ongoing process of exclusion - for that is what it is - because it leads to smugness, bitching, snide jokes, denial, scapegoats, pogroms and eventually genocide down the line.

It's all about stigmatising the "other" - so that you can feel better about yourself, and I don't need to do that because, deep down, I feel good and like James, I say it loud.

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