As Plato put it

As Plato put it: Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.

Whatever the outcome of today’s general election, the lyrics of this fugue will still be true. Unfortunately.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_G-FBSf1UI Continue reading

South London Girls

I got stood up again for a visit to a gallery. My friend Steve had succumbed to a lurgy and was confined to bed. So for a second time this week I visited an exhibition alone, for the second time this week I enjoyed it immensely.

Bridget Riley


There were more coincidences. Reading the biog of Bridget Riley (it was her exhibition at the Hayward I went to today) I saw she was born in west Norwood. Quant was born in Blackheath. So they were both south London girls. Both received part of their art education at Goldsmiths, just three years apart.

That may not seem much of a story, but compared to the nonsense being bleated about a ‘crisis’ in the royal family with the Sussexes deciding to relocate and withdraw from public life, or the desire of some deranged few to mark Doomsday with the sound of Big Ben, it’s mega. I’m being more than a touch unfair about the royal story, but the one that the tabloids seem keen to deny is that they have kept up a relentless stream of negative stories about Meghan Markle all characterised by an unsavoury flavour of racism.

Anyway back to the art. Riley’s work is mesmerising, and makes my eyes go funny. It’s meticulous and cerebral, yet playful and perceptive.
I love this spiral, it seems to twirl and shimmer. It feels alive, changing, moving as you look. I forgot to take my camera, only had my ‘phone, and now I have reduced the size of the photo files, they’re not as sharp as I’d like.

Spiral

Spiral: detail

How does an artist conceive of something like this? Fortunately we got a little insight.

Spiral plan

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Quantifiable

I set off on a damp morning to the V&A. My friend Patou and I had arranged to meet there to visit the Mary Quant exhibition, of which we have heard good things. Mary Quant came to prominence in the early 60s as a designer and entrepreneur, and name and her face were familiar to me throughout my childhood when the mini skirt was de rigueur.

Sassoon and Quant


However, fate intervened, and when I reached South Kensington, it was to find a message on my ‘phone to say Patou could not join me. It might have been more fun going round the exhibition with her, but I had a wonderful time on my own all the same.

Although Quant’s fashions would have been splashed across magazines, those magazines would generally have been of the glossier kind that rarely came my mother’s way. So it was with something of a shock that I realised how much Quant had influenced the clothing I wore or saw older cousins and neighbours wearing as I was growing up. Apart from mini skirts, there were shift dresses, pinafore dresses, boxy suits, and pin striped materials previously the province of men’s suits.

Unfussy

When I was at the Vice Versa exhibition in the Ulster Museum last summer, fortunate enough to have a tour with the exhibition’s curator, Charlotte McReynolds, it was clear fashion is very much part of social history. So it proved again at the V&A. At McReynolds 2018 exhibition Fashion & Feminism she included a quote by Quant: “Clothes always say it first, you know, then comes the effect.” That desire to get away from restrictive clothing, to be comfortable, to be gleeful, was all part of the emerging sixties youth culture. Quant does not claim to have invented the mini skirt, she says it was a street fashion, invented by the girls on the Kings’ road where she had her shop Bazaar. Continue reading

Art and the Future

Some Sundays are magical. I’ve just had two in a row. Last night we went, as has become the tradition, to hear the ten shortlisted poets for the TS Eliot Prize. Every single poet deserved the prize. I haven’t looked to see who has been awarded it, but my 50p would be on Sharon Olds.

Another prize in the arts took me to Margate the Sunday before last with Celia: The Turner Prize. I realised the day the winner of the prize was to be announced that I know one of those shortlisted, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, with whom I did some work a decade ago. What I did not know was that the four short-listed artists, when they met, had realised their art all came from the same place, and asked the judges to allow them to share the prize. The judges agreed.

Human rights, racism, the rich legacy of immigration, sexual repression, ecological crisis, are themes common in the work of both groups of short listed artists. To say the last night’s readings and last week’s trip to Margate to Turner Contemporary were inspiring is an understatement. Like many, I am saddened and depressed by what is happening in my country and elsewhere. Narrow minds, racists, white supremacists, revisionist historians, warmongers, nationalists are in the ascent. I have been low in spirits, appalled by events and attitudes, extremely worried about the future. Evidence that there are many people out there still working for good, for human rights, for justice, for truth, the NHS, for victims of indifference, lifted my spirits, despite the sober art. Continue reading

Street of Ghosts

After a month of not posting here, I was planning to write about a wonderful day Celia and I spent in Margate last weekend. The prospect of five years of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, the abandonment of safety nets for vulnerable refugees, the exclusion of Parliament from the final Brexit arrangements, all these combined with the worst cold and cough I have had in years meant I was, and to an extent remain, low in spirits.

But the wonderful day will have to wait.

Today we are a neighbourhood in shock and mourning. An elderly, frail neighbour died in a house fire this morning. Two weeks ago, her neighbour who lived in the property across the road died in her sleep. I can’t say I knew either woman well. The one who died today I would nod hello to, she sometimes nodded back. I had noted her decline over the last few years and knew friends of mine who live next door were supporting her. The manner of her death is the stuff of nightmares. Continue reading

Of Ill Health, Tory Lies, Good Men and Women, and Democracy on a Knife Edge

I probably brought it upon myself by saying to Octavia that since I switched from being vegetarian to vegan I seem to shake of colds very quickly. The next evening, Monday, I was just taking my seat in the National Theatre for a performance of Brian Friel’s Translations (excellent btw) when I sneezed a couple of times. By the time I reached home I had a sore throat and a runny nose. The following day I didn’t feel great, but I confidently expected to be well by Wednesday, so it was a bit of shock when I woke to find my legs were like jelly.
That was a week ago. Since then I have got through eight boxes of paper hankies, quantities of paracetamol and half a bottle of Benylin, several boxes of throat sweets.
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Antisemites to the left of us, islamophobes to the right; let’s stick in the middle with EU

Only a few days to go before the general election and Boris Johnson has yet to take the opportunity to say anything truthful. He has also refused to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, presumably because he knows he would come out of it badly, though he might choose, as he did in the Leaders’ Debate, to make jokes when asked about the importance of truth. For most of us being caught telling lies in our professional lives would spell the end of our careers. Not so Johnson, his is a career built on lies. Lies are the key to his success. We all know he lies, he knows we know he lies, so if elected and it turns out – surprise! – he has again lied about the NHS, getting Brexit ‘done’, about the glorious and golden opportunities that will unfold once we have left the supportive embrace of the EU, well we knew in advance he wasn’t telling the truth, so how can we feel betrayed?
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Mother, born a hundred years ago today

My little mum was born a hundred years ago today in Larne Co Antrim. None of her siblings was born there, but my grandfather, not the most pleasant or successful person in our family’s history, had lost his farm and was working as a carter, probably in the docks. Mother didn’t like the fact she was born in Larne. It doesn’t have a great reputation. It does have the most hideous roundabout ornament I have ever seen, though it’s fairly new, and Mother never saw it.
The street she was born in has gone. Cousin and I visited a few years ago. In a shop, we found a painting of a hare that Cousin fell in love with. If you ever visit her home you’ll see a print of it on the wall.
I left my details with someone at the museum who told me that the person I needed to speak to to see if there were records of our family time in Larne extant was Marion. Unfortunately Marion was on holiday. More unfortunately Marion has never got in touch with me.
So Mother’s early circumstances remain unclear, though they were obviously pretty tough. I know she was baptised at home because she was sickly and thought unlikely to survive. But survive she did.
There are no pictures of her as a child. I think this one is the earliest one I have of her. She looks like a young teenager. She probably was.

You may recognise it. I posted it in 2013 after she died. Continue reading

Democracy is Fragile and Needs Your Help

It’s an odd thing, but if you make up qualifications, cheat in exams, lie under oath in court, fiddle the evidence to suit your premise in a science experiment, take drugs to enhance your sporting prowess, when the truth is discovered, you will quickly be stripped of your qualifications, awards and medals, your professional reputation will be in tatters and you will be held up as an example of how cheating and lying does not pay.
I say it’s an odd thing, because the same rules do not seem to apply to our unesteemed Prime Minister, who I am starting to suspect is a pathological liar, by which I mean he really can’t help himself. To Johnson, lies seem to be so much more attractive than truth. He cheats too, wearing a discreet ear piece in a debate so he could be fed li(n)es, rather than rely, as Corbyn had to, on wit and memory. This last deception has had scant coverage in the news. Many of our newspaper editors almost equalling Johnson by writing about hm as though he is a political colossus.
He is also aided by the BBC news team which sees to have decided that a global reputation for fair reporting, professionalism and impartiality can be dispensed with. There are too many instances to list here, but a few stand out ones are the wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. The leaders of the political parties lined up holding their red wreaths. Johnson looked as though he had slept in his clothes after a thick night and had forgotten to brush his hair. He was seen stepping forward at the wrong time,laying the wreath upside down, shambling. The other party leaders performed the wreath laying with respect and reverence. The BBC radio news reported the leaders as bowing their heads, apart from Corbyn who inclined his head. Now bowing your head and inclining your head are the same thing, but a Twitter storm was unleashed accusing Corbyn of lack of respect and patriotism. Corbyn, having associated with some pretty unsavoury characters down the years, gets these accusations all the time. Bizarrely, Johnson, who is pally with an equal number of unsavoury characters now, does not. Anyway, the next day BBC news broadcast footage of Remembrance Sunday and included Johnson neatly dressed, hair brushed, laying a green wreath. That is footage from three years ago, which when it was spotted by viewers, was claimed by the BBC when it later apologised, to have been in the production room, and a mistake. Hmm. Maybe. Continue reading

C is for Coventry

Regular readers of this page will know that I love Coventry. Celia and I visited on Friday. She hasn’t been there since her teens, so her memories were hazy. My enthusiasm for the place had, I hope, inspired her, but it was mainly because we had seen and enjoyed Where Light Falls, in London, and knew there was a sister event in Coventry,  that we got our acts together and bought train tickets.

I am evangelical about Coventry since it entered my consciousness a a few short years ago, thanks to Sarah Moss’ wonderful novel, The Tidal Zone. Why the city isn’t more widely celebrated I don’t know. I somehow doubt it is in the top ten places visitors to the UK have on their Must See lists. That may of course change in 2021 when it becomes the City of Culture.

Power Up Coventry

The light show was not due to start until five in the evening, but we arrived shortly after eleven in the morning. Somehow, I imagined we’d have loads of the to explore.

Our first goal was the Pod Café which I had read about in a magazine called Be Kind I picked up at VegFest in September. We strode through the town, knowing that on Fridays the Pod closed early. I fully expected that we would be back, meandering and wandering the area near the station before we went home. But the day flew by.

The Pod was great. There was only one choice for lunch so we had that; a vegan pancake stuffed with a variety of vegetables and spices. delicious. I had a hot chocolate made with almond milk and Celia had a latte made with another milk alternative. We browsed the bookshelves; admired the pottery; agreed with the board that talked about the importance of mothers.

The Pod Shelves

The Pod Bookshelf

The Pod – Lunch

Mothering

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