Monday, June 28, 2010

Trust the Plastic

So - reading logs

I read a very short book called Doctor in the Navy which did exactly what it says on the dust jacket being a James-Herriot-style account of a .. err ... Doctor in the Navy in what I think is the late fifties. I'm not sure why I took it out of the library - it just seemed to fall off the shelf. It was OK as a palate-cleanser after the Kate Bush book. I'm also not sure whether it's true - I mean was the Wrens' accommodation in Portsmouth really called HMS Impregnable

Next up was A Gate at the Stairs - by Lorrie Moore who is better known for her short stories - this fact is the biggest complaint in the Amazon reviews; there is too much descriptive stuff in the novel for a lot of her fans and indeed the actual story is not that substantial being padded out with long and often unconnected musings by the narrator. This must not put you off because it turns a sentimental pulp story into a deep reflection on one's own existence. Never do these diversions seem anything other than entirely pertinent to the atmosphere and ambiance which is the real reason for the book - the real meat. This makes the events so much more affecting. The narrator is supposed to be only twenty but has the wisdom of a woman twice her age which upset another subset of the reviewers. Again do not be put off by this. I can think of plenty of twenty-year olds I have known with the sophistication of people twice their age. Maybe at that age, we just lack the eloquence to voice the feelings we have. A novel is always a triumph of remembered detail over the fuzziness of any reality on which it based and therefore making a narrator analyse the situations in which they are placed is no more than detailing a conversation to make a point. The only true capturing of reality comes from recording devices with a far higher veracity than that of the human memory. As one reviewer said this book can stand a whole raft of spoilers for it is not the story that matters - it is the writing and with writing this good, the details of the plot matter only when you get to them.

And for Fathers' Day we have The Wavewatcher's Companion from the Idler Gavin Pretor-Pinney - he of the Cloud Appreciation Society. I'm still only on the second chapter of this but the initial dipping I did shows it to be a deep and funny investigation into all-things wavy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Come on Ponds!

The Doctor Yesterday.

And we're back! Amy has managed to conjure up the entire universe down to every detail - Andy Murray is still fourth seed and currently looking likely to go through so looks like she got everything right. Take that Mr Stephen Fry and your new-fangled adventures. Here was the ultimate Deus Ex Machina or as Richard Adams would say Dea Ex Machina 'cos of course it all comes out of Amy's head. And also here was a Dalek begging for mercy - three times - that River Song is some woman. The youngest is now dancing The Doctor's wedding dance and looking very unlikely to go to sleep before we do.

Where have I been? Working mostly - not away from home but for more of the day than is usual. Can't talk about it any more - it's not secret - just very, very boring. So no blogging. Maybe a bit more in the next few weeks.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Charm a Llama Farmer

Listening to auto-generated Gamelan.

As usual I am torn between many different books and have at last re-started Michael Palin's second set of Diaries from 1980 to 1988. The problem is they don't seem as interesting as the first volume. Have I been conned? Has he been editing them after complaints? Is he turning into Alastair Campbell? The pile of books by the bed has begun to show up on radar and has therefore been classified as an official hazard which means I have to do something with it at the weekend. Life is such a whirl!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Life and Times of Sigmund Turing

I did not want Under the Ivy to end - I read the acknowledgements, the bibliography, the discography and was considering the index before I let it go. It was almost as if this was not only the end of the biography but of the meaningful, music-releasing career of its subject. I do hope that is not true and to Kate Bush herself I am sure that either way matters not a jot. Anyway, what about the meat of the thing rather than just the vaguely empty feeling it leaves on completion. Graeme Thomson is not afraid to say bad things where he thinks it's due but I seem to disagree on some small points. I have listened to all her official releases over the last few days and while I agree on the general greatness of The Hounds of Love and the measured genius of Aerial, I actually like The Dreaming rather a lot - it rocks and far from being over produced just seems the product of a extraordinarily active mind.

I've just switched the Media Player to it and here it is bouncing in my ears, clear and powerful, a misty and dirty window on a strange outlook. But regardless of my petty fan-boy quibbles with the opinions of the music, the book itself is a must read for any real KB fan and a brilliantly written diversion for anyone, even those who do not like the music. I know that Kate Bush divides opinion like Marmite but even an intellectual loather would find much to satisfy them in this book. I am amazed that Thomson has managed to get such detail about the recording process and more so that he manages to weave this information in a chronological layout so that it does not appear like anal fan-boy notes.

After the first few chapters it dedicates about a chapter to each album as far as I can recall and this chimes with the recent view of Bush popping up every few years with some new album and then vanishing again. However, this view of a mad recluse is pretty much debunked by the book. She values her privacy and it just happens that fame means that everyone wants information. She wants her music to be the statement of intent and because a lot of that music is so unreadable, the papers and the music magazines are not satisfied. This book does a great job of the detail and has a laudable stab at understanding without going into the pretentious territory of Vermorel's Secret History of Kate Bush. And better than all this, it is a great read filled with a spirit like that of a good piece of fiction. All of which resulted in my desire for it not to end and my slight sense of sadness that the end of the book might actually be the end of the story. There was a nugget of hope in that Del Palmer reports progress on new music. Can we hope for something with the greatness of Hounds of Love?

In other news, we have mostly been enjoying the new series of Horrible Histories which is as on-form as it ever was with skits about everyone from the Stone Age to The Second World War. I especially liked the Viking Heavy Metal Rock video which was pitch-perfect. It looks like as much fun to make as it is to watch.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Disasters by Choice

It rains again today. It is stronger than previous days, making gentle noises on the windows of the day room and yet Kate has left the outer door open again. The rain has a partner in the spinning eddies of wind that stir the indoor plants and sprinkle them with water. A butterfly has sought shelter in here and I must paint it. It seems to move slightly like it breathes more rapidly at my approach, its tiny edges and legs and protuberances like the edge of a person in love and leaving their beloved for home. I sit down with the drawing book on my knees and using the finest brush I have outline the image of the delicate creature. It stays for a time, letting me capture it. It amazes me that my eyes can capture this detail, the furry ends to its legs, the twisted whorl of its whiskers, like a narwhal's horn, that which we used to believe was the horn of a unicorn.

Then as if it knows I have it down save for the colours, it leaps away towards the skylight and settles higher up the tree. But it is still visible and slowly I mix the almost-white that defines its majority. This colour is just not that of the paper, a shade out from the bright white of the expensive parchment of the book and yet after going on, it leaps out of the page, turning my flat draughtsmanship to real-life under my hand.

And then my fatigue catches me and the butterfly is gone and not gone. In my mind it is hard to determine which of the creatures left me. Was it the model that came in out of the rain or my creation which came to life on the page, their places switched?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Fire-Pigeons of Peterborough

To the ancestral homeland at the weekend, where various relatives showed us equally various artifacts originally belonging to my many-greats grandmother - Eliza Payne - including a notebook containing diary entries from 1835 to 1837 and a battered notebook containing many exquisite watercolours of butterflies an example of which is above. The writing in the diary, although beautiful, is very small and unreadable to my suddenly-ancient eyes. Daughter was happily able to read it and described the untaxing life of a lady of leisure based somewhere near Colchester we think. It is begging to be scanned, blown-up and pushed to make it readable. I will keep you posted.

Modern art in the deWeyden family this weekend has consisted mostly of me taking pictures of clouds with this IR one being the best. Dig those three-dee clouds hey?

Anyway - short one today. Back on heads.