6th october 2005

He found himself not in a hayloft but in a very large low-ceilinged apartment that was evidently a bedroom. In the winter twilight he could see that the table, the mantelshelf and even the armchairs were cluttered with tall vases, expensive objects of every description, and old weapons. One end of the room was cut off by hangings which no doubt concealed an alcove.
Meaulnes had closed the window, partly because of the cold, partly for fear of being seen from outside. He crossed the room, drew aside the hangings, and discovered a broad low bed heaped with old books in gilt bindings, lutes with broken strings, candelabra - all thrown down pell-mell. Pushing everything into a corner he lay down to rest and sort out the elements of this strange adventure into which he had plunged.

Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes

I looked around the room. An astonishing medley of objects lay around in piles which in place reached up to the ceiling. The contents of the room had a sort of strange cohesion and homogeneity, and they seemed to adhere to the walls like the contents of a half-empty jam jar. Yet here was every kind of thing. It was like a vast toy shop that had been hit by a bomb. In my first glance I noticed a French horn, a set of red-striped tin trumpets, some Chinese silk robes, a couple of rifles, Paisley shawls, teddy bears, glass balls, tangles of necklaces and other jewellery, a convex mirror, a stuffed snake, countless toy animals, and a number of tin trunks out of which multi-coloured costumes trailed. Exquisite and expensive playthings lay enlaced with the gimcrack contents of Christmas crackers. I sat down on the nearest seat, which happened to be the back of the rocking-horse, and surveyed the scene.

Iris Murdoch, Under the Net

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12th october 2005

With effortless generosity Miranda sent me this, a fragment of which I'd admired on her site:

Orpheus and Eurydice

Standing on flagstones of the sidewalk at the entrance to Hades
Orpheus hunched in a gust of wind
That tore at his coat, rolled past in waves of fog,
Tossed the leaves of the trees. The headlights of cars
Flared and dimmed in each succeeding wave.

He stopped at the glass-paneled door, uncertain
Whether he was strong enough for that ultimate trial.

He remembered her words: "You are a good man."
He did not quite believe it. Lyric poets
Usually have - as he knew - cold hearts.
It is like a medical condition. Perfection in art
Is given in exchange for such an affliction.

Only her love warmed him, humanized him.
When he was with her, he thought differently about himself.
He could not fail her now, when she was dead.

He pushed open the door and found himself walking in a labyrinth,
Corridors, elevators. The livid light was not light but the dark of the earth.
Electronic dogs passed him noiselessly.
He descended many floors, a hundred, three hundred, down.

He was cold, aware that he was Nowhere.
Under thousands of frozen centuries,
On an ashy trace where generations had moldered,
In a kingdom that seemed to have no bottom and no end.

Thronging shadows surrounded him.
He recognized some of the faces.
He felt the rhythm of his blood.

He felt strongly his life with its guilt
And he was afraid to meet those to whom he had done harm.
But they had lost the ability to remember
And gave him only a glance, indifferent to all that.

For his defense he had a nine-stringed lyre.
He carried in it the music of the earth, against the abyss
That buries all of sound in silence.
He submitted the music, yielded
To the dictation of a song, listening with rapt attention,
Became, like his lyre, its instrument.

Thus he arrived at the palace of the rulers of that land.
Persephone, in her garden of withered pear and apple trees,
Black, with naked branches and verrucose twigs,
Listened from the funereal amethyst of her throne.

He sang the brightness of mornings and green rivers,
He sang of smoking water in the rose-colored daybreaks,
Of colors: cinnabar, carmine, burnt sienna, blue,
Of the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs,
Of feasting on a terrace above the tumult of a fishing port,
Of the tastes of wine, olive oil, almonds, mustard, salt.
Of the flight of the swallow, the falcon,
Of a dignified flock of pelicans above a bay,
Of the scent of an armful of lilacs in summer rain,
Of his having composed his words always against death
And of having made no rhyme in praise of nothingness.

I don't know - said the goddess - whether you loved her or not.
Yet you have come here to rescue her.
She will be returned to you. But there are conditions:
You are not permitted to speak to her, or on the journey back
To turn your head, even once, to assure yourself that she is behind you.

And so Hermes brought forth Eurydice.
Her face no longer hers, utterly gray,
Her eyelids lowered beneath the shade of her lashes.
She stepped rigidly, directed by the hand
Of her guide. Orpheus wanted so much
To call her name, to wake her from that sleep.
But he refrained, for he had accepted the conditions.

And so they set out. He first, and then, not right away,
The slap of the god's sandals and the light patter
Of her feet fettered by her robe, as if by a shroud.
A steep climbing path phosphorized
Out of darkness like the walls of a tunnel.
He would stop and listen. But then
They stopped too, and the echo faded.
And when he began to walk the double tapping commenced again.
Sometimes it seemed closer, sometimes more distant.
Under his faith a doubt sprang up
And entwined him like cold bindweed.
Unable to weep, he wept at the loss
Of the human hope for the resurrection of the dead,
Because he was, now, like every other mortal.
His lyre was silent, yet he dreamed, defenseless.
He knew he must have faith and he could not have faith.
And so he would persist for a very long time,
Counting his steps in a half-wakeful torpor.

Day was breaking. Shapes of rock loomed up
Under the luminous eye of the exit from underground.
It happened as he expected. He turned his head
And behind him on the path was no one.

Sun. And sky. And in the sky white clouds.
Only now everything cried to him: Eurydice!
How will I live without you, my consoling one!
But there was a fragrant scent of herbs, the low humming of bees,
And he fell asleep with his cheek on the sun-warmed earth.

- Czeslaw Milosz

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18th october 2005

the painting wot I did

Dream Landscape - large version on Flickr

Dream Landscape (poster paint on MDF, 310 x 246mm)

I haven't painted anything other than walls since I was at school, so this came out quite well considering.

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19th october 2005


Talking of paintings, the Courtauld have a Derain exhibit: The London Paintings, opening on the 27th, running til 22nd January. If I'm lucky I'll even get to see it.
Lookit that fella wavin'.

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23rd october 2005

Some days you don't feel that you're real at all; everything is contingent. Today I'm sitting on a plane, in a lost corner of an aerodrome: outside there's frayed concrete and tumbled weeds, the day is grey. We're waiting, because there's fog at our destination: even now aeroplanes are nervous about fog.
Across the aisle there's an editor, a woman with glasses on a string round her neck. She's reading a manuscript. The front of it doesn't mention an author; there's just one word: Londonstani. We're going to a book fair.
Then we're tilting up and almost straight away the grey turns to bright solid blue, and in the centre of the window the moon, saying to me as always, Hello. Here I am.

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