Wow! Something’s happened over the last couple of days. We’ve had quite a bit of Summery sunshine, plus some rain at night, and all of a sudden the greenery has come to life. When I took Gizmo to the Ponderosa today, the little wooded bits which had been pretty much flat and brown since last autumn were suddenly three-dimensional and green, a plethora of plant species poking their heads up and vying for space. At the same time, you can feel the plant life in the air, it’s thick with it.
Monthly Archive for April, 2005
We spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Mansfield on an FCA training course for foster carers. It was a lot more enjoyable and useful than I’d expected, a really nice bunch of people there, even though it did mean that Gill & I didn’t get a weekend off. I’m looking forward, slightly less anxiously, to being a foster carer (starting this summer, hopefully).
I recently finished reading Exquisite Corpse by Robert Irwin. An absolutely brilliant faux-autobiography of an English Surrealist artist “Caspar” and his all-consuming obsession with his apparently very ordinary muse Caroline. I was halfway through reading it when I visited the Museum Ludwig in Köln; I was so tempted to leave the book in one of the galleries holding their extensive Surrealist collection, it would make a lovely objet trouvé for some unsuspecting soul, but I just couldn’t bring myself to abandon the story unfinished. Never mind, now I’ve worked my way through it I’ll have to drop it off in another museum’s gallery of the surreal (perhaps with a Bookcrossing sticker inside, so that I can track its progress). Except that… I really want to read it again, now that I know the twist in the tale.
Here are a couple of my favourite passages from the novel, from a time when Caspar has lost Caroline and his purpose in life, and has become a war artist:
My commissioning by the W.A.C. coincided with the beginning of the Blitz in 1940 and this coincidence provided me with my artistic mission. I became a painter of ruins and firestorms and I thought of myself as the heir to Piranesi and Mad John Martin. I left my Surrealist box of tricks unopened for the remainder of the War. The Blitz provided its own Surrealist effects – a white horse galloping around inside a burning meat market and displaying all its teeth in a panicked, mirthless grin, a girl in a blue dress emerging with her skipping rope from clouds of black smoke and skipping calmly by, and the facades of buildings curving and distending like the sets of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Everywhere I walked I saw staircases which led nowhere, baths suspended apparently in mid-air, brick waterfalls flowing out of doorways and objects jumbled incongruously together in conformity with Lautreamont’s aesthetic prescription; ‘Beautiful as the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table’. Long tongues of flame would leap out of every window of some great office block, like demons being expelled from a disenchanted castle. I was not really very aware of the Germans or their bombers: I felt rather that it was the fire that was our real enemy while water was our ally. At times I toyed with the notion that Britain had entered the War on the wrong side and that we should have allied with the glamorous fire against the dull and squelching water.
And then, a couple of pages later:
I heard the most extraordinary things. Huns disguised as nuns were at work surveying our coastal defences. The Germans had already attempted a sea-borne invasion and failed. Their bodies were still being washed up on the beaches. The Royal Family had been evacuated to Canada and a troupe of actors were now impersonating them in Buckingham Palace. A kind of werewolf preyed on the bomb sites, looking for fresh bodies to eat. Most people said that he looked like a fireman and some said that there was a whole crew of werewolf firemen operating in the East End. What the werewolves did not eat themselves they sold at the back doors of posh restaurants on the Strand and Piccadilly. Then again, the foreman of one salvage crew told me how he had been chatting up a foreign girl in uniform – a green uniform he did not recognise, perhaps of something like the Free Latvian Forces — when the air-raid siren went off. They were in the vicinity of Chancery Lane, but instead of going down into the tube station, as everyone else was doing, the girl took him by the arm and made him follow her. They passed through the nondescript-looking door of some official-looking building and descended a deep and dimly lit spiral staircase. At the bottom, the salvage foreman found himself in a shelter the like of which he had never dreamed of. All the other people sheltering there were female officers in the green uniforms of their foreign army. There were beds with clean white sheets, champagne in ice buckets and great piles of tinned foods. The foreman spent a night of ecstasy in that shelter. However, though he did his best to memorise the exact location of its exit, he told me that he was never able to come back at that place again.
I was fascinated by the proliferation of rumour and the elaboration of wartime folklore…
Yesterday was our first day this year on the allotment. I’ve been meaning to visit all winter, to clear out more of the grassed over/weeded over area so we have more space for planting, but it’s one of those (many) things which when the weekend came around, I never wanted to do. No problem, although yesterday felt like a very late start to things, in fact I think we timed it about right.
We didn’t spend very long there, but Cath and Beth, and Harriet and her kids were also there, so we got what felt like quite a lot done. I raked over the area where we grew potatoes last year, got rid of a lot of stones and grass roots, and planted it with some shallot sets. Alex had strongly recommended a shallot confiture recipe to me in the top tens thread on the KRMB and I wanted to try making it with home-grown shallots (in the meantime, I bought myself a kilo-and-a-half and am making up a batch anyway, I’m too impatient to wait for these buggers to grow).
Once all the shallots were in the ground, there was some space left over, so I dug up the clump of chives I’d put in from a pot last year, and split it out into about a dozen separate bunches, so hopefully we’ll have plenty of chives coming up soon.
Meanwhile, the others got on with some serious weeding, clearing and digging, and planted another couple of rows of seed potatoes and some carrots.
Later in the day I returned to plant a few flower bulbs and roots that have been knocking around the house for ages: I stuck them in the little (glass-filled) patch of earth just behind the allotment’s back wall, so hopefully in a couple of months we’ll have a riot of colour between us and the row of council houses which back onto the allotments.
I’ve been in the allotment a few times over winter, just popping in with the dog whenever I take him for a walk up to Bole Hills. It’s a bit boring though when nothing much ever changes. Now that we’ve got growing stuff in there, I shall be down every other day checking for new signs of life.
Petit Fives – these nibbles go up to eleven.
On a visit to a Belgium of the mind, where I am visiting GuyE2, the famous explorer recently returned from the far east and still dressed in a grubby white linen suit similar to that which was so improbably worn by Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo. Unaccountably and uncharacteristically, GuyE2 is a constant mass of energy. He shows me his extensive document of the trip: a book with seven chapters, a travelogue and simultaneously a novel, an interactive entertainment, a work of art. Unaccountably something is missing: he wants me to typset it into a “proper” book.
During a perambulation of the fiefdom, I spot a new an imposing silhouette on the horizon: a tower, or an inverted helter-skelter, zig-zag crazy with the utmost protuberances.
“What is that?”
(During the ensuing, long, pause my facial expressions indicate that I wish to know a little more about it than “new”).
“It’s (xxxx – the name is not important here), a school/ten-level computer adventure game/new tower. There’s a cinema, and a circus run by a strange, slightly malignant midget woman.”
“How does one pay for the circus?”
“That’s just the thing, the woman doesn’t ask you for money, but then she flies into a rage if you don’t pay. It’s almost as if she enjoys doing it.”
We must visit it, that much is unavoidable.
Suitable arrangements are made, and we enter the bottom floor with my (extended) family and several other friends who happen to be in the same imaginary Belgium at the same time. Guy cannot accompany us, but I take on the role of guide, my very limited knowledge of the place already granting me the status of leader among my ignorant posse. The ground floor is, indeed, a school. This is not interesting, we’ve all seen schools before. The next storey also seems to be a school, skip up the stairs, no need to explore, we’ll save this one for later when we’ve done all the worthwhile stuff, if we still feel like it then. The third floor is a college, let’s keep going up, we can always come back, but no: there is at least a cinema here, that’s enough of an “attraction” to warrant a visit. We squeeze through a college-style flat wooden door at the back of the auditorium; the light comes in with us and an entire audience turns to see what has disturbed them. The film has only just started. It is grown-up and boring. Lola and Beth wriggle and struggle; when the snack-vendor comes around we have no money, but a kind Indian man in the row in front buys us treats for the kids. We try to sit out the film, because it would be a waste not to, but after two minutes trying to prevent the kids from muttering their boredom the effort becomes too much. We continue our spiral up the building.
A large window provides a viewing platform: at last this place is becoming less like a school and more like an entertainment. I remember to do some videoing: whip out my camera and then search for a worthwhile subject. There isn’t one, but the hordes of schoolkids, seething chaos below glimpsed from the window, provide the only motion in the scene so I focus on them. I realise that this will form the credits for the movie of this moment: children moving in such a way that they cease to become people and fuse into coloured patterns on the screen. As I film, a theme tune is playing in my head; it’s in the can.
As soon as the last credit has rolled we move on: here is the circus we had been told about, and a performance is soon to begin. We troupe inside: it’s small, much smaller than I expected, like a large living room over-filled with tatty pastel Georgian-repro chairs and sofas. People are already smattered around these, there is just enough space left for our party but we’re going to have to spread ourselves around the room to take use of it. I spot the midget woman near the door: she’s looking at me slightly expectantly. I won’t give her the pleasure of acting unknowing. I stride around the room, carrying Lola, slowly and deliberately examining the decor (star-charts and wildlife posters), waiting for her to be certain that I’m not going to pay before surprising her by getting my wallet out. Crikey, it’s expensive: we’ll be bankrupt before the tenth floor at this rate.
The show starts, a window opens, outside it has unexpectedly turned to night and a magnified dark-blue sky is revealed to us. There is the famous constellation, made famous by the famous Belgian space-explorer; it glows like a tightly-defined pattern of green needles floating in the distance. The midget starts to lecture: of course, she is going to tell us about the constellation, but the cunning hag skirts around the subject, leaving it until last, in the meantime we get astronomy-101, all the bits that everyone with an ounce of education already knows: here is Ursula Minor, here is Ursula Major, also known as the Fat Lady and the Fatter Lady, etc etc etc etc.
And there I must leave off. I’m waking up, but implanted in my head is the knowledge that the rest of my ascent will make a good novel. Well, at least a short story. A novella, perhaps.
Please note: any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely subconscious.
Well, that’s OK then:
Your actual outcome:
|Liberal Democrat 64|
|UK Independence Party -3|
You should vote: Liberal Democrat
The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.
Take the test at Who Should You Vote For
For a while now, I’ve been meaning to keep some note of the seasonal changes around here, mainly so that (in theory at least) I can look back in the future and see how things compare to previous years, and also hopefully get some idea of planting times for the allotment.
Well, when I was walking Gizmo yesterday I noticed, for the first time this year, some purple weed (I’ll try to identify it tomorrow) and forget-me-not growing alonside the allotments. Meanwhile, the main crop of daffodils seem to have started dying, all the plain yellow ones are looking a bit manky and only the narcissi seem to be still going strong.
For some time now, I’ve been frustrated in my attempt to email friends with Supanet accounts – I just get back bounces telling me that my mail host is blacklisted because of an earlier spam. I tried emailing Supanet’s abuse & postmaster, but guess what… my mails bounced back because the entire supanet domain was rejecting any mail from my server. And I couldn’t find any support options on their website that were usable by non-supanet customers.
I finally sorted it out today – emailed them from my Hotmail account (why didn’t I think of that before?) and they very kindly responded within about half-an-hour of my mail (if only more ISPs were so responsive) and said they would remove my server from their blacklist because they hadn’t seen any spam from it in a while. Actually, it wasn’t my specific server that was blacklisted, it was the entire /24 netblock, which is also reassuring was it means hopefully my machine is as secure as I’d thought it was.