Music Makers


According to William Congreve, music hath powers to soothe the savage breast . The white piano below is soothing savage breasts in the Scottish Arts & Antiques Centre.
Abernyte.
Last  Sunday afternoon.
Chopin.
Nocturne Op 9 No. 2.
According to Chopin’s lover,  Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (aka George Sand ),  “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved “.
They went to Mallorca together but alas alas didn’t find the one happiness in life there.
Or anywhere.
Jane Stirling, daughter of the  Laird of Kippendavie, was the other important woman in Chopin’s life.
She supported him emotionally and financially in his last years.
He dedicated a couple of  his Nocturnes to her.

DSCN1960 mnWhat’s a sitar player doing in Sauchiehall Street?
Glaswegians stop to stare; some even stop to listen to this usually 17-stringed instrument although its name comes from the Persian sehtar meaning three-stringed.
After its popularity in the 50s because of the playing and teaching of Ravi Shankar, the sitar was taken up by George Harrison then incorporated in the Beatles range of instruments ( ” Norwegian Wood”, “Within You Without You”, “Tomorrow never knows” ).anna 7  A woman playing the bagpipes! Whatever next?
She was playing a pibroch at the Waverley Station corner in Princes Street, a spot favoured by bagpipers although at Festival time, they can be found (and heard ) in any available doorway.Embra eoilLike this one.
Reminding  passers-by of Scotia’s past glories.
Unlike the lady piper, this piper has gone for the full Highland military regalia – the horsehair sporran, the white hose tops, the buckled belt, the glengarry….
In the First World War, there were 2,500 pipers whose task was to be first over the top, leading their regiment towards the enemy trenches.
1,000 were killed.
The bravest of the brave.

em bAgain at Festival time in Edinburgh you can find street performers like these two – the one-man band and his unadored but adoring assistant.
The servile clown and the narcissitic  performer are a common duo (in life as on the stage): Beckett’s Pozzo & Lucky come to mind;  and Fellini’s Zampano & Gelsomino.
In   La  Strada,  Zampano ( the circus strong man played by Anthony Quinn) is supported by Gelsomino (the circus clown, played by Fellini’s wife, Giuletta Masino). Symbiotic relationships.
Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is commonly found in children  (Krusty in The Simpsons, isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs).
The white-faced clown originates from the performances of Joseph Grimaldi.
And as for the comic-relief red nose….? Who knows.festttA young blue-shirted quintet in Edinburgh’s High Street find a site with good acoustics outside St. Giles Cathedral to play their mixture of  classical and modern.
They were very good.em 8A musical trio in a Lanzarote bar play quiet Canary music I was hearing for the first time.laz cbv” O when the saints…”
A Portuguese band in Dundee who played lively music  from the 60s and 70s.
They  moved from town to town – Glasgow  to day, Edinburgh tomorrow.
They were good musicians and their music brought a vivid touch of the Mediterranean to  Scotland’s grey city streets and squares.
Note Desperate Dan in the background.

Dundee

 

 The man that hath no music in himself,
nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
the motions of his spirit are dull as night
and his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music

Nightmare


miss_jessel_

She followed the little girl’s gaze
or thought she did
and saw
or thought she saw,
the nightmare  woman
just for a second,
out of the corner of her eye,
there,
on the island,
across the water,
standing rigidly still
there
among the tall straight bulrushes
rigidly still
in such a severe
such a severe black dress,
not watching
not waiting
not anything
just there then

                                                                   

                                                                                                                                    not there

 

miss_jessel_the_innocents mm

Al Fresco Love


 

When my girlfriend becomes aroused, she insists that we go outside and find somewhere very public and very dangerous to act out her crazy impulses.  

She especially enjoys  kissing and entwining her supple self round me in the main street with all the cars whizzing past, honking their horns,  flashing their lights.

Most of all she is stimulated by the lewd remarks shouted at us by shaven-headed thugs leaning from the windows of their flashy cars  with CD players turned up full volume and making obscene gestures with their fingers and forearms as they pass.

When we get back home, fired up after one of these outings, she likes nothing better than kicking off her shoes and lying on the sofa with a giant tub of popcorn on her chest, watching old Humphrey Bogart movies, flicking popcorn into her open mouth and shouting things like, Get ’em off, baby! and Just do it for Chrissake!

The African Queen is our favourite.

The-african-queen-1-.jpeg

Miracle on Sauchiehall Street


100_3017 abcdLast Tuesday,  with time to kill  before going to  the GFT to see  ‘A Life of Pi ‘  (the 3D version),  I was idly watching the world go by through the window of  Toshie’s Coffee House (I suppose I may  have looked a bit like a Vermeer to the Indian (?) woman who was taking  my photograph) when something amazing happened, something that took my breath away….. I saw a miracle, I saw a man in combat gear stop between me and the Indian lady who had just photographed me,  saw him stop bang in the middle of the busy street and,  without any visible effort, slowly, ever so slowly,  rise off the ground, rise several feet off the ground and…. stay there….. hanging  there…….. effortlessly suspended in….in space.

gw 1nnOnly  I  seemed to notice him, everybody else hurrying  past with more important places to visit, more urgent business to attend to, or perhaps they had seen this miracle before and no longer gave it a second thought. Or perhaps they just didn’t want to witness it.
I paid for my coffee and hurried outside but I was too late, too slow, the man in combat gear, the man who had defied and defeated the frightful forces of gravity, was gone.
All through the film (which was excellent, stunningly  beautiful at times, always thought-provoking*) my mind kept drifting away  to the levitating man.  What did it mean? Why had only I seen him? Had I really seen him? Was it, like in the Neil Young song, only a dream? But even dreams have to have some meaning so what did it mean this picture I had in my mind of a man hanging in space and only me noticing? What did it mean?

* I think the film’s conclusion gave you a choice to make between two  beliefs: a) the hope-bringing ‘story’ of religion as an explanation of the purpose underlying human existence, as opposed to b) Darwin’s amoral, evolutionary theory that only the fittest survive.

Me Tarzan, You Jane


We but teach bloody instructions/ which, being taught,  return to plague the inventor

Anwar Congo, a hero in Indonesia, personally responsible for the deaths of 1000 ‘communists’  cheerily tells on TV chat shows how he learned his morality and his ‘trade’   from watching  Hollywood Mafia films where the most efficient method of killing  an ‘enemy’ was to use a garotte.

100_2815

Before my time, I said, counting the waves, a bit bored by the drift the conversation was taking.
You’ve never seen King Kong? Bob asked, sounding  as if such a thing was inconceivable.  You must have seen it. As a kid. On the box. The black and white version. The film that changed the world.
Who was in it? I asked.
Bob shrugged.  Spencer Tracy, he said.  Clark Gable. James Cagney. Someone like that. But that’s not the point. Can you imagine the impact it must have had on  bin  Laden? Think of it. Eleven years old. Eyes mind mouth wide open. Living every minute of it. That’s when the image must have lodged in his head, the planes and the skyscraper.  Of course  he identified with the gorilla. The great, big-hearted gorilla clinging with one giant hand to the top of the Empire State Building, gently holding Fay Whatshername in the other,  at the same time being attacked by those 4 Curtis biplanes.  That’s where 9/11 came from.  King Kong’s revenge.  King Kong Strikes Back.  That’s when it all started.
He picked up a chunk of rock and tossed it 50 metres or so into the sea.
You know what they say about every seventh wave being the big oneI asked but he wasn’t listening, too busy pumelling his chest with his fists and emitting a strange sort of yodelling yell which he later told me was the call Johnny Weismuller made  to summon elephants to do his bidding.

 

The African Queen


” Observe it, the vulgar often laugh, but never smile, whereas well-bred people often smile, and seldom or never laugh. A witty thing never excited laughter, it pleases only the mind and never distorts the countenance.”    

When my girlfriend becomes aroused, she insists that we go outside and find somewhere very public and very dangerous to act out her impulses.  She especially enjoys  kissing and entwining her supple self round me in the main street with all the cars whizzing past, honking their horns,  flashing their lights. Most of all she is stimulated by the lewd remarks shouted at us by shaven-headed thugs leaning from the windows of their flashy cars  with CD players turned up full volume and making obscene gestures with their fingers and forearms as they pass.

When we get back home, fired up after one of these outings, she likes nothing better than kicking off her shoes and lying on the sofa with a giant tub of popcorn on her chest, watching old Humphrey Bogart movies, flicking popcorn into her open mouth and shouting things like, Get ’em off, baby! and Just do it for Crissake!

The African Queen is our favourite.

GOOD


 AND BAD TIMING

‘Bad Timing’ is one of Nicholas Roeg’s less successful films (‘Walkabout’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’ being two that made a bigger impact). Below is a drawing of the box office at The Cameo, Edinburgh, where  ‘Bad Timing’  was being shown.

It was one of two films I’d chased around to see, either being too early or too late to catch either of the aforesaid films ( the other was ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ (1961) by I  forget who but a weird and very avant-garde Italian*).

When I did catch up with them, they were disappointing, partly because of the build up of expectations over such a long period and partly because by the time I caught up with them, their moment had passed, or I had moved on, or whatever.

Which led me to think about Bad Timing in real time. Hemingway’s ideal of ‘Grace under Pressure’ as a prime characteristic of bravery came to mind and then the idea of ‘Grace without Pressure’ seemed just as courageous. Acting before you have to. Speaking out when no-one expects you to. In other words, ‘Good Timing’:
Good Timing in saying ‘I love you’ when there is a risk of rejection and not out of a sense of desperation; in giving your son or daughter money before they ask for it;  in general, saying and doing things before you have to and not out of a premature fear of losing someone or something.
Yes, I like the ideal of ‘Good Timing’ as a sort of preemptive (proactive?)   instinct.   Pity about the film though.

*Written by Alain Robbe-Grillet; directed by Alain Resnais, and  French, not Italian

Foreign Films and Second Thoughts


My girl friend, Amelia, is that unusual combination, logical and sensitive. For a long time I thought she was the only woman for me.

Then I saw her walking arm-in-arm out of the Odeon with the young man who came round to fix my computer and refused to take any money, saying it only needed a bit of readjustment and five minutes of his time was neither here nor there. Nice guy, we both thought. Very tall. Very articulate. Probably Spanish but wherever he came from, a really nice guy. Then from the upper deck of the 22 one lunchtime, I saw them, definitely them, arm-in-arm, outside the Odeon,  either going in or coming out or just passing by.
Smierc Prezydenta.
  Henryk Bista and Zdzislaw Mrozewski. Black and white. About Poland in World War One.
Definitely her in the expensive red dress that she hardly ever wore, arm-in-arm with Mr. Nice Guy.
What if….Perhaps….Maybe…. Possibly……

I kept thinking about her and him all the time. My work began to suffer because of it.  I kept meaning to ask her straight out if  she was being unfaithful to me but didn’t want her to feel I was the heavily jealous type.

But to-day Mr. Menagh came up to me and said if I didn’t snap out of it I could start looking for another job. Shape up or ship out, he said.

Then I saw them a second time, in the queue outside the Odeon hand-in-hand for the evening showing of J’ Existe, a French thriller.  Jean-Pierre Chevalier and  Denise Cubertin. In a blue dress I’d never seen her in before. Looking up at him. Laughing.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you,  Mr Menagh said.

When I told Amelia that I was having all these problems and that I knew she was seeing someone else, she threw her arms around me, tears welling up in her eyes. Isn’t it wonderful how everything works out for the best? she said. I have been meaning for so long to tell you I had fallen out of love with you. I didn’t know how to, didn’t want to hurt your feelings. But now you know I’m someone else’s girlfriend, you don’t need to give me a second thought.

THE AFRICAN QUEEN


When my girlfriend becomes aroused, she insists that we go outside and find somewhere very public and very dangerous to act out her impulses.  She especially enjoys  kissing and entwining her supple self round me in the main street with all the cars whizzing past, honking their horns,  flashing their lights. Most of all she is stimulated by the lewd remarks shouted at us by shaven-headed thugs leaning from the windows of their flashy cars  with CD players turned up full volume and making obscene gestures with their fingers and forearms as they pass.

When we get back home, fired up after one of these outings, she likes nothing better than kicking off her shoes and lying on the sofa with a giant tub of popcorn on her chest, watching old Humphrey Bogart movies, flicking popcorn into her open mouth and shouting things like, Get ’em off, baby! and Just do it for Crissake!

The African Queen is our favourite.

Titles and Opening Sentences


Ghost writers in the sky

I’m starting on an updated historical novel about Joseph and Mary with the working title:  “We need  to talk about Jesus“.

I’ve just finished a short story about witchcraft set in a 17th century Scottish village at carnival time with the title:  “Fowlis Fair” ( Fowlis is a village in Macbeth country)

My last novel – a complicated narrative about a feckless young teacher who was marooned on Ibiza with a plane-load of mostly upper-class schoolchildren and who let the school (and himself) down but came out quite well in the end – was called:  “Lucky Lord Jim of the Flies“.

And so on.

But you can spend ages trying to find a title for your writing, whatever it is.  Or for your painting. I don’t like it when a photograph of  a sunset over the sea has as its title “SUNSET OVER THE SEA.”  On the other hand, if Picasso hadn’t called his painting “Guernica” what would critics have made of it? And someone pointed out that ‘untitled’ is a title. Is “Catcher in the Rye” a good title? ” Moby Dick”?  “Pride and Prejudice”? How about one-word titles like “Departures”, “Distances”? The book I’m reading now is called ” A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In”. I think good titles tend to be a touch ironic, or metaphorical, or even poetic in some way. I’m not even sure they are all that important but you can spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to think up a ‘good’ one.
I’d be interested in your views on titles ( or opening sentences for that matter  – there’s another time-waster. Or is it? I get the distinct feeling after having read the opening sentence(s) that I’m going to enjoy this (or not).
Jane Austen  hits  the right note and tone from the very beginning: “It  is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife…..”
And similarily J.D. Salinger did pretty well in his opening to ‘Catcher in the Rye’:
” If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
The same applies to the opening shot(s) of a film. After the first few seconds I know whether I can settle back and be transported for the next hour or so or keep glancing at my watch and listening to the rustling of  the chocolate eaters.

C’est le premier pas qui coûte