Category Archives: Nostalgia

The Manhattans

I stayed in Manhattan once.
I should have ordered a Manhattan and listened to this track.
Instead I had a Vodka Martini and went to a jazz club in Bleecker Street, probably in that order.

Many, many months have passed by since then.  Now, I would never be so conceptually unintact.

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‘So High’

Good song, fo sho.  But the chutzpah of it  – turning up at the Royal Albert Hall to tinkle the ol’ joanna in just yer vest and not a medallion in sight.

It’s thrown me into a regular linguistic confusion.

Flaking Paint I

The quality of paint flaking away from wood is different from that on metal – something to do with permeability I suppose.  On wood, the denuding is more gentle; time chips away at the paint, almost imperceptibly. On metal the paint gives up the ghost more dramatically – giving way in a rush to rust, or full sun. It curls up suddenly, like dead leaves on trees in autumn, revealing more and more of what lies beneath…

To me, the patterns made by all this peeling paint activity look a little like maps. When consider this, I could be four years old again, perched on the toilet, swinging my feet, in my nan’s house in Surrey, seeing all manner of strange faces in the swirly crackle pattern of the lino.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned the lino before.  It was obviously formative.

flaking paint

#MyBeautifulEarth

This is today’s Earth Day 2014 hashtag over on Twitter. Well worth checking out. Here’s my contribution as I try to resume my version of ‘normal’ service round here…

heatherslate

Going retro

I think our generation… by which I mean…

Ah. Now you see – lately, when I come to think, or write something, I can get all tied up in knots because I now insist on categorising the concept in quite tight terms before I move into rant or pondering mode. Teaching has taught me that it is no good whatsoever assuming everybody knows what I am on about, I have to first check understanding, and clarify meaning.

Today, in class, we were talking about Power. I had to clarify that I was talking about power in a personal sense, rather than power in a professional or status sense, although there is that power too. We then moved on, all starting from the same page, hopefully… This evening I realised I had not written A Thing all week. This is a disaster on many levels, but you’ll be glad to hear I won’t define and categorise the substrates now; after all you may only have landed here by accident, expecting nice retro images or something, rather than a rather abstract meander about the Wittgenstein proposition that:

Actually, I don’t believe it, and, in the end, neither did Wittgenstein. There are many more fundamental ways to communicate than through words because, yes, they do limit us, it’s just that, just as we get caught up in thoughts, so we get caught up in words – expressing ourselves through language. We forget that there are other ways to express our feelings and intentions – our heart, soul too, if you believe in one.

This post was to talk all about how my generation has had a lot of techno gizmo work fast fast fast stuff to get on top of in our lifetimes, and my peers, like me feel that we may have reached a tipping point in our heads… that point where we say, you know, perhaps I don’t have to stay on top of all this now. Perhaps I can’t keep on top of it all now. Perhaps… there’s more to life than being able to interface with all kinds of technology in ever-efficient ways. Maybe, maybe it would be better for our wellbeing to just let some of it go.

So what if I can’t manage my Twitter timeline or feed properly. Heck, I don’t even know the difference between the two terms, or if there is one. And, the truth is, I don’t think I care. Not that much.

Maybe it really is time to go retro, just a little, at least at weekends, and let the world whizz by, if it wants.

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent – Wittgenstein

Music as occasion

I was listening to Desert Island Discs this morning and the castaway Barbara Hulanicki, of Biba fame, spoke of a memory of playing a record of Chopin with her father, selecting the needle for the record, taking the record out of its cover, placing it on the turntable…

It struck me then, that with the immediacy of music now available at the push of a button, or an iPod shuffle, often experienced alone through the world of earphones, we have sacrificed something else… shared ritual and memory.

I am old enough to remember vinyl. The consensus about the record to be played. Sitting down to listen, maybe sing along. I spent hours that way. Now everyone is plugged into their own device, listening to their own thing. I never thought I would miss vinyl, not in the beginning, in the brave new world of the Walkman and then the CD. But I do. I miss the needle lowering onto the record, the shared experience, the crackle and the bump bump bump at the end when it hits the final groove.

I do miss all that.

Reflect, reflect, reflect

I took this earlier this year in Chicago. I can’t think why I didn’t post it before now.

What with the huge Picasso sculpture a few blocks away, the Windy City really knows how to rock its public art.

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor

Ghosts on the Underground

These days I find, somewhat to my surprise, I have a deep connection with London, and particularly the Tube. It features both love and hate, a suck me in yet spit me out tension, but because I travel on it so infrequently these days, I am more aware of the memories that haunt its subterranean tunnels and chambers. It’s a place where the old and the new, the dead and the living, the fleet and the sloth, are shaken together in an overwhelming sense overload.

It’s a place where chasms open up under your feet ready to swallow you whole; where you can be pulled asunder by fellow man if you founder on rocks between the torrents raging in opposite directions. Keep left, stay right, flow up, flood down…

In the hallowed passenger halls I see apparitions of savage men in bowler hats: tap, tap, tap on the new butter cream tiles. They have room to move and leap and whirl before swinging their briefcases round in a final self-satisfied pas de deux, and boarding the train home to leaden-footed suburban wives in aprons.

Swivelling, they vanish and I am trampled underfoot by consumers travelling home from the decked emporia that ejaculate premature West End festive commerce over the face of the city. The bowler hats need to keep moving, like sharks, and the shoppers are Munchian Workers Returning Home.

Work as death and shopping as work.

Underground stuff.

There’s a link here to a photographic exhibition from the summer, marking the Underground’s 150th anniversary. The artist is Yangchen Lin. It’s good stuff – I have an idea of my own that I will get around to some day…

Paralympian Descending (Stratford 2012)

Paralympian Descending (Stratford 2012)

Thinking in the past tense

I’m doing it a lot at the moment because of the big writing project.

It’s funny really because, every Friday, I stand up on my hind legs and remind people that to stay in a balanced frame of mind, to not be swept away twenty times a day on a great swell of emotions, what they really must do is… stay in the present moment.

It’s not esoteric flim flam either. A massive study conducted by some American scientists showed that mind wandering is bad for our happiness and, perhaps surprisingly, that it is equally bad for our happiness whether our mind wandering is pleasant, or not.

So, I say, ‘be mindful’

By which I mean be mindful of where your mind wanders off to. Apparently the average amount of time for the mind to not be where the body is at is a whopping 47%. Now, I accept allowing the mind to drift forwards to future events may create excitement and anticipation certainly ( after all, isn’t the shenanigan that is Christmas predicated on this likelihood?), but be mindful that projecting oneself forwards can also cause anxiety. Mind travel in reverse, well that can be pleasant too: happy memories and self-indulgent nostalgia over an eggnog whilst listening to George Michael crooning about Last Christmas… But often – often, often, often, mind wandering backwards leads to sadness and regret.

Yes. The evidence is out there. To be happy, stay in the present moment. So why, why, why is the past so much more interesting than what the hell is going on in my living room right now? And why do I look forward to getting home from work and throwing myself headlong into 1919?

Uncovering the signs

Uncovering the signs

A Centenary

This week, so far, has taken the form of some kind of major test. I won’t bore with the details.

However, this day can’t be allowed to slip by without noting that my grandmother would have been one hundred years old today. Sadly, she didn’t quite make the milestone, and we lost her in the summer of 2010.

She was a great influence on me and I miss her greatly. Things happen with the children, or me, and I think, ah Granny would have enjoyed hearing about that. And that was really the thing with her, she was fully engaged with her family for her whole life. It’s a rare thing – not to be engaged with your family hopefully – but to be so on the ball with everyone’s minutiae and daily dealings; the humdrum and the spectacular, the triumphs and the disasters.

I don’t feel sad so much when I think of her these days, which is fairly often. I just smile and am glad we knew he for so long.

My sister has a super photo of her, taken when her last great-granddaughter was a baby. I have some of her with my own children too. I might dig them out tomorrow. In the meantime I remember her with such happiness and gratitude. We read this at her funeral, and it was what she might have said herself.

When I am dead
Cry for me a little
Think of me sometimes
But not too much.
Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moments it’s pleasant to recall
But not for long.
Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you in peace
And while you live
Let your thoughts be with the living.

And then, there was this, which was kind of perfect.