Wednesday 24 July 2013

On Not Being a Futilitarian

 'Sontag was among the first critics
 to write about the intersection
between 'high' and 'low' art forms,
and to give them equal
value as valid topics...', 

I found this quotation (see  below) - by the magnificent Susan Sontag -  on the brilliant Brainpickings Website which provides insights from  all kinds of writers and writing. I turn to Brainpickings when I need something inspiring to spur me on in my life and my writing. Take a look at   Brainpickings    

My favourite phrase here is ‘I choose not to be a futilitarian.’ Being somewhat depressive I have to avoid the company of negative people, whom I shall now - following Susan Sontag - call futilitarians.

Susan Sontag quotes From Rilke:
'… the great question-dynasty: … if we are continually inadequate in love, uncertain in decision, + impotent in the face of death, how is it possible to exist?’' Then says ...

'...Yet we do exist, + affirm that. We affirm the life of lust. Yet there is more. One flees not from one’s real nature which is animal, id, to a self-torturing externally imposed conscience, super-ego, as Freud would have it– but the reverse, as Kierkegaard says. Our ethical sensitivity is what is natural to man + we flee from it to the beast; which is merely to say that I reject weak, manipulative, despairing lust, I am not a beast, I will not to be a futilitarian. I believe in more than the personal epic with the hero-thread, in more than my own life: above multiple spuriousness + despair, there is freedom + transcendence. One can know worlds one has not experienced, choose a response to life that has never been offered, create an inwardness utterly strong + fruitful.'  

Friday 19 July 2013

Nobody Dances Any More

I went to Hartlepool Art Gallery  for a writing  Workshop and  was inspired by the  sensitive video installation by artist Neil Armstrong - a detailed  tribute to the iconic Rink Ballroom in Hartlepool which attracted thousands in its time. The installation features  images and interviews with dancers and Hartlepool people - a wonderfully poignant evocation of a time and a place which will strike a chord with anyone who recognises the importance of the 1950s and 1960s as an historic sea change in British popular culture, whether or not they come from Hartlepool.

Here below is something I wrote in the gallery cafe in  response to this strong inspiration.

Join  me at my workshop next Wednesday 24th July  at 6 o'clock at Hartlepool Art Gallery and be equally inspired - to write or just reflect on a significant time in our history.

Nobody Dances Any More

The Benny Nelson Orchestra at the Rink. C 

Nobody Dances Any More

You going to the dance tonight?
Yes. See you there then
More couples in this town
met there at the Rink
than anywhere here

People with white hair are planted
in a circle of padded chairs
smiling, gesturing the hand jive
rhythm embedded in their brittle bones
Remembering the Rink

White swans, black swans swim
on the pool in the park. On the beach
white Punch wallops black Judy against
chemical towers on the skyline
Remembering the Rink

My dad was a panel-beater on ships
- that not a good thing
-  asbestos was a curse and
it was not an easy time 
Remembering the Rink

Long views of Hartlepool, beneath the
blue sky, against the grey sea, the long beach
I’d just started work at ICI.  I got
one pound a week pocket money
Remember the Rink

Now the space is bald and vacant
once a glittering palace of dance
We shuffled through the crash barriers
Bouncers at the door
Remember the Rink

Benny Nelson and his men 
made me want to shout, shout
as we danced  round our handbags
bopping in black and white
Remembering the Rink

My Dad sailed on ships
then in the war transported stuff
in convoys to Russia -
never talked about it after
Even at the Rink

Nobody dances any more
except when sitting in a cosy circle
gesturing the hand jive -
shades of their former selves
glitter in their eyes
Remembering the Rink

'...they did play at The Rink and the same 'Rink' jackets as the photograph just above from Paul Flush. It's the same line up here with Paul, Johnny Blackham, Pete Trundley, Terry Metcalfe, Russ Nicholson (of Russ and The Nickels fame) and Al Flush.'

Great info about dancing in th 60s and 70s in the North East at

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Walking Naked with W.B.Yeats

Sorting out my books after my holiday  I came across this glittering poem by  the ineffable W. B. Yeats. Although  it's in my own  book I'd never read this poem before. There in my bedroom it came to me like a warning. It has so much to say to any writer - particularly me, now when I'm trying to embroider my own story out of a particularly arcane mythology.

Walking naked looks like a possibility.

A Coat
I made a song with my coat     
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more surprise
In walking naked.
W. B. Yeats

Sunday 7 July 2013

Postcard from Agde Last Day Blues

 From my notebook, written in the café the day  I came away:

Last day

Last morning sun hits the pavement     
glittering through plane trees

Last walk around the market,
dazzled by bright colour

Last laden market stall,
selling striped tablecloths

Last encounter with the Russian,
three euros for café crême

Last laden woman,
straw basket on each arm

Last child on bright bike,
racing round the fountain

Last walk down narrow streets,
making for the shady side

Last circle of old women
on plastic chairs, talking.

Last man with dog in basket,
pushed under the table

Last sight of two men kissing,
clasping hands in greeting

Last taste of peaches,
juice dripping down chin

Last loving touch, dressed up
in careful cuisine

Agde 2013

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Postcard From Agde: Elen in Trier - Work in Progress

The Porta Nigra.
The Porta Nigra Trier 
 A sense of place has been the theme of my recent posts. My new novel  has three locations – Romano British Wales, the Brigante North, and Roman Trier.

Here is a girl who  has risen to great heights  but still longs for home

Elen in Trevorum: 383 AD

‘….One big problem here in Trevorum is the heat. There are times when I dream of the storm rain coming off our great inlet at home; and I dream of the cool air on my face as I walk down the mountain to the Other Place. And in my dream I feel the wind in my hair as I urge my grey horse forward on the track by the salt flats. Most of all I dream of that first time I met Macsen in the Brigante North when I was washing my hair in the cool water of the holy well.

…I met this man in the great receiving chamber in Trier. Macsen and I were sitting on our thrones – a great throne for Macsen and a smaller throne for me. I have to say that ne either of them is as grand as my father’s throne at home, made of the tusks of a great dragon that roamed our land in ancient times. They’re not even as grand as the gold and silver throne of my Brigante grandfather. But I suppose they w’ll have to do.
… In those early months I’d got used to the parade of people coming to pay tribute to the new emperor. They are escorted into the chamber and bow and scrape and luxuriate in the ceremony. They bow deeply before Macsen and less deeply to me. Truly these people only have eyes for the new emperor. After a while the ceremonies make me weary, especially now that I have this wriggling child growing inside me.
But on this day, just as I about to rise and tell Macsen I need to rest,  I keep quiet, aware of a mutter of expectation among the crowds of people in the long room. All eyes turn to the great golden doorway. Some of the people are standing on tip-toe to get a better view.
That  was when a tall rangy man in very simple clothes walks in. Macsen mutters in my ear. ‘This is Martin, the holy man out of the city of Caesarodunum. Remember I told you about him.’ As he approaches I note a big bluff fellow, more farmer or fisherman than priest; in height and girth and straight gaze he reminds me of my father. 
He approaches the throne and greets Macsen first with the soldier’s greeting of a hand slapped across the chest. Then he bows to him. I know from Macsen that he was twenty years a soldier before he became a holy man.  Now he turns and bows equally deeply to me and looks me closely in the eyes….
Model of Augusta Trevorum - Roman Trier 


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