Monday, June 29, 2009

At the Shore - An Annie Story

I remember once we were sitting around waiting by the shore, waiting for something to happen. It`s a bit like that here. You can spend doing not much and it seems to be ok.

"Do you like to watch the boats coming into the harbour? "

"it always makes me feel so sad", she said.

I laughed. "You are so sentimental". It was one of those complements we proffer which is disguised as a criticism. Perhaps we fear loss of our status within the relationship if we allow out lover to believe we admire them, as if admitting this would lend them power over us.

"Oh don`t be silly," said Annie. "It isn`t sentimental in the least."

And as the yacht drew closer to the quay I could better make out the expressions of the mariners, and they were filled with incredible weariness. One might doubt that their voyaging had given them any pleasure whatsoever.

Billy again

The phone rang. I could see from the screen that it was Billy. Probably he wanted money. It was sure that he wanted something.

I opened the phone.

"Bily," I said, "what do you want?" It was necessary to sound harsh when answering the phone to Billy because it was sure he wanted something. Usually I felt guilty about that right afterwards. It was like shouting at a dog that has been sick on your carpet.

"I'm stuck", said Billy.
"Stuck where?" I asked.
"In a shed", he replied.

Back then, I worked for myself in a room near the harbour on the 6th floor of an old warehouse a street back from the dock. From the window, across some corrogated concrete roofs you could just about see the cranes unloading giant containers which then were shunted into warehouse, but today it was quiet and there was no movement in the cranes I could see.

Anyway, I went to this room which had a phone and a desk and an old computer and I 'phoned people and then wrote bits and pieces analysing marketing strategies.

Secretly I was happy about Billy's interruptions, however. No-one was returning my calls, and the article I was writing had an aimlessness to it that I didn't know how to overcome. But there was another reason for being harsh to Billy which was that he never felt the least shame for bothering you. Maybe he detected that I secretly liked being distracted as I could then blame him for my low productivity: more likely he didn't give a damn.

The shed was in a field. "You can't miss it," Billy had told me- which always means the contrary in my experience. The shed was in a field on the north approach road. I knew that quite well, but there was a turn off at a farm, said Billy which because a minor road. My old Rover chunted along happily and sure enough there was the turn off, and belong it a copse, then some uneven fields, cattle grazed in one, in another some crows pecked, a doleful sight. It looked as if it might rain.

Then said Billy there were some giant hay barns, painted dark pink, and the shed was in an adjacent field.

I stopped the car by the wooden gate. There was no one in sight. There was the shed, a wooden thing, the size the size of a car garage some hundred yards insode the field. What on earth was Billy doing there? I started across the field which was muddy with the hoofprints of cattle. The mud stuck and my feet got wet through my city shoes and I started to dislike Billy. He hadn't mentioned the mud.

I reached the shed and shouted, "Billy, I'm here."

"I'm stuck" replied Billy, "open the fucking door".

There was the door, heavy and wooden. The door had a a metal loop attached and the doorframe had one too, so it could be locked with a padlock. There wasn't a padlock there, but someone had inserted a screwdriver in it. Billy had pushed against the door, but hadn't managed even to bend the screwdriver.

"There's a screwdriver stuck in the padlock", I said.
"Fuck," said Billy.
"How long have you been in here, Billy?"
"Open the fucking door"
"Come on Billy, you've got to be polite if you want favours?"
"Two hours" said Billy quietly.

Billy didn't say anything as we drove back. It started to drizzle and Billy sulked as we made our way back to the city. He wouldn't tell me why he was in the shed- probably he was looking for something to steal. He asked to be dropped at the bus station.

I pulled into the doncourse outside the bus station.

"Can you lend me ten quid?" asked Billy.

I laughed.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


One of a new set of images on Flickr

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mail art

I am thinking of what to make for these mail art project which came through from Frips, in Belgium.

As I understand it, I am to i. make a card using the "Human rights" sticker, perforated on the white postcard and return it to Frips, and ii. to add something to the collage sheet and send it to another person.

I am trying to think what would make a simple bold statement.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paintings in Progress - stage 5

I've tightened up the details, but more detail is still needed in both.

Neither picture has been especially popular on Flickr, perhaps because they lack the sort of clear singular images that make things stand out there.

The Yellow painting (B) makes me think of Bertie Basset. I like long titles, and may call it, "The Hero on his way to even Greater Glory". I like the Russian-ness of the title- the painting takes some things from Malevich and Rodchenko.

The Green (A) has much to do with growth and fertility. I may call it "The Garden of Earthly Delights, or Weird and Kinky"

Monday, June 22, 2009

My left hand, an egg

My  left hand, an egg

One of a series of photos which include my hands, and which I've been taking over the last few months.

I know my hands better than my face, for the obvious reason that I can see them all the time. They seem to express me more than my face does.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


The endlessness of traffic.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Drones in a shopping mall.

They built a huge shopping mall called "Iguatemi", illegally, on environmentally protected land here. It seems to be quite successful.

There are three malls here now (I count only the free-standing malls- there are innumerable smaller malls which offer, in a smaller scale, the similar services) , all fairly glossy, and serving primarily the needs of middle class females. You need a car to visit one of them, but the others are accessible by public transport. All three malls are costly and bland and their floorspace almost entirely given over to the needs of women.

Studying the mall, it is possible to conclude that women are dominant in Brazilian society because, although they do not hold senior positions in the workplace, the mall indicates the extent to which the market is focused on their needs. Luis Filipe described the society here as a "false patriarchy" because of this- men appear dominant, but in fact are merely the servants of female desire.

It could be argued that I am placing too much importance on shopping in my analysis. To counter this, it should be noted that these malls are easily the largest recent public constructions in Florianopolis, dwarfing the airport, cathedral and bus station. The malls are also the only places open at weekends and late at night. They are a focus for the general culture in a way that the arts centre isn't. I would also add that the shopping mall is more truly representative of the society in a way that displays and events at the art centre aren't.

Florianopolis holds a special position in the contemporary Brazilian imagination, in that it is regarded by so many Brazilians- and indeed foreigners- as sort of Brazilian "city of the future".

"Iguatemi" is extremely uninteresting visually, but it is a suitable place to study the behaviour and interests of Brazil's dominant classes, and I shall be expanding on these points here in later postings.

The ideas in this posting were discussed at length with Luis Filipe, and I wish to acknowledge the importance of his contributions.

The shadow of a tree

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thorn tree

I thought of "Rosegarden Funeral of Sores" by John Cale when I took this.

These are, in part, a homage to Victorian photography- the divine presence in nature revealed through the camera. This notion was taken to its limit with those "Spiritualist" photos- a genre I might revist sometime.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


IN relation to this series of photos two things come to mind- how Charles Manson urged his followers to create "witchy" objects using found items when they went on their killing spree. He is and was totally mad, of course, but it it hard to deny the aesthetic force of his imagery. This, much more than his ideas explains his enduring interest.

The second though that comes to mind is the memory of an afternoon spent twenty years ago at The Glen in Innerleithan, near Peebles, Scotland with Mark Haddon and others making sculptures out of bits and pieces of twig, the idea being that these sculptures should be so subtle that they are almost not discernible as sculptures at all- they lay at the interface between art and nature.

Regarding that memory, isn't it funny how time "telescopes" so some events or conversations are as fresh in the mind as if they happened yesterday, while others, ostensibly more serious fade (my first marriage, for instance, which I never give a moments thought to)?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 4

I shall leave working on the pictures until later today, I think. It's good to let the paint dry and to have a break from it so I feel fresh.

I'me very much enjying the ease with which I can create bright colours and shapes- the immediacy of painting. The paints I'm using are excellent quality Windsor and Newton's and their coverage is incredible.

I think their remains for me to reinfrce some of the shapes, making their colour more solid, and also to add more detailing, espcially to the wounded man and to the other faces. I can see this taking three to four more days.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 3

More changes, mostly adding in darks and straightening lines. I'm working quite rapidly. I seem, instinctively, to live certain triangular forms and to work in a very est European way with bold graphic images. The dunce figure has, I think been unconsciously stolen from an artist called Tadeusz Makowski.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 2

I think the next step will be to ensure that the lines are more or less square where it matters. There is an Aztec feel about the green picture, and I have injected something from 20s German Art in the yellow. I have a close affinity to art from the 20s and 30s.

I suppose that both pictures are self-portraits. I have been working very fast, trying to leave my judgements aside, working from something close to instinct.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Painting in progress- beginnings.

Two newly begun pictures, both on old canvases using oils, the progress of which I'll photo and publish here.

I don't know how I want the picture to look like in the end: I shall be making it up as I go along. I have something Malevich-ish in mind at the moment, however.

The yellow picture is x 66 cm, the green 50 x 57 c. The canvas is fine linen, oil primed.

I may start a third picture, it depends how impatient I feel. Having worked with monotype for most of the last year, I've become used to a very rapid work pace.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A boy and a woman

A series of images from a restaurant in Lagoa.

The complete series is on Flickr-

The boy attempts to draw the attention of the woman: she is, appropriately, charmed.

Monday, June 8, 2009


More images from the woods. While taking them I could imagine the pleasure in being part of a pagan cult, performing the sorts of rites described in The Golden Bough.

Beth, or The Missing Girl. Part 3

A strange meeting.

I hovered about. I lit a cigarette. The 'phone was on a console table in the hall. A picture hung on th e wss, the image of a bowl of Longhi lilies. The picture was painted by Fantin -Latour and was inherited from a great aunt. For a moment I just stood there smoking and losing myself in the darkness of the painting.

There was an ashtray on the table next to the phone. The ashtray featured the face of the pope milling and waving. I squashed out my cigarette on his nose.

I dialled 1471, then the number the automated service gave me.

"Hello," I said. "Is that Cath?"

"Yes," said the voice.

"This is Clancy Smiles."

"Hello Clancy"."

"What do you mean, Beth is dead?" I asked.

"I mean, she has died," she replied.

"How?" I asked.

"I think you should come here," said the voice.

"My God," Is said, "who are you? Why are you being damn...mysterious?"

There was a pause. I lit another cigarette.

"Clancy." The voice was slow and quiet. "I think you may be taking this badly."

She gave me her address. I wrote it down on the pad.

Before I left the apartment I looked over to the dining room. The dinner things were still sitting there on the table. The light from the windows behind caught them, bouncing off their hard surfaces sharply. I could see the sombre facades of the buildings across the road, huge caryatid orders flanking tiny, feminine balconies.

Then I put on my overcoat. I turned to a mirror. I saw my face. It was wet: I had been crying.

I shivered even with my overcoat on outside. I held the address In my pink hands and read it: 11 Silesia Road, Hackney. Too far to walk.

What was Beth doing living in East London. It did not seem to be the right sort of place for her; too harsh.

I travelled to Islington, where I crossed over to the platform to wait on the North London Line. There were bits of litter blowing about outside on the platform. Someone had torn the timetable off the wall. A bearded man wrapped in innumerable layers of clothes like a huge ragged pupae shuffled about, then drawing a bottle form those wrappings, poured a coppery liquid into his tiny red orifice. Three teenagers, all pubic moustaches and menace eyed us as we waited. The train came in slowly: I got in: thankfully the teenagers stayed behind.

I felt a kind of shock when I came out of the station: the place was in a terrible state. All the buildings needed renovation and there was an aura of collapse everywhere, An old woman, head down, bumped me, then turned and apologised with a dreadful cringing.

"Can you tell me the way to Empire Road?" I asked her.

"Empire Road?" said the lady, "down there on the left." She scuttled off.

Did she think I was going to beat her up?

I walked on down the hill. The sky became suddenly bright with a silvery pallor. Then clouds blustered across, all gormless again.

I reached a giant Victorian block. I pressed the buzzer. Presently, a voice came from the speaker: Cath's voice.

"Come on up. First floor, right hand side."

I climbed a huge, steep staircase up the dingy interior. The door was slightly open: I knocked on it, then went in.

I arrived in a hall with marble floors, hung with green wallpaper: a motif of vines.

"You've arrived" I head a voice from my left,

"Yes," I said. "Good afternoon. Are you Cath?"

She was not taller than me; her posture was good. There was something austere about her. Hs e had dark hair which was put up and held in place with a golden clasp, in a style better suited to a much older woman. Her dress was green with a paisley print. She wore a black choker round her neck.

"Yes, "said the woman. "I am. You are Clancy, " she added.

"Yes. I am, " I answered. "I am Clancy Smiles".

"Come this way." She spoke as we walked down the corridor to a room overlooking the street. "You know, Clancy, we have met before."

"You said," I said. "But I can't place when for some reason."

"We attended the same lectures," she said. "We both studied at Vale's."

I did not mention that I still did not recognise her.

I was led to a room with a sofa, a chaise longue and some easy chairs. There was a music system too. But the most impressive thing about theroom as giant stuffed pig on a mahogany case on a giant sideboard.

"Yes," she said.

"How did she die?" I asked.

"She drank vodka and took some paracetamol."

"I'm sorry, " I said, uselessly.

Cath stood up. "Let me get you something. A gin and tonic?"


She went over to the sideboard; she came back with the drinks.


"Probably, " said Cath.

I drank the gin.

Cath sat down opposite me again. " I do not know how close you were to Beth. We were not close. She did not tell me about what she did or how she felt. She did leave this note, however."

The note read: "No-one should feel beholden to me. I cannot live with the burden of myself. I am no stranger to myself, and the knowledge that I have is too troubling to bear. I shall not go on."

"Is that is?" I said.

"Yes," said Cath.

"How did you know to contact me?"

"She told me about you."

"Did she?"

"She was in love with you."

"If she was in love with me then why didn't she contact me before?"

"I cannot answer that," said Cath. "We were not that close.

I stared at the pig.

"The funeral is on Saturday," added Cath.

I returned home.

There was a riddle to be solved. It was the riddle of Beth's demise.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Beth, or The Missing Girl. Part 2

I set out the dinner things in my dining room before leaving for work that morning in anticipation of our returning there. The day passed quickly. I worked in a travel agency which specialised in tours for elderly people. Often their tours had a cultural element: I was responsible for setting these elements up; finding guides and organising itineraries. I had spent the day in discussion with the Austrian Board of Tourism. They were going to find a guide who spoke English for a day in Vienna. That day would be concerned with the Secession in Austria.

My desk was at the back of the hop. At the close of day I heard the door open.

I looked across: it was a woman. But it was not Beth.

She turned to me: hello

Hello, I said

Do you do any trips to Russia, she asked.

Madam, I said, I strongly advise you against visiting Russia. It's government is scarcely legal and the whole place is awash with cannibals.

She broke into a laugh. I've been to Russia many times. I want to know about going to St Petersburg. My mother wishes to go to see the Hermitage.

I went to get her the brochures.

She left. Ten past six. No-one.

Perhaps Beth was late. I decided to wait. I went through he racks straightening things. I went into the kitchen and tidied the mugs. I got a cloth from there and a can of furniture polish and I sprayed it on the surface of the desks. Then I polished them with a cloth.

I got sick of waiting. I dialled her number. No reply.

I went out of the shop. There was no-one standing outside.

Then I got a call at home some days later in the morning at 9am.

"Is that Clancy?"

"Yes," I said

"Maybe you don't remember me. Its Cath."


"I'm Beth's sister."

"Ah," I said

-Well," she said, "You should know something."

"What," I said

"Beth is dead," said the voice.

"O," I said.

"Yes," she said.

She put down the phone.


That can't be right, I thought.


Two photos from just outside the bus station. Vagrants and hopefuls gather round here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Beth, or The Missing Girl. Part 1.

I want to tell a story: an entertainment or a diversion; something to delight you or make you think.

But all I have on my mind is Beth.

Some months ago my mother forwarded me a letter from Beth. The letter was quite general. She was now living in London, in Hackney. There was a telephone number too.

I called it immediately.

"Hello, it's me, Clancy."

"Clancy! I wondered if you would get my letter."

"Yes, I got it today. How are you? Long time."

"Yes," said Beth.

"You're in London now?" I asked

"Yes, I moved some time ago."

-What are you up to?

"Nothing much. This and that."

"Okay," I said. Something about her reply made me feel guilty; something in the tone of voice, as if I had betrayed her by not making more effort to keep in touch. That sense of guilt impelled me.

"Do you want to meet for a drink?"

"Ok," she said. I didn't recognise the tome from the person I knew. There was something listless about it.

"Why don't you meet me after work?" I said. "What about tomorrow, or today if you're free."

"Tomorrow," she said.

"Ok, I said. "There was a lag in the conversation.

"Meet me after work. 112 Farringdon Road."

"What time?"

" I finish at six. Come then."

"Okay," she said. She put down the receiver, It feltoddly final about that. I didn't get it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A True Story

The tragic story of something that happened to me in 1998 when I was living in London.

I was in a taxi. I was a lawyer. It was 1998, and it must have been when I was working on the D. fraud case. I can't remember where I told the taxi to go, but it must have been to collect some documents, I was forever going to collect documents from offices suspected by the investigating team, of which I was a member.

He drove, I looked about me: on the floor of the cab I found a small white envelope. I picked it up.

Inside it a piece of white "Basildon Bond" paper, folded. I opened it. A handwritten note said, "When you get this I will be dead".

I read the date on the note, it was yesterday's. I looked again at the envelope: there was a sender's address on the back. I told the cab to go there.

He drove. The address was in Camden. I remember the cab turning from the original destination, along Regent's Park, past the mosque. I remember September trees and sharp sunlight. Autumn, the air was fresh and clean. We stopped to allow some children with a teacher in a crocodile going over a zebra crossing, their little legs pink in the cool day, perhaps they were going to the zoo. We passed a woman in sunglasses with two whippets, brightly dressed tourists turning a map around, two tramps smoking on a bench.

The driver went north through some residential streets to a large house, a villa. The garden was muddy, there was barely grass where a lawn should have been, the tree in the front was a threadbare hawthorn. The house needed painting, the stucco was coming off in slabs, raw brick beneath. The door was painted green, faded, there was a white piece of paper stuck on it somehow.

I gave the driver a bank note, he drove away. I ran to the door. I became aware then of another man rushing up to the door too, he was in a dark coat. The paper on the door was a sign, it said, "do not come in if you are squeamish". We looked at each other: I saw his sallow complexion, his unshaven face, his dark hair. I wonder what he thought of me. We banged on the door with our fists and he cried, "Open up! Open up!", but there was no response. Simultaneously, we threw our shoulders hard against the door. It gave little, but I heard a creaking. We launched ourselves at it again, the hinge burst from the frame with a crack.

Then we kicked at the door until it fell. We ran into the hall. There was a strange silence there. We looked at each other. He was a cautious man like me. With an instinct we lurched into the kitchen.

There was a kitchen stool lying on the ground; there was the man who had written the note, hanging from a rope attached to the light flex. He swayed gently to and fro. I did not see his face.

I looked over to the other man but he was not there, he was gone. I ran into the hall, I saw a door ajar, I pushed it open, there obscured by piles of books and papers, a table. On it, a computer and an open telephone. I picked up the phone; I could get a tone. I called an ambulance.

I stood there for a moment looking at all the books everywhere I remember one title, "Bacteria and their Destruction". Perhaps the man was a microbiologist.

An ambulance arrived, the police too. I told them what I knew, then I left.

What divine sensibility could allow such awful grief? I wondered.

A nose like J Lo's

New Service Offered.

A new department has opened at Angeloni's giant flagship store in Florianopolis, Brazil.

This department can be found next to the cosmetics counter, just behind the cleaning products.

Angeloni's proudly claim that you can find a replacement here for any part of your body, with a range of over 1000 parts to chose from in a range of skin tones and sizes, both male and female.

I went there to find out.

I'd decided to replace one of my fingers, because I had managed to scald myself a few days earlier, and there was an unsightly red blister on my index finger.

After waiting in a long queue, I was greeted by a sweet-natured man, somewhat camp, not unlike a hairdresser.

He showed me their range of index fingers and I was able to find one that matched closely. "after a couple of weeks you won't notice the difference. They grow to match your skin tones, " he explained.

I remembered then that I also wanted to see his noses. The birthday of my girlfriend was approaching and she had often complained about her nose.

"I'd also like a long thin nose, " I asked.


"I was thinking of something more in the Roman line," I explained.

He had two sizes.

"Don't you have something a bid more like Jo Lopez?" i asked.

The sales assistant told me that an order was coming in in a week's time, "but we do an express delivery service".

This came as something of a relief as Danielle's birthday was in two days time. Angeloni's would gift wrap the nose and deliver i by special courier direct from the factory.

Together, the nose and the finger came to just $55.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Summerhouse - An Annie Story

So, I said

Yes, said Annie

I was standing there looking at the shop windows, thinking how sorrowful they were. I remembered a conversation with Annie. With Annie, everything had a certain brisk likeliness. She didn’t care whatsoever what anyone else thought either, except so far as it entertained her.

I was thinking about this time we’d been in the woods at the back of her parents’ house. The woods were ash and beech. We used to go there to smoke cigarettes when we were 16.

I wonder if her parents knew about the smoking? They were liberals and reasonably wise, and I think they did know, but thought it a minor sin, not worth creating bad feeling over. That was a good thing about Annie’s house, you felt that you were in the world of adult choices.

There was a rotting summer house. You could sit there in when it rained, hidden from the house by laurel bushes. One evening I’d taken some whisky there and sat listening to the wind softly hushing in the trees and it grew darker I’d felt this romantic frisson, which I had chosen not to act on. I still wonder if Annie had felt a frisson too? I know I chose not to act on it because I was young and knew it and knew that I wasn’t ready for that sort of thing, but, idiotically I am unable not to regret it.

On reflection, I think Annie had probably known what I was feeling, being able to sense things like that, but she didn’t think of me in that way. She thought of me more like a brother.

I remembered being with Annie in the creaky summerhouse with the smell of damp timber and having conversations like that.

Billy's Dinner

This is a story about Billy. It is all absolutely true.

I met him at the underground station in North London and went to his house for dinner. Then there were some conversations with his children whose behaviour, when not illegal was at least vile.The children were fifteen and seventeen. I hoped they wouldn't show, but they did. Both slouched manacingly in the kitchen while I ate, watching me. One of them had recently been prosecuted for sticking a knife into another boy on the Edgware Road. I wasn't sure which one it was: I didn't want to ask. perhaps it was the one leaning against the wall, scratching his groin. Or it might have been the one with the peirced nostril.

I began to feeel quite sick. Not sick in the normal way that you might resonably expect to feel after eating dinner at Billy`s. I mean really very sick indeed.

So they drove me to a hospital and was laid up there for a week, which were largely taken up with vomiting.

I left hospital quite angry about Billy`s cooking, even for a time wondering if he might have intended to poison me .

As soon as I was out on the street I called him.

"Billy you bastard."

"Sorry mate," replied Billy.

It wasn`t all bad news. there was a twenty pound not on the floor of the phone box and I went straight to a pub nearby and had a few.

In the bus station

This fellow reminded me of a character from a Scorcese film.

However, he is probably totally innocuous: a junior accountant, an administrator for a glazing firm or a manager for a car hire company.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Smoking Man- An Annie story.

The Man Smoking

I’m at the bus station an hour early waiting for Annie in the little restaurant. There’s a guy there, sitting, smoking. That’s all he’s doing- smoking very slowly, puff puff puff, puff.

The cigarette is held quite daintily between his index and middle fingers at their ends (I wonder how it occurred to him that that was the easiest way to hold a cigarette? Surely there is less chance of it being crushed if you hold it in a v, like Churchill and his cigar?). He holds the smoke in for along time. His lungs must be big or his throat long or both, because it seems forever before the smoke comes out, first in a long jet of smoke, like the smoke form a steam train.. Then after a while, it drifts out in a soft cloud. It lingers there.

The face of the guy isn’t sad but somehow I imagine that it ought to be. I wish I weren’t like that, thinking people should be sad for not reason at all.

It’s so still in the restaurant that the smoke hands around lingering before it disperses too. I guess it’s what he likes doing most. He’s got some beer in a bottle there, but he’s not sipping.

Annie won’t be here for an hour but I couldn’t think of anything better to do than wait in the bus station. I thought that maybe if I went to the bus station I’d be closer to her.

Short stories, vignettes

I have always been curious about seedy places, and the people who inhabit them. It's something I like in Steinbeck and in Malamud and Tom Waits.

I'm going to write some pieces inspired by the bus station and put them on here. Some will be very short, barely a paragraph, more like vignettes.