Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Petrified Jellyfish

Petrified Jellyfish: a contradiction in terms.

You can find these by the beach near Campeche. When you collect them they are usually quite damp, and they take a couple of weeks to dry out, getting lighter in colour and weight as this happens. They are quite brittle when damp, but as they dry become less easy to break.

I recall as a boy a holiday in Denmark at a beach on Jutland. I remember somehow catching Jellyfish and taking them out of the water , and how they tore in my hands when I did that. I wince with a David Lynchean sense of the pain they might have suffered as their bodies ripped apart: I feel guilt about it now, though I wonder really if jellyfish can feel pain any more than plants can: I am probably being very sentimental.

As a child I sometimes did things merely to experience the moral sentiments that arose as a result of the transgression. I once stole a chocolate bar from a small shop on Seafield Road, Aberdeen, because I wondered what the sensation of guilt would be, and how I would tolerate this. I was cruel to other children too, simply because I might be.

All this serves to illustrate that moral feelings are learnt and not inherent, since I did not grow up in a household or society that accepted theft or cruelty.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bird Skull

I found this over at Ribeirao on the shore. I don't know the species of bird. Do you?

Shells collect in amazing piles on parts of the shore. They grow oysters there and the water must be very clean. They sell shells in two little shops, though I saw none of a type that would have been new to my collection.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Every Saturday she comes to the window and waves to me: I wave back. Our blocks aren’t that close. We arrange a special time to do this. We’ve been doing it for weeks. I am sort of in love with her, but then not quite. I don’t really know her that well, though there is that comfort you instinctively feel with some people. She is a doctor. She is taller than me and has dark brown hair which is cut short at the shoulder. She is chic: she has a beautiful black cashmere coat with a fur collar. I have seen her shoulder which is very white and coldly perfect. She laughs at my jokes. Sometimes after English classes we go for a glass of beer in a big old sad restaurant. We then go to her bus stop but she doesn’t want me to wait with her. She flirts but she never touches me. I don’t get it. I do not think she knows about the girl I live with but, thinking back, she must have guessed.

The girl I live with doesn’t speak to me though we are supposed to be lovers. I mean, we used to be lovers but the loving stopped so now we just live like shadows sharing the same apartment. I don’t know what’s going on there either: I think we are both ashamed of the fact that we no longer love or even like each other but neither has the guts to face up to it. I suspect she despises me: I no longer surprise her and everything I say is banal or conceited and her dog is suspicious of me though I take it for long walks. I think she blames me for getting mugged and losing her camera. I borrowed her camera one day and lose it to two muggers on the grassy patch only 100 yards from the block. One of them held a knife to my throat: he said “Dają kamerę”: the ground was icy and I slipped and fell to the ground and the dog barked uselessly as they took the camera. She says, “You think you know everything but you don’t.” It’s spring but there is snow outside. It thawed in March but then it snowed again in April. I put the money from my teaching job in a suitcase which was stored in a built in wardrobe in a corridor of the flat. I feel as if I’m drowning. Eventually I save up enough money to buy a flight to Washington.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Concision in Art

"Concision in art is a necessity as well as an elegance; a man who is concise makes you think, a verbose man bores you." -Manet

Discussing concision at length would be ironical, to say the least, but I'll add the following:

1. Lack of concision is a 19th century vice and and 18th century virtue. Industrial production in the 19th century and the inflated romantic ego both militate against concision.

2. Certain media are lean and encourage concision. This goes for performance arts as well as other forms of expression. Opera seems to a real culprit, as does the novel.

3. Concision requires self-assurance: if you are free to be economical, then you must be certain that your audience watches every word (contrast this with Christopher Hitchens advice in "Letters to a Young Contrarian" not to fear becoming a bore). Hence, concision is the virtue of the powerful, or those content with obscurity.

4. There has to be a culturally accessible "key" to unlock the artist's secrets or the work is merely obscure, as with much modern art and poetry.

Illustration - detail from Roundels 13

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Trying to Sleep and Learning to Forget.

There you are lying on the bed, unable to sleep, your head is filled with remorse, sadnesses, regrets, baleful memories.

Is it possible to erase memories?

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) advocates argue that it is possible to control memory. What you do is try to imagine the thing you are remembering as a sequence of images, like a film. Then you practise speeding up this "film footage" in your mind, viewing it over and over at greater and greater speed until finally it is nothing but a rapid blur and then disappears.

I tried this with the hectoring face of a former boss but I didn't manage to earse them from my mind.

Some advise "just don't think about it" as a method of dealing with unpleasant thoughts, as if experiencing a thought is like seeing something, and all you have to do is turn your head for it not to appear in your minds eye.

I wonder if the people capable of that have ever experienced anything really unpleasant or if they are so simple minded that when they think of one thing, all other thoughts disappear (I recall here F. Scott Fitzgerald's words, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function)?

Another school of thought (which extends into cognitive psychotherapy) argues in the opposite direction, believing that memories cannot be erased and should be seen as resources. In this school of thought the memory of my appalling boss would be used as the basis of a series of discussions. We would discuss what I might learn about myself from the memory, and how I might gain from the knowledge it brought me about conflict situations, choices, my sense of responsibility to myself and so forth.

I tried reasoning how the memory might be useful to me: a warning about how to stand up to bullies, for instance, but the truth is that I could find no lesson. I dealt with that dreadful woman fairly well: she showed me that having a boss is an appalling business. But it did not really need emphasing - only a masochist could desire a situation where their every movement is clocked, where they are scolded for arriving at their desks a moment late, or where the clothing they wear is monitered.

You don't need to eat shit to know it tastes bad: I resign myself to the accepting the uselessness of that memory and that my tossing and turning are in vain and regret the failure of NLP to have helped me erase it.

What does seem to have happened though is that the memory simply fades. So what I think might help make this fading process more efficient is to avoid the triggers that sustain specific memories, so that more recent experiences and memories can more easily obscure the old.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kim's Game - work in progress 2

Pen drawing of an aesthete.

Below: Kim's Game Oil on canvas, 59 x 65 cm - stages 4 (above) and 3 (bottom)

For previous versions see:


What has happened?
I've cleaned the background, making it more uniform. The broadly triangular shape to the bottom left above he maroon oval has been refined. It reminds me of both a salt cellar and a phallus. The pink oval on the top row has been given a brown edge, which makes it seem 3-dimensional.

I am not sure if making everything sharper was really the right way to go: the gentleness of the previous shapes was part of what was appealing about them. But it is incredibly difficult- impossible, I'd say- to "go back". Paintings become more and more focused, shapes become more and more defined; insistant as you work on them- it is unavoidable.

A picture which was meant to become suggestive becomes less is as it is elaborated. And, so it seems to me, that I am best at artwork which denies equivocation.


I am good at ink drawing because this technique has a knife-edge quality about it: there is no half-way point between failure and success. If it is good it is excellent; if not, the drawing goes directly into the bin. It isn't really possible to correct an ink drawing because you cannot erase the ink.

Oil painting of the sort above is difficult for a personality such as mine, because oil paint allows endless tampering: it can be scraped off, overpainted or wiped away, and I am unable to resist the temptation to make endless the little corrections which seem necessary but actually serve merely to reduce the force of the image.

My happiest style is akin to the quip, to an aphorism, or a rebuke. It denies regret. My paintings are like over-elaborated jokes, they are laboured: they miss the point of a quip which lies in its rapidity and surprise in a given context and not necessarily in the profundity of what is said.

Lost is concision, that much underrated quality in art. And critical here is the notion of "the gesture". There are oil painters for whom "the gesture" is an intrinsic to their vocabulary- Kokoschka springs to mind- but even so this element is less apparent in his painting than in his drawings and is more prevalant still among the draughtsmen such as Kubin, Belloc, Lear and Beerbohm who are my true companions: ironists and satirists mainly.

This sort of work is sarcastic and slight: it has wit, but sometimes lacks substance and one can become trapped in irony and that is why I shall continue to try to make oil painting work for me.

The Laughing Man

Oil on Canvas, 81 x 81 cm.

In the first three images the lad seems really to be trying to "hold it in", especially in the third, where he appears to be biting his lower lip. Only in the fourth is he laughing openly. I may well work forther on this picture.


In working on these I note that the following elements are necessary to depict laughter, as opposed the grinning, or smiling:

1. The mouth should be open
2. The head should tilt back- ergo the features should be foreshortened and the upper row of teeth and throat visible.
3. The eyes should be narrowed.
4. It helps if the shoulders are raised, so the laughing person seems to be in a fit of hilarity.


I am not sure if images of people laughing necessarily provoke laughter or even a good mood. Laughter is so often cruelly directed at another that if we do not know what someone is laughing at, as in these pictures, then the effect is often sinister (these painting are quite large which enhances this effect).

Even those laughing Buddhas have a crazy quality to them. It is as if they are laughing generally, at human folly, perhaps. But that is hardly a very helpful response to the world's problems, so the laughing Buddhas imply abandonment to suffering, giving up on humanity.

True isn't the response of a person fully in control of themselves, (as anyone who remembers schoolteachers telling them to "stop laughing" will recall) so the image of a laughing man can suggest hysteria, loss of control, breakdown, rejection of order.

And often laughter is not a response to something that is really funny (unless one defines "funny" as anything which provokes laughter, which would include tickling, for instance): I mean, it isn't a response to a comical transformation, but to a change in circumstances involving social embarrassment or restriction (I recall here how during a compulsory school Christmas church service the entire congregation of children found themselves giggling hysterically during the sermon. Christianity is a bizarre, portentous religion, but it isn't especially funny: simply the prohibition on laughter created the desire to laugh. After the service one of the boys was taken and belted for his laughter: muscular Christianity indeed!).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gothic Princess

The princess is naked except for flippers and a raiment of eyes and ferns. The eyes protect her from wickedness and as a result she is generally very content. Her disposition in warm: despite her gothicism she is of a sunny disposition.

Here she is doing the rounds on her tiny white pony, perhaps talking to a particularly virtuous peasant.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Going to the Sea

You feel fed up, you drive to the sea

The waves come in, the waves go out: you watch them listlessly from the window of your Fiat Uno.

Nothing has changed: you drive home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In the Garden - An Annie Story

One of the places I went with Annie was a garden. It had walls and you could stroll about in it. I was impressed by the range of flowers and the strong mature trees.

There was a charming Yew hedge and even a little rose garden.

But as we strolled admiring the fine lawns and Annie became increasingly silent, pensive even and I had begun to wonder if there was anything amiss.

“Annie, why are you so silent,” I asked, “you are like a walking brick.”

“Well…”said Annie.

“Yes…”I said.

“Well,” continued Annie, “it is just that the garden is so very beautiful but we will have to leave.”

‘Yes,” I said. “That is surely unfortunate. We shall have to leave and return to our squalid flat in South London.”

“Mmm…” murmured Annie. sadly.

“Yes,” I said, in what I thought was an appropriately sympathtic fashion.

But as we walked down the path a large monster appeared, like a snake with eagle wings and talons.

My dear, we fled!

Personal Art

Man with a Vagina for a Mouth

I was often told by tutors at Edinburgh College of Art that my work was “personal”. I think what they meant was that it appeared to provide access to a private self: scratchy drawings, images of fantasies, a specific, hard-to-imitate way of making marks. A couple of tutors suggested that I abandon oil painting and focus on ink and watercolors.

The problem for me was that I didn’t really want to found an artistic career on something “personal”. I wanted to build my artistic career on an idea of classicism. I’d somehow absorbed Goethe’s idea the Classicism = health and romanticism = sickness, and that “personal” art was a romantic product. I’d also absorbed the idea that discipline was an essential element in the creation of art. I was a rather moralistic young person (I’ve noticed since then that young people are often very priggish indeed), and I felt that the mission of art should incorporate moral terms. This somehow seemed absent from the sort of drawings (illustrated above) that the tutors were referring to, partly because they were dependent on humour, an element always absent in any moralizing aesthetic. And I felt that these drawings were a side alley, a diversion, and there wasn’t enough there to sustain my interest. I didn’t think I could spend all day making little drawings like the one above.

This was the 80s*; there was a revival of painting going on. I went to a very traditional art college: the training roughly Beaux Arts in structure, with compulsory anatomy, life drawing and strict distinctions made between drawing, painting, high and applied arts (a hierarchy where oil painting is at the top, and drawing and applied arts at the bottom).

Also, I had a good element of perversity, in that I would do the opposite of what was suggested by tutors (it was ironical, looking back that they had, in a way suggested producing work which was a-typical of the college course expectations, by raising drawings to the level of finished paintings. I suspect that those tutors were bucking the official line: there had been problems with students who’d produced degree shows consisting only of drawings, because the College had a defined their Fine Art course as consisting of two examined specialisms, “drawing” and “painting”).

Anyway, I was unable to value my specific talents, seeing them as somehow necessarily inferior to the methods and ends of artists (usually old masters) in museums.

But my “classical” paintings were in fact simply paintings that negotiated established conventions) and consequently they were often dull, and it was only when I accessed my “personal side” usually in drawings that I made things at all memorable.

* Moreover Scottish figurative painters had managed to establish themselves prominently in the cultural and commercial spheres (specifically Stephen Conroy, Peter Howson, Stephen Campbell, John Bellany, and Adrian Wiszniewski). There was a culture war going on with painters fighting post-modernism (pluralism), and I was on the side of painting, mainly because I valued craft, and did not see craft as being valued in modern art. In retrospect, pluralism won: you can do what you like. My fear of pluralism in Art (postmodernism) was that if all forms of expression were permitted and everything was art, then how would a language of art ever be developed? Surely, only by following a tradition could one hope to clearly communicate anything, because an artist needed a language and a language was a shared cultural inheritance, a tradition? But I think that fear hasn’t been realised. You can “push the boat out”: there are always precedents to make meaningful comparisons so that something is conveyed in your expressions, however fanciful. And in the end, it’s only art, it doesn’t really matter that much, no-one is going to get hurt, and much of the argument and discussion of the 80s that I lived through has more to do with ego than really coming to terms with what visual communication can or should be.

It should also be recalled, when we criticise post-modernism for being intellectually flabby, how restricted art practise was prior to the war: a writer was not allowed to aping, a painter could not do illustrations and a poet could not also be a novelist. There were many exceptions, of course, but they were remarked upon, as such).

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Love You - An Annie Story.

"Do you often think about escape?" asked Annie.

" Don`t so much now, but I used to. I used to think about it all the time, and sometimes the desire to escape became so strong that I wanted to commit suicide."

Annie began laughing. "You are quite preposterous," she said.


A pause.


"I love you," I said.

"Do you? Do you really?" said Annie.

"Yes. I do. I love you more than anything."


"Yes. I do, I really do."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beside the lake.

I walk beside a lake. You're over there, standing on the sand quite far but close enough to see the grim look in your face.

I think how pretty is your reflection, how your dress falls in a delicious curve from your shoulders . It's an ivory white dress and your dark brown hair flows down to your shoulders too, so from here your silhouette against the water is a series of curving lines, echoing each other. Your dress turns over the edges of your tiny shoes. I remember how your feet are small and soft and have no callouses or bits of dead skin, like a baby's feet in their sweetness. If only your personality were equally tender!

You are wearing a champagne coloured Hermes scarf round your neck, French style. I gave it to you when I came back from Paris last year and we had just started seeing each other. You let me tie it round your neck: the smell of you so close: you, your perfumes and shampoos: nature and art combined; intoxicating...

The reflection mirrors you, every now and again a ripple breaks it, but only for so long as to remind you how serene and magnificent is your image, a medieval queen of sorrow.

I stand there weighed down by irritation and despair. I also have an itching in my scalp, partly a psychosomatic response to our recent row about the missing train tickets which I accused you of losing, and partly because the shampoo seems to have run out. To my credit I did not mention this in the argument, though admittedly I am not a big fan of hair washing as it seems to make my thin hair go flat and the size of my face then seems abnormally pronounced.

But we have argued too recently for a conversation. All we can do is scowl at each other.

It hasn't been a great vacation but you do dress well. I feared you'd take off the scarf during the arguments and fling it at me in a gesture of disgust: I am glad you didn't, though I don't know if this was for sartorial reasons, because of the chill in the air, or because you simply didn't realise how effectively this would have hurt me.

Anyway, I'm sorry: I should have taken more photos of you with the new Lumix digital camera. I'm truly sorry about that because I'm sure our friends- especially Angela and Floyd- would have liked to see them. I'm sure they wouldn't have deleted them from their inboxes but would have admired each image and added appropriately witty sweet comments on Facebook.

Now, I think I will go back to the cottage and make some gin and tonics before we catch the train back. The train tickets were in my overcoat pocket all along, but I'll say they were on the mantelpiece under The Observer's Guide to Pond Life.

Image: Across the Lake, Monotype

Ardbeg- the fourth of the Billy stories

Here’s a story, true of course.

I was walking down Wentworth Street when I saw Billy.

It was one of those overcast days, when you just wander about expecting it to rain. I’d been to the train station and there hadn’t been a queue so I was just trying to fill time before going back to the little office to check the emails.

I wore my light buff raincoat and felt like a detective that day.

Anyway, my shoelace had become untied so I bent down to tie it and as I was bending down I saw him, blue t shirt and jeans, that pink English face skin so pink it always seemed weird to me (I am quite sallow, you see). He was standing outside the grocer talking to some fellow, I saw is face in profile, the sharp nose and too small mouth.

From my crouching tie position I yelled “Billy” loudly, and then the pink face that was Billy turned. I wondered if he saw me, he turned and started to run, so I went after him.

I caught him at the corner, grabbed his arm. He turned but it wasn’t Billy. It was some other guy. He didn’t really look like Billy at all, except for that English pinkness. “Fuck off,” he said.


Those days I’d avoid going home. My place had been taken over by goblins. They’d sit on my bed and mock me, or messed with my stuff, taking the CDs out of their cases and putting them in the wrong ones so I couldn’t find the stuff I wanted to listen to. They had black skin and screeching voices and wore almost nothing and their hair was crazily unkempt. They stank of coal and urine and I didn’t like it much and was always looking for someone to hang out with or else working late in the little office near the harbour trying to figure out a way to make some money. I reckoned that if I didn’t show up they’d just move on to bug someone else eventually. It had been two months and I was getting fed up with them.

I got to the office and stood there looking out at the forlorn sky and how the boats weren’t moving and everything was too overcast even for someone who likes overcast days. Even the gulls flew slowly. I had some Whiskey on the table, a good bottle still half full with the solemn words ARDBEG proud on the front and I poured a good slug into my dirty cup and it softened it all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Memory of a Lady

You live in an apartment, one that is full of beautiful objects such as flowers in vases or nail scissors with golden handles, or a string of pearls draped round a porcelain hand designed specifically for that purpose.

That is one of the things I like about you, your jewelry and your many many things and the way they sit on your Regency dressing table which your grandmother once owned. They reflect in the oval mirror and they reflect on the deep polish of the table too in way that is sad and true like a poem should be.

When I am standing in your room and I watch you apply cream to your hands I think of how, when we are separated (as seems inevitable) and whatever anguish I feel over this has dissipated, I shall feel a tremendous sense of missing that sight- you applying cream.

I shall sometimes see myself standing there while you are so engaged. How must I have seemed to you: dense, ponderous? Did you consider me as a lost soul, beyond hope? I believe that yours was a more practical turn of mind. You were efficient, not necessarily at ease, but capable, seemingly without perversity.

My life, by contrast, was weighed down, opaque. When you asked me how I felt I could not say; I stammered. I was pent up, so full of emotions. I could never understand why you liked me.

I felt inferior to you but that wasn't why I didn’t ask you what you thought of me. I didnt ask you what you thought of me because you did not seem truly to have the need to discover anything about me at all and because I could not in a few words tell you my secrets.

Trying to write online and not succeeding...

I want to write very short strange pieces again, and I'm not sure if the internet is helping

It seems to me that trying to write things online isn't as easy as writing things when you don’t have the online distractions, although it can be useful to have various references (although, funnily, access to these references might be unhelpful too, because they so severely constrict the imagination when consulted. I mean, I look something up and I see immediately that my idea of what it is doesn't match my imagination and I can no longer use it as an element in what I'm writing. For instance, I might imagine the pyramids surrounded by desert, and then look them up online to see they are located in a suburb and thereby lose touch with the atmosphere I am trying to describe).

Some observations about working online:

1. The Internet is more like a magazine than book. This goes for the content- contemporaneous, with adverts and short, often trivial opinion pieces- as well as the presentation (colourful, visually disrupted and heavily reliant on images).

2. It is highly sexualized. Sex is fairly distracting at the best of times: the Internet makes it more accessible and invasive. I am not against pornography or sex but I think it isn't necessarily a good thing to have around all the time because sometimes I want to be free to think about other things.

3. It seems poor for concentrated reading. I cannot settle into long pieces easily. An essay of four paragraphs is a long online piece. I think this is partly to do with the glare of the screen which can become tiresome, and also to do with how moving from one screen to another to follow a narrative is tiresome. Books allow a certain pacing: you know more readily where the middle and end of a book is from the thickness of the pages, so you can pace your reading more easily.

Also, you can move a book about: it’s a physical thing, you can lie down, stand up with it, take it to the park, annotate it, lend it and earmark it's pages: things that are unavailable to the computer user (though the Kimble attempts a compromise). I think that physical movement is very necessary for thinking: the obligatorily sedentary nature of the computer encourages passivity.

4. There isn't a lot of advertising on the sites I look at but it does affect my ability to read pages easily.

5. I "flick" a lot, I don't settle. I "flick" with the mouse because I can, not because I need to. Of course this might be a tendency which is specific to my nature, and others don't , but I doubt it somehow.

6. The speed of the Internet is such that when one puts something online, say a comment on a column, or sends an email you know that you could conceivably receive a reply almost immediately, and it invites the tendency to repeatedly check inboxes and postings. This makes me "jumpy".

7. Fact checking is very easy. This is great for research, but perhaps not for fiction. What’s the proportion of creative writing online to factual commentary? How does that compare to the world of books? I’d bet the proportion of fiction writing on paper is greater than that online.

8. Trying to write things online isn't as easy as writing things when you don’t have the distractions, although it can be useful to have various references. It is difficult writing here, on Blogger, partly because you are only given a little space to write in, so you can't see everything you've written. I have started copying and pasting from word to write on Blogger to overcome this.

9. Imaginative reading seems hard for me online- indeed, I almost never do it. I think it is very hard to read imaginatively because the web is largely image led and it is hard for mental images to compete with the images on the computer and to maintain the sustained imaginative effort required to "get into" a novel.

10. While it is excellent for discovering new music through short samples, listening to things online is not for me as good as putting stuff on the stereo and lying on the sofa because there are too many things online to distract me (this is really an aural version of points 1, 3 and 8).

11. Likewise, while the Internet gives and excellent impression of art works, it is not like seeing the real thing. Such an obvious point needs to be made, amazingly, because I see that people make judgments about art from the images they get on their small computer screens, losing so many essential aspects of the artworks.

12. The Internet can be very addictive. I can go online and stay online for hours- I feel very aware that I'm not online when I am not, much as an alchoholic is aware he is not drinking when he isn't.


I see, reading the above, that much of my concern is about my inability to settle and relax on Internet communications. I accept that my fidgetiness is my own responsibility, but I do not think I am alone with these difficulties, and I wonder what solutions we can, collectively, propose to allow us to do things which the seductive Internet makes harder, and which are so worthwhile?

Instinctively, I dislike paternalistic solutions but they may offer the best way to tackle the issue of internet distractions- recognizing the social value of having locations which are specifically designed for single activities – listening to music, reading, writing, talking or looking at artworks or simply sitting.

So, one answer, I think is not to make computers available in certain libraries, and not to have access in cafes, aeroplanes or trains.

Kim's Game - Work in Progress

A few changes were made to the painting, removing fussier details, making the dhapes simpler, often more egg-like. See previous version -

Kim's Game is played at children's parties. A series of objects are displayed to the children on a tray for a limited time period and they have to record what these objects were. The winner is he who recalls the objects most accurately.

According to Wikipedia, "The name is derived from Rudyard Kipling's 1901 novel Kim, in which the hero, Kim, plays the game during his training as a spy."

I played the game at Malcolm Smith's birthday party in 1975 or 1976. I remember the objects being brought to us on a tray, then being removied exactly two minutes later, after which we each wrote down the names of the objects we could remember on pieces of paper.

I remember how poorly I recalled the objects despite forcing my concentration. I had a feeling of frustration when writing down the names of the objects, fearing that the process of writing them down was so laborious that in the time it took the other objects would fade from my memory.

My host's mother returned the tray to us for comparasion with the lists- I do not recall who won- it was not me! How mysterious it was that I had simply forgotten some objects so prominent they were: they had indeed disappeared from my consciousness, as if their presence had been a mirage. But they had surely been there as much as those whose names I had recorded.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dear Shadow Alive and Well, How can the Body Die?

How can the body die?

But I have never felt any comfort in the idea of eternity. Perhaps this is a reflection of the melancholic personality, the personality that experiences life as the experience predominantly of suffering.

I cannot imagine the soul. I cannot sense that there might be a quality of me that is essential. I feel myself to be too mutable for the concept of the soul with its essentiality. And it seems to me that physical pain is too close to mental anguish for the notion of a pure, unsuffering "core" to be credible.

I cannot, like Fleet Foxes, the author of these lyrics, find my own mortality strange:

Through the forest
Down to your grave
Where the birds wait
And the tall grasses wave
They do not
know you anymore

Dear shadow alive and well
How can the body die
You tell me everything
Anything true

In the town one morning I went
Staggering through premonitions of my death

Indeed, the thought of eternal death comes as a relief even if, paradoxically, I doubt my ability to experience it. And I confess that I have thought also of the deaths of others with a definate relief at times.

Sometimes I think about what will happen to the things I own after my death. My body happily burnt, my ashes dispersed, no-where too undignified I hope.

I see men in overalls, taking the paintings I've painted down to a skip and flinging them in recklessly: they've served their function as repository for my ego needs and as an aesthetic passtime. The books go to dealers; the are clothes burnt.

The clothes burnt, I hope, for the thought of another man in my coat or shoes is appalling to me. I think of that and imagine a sort of identity theft taking place, my userper's skin close where mine was, adopting my mannerisms, my motions, going where I used to go, consuming what I consumed, watching the same films, laughing at the same jokes- like the oft-despised presence of an unwanted younger brother, copying me: a doppelganger.

The clothes bear witness to my life, they went where I did. They show stains or wear marks which correspond to how I live. what I eat and how my body moves. Please burn them so my presence can't be stolen and I am truly no more.

I used to have these fantasies of invisibility, I no longer do, but perhaps those fantasies compressed and trasnmogrified into my dominant social modus operandi, manifesting themselves as a sort of non-presence, like a tipex-ed blank on a typed page, so I am aware of myself as hiding - withdrawn or masked - among others.

I'll finish by saying that I always felt myself exposed in the UK, but here in Brazil I feel myself invisible, because I can hide behind a series of popular assumptions about Britishness, a quality that any true Britons knows to be so amorphous as to be no guide to personality at all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spiky plant

I do not know the name of this plant.