Monday, October 23, 2017

It's Life!

Noi showed me a short video earlier of a snake loose in Bukit Batok. It was a big fellow - looked like a python. Some rather skilful, and brave, guys were apprehending the snake, finally getting it into a sack. Bit sad, I suppose, but I'm hopeful the creature was released afterward into the wild to resume its snakey existence. (Don't really want to think of other possible 'endings' for this little tale.) As we were chatting about the local wild life Noi was telling me that one her friends spotted a wild boar the other week.)

All this made me feel unaccountably cheerful. Isn't it splendid to be forced to realise the world revolves around more than just our daft species? (Though, again, it's perhaps best to avoid darker thoughts of the miserable manner in which we exercise our custodianship of the planet and the life thereon.)

It put me in mind of something John mentioned when we were chatting on the phone the other evening. He was telling me about his next door neighbour who's not so well now but who used to spend his evening smoking outside the house (one of the reasons for his not-so-well state, I'm afraid) waiting for the foxes around the area to put in an appearance as they came scavenging around the houses. A great way to spend the time, I reckon - the observing of the rascally foxes, that is, not the self-harm.

It occurs to me that I've never seen a fox close up. The loss is mine.

When I was a little lad, living up Haughton Green, around six years old, the neighbours had a shed in their little back garden in which they kept rabbits. Sadly they were in cages, but it didn't seem sad to me at the time, they were such lovely creatures to hold and stroke. There were also a couple of ferrets in the shed, kept in a kind of box. They stunk. I suppose the neighbour used to go ferreting with them (a 'sport' I won't explain, involving as it does Nature red in tooth and claw.) Deeply inhumane, but maybe the ferrets didn't mind it too much? Better than a world in which kids never get to see them at all, except on film.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Accomplished, Sort Of

Finished Omeros today. Tremendous power in the elegiac closing sections, partly as a result of having learnt so much, with such depth, about St Lucia and its residents; the poem accumulates somehow. I'll never look at fishermen in the same way; not that I used to look at them in any real way - which is, in some tiny sense, what the poem is about.
And since I finished The Master and his Emissary last weekend, I'm finally able to think about what I'll be reading as we approach the end of the year. I suspect it'll be something from my shelves. I suspect it'll involve segments of The Master and his Emissary and something from my Collected Poems 1948 - 1984 of Walcott. When one's reading experience has been this rich it's difficult to put it to one side. These days I find myself needing to try and live up to the writers I admire by giving them the attention they deserve - but somehow always feeling myself failing in this regard. It's a sort of happy failure though.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

An Infection

I've now got the final two books of Omeros left before I will have completed my second reading of Walcott's beguiling epic in verse. This time round I think I've seen, or, rather, felt more clearly than the first the main concern of the poem: the burden of History, the weight of injustice upon the dispossessed. In the middle books of the poem this is outlined with hypnotic, distressing power; they demand to be read slowly, not so much to savour as to suffocate.

In some ways the poem is feverish in its impact. The first time I read it I grasped some of its hallucinatory brilliance, but wasn't really made ill. This time round I've succumbed.

Can we be infected by a work of art?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Grub, Plenty Of

It's been a week of our version of fine dining: Christmas dinner, for which we went vegetarian (don't ask); Deepavali nosh with various buddies; a hall outing involving a rather jolly buffet; and today Noi left me a resplendent bowl of mee goreng, cooked ahead of her driving up north to see Mak over the weekend. All very wonderful; all a bit much. Looking forward to easing up and giving my digestive system a rest.

Further reminders of a fortunately privileged existence.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Good News, Sort Of

Found myself reading a number of stories in the press in the last two or three days dealing with the mistreatment of women by the film producer Harvey Weinstein and, stemming from those revelations, further articles outlining the kind of abusive behaviour various individual women have detailed to illustrate just how pervasive such behaviour is in circles beyond those immediately surrounding the Hollywood casting couch. It's all been very depressing to read, so how much, much more horrendous in its effects must it be to have been on the receiving end. There's much darkness there.

So it was sort of refreshing to read a sort of good news story today. This concerned the library in Auckland - one of my favourite cities - which has just solved the mystery of why some of its books had gone missing and then turned up in some very odd corners. It turns out that rough sleepers in the city were to blame, though not actually being blameworthy in any way. They seem to have been protecting the books, in their fashion, since the books were so important to them as things to read and they didn't want to take them out with them where the books would be vulnerable. The library officials have shown exemplary concern for these hugely important customers. For once I felt sort of good after reading something in the news (though the figures given for the numbers of homeless and rough sleepers in this lovely city gave those positive thoughts something of a melancholy cast.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Something New Under The Sun

So there I was thinking that I'd reached the point at which nothing could excite me quite as much as getting to see Pink Floyd performing Atom Heart Mother live with choir and brass section as a callow fourteen-year-old. Then I find out in a single day that there's a new live Crimson album featuring the double quartet version of the Greatest Band in the Known Universe with excerpts from Lizard (Dawn Song; Last Skirmish; Prince Rupert's Lament) and Islands featured amongst much else and the first novel in the second trilogy set in Philip Pullman's worlds of His Dark Materials is published this Thursday. The new trilogy is entitled The Book of Dust and the novel itself, La Belle Sauvage, and I love both titles. I feel like I'm fourteen again - and, in truth, I'm probably just as callow.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Not So Fiery

Found myself thinking of a wonderfully lugubrious chorus from the mighty Dan's (Steely, that is) first album, Can't Buy A Thrill: There's fire in the hole / And nothing left to burn. As I inelegantly fell apart towards the end of my statutory 40 minutes of torture in the gym it struck me what whatever fire had been lit in the hole had long since been extinguished.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Not Going Backwards

Just got off the phone after chatting with John, though in truth 'chatting' is not exactly the most accurate word to describe the delivery of his standard litany of woes about the state of his health and the health of pretty much everyone he knows, and the faults of the UK's NHS, I've come to expect. Fortunately this was the standard version, concluded with his observation, we're not going backwards, so I felt some considerable relief at how reasonably positive he was, once the account was complete. There's been improvement in Maureen's vision, she's going to be involved in some further version of rehab, and John is happily suing the doctor who messed up on the treatment of his leg, which gives him something to which he can look forward. (Of course, there was a lot, lot more than this, but I'll save you the details. Especially the gory ones.)

I'm becoming increasingly aware of just how often concerns about health feature in my conversations with my contemporaries and those of a slightly older generation. Far from being bothered about people moaning about such matters I generally take a keen interest, knowing that I face my fair share of such concerns - if not now, then most likely in the future. It's more interesting than talking about the weather - especially the highly predictable version of the weather in this Far Place.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Going Back

This afternoon I found myself wandering around the premises of the first school in which I taught in this Far Place. The premises are no longer the premises of the original school but belong to another school now. Indeed, the premises to which that school relocated are now being 'up-graded' in routine local fashion, so the school has relocated for the meantime to the premises of a school which no longer exists. So wherever you go back to you know you can never go back.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bodying Forth

Now in the last sixty pages of McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary. It continues to delight, illuminate and, occasionally, astonish. Now thinking about the link between modernity and what McGilchrist describes (rightly, I think) as a kind of assault on embodied being. The notion explains a lot about our collective madness regarding our bodies and what we do with them, in the developed world that is.