Monday, January 22, 2018

The Last Time I Wore Glasses

Here's a bit of an odd thing. Today I remembered a little, not terribly important detail of my life, and wondered how I had forgotten it.

It relates, very directly indeed, to Dad's death, and it was thinking about Dad on the anniversary of his death that brought on the memory. I'd hazard a guess that I think fairly often of Mum & Dad, but I make a conscious effort to think of them on these anniversaries, partly because it feels like the right thing to do, but mainly because I enjoy it.

Today I happened to think back to my journey home from university on the day after his death. Maureen and her then husband Colin had got in touch with me somehow in my hall of residence in the morning - not an easy thing to do in the days before everyone owned their own mobile phone - we certainly didn't have the luxury of phones in our rooms - and I went back to Manchester by train, arriving at Gresham Street in the afternoon. They didn't tell me he had already died, just that I had to come home right away, and I know I was thinking of the worst as I went back. Dad had been seriously ill with emphysema, amongst other things, for quite a while, so the idea of a crisis didn't completely surprise me.

Looking back now I realise how young he actually was when the crisis happened. Even given his poor state of health he might have expected a good five to ten years more. But at the time I sort of accepted it as inevitable. Anyway, I was prepared for the worst when I went in the door and the worst is what I got. I guess the grief really hit me suddenly, especially with the accumulated tension of suspecting throughout the journey that the news would be bad. I cried for what must have been a good fifteen minutes, probably more, at the end of which my spectacles, which I'd kept on for some reason, were a complete stained and blurry mess.

I never wore them again. This wasn't out of some weird sense of the devastation of it all, or a peculiar version of remembrance. I'd been thinking of abandoning them for some time. I had, and have, a 'lazy' eye, my left, through which I see precious little. But the other eye somehow compensates and my normal eyesight is, well, reasonably normal. I'd discovered through many misspent evenings at the university that I played snooker a lot better without the glasses than with them and had an intuition that they weren't doing me much good. So I ditched them and, forty-something years later, I suppose the decision has been vindicated.

But I'd entirely forgotten the exact day I gave them up. And I'm sure I was wearing them regularly for 'ordinary' life until that day. I must have worn them on the train to get them all messed up when Maureen broke the news. I reckon a psychoanalyst would make something of the day I came out from behind my glasses, and perhaps the psych would be right to do so. I didn't cry again, by the way, after that initial outburst. I suppose I was too busy trying to do everything in the right way and, as I say, I sort of accepted it all. Still do, except for the obvious truth that the dead never die at all in memory.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

In Praise Of The Fridge Magnet - 6

 
 
It's always good to be reminded where you've been, even if you're happy where you are.

 
Especially when at least one of the details of the location as memorialised is uncannily true to life.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Comfort Levels

Finished Derek Walcott: Collected Poems 1948 - 1984 today, and found myself completely beguiled by the final pieces from Midsummer. I've had this experience before, finding that my appreciation of a poet's work seems to deepen as I move in sequence through his or her works, so that by the end of a volume I get a sense of everything coming together. The poems from Midsummer appear to be bound together by each evoking a distinct sense of place through which the poet's frequent concerns about race, empire, cruelty and whatnot wind insidiously, resonantly, usually painfully. The double whammy of XXXIX / The grey English road hissed emptily under the tires... followed by XLI / The camps hold their distance - brown chestnuts and grey smoke... stunned me, as did several other juxtapositions. But then I realised the original sequence could not have had the poems adjacent to each other, which made me keen to get hold of the actual collection. This Collected actually isn't, of course.

After closing the volume I immediately went to pick up Collected Poems: James Merrill. I've come to realise I have to have poetry in my life, and I mean the on-going discovery of such. The Merrill Collected really is one, I think. I bought it after reading his brilliant sort-of-long-narrative poem The Changing Light at Sandover some years back - I think around 2002 - but have never really done it justice. Oddly enough the first poem in the volume, The Black Swan, which is one of Merrill's earliest, from a privately printed volume, hit me with the force of the best poems from Midsummer. It seemed fully-achieved, somehow, absolutely right. Maybe I'm still on a kind of high from what I've learned from reading Walcott?

And, related to a different kind of reading entirely, I also found myself plodding on with Volume 2 of the Penguin Le Morte D'Arthur. I don't know how this happened, but I seem to have got comfortable with reading Malory, even though I'm still not sure why I'm doing so.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Good Blokes

Got a bit irritated in previous months at ex-Liverpool striker John Aldridge sounding off against Mourinho and United. So I was inclined to switch off the radio today when an item came on featuring him. Fortunately I was typically fair-minded and allowed myself a listen to the twerp from Liverpool. Turns out he's not a twerp at all. He was talking about his time at Real Sociedad, post-Pool, and he came across as a real salt-of-the-earth type. His affection for Spain was clear and I was struck by the openness of a working-class bloke from the rougher side of Liverpool fitting in so well in his European adventure. It was always obvious what an honest grafter he was on the field making the best of a limited, but still very distinct talent; but in the interview his intelligence shone through. And a real charm, which came through most powerfully in his warm comments on another great from his generation.

It was obvious for anyone with sense back then that Cyrille Regis was complete class. Again, not the most fabulously gifted front man, but an embodiment of all you wanted in a leader and spearhead. It's difficult to take in that he's dead at just 59 seeing what a force of nature he was on the field. And to think of the vile abuse he suffered week in and week out because of the colour of his skin. Imagine having the character to rise above that. The fact that things are a lot better these days in the EPL is down to guys like him and the example they set.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

(Not The) Same As It Ever Was

When I suppose I should have been doing better things I've been goofing off listening to Talking Heads on Youtube quite a bit over the last twenty-four hours or so. Mind you, I'm stretched to think of what might be a better way to spend time than that.

Fascinating to compare DB with TH performing Once In A Lifetime in his highly limber prime with DB in a distinctly more mature manifestation performing that same classic. Sort of the same, but entirely different. A suggestion I'd venture is that it's that ability to reinvent the self that's a sign of a performer/artist of real worth.

Maybe the concept extends beyond that to Everyman. Could it be that our ability to reinvent ourselves whilst remaining the same is a useful marker of some kind of depth or worth?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Even Better Reasons To Be Cheerful

I'm not exactly sure when I first heard the brilliant Talking Heads. I've got a feeling it was before the release of Remain In Light, which I think was their best album, but I do know that seeing the video for Once In A Lifetime, the single released from that album in the UK was one of those rare moments when a kind of new paradigm for how you might 'do' music lodged in my grey cortex. David Byrne's kooky, manic, preacher-man delivery made me rethink how I'd conceived of the role of the front-man of a rock band (if a rock band is what Talking Heads were, or was.) (Another such moment was Bowie's Top of the Pops performance of Starman, which shocked and delighted and made me reconsider some of my most basic prejudices, all in 3 minutes, but that's another story.)

David Byrne has been a bit of hero of mine since rewiring a few of my synapses on that occasion, and has grown in my estimation over time, despite no longer enjoying, perhaps, the bit of celebrity he cornered way back when. Today he went up another notch or two when, via the inestimable Open Culture I got to know of his latest online venture, a site cheerfully entitled Reasons To Be Cheerful. This was a bit of a coincidence considering yesterday's post, but I'm always up for a bit of spooky serendipity.

Anyway, I managed to explore some of the items Mr Byrne has posted and found myself feeling a whole lot better about the world and what goes on in it as a result. There's a part of me that still harbours a certain scepticism about the notion of positive thinking, and I think it's a healthy, necessary scepticism. But Reasons To Be Cheerful embodies the kind of intelligent positivity that I'm coming to believe can change, if not the world, then at least a little bit of it. And that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2 Reasons To Be Cheerful

Went to visit Osman this evening and he was looking a good deal better than a week ago. The treatment of his shoulder is going well and it looks like he'll resume chemo after another week or so. I suppose the purpose of our visit was to cheer him up, but since he's so cheerful and positive the effect of a couple of hours in his company is to make me feel a whole lot better about just about everything.

Was also very pleased to get to the gym late in the afternoon and not do myself too much harm. My back still feels vulnerable. I even got a slight twinge this morning doing the prayer and I was comfortably seated at the time. (In Islam you're allowed to pray seated if it's difficult to carry out the prayer in the usual fashion.) So I was slightly doubtful about getting back to the gym. But I also have an instinctive sense that exercising the muscles is the way to go when problems present themselves; being over-protective doesn't seem to pay off, just resulting in an even greater sense of weakness and incapacity. Anyway, I took a chance, but also took it reasonably easy, not seeking to perform at anything close to my pre-Istanbul levels. So far it seems to be a case of so good, and that's very fine indeed by me.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Very Hard Going

I somehow got to the end of the first volume of the two volume Penguin edition of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. It doesn't get any better, I'm afraid, not for this reader that is. Books 8 and 9, just completed, have chiefly concerned Sir Tristram de Liones and I'd be hard pressed to recall what he's actually done, other than defeated an awful lot of other knights, usually killing them in the process. I've just started Book 10, in the second volume, and he's still at it.

I'm seriously considering taking a break and reading a couple of novels or something before continuing. Let's face it, I won't lose track of the plot or lose touch with any subtleties of characterisation because there aren't any.

On the bright side, reading my Collected Poems of Derek Walcott is always rewarding, even when the poems are difficult (as they often are.) Just finished The Spoiler's Return a wonderfully satirical piece in glorious rhyming (and off-rhyming) couplets in which the Nobel laureate skewers one V.S. Nightfall among less elevated targets. Hilarious and bilious in equal measures - a combination that guarantees readability.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Easy On The Eye

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Was thinking today of some of the sights we enjoyed in December in Istanbul. Not every building was easy on the eye by any means. But those that were somehow dominate memory.

Wouldn't it be useful for every architect when designing a building, even the most monumental, to aim to create a photo opportunity for any random passer-by?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cooling Off

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
For the first time ever since I've been living on this island I actually felt uncomfortably cold this afternoon as I was sitting in the living room, and it had nothing to do with over-assertive air-conditioning. We've had a few rainy days here and today the temperature went down to around 24 degrees. With the windows open and the wind blowing there was no need at all for a fan or air-conditioning. Quite the opposite. I wouldn't have minded a heater.

I decided to walk up to Holland Village to warm myself up a little. For once the trek there and back didn't result in me working up any kind of sweat.

Mind you, none of this comes close to the discomfort of the cold we experienced on some of the days we were in Turkey, especially when we visited Bursa. Noi, as ever, enjoyed the snow. It did nothing for me, pretty as it might look in the pictures above.