Tuesday, 31 January 2017

31st January - British library treasures

In London the other day, I went to the British Library to look at the wonderfully named "Treasures".

Despite the fact they're not, sadly, in a chest covered in sand having just been dug up where X marked the spot, they really are treasures.

A wealth of literary manuscripts and priceless documents - not just monetary value, but in terms of their importance to the world. As I went around the room, I was astounded at what I was seeing. From the musical sections - Mozart, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams' handwritten compositions. Original Beatles lyrics scribbled down on bits of paper. To the classics - Thomas Hardy's rough drafts, his writing incredibly awkward to decipher. Jane Austen's letters and early stories; Beowulf, George Elliot.

Just as I saw one and was agog, the next popped up in the next display cabinet, expanding my mind's wonderment onto galaxy levels. My eyes felt like they coming out of their sockets on stalks.

It wasn't even just necessarily literary greats but documents of scientific (even cultural) importance - Captain Scott's Diary (for me, personally, particularly poignant  - I have long been fascinated with Scott and his expedition), Alexander Flemings notes from when he discovered Penicillin.

There is something special about seeing these documents, writings and items in the person's own hand. My stomach fluttered as I looked at the Handel's Messiah written out in the composer's own hand. Thomas Hardy's writing, although difficult to actually read, was fascinating - the crossing out, the editing. It was seeing the processes, the thought, of the literature being created. These were papers the person touched and marked. And ever the romantic, I feel a sense of wonder at this.

What will future generations have that will equal this? I am writing this now on my computer. Edits are made and lost instantly as the software auto saves and replaces. My own thought stepping stones and processes, my workings out are often lost into the ether.
Not that I am comparing myself to literary greats, but it does make me wonder as we write physically less, and type digitally more, what trails we as humans and the future literary greats will be leaving for our children's children to enjoy. They will lose that personal connection to an object, to a drab of ink, and will miss the beauty in the errors - as well as that safe knowledge that even geniuses get it wrong.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

29 January - Music

This week is best left to the footnotes of history. I wish I could drag and drop days to the trash can icon, so that I never have to think about them again. Apart from, that is, having been to two excellent gigs the last few nights. Martha Wainwright and Gruff Rhys.

It sounds naff but I am a huge fan of both. I hate the word fan as a description of your admiration to someone or thing. It feels something flippant, or childish. It seems often synonymously used with the music industry, and I scold myself for using it here in lazy writing.

Martha was brilliant. She always is, in a way that almost diminishes how good she is. It seems so effortless and expected. Her brother Rufus is the same. And music is one of the few things feeding me successfully - it keeps me nourished, it makes me feel like my heart is finally beating. Live music especially.  

I find it odd sometimes listening to Martha and Rufus' music now. Their incredible music carried me through a particularly dark time a few years ago. An ambulance constructed of heartfelt crotchets and bridges. 
Listening to those songs now scoops me up in a large open topped fender and sends me flying back to that time. Its a tiny bit uncomfortable and yet also very comforting. It's like bumping into your ex. Hashtag awkward-but-kinda-nice. 

The worst part for me I guess, was the reminder that in someways, I have come full circle again. I've moved on so much and yet have somehow managed to end up back at the start line. 

And that is, singularly, the most heaviest weight to carry. If you had told me this during that time, that after all this that was the outcome, I'm not sure I would have been strong enough to have resisted the sirens of death drive.

Monday, 23 January 2017

23rd January - Oil

There's a mysterious cryptic squeak emitting from my bike, and I cannot uncover the source. I'm failing GCSE Sherlock Holmesing.

It's most infuriating, at first I thought I was imagining it. Then I thought I was being followed by a hoarse crow. A very persistent, repetitive and relentless bird.

Imagine being an endless squeak in a machine. Forever chirping away, desperate for a drink, but no one can be bothered to buy a round in. Everyone can hear you, but everyone pretends to ignore, despite the relentless bellowing of annoy.

I have flashbacks to that car advert from the 1980s, and it could well end up that actually, one of my earrings needs oiling.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

21 January - London jaunts

Went to the Rauschenberg retrospective at the Tate Modern.

I have a love-hate relationship with a lot of modern art. I often trawl through modern art galleries or installations swinging rapidly on the opinion vine from one side of the spectrum to the other. Bi-polar Tarzan. Few things make me feel so divided, I can really adore some of it, but feel utterly turned off and even annoyed at others. I guess it would be boring if I liked all of it. I sometimes think I am boring for loving everything Murakami writes after all.

The Rauschenberg retrospective was very interesting though, and I did enjoy it a great deal. The gallery was quite busy, full of charlie hungerford types wearing cravats & chinos; enthusiastic american students unable to keep their voices under 11; desperately desperate mothers clinging onto some hope they could enjoy the artwork despite having to drag bored kids around playing pokemon; middle aged women in a plethora of swooshy cardigans, shawls and new age sandals with their glasses on a string; and a lot of german men with serious nasa glasses, not even ironic bad sweaters and cheek bones that made them look like they were chewing T rulers.

One child was striding around the gallery happily absent-mindedly swinging a cricket bat.

A swooshy cardiganed woman struck up an in-depth conversation with a cravat cladded art critique type that was so full of hyperbole, they were practically foaming at the mouth. It wasn't until towards the end of their conversation, when the woman started a tirade against "digitialism" did I start deciphering out actual words from the foreign language. The lady then turned around and started writing notes on her ipad.

Worried for a second that I was becoming more engrossed in watching the people looking at the art than looking at the art itself, I did consider that actually, this was part of the reason I quite enjoy going to galleries. Similar to going to the cinema, there is something rather interesting about shared experienced. How different a piece of art can feel to one person to the next. I think this is what I find fascinating about a lot of Rauschenberg's work - his use of items, materials, things. They can help include you, and make you feel part of the art.

One of his collage works (titled Charlene) has a large mirror incorporated into it, and as I stood there in front of it, I was literally inside the painting. I couldn't help but think of all the people who had stood there with their reflection over the years; famous, not famous, even Rauschenberg himself. And here I was, this was my moment to be in a piece of art work. There was something very special about this, and it felt very moving. Maybe it was more a simple piece of egoism on my part.

I loved Rauschenberg's idea of a white canvas being "an airport for light, shadows and particles". Possibly because I admittedly love anything to do with aviation, but this concept was so evocative and inspiring, my mind was agog.

I spent a lot of time around the rest of the Tate Mod, including spending some quality time with the Rothkos. We had been apart too long, and I am glad we caught up again. The Rothkos are disturbing, suffocating and evocative, and yet I also love them. They speak to me more about an understanding, and because of this I feel them oddly comforting. It is this kind of love for art works that grabs me so internally it begins to clasp my very being.

It was a lighter mood at Picasso's The Three Dancers, as a mother faced a barrage of impossible questions from her two young children. "Why are they dancing?" "Why is one a hole?" "What are their names?" She coped with them admirably as only a mother can, until the child asked "Why aren't they drawn properly? Like Peppa Pig?"

The Picasso Peppa Pig

Conversely, some art work makes me pack my mental bags and jump on a mental thought plane outtathere. I know when I am struggling with art instantly. I can feel my eyes glaze over, and my mind wandering about when I can next go for a run. Suddenly my pace quickens as well as my sudden remembrance that I haven't checked my phone in MINUTES.

 It's the same kind of feeling I get when Top Gear or Strictly comes on TV. Becoming a bit distracted and always feeling cold, I approached what I thought was a radiator only to suddenly set the alarms off. Apparently it was a canvas of art and I was too close.

I had inadvertently chosen a day when thousands were swarming on the city to protest in an anti-President Trump march. Had I known before I had made my arrangements, I would have joined it. When I arrived in London, I stepped outside of the tube station into the bright sunlight bracing myself to be swamped by a sea of placard carrying protesters.

All I saw were a couple of lovely old ladies carrying a thermos of tea asking where they could buy a guardian.

Where were you when they marched against Trump Sian? I was trying to avoid swooshy cardigans, Picasso peppa pig and getting hit by a child wielding a cricket bat.

Photos from London

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

18th January - Hospital

Things I have learnt about A&E:

- It's one of the coldest places you can visit; not literally in terms of temperature, but in experience and feeling. Seats are pointy, hard and angular; textures are decidedly frosty. I admire the staff there for braving it. It is the antithesis of cosy.

- There are more office PC self-printed-from-Microsoft-Word-makeshift posters in polly pockets in A&E than anywhere else in the world. FACT.

- It's very faded, like someone has applied a rubbishy instagram filter onto the hospital.

- You can pretty much witness every flavour of human being from the entire spectrum of life pass through before your eyes whilst you wait; from old to young; from drunk down and outs to suited yuppies.

- Waiting for hours at A&E makes waiting hours at airports seem like a the greatest party you've ever been to.

- A&E & NHS staff in general, are heroes.

- Its a lonely and isolating experience, even though you can be surrounded by people.

- I can't think of another place where you will see so many people wearing entire outfits in one colour (either boiler suits or scrubs).

- No matter how awful it is waiting in A&E, no matter how much you're in tears the whole time, you always suffer from a form of immediate amnesia the second you leave the building and marvel at the fact the NHS is amazing.

- Life is cruel. Very very cruel.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

17 January - No news day

Avoiding the news at the moment. If I go near it, I recoil away with an unseen force like two magnets put close together. It tries to hunt me down but I need to keep it away; it is nourishment for the dark side of the brain.

So I'm going to pretend that nothing is happening. And coincidentally I spotted a sign to celebrate the fact whilst my mind frolicks with the fairies.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

15 January - Banksy

Desperate to escape Cardiff, which seems to be a kryptonite shackle to my brain at the moment, the other day I went on a Banksy art trail around Bristol. It was like Treasure Hunt, only without Anneka Rice.

I love graffiti art. And I do think graffiti is art. The skill for detail graffiti artists show at times is incredible - I have looked at some artists work and have sometimes felt I have been looking at some kind of photograph. Often the sheer scale is a thing to behold. It is the same stirring of admiring awe I get when gazing at paintings in galleries - the only difference is that these are straight onto brick walls and with spray cans, not a nice neat canvas with oils or watercolours. Different materials. Same effect. Maybe not all art should be behind doors or inside.

Banksy has always interested me, because I have always thought his work was current, relevant and clever. And of course, the anonymity randometer of it all gives it an extra teaspoon of intrigue.

I was lucky enough to visit Dismaland and came out of it incredibly conflicted and unsure. It was not unlike some actual-not-even-trying-to-be-dismal seaside 'resorts' I had been to in the UK, and many of the incredibly upper middle class people there were completely missing the point. I couldn't help feel that he was taking us all for one massive money making ride. But maybe thats what he was aiming for.


However, I decided I wanted to try and photograph some of his works across Bristol that I could find in a day. A bit like a Banksy Pokemon Go. There are not volumes to find, but when you don't know the city, nor sure of what state you would find them in if any, it seemed like a fun challenge.

I enjoy photographing graffiti; not only do I just like finding it and admiring it, but I like the idea of photographing something that may well not even exist in a number of years, months, even weeks. Often graffiti does remain, tattooed onto the streets, but very often it gets removed, vandalised, weathered, painted over, and eventually worn away by time itself. Photographs become the documentation of something that seems endangered. Indeed, some Banksy works are now worn or barely visible, like faded prints when the ink cartridges are running on empty:

January 2017 - the masked gorilla is looking decidedly sorry for itself

To focus solely on Banksy does a disservice to the many other fantastically talented street artists practicing on the streets in the city.  What struck me was how much incredible graffiti Bristol is blessed with. Compared to Cardiff especially.

Cardiff has become monotone and 2D to my wary eyes.
Banksy Bristol art trail
Other Bristol graffiti

Thursday, 12 January 2017

12 January

Brain cataracts have been particularly troublesome the past couple of days. There are probably one or two particular causes for this, of which I will not diverge here.

When this happens in winter months, as now, the worst part is that I can't hide behind my sunglasses. Those glorious cheap H&M soul protectors of mine, shielding my raw self from the outside world. Conversely I do wear at least three snoods or scarves so can mummify my face as much as I can, it just steams up my glasses. First world problems.

Sometimes I wish I was the web browser chrome, and had an incognito mode I could switch on. And that's probably one of the most geekiest things I've written in a while.

It annoys me inherently that I am not some sort of robot or software. Why can't I just re-programme my brain and body to behave like it used to. Or go to Maplin and buy a new part to replace the crappo broken version. Other stores available.

Each trough seems more and more difficult to climb out of.

Monday, 9 January 2017

9th January

I saw La La Land last night which is a film that broke my brain. Aside from jokes about it being a film about teletubbies, I'd probably enjoy it more when not already feeling in a strange flux of no man land life when it comes to failed aspirations.

Tested holding the new iPhone 7+ in one hand today in work; it was like what I can only imagine trying to contain a rhinoceros in your palm. And I have giant hands (they often get mistaken for those huge foam hands audience members in gladiators used to brandish). Maybe the size is not a bad thing- it will encourage me and others to stop using their phones so much whilst out and about.

 I often worry I do this and don't take enough notice of the world around me; getting too engrossed in bombarding my (poor suffering) friends with text messages about how I've seen a su pollard 45. Maybe it's worth remortgaging a kidney to get an iPhone 7+.

I then mashed my laptop keyboard to enter a long string of random 38636363937262839483 sianz numbers (testing data inputs- there was actually a genuine reason) only to somehow inadvertently activate Spotify - next thing I knew, an obscure Japanese version of Video killed the radio star starting playing from my computer like the hard drive was possessed by a cheesey japanese pop ghost. If I was to be haunted by anything, aside from bouncer the dog, I think the random kitsch obscure cover version spectre would be my choice.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

7th January

Spent all day with one of my best friends bombing around mid Wales and the borders on an inadvertent great antiques hunt. Or perhaps more a vinyl records expedition plus occasional minor extras. It was ridiculous fun, despite getting annoyed at the over-pricing of a Treasure Hunt board game. But then sifting through flea markets and antique shops is one of my favourite things.

I've always liked antiques, even as a kid. Old before my time, I secretly loved it when we ended up getting 'dragged' around antique shops - when we weren't getting trawled around castles in the pouring rain that is. And its the same now as it was then - I love the idea of things ending up in this one place before you - and a whole cornucopia of stories it might bring. It could of course, have no story whatsoever. But its the possibility that ignites a spark of excitement from within. Who owned that pair of cricket pads? What happened to them? Why did that old tin sign advertising shag end up on the wall of an antiques shop? What countries did those salt and pepper sellers from concord visit, and what people touched them? Like ice cracking a spidered web across a frozen lake, the limitless stories and connotations spread out afar. And thats what I find so inherently fascinating about every item.

The complete randomness of these pursuits brings an extra dimension. I hate shopping to the extent that it bores me senseless and turns me into Basil Fawlty on acid, unless I am shopping for things I don't know I'm going to find.

Forest Gump's mother never stopped rabbiting on about chocolate boxes, but it's flea markets where it's really at  - you truly never know what you're going to get. Even if it does mean you might get a Max Boyce record and a babycham beer mat.

One person's trash, is very much another person's gold mine.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

4th January

I hope the new UK EU ambassador's first task is to build the Ferrero rocher pyramid. That's surely what any self respecting ambassador for anything does.
Such is my interlinked thought pattern with retro television, if I ever see or hear the word ambassador I immediately think of gold foiled wrapped nobly edible balls. Child of the commercialist age. Late 80s can be summed up as a big giant ferrero Roche- gold and glamorous (trying to be) but actually a bit naff and will probably just get stuck in your teeth later on.

I spent 10 minutes discussing politics with the physiotherapist this evening before we both pretty much realised having knotted screaming muscles ironed out by tough thumbs was far less painful a process. Although nothing is as excruciating as trying to explain I.T solutions to your irate and confused father who thinks every computer is waging a personal vendetta against him.

Vendettas remind me of vienettas. I'm back to retro sweets again.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

3rd January

Back to school day. Weary eyed commuters on the train all seemed to have that glazed over boiled sweet expression. As if they had just spent two full weeks sitting in their pants eating bread sauce and chocolate Christmas tree decorations for breakfast whilst watching Columbo.

Eyes are windows into the slothy sole. And glazed eyes in particular, never lie.

Monday, 2 January 2017

A Loon's Diary

I don't really believe in new year's resolutions, but as I am a hot, steaming pile of hypocrite, my new year's resolution is going to be to write more. I found writing about my brain misbehaving the last 18 months helped. So I have decided to start a diary/blog on this shiny new sister blog to my other ramblings.

I was reading some of the wonderful Alan Bennett's diaries over Christmas, and rather like the idea of writing a diary again (something I haven't done since I left high school, mostly ramblings about how miserable and misunderstood I was - so no change from now really). Rather than write every day, Alan Bennett will write when he chooses on topics he finds instigates inspiration - and that is what I am going to attempt. Therein ends the only comparison I would ever dream to make with the legendary national treasure of uber treasures that is His Royal Highness Sir Alan of Bennett (he really should have those titles). And then reader, we began.

January 2nd

Today was a gorgeously blue, bright January performance - one that would razzle and dazzle even the most Scroogey of couch potatoes. I love crisp sunny winter days, and especially as its the last day of the holidays before we go back to 'school',  I headed early to the countryside to get muddy on the bike trails. I am happiest outdoors and amongst the trees and mountains. It is the only thing that effectively fights back at my self diagnosed brain cataracts. I picked a random and obscure trail deliberately in the hope it would be devoid of humans. And it mostly was.

I usually call these hikes, trails, runs or outdoor explores etc. my '999 routes', as when we or I set off, I can always hear in the back of my head Michael Burke narrating the reconstruction of a hugely catastrophic random accident involving maiming by a lost javelin. "It started off....just a fun afternoon hike, but little did they know the horror that was awaiting...". Now I tend call them my 'Murder Podcast' trails. Having been obsessed with true crime podcasts the last 18 months, all I can think about in these desolate and barren areas is how many dead bodies are buried underneath my feet. All that runs through my mind is how easy it would be to knock someone over the head with a hiking stove, stuff them in a biffie bag weighted down with kendal mint cake, and toss into the lake before you can say 'north face jacket sale'. So as I set out on my routes, I now start filling my head with how the podcast about my untimely disappearance would narrate the theories on how I might have disappeared. It's enough to make me leave breadcrumb trails (or the modern day version - squillions of instagram photos if we're lucky to get signals).

Luckily none of that happened today. And it was jolly good. Instead, I got a lot of mud in my eye and kept thinking I was going to die on the ice.
It is remarkable how much ice resembles cling film; until I did disappointingly keep just finding abandoned cling film. Usually next to the bags of dog poop that dog owners think in their infinite wisdom [sic] that its somehow ok to just leave on the side of a trail. There are, of course, many good dog owners. I saw some today towards the end, a middle-aged couple - the gillet-clad lady stood in a field whilst the man barked directions to her from the side where he thought their poochie off lead had left his present. It was a bit like the retro kids show Knightmare, only searching for doggie doodoos. Their determination in discovering the dog dirt amongst the boggy mass was heart warming, but I can't help feel they're still there looking for a poopy needle in a haystack when it probably didn't even exist in the first place. I just hope the dog was called Schrödinger.