The Reckless Fruit – (2)

A documentary in charcoal drawings & poetry, of 1960s street life and the young ~ . All Drawings and Poetry COPYRIGHT (c) janeadamsart.wordpress 2012. ~ ~TO VIEW GALLERIES, Scroll down to the end of each Post.~

THE RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO, Chapter 1 – ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’

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Link to Book One

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Cover painting:  Triss du Maurier at work, late at night (circa 1965)

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(To view as a Gallery, scroll down to the bottom of this post)

INTRODUCTION TO BOOK TWO – A NOTE ON THE LABYRINTH.  

This project – The Reckless Fruit – touches each generation’s “teenage odyssey”.

When we are growing up, we are confronted with an archetypal Labyrinth.  It may have been the experimental music and imagery during the 1980s and 90s. My daughter grew up with “The Cure”, and drew and painted and lived her labyrinth.  Later, came Spider Man and vampires – some cult movies of 2009.

The 1960s culture produced a crop of joyous avant-garde art and wholesome-looking rock bands.  The underside was the stress of celebrity, pill popping and guitar smashing.

Looking at feelings expressed in adolescent art universally – intense isolation, longing for expression, fascination, destruction, the obstinate extremes of narcissism and disgust – I am convinced we all need to find our own thread with understanding, through whatever “popular” mode the Labyrinth presents.  It is our personal initiation – however eccentric – to adult life.   Before towns grew up, the young were sent into the forest.   This archetype also informs the silver screen.

In my childhood, I was fascinated by mazes.  I doodled grotesque ones at school, and dug under-and-over tunnels with my hands in builders’ sand at home.  For a short time, I even wanted to be a pot-hole explorer in deep limestone caves.   The drawings and poems in The Reckless Fruit are a primitive or “naïve” art.  I understand by this, a response to the environment, which is passionate but unsophisticated and uninformed.  It is therefore very direct.

Living in Somerset, I saw beehives, leather and winkle pickers.  Brief gleams of Sassoon and Quant appeared in magazines – we were a year behind the times.  When I visited London, I sensed the hub of fashion, partying and progressive pop music.  Not knowing where any of these exciting nerve centres were, I fell in love with, and drew what I saw – cosmopolitan crowds of people in the streets and Underground.  The odyssey is not with the labels.  It is in the hunter’s flavour.

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When I was about half way through putting together this project of The Reckless Fruit, I discovered in my school rough-books, these pages:  the buried presage of a path I would later follow and make my own.  We were doing Yeats for A level, and the English teacher in the Lower Sixth had an intelligent interest in the Rosicruceans and in Kabbalah.

Each tempest of life perhaps, awakens a “Prospero”, deep down.

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BOOK TWO – CHAPTER ONE, 1965 -
“Let’s Spend the Night Together”

VOICES …  “SHE TAKES, just like a woman, yes, she does
 – She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
 – And she aches just like a woman
 – But she BREAKS just like a little girl.” /Bob Dylan (1966)

“IN THE chilly hours and minutes,
Of uncertainty, I want to be,
In the warm hold of your loving mind….” /Donovan (1965)

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Taunton in the Back Streets

At night
I prowled again
the black sky in yellow streets
unshrivelled by the sun.

A shell
unhouses soul;
under the footway, hear
the rasp of Donovan’s harp:
“… but I may as well
try and catch the wind…”

Who lives here?
Through the house and out, the dull
steps of countless feet.

Cold lamp floods
the  yard at the back
whose scarred chimneys tower in the night,
ringing with silent stark phantoms bright

those daytime High Street
shop front shut eyes
for the prams
and price of meat.

                                                                                                                        1965

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 75: La Ronde – I didn’t yet have “access” to this coffee shop, but was excited by the atmosphere.  The hussy house– her expression – mirrors the one in (74), “On the Wall” at the end of Book One  – this happened subconsciously.  The passage goes right through her, to Taunton High Street.  How strange it must be to live here, with a public “right of way” through the ground floor of your home, the restless steps of strangers to and fro … To the right, a stair descends to the promised land.

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76 :  Slow dance cellar.  La Ronde – a coffee-bar for the after-school games of chance.  My licentious fantasy converts it to an underground disco.  The blonde girl wears grey, and ribbed grey stockings – this was very fashionable, for a short time.  It reminds me of the singer Twinkle: “He rode into the night, accelerated his motorbike …” The beehive metamorphed to sleek pageboy – the sexy-innocent Marianne Faithfull look has reached Taunton – and her lips are whitened.  She has smoky eyes.  I remember these slow shuffles, tipping on the edge, the warm, insistent pressure of thighs and knees, like water, and … 

Dick Tresilien is in the background, and – top left corner – two amateur bouncers at the door.   Tickets for the tunnel of love, cost just a few bob, thanks, enjoy the band.

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DON’T hang me up and don’t let me down
We could have fun just groovin’ around AROUND and around
Oh my, my … Let’s spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever” /Jagger/Richard, Rolling Stones

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Find Room

Breathlessly he
pulled me up the ladder
into the tree

where
branching off
to the dark, the juicy
fruit is there,

I clung around him “Quick, quick” said the bird,
“in here, don’t be heard”
door open, quick inside
the fruit, he

bit me
and my dress
dripped down the stair

2010

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77: Let’s spend the night.  This drawing was warmed up by the Stones’ Let’s Spend the Night Together”, and the Kinks “Tired of Waiting”.  It excited my brother Simon also, who was nine: “What are they going to do?”  “They’re going to find a place to you-know-what, kiss,” I replied, to my mother’s indignation, who tried to preserve in her children, a respect for relationships.  Simon like myself, dug the Kinks and the Stones.

This pair  left the dance, and seek a “refuge”.  Sex before marriage was forbidden fruit. The stairs go on up to the street – it is part of an ongoing story.

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“IT’S YOUR LIFE
And you can do what you want” /Ray Davies/The Kinks

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Seeing a Sketch

Those crossing shadows on the window-pane still
bar with impenetrable night
the moonlight
on charcoal’d dancers, pinned to the wall.

1966

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78: Don’t keep me waiting.   They are the seed in the Reckless Fruit.

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VOICES … “Do what you like … But please don’t keep-a me waiting …  TIRED of waiting for you … “/Ray Davies/The Kinks

“GO NOW,
Before you see me cry.
I don’t want you to tell me  Just what you intend to do now.
Cause how many times do I have to tell you, darling, I’m still in love,
Still in LOVE,
With you now?” /The Moody Blues

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79:  Outside upstairs.  These horny alley-cats on the upper ground, like sentinels, are very tired of waiting.  You can just see the top of the stairs in the foreground, and then there are more stairs to climb up into a house, a bit further on.  The slanting perspective allures me along this pungent fissure.

The lovers turned right, half way up the stairs.  At the top here, the passage opens to the left.  The drawings led me along, as arcane stories pictured in my mind:  usually, about four or five ahead of the one I was doing.  The songs – brief quotes – I heard them all the time.  They were alive and felt wicked.  They quivered among old brick shadows, charcoal and the mystery.

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“… … YOU KNOW I love those little things in my ear
that you say when there’s no one near… “/Dave Berry

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Sperm Spark

The touch of two flints
drops the spark
of the universe.

The silent
kiss of a candle ignites
the other
in fusion’s flame.

Fire once fed
is a boundless
insatiable eater.

Fire unfed
drops away
lost as little fish
un-finding egg.

Fire in the grate
burns through aeons of life
the nut;

O, fire in shell,
your way in the Sun
is coming home!

1967

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80: Crossing the car park.  They are crossing a derelict open space, to where soul’s mansions kiss again.  In a story I wrote, called “The Shadow”, this place was “Gallows Yard.”  I feel what they are, from their feet right up to their hair – strangely lifted along by the street lamps opening ahead, and leaning towards each other.

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In Camera

I know that you
like me
see out through bars and sing –

little things you do
– your noughts and crosses
little bird,

flit through my everlasting
transparency.

Inside my room,
each window pane a picture tells,
each flavour from the pit, a story smells
and I have no cage, no frame

until it flutters
enclosing
yourself flown in, whose song
only utters …

2010

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81: Window.  If you had gone up the second flight of stairs, to look down into that same cleft where the stoned cats are tired of waiting, this might be your window.  It is like meeting a person or looking into deep water.  So many wires and bridges cross the space, you can hardly see the ground.  This view for me is inhabited, a total immersion.

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“YOU DON’T try very hard to please me
With what you know, it should be easy
Well this could be the last time
MAY BE the last time – I don’t know … “/Jagger/Richards, Rolling Stones

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A Stoned Tantrum

I drew the buildings taller still
at night
across the frame
like mothers and fathers
looking on, alarmed
at wildness and the misery breaking out
from their child there on the ground.

Well, this could be the last time
he ever fights that crazy Chrissie
who turned his head to shame
without a sound.

2010

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82:   The Last Time.  A reconstruction of the backs of Taunton High Street, from the shoppers car park aslant, while listening to this song by the Stones – all those bricks and eyes.

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Jagged  Skyline

I 
watched the flood 
in sunlight clamour the pavement 
glamour trafficking who 
can't 
get a move on, who 
wait on tippy toes, haven't finished 
though they try 
      and they try to 

get 
groceries done, that dead end job, kids 
home; they hobble and grimace 
and cuddle and scold and flash 
the brand new gear in the car; it's 

no butlins 
holiday camp for 365 days 
when a Rocker leans 
against the glass and stares, Bowler 
waits for a cross-now sign;  they built 
earth's architectonic gilt 
in a way for 
sat- 
    is-
       fac-
           tion 
to cushion the jag.

1965

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Thoughts of Genesis by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders

“THE PURPOSE of a man is to love a woman and the purpose of a woman is to love a man … It started long ago in the Garden of Eden when Adam said to Eve, baby, you’re for me -

“So come on BABY let’s start today, COME on baby let’s play
The game of love, love, la la la la la LOVE …”

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Lucifer Bright Angel 

As bud from branch, new forms
of life which thrive
are brought out from
the old, to strive.

From heaven, the star
of heaven fell from
heaven’s equilibrium,
to renew discovery, hey man.

Playing his own rhythm
& blues band, how could Bright Angel tell
that the tree of life begetting him still
beats the drum?

1965,  2010
(inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost at school)

Perennial Philosophy

“He opened the book of her untrodden land.  He may have walked her fields … but it was long ago, before he was born:  and nothing she is now, belonged to him then.”  (a Karmic KOAN).

Breaking through into aeons still unknown, the existential sphere expands.  The man and woman make love, and the animal and vegetable kingdoms grow up to clothe them, and mountains, valleys rivers and deltas are born, untold.

To long for a past innocence, is blind.  We take responsibility like a child must, dropped from the nest to learn;  for the fruition of a cosmic circuitry.  Ultimately, the long toil of human individuation is co-creative with totality – the Divine innocence.

When I was twelve, I opened a book of mountains.  Its author across the sea became a symbol, like prophets do.  The book – looking back –inspired the circle of my life, so much did I aspire to understand and grow.  It has Himalayan snows, a warm human urgency, and deep urban roots. I see the Lotus.  Hail flower, roots embedded in the river mud;   hail Mount Kailas – the jewel in the nut-brown hills of Tibet …

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83 and 84:   Panorama One and Panorama Two.  These landscape drawings join together in the middle.  I made many careful sketches on the spot, and strung them together at home.   As old human shells face demolition, their walls and windows come to life.  I felt passionate with their poignancy.  I couldn’t say why.  I just had to draw them.

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(To view slides, click on any image)

RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 2 – ‘School’s Out’

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Link to Book One

Night Time Crier

I walk for ever this town
before dawn dispels
my dark desire
to swing my bell.

My street-lit shadow
tolling
flees before
the spring tide coming;

my lamps
by the hour are yellow,
and fade to grey
ghosts of sorrow.

As summer’s tame pussy cat
swings back
and darkness shrinks,

the Night I crave
is my pendulum
passing through
the waking echoes -

eternal Night
to everlasting
dawn.

1966

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85 and 86: Passing Through.  This was another little covered alley, almost at the end of the High Street near Vivary Park.  I would dream about these places, and expand them.  It is the Panorama landscape from inside, looking back towards that place of so many un-grown possibilities – the empty car park.  These channels are the soul’s dark nights, the birth-passage.

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Rendezvous with a Rebel

BLACK is
black worn for best
to mourn the dead:

storm’s torrents unleashed
burst black into light:
so black is my face
to fill.

I left them
talking Jane Austen
and slipped into the whirling black
night flecked with stars;

wind dashed a thousand poems
through loud elms’
un-slept boughs.

Your bike braked
in the dark lane,
suddenly -

your mum and dad are bible readers.
Your long locks and sly glint
tie up my hanky in knots.

I wanted to hate but adore
your thin lips smirking horribly -
“No wonder you lack confidence” – 

O no I don’t !
Clutching your torn leather,
pillion kick-start,
satanic beak close to my cheek -

if miss austen
had a harley,
oh she’d know! -

touching your
taut bow,

to follow the proud angels’ arrows
as they twang home
off the hook
to roam!

“I like 
giving people rides,” 
you said, now shy.

1966

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87: Lovers on Wall:  A consummation of the inchoate, the seed, the gasp, an old expertise that is so young, they fascinate each other.

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And Gorse in Flower near Minehead 

The furry land
rose out of the stirring sea,
dried off in the sun
like a beast.

High over North Hill at noon
we played
and threw flinty stones
like savages.

Far below the screeling gulls,
ocean’s surface tension
nuzzling pebble shoals
parted; white ribs of foam.

We’d beaten a tangled path
along the edge of the bony beast;

before us rose up
his sheer flank of golden gorse aflower
in sunshine’s throbbing
scrutiny snapped.

It snares, as in a colour slide
my blinding ill at ease
among perfumed
petal paths of gold.

Drunk in their yellow mesh,
I honey the bee
and hear the sea
and forever a day, forsake the rest.

1966

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88: Back of Bath Place – Bath Place was a more elegant affair, with smart boutiques and the Green Dragon bookshop at the end, by the bus station.  It runs along between those hedges of doleful houses of doleful houses, and has quite a different atmosphere, which of course this drawing does not portray – you cannot see its pretty interior.   In my map, it had a hidden wealth. 

The poem is another landscape altogether.  It was written after a day on North Hill up behind Minehead, with my best friend Rosalind.  I was suffering – and concealing – an adolescent black night of the soul:  the treadmill of my self conscious mind, desperate to escape.

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School’s Out!

Dusk-
grey rooftop tangle
scarred slates -
the ring unfingered

with windows like blind mice
chopped by kitchen knife
through dark alleys’
glimpse of street, green buses …

seeing through the yawning car park
astir with turning motors
at the break of night,
a rim of rust coloured reliquaries;

behind the roots and rooves
a church fang points
to the bell frost sky
like a wet dream.

La Ronde for a coffee,
a hole through the house above
awaits boys who laugh
in long school stripy scarves.

Night falls – a city of outline
hazed by the cold, iron pure:
plane trees pruned to the quick
knobble the paving stones

where with school tie
a bit loose, we prowl and thirst;
and grey, etched tiles
lift the church fang like a mist

into the flaw-
less sky.

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89: La Ronde.  “Going down the Larry then?  See you in the Larry?”  we used to say after school, as we teased our hair up and tried to hide our spots.  I was at Bishop Fox’s grammar school by then, in the Lower Sixth.  We had butterflies about La Ronde.  “Those sweet boys” from Kings, Queens or Huish’s might be there, with their long stripy scarves.  And we had to, by teamwork, set each other off well, look insouciant, giggle knowingly and talk smartly.  Some girls had the knack.  Others, like myself, tried too hard and clammed up.  The boys had pleasant manners, and probably suffered equally. 

That staircase descending from privacy into the public right of way, has seen it all.  The staircase is a stripper, a tart;  she makes an entrance, inviting you to walk up, at the same time.  No wonder the boys and girls in the basement felt so daring.

The poem reveals my obsession at that age, to stage Taunton as a tattered wilderness.   The identical passion, generation after generation, to dab and litter and introvert a patch of ground and claim our base, is the adolescent Labyrinth … the way we dream.   We love the romantic sense of neglect, and to be incoherently convivial on the edge of ending it all.  We despise the tidy streets and our childish homes.  We vandalize them from the adults, the adults we all too soon will have to be; and we are angry and still dreaming.

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Immortal

Indelibly inked
on bored school room desk
for posterity’s
girlie finger to carve,
boy in the street
could you ever have dreamed
how illustrious you are?

1966

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90: Boys in coffee-bar.  This place is The Merlin, further up the High Street, and here the dangerous and charismatic ones hung out – here I entered alone, after funking it a few times, and ordered a lemon squash:  I sat and tried to look cool with my stupid wide hair-band on, while I soaked up my next drawing. 

The naughtiest and prettiest girls at school – their artfully scuffed pumps, black textured stockings with a ladder or two, and big sloppy sweater over their school uniform with peeping petticoat – they made out well, here.   I drank up each song on the jukebox, and hoped I wouldn’t be ordered to leave.

I dreamed at night, since those years, about a web of alleys and bars, just here, around and behind Hatchers’ clothing store, where our mothers bought our school uniform;  a convivial and stable  backstreet landscape converged. The established shopping emporia were so close to that potential flutter, they almost knew it.  The changing residues of glamour in the air played tricks with the light … and with the women at the till, who wait for five-thirty, closing time.

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Unable to Die

In Pig Market Lane,
gutted out behind the shops
the tow-head tumbles
on stony ground,

croaks Yardbirds riff -
for your Love 
I would give, I would give 
the stars above

and does
to his white lipped
smack eye girl
God knows what,

and the empty eyes,
shelling from up-ground
say nothing
but stand,

brick on brick
soaked with human things and wild beings
now crumbling: yet
unable to die

as stones
on the ground.

1965

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91: A Yardbird.  This is a passionate place.  He might be at the back of the Merlin.

“But och! Jane, Jane, why, where do you find them, these – these raving, drug-sodden, FILTHY LUNATICS?” – my grandmother’s strong Scots accent with rolling Rs.

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VOICES …”FOR YOUR love, I’d give the moon if it were mine to give.
For your love, I’d give the stars and the sun ‘fore I live.

“For your love …”

The Yardbirds

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All Night Outside

For your love
I threw my bucking drummer ‘cross the stage,
my yellow hair right over my shades,
my backup band to The Who,
my thrushy throat to you
for your love.

For your love
I’m broke – for your love I move,
for your love, with flung out
stars around my arm
all night, I charm

this diamond bracelet, love
for your love …

2010

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92. Girls and Boys, coffee-bar.   In the Merlin again, back to back.  The Jesus type, to the right, is new on the scene.  There hadn’t been time for most of the lads to grow their hair that long.  One of the girls has acne scars, and she seems to be smoking a cigar.  The other wears a duffel.  They are all trying to look as if they couldn’t care less.  They are posing and immortalized.   They are on stage; there is an ocean of unconscious resonance between the guy with long eyelashes and heavy specs, and the girl with dark stockings and a cigar.  The partition is their untold story – the flowing grain of the wood, up-ended.

Have the guys been eating?  Or is that the sugar bowl, on the pitch-pine table?

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Archbishop Beckett:  The Keys of Christendom

- A poem written in 1964, when I was 15:  in 2004 when starting to put all this together, I revised it, with a lot of help from the poet Kevan Myers.  It was based on the relationship of Henry Plantagenet and Thomas a Beckett:

They put a mitre
on the head
who used to hide and seek
the prince who’s now become
lord of half of France,
ruler of this realm
and many more.

In his hands they place
the high and mighty
spire of space, still being
erected, stone on stone
by hands of mortal flesh.

Its end
being centuries beyond
their span of life,
they strive to raise this vault
to soar so far above, the very feet of Christ
could stand upon the beams
and ease the cruel burden
of his nailed hands.

On the flag-stoned floor one day,
among those sepulchres and tombs,
their sons and sons will sing
till bell rebounding shivers
to the starry roof above
where eyes of angels hang
like sequins on a glove,

while for the sacrifice
they robe each other
and swear on holy bones

and even then the blood is half aware
that it will soon refresh the stones.

1964, 2004

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93: Town.   There is much to say about towns.  This is not a successful drawing – no story pulled me, and I was running out of juice.  But it needed to be there, for the inner map.  East Reach is a long approach street towards Taunton town centre;  this part of it felt remote from my usual haunts. 

It is difficult to draw a town from memory – I’ve given each building an individual quirky character, which is not actually how they are.  There is however, a sense of distance, and of the turn in the road.  There is a mood that would be a fairy-tale if it could.  Note: not a single car, nor anyone about – though if you look closely, there seem to be human shadows in some of the doorways.  It is dream-like.  It has that unproductive feeling when all the cards seem to fall out flat, and there is no magic;  and yet it works, perhaps because it says just that.

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On Sending my Letter to France 

I saw a man on the darkening shore
fasten a message to the leg of a bird
he then let go to wing its way
over the sea and into night
beyond the cracked horizon
whose squinting light outlined
his darkness as he stood
before the waves.

The bird I saw no more
between sea and sky

but still I see
the lone man on the shore
walk through life’s veil
to the dark that has no end,
unseeing; for his unquenched eyes
are fixed ahead, where he
no longer is.

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In Kafkas’s empty corridor
I roamed restless
for the key,
unlocked, sent through
my offering.

My lobbying eyes flew
the abyss
to cross the bridge of light
spanning the Trial
and out of sight, the Castle.

The plaintiff has
no monument.

In my hope’s dark desert
a mirage shines
and from its dried up source sparkles
yet another;

and another of the dead
like the rainbow, ever ahead
where I no longer am.

1965

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94: Vagrant and Villa.  On themes of homelessness, isolation and self-criticism:  yet the vagrant is comparatively free.  He sleeps when and where he likes, under the tree of life, while that outraged villa looks on, from behind her hemming fence.  I must have caught sight of him from the bus going by.  This is somewhere between the almshouses and Creech Castle roundabout, just before the turn-off to Yeovil.

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Yet in Egg

Life is a miracle
of space
becoming I.

Nestling cowered in her lap,
baby beak’s blind eyes
crying food -

I devour
the crumbs
of the universe

my extinction
will dissolve.

1965

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95: Depression, moving on.   That sense of picking up sticks, and heading out for the open spaces and the unknown ride.  A generation of new minstrels were on the move – with their instruments.  These are flowers that bloom in bomb sites – they are disenchanted children of the Bomb; they were born in the postwar baby boom.  

 I loved wearing my PVC jacket, and how it creaked – boys and girls wore them; a friendly, rather beatnik fashion badge. Leather was a more aggressive statement:  hells angels and the Rockers. 

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On Receiving an Answer

He who has been passed through the blue flame
looks now gentle and aged:
his letter to me speaks across my dream
where the raw red jam dawn scars the sky 
over the Quantock Hills and North Petherton. 

Three times the runner appeared 
bathed in unquestioned sunlight. 

The moving sea
slaps gentle against the high, dim walls guarding
the keep within the spectre
of the Castle wherein we
hid our heads.

Then whom do we wait for, now?

1965

1965

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96: Hitch hikers.  I didn’t start to hitch lifts till a year or two later;  but one saw them aplenty on the roads.  It was the natural way for lean students to travel, and has been so for centuries.  These two are pausing by the road, on their way to Dover and the Continent.  The boy looking for something in his sack is well seen, and drawn.  The pair of them are a kind of centaur.  I was fond of friendships between men.

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(To view slides, click on any image)

RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 3 – ‘We’ll be Together’

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Link to Book One


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(To view as a Gallery, scroll down the post to the bottom)

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Chopin’s Breath 

This
– the salon lit
where a lamp stands by the
Pleyel’s
long, soft darkness
– is Chopin’s tuber rosy breath
on night’s tremblous curtain

which veils
the rotting barrows
of the street below
and fills

the room with flowers.

1965

97:  Sur le Continent.  The French dance floor has a different style from nos amis brittaniques – it is more communal and light hearted.  By now I had been on my first Paris visit, so we must be well into the early summer of 1966;  I was enchanted with French pop music.  I tuned the transistor at home to French stations.  I listened with a certain personal interest to la politique – the election in France that year.

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98: Beggar in Paris metro.   I was passionate about Paris, but didn’t manage to focus myself to draw Paris till the following year – things weighed on my mind, I read Franz Kafka, wrote a lot in my secret diary, and  did some token swotting for school A Levels in my spare time.  This sketch shows how some of the drawings might have looked when I began them.  I never finished this one, I think because no face or figure captured my confidence to draw it in detail as the “connection”.  But I rather like the incipient flow and movement of that crowd – its wide berth past the blind musician, who parts the waters like a rock. 

I was shocked to see the lepers in the streets.  It was a culture shock – like visiting India.  In fact I was scuppered with so many sensations, I couldn’t draw.  In Paris I stood in front of my beloved Impressionists in the Jeu de Paumes gallery, with a Pakistani abstract painter, who approached me.  He began to talk to me passionately about painting – in ways that sank into my subconscious and would subtly influence me, creatively and spiritually, in years to come.  He was ecstatic about a certain red colour in a Gauguin – it spoke to him.   My chaperone – a good American lady, whom the pianist Vera Moore had detailed to look after me and show me Paris – came up and plucked me irately from … his clutches – that man would make you pregnant.  He might even have killed you!”

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Forty five years later I recalled, and googled his name – Was he  real?  Yes.  He was Ismail Gulgee, an internationally known painter, calligrapher, sculptor and Sufi mystic.  Those  horses are an Islamic hieroglyph, or gesture of Allah.  In 2008, age 81, he was killed in Karachi by the Taliban.   How shockingly that word “kill” recochetted across four decades, and unconsciously converged with fate.

This is only one of a few curious things that happened in 1965, in the creative slipstream of the Taunton Black Drawings project;  I was quite deeply focused, and there were spontaneous meetings with advanced souls.  I’m finding a lot to write about, with this very uncertain and rather ghostly sketch.

But here is a very recent sketch of Gulgee – copied from the photos of him, online:

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I See You” by The Pretty Things

“As evening shadows chase the sun,
the night is here, my day is done. 
Through dark forests of my mind 
a light is shone, it’s you I find. 

“I see you … 

“On a dark and windswept street 
the faces I see of the people I meet, 
with their eyes they build a shrine 
that takes me back to the forests of my mind. 

“I see you … 

“Silent shadows creep on walls –  
catch the wind, it’s yours to catch. 
She’s going away. 
She’s gone away. 

“I see you …  

“As I look into the sea, 
the waves they break and part for me. 
As my mind slips into sand, 
the water returns with the warmth of your hand. 

“I see you …

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99: The Pretty Things.  Here they are, performing “We’ll Be Together”.  This band – for me – was so wild and raw, they made the Stones seem like debutantes.  They grew indeed from the same stem – and so did the Yardbirds.  Garaged rock’n roll – a lyrical, sensual scream of metal with dusky vocals and harmonica – home grown from skiffle roots:  this drawing catches their sound and feeds it back.  The lead singer, with the cavernous mouth, is Phil May.  The others are all wicked, strumming their phallic weapons.  I still have their 45rpm with Don’t Bring Me Down on one side and We’ll Be Together on the other:  it is raw.   I discovered, googling them, an intensely “adolescent” poetry in some of their lyrics.

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Bridgewater 

How empty the small town at night,
mine to run and sing in
street lamps glare
hard, dry metallic over
bare streets

above paving stones
frenzied leaping silhouette of horned
guitar
caught
in an upstairs
cellar window, gashes
with raw primitive screams
the warm dark

boy presses girl on
the windowpane
and nuzzles
her like a dog

the empty streets
fill up with empty packets
pubs close, spill hypnotic
men
of night
on the game
waiting.

1965

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100 :  Chips in Bridgewater.  This is still recognizably the main Taunton road into Bridgewater town centre, with the church spire ahead, the smell of frying chips, and youths on the loose.  There was a bus stop here.  The chip eater is myself, aware of the couple in the corner of my eye.

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101:  Family Life.  Here are my mother and her father, Jim Ede, doing their mending side by side on our austere Swedish-style sofa.  Jim is wearing his padded jacket, because we have no heating.  

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April 1965 (Easter Holidays):  DISCOVERING PARIS

There is no twilight on the edges.  The tide washes up against the slopes of wooded ridges which surround this shore, and splashes concrete spray.  Behind a rise, the Eiffel Tower floats like a feather into the sky, and Montmartre and Sacre Coeur are a shining jewel in the haze.

… the city is never still. The backwash sinks to the pavements and the Metro passages; and the money chinks as passers by throw it into the saucer.  At any Metro station, on any night, you see people lying on the benches trying to sleep.  Some are blind and some are drunk, and shouting throatily.  In the streets above, I met a blind woman with her leg in plaster, cranking a barrel organ.  I saw in the tourists’ boulevard, two blind lepers, their extremities shriveled to shapeless stumps, I couldn’t bear it and my heart broke.  One of them plays a harmonica.  Three more beggars, two men and a woman, play accordian, drum and banjo on a street corner by the Trinity.

They are outcast from the fashionable waves pouring over them.  Someone comes to meet them if they are blind, and takes them to where they sleep.  Even at the lowest ebb, so long as one survives, there is somewhere to eat, to exist and sleep.  There is a life, which shrinks and swells in those regions, unfathomed by those borne along like a cork by the upper surge.

The elegance is an ant-hill.  The web of the metro whose lines criss-cross over and under each other through the city foundations, sometimes emerges, as a “ligne” breaks from yawning cavern, and curves in an arc over a Montmartre street or the Seine.  I hunger for that warm, ripe, festering smell underground, mixed with urine and gauloises.  The restlessness moves through miles of subterranean corridors.  Soaked in glaring light, and in that caressing heat, night and day, here underneath she constantly awakes, although above the eyes may close.   I love Toulouse Lautrec.

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102: Here is my grandmother, Helen Ede (Mam) on the same sofa, knitting socks for Jim whom she called “Bonesie”.  She laughed indignantly at these stern and monumental versions of herself.  My drawings of her capture her strength of character, but not her vulnerability and slightly sour, gentle humour.  Every morning in bed before getting up, she read Hamlet’s soliloquys;  she was also a competent pianist:  she tut-tutted over Beethoven’s sonatas and Bach’s chorales.  Men – especially eminent concert pianists – adored her, and so did my mother.  Mam was my rock – the wise woman of my life – a January child, like myself.  She wore her touch of scented rouge sparingly, just at the edge of perception;  it curved the loving antennae towards her. 

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Words

Words: curt symbol
to brand and arrest
the bud before
its shadow.

What is a name?
A shade – the voice transmits.
On a barren planet, neither
name nor voice finds haven.

I bridge, I leaven
stray elements
from chaos to earth
for a poem to heaven.

1965

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103: Taunton High Street.  The little man nuzzles this big girl – “c’mon baby, c’mon, give me.”  She is hot for it, but anxious and looking to one side, as so many women seemed to, in mid snog, to see who was watching.  I remember these two.  Where are her hands?  Her feet are firmly planted;  she behaves like a captured specimen; she lets him have his way.  

 The man in the illumined short coat passing the lamp post, is “a Spiritual Messenger” from Franz Kafka’s The Castle.   He passes through bands of light and shadow.  He comes to summon the plaintiff, or to requisition a woman for the ruling powers in the Castle above the town.   This makes the big girl look more apprehensive;  her issues are divided.  She was taught to be passive.  The other two guys, back to back, are oblivious in a studied kind of way.  There is a drama going on, which cannot communicate or expiate itself.   I felt very depressed and unhappy when I did this drawing – my mind stuck in many knots.  But the Messenger, who came three times, bathed in an unquestioned sunlight, and cutting through the dross, brought me some hope.   A way of getting free, perhaps …

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104: We gotta getoutof.   Eric Burden of The Animals – I think this was their first great hit – “Girl, we gotta get out of this place, If it’s the last thing we ever do.”  They are trying to move out of mean Geordie streets, even as I tried to move out of my dark rooms and habit patterns.  This drawing is similar to (8), the couple in the night.  He has made a decision, to which she assents with passionate commitment to progress.   My Kabbalah Elder (who has pushed me to publish this project for years) asked me, “But what an ugly mug.  Whatever does she see in him?”  No, I told him, this is not the boy next door –  not a petty criminal either, but someone with a willingness “to get out of this place” that is older than time.  His eyes are weary like a lizard, but soft and steady

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Early Version of “Night Town Crier” 

I could walk all of the night in
the town, before dawn dispels the dark.

The shadow over lit streets
flees before the spring; yellow lamps lit to hour

gleam faint in the grey.  Summer’s
cycle swings back, like a pendulum

echoes into infinity, day’s awakening pass
through dark to dawn.

1965

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105: Students.  And these two are friends, with no scene around them:  they are just talking.  Desert boots are good things to draw.  I saw my father and my mother’s father wear them first;  then they caught on, and everyone wore desert boots, who were young and growing their hair. 

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Coming to the End

Fingers curl over nail head
knees still sag. Has not this
graven image
suffered long enough?

Who barbed these wires
that bind eternally
your risen beauty
to this tortured corpse?

Here at our lands’ end
where granite is for ever carved
by unforgiving
fingernails of sea;

I see a rock where two white gulls
mate silently until
with beating wings
they rise triumphant in the sky.

Alt: 

And on the rock, two white
gulls mate silently
with beating wings.

They cast their body into a stream
to flow the river to the sea
a lotus flower afloat
without end.

1966

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 106: Jim, with his half-moons and his padded jacket

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Schubert’s Unfinished

From its welling source
in the worn hills
the stream carves its scrub feathered
gully unceasingly away.

A composer aged not thirty two
came into view
toiling and puffing
along the path.

Shedding his top hat and specs,
he sank by the splashing
waters on filmy rocks,

drank up from sunlit
music his symphony
not finished yet

whose perfect cadence
quenched his soul:

but the song
of the river is tuneless, having no end.
It carves the composer’s
body away.

1966

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107: Planning the Holidays.  Here are my mother and my sister Quince, with brochures for the Channel Islands.  Because of her hip trouble, Quince had been for many months in a plaster cast, or in traction at the hospital.  When all this was over, she zoomed around on crutches.  My mother took her for a holiday in Guernsey.

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(To view slides, click on any image)

RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 4 – Journeys to London: the Concrete and the Clay

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Link to Book One

This little sketch of Paul Scofield is a curiosity.  I watched and admired him in a play:  the morning after, I couldn’t recall his face, but I learnt by heart and could reconstruct in my mind’s eye, the lines and curve of his mouth.  The subconscious did the rest.

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108: I go to London!   A trip, maybe in transit to Cambridge;  a new world to explore.  This street is a little to the north of Covent Garden.   A host of new impressions and exotic lands – vistas of demolition and new building  – Chinese laundries – scaffolding – the cosmopolitan atmosphere  – every street invited me to probe its secret.  My rural upbringing prized an inverted snobbery against life in large cities – “The Big Smoke” particularly;  all the more reason to reverse the charge, and make London my new hunting ground.   Here I am, as a black person to follow; perhaps I came here off the “Windrush”.

This poem  was written the previous year.  It kept me awake at night – man’s inhumanity to man hit me, like a memory …:

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Empathic Soul (Photo in a colour supplement)

I saw it in the paper!
else how could I know they still -
they still chain up
the men in rows, foot to pale sole
in fetters gleaming?

The poor Africans crouch
head after dusky head,
whites
on the move, their eyes speak
volumes: why, ask -

do you still
manacle like rats
clanking on board ship the years,
your black burning orbs

of life? -

my humanity’s
human-ness itself
dilates,
smouldering

your agony,
agony
that made those irons.

1965

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sketch for Argyll Street (see below) and Miss Kent the French teacher at school

 

“Concrete and Clay” by Unit Four Plus Two (1965) 

“You to me 
are sweet as roses in the morning 
and you to me 
are soft as summer rain at dawn, in love we share 
that something rare. 

“The sidewalks in the street, 
the concrete and the clay beneath my feet 
begins to crumble 
but love will never die 
because we’ll see the mountains crumble 
before we say goodbye – 

“My love and I will be 
in love eternally, 
that’s the way 
Mmm, that’s the way it’s meant to be.”

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109: Argyll Street Exit, under Oxford Circus.  Heavy rain, umbrellas, harassed office personnel, dignified Sikhs, a dripping PVC mac and a very private lament of old King Lear on the steps.  Citadels pass through each other, and barely glance over the walls.

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110 Berwick Street, Soho.  To a schoolgirl, striptease was veiled in mystery.  Nothing was shown in the window: X was the riskiest word allowed, and you saw it everywhere.  This is Raymond’s Revue Bar in the alley between Brewer and Berwick Streets;  from the doorway of the record shop opposite.  The bouncer stands at exact centre, and may have been the fulcrum around which the drawing grew.  Soho in the 1960s is a multi-layered community, a polyglot of sleaze, film studios, bohemia, small family shops, protection rackets and Cockney street traders crying out for gulls.  Those two older people in cap and headscarf look like fisher folk, pushing their shopping.  Things don’t change very much.

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January School Dance – First Kiss 

I’d like to forget you
who came and went
and came
and stayed
in a frieze of fiery faces – “Hell”
was the devil theme
we sloshed on the walls that day.

All night long
I tried to paint
out the flames
of your tongue
in my mouth
torching my belly.

Oblivion never
came.
Trying not to bind
your mouth with mine
remains a fixed
obsession
in the rush of time.

Wanting the brand new shock
again
and over again, soups my thighs
in fantasy
till it clots, and on our date
there is no more left, it
rots
and dies!

Dawn
woke up the edge of
my dewy town;
but clouds that are hungry
invade
to drench his rays.

I’d like to smash
the clock’s face
whose every tick is named.
I’d like every jagged minute
to be anonymous,
not transfixed
to a dying dial.

I want
to live
on the edge
where naked innermost
begins.

1966

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111:  London Rain.  The building in the background is Centre Point, then still under construction.  It was a relief to have grown out of Taunton.  The London adventure offered some distraction from the ravages of sexual awakening.   My special torment was in being powerless to stop the erotic replay over and over in my mind, until the earthquake – yes it was! – was all used up, turning to ash.  Being heavily under the influence of J.Krishnamurti, via my father, I struggled to live in the Now – knowing that to “want and imagine him” ISN’T love; it traps him into what he isn’t  – but I was overwhelmed.   Adult life begins with the grand slam of Eros.  When we next met, I clammed up.  I couldn’t make small talk, and the weather was freezing and we walked around the cricket ground.   He didn’t ask me out again.

In our rioting youth today, as then, the self-destructive rage and eros are entwined.

The pain of that taste of love, and looking out for him in the town went on and on.  I loved the feeling, but couldn’t bear being so obsessed.  The poem was written one afternoon in Taunton public library. 

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112:  Escalator.  Quickly I sought out the most densely crowded places, to inspire new drawings.  I liked nothing better than to swim and hide myself in the  cosmopolitan rush hour.  Certain types and characters emerge, whom I stored in my memory and drew repeatedly.  The young blonde woman top centre, with her hair up, looks like myself, wide eyed with wonder.

 Vidal Sassoon styles looked well with PVC.  A story condenses around the Arabian-Nights woman on the “up” escalator, and the knowing eyes of her small son.  He is an artist, but his upwardly affluent family do not perceive his gift:  so he will use his watchfulness to become a clever crook or banker.

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From my Journal:  The Innocent from the Country

“My Piccadilly picture is going well – I had a tremendous do on it all Sunday, and felt very elated.  The gaberdene chap monopolises the middle, and there is a fabulous African bloke on the right.  The whole thing has a certain breadth and sky light.  It is the hub of all London, a revolving stream of people beneath the street, a ceaselessly turning kaleidoscope. I was too lazy or selfconscious to get out my sketch book, so I took mental notes as the minutes went by.

“It is night.  The gaberdene chap stops again a short way off, and looks at me.  He could be middle east or north Indian, he is scruffily wrapped up warm, stubble chin, piercing brown eyes with no centre.  He has no destination.  He passes on, and so does the faint throbbing in my cheeks.

“He kept going round the wheel and stopping beside me.  We looked at the map of the Northern Line.  He pointed out “Elephant and Castle.”  He’s never heard of Somerset, where I live.   My aunt Joan is late;  it is twenty to eleven. ‘You have friends, I mean friends among men?’ he asked.  ‘Mm, one or two,’ I lied.  ‘Oh.’

“I keep an eye on people scuffling and tapping out from reverberating channel passages around the hub. ‘One needs to have friends,’ the gaberdene man says.  “I have no girl friend.  I am lonely.  At my age, you know …’

“He is any age.  It is only Northerners who look old before they are forty.  I want desperately to help him and be friendly.  I don’t know what to do. We look at each other intently, his gaze is piercing and brown.  Then I spot Joan, over his shoulder, at one of the exists.  ‘That’s my aunt over there, I’m staying with her, she’s just come.  Goodbye!’  I go.  I look back, but he’s hidden by strings of people.

“I feel terrible.  I was a coward.  I took refuge in ambiguity.  I find myself rather horrible to live with, and I don’t know what to do about it.  I can’t go on drawing London forever – I can’t even kid myself it’s an escape from reality.  If only I could talk to someone.”

Spring 1966

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113:  Under Piccadilly Circus.  My aunt Joan used to say, this place is the centre of the world.  If you came here and waited long enough, you would meet every person you ever knew in your life.

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Umbrellas

The Centre Point
is all the rage – a race
to the highest slab of real estate
in the grave yard.

Nobody came to live or die
in Centre Point
but squatters and inflation.
That slab of real estate

towers too tall atop
the pelted umbrella’s
intimate bastion
of inner estate.

Rain is falling; high
rises in the economy
go off the graph -
there’s no one there.

The stressed centres of my mind
cannot accomodate the multitude
and yet if your eyes
mirror mine,

we are
transparent towers innumerably
jewelled and unique
within the One.

2010 – A reference to the Avatamsaka Sutra

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114: Tottenham Court Road  (Journal, spring 1966) – “I’m on a new picture – a pavement in London with a very sexy PVC girl, left foreground.  It is beginning to take shape.  It is very funny the way I ‘absorb’ pictures on the spot, then diligently regurgitate them weeks later – rather like swallowing a pill, only the other way round.”

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Alchemical Love Song

My body
has deltas, veins, blood-red
poppies

and
channels of silken sand
pour through the hour glass’s
centre point;

and the white salty tide
flows in and out,
and I
am the fisher of my self.

My bridge over
troubled water 

navigates by stars at night
the wine-dark sea

to yours;
our
graded grains together make 
finer flour.

The yeast expands the grain -
ferment swells the grape -
this gentle year
turning the hour glass

over, is an
ever lasting crop
to circle around
the point
.

2010

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115:  Tube.  You can see me again, over to the left in a very short skirt, taking in every detail.  There is a big variety of relationships, in this drawing.  The composition is a multi-dimensional thought-form.  All of its activity is present – hands and feet are by now lovingly portrayed also.  There is at least one direct and rather insolent eye contact.  This felt like an “epic work” while I was doing it.  A river of humanity pours through the drawing from every direction, each detail carefully realized, each corner probed.  It carries my feeling about the Underground, as a living entity beneath the streets, in constant movement – the encounter of all those different races and destinies, like nerve centres, clustered coloured wires of current through the cables. 

Today, I showed this drawing to my 97-year-old Jewish friend Elisabeth, an art therapist.  She immediately said “Prostitution and Christ on the Cross” – running her finger down the strap-hanging man in the light-coloured mac, to the left. 

An R&B friend told me, a few days ago, “We never played in central London in those days.  Central London was a brothel.”

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Waveband 

That bright thread
whereby
Mother Isis sews our tapestry,

flows in the Brahmaputra,
Amazon, Nile, Danube and
the River Thames.

2010

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116:  Circle Line.  The pale man, extreme left, above and behind the Indian woman with a shopping bag, is a family friend, Patrick Symons – a painter, cellist and expert on mushrooms.  He lived in an old schoolhouse in Dorset called “Rime Intrinsica”, and painted detailed studies of the trees around him, leaf by niggle.  He faced his challenges with changing seasons and pruning farmers, with a sensitive but stoic heart.  He was much loved.  Suddenly, when he had not completed his life’s work, he stepped out eagerly into the street, on a visit to one of his shows in Paris, and got knocked down by a bus.  He was “taken out” suddenly.  “Why was he so careless?”

 The little man with a cloth cap behind the nun, is another family friend, Dr Chris Cameron – but looks at least thirty years older and more deadbeat than young Chris, who was still a mischievous medical student.  

I had great difficulty with this drawing, which began with the Indian women:  they were so intensely complete in themselves, it was hard to develop any further themes around them – they absorbed all the energy.  Inserting the family friends helped to bring the crowd to life;  my mother said “Why don’t you put Patrick in?”  Until then, there were severe problems of space and perspective, and much rubbing out – how to arrange a group of living people, so that they occupy the page in spontaneous relationship – too easily it becomes a Gordian knot with multiple heads and hands growing out of it. 

This spill of souls on a Circle Line platform had to be attentively landscaped.  It is a kind of sculpture.  The way through, is to believe in each person and his and her story, as I draw them.  The way through is “conscious”.  The girl in PVC coat and hat gives this group a strong, projecting foreground.

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The World

A core of fiery
viscera
floats this crust

to suffer and swarm
through a ballet of
continental drift

whose cool, mineral sea
washes clean around the globe
without end or beginning, your birth;

and every dancer
on the ball
is poised.

1967

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117: Rush Hour.  “Swimming” in mid current.  You can see how much I enjoyed by now, skin textures, ears, tendons, stubble and gestures.  The man seeing through the glasses darkly to the right, is Ray Charles.

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Aphorism

Although I am blind
to your actual perfection,
I can’t 
stop loving you …

for the blind must lead by hand
the blind
to the promised land.

2010

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118:  Corridor Train.  If I did not find my fellow passengers in the compartment sufficiently exciting to look at, I would try my luck in the corridor.  I was rewarded, by this exotic traveler, with his cardboard suitcase.  He settled very adequately in my mind’s eye until I had the time to draw him.

I wonder who he is!  and what he may be doing now, after all these years.  I thought he might be Greek or Italian, but he looks Egyptian.  This is an interesting way to “pick up” and get to know men.  He has a kind of glamour.  But now I imagine myself between his hunched shoulders and realize he feels vulnerable, and holds his secret self behind his shades.  He has a double blind – he looks through them darkly into the window, into the sound of the night rushing by.  That means he dreams. 

I am being led along the corridor towards adult life.   The woman with the baby in the compartment lives in a different frame of space and time, alongside my journey.  In those older trains, people could stick their feet out into the corridor, as you can see, just beyond the suitcase.

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Ideas and jottings for drawings and poetry

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A Set School Essay

Compare & contrast
hap-
pi-
ness

with a dream of death
in my parents’ warm house,
cat by the fire, diverting me
from the night’s cool paths.

So
do you live, my love
in a dream so curled
on the mat of time?

The fruit I give you should
be bitten first,
through the woody world
to taste.

1968

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119: Jim, reading.  Here is my grandfather with the New York Review:  very characteristic of his hands.   Jim Ede had correspondents all over the world.  He made friends with anyone illustrious who interested him, by introducing himself, or admiring their garden.   He effortlessly collected great names among his acquaintance.  They were like treasured objects from the sea, from thrift shop, sculptor, prince or poet, for Kettles Yard.   He was a natural story teller, with an unconventional imagination.

 From this point the drawing sequences thin out, as I got more involved in relationships.  This sketch of Jim heralds some “background pages” from my journal (Chapter Six) and a few more studies of my family (See the chapter on Teenage Diary – Lower Sixth in the Sixties) … as the emphasis – inevitably! – began to shift.

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Dreaming   (I)

I built an image
from chaos un-create:
the way my dark prince
snaps in camera “the kill”.

As pigeon scraps
from wheels,
as girl combs her
plastic zebra stripes,

migrant glistening rains
merge human swarms – a concrete cleft
through roar of road and metal
downpour, stone and glass;

and scaffold pins
fur those toothy tangles’
jangling
thrust from earth

and under Piccadilly
brown eyes blur -
the river flooding down the stairs
to thunder under the road.

Broken adrift they
tramp un-destined and un-done
on the wall of Hadrian I built
around my heart.

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Dreaming  (2)

Your sweet name
with longing fired, did drown
in a sea of selves desired:

“Who cares 
if we live or die? Won’t you 
come with me to the honey’d vine where

knotted and bunched at night 
the lost all-nighters live and rave to
put out the light?” 

But I dreamed.
When I woke they were gone.
The grapes were gone;

so on my wall
washed hard and bare
by electric light,

I put this
empty frame to hold your name
in my arms, by night.

1966

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(To view Gallery, click on any image)

 

RECKLESS FRUIT, PART TWO: Chapter 5 – School Roughbook Drawings & Doodles – Lower Sixth in the Sixties

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Link to Book One

During purgatorial lesson periods for GCE A levels, I carved initials on the wooden desk, and scribbled compulsively on the school stationary.  Sometimes the English lessons in particular – depending on the teacher – were stimulating.  The intensity of my sketches increased, in response.

Sometimes I drew the teachers  – especially Miss Kent who taught French – but more often I daydreamed with fashions, laddered stockings and lads.

Here are some more of them.  Some of my roughbook pages have a little horse and rider jumping a brush fence in the margin – a single frame in a “thumb-flick” movie show.  This pastime whiled away academic hours.

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 Rock stars

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 Manfred

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 Lads

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 Hair

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 Lower Sixth

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 Mick!

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 Op art girl

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 Couple cuddling 

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 pop skiffle group & Milton

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 Courreges fashion

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 Courreges Sassoon doodle

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More clothes & Sassoon hair

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  Two girls

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 Styles for the Weather

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Op art fashion

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 The French teacher reads from Camus on – “L’absurdite de la vie”

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  Athlete and Muses

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 Cafe tables continental

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 Cafe Society

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Dude with his feet up

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 Hirsute guitarist

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 Smart dancers

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Two character studies

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Two wild girls partying

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Pencil study, art student

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Coat, bag, shoes

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Difficult couple, and a note on Lawrence

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Girl and Beggars

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Rock star and the French teacher

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DHLawrence note, & English teacher

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Boy

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(To view slide show, click on any image)

RECKLESS FRUIT BOOK TWO, Chapter 6 – Sixteen in the Lower Sixth

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Link to Book One

(To view Gallery, scroll down  to the bottom of this post)..

This chapter – extracts from my diaries while in school 6th form – contains a bit of  background material to the recent London series of drawings.  I find it valuable to return occasionally to what I wrote then.  I am glad I kept it all safe.  

The paradox is that we sixteen-year-olds suffer together, the same sense of isolation – whether forty, fifteen or a hundred years ago – as today, whether or not our families are conventional.    So who could say we are lonely?

Scratch any culture deep enough, this shared experience emerges.   Nowadays it is more intense, through social dysfunction.

We all were and are sixteen.  It is our common ground.  Why are we embarassed about how we dramatized ourselves, and what we felt or wrote?

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school roughbooks 1:  “Satchels”

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My journal, Spring 1966

We clattered downstairs to the warmth of the coffee bar.  It is subterranean, small and narrow, with potted plants, soft lights, alcoves and a maroon wallpaper of Paris landmarks.  Through the curtained door you see the steps going up to the alley, past the auctioneers’ rooms.

La Ronde was empty when we settled ourselves with coffee, squash and biscuits, except for a few old ladies  – remnants of the afternoon’s custom underneath the glorious day.  Two 6B girls came in with a Honey magazine, and then some Tech boys. Carol and Pat and I made small talk; gradually the place filled up with Taunton School chaps.  Heather Boyce came in barefoot – the Tech boys teased, and she said she’d dropped her shoes in a bin.

Pat had to go at half past – her mum makes a fuss if she catches the later train, so Carol and I waited for Jo who was a long time.  We talked about Sussex university mostly, and I came more or less to the end of my lemon squash – I shall have orange next time.  Quarter to five, and still no Jo.  Davina, another 6B girl, came in once or twice, but there were no seats left.  Nervous.

The darkhaired chap I see about town sometimes, came in, squeezed next to the 6B girls, and shared their Honey.  At about five to five, in came Harold.   “Where’s your better half?”  “Busy busy.  But I wrote to her last night …”  He sat down offhandedly with them.  I hoped he couldn’t see me in my corner.  After the concert last week, he came backstage, he was so nice and funny – he prides himself on being a Bad Boy at Queens’ – but on Monday I passed him in the street and he just looked right through me.  Carol and I decided to give Jo another five or ten minutes, then we’d go.  My bus was at ten past anyway.

I was quite keyed up by now.  Perhaps Charlie would come!  I longed for this, and felt terrified.  We listened to clatters on the stairs and footsteps through the passage above our heads.  The bar was full of cigarette smoke, it began to glow;  voices carried no resonance.  Lots more people came in, and suddenly there was Jo’s round face, brown cow eyes and streaked hair peering round for us – we waved, and she squeezed in – she’d missed the bus here – she’s popular.   I moved up opposite Harold.  He looked up and smiled at me: “Hallo!” – that broke the ice.  Jo asked Pru and the other 6B girl to pass over their Honey.  We looked at it, and talked about the Coffee Princess winner at school who’s in it, modeling clothes in Kenya during the Easter holidays.

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Michael came in with another chap.  I decided to catch the twenty to six bus instead.   The 6B girls went.  “Move up, change partners,” said Harold, and we were all together.  “You come down here often?  We absolutely HAUNT this place.”  I wondered what Jo was thinking – she’s got a crush on him, and he was talking to me.  I was terribly nervous, but didn’t make any hopeless bungles.  Harold has level, cold grey eyes.  His face is slightly brutal, with a charming smile.  He plays clarinet.  He began to boast as usual of the depravity at school, and his famous story of the Head carpeting him for three hours – a record.  He said Queens College is an absolute dump, and moaned about how dead Taunton is.  He comes from London.

Glimpsed Michael now and then, looking fresh faced, sporty, spick and span.  He was at another table with a chap talking to Davina (who had at last found a place).

The dark haired fellow with Harold seemed nice, much quieter than Harold.  I see him around Taunton.  We began to talk about music, and Jo kept chipping in and saying how she saw nothing in it at all.

Davina went off;  we were by now monopolizing the conversation, so Michael and his chum joined us.  Michael said “Hallo” and smiled very sweetly whenever he caught my eye.  We got together at the Queens dance, but I was pining after Charlie.  London was the topic now – and Soho – and dance and party facilities around poor old Taunton.  The chaps started to move.  Michael stood up and said “You coming?”, so we gathered up our gear and climbed out.  Up the stairs, and we waited for the boys in the passage – Michael pretends to people that he’s gone apart to kiss me, I don’t mind – and then went our ways;  Carol and I towards Parade and Jo with the boys towards Trull.

I felt pretty radiant at the bus station, and chafed at the solid five-thirty traffic jam in which the 201 bus was stuck.  I’d found a “hole”.

**

To Lose Myself …

(DIARY, Spring 1966) I’m going to Cambridge over half term.  I’ll stop off at London, both ways.  If I meet any blokes, I’ll try to be truthful.

I’m mad about the Troggs record “Wild Thing”.  It is so raw, so sexy.  There’s some good strong beat stuff coming back after the frilly “folk” IN thing.  Wild thing – you move me … and the drums are relentless … oh, it’s exciting, like primitive stuff.

Charlotte Ashton, Private Brown and Lady Bucket came to play quintets with Mummy and Daddy tonight.  Private, very much a woman of the world, made ribald remarks about purple hearts and Tone Vale mental hospital.  Dear Lady B didn’t quite cotton on, but said sweetly “Yes …  yes dear.  Yes, how nice.  Now, where was I?  O yes, poor Tim  – well alas, he died … “ and I’m afraid we laughed.

I was drawing them all in the back of my drawing book;  much mirth all round at the results.  Charlotte zoomed through all my Black drawings, and when she got to the bottom-of-beat one of people kissing on the wall, she said “You cheeky so-and-so!  Wherever did you see them?”  She’s the first person to react in that way.  Everyone else talks eruditely about Naked Souls Laid Bare, and that sort of thing.

*          *

120:           Lady Bucket and Mary.  My parents had many local friends, with whom they played chamber music.  Lady Bucket was a gentle, fluffy person in her seventies – a viola player.   My mother is wearing her stripy cotton skirt.

121:           Peter Adams and Jo Brown.  Another dedicated violist:  she was known as Private Brown, because of her sharp voice and military behaviour.  You can see, from the erasures, that I often began a drawing from the feet – especially so, with musicians:  their contact with the ground.

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Sometimes one bounds along like a cork in the swirl of the tide, sometimes one catches in side-shallows, drifting tortuously round one slow whirl pool.  I just wasn’t keen today.  I hate A Levels.  I spent ages trailing round a wet town in a daze, looking for a present for Anne-Marie – who’s sent me some marvelous French EPs – the town was disordered, everyone in summer clothes braved the unexpected persistent rain.  Yet looking back, this motley coloured stream of people is very beautiful, drifting through the grey streets all day.  And if I open my eyes, each person is new.

I saw Aos and Michael – a glimpse from the bus of yellow and black scarves, Aos’s black face, the glass doors and interior red plush of Morello’s – they were just coming out onto the crowded pavement.  I was reminded of London.  There’s a lot of discreet demolition and re-building going on, behind wooden boards and Business as Usual.

After homework – ploughing through Lear, Paradise Lost and Passage to India (I like the way he draws Aziz from that adorable Maharajah of Dewar in The Hill of Devi)  – I finished Piccadilly.  In between finishing touches, I started to trace “I love Charlie” on my finger tip, but suddenly decided I won’t have Charlie’s face interfering with my Piccadilly rush hour crowds.  Sometimes this last week or two, I’ve started to be very much in love with him – goodness knows why, I haven’t seen him or anything.  It is like waking from a numb sleep.  I was always too busy before, feeling miserable because I minded him chucking me, to be happy about him for what he is.  Perhaps the delicious piquancy is in forgetting and waking.  It seems ages ago, we kissed at that dance;  and between then and now, a sort of tortuous abstraction.  One becomes resigned to the fact that forgetting and beginning afresh is sometimes impossible.  One DOES get intense over a chap.  The excitement of sex overshadows anything else that happens.  To accept myself as I am, NOT to TRY, and to just get on with it …  is that the inner peace,  is it happiness?

school roughbook 126:  “Cool”

*          *

I met Fish and another girl;  we went up to the Merlin and squeezed in between a row of Mod blokes and Deb and her boyfriend in the corner.  He’s nice, with freckles and a beard.  The coffee-bar sits at the far end of the High Street.  It peers out through gloomy windows to the other pavement, beneath sun-baked scarred walls.  There seems to be more Business as Usual going on over there, too.  The Merlin scrutinizes you, unsmiling.  I’m never at my ease in there, but it’s a fascinating hole, narrow, dimly lit and grey, with prints and wooden seats along the smoky walls.  The juke box booms in the ceiling; the ice cube in the small lemon never properly melts, the smell of Espresso wafts in and out of the murmuring talk, and one of the Merlin peoples’ little girl in a smock endears herself round the corners of chairs.  It’s not a lively place.  It broods with cold, cheeky passion.  Someone played the Stones’ new record on the juke box.  Wild, wild, what a RAVE!   Talk fell away.  Knees and elbows drove to the relentless thrashing black rhythm;  eyes glazed.

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The Call of God

Pat, Jo and I are going down La Ronde again tomorrow we hope.  I simply must NOT let my blessed imagination run away with itself, pre-constructing events.

(a)         Nobody we know will come down.

(b)        If they do, I shall make an absolute fool of myself.  So there!

I’m on a new picture – a pavement in London with a very sexy PVC girl, left foreground.  It is beginning to take shape.  It is very funny the way I “absorb” pictures on the spot, then diligently regurgitate them weeks later – rather like swallowing a pill, only the other way round.

*          *

The La Ronde project fell through …

This evening Lady Bucket and Private Brown came again, to play quartets.  They are such a funny combination – Lady B with her old-lady pure voice and grandmotherly innocence, and Private very wicked and worldly.  I sat and immortalized them all sawing away, and wondered between laughing at them and the drawings, whether I’m interested in the technique or in the person.  If the technique, ease in execution would soon become a boring pastime.  If the person, the easier – (with technique) – one can capture them, the better.

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I long to TALK to someone – preferably Mummy – it doesn’t matter about what.  I got into Mummy’s bath this evening, and we rattled about French and Miss Kent, but Mummy had to go to bed because she’s getting up early tomorrow morning.  If I could feel I had someone in my confidence, I wouldn’t be so easily self conscious and awkward elsewhere.  I’m on the fence the whole time.  It’s fun if you’re on the fence religiously – wavering pleasantly between belief and non-belief – but not so much when you’re plucked off whenever you begin to feel secure there.

London and Cambridge next week …  how near and how far!  Crisis – only four more blank sides left in my drawing-book, and a few drops of fixative left in the bottle.  If I could talk to someone, my world would no longer be mine … To lose oneself among a pavement of different coloured people beneath their towering city-dimmed antique edifices – it is a form of making love.

*          *

It occurred to me when we were on the Quantock hills – lovely blowy walk through the birch woods, though I was thinking too much, as usual – that man’s sudden mastery over his environment scientifically, was like the sudden production of antibodies from a living organism: a sort of mutation.  The artificial serums with which he kills bacteria and destroys disease, are the discovery of natural anti-toxins till then unexploited.  Everything on this earth is rooted to the core of life.  However outwardly synthetic, you cannot get away from primal Earth-material.  I don’t know how I got onto this.  I suppose I was thinking about adders and snake bites.

Coming back with Mummy to fetch the car, I had quite a twinge.  The Aisolt evensong church bell rang softly and compelling over the little wooded valley.  I was irresistibly drawn to this Christian faith upheld by a vast body of humanity, all of it spun from the Earth.   Exquisite bell notes are spun from the Earth.  Here, I could belong, could worship with millions of others – it doesn’t matter what.  Perhaps the earth, the hills, the sky, the sun, are meaningless without artistic religion to exalt them.

And yet how terrible to have to depend on God, on faith, to make things beautiful – to depend on an unseen stimulant to inspire joy.  Better to exalt in them as true, true to themselves, without the human meaning.  What a defeat somehow, to slide into accepting them as the expression of Divine Power Above, and into loving things only as its products – like chained slaves.

But I was drawn to religion as to a beautiful art.  When we came back, we passed the parson scorching down the lane because he’s late, with his dog collar on and his choir in the back seat.  I almost thought “Lucky him.”  “One day, quite suddenly, Jane felt the call of God …” What a nice sentimental-soppy novel that would make.

*          *

The Dean

One night before sleeping, at Kettles Yard, I drew the rooves of Cambridge under the night, by streetlamp light, an intense accumulation seen from the attic window, of tiles, gabled windows and old brick chimneys, around the huge “Visitation” of John’s College chapel.  The great square tower, floodlit in the black sky, sits on the rooves but doesn’t crush them.  It rises out of vivid pockets of yellow light and deepest shadow.

Jim and Mam’s old Trinity professor friend came to dinner.  He is quite a dear, a Dean, to whom the mentality of his undergraduates is a closed book. They talked about relaxing the rules in college.  The Professor couldn’t imagine why students wanted to stay out till two in the morning – there are no dances or clubs at that hour.  Jim ventured that perhaps they wanted to talk about God … “Oh no!” scoffed the Professor, “what nonsense!”

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Train Interiors

London was windy, spacious and bewildering, and myself rather tired.  Got in a train compartment with a fearsome old dame and her hen pecked husband, and a couple of sleeping army officers with enormous boots.  I didn’t find any of them inspiring, so I spent most of the time in the corridor.  There was an exciting bloke standing with his suitcase further up, probably Greek or Italian, whom I must draw some time.  The compartments were filled with families and schoolgirls in ghastly uniform going home for Whit.

I walked round the Liverpool Street area and City quite a bit – tremendous and rather overwhelming.  Vast vistas of demolition and stark rebuilding on the rubble and dust – the streets faintly black with people – it was very spacious, I couldn’t condense it into distinct, drawable impressions like I could last time, around Soho and Piccadilly.  It is all too big and long-drawn-out.  Then I revived myself with a Horlicks in a busy coffee house, watched the swarms on Liverpool Street, then boarded the train for Cambridge which was packed tight with interesting types.  I made friends with a nice young negro and his beautiful wife through a misunderstanding over seats.  I thought of the drama one could spin, drawing the unspoken relationships in a railway carriage – handful of people flung together.  An Indian not far from me, who hadn’t perhaps been in this country for long, the way he was looking around him … this country with its pinks and greys and fogs must look SO DIFFERENT from his own, from where he grew up.

*          *

I’ve been slogging away at an EPIC WORK these last two afternoons – a crowded Tube train interior, very underground.  I like it, and so does Mummy.  She asked me if I’d met that little man with shallow puffy face and greasy black hair – I hadn’t – he turns up in all my London pictures.  I suppose he’s a prototype for me, of a north Indian type or middle Eastern face which I can’t get off my mind.  Mummy said he looked like “one of those London Jews.”  I’m supposed to be doing an English exam on Monday …

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Quintet Fiasco

(DIARY, Spring 1966)  Tonight Mummy and Daddy had a Quintet together playing the Cesar Franck – Terry Girdlestone, Mr Rikkards and an unknown Friend of Terry’s.  It is very unusual for them to have chamber music with men – subtle change in refreshments – a vast stock of beer in the fridge.  Mummy and Daddy have been practicing the Cesar Franck like mad.  It was arranged for Terry’s benefit, and his friend.

Mr Rikkards (we don’t know his name) arrived first.  He wasn’t at all shy and lugubrious, but rather jolly in a quiet way, with considerable capacity for enjoying himself.  Then Terry, bronzed and beaming from his holiday in Cornwall – he should have gone to Ireland, but couldn’t, because of the strike.  Then just as they sat down to play the Faure Quartet instead, the Unknown First Fiddler from Yeovil – Terry’s friend – showed up in his car.  He was about 35 with prematurely white hair, a cultured voice, and rather stiff.

The evening was a disaster.  Terry Girdlestone enjoyed himself and pounded away at the piano with all his might and main, flinging his arms around, rolling on the seat, screwing up his eyes and making enamoured popping faces at the music.  He is a fantastic sight reader.  Mr Rikkards knows and adores every note of the Cesar Franck, and though he made rather a hash of it, they say he’s nice to play with because he enjoys it so much.  But Mummy and Daddy and Terry’s First Fiddle didn’t get on at all.  Daddy scraped away looking furious.  Mummy tried desperately to come in at the right places.  The First Fiddler (I believe his name’s Ian) was very shy and on his guard, and didn’t know the music at all.  When his tone came out, it sounded quite nice, but his fiddle was awful.

It was very odd to sit and watch them.  They seemed to have been forced to sit in the same room and make a vaguely coordinating noise together.  Each of them played his own separate entity.  I was a little astonished when with some effort I could fit the sounds they made roughly together into an incoherent give and take of noise – a civilization.  They blundered half way through the first movement, then Daddy put down his fiddle and said “THIS IS FRIGHTFUL.  I havn’t a CLUE what anyone else is doing out there.”  I felt sorry for Ian.  They all moved up closer together, and started again.

As night gradually pressed the evening light into an electric glow this side of the French window glass, things began to knit together a little more.  Some of the piano passages were terrifically dreamy, and I enjoyed them – Terry isn’t afraid of being heard.  Break for refreshments – my beer was gorgeous – Whitbread Brown, it went down like silk.  I thought poor Ian – who was supposed to be leading – played quite nicely.  Daddy said afterwards he’s terrible, because he hadn’t practiced, and he doodles around the beat. After the Cesar Franck, they had a bash at a bit of light entertainment – the Schumann quintet.  The quick-scales-passages movement became a colossal race, each man for himself to get to the end first.  Needless to say, it broke down.   (Poor Michael Levy, the quiet tenant next door – he didn’t go out this evening.)  Finally when everyone got up to go, the “Next Meeting” was politely proposed, and Daddy said quickly that we were going to be too busy with farming and raspberries, for any music.

The empty, sleeping house is full of cigar smoke and beer and the echoes of that haunting, inner-driven melody through the Cesar Franck.  Daddy said Terry lost pints of sweat into the Cesar Franck – he STANK at the end.

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Circle Line

I’ve been drawing most determinedly.  Monday evening I had a bad time with a Circle Line platform I’m doing, because I had dried up as to faces and people, and could only produce worn businessmen in bowler hats jutting out of the foreground peoples’ shoulders in an aggravating way.  I rubbed out and rubbed out.  And there was nothing to listen to on Radio Lux or the French pop station.

Mummy and I discussed it in the bathroom later.  She suggested I put Patrick Symons in – Patrick, her painter cellist friend who knows all about mushrooms, with his pale seamed face, long dark wodges of hair and dirty artists’ shirt and tie – he would be ideal.  So in he went, Tuesday evening, and then the picture progressed very slowly but didn’t look back.  I’d got the darkness and living-planes atmosphere now.  Daddy came upstairs to have a look, chuckled (always a sign that he likes it) and said something about “another splendid international gathering”.  It isn’t obsessively international – one negro and two Indian women, one very striking and the other not so much because she’s Europeanised herself – she has an architecture of hair.  I saw them both at Liverpool Street or somewhere.

The woman draped in white marmalade-straining muslin has marvelous eyes – rather clouded and deep, very Indian, their expression says to me, that sound, RANA.  She is beautiful.  Her beauty has a quality unknown to us.  It belongs to another sunlight, another earth, another culture.  Western eyes cannot quite comprehend it – like Oriental music.  She is the real thing.

It is so difficult getting the Tube station details right.  I wish I was Giles! who remembers and draws every detail with fluent accuracy – marvelous City-scapes behind the general hullabaloo – what an artist.  Sometimes I get very emotionally involved with the crowd I’m doing.  This one, not so much.  Yet it is closely knit together, even if it doesn’t have the exciting atmosphere I tried to develop from the Indian girl’s eyes at the beginning, and which I feel I lost.

I must buck up and finish drawing London, or else I shan’t be fresh for it next time I go there.  I’ve still got several Tube crowds lined up …

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122: Meditating.  I have a sense, at this point, of “Work in Progress,” or even “Business as Usual” placards, as old ways of life tumble down, and are replaced.  

By the summer term, I was too busy coping with my first regular boyfriend, with A levels, with leaving school, and with preparing to live in France for a year, to do any more “serial” drawings.

 
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Journal continues:   Taunton School Dance

… such and such a bar where the piano rippled, and such and such a tune which was really lovely – before long we were kissing.  The dance glowed with warm light, and everyone was doing the same, the band played down at us, rather aloof.  Everyone tried to get into the middle of a great sardine-packed scrum by the stage.  Sometimes we went and sat down, telling each other we were sleepy – blissfully – I heard the queer cracklings in the amplifiers – the breath of the players, the rustlings of sheet music, the whisperings;  then we flung ourselves up into a Charleston.  Masters with their wives twirled around in efficient walzes, whacking boys with their girls off the chairs – Joe got a big box on the ear.  They switched the bright lights on.  Rumour went round  – the staff are furious with all the “bad behaviour”…

… We went back inside the school gates and had a long soft one under the dark and dimly lit trees, like little waves lapping on the sands.  Then we saw the Morris Minor, greenish in the lamplight, so we walked out to meet it, and I introduced him to my mother.  Mummy and Quince teased me about my come-down hairdo, as we drove home through the thick, glowing night.  I felt rather delicious.

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123 :         Canvas Chairs.  I like this, as a drawing:  the relaxed weight of bum in canvas seat, desert boots, and elbows on the chair arms.

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(To view slides, click on any image and wait for Gallery to load)

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RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 7 – Paris Metro & Pyrenean Interlude

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(To view Gallery, scroll down to the bottom of this post)
  Link to Book One

This chapter journeys into an extended terrain … abroad, (including a second visit to Vera Moore).  A mountain in the Pyrenees.  A window as wide as my whole life to come:  and a depth contact with my family.

**

Arrondissement 

Human tide
floods tunnel’d
sleep.

Bach’s partita on piano keys
rising, filling with beckoned life
the lamps above the street,
rends my heart

gazing down through salon lace
to a red light bar
– the cleft, dark, dry, running out
all night, the hounded with the hunt.

In the hundredth street
this delicate part within a pocket
where phantom towers and leprous beggars glower,
is my coin to cross the Seine.

My metro line is bursting out
from a block of L’Etoile’s demure rotting elegances,
and iron insect legs lift her over the lovers’ river;
to crouch with dusky dancers from Algiers.

“Tu vas rentrer chez toi 
et si tu pars sans moi …” 

in the jewel’s shade, hot hollow hounds
run over and under the night’s glistening
carcass giving tongue – “You’re going home. 
But if you leave me behind …”

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124:  Les algeriens aveugles.   This is a detail from the next drawing.  I place it in the late autumn of 1966, after I came home (under a cloud) from Prades in the Pyrenees Orientales, where I’d been doing voluntary work at an independent school.  My return journey included a few predatory prowls in Paris, this time un-chaperoned., though I stayed again with Vera Moore (p.136, Book One)  In the 1960s there were extreme right-wing (OAS) revolts against Algerian Independence.  De Gaulle defeated the OAS, and released Algeria from its colonial status, but his position was weakened. 

Algerians were everywhere in the streets.  I was aware of this shadow around the smart French.  

I think the poem is from the previous year.

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125:  Paris metro. The metro was even more exciting than the London Tube.  The men were better looking, and I played cat and mouse games.  I recognize at least two of my “pick-ups” in this drawing.  I was passionate about the smell in the Paris metro – a mixture of gauloises, piss, garlic and perfume – the seedy glamour of the high fashion advertising in the station platforms, the wheeze of the rubber wheels, and legendary station-names along each Ligne, redolent of my brief, yet innocent erotic adventures.  

In this picture, the Algerian problem won’t go away, however elegantly the Parisians dress. 

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126:  Man on metro   The woman in the background is Vera Moore’s friend Madame Halff.  She lived in an elegant, rambling appartement near the Bois de Boulogne; she was Jewish, flamboyant and musical, and I admired her style.  It was her husband who took some photos of my Taunton Black drawings – “La Vie en Angleterre, oh la la …”  on my previous visit.   In those days, the Hundred Years War between England and France still lingered a little:  the French dressed and ate stylishly, and mocked les anglais – how crude and primitive we were, the fogs, the terrible food.

The young woman in the foreground is of course myself – I didn’t have that beautiful soft leather coat, but I remember the astrolobe earrings.  I am aware of that man’s gaze and his hands.  Will he follow me out of the train and along the crowded street at Anvers?   The flick of an eyelash  – and I have a hound. 

However, Mme Halff herself is gazing at him fixedly;  and with the dark-skinned man between herself and my hound, a human depth equation, or four-part fugue, develops.  I have suddenly retrieved, in the idle play of words, another very old friend of my grandparents, whom they called Granny Hound.  During the war, she lived with a shy young Indian – Abani Roy.  She had been Rabindranath Tagore’s mistress. 

My subconscious has metamorphed Mme Halff into how I used to imagine Granny Hound might look, but had forgotten.  The “hound” sound tapped on my door.  One could write a play, or existential novel – four voices grasp the same steel pole between Barbes-Rochechouart and Porte de Clignancourt.  In Paris, the home of Sartre and De Beauvoir, the nuances in the Underground were acute.

The half-face in dark glasses to the right, is one of my “promenades”, a man from Tunis;  but he also looks rather like Phebe, my American chaperone the year before.  Phebe appears a few times in the background of my London and Paris drawings, as a black woman or man.  She had some mulatto genes.

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Mountainous:  La Coume in the Pyrenees

A belief system bringing tears cannot
be believed.
It glows in the sun in a certain way.
The sun lit up a cubist Spanish village upon the hill -
– that is a belief seen from above;
an intensified humanity
in community, where I slave and clean the lavatories

and then the light moved on to a pile
of rocks and broken stones,
and it is

only the light,
indifferent to the object of worship
so caressed, illumined.

So the witness on the shining, sheer hillside
marvels;  at the stones of make believe,
the smallness of the houses
which this morning kicked and scolded me.

1966, 1974

..

127: La Coume, Pyrenees.  This is where I lived from July until September 1966, high up in the mountains above Prades, near Andorra.  The mountain in the distance is Canigou.  The building – I haven’t drawn the roof tiles – was a boarding-school for disturbed, gifted and orphan children.  It was run by a family of Quakers, on strict Communist lines,.  It was an extremely passionate and opinionated place.  I helped with washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, and to “surveiller les enfants.”  Before too long, it was declared that “cette mauvaise Jeanne” – was more disturbed and more of a nuisance than my charges, and I was expelled.

During my disgrace, I used to escape at night and walk in the cricket-singing high mountains by the brilliant moon and stars, in my nightie.  It was heaven and hell – freedom and captivity – all at once.

..

..

Pyrenean Dawn

Morning
tide of sunlight gold
lips hill top, drinking

downward, stroking
dormant wine of firs
to flame.

Maybe you wait
beyond the mountain walls,
as spark to my tinder piled?

When I go to meet you
where you rise,
will Life – the sea beyond this valley -
open wide and wild?

Can your morning
glory bright
dispel my night,
or is the threshold that I cross

a secret fire
yet hid
within two flints?

1966

..

128: A son of Liberia.  My first sweetheart. He continued to write to me in the Pyrenees: S.W.A.K.  We met at his school Dance. In this portrait (drawn from memory) he leans against the Rayburn in my parents’ kitchen.  We were sure we were in love.  He was an ambassador’s son, so he’d not had much of a home life.  He lived in The Hague, spoke all the European languages, and was swanky about the life style on the Riviera, but sensitive.  I now recall several things about him.   I didn’t see him very often.  He was a good jazz pianist and cricketer;  he was a public-school boy, a vulnerable child with a brassy veneer.  I admired his forthright honesty, sophistication and savoir-faire.  But he felt insecure, and he went into Scientology.

We endured awkward silences, but we were quite good at kissing, and at getting hay all over our clothes, on his visits to Manor Farm.

..

..

On Kilve Beach in Somerset:  A Protest against Art-school Conventions

Not
the result that matters:
not
the exhibition room,
not
affirmative bangs of day-glo splash
but
sky, grey sea, and wind
blowing the birds across the hills,
the green field gate:

a stillness.

1968

..

129:  Canigou.  This is the mountain – a daily, uplifting companion to my strange initiations into communal living at “La Coume”.  Mount Canigou was about twenty miles away, and rose above Prades to the east.   He was a weather maker.

….

..

On the subject of mountains, here is a much later poem, from my Poems of Eclipse 1999: 

A Tree on the Cliff in Southern Bavaria

My depression resides like the weather.
The inner freedom isn’t just happiness
and does not outlaw the counterweight, my sadness,

these states arising.

Freedom does not belong to my name
and so freedom inexhaustibly
wears the variety of the moment.

Such feelings, like old family letters loved,
are carefully kept and folded
until opened, and in their hundreds read again,
and heard.

To carry in my heart, the work
of my parents, year by year ourselves
reared through harvest, lambing time
and swimming in the sea, to grow

moves my being and stretches the toes,
opening my window,
first view from a rocky mountain pass
after a long upward toil.

The wind is in my face:
the chasm at my feet.
Like a bird,
I plunge
to a faraway heart
forest miles down lichen distant seeming;

and the high mountain magnificat
resounds unscaled polyphony upon
polyphony
toccata and fugue of the bare, bright wind
and so I am overwhelmed.

Some great beauty is afloat.
The beloved, stretching my toes
needs no reminder;

wind blows through
a worn and wiry tree
whose roots clasp wearily
the brink.

1999

..

130: My mother, cello.   I like this strong drawing of Mary Adams nee Ede, at her instrument.    

..

..

 

Old Ancestral Letters …  Also from “Poems of Eclipse” 1999

The silvery light that gleams around the clouds,
breath taking, undulates
a floating, patchwork cloth of fields
whose margin into faery fades  …

It fell to me, to put together with love, hundreds of letters
that decades in the attic had stored
and over my floor in piles were poured
like buttercups to the sun out turned: my family tree.

Living presents dilemmas, clearly seen,
to navigate with vigilance;
may founder and fail
and often do …

These I read in letters my mother wrote to her own;
they help me see the boat,
the courage of all who sail her,
in myself no different;

“Bridget in her bravery” -
wild pink flower from her
child that died -

her honesty
flows a matter of course
from the stream
to a wisdom river hearing.

How truthful can I be?
We may yet hurt without trying,
with the point of personal predatory fish
in the blind deep, that lurk.

1999

..

..

131: My mother, drawing:  with her fountain pen – a very characteristic pose – or she might be writing one of her long letters, in her busy, rounded hand.

..

(Click on any image for slide show)

..

 

RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 8 – As a Student: Grandparents and Psychedelia

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Link to Book One

(To view Gallery, scroll down to the end of this post)

Some of the drawings and writings in this chapter overlap the next one, thematically.  The radio waves throbbed with psychedelic songs, whether or not one had any experience.  I had none.  It was all speculative:  it brooded.  It flowered strangely in my “darkroom”.

Strangers in Trains:  (2)

The rails are an arrow of iron
shot to the Mendip Hills
across the moor
ruthlessly

nearly home
and getting weary
day long shunts of fantasy from hedge to hedge
uncoupling coaches A to B at Castle Cary,

we took the direct line
and moved the earth at last;
boy beside me with glasses undid, we kissed
(twenty minutes left in the train, we said,
and steamed the more)

yet time on arrival fled, aware
of gloating blazers in the corridor,
hedgerows blurring by -

while tongues searched open mouth, warm wet bit
burningly, parallel rail lines robbed
our timeless pasture, time to
do up clothes goodbye, go home
to parents;

he held my hand through Taunton
station tottering, then disappeared.

1966

132: Violist.  This vague sketch is Christopher Cameron again (see No.115, Circle Line) – “the wee Scottish doctor laddie”.  My father tried to cure him of his romantic fantasies about shepherding and about lambing the ewes.  He was still doing medical training at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.  He had one eye – the other was a watery wink.  He loved to visit our farm in his big black boots – known on the maternity ward as “Doctor Cameron’s dancing pumps” – and to entertain his hosts with scandalous obstetric tales.  His ambition was to become a grand Scottish Highland doctor, with a crook to chase the sheep.

..

The New Flyover being Built

White concrete crossing
traffic jams, steel struts and spars exposed
… give us a lift will you, to
Hammersmith?

In Shepherds Bush they called you a thing of the modern world.
They say Heaven is all over your mind
cry Wa Wa babe, a
smashing time.

They say put in your pipe and smoke 
this thing of modern world, mash it 
man, get smashed. 
Love has a thousand eyes! 

Holy smoke in Shepherds Bush
has a thousand fold chimney pot solve solvent
insoluble bricking big poke smoke
dreaming psychedelia -

mushrooms sweetening grass, are pearls:
the bridge to the other side, man
is greener
for a quick fix passenger:

mushrooms in the grass
by night are all-over eyes.
You are yet, my bridge -
ground that lifted under me -

just an undrawn curve
chopped dead in the skies.

1968

(In those days, the obscenely destructive mushroom cloud of the cold war, was burned into the media as a symbol, and into our imagination –   by paradox as well, the small magic mushrooms to turn on and drop out.

..

133: Bridgewater Bus Stop …  anywhere in darkest Bridgewater – and there’s that wee Scottish doctor laddie.  I just noticed him standing between the two bulky ladies on the left;  he wears his tweed cap. 

I can’t find much to say about this scene.  I am depressed.  It is cold and out in the sticks.  A lamp post is the maypole, and the bus is late.  Everyone is absorbed in their own problems except the wee Scottish doctor laddie, who is enjoying himself.  I would like to start a new series of charcoal drawings, but can’t get warmed up.  I feel lost – a damp stick.  I am at the mercy of those blank and carping subpersonas in the mind – the gent in the bowler hat. 

..

..

Winter Time 

On a frosty noon
your day out from school
to my farm – your shadow over the hayloft
played Miles rather heavily
on my keys.

So I am walking.
My cave, my cover is blown -
just a small town whose magic tower struts
the mountain, all four square on a rooftop
sea of cat crawling tiles.

My dreams are a shivering mist of stone
carved by millenia of lingering faith
in lovers’ myth, now dying.

My dreams cling to Olympus, seat of gods
with banks of vapour:
moments of mere
immortality.

Mountains swept of snow, soar truth.
They lift at winter solstice my tower
from turmoil and tragedy.
I am reborn for a moment
of primaeval empathy

before the day;
before a roll in the cold hay
becomes mere biology.

I thought I woke
through winter’s touch
the glow in your eyes
which closed.

1966 or 67

..

..

134:  View from Kettles Yard, Cambridge.  This, and the following sketches of my grandparents, could have been done any time, 1966 through 1967.  During my London ventures the previous spring, there’s a mention of drawing this view by night.  I don’t think it is this drawing however, which is day-lit.  This page in the large spiral bound sketchpad, comes soon after La Coume, and is on the reverse side of “Bridgewater Bus Stop”. 

The unusually chunky tower of St John’s College Chapel has a metaphysical voice.  I pondered Christianity and our evolution, and wrestled with half cooked poetic images.

..

..

Kings College Chapel, Cambridge 

The butterfly’s wing
opened a white rainbow of fan vaultings
from crusty grey stone ribs
singing once in royal David’s city.

..

Geode and Jim Ede 

Back in Kettles Yard
for tea, toast and honey,
I asked Jim where are the eggs?
“Why! in the larder 
of course,” he said.

Next to the butter dish
and saucepan lids
a split stone’s secret splendour spills
half a dozen pearls …

..

“This pool of light lay in total darkness for many millions of years until a camel may have kicked it open, so revealing all this wonder.  I have the feeling that when all our artificial lights are off and I am safely in bed and asleep, those eggs of light shine out illuminating all the house.

 “That poppy pod below them is another great miracle and is I think a rarity.  It was in a garden belonging to a daughter who thinks it had become dessicated, with all pulpy matter wasted away through the wet summer of 1980.

 “I put one into a rummer glass given to me by a friend age 95, whose father had bought a set in, I think, 1839.  She had never before seen a poppy pod in this condition, and said of one which I had given her, that it had become a lantern lighting her to Heaven.  I found later that she too had put it in one of her father’s rummers.  These are now in Kettles Yard…”

pp 148/149 A Way of Life, by Jim Ede, publ. Cambridge University Press 1984
(and a verse from The Masters’ Eye 1992 – 2009)

 

..

135: My Grandfather, Jim.  A nice, fluent study.

..

..

Occulus 

My hasty stride to strip
the willows in the River Cam
through a Tudor gothic pile
of academia

glanced up a telescopic
spiral stair inside, and stood
suddenly still
within the starry eye!

..

A Dream

Doors standing ajar
cast light
along the corridor dipped
in penumbra light.

A mission awaits at the end
my swift passage: but the passover
too light, awakes to the mist
of day, death’s lover.

1967

..

136: My Grandmother, Mam.  None of my drawings of Helen Ede at that period, show the twinkle in her grey blue eyes, or the raucous delicacy of her laughter, or how much I loved her.  She was a Capricorn, and we mocked her German-Scottish mannerisms.  I have not done justice to her beautiful hands, adept at knitting and needlework.  She was a competent and enthusiastic pianist.  Men continued to adore her when she was very old.  She was a strange woman, a law unto herself but a chronic worrier.  This affected her health, but she lived to be 83.  Jim lived on until he was 95.  

In 1947, my father was introduced to his new parents-in-law in Tangier, Morocco, where they then lived.  Very bohemian they looked, in their flowing white garments and wide straw hats, like empire builders;  and so he called her “Ma’am.”  The name shortened to “Mam” for all the family.  Everyone’s grandmother has some beauty, the fragrance of her seed sound.

The Hebrew letter MEM is an elemental Mother-Letter, meaning “the waters”.

..

..

After the Movies

Odds 
a-
gainst to-
morrow mist
blur light through
walls dis-
solved in night I
blindly touch to tall grey stone.

Through
dim shades behind
the lamp’s scant cornering
I walk into the
blue
fog’s dis-
solution.

..

137:  City of London.  By now – spring 1967 – I was living and working at the Pestalozzi childrens’ village in Sussex, and getting to know London a bit better.  This is my  last “pavement crowd”.  There’s Harry Belafonte – the star of the 1959 film Odds Against Tomorrow – between the beggar and that skeptical city gent in the bowler hat who charges into and across the flow.

That strange thing on the beggar’s shoulder is a cap or case he’s holding there for coins – like a violinist’s shoulder pad – while he rattles and plays his instruments.   For me, crowds felt like very cheerful things.  I couldn’t wait to get in there, deep, and be jostled and rocked along in the current.

My grandfather began a fictional autobiography.  His youthful hero, Jack Webberly, marveled that those who jostled him on the rush hour train, were  so ignorant of his secret ecstasy.  Jim’s inner life was sensuous;  the outer shell circumspect, as many of his generation, who survived the Great War.

The poem is an aftertaste of the Belafonte film, but was written in Cambridge – it came to me one winter night of frozen fog and atmosphere, among the new cloisters and quadrangles near St Johns.   Belafonte was my “pin-up” for a while.

..

..

Rendez-vous at a Diner in Baker Street Underground 

Brooding, as
her life is unplumbed
and dark
within exotic carven plants
that line chattering walls and clutter the table cloth,

is his enigma
and her own.
She cannot or will not say.
Both eyes are dry.

Waiting for the
wine waiter,
the young black man watches
the enigmatic random
murmuring to and fro
of drones behind his
girl friend’s blonde window;

she will not say what’s wrong,
because the dark eyes
that cleave his brutal brooding mask
do not invite her kindly;

and no one
came to water
the fragile indoor plants
unplumbed.

..

138: The High Gaming Table.  I read about it in the Sunday colour supplements, and drew this scene voraciously.  “Unplumbed” in the poem above, is a symbol of virginity.  And oh – those  awkward silences!

..

..

No False Patriot 

Spring burst through the trees
when they led
the objector out.

As they
took their stand,
he told the singing larks,

“I died
for my country’s
death.”

They fired.  He fell,
a heap of crumpled
Earth.

1967

..

139 : Court of Law.  A visit to Marlborough Street Magistrates’ courts, and some careful note taking from the visitor’s gallery – my aunt Joan recommended it – dramatis personae were defined and itemized – the plaintiff, the bulky police constables (in front of me), the two clerks, one persuading the plaintiff to swear on the Holy Book, the other writing it all down, and finally the smarmy prosecuting counsel and the judge.  It was some minor thing – a traffic offence.  The Pakistani plaintiff stands in the English dock with his head covered;  he is vulnerable and accused, but dignified. 

 A satisfying record;  a composition – I enjoy the characterisation.   No wonder they use artists’ impressions in the big court cases.  The drama opens the fluent inner eye. 

..

..

A (S)Tone(D) Psychedelia Poem

If 
you’re walking to San 
Francisco, be sure 
to wear flowers in your hair -
for the nation’s seeds are dust.

And if
you wear flowers in your hair
smoking dust to perfumed petal,
be sure
to burn it in the square -
watch it grow.

And if you are
a friend of San Francisco,
take care
of your brothers
and your little sisters hitch-
hiking there.

And if it
is all too beautiful, 
let it wear
those flowers on your hands

for it is not
yet their time to die, flying up high
from the bath tub in a rainbow spill
– a dark and empty room.

All across the nation, seeds -
like the needles in Haight Ashbury dust -
are sprouting.

Be there.
Be the tree.

1967

..

..

GALLERY – click on any image for slide show

RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 9 – Sedlescombe & Endpoems

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Link to Book One

Sedlescombe is a village in east Sussex, a few miles inland from Hastings.  After I left school, I did voluntary work for nine months at the Pestalozzi Childrens’ Village there.   These poems and portraits are from this period and afterwards.

140: Andre, a Russian refugee.  Andre lived at the Pestalozzi Village near Sedlescombe – a displaced war child;  he cultivated a Rudolf Nureyev glamour and style.  An older woman, the “house-mother” of the European refugees, fell in love with him, which nourished his power. 

..

A Date in the Pub at Sedlescombe

It flowed easily
in chairs by the brasses
where the pale sky
darkens down the lane.

Cushioned in ale
and flopsy bunny timbers,
it darted round the
dangerous edge.

But the night was young.
In damp airs,
when the trees lifted
their sleeping sigh to quivering stars,

walking back
the long lane
alone with you
to the village

it fell through
to being near
my dumbest bucket
of holes.

1967

..

141: Kelvin and a Frenchman.  A drawing which began, but never got onto the road.  It would have had a strong diagonal dynamic, a character opening;  it suggests dividing of the ways and thus a loss of focus..  The poem above it, refers to my date with an attractive young Tibetan visitor to the Pestalozzi village.

..

On Seeing the Seventh Seal & a Japanese Macbeth

(A later poem:  Taunton art college the following year – a collage arising from films, art-history seminars and personal discovery.)

A radio voice
told Vietnam’s bells
… Otis Redding strumming
soft jazz in the room next door…
interrupting time.

The King was told
he would lose no battle
ever
till the forest began to move
upon his brutal castle – impossible!
yet it did …

the trees besieged and speared
the samurai’s viscera
excessively;

and six million’s a casual figure they give
to the dead, each soul besieged
by a nation
keeping face at all costs.
History is
interrupting time.

In a medieval twilight,
there was no question, no time,
to kill and make kill or spare and let kill
a world the Black Death
decreed.

Space is
shattering time.

There is no answer
on cliff top where monkish habits
thrash out the cruel end of things.
And
Bergman’s blond Death
down there on the beach, plays chess
with not a single secret
in his sleeve.

Salt waves on the pebbles
break up the time.

The hero only lost his game
against the moving tide
because a prophecy
fell true
and castled his king.

1968

..

142: Yogi, a Polish refugee.  Another displaced and rescued war child, growing up in the Pestalozzi Village and keen to get into the catering business:  a bad lad with the girls – I liked him.   He sleeps.

..

..

Tree at Sedlescombe 

Tree
what a sky is left where you once stood;
what a quivering bowl of star pricked

space

burns your branches to memory.

The moon caresses
a raw stump in misty field.

1967

..

143:  Marie Claude Lietaar.  She was my best friend at Pestalozzi – we were extremely close.  She like me, had come there for work experience.  We were a group of students freewheeling between academic institutions;  all night we caroused and rearranged the world in the “International House”, and as volunteer workers, we got pocket money – a pound note per week, in a small brown envelope.  For me, this was wealth. 

 Towards the end of my stay at Pestalozzi, I took my meals and helped out, in the Tibetan House– a village within a village, with about 21 scuffling children, Mr and Mrs Ngwang the house parents and a radiant, toothy Lama.  I became very fond of them.   I sketched these gentle people, at play like fox-cubs or doing the housework – to the amazed delight of young and old: their faces lit up with laughter, recognizing themselves.

 Marie Claude’s home was Annemasse, near Geneva.  We hitch-hiked across France, to visit her parents – who were quarreling.  Marie Claude’s home life drove her to depression – “Jane, je suis tellement MALHEUREUSE” – but she survived, and eventually married a middle-aged truck driver called Roland, who loved and valued her.  She was intensely emotional and serious, but also drank merrily and laughed like a drain,  This is a fine sketch of her, for which she sat. 

 Marie Claude knew a  friendly firm of truck drivers in Paris, called Transports Brousse.  If we turned up at the depot, we were sure to get a lift to Geneva.  This became my hitch-hiking style later, from Liverpool to London, and from Southampton to Rome, via Milan.  We crossed the Channel for free – as “co-drivers” for le camion – with a cabin and a meal thrown in.  There were loopholes everywhere.  It was easy to travel and live without money. 

..

..

Coming out in the Sky

 

st

AR

prick

. . . . . . oo-

ze

up-

on the pale of

night

1967

..

..

144:  A Bar.  This scene in London, with the clear mirror, reminds me of Manet’s Folies Bergere.  The young Indian woman is called Shyama.  She came to live and work at Pestalozzi, with the group of Indian children there.  She was very small and extremely thin. I remember her elegant deep voice, and her wry sense of humour – her indignation on finding herself here, in disreputable company.  She is wearing a sari under her coat.  She cut her hair;  she is highly educated and emancipated.

I lived at the Pestalozzi Village for nine months.  This was a period rich in friendships and in human interest, but I was messy and confused.  It felt like a forcing house – the community life there was a laid-back assortment of cosmopolitan refugees, local Sussex worthies, school teachers and gap-year student helpers from England, Europe, Rhodesia and Japan.  Everyone got along quite well, and complained bitterly and Britishly about the vague management.  The diversity was a hot-bed – people around me were in crisis most of the time.  Elation and despond see-sawed violently, leavened by exciting trips to Hastings and London.  My Pestalozzi sketch books are filled with caricatures – the cheery global politics over staff lunch-times in the main house:  “Well of course, when I was teaching in the Bahamas … “

**

On the Green Line

They talk
like stones shake in a bag
pliant brown hands
waving fag.

Her face dark squat
heavy boots and heavy mouth
and finger rings, gets up and
grabs a paper left behind.

My journey has an empty, aching tum,
and through the lonesome night
the houses cry and swell like waves -

“Cough up, mate,” – “I got
me cold in me throat – GHGHGH …”

- to the dark, the dark hard glass -
your voice’s slow, sexy warmth,
your cat called Sadie, your weight
on me an hour ago -

it is

piercing my belly, to taste the night slide
back through green district lines
bleeding benighted snow
City distant, to weep, to rain.

There is rain on steamed glass.
There is rain on the rails.
They sit three on a seat
coughing sharp commas.

Took the wrong line to Wimbledon,
changed trains
and sea-ward back to Earls Court has
as yet no grip on Circle Line.

Why stare at my poor thoughts,
you hungry one
on frayed seat, your hard
smoke stung sunken eyes?

1967

..

145:  A Night Romance.  I knew that these two men, as they grew from my charcoal pencil, had a strange relationship, which was physically passionate, but did not make them happy.  The one in the foreground has a cruel mouth.  The other’s hands are painfully sensitive.  They sit in a bar or disco, among the dancers of the night;  and they are hungry;  and they might stir up something, if it goes on long enough.

..

146. Terry Girdlestone.  Terry – who thundered through the Cesar Franck quintet with my parents and Mr Rickard – was a frequent visitor.  I enjoyed him because he played very loudly and I loved the big bass notes and luscious tones.  Here is his bottom half.

..

147 Terry Girdlestone too.  These two sketches complete the main series.

..

Hitch Hiking:  to Wander and Wonder

I think
I’m thistledown.
I light on you ’til the wind blows
off your coat.

Holding me close
you fed the cat.
A concrete causeway curved
upon White City, dark with rain.

I came,
not knowing where
the road would go, ’til standing
where it began with you.

On Clapham’s South side
by a candle’s winter solstice flame
you loved to poke,
you fanned my fire to shocking spring!

In Andover, traffic halts.
Thumbing through the wind with me
a stranger on the run seeks anonymity;
but no-one’ll help his crime to the coast.

My roads expose at night raw stones
and tar that make the surface bond
as I thumb lifts
from my own strangeness, home.

In Bristol, sidling through sun and rain
I talked the noon away to a tramp
who offered half his pie -
for no one will ever be his guest.

Under the moon, the torn up road
is megalithic.
By the raw sun, life strives
to crack the soil, cementing spring.

The year’s trafficking
in the trees turned green.
I hitched a night truck to London
by the neon glowing motorway

bypassing Maidenhead
to choose you – trust
you’re going to be my first!
sleep with me, your bed and -

at dawn I found a red box and phoned.
Light through darkness spilled,
I burned.
Your woman answered from your bed.

You left me footloose free,
going on unmade,
and still a maid.

1967

..

..

A Rap Lament (2010)

Let black soul blue thread

beat black and blue soul cellar bruise
corn field song seller

Jesus tell God’s Spell
to my people; big time
pedlars sold the soul
to my people;

big time pedlars
sold the soul.

They sold him into white house
to carry dirty pails
and in The White House
now the black man rules.

Kids in Hamburg beat the blues
Lord in Heaven what’s that
come outa there – a hoppin’ and a hippin’ cool
to the Cavern, Liverpool -

but with wailin’ harp
my woman mouth the blues
her people a-saggin’ and a-shaggin’
the string-bed on the stoop,

enough to splinter wood
then pick hot cotton under whip,
banjo string, my torn finger picking O -
barrack-Alabama yes we can …

for those white boys dunno what
got into them, twist and shout
a Cavern, babe -

sweet babe, her cool white socks a-slippin’ down,
she sippin’ loud
drinks.

Black man in white house
is everyone’s reality TV, man,
the world today a pair o’pans of refried corn and history
on kitchen scale to tipping point.

Honour this man;  from our mothers
he get respect. Get real.

My people
torn out, each root
around the fire, I try
to mend your daisy chain

and hear you, brother, give you space and see
the hurt, to feel
the bruise, and sing the blues.

The drum in the vein,  needle in the jerk,
church was born again to kill
the rage in my blood,
my momma’s rape they made me see.

And yet

the grass in Africa still growin’
she my granma, still
is groanin’ – the animals
they call the kids in swingin’ jeans -

The house of the rising sun come off the ship
and turned to gold
coins in white wash land.

Yet still

across the seas come
“OSIBISA, criss 
cross rhythms that explode with happiness 
an’ the root 

is early one morning 
in the heart of Africa 
the Dawn.”

2010

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RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO, Chapter 10 – Some Rock & Blues History: Ronnie the Song Writer

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Link to Book One

(To view Gallery, scroll down to the end of the post)

AN AFTERWORD WITH A RHYTHM & BLUES MAN – 18 Feb 2010

 I took this book, and visited Ronnie B, who has played with every band, and sung in all the bars;  his fingers jingle with big silver rings.

I hoped he might tell me some more about the 1960s musical scene.  Afterwards I found the lyrics online for Red Rooster and Why do Fools Fall in Love, which he spoke of.

First, he said,   “You know, I was looking all over the house just now, for the music of“Your Song” – Bernie Taupin wrote it – Elton John’s big hit – when he was only 15.  Bernie and Elton … “

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money, but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live.

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one’s for you. 

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world. 

 I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they’ve got me quite cross
But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song.
It’s for people like you that keep it turned on.

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You’ll see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen.

..

 

 “You know,” he went on,   “all the Stones’ early album songs were covers – other people’s songs.  Then Mick and Richard had to start writing their own.  Think what that was like – black virgin ground!”

LITTLE RED ROOSTER  (The lyrics, pre-Rolling Stones)

I got a little red rooster
Too lazy to crow the day
Keeps everything in the barnyard
Upset in every way.

Well if you see my little red rooster
Please drive him home
Ain’t been no peace in the barnyard
Since my little red rooster’s been gone.

Well all the dogs begin to bark
and all the hounds begin to howl
Watch out strange kin people
Little red rooster’s on the prowl.

Hey there, little red rooster
You ain’t shit to me
You think you’re a stud, boy
Well I doubt, I doubt you’ll ever be.
While you’re away, I’m gonna fuck with your henhouse
I’m just being neighbourly.

 ..

Note

(1) this is an additional verse, sung by Brent Mydland.  The lyrics and music are by Willie Dixon, but could also be Griffin and Day. Little Red Rooster was banned by US radio stations over its supposed sexual innuendo.   Willie Dixon also wrote I Just Want to make Love to You.

..

Ronnie continued:    “1955 – 1963 ;  the white kids discovered the black heroes – their music had been kept apart from us by segregation.  The Mods began to say – don’t listen to that generation government – I like this music!

The US racist government tried to squash rock n’roll.  They put Elvis in the army – he had a pure black voice, deep south – they sent Little Richard to church, and they sent Chuck Berry to prison for screwing a thirteen year old girl; and Jerry Lee Lewis got married.  He was white, but born in Louisiana – they all thought he was black.  And Buddy Holly died at 27 – in R&B, twenty-seven is the age to die – “That’ll be the Day”: – remember Eddie Cochran? – the first white band to appear at Harlem Apollo – and all the kids went to the Chuck Berry concerts – the establishment said “There is no black problem” – they were in denial.

You know Elvis’s hit, Heartbreak Hotel was written by a black woman?  It’s a sheer, raw, blues-picker number.

“The first song I ever heard was Why Do Fools Fall in Love?   I was thirteen.  I wish I could find it now …”

oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah, oh wah
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do birds sing so gay?
And lovers await the break of day
Why do they fall in love? 

Why does the rain fall from above?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do they fall in love? 

Love is a losing game
Love can ashame
I know of a fool
you see
for that fool is me. 

Tell me why, Whyyyy, Whyyy  Tell me why …   (Background music)

Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of day?
Why do they fall in love?

Why does my heart skip a crazy beat?
Before I know it will reach defeat!
Tell me why, Whyyy, Whyy
Why do fools fall in love?  … 
(Hold Long)

**

(Here’s a U-TUBE EXCERPT from 1956 Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers – their first radio broadcast on the Frankie Lane Show:

Laine:  You were only 13, when you wrote this big hit.

Lymon: Well Mr Laine, one day I was dressing, and an Inspiration came to me.

Laine: What was the inspiration?

Lymon I needed a new suit!

Laine Tell me, what does a 13 year old boy know about love?

Lymon Well Mr Laine, I been falling in love since I was five, but I been a fool about it since I was eleven. 

Laine You only had two rough years then, but I go all the way back to Brian Murphy.  So.  You ready to rock and roll?  That means I gotta get lost, huh?

Lymon That’s it.)

..

Ronnie:  “The teenagers hadn’t heard or been told the Blacks were a bad thing.  For the Who, it was My Generation.  So in the States, the music establishment tried to replace the black music with sound-alikes – you know, they replaced Rock n’Roll with Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Fabian, these watered-down types – Telstar.  Telstar made copies of hits on the cheap.  Real whitewash rubbish – and over here they sold us Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Billy Fury, and the ballads – Matt Monro, yeah.

“The EARTH of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard which you could smell, was gone:  and replaced by plastic.   It was deadly.

“But they hadn’t reckoned on a sleeping giant called Teenager, had they?  The Beatles, playing clubs in Hamburg, word got round – Buddy Holly was Lennon’s hero, and Chuck Berry was McCartney’s hero – and the record companies did their best to block Brian Epstein by saying the four piece bands were out, no one wanted them.  But Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, they all crossed the pond, they came over here – they were the KINGS from Chicago, the centre, that’s where the electric blues music was made.

“And the new, young English bands latched onto the black music. and played it in the clubs –”

… (While Ronnie was speaking, I reflected1960s, flower opens, scarlet in the field, black centre, poppy seeds … )

“… because the only music left to listen to by then, was jazz.  The jazz was the acceptable mainline black music played in clubs all over London, and in the Railway Hotels … Kingston Station Hotel …  The kids went for the modern jazz, and skiffle.  The older ones went more for the Trad jazz – Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball.

“Brighton was hipper than London, those days.  None of us had gone into central London yet.  Central London was just a brothel.  The suburbs bred the Mods.  And in Bognor they were – we called them the Kissers!

“What’s skiffle?  Well, it was based on home-made country blues, guitars or banjo, plus percussion  – a washboard and your nails.  In the early 1960s, there was no pop music yet.  The scene was Adam Faith – the boy next door, all cleaned up. But London had the Marquee and the Flamingo – six nights jazz, Thursday R&B – Alexis Korner, and you know Rod Stewart – when I first played with him, he couldn’t sing – still can’t, he’s the first to say so – but could he do the blues!  Long John Baldry discovered him.  And you know the Railway Tav, here in West Hampstead?  That was the Klooks Kleek – it was massive, it backed right into what is now the English National Opera house. Everyone played there!  The Graham Bond Organisation – John Mayall – Eric Clapton was his guitarist.

“So that was the beginning of the blues revolution.

“These songs weren’t on the radio, they weren’t hits.  The Mods went for it – then first the Beatles and then the Stones BROKE OUT! – the Beatles came back from Hamburg, and they played in the Cavern – and the Stones played in the Crawdaddy – about the time Lennon and McCartney wrote their song – not a cover this time – With Love From Me to You. And Brian Epstein went after Decca, and they turned it down, and you know, they never lived it down.  Know the story “What’s the difference between Decca and the Titanic? – the Titanic had a good band!”  But the word given out was: “Guitar groups are on their way out.”

“The Beatles’ first album was all covers, all black music.  They hit the charts with a cool “New Music” number – Please Please Me.  It was REAL, see?.  Jagger and Richards started with Chuck Berry’s Come OnThe Last Time was a cover, too.  The Who were also playing covers.  Then they went for a meeting with their record company – “Time you started writing songs.”  You can see them filing out from that little office in Carnaby Street – “Who’s gonna write the songs?” – they chose Pete!

..

“Yeah, I remember those guys – John Mayall, Alexis Corner – they did jingles with me:  and Geno Washington, Graham Bond.   Georgie Fame.  He’s pickled in it.  The blues carried on with Cream and Hendrix   The pop carried on with the Stones, the Beatles and the Kinks.  And the Motown empire got built – at last they were getting some fucking respect! – promoting black music from its source – R&B, funk and soul.  R&B went the black route.  Wilson Pickett, a popular gospel singer, led the way for the Mod movement.  And as for us Brits, so we were ruling the waves!

“And the American government gave in – ‘We might make some money out of this …’

**

I jotted down also, Ronnie’s comments on my Taunton Black drawings, as he went through the book:  his feedback from inside the business, and the associations which the drawings triggered in his personal history, fascinated me:

Viola            Space around the notes? Yeah. When you hear each one. Soul is the gap between the black dots.”

Shoppers and Juvenile & Adult:  “I’d want this on my wall, just as it is, with all the scratch marks and smudges.  You know how they airbrush everything these days?”

Honky Tonk   “You should say, ‘The Joanna is a working girl.’”

Swinging Blue Jeans: Good golly Miss Molly – “can you hear your mama call?  This EXPLODED up my line!  It’s in my system, like my first shag, fancy finding it here.  But shakin’ and a shoutin’ isn’t in Little Richard’s lyrics – perhaps the Swinging Blue Jeans added this.  I been looking all over for the Little Richard original.  You’ve got to hear the opening piano riff … I love this drawing.  Look at the energy.”

(It’s on Polygram records – Little Richard is the King.)

The Angel Caff.  “Now, this means something to me, like the Impressionists.  It’s surreal!  Look – like this Renoir.”  (He fetched an early Renoir crowd scene postcard – one of my old favorites too.)

Manfred and Harriet: “That’s Neil Young.   Recognise him?”

Doo Wa Diddy.  “There’s Paul Jones.  He is steeped in the blues.  Lovely guy.  I’ve played with him many times.  He’s fallen in love with God.”

All Over Now    “South west London – the Crawdaddy in Richmond – now, that was the Mod movement centre.  These kids liked to hear the black roots music, the blues.  Later on, the funk – James Brown, Dylan, Bowie.  Bowie, he just did his own thing.  He’s cool.”

“You know?  These are cave paintings.  It’s like you go in there, and you draw them on the wall.  I’m knocked out.  I just know what I like, and I can’t say why I like this so much, and want it on my wall  – “

Pig Market Lane:  “It’s like, you know he’ll get there, through the tunnel, but HOW?  The way you’ve funneled the perspective – it’s a dream feeling.  And you got to follow him through, or else!”

Public Bench – “That’s my dad!  And my mum – the glasses, and the knitting.  The library one doesn’t do anything for me.”

Encounter:  “I kept running into those two guys on Mykonos selling drugs.  They are dealers.”

Pub Confessor:  “My God.”

Jukebox Carlisle:   “I went out with her!  Hey, Joanie!  This place in Sutton.  What the fuck were you doing up there in Carlisle?  Look at the jukebox!  Hey, come back and hear mine.”

Stark Bar & Rain Streetlight:  “And where you been hiding all these years?  We coulda made a fortune.”

Mods and “Rap Blues Lick”:  “Now all of blues and all the music to follow, is based on just those three chords.  Funk, rap and hip-hop are projections of the same twelve-bar blues.  There’s been nothing new, since.  And you should say ‘twelve bar shuffle to the lick’, not “for” – it sounds better I think.  So find out who it was, which store that Debenhams in Taunton kicked out?  Ring them up!”

Brick on Brick:  “This is surreal.  I don’t know why it works on me.”

Cambridge Rag Week 3:   “Yeah, I was about to say – This is darkest Whitechapel.  Dickens.”

Swan House Hotel: “They’re having a shag!  Ha ha”

Don’t Bring Me Down  “She’s had an overdose, he’s trying to pull her out of it.  That’s Neil Young again –   Keep me searching, I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold …”

She Was Untrue:   “I told you not to take that stuff …”

La Ronde.  “Now, where have I come across that?  Was she a French floozie?  Jesus!  Wasn’t there a La Ronde disco – Oasis, Liam Gallagher …?    La Ronde, huh!”

Hitch Hikers :  “These guys are younger and nice.  The other ones back there, not nice at all.  These ones are just learning – they’re not selling drugs yet.  I saw them on Mykonos, too.”

The “Shyama” bar in London:  “Now, I know that place.  I been there.  Off Shaftesbury Avenue?  This guy here, he’s a SPIV.  Ah, I know where this is – ALITALIA, the coolest cappuccino joint in Soho.”

“And this next one – Night Romance.  It’s like a movie.

And that piano player!   Hah! Ha! Ha!”

Hey, want to hear my Wurlitzer juke box?   Yeah, whatever you want, babe.”

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RONNIE THE SONG WRITER

From “Rings on her Fingers” 

Where do you bury your treasure, your secret supply
You give such pleasure my senses run dry
You go to the limit that one man can take
And minute on minute, I swim in your lake.

You wear rings on your fingers and bells on your toes
You shall have music wherever you go
Show me everything and I’ll do you a deal
I’ll show you you, it’s you I’ll reveal.

You’ve got me flying round heaven with no port of call
In sixes and sevens, we’re out of control
We’re drowning in wonder, we’re swimming in dreams
We’re close to coming apart at the seams.

Oh I’ll reveal you and show you your worth
I will reveal you, chapter and verse
No need to conceal you, it’s you I’ll unfold,
I’ll show you you, body and soul.

Ronnie Bond/Paul Taylor

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From “I’ll Take the Wheel” 

Have you been hiding, for most of your life,
Nobody guiding, or putting you right
We may be strangers, but my love is real +
You take me flying, and I’ll take the wheel …

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From “My Way Home”

I’ve counted all the stars, I’ve played in all the bars
I’ve driven all the cars, while I looked for you.
I’ve wandered down the aisle, I’ve tried out every style,
I’ve walked the magic mile, while I looked for you.

I’ve unearthed dreams of old, I’ve come in from the cold
I’ve made friends with my soul, while I looked for you,
and I never knew your name, but I knew you just the same.
You were always on my mind, didn’t know it at the time.

And my eyes opened when my walls were broken,
I’m on receiving, now you’re leading,
and my soul drew you, cos my soul knew you,
When I ran to you, I found my way home.

Ronnie Bond/Jane Adams

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**

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THE END

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