RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 8 – Student Life: Grandparents and Psychedelia
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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: I 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
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 more 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 mum and dad;
he held my hand through Taunton
station tottering, then disappeared.
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. 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 ewes.
The New Flyover being Built
White concrete crossing
traffic jams, steel struts and spars exposed
… give us a lift will you, to
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
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
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.
(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 merry 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.
On a frosty noon
your day out from school
to my farm – your shadow over the hayloft
played Miles Davis rather heavily on my keys.
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
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 was awakening
through winter’s touch
the glow in your eyes
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 fluent study.
My hasty stride to strip
the willows in the River Cam
through a Tudor gothic pile
glanced up a telescopic
spiral stair inside, and stood
within the starry eye!
Doors standing ajar
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.
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. She – like many grandmothers – is beautiful, the fragrance of her seed sound. The essence, at one remove from the tensions of immediate motherhood, is not blurred. The Hebrew letter MEM is an elemental Mother-Letter, meaning “the waters”.
After the Movies
blur light through
solved in night I
blindly touch to tall grey stone.
dim shades behind
the lamp’s scant cornering
I walk into the
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
remains 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,
her 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 bothering her,
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.
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.
took their stand,
he told the singing larks,
for my country’s
They fired. He fell,
a heap of crumpled
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
you walk to San
Francisco, be sure
to wear flowers in your hair –
for the nation’s seeds are dust.
you wear flowers in your hair
smoking dust to perfumed petal,
to burn it in the square –
watch it grow.
And if you are
a friend of San Francisco,
of your brothers
and your little sisters hitch-
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 into a rainbow spill
– a dark and empty room.
All across the nation, seeds –
as needles in
the dust of Haight Ashbury –
Be the tree.
GALLERY – click on any image for slide show