RECKLESS FRUIT, BOOK TWO: Chapter 3 – ‘We’ll be Together’
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– the salon lit
where a lamp stands by the
Pleyel’s yellowing keys and
long, soft darkness
– is his tuber rosy breath
on night’s tremblous curtain
the rotting barrows
of the street below
the room with flowers.
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 personal interest to la politique – the election in France that year.
98: Beggar in Paris metro. I was passionate about Paris, but couldn’t 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 like the incipient flow and movement of that crowd – its wide berth past the blind musician, who parts the waters like a rock.
It was a culture shock to see the lepers in the streets – 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!”
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 my Taunton Black Drawings; I was deeply receptive, 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:
“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 …
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.
Small empty town at night,
mine to run and sing in
street lamps glare
hard, dry metallic over
above paving stones
frenzied leaping silhouette of horned
in an upstairs
cellar window, gashes
with raw primitive screams
the warm dark
boy presses girl on
her like a dog
the empty streets
fill up with empty packets
pubs close, spill hypnotic
on the game
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.
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.
April 1965 (Easter Holidays): DISCOVERING PARIS
There is no twilight on the edges. The tide washes up against 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 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. 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 the corks borne along in 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. It thrills my mind and stirs my body strangely. I love and hunger for that warm, ripe, festering smell underground, mixed with urine and gauloises, moving through miles of subterranean corridors. Soaked in glaring light, and a caressing heat, night and day, here she awakes, while in the streets above, she sleeps. I love Toulouse Lautrec.
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 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, at the edge of perception; it curved the loving antennae towards her.
Those crossing shadows on the window pane still
bar with impenetrable night
on charcoal dancers, pinned to the wall.
Words: curt symbol
to brand and arrest
the bud before
What is a name?
A shade – the voice transmits.
On a barren planet, neither
name nor voice finds haven.
I bridge, I leaven
from chaos to earth
for a poem to heaven.
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 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 …
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. “But what an ugly mug. Whatever does she see in him?” No, I replied, 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
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.
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.
Coming to the End
Fingers curl over nail head
knees still sag. Has not this
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
fingernails of sea;
I see a rock where two white gulls
mate silently until
with beating wings
they rise triumphant in the sky.
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
106: Jim, with his half-moons and his padded jacket
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
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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