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

by janeadamsart

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Scanner

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.

..

..

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  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 …:

..

..

Empathic Soul (Photo in a colour supplement)

I saw it in the paper!

else how could I know they still –
they still chain up
Africans in rows, foot to pale sole
in fetters gleaming?

crouching
head after dusky head,
whites on the move, their eyes speak
volumes: why, ask –

do you still
manacle like rats
clanking on board ship
your black burning orbs of life? –

the
human-ness itself
dilates,
smouldering

your agony,
agony
that made those irons.

1965

..

..

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.”

..

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.

..

..

110 Berwick Street, Soho.  To a schoolgirl, striptease was veiled in mystery.  Nothing was shown in the window: X was the shameless word, 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.

..

30 SB Dreamers

..

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
and it clots, and on our date
there is none left, it
rots and dies!

Dawn
awoke 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

..

..

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 quake 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 make an image of 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.

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 obsessed.  The poem was written one afternoon in Taunton public library. 

..

..

112:  Escalator.  Quickly I sought out densely crowded streets, 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.

..

..

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 coming our of their tunnels. ‘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

..

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.

..

70 SB Pencil studies clothes

..

 

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

..

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.”

..

..

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

..

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, clustering and bunching 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.”

 ..

..

Waveband 

That bright thread
whereby
Mother Isis sews our tapestry,

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

2010

..

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.

..

..

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

..

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.

..

77 SB Young turk

..

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

..

118:  Corridor Train.  If I did not find my fellow passengers in the compartment sufficiently amusing, 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”  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.

..

..

Ideas and jottings for drawings and poetry

..

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

 

..

..

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.

..

..

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.

..

..

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 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

..

..

..

(To view Gallery, click on any image)

 
Advertisements