Saturday, 18 February 2012

A golden oriole

Try whistling the word "weelaweeoo" like a catcall and one of these might answer back!

I did a watercolour in 1986 of an imaginary woodland scene, a glade, with a golden oriole flying away through it. It was my favourite bird, one of those that you read about as a young ornithologist, and one of those exotic pictures at the back of the field guides - in the section marked "birds you will never see no matter how long you live".

In Lithuania last year we began to hear and see these wonderful creatures - I even had one female in the hand, and spent long periods having whistled conversations with another one low in the trees at Vente Ragas (an observatory).

As we headed home at the end of one of these blissful afternoons, I saw a male like this one off to my left through the trees. When he flew off, I stood there and it dawned on me that I was looking at the woodland scene I had seen in my mind's eye and painted twenty five years ago.

Quite a strange moment.

The only golden oriole recorded on the isle of Mull in Scotland, famed for its white-tailed sea eagles, was found dead under a tree. Surely that doesn't count!

The best time to watch the sea eagles on Mull is mid to late March, before the season starts and before the hides are open. A couple of years ago I watched two adults spinning down out of the sky with talons locked, one upside down, like in the David Attenborough films!

Me and Attenborough shared a great-spotted woodpecker once. Not for dinner or anything. It used to fly from his garden to mine when I lived on Richmond Hill, in a different life and in a different time. Those were the days when a party of jays would flock to my bird table early in the mornings in the late summer, conversing like demented humans and mechanical objects among themselves while they filled their crops with nuts to be buried around the place for harder times.

This is how oak plantations grow uphill - their fondness for acorns leads them to spread forests in autumn by forgetting their caches! 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Gary Numan - this limpid Webb

Gary Numan's album covers from 1979 were pastiches of paintings by Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.

The reverse of REPLICAS (Tubeway Army)

was from Le Faux Miroir (The False Mirror) by Magritte :

And THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE depicted the Magritte painting of the same name, with one or two subtle differences, such as the man having a lightbulb for a head and the pyramid being a rock or a meteorite - I think.

Check it out!

I discovered this in SYN-ROCK magazine, an amateur issue by Michael from Ealing and friends (a classic collector's piece now I'd imagine) who actually got to interview Numan in about 1980 and were shown how to play I DIE : YOU DIE on his piano by the great pale one himself!

Albeit they spelled the artist's name "McGrete" and led us all to believe there was an undiscovered Scottish genius out there somewhere.

I had a small Magritte collection - postcards, of course - which I found at the Pompidou centre and stuck to my wall in the school in Vitry sur Seine where I spent my year abroad.

Lots of crescent moons, night gardens in daytime and faceless suits.


La reproduction interdite - NO CLONING!

L'empire de lumieres - the empire of lights
Les amants - the lovers

Gary Numan got me playing the piano again, at a time when I'd fallen out of love with lessons and jacked it all in : now I've got my own Korg M3 and I'm in synth heaven every night!

Nearly met him at his keyboardist's 30th at Harvey Wallbanger's at Kensington Olympia. David played in a band called Carwash as well, and my girlfriend was dancing with them. I was talking to him when Gary came into the room. I was stunned! David offered to introduce me but I was instantly starstruck! "Hi Mr Numan, I've got all your records!" - what do you say?

I couldn't approach him.

Anyway, I went to the bar near where he was sitting, but in that two minutes I couldn't find a break in his intense conversation to offer him a drink (he only drinks coke), so the moment passed, and me with my bad cold left soon afterwards. As I drove off, I could see Numan still sitting in the window space upstairs, and his classic CARS started up on my cd player as I watched him in my mirror and drove away.

What a moment - a moment of all but union, as James Joyce said through Stephen Dedalus.

The paths we never took, eh?

Inside A Glass Asylum : stories

I put in my book proposal a few days ago, it's kind of in between fiction and memoir. You know how a good story grows arms and legs, and metamorphoses into something larger than life? Well my "Everyday Stories of Borderline Folk" is a bit like that.

It's set in immigration at Heathrow, in the late '80s when the system crashed, not for the first time but certainly for the worst time.

Thus the borderline folk are physically stationed on that boundary between Britain and the rest of the world, but psychologically on the faultline between neurotic and psychotic. Some of them. Or maybe just me! 

It's a series of Unquaint Customs, Mostly and has chapters in it called A Necro Speaks, and The Head in the Bag Routine.  Quite a grisly humour, but hopefully brilliantly funny all the same. Read it in the pub or on the tube, that's where I picture myself telling the stories. I think I have to develop things a lot more before the agent finds it unputdownable. Hopefully it's not still at the unpickupable stage, but who knows?!

We'll see, it's a start.

I followed the template for proposal-building in How To Get Published And Make A Lot of Money, the author of which I can't immediately remember. It seemed pretty comprehensive and practical, so I'm going to stick to that format even if on this occasion I'm unsuccessful.

Hopefully it won't be a journey ...

...from the slushpile into the blue vortex of oblivion !!!!!

towards the archaeo - psychic zero?

Was the drowned world itself, and the mysterious quest for the south which had possessed Hardman, no more than an impulse to suicide, an unconscious acceptance of the logic of his own devolutionary descent, the ultimate neuronic synthesis of his own archaeopsychic zero?

If this isn't the finest line in the English language, from JG Ballard's Drowned World, then there is pure powdered gold somewhere out there waiting to be discovered on the wing of a bird of paradise.

But it is.

So we can all relax. It's already been written.

 A bee-eater (of paradise)

taste this limpid web

I used this as a mnemonic years ago, I think at Glasgow University in an English Literature paper - but I can't for the life of me remember what it was designed to recall.

I'm almost sure it was Shakespeare play, maybe A Winter's Tale. Theme, plot, that sort of thing.

There must be a syndrome for the disconnection of mnemonic from an actual memory?

Or a word for a mnemonic which doesn't remind you of anything anymore?

Could there be anything more forlorn?!


Spin, spin, liquors of life

Spin, spin, liquors of life; spin, jellies, sweet sirops of my flesh, sweetness, the gramophone...

Sartre's classic existential moment in La Nausee kicked off my first creative foray into serious writing some years ago, and it seems fitting to wheel it out, dust it down and polish it up for this new journal.

I always thought in this English translation it was a luscious line which dripped off the tongue. I remarked back then in 1981 that "it's probably the only line in literature to lose something in the translation back to the original".

It was a collection of fragments called The Gallery. Maybe I could dig some of them out, to remind me of my roots as a writer. 

This is all coming up for me now because I've just submitted my first proposal, and I haven't heard back yet.

It's been a week!!!

You always think you've probably done enough, and then you begin to think of things you didn't do and didn't include. Friends and colleagues begin to come up with brilliant ideas which - had they been mentioned two days before you pressed the "send" button - might have made the difference between stardom and oblivion...or so one imagines.

But in reality, you do your best and move on. You take what comes I suppose and try hard to have no regrets. And try again!