Saturday, 28 August 2010

Psychogeographically speaking...

I realised a few years ago after reading several books by Iain Sinclair [ 'London Orbital' and 'Downriver' in particular] that I've always been psychogeographer. I mean by this that wherever I go I'm exploring the feelings that arise in me in response to where I am. This goes beyond the physical experience of the place. I also get synasthetic or psychic sensations that I struggle to put into words, because, I suppose there are no words available for me to use in such a context.

I have had to develop my on private vocabulary. For example, there's what I call 'The Midlands Feeling', 'The Hull Feeling', and 'The Essex Feeling'. The latter I can subdivide into 'The Canvey Feeling', 'The Rayleigh Feeling', ' The Benfleet Feeling' and so on. It's all rather clumsy, I admit, but it is inevitable if one is trying to get beyond the strait jacket imposed by 'normal language' which reflects consensus reality.

Literature, art and music help us out of this strait jacket, when they are doing their job properly. Thus 'Great Expectations' invokes the atmosphere of the Thames Estuary, as does Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'. It may surprise many people to find that the area has such a rich and dramatic psychogeoraphy. Manichean forces swirl about at dusk. The woods and scrubs harbour Witches and the Black Dog, a complex geometry of ley lines channels punches into the landscape like acupuncture needles.

A recent expression of the energies present is embodied in the volcanic power of Doctor Feelgood. The original members of the band were deeply rooted in the nether lands of Canvey Island; they had to be to avoid being washed away. Geology affects character. Living on a mud bank reclaimed from the sea makes people sensitive to the power of the Moon; it makes them self reliant; it makess them sympathetic to others in similar places. Thus Canveyites [is that the correct term?] are predisposed to feel an affinity with the Dutch and, of course, with the lands of the Mississippi.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Esperanto and hogs.

Doctor Tim, drug expert and amateur surrealist, sends me a message on Facebook. He has recently acquired 'The Edinburgh Pocket Esperanto Dictionary' [1939 edition]. I ask him if he can translate into esperanto:

Í'm a hog for you baby, I can't get enough of your love.''

In case you don't know, this is a traditional Essex folk song sung by a young man to his sweetheart. It was made famous local folk musicians, Doctor Feelgood. And, Roberto est onklo, within an hour or two the Tim gets back to me. The translation is:

'Mi estas porkovi infanteo, mi ne povas recvi sufice da via kunigo.''

I've tried to sing it, but somehow it doesn't sound right. I can see why esperanto never caught on.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Things that stick in your Mind.

People tell you things sometimes and they stick in your mind. When you're driving, waiting for a train, or in the small hours, when insomnia plagues you, they twiddle and twitch making you irritable and depressed.

Last Friday I was chatting in the pub with a neighbour. We were talking about beggars and their various styles of extracting money from passersby. I described the typical Cambridge species: he or she sits cross legged on a blanket, has matted hair, a scrawny dog that needs worming, and plays something squeaky on a tin whistle. He or she is irritating but harmless. My friend then told me of one he'd witnessed in Paris. She was an Eastern European gypsy. She lay with her head on the pavement with her hand, out stretched to receive offerings. From her mouth an ululating shriek rent the air. It was nasty. It stayed with me all week. Somehow I get a whiff of the horror. There's the scent of pogroms, diasporas, ethnic strife, murder in the cry. Like a curse it's followed me around. I've felt it sending a tremor through my cosy little world that I love so much, with its village pub, its runner beans, its books, its beer, its dental care,...all those things we take for granted. For some reason it prompts me to think of the deep, sacred silence that is held safe by the thick Norman walls of the old church that sits on the hillock above my house. That seems to help.

Horrible, but in a different way: I read an account of a visit to a huge factory in the 'International Trade City' Yiwu in China. There the workers suffer horrendously long shifts and live in dormitories -slavery in all but name. One production line is dedicated to the manufacture of light up plastic Virgin Marys that are exported to every Catholic place of pilgrimage on Earth.

I have been accused of being too serious. Sorry. So on 'a lighter note' I'll conclude with a 'humorous' item, like a well trained BBC newsreader. Tim, the Thespian Haberdasher sidled up to me last Saturday. He says to me, I'm thinking of setting up a new business selling jackets, small barrels of beer, pickled cucumbers and pubic wigs. He pauses to allow my puzzled frown to arrange itself. It's going to be called Jerkins, Firkins, Gherkins and Merkins.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Easy as falling off a Blog... and books ...and a musical vermifuge

Procrastinations and la la la LA etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Afflicted with a Cliff Richard earworm again accompanied by the sickening eyeworm of the kitsch elf himself strutting and twitching on stage. At least I've added some of my own words.

I was considering my lifelong tendency to procrastinate which manifests itself even in the simple matter of maintaining a simple blog. There's the bigger issue, too, of career. I'm still wondering what to do when I leave school. [What a waste! What a waste! ]*. Worrying.

As I reached this point in my meditation cheery Cliff bounced on to the scene! A man who knows where he's going. Perennial, evergreen, clean, Godly, his Mansion inside the the Gated Community called Paradise assured. A community of Saved Folk for whom every day is a Sunday full of cheery worship and Hosanas in which they can wander about in a bliss of [ self ] congratulations and jubilations.

Honoured to have Mister Will Birch following my blog. His biography of Ian Dury is on my reading list for the summer. Ian produced such wonderful words. Reasons to be Cheerful indeed! He wasn't a perfect person, 'a flawed character' no doubt and not a brilliant father according to Zoe Street Howe's entertaining and insightful book on the relationship between rock stars and their progeny.

I enjoyed reading Zoe's book because it avoids the usual dreary sensationalism that accompanies such an investigation. Zoe allows the sons and daughters to speak for themselves and, without succumbing to the temptation of doing a bit of pop psychologising, shows the difficulties and dilemmas they face with sympathy and wry humour.

I found Frank Zappa to be one of the less comfortable figures. There was something chilling and empty about his libertarian parenting. I'd rather have Ozzy Osbourne as a Dad. Just. Pleased to see that Lee Brilleaux came out as a good Dad, which might surprise some people.

By the way, if you find yourself afflicted by a Cliff Richard earworm, eyeworm, lungworm or tapeworm check out Mister Brilleaux with Dr. Feelgood on You Tube playing 'I'm a Hog for You Baby'. This will cleanse you of auditory parasites of all kinds and serve as an antidote to the image of Cliff's twee twitching jive and expel intestinal parasites into the bargain. Caution: do not view if you are in denial about the connection between rock and the male libido or are easily offended.

The two books I mention are 'Ian Dury, the Definitive Biography ' by Will Birch and
'How's Your Dad', by Zoe Street Howe. Both of which I can recommend.

*The title of any Ian Dury song, for those not familiar with his work. Strikes a chord with me!