writing

Cyanistes Caeruleus or Daniel & Erithacus Rubecula or Robert

 robinredbreast_by_chibighibli

Daniel is eyeing the bird feeder.  It is suctioned to the kitchen window and contains a single, half-decimated suet ball with hulled sunflower seeds poking out of the top.  He leans forward readying for take-off.  There is a shadow on the other side of the feeder.  It moves.

Gavin spots it first and whistles: ‘Dan, Dan, Dan, Danny, Daniel!’

Daniel stops and looks at Gavin: ‘What is it mate?  I’m on my way to lunch.’

‘Shadows, moving shadows, pink hands; it’s big, really big.’

The giant shadow is standing at the sink.  It has bright pink hands that it plunges into something white and foamy.  It walks away.

Daniel grows impatient.

‘Sod this for a game of soldiers.  I’m Hank Marvin.’

Daniel stretches indigo wings, leans forward and pushes himself away from the protection of the thicket.  A flash of red shoots out from the cotoneaster and charges into Daniel knocking him off course.  The red pecks viciously at his sweet-lined eyes.  He is spun around and over and upside down before he falls to the patio floor.  He lies on his back and blinks only once.

Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/art/robinredbreast-39849967

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Industrial Infant

Industrial infant

Industrial infant

 

 

The ticket booth is sepia-coloured.   The seller wears a beaked cap.  His mouth hides behind a thick moustache.  He tells me I can go on the steamboat or the train or even one after the other.  As my sleeve brushes the counter, my fingers turn shades of pale grey.  The gold pound coin falls from my hand and twenty silver shillings land in the centre of his square palm.

I step onto the platform.  I look down and there is a newborn baby in my arms.  There are black surgical pen marks tattooed all around his tiny cranium.  The bosomy, wide-hipped woman who takes my tea-stained ticket looks at him admiringly.  She does not see the oddity of his scars.

I board an open-top train and cling to the infant.  Together we ride around the roof of a red-brick wool factory amidst an industrial landscape, over and over again.

 

 

Source: http://www.steamsounds.org.uk/recordings.html

Cyanistes caeruleus or Gavin

Blue Tit in Trilby by Claire Tarling

Gavin is sitting on a bowed branch of firethorn outside the kitchen window.  His hat is gleaming as the sun runs fingers over his plumy skull.  He tilts his white cheek up to the right and blinks away the light to see a fresh, pale green shoot on the branch.  He stabs his short beak tearing the newness to shreds and inside he finds a sweet, juicy aphid just the colour of lime pulp.

‘Mm…I haven’t had one of these in yonks,’ he mutters through part-masticated flesh with two, fine legs dangling from his beak, before gulping down the succulent bug greedily.

Image source: http://www.jijikiki.com/collections/wall-art/products/blue-tit-in-trilby-art-print

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/b/bluetit/

 

To Polaris

PolarisNebula_mandel800

Polaris dust nebula

 

 

February afternoon

Azure eastern horizon

Four hundred and eighty two

Aluminium-encased

Celestially-bound bodies

Reflect solar rays on ascent

Into the stratosphere

Compress and combust

Rotate and thrust

Breach auditory peace

Of wood pigeon coo

Teeter precariously

On twig tips

Winter ornament

To Polaris

 

Image source: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080111.html

In Search of Lost Time – Review

Marcel-Proust-111_2414511k

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 1: The Way by Swann’s is a densely descriptive, prose-heavy analysis of social mores, veiled human frailty, familial and romantic love, anxiety, jealousy and the relationship between memory, place and time. It is told through the eyes of a tortuously sensitive boy and, later, through the amorous encounters of a socially mobile man within the fickle, pretentious and stifling world of the Parisian bourgeoisie during La Belle Epoque, a period in French society that lasted from 1871 to 1914.

I must be honest and reveal myself a heathen. It took me two months to plough through this novel with pen poised in hand and an intense furrowing of the brow. After the first fifty pages, I shelved Proust for a month, in favour of Hilary Mantel. À la recherche du temps perdu was not a natural pleasure for me by any stretch. I have little interest in the tribulations of well-to-do people deeply aware of and concerned with social class. The turgidity of Proust’s lengthy descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of characters at a dinner party, are somewhat exhausting after ten pages of facial tics and acted laughter, the hidden meanings of which, in the end, do not seem of any particular consequence.

Yet, I persisted. The exquisite, descriptive vocabulary retains a nowness; a timeless quality.  And Proust’s meticulous, academic social observations reveal profound insights into the relationship between outward human behaviour and inner thought.  He reveals a tender cynicism about the contrivances of his characters and a witty self-awareness about the inherent sense of superiority and associated cruelties that are a by-product of his social standing.

The central theme of lost time encapsulated in the spongy joys of a tea-soaked madeleine is touched so lightly that it lingers delicately in the back of the mind soothing numerous angst-ridden tussles between social constraint and individual complexity. And Proust maintains a deeply personal and confiding tone that leaves you feeling you know a part of him, you have seen a glimmer of his inner world and most intimate worries. It is odd but true that I even think the author’s vulnerability triggered my well-buried maternal instincts.

Within the novel, Proust considers his relationship to the inner sanctum of books and exterior reality that presents a concreteness which ‘dissipates’ when he tries to make contact with it. He writes: ‘…as an incandescent body brought near a damp object never touches its wetness because it is always preceded by a zone of evaporation.’ The pages are bubbling over with this type of sumptuously visceral analogy that enables you to see and feel the intended sentiment.

Proust describes an assimilation of a book into a reader’s consciousness as he or she constructs characters from pieces of the writer’s creation; a meeting of minds, an exchange across time and space. His rigorous examination of the nature of literature reminds me that the written word is a living thing to be altered and interpreted differently by each and every reader within their own location and from their own construction of reality so that you might see through thine eyes what I have seen through mine.

I read In Search of Lost Time, despite my initial hurdles with the density of the text and disinterest in the staging of the novel, because I thought I could learn something from one of the most revered authors of the 20th century and I hoped it might make me a better writer. I leave the book on the shelf in the study/laundry/guest room, feeling enlightened, inspired and grateful that I didn’t give in.

So after all, as you read Proust and absorb a character, such as Swann’s lover, Odette de Crecy, and your mind shifts between the nuances of her elusive personality, remember you are sitting beneath a virtual blossoming chestnut tree with a French novelist, one of the greatest literary figures of our time, creating lives and building worlds.

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Avenue with Flowering Chestnut Trees at Arles, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

Image 1 source – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9713855/All-of-Proust-on-audiobook-Time-to-go-to-bed-early.html

Image 2 source – http://www.wikiart.org/en/vincent-van-gogh/avenue-with-flowering-chestnut-trees-at-arles-1889

The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba

Claude Lorrain, The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648

 

A distant sea bird calls in the gallery.  Yet, I cannot see one.  The visitors mull around in corduroy, folded-arm consternation, with audio guides and little plaques to lead them through a maze of Turner and the Masters.

Something shifts in the corner of my eye.  I turn back to the painting.  The men carrying the trunk are wobbling and sweating feverishly as they lower precious cargo onto the boat.

The idle bystanders are laughing.  The rowers are rowing.  The Queen’s blue cloak ripples in a Red Sea breeze.

I step into the painting.  I swallow hard and blink and stamp my feet in the dirt.  Nobody sees.

I do not believe I was in the painting.  I have an unsettling imagination that leaves me thirsting for reality.  Yet I can taste Arabian salt on my lips.

I go home.  I kick off my shoes.  I roll damp socks into a ball and throw them down the hall.  I watch the cat flick the sock toy in the air and pounce.  Liberated feet breathe in airy relief and siliceous grains glisten between my toes.

 

 

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Embarkation_of_the_Queen_of_Sheba

Boy with Balloons

Boy with Balloons, Mrs Mook’s Mantlepiece

When I was a girl, about four or five years old, my parents would leave me with a lady called Mrs Mook. She was a big lady; strong as an ox. She had great, wide hips and salt and pepper hair that had been set in pink, heated rollers. She wore slippers for wide feet and paisley, patterned polyester dresses. I liked it when Mum and Dad couldn’t pick me up before tea time. I liked sitting at her Formica table and eating beef in little squares with sweet, tinned peas and grey-vy.

Mrs Mook had the most extensive collection of porcelain I have ever seen. As we had a cuppa in the living room, Mother would raise her cup to her lips, believing it to be a greater shield than it truly was, and utter in harsh, hushed tones ‘Don’t touch,’ before measuredly sipping her tea and eliciting a demure smile as she lowered her cup.

The boy with balloons was my favourite ornament. He stood nearest to me on the left of the dark wood mantelpiece. The balloons were so appealingly edible and fruit-like with their shiny, glazed spheres. I just wanted to pick one and eat it and feel it crunch in my molars like a pear drop. But I did not. I was keenly observed.

I was excruciatingly restrained, sitting on my hands lest they lose control and propel my child’s body up from my chair. They might fling me into the glass cabinet sending plates and coveted tea sets crashing to the floor, before dragging me across to the fireplace. My wayward left hand might lift my arm and force it in one neat line all the way down the mantelpiece decapitating the blue and white bonneted shepherdess with the upturned fingers, massacring the promenading Victorian couple, slaughtering the proud Dalmatian dog and finally murdering the boy with the balloons in one foul swoop with a crash and a smash into smithereens.

The shepherdess’s head would roll casually along the floor till it reached Mrs Mook’s slippered toe where it would rock gently and come to rest with a delicate nose, pressed between a rubber sole and worn carpet. The pink balloon would break free from the others and rather than float away to the boundless sky, it would land with a sure thud and nestle by my chair leg. My unruly hand might take the charlatan strawberry sherbet and conspire with my guileless mouth which, overcome by temptation and fateful opportunity, will weaken and allow wicked, tiny fingers to prise its lips apart just enough to gleefully pop the pink balloon onto my insatiable tongue.

I must sit on my hands.

I wonder where the porcelain boy is now and whether his knuckles are still white because he has been clutching china balloons for his entire life.