The flowers of passion

I lived in Paris for fifteen years. One day I was going home from work on the metro, and a lady with a bunch of lilac sat opposite me for a few stations. I was shocked. I think I had forgotten there was a life outside the concrete jungle and that it involved seasons with ephemeral blooms.

When I moved to the south-west of France in 1998 there was a creeper growing on my balcony. One day it flowered and I couldn’t believe how strange the flower was. It looked to me as if it must have fallen to earth from another planet. It has a decidedly extra-terrestrial look.

The fruit of this passiflora plant looks a bit like apricots.


Rain check

Looking for Melanie Klein and castration on the internet, I came across the following gem from Hannah Segal:

“[…]. One was an extremely gifted professional violinist whom I interviewed on the ward. When I asked him why he stopped playing the violin he responded “do you expect me to masturbate in public?”

My world is relatively silent, I can’t stand much reality. I was unaware that I was enjoying so much peace and quiet, when I started looking for music to add here and suddenly there is so much of it, so many songs and albums that fall into the exceptionally important category. Like paving stones for skipping back and forwards over my life. My favourite songs at such and such a time. Albums I listened to over and over then forgot about. All I need to do is listen to a song to find myself projected back to that particular time, with its hopes and fears and loves and hates and atmosphere. Like Proust’s Madeleine, the reality of a city street on a rainy night surges forth from a chord change, a note, a word, a musical atmosphere.

I already mentioned Roy Orbison’s “It’s over” – that was my first heart ache. I don’t know who it is about, but I can remember sitting in the car with my family, the sun sparkling on the sea and thinking about not being loved by a boy at school. Not my first musical memory - I don’t know if they could ever be placed in chronological order – but my first memory of heartache in connection to boys.

In some cases, I don’t even have to hear the song again, today. I only have to remember it, remember the moment, as if the feeling was encrypted into the music and together they fly like a kite in my inner sky. The soundtrack to my sorest ever heartache, when I was dumped by my best friend - blonde pigtails, blue eyes and red cardigan - with no warning and no explanation, is Freddy and the Pacemakers singing “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the night. At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky and a keepsake forget-me-not”. I have a vision of myself walking across the play park at the bottom of my street in the dark, in the pouring rain, trying to clutch at those words, choking on them, crying my eyes out. My distress was safely hidden by the weather, the heavy rain (“Was it tears that fell or was it rain?” – my father’s favourite song) and the cold that stings your face and makes it red anyway, so no one will know that you want to die inside. That is not a good memory, and to this day I don’t like that song.



Music is…

Making it.

I am learning “Dock of the Bay” on the piano. I love the lyrics. The chords are all major chords. The first four are G, B, C, A. The change from B to C drives me wild. I remember years ago spending hours playing E minor and B minor on the guitar. The pleasure of the difference between the two chords seemed endless. A glimpse into the chasm - of the transcendence of mechanical repetition, obsession, hysteria? Is that what people call mental masturbation? The excitement is vaguely sexual. The only limits were sore fingers and having to stop to do something else.

Trying to get the hang of the chords, I hit a wrong note and it was jarring. It seemed to be my right hand that was wrong. I looked at the keyboard and surprise, it was the left hand that was not right, but it made the right hand, which was right, sound wrong. Reminded me of Françoise telling me that when the musicians play a wrong note, it sounds as if the singer is at fault. This is not to say the singer is never at fault! Years ago, I recorded Sunday morning coming down

(Kris Kristofferson) for my sister, who was still speaking to me at the time. As usual, I went over the top with the backing vocals, and my guitar playing is crap.

I don’t do it because I believe I’m good at it. I do it because I love doing it, I feel compelled to do it, I am unable to passively absorb uplifting experiences without producing some kind of humble response - to all the musicians, artists and writers who have given me a thrill, incredible sunsets or breathtaking landscapes. A belief in the need to propagate the spiritual value of art with a small “a”.

Listening to it.

At the moment, a song that never fails to make me quiver with emotion is Damien Rice singing The Blower’s Daughter.
Glory Box by Portishead is another track I feel reverence towards. My favourite singers include Chet Baker and Diana Krall. The Buena Vista album affects me so deeply I believe I must have been Spanish in a previous life. And I don’t have words to describe John Martyn and what Solid Air added to my student days. Tom Waits’ Saturday night still holds a thrill, stopping on the red, going on the green… A marvellous evocation of those rare moments when everything seems to be going absolutely right.



So we have come full circle, from scroll to book to blog, for the blog is like an electronic scroll, written not exactly upside down but by adding to the top, not the bottom. Like this comment, which should logically have been placed after the following snippets, which remind me that feuding is not new, and that we make do with the consequences.

“In the second century BC, the king of Egypt learned that King Eumenes II of Pergamum was amassing a library that surpassed the wonderous library of Alexandria. Eumenes had been importing large quantities of papyrus for the books copied and the rivalry caused The Egyptian King to put an embargo on the export of papyrus to Pergamum. Eumenes had his craftsman work to find a substitute and parchment was invented. This rivalry and jealousy between Pergamum and Egypt over the library was settled when Caliph Omar destroyed the Alexandrian library. The tragedy caused Antony to despoil the famous library at Pergamum in the 2nd century BC and remove it to Egypt as a present to Cleopatra to reimburse Alexandria for the volumes destroyed.”

“The introduction of parchment popularized the book in the format familiar to us. Parchment leaves could not be bound end to end like sheets of papyrus except by sewing them together, and the long strip would have been too unwieldy to roll into a volume.”



Maybe patchwork or cave drawing would be a more accurate ‘description’ of this blog than palimpsest. I have not actually rubbed anything out yet.

I found an online translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and discovered I had remembered “A moment’s inattention” wrong. The beast was indeed unleashed as a consequence of Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphynx, but Oedipus did not have a secret affair with Diana – Laelaps, the hound, was a gift to Procris, who gave it to her husband Cephalus, along with a magic hunting spear.

Talking about holes:

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

- Excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche



Where it was I shall be

Forever silent

though straining, struggling, pretending to give up, unfetter the will and let the impulse to say the way it was or is or could be run free, touch a remote sensor somewhere, somehow, sometime. Lines to tie me down for contemplation, lessen my isolation, achieve social integration, webbed existence, ticking the talk of no change other than place, speed and time. The identity you thought you had to build with skilled helpers finally let you back down to who you were, always, from the beginning, till the end, and the world did not change either. It simply spun, punning with itself, continental drift and metaphorical shift after shrift through levels of doubt; one point of certainty. The blind spot that is you and that you can never see but that sees the world as it is, helplessly, hopelessly. Then that was it. Then that was me.


The wind howls

I wanted to walk the dog and myself first thing this morning but it was raining heavily and so I put it off till after lunch.

The countryside was heavenly, the wide open space, the air, the smell of wet grass and wild flowers. The wind was howling around a telegraph pole, making a wailing noise as if there was a wounded child among the half-grown sunflowers.

I love the wind. I have written “The wind blew the words onto the paper.” in a file somewhere, as the first sentence in a tribute to the wind.

I’m reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I am enjoying the slow pace of it. I’m in no hurry to get to the end.

Howard Hodgkin:
Paul Levy
None but the brave deserves the fair
In the Bay of Naples