Archive for June, 2018

“I have never understood this about parenthood,” he was saying.
She knew the signs, the worn, ragged expression on his young face, the pitch of the voice, thin and insistent, forcing itself beyond its strength. “This need to identify with them, like… like trying to open up some psychic doorway. Become them….” And them mumbling unformed thoughts he cannot quite reach:
“Sink into a general identity.”

She had learned patience; as though that was her doorway to him, them, the world.

“It’s always been my…” struggling for words they both know will not come, “ I’ve spent so much of my life trying to demystify them. Mum. Dad. See them as people. And it’s such a disappointment. Their petty squabbling all my life. Their insistence on hurt. And, you know, sometimes, Sometimes… Maybe I should have left alone. Which is the most disappointing, them, or finding them as that?”

She looked at him again, guarding her expression. “I have to go. You know that.”

“God yes.” He jumped, “The traffick’ll be murder. Do be careful… out there.” Lame smile, the Hill Street Blues thing. Shared things; nothings, things they have somehow given such a value to.

“Look, you get off. And I’ll get the shopping so you can come straight home, and no…”

“Bye, love.”

*

She sat, hands between her knees, all tight, staring at her empty cappuccino. Sammy waited. Something was coming. She caught a yawn peeping out behind her waiting.

“I… ah. Do you think Dave is ok?”

“Ok?”

“I… ah… Twice now… I’ve…  heard him in the shower. Crying.”

“What? Really crying?”

“Kind of quietly. You know… well, it reminded me of a child. In bed, alone at night.”

“God, Lil., that sounds so sad.”

“I know, I know, I…”

“Has he said anything? Have you…?”

“I tried to. That last time. I met him, you know accidently on purpose, coming out of the shower…”

“And?”

“It was the look on his face. I couldn’t read it. I thought a bit of resentment, blame, but it was washed away by something…. I couldn’t, after that. Maybe it’s a man thing!”

“They’re not that different from us.”

“You’d never have said that one time!”

“Ah, well.”

“Look. I know this is going to sound weird. Bad. But…”

“Lil! I don’t know what I can say!”

“Look, I’ve worked it out: we go for a drink, after. Then I make an excuse…”

“Lil!”

“It’s me taking the risks here. With your histories.”

“How do you know Tony won’t want to come too?”

“Because. Because if he did the state he’s in at the mo., one drink’d knock him sideways. He knows that, and I know that.”

*

“Well, Dave, I’ll have to be getting back too.”

“Oh, Sammy, Sammy. I’m getting old, Sammy. Can you imagine! Only, what, five years between us. Feels like a life-time.”

“You’re only…”

“I’m losing my hair, Sammy. Big time. The plug-hole…”

“It could be anything, change of season. Even alopaecia.”

“Not only that, though, is it. Everything droops. I’ve shrunk horribly where it matters, and everything else just hangs.”

“You’re just out of tone.”

“You and me, we had good times. Those evenings in Durham. Romantic evenings. Lovely romantic evenings”

“You certainly have a long memory, Dave.”

“Come on, you must remember that hotel, those nights.”

“It was draughty, the furniture was dusty; fingermarks…”

“Don’t spoil it, Sammy!”

“Well, who had to clean up, afterwards?”

“But they were perfect. Admit it, weren’t they!”

“You have really no idea, do you Dave! What’s so romantic about ending up douching in a grimy bathroom. While you slept the sleep of the dead!”

“Sammy, don’t be… that’s…”

“That’s how it was, Dave. That’s really how it was.”

“I don’t know why you have to be so viscous. Don’t you understand what I’m saying? I can’t even do it anymore! She never comes near me, anyway. What have I got to raise a flag for.”

“And so you’re going to dribble into your drink for the rest of your life. Give it a rest, Dave.”

“So, and what’s your Tony got that I haven’t? From what I hear…”

“Ok, Dave. You’re on your own. Bye. Oh, and, don’t forget to give Lil my best wishes.”

*

Sometimes I catch myself hoping the car won’t start. I’d sit back, at my desk. A good hour before the cleaners come in. Fresh coffee; feet up. Cars chugging and honking five stories below. The quiet it makes.

Just so very sad to see him ill. Five years now. Improving. But now he knows that’s five years lost. Better, maybe, if he knew nothing about them; so hard to realise… We all live in out heads most of the time. So when something comes and… zonks you like that: nothing to remember when memory is our big resource.

 

My niece is doing Criminology; second year, now. God, I’d love to have done something like that. Options on our ACAS forms were post-war rationing.

Kids get all the best deals.

 

 

Advertisements

As black-on-black of stellar crows
chase by eyrie earth,
they leave it reeling.
Their monstrous battles
are star deaths, sunbursts.

When they mate times tense,
pressured;
the incubation of the egg
our doldrums.
The hatching
moves time on a notch.

Feeding the newborn,
our periods of acquisition;
when the fledgling flies
we feel its wrench, absence
like the loss of a god.

There is no knowing
they will ever fly here again.

BRUTALISM

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , , ,

He walked out of there into a mechanical world. It should have been a new world, the old world new again. But it was a mechanical world.

The hearing aids were the new part; they were calibrated to the loss of the higher frequencies, and so upped the treble for him. The simple laws of materials and their resonances meant those upper frequencies had the tinny sound of some ipod ear pieces.

He walked out of there expecting to hear the world as he had known it; it was not that world. What he heard was a mechanised version: a bird flew by, flapping its wings for take-off and height-gain. There was instant visual and environmental recognition, here was an urban pigeon entering onto a length of flight, the road to the next junction, maybe. It was too built-up for wood pigeons, though they had the same flapping-slap of flight. But this time it sounded like a rustling newspaper, a large broadsheet. This was not that familiar sound to vision connect he knew so well.

His cotton trousers brushed soft cotton socks; it was a rasping sound. That was wrong. He was so intent on this hearing phenomena, these anomalies, the car just missed him. The slightly off-centre focus of his hearing, a little further to the back of his head, skewed his balance; he felt he was lurching around. By the side of a road this was not good.

He came to that junction in the road and turned, off the curb again, on then off.

‘Did you see that fool, then?’

‘Drink. Or drugs.’

‘Shouldn’t be out.’

‘What a tosser.’

He walked away quickly. This is what he got the aids for, to hear conversations again. But this…. All those times outside of conversations, anything not one-to-one, anything with background music, or just sounds blanking out all finer sounds…. And this is what he needed them for? To hear this kind of thing? Everything has its plus, and its minus.

He was in the shopping precinct now; all around were conversations. He was no longer shut out, separated by a blurred barrier of sound, now he could hear. And what did he hear? Conversation as social glue, as recognition codes among women, and among men; the youths uttered a kind of blank-faced vowel-heavy monosyllabic talk. Back with their girlfriends they were animated and fully vocal again. This was bonding, rather than intercourse: all had come outdoors to re-register themselves as social beings of a certain type, place, age, social level.

That hiss. What was it? It was the hair over his ears, the ear pieces. Whenever his ears moved, and it was surprising how often, or his scalp moved – that too – whenever all the continual physiological responses of his head occurred it gave a hissing sound, like a simmering. It should be a lower sound, a rustle of hair on plastic, on packed plastic, not hollow; but a rustle.

It was then he began to notice the changes in the new sounds, a mismatch of known sound from recognised stimuli, and this altered sound. His sense of balance, ok, that was expected and explainable: his mind listened to these new sounds despite himself. His mind was so taken up with this that it left his vision to fend for itself. And so, that object glimpsed for a second, and which he had glimpsed so many times and knew to be a faded flower head over his high garden wall, now gave him a sudden alert.

He was home, and brushing up the soil he had just walked in with a hand brush. What was that? A crow cawing somewhere close. It was his shirt brushing the flock wall paper as he moved. Nothing was matching with anything else. His mind supplied the correct explanations, but the cause was not the right one. Although vision was always king, sound was the council of ministers, the underlying sense and explanation to everything seen.

Now every sound had borders again. Things you are not aware of, things taken for granted, things slowly accustomed to, building up, accumulating, as your own sense of self grows. And now how very untidy this house – everything overspilling. My god, he thought, Where’ve I been?

The week was taken up with tidying, only, the clarity was like a razor. He became ruthless; everything went. His comfortable apartment became… stark, sharp edged, with high-lumin light bulbs that gave no mercy.

A part of him found he could not stay indoors longer than needed. He interpreted this as being focused, energized. This mismatch set up a sense of restless energy that frequently tipped into acts of anger, sudden bursts, that made no sense to him. He’d leave whoever he had hurt, and walk away amazed at himself, appalled at himself, and thrilled.

He searched out the cleaner parts of the city. The Business sectors? No; vacant buildings accumulated there, closed-downs. It became a tumbleweed centre. No, the places he gravitated to were the financial sectors. Behind their black windows they generated as much energy as they had before. This time, they did it clandestinely. Their offices were… sharp-edged, minimalist, with high-lumin light bulbs. This was his new home.

But even there, a part of him shrank away from full commitment.

The straight abrupt angles of the building in front of him was the promotion of common sense and business confidence, of four-square achievement; solid, dependable. This was the crown of the great city.

Now, however, it and many of the ones in this style, especially in close proximity like this, their own financial sector, now radiated to all an overbearing feeling of dullness, of deadness of spirit and enterprise. They had come represent the hubris and failure of an economic system that was flawed at heart.

His hearing was now like that; it dictated to sight a different, diminished repertoire of sounds to meaning.

There is a… would you call it a jingle?… my wife was taught at her Grammar School. It was part of the How to improve your class-credentials, type of tuition. It goes:

Father’s car is a jaguar
and pa drives rather fast;
castles and farms, and draughty barns
we go charging past.

Got it so far? It’s all in the accentuation as yet: that ‘a’ is looong, it is ar, and not as here in the north, a short and abrupt a. And Jaguar, is given full pronunciation, where otherwise it would be more like Jagua. This lengthens the pronunciation, evens out the demotic, and levels emotive expression. All words are given the same value by this system, nothing as course as the personal can creep in.
And, look at the castles, that charging. Where are we? What part of the country – England – is this this? It is one connected intimately with conquest, and landed gentry (farms as part of their ‘landed estate’?). We instantly think of the south-east, and of the ‘home counties.’ The following commentator thought the same:
http://tlatet.blogspot.com/2010/02/surrey-apology.html
One comment on this link suggested they consider the area of Cranleigh, as a place still retaining something of the England that the jingle conjures.

Now comes the emphasis on expectation and prospects:

Arthur’s car is far less smart
and does not go half as fast –
but I’d rather ride in Arthur’s car
than in pa’s fast car.

Not one’s own car, mind, but ‘looked after,’ driven, escorted, and thereby treated as a prospective house wife, not career girl. All this is subtly implicated in learning the jingle. And yes, it did have to be learned, and recited regularly.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/11140150/A-posh-RP-voice-can-break-down-barriers.html

But I cannot help thinking of some of John Betjeman’s playful, wry, poems: A Subaltern’s Love Song/Miss J Hunter Dunn, say (- ‘furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun’. Why the abbreviations? A nineteenth century poetic metre redundancy, played up to tweak the reader’s resources)
But Betjeman’s ladies are all self-sufficient, strong, and resourceful.
Betjeman, himself, carefully hid his ‘trade’ background among Oxford ‘friends.’ That is, those from upper class backgrounds.

Would this, then, be the same ‘grammar school accent’ that Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves joked about, talking of Wilfred Owen? Public school chums laughing at the parvenus. Wilfred Owens poems of that time have certainly outlasted Graves’. Sassoon…?
Have they lasted because they have the direct speech of people, and not the ‘clubby,’ insider talk, of the public shoolers?

What of our white-gloved, and parasol’d, young leddy in pa’s car? ‘Leddy’? This is the further reach of this teaching: Received Pronunciation. Received Pronunciation was the lingua franca of the new radio and TV media. At that time regional accent retained strength, and, some would say, impenetrability. We witnessed it fairly recently when Geordie, Cheryl Tweedie’s, American debut was met with incomprehension.
But RP got its information through. Unfortunately some adopted it as ‘a tongue’ in itself, the language of the upwardly mobile.

– Remember Frasier, on TV? Frasier’s dad, playing an American ex-cop, was from Manchester originally. And the actress playing Daphne Moon, from southern England, was playing a Mancunian, – badly.

Yet accent can so lift a piece of writing. The many accents in Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos – we only hear the thick (and adenoidal? Or is that more New Jersey?) Noo Yoik tones towards the end of the book. Southern writers traded on the baroque language of their States (and how I miss Justified: Timothy Olyphant at his best?).

When was the period of America’s accents? The strong Texan, the Appalachian, the New York, and Detroit?
I was recently reading A Pioneer Woman’s Memoir, of Arabella Clemens, based on the diaries of a young woman taking the pioneer trail from North Carolina, to Oregon, in the 18860s.
https://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-Womans-Memoir-Their-Words/dp/053111211X
She does not mention State accents – no proof in itself, but nor does she mention problems in understanding people’s speech in the States she passed through between North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho.

This Wiki article suggests many American accents are ‘recent’ – that phrase needs definition, though.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_English

 

We do have to distinguish between accent and slang. Slang can never be right in work’s professional situations, can it? I’ve heard young professionals using the ‘f’ for ‘th’  deviation: ‘free’ for ‘three’ etc. Just baby talk, to me. And the glottal stop: bo’le for bottle…. Conversely, there’s the over-emphasis eg mod-del for model etc. And then there’s the execrable ‘ta’oo,’ for ‘tattoo’.

 

I do wonder, in the jingle, about pa, showing off to his daughter by charging down country lanes in his Jaguar.
Parading his virility – to his daughter? Setting up for her impossible expectations?
Yep, we get the message, some arrogant, wealthy, ego maniac, caring nothing for anyone but himself and his own.
Ownership, and thereby deference.

You could just slap him, couldn’t you.

But then, that would be bad manners.

from Parameters, ebooks, Amazon kindle:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parameters-Michael-Murray-ebook/dp/B07893LB8Z/ref=sr_1_8?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1529693778&sr=1-8&keywords=Parameters

 The Tango is a passion, a way of life.

Tango was born on the Rio De La Plata delta, when Buenos Aires was a child: holes in pockets, scuffed shoes, a tattered bandanna called Monserrat.

The dance tales a story: In the long struggle between the power of the Rancheros and the centralised State, the Pampas felt the hand of man.

The economy is a snake, it twists and turns, at times it devours its own children. In the 1850s it twisted again. Rural workers made their way to the city, they fetched up in Monserrat.

With them came the old dances, music; the milonga was danced on the street of Corrientes. The music of European immigrants trickled through alleyways; the German religious accordion, the Bandaneon, was prominent. Lutheran austerity met Catholic poverty. Pride was in the mastery of its 71 buttons, in elaboration upon a frugal base. The withheld gesture, syncopation: all the arts of drawing from a 4:4 structure the utmost gestures.

The Tango, the Condorelle, the Fandango grew up in the barrio, fostered by uncertainty, fed by hunger, and the bitter herbal tea, Mate, a substitute for coffee. For all the coffee was exported.

As the snake lay glutted in the country’s Golden Age, the Tango grew into its youth: everyone was young again, the future possible. Everyone danced to ‘La Cumparista’s marching tune, tweaked and as polished as patent leather shoes.

Songs added an extra sound. So when a world at war no longer found safe footing, they listened to songs of loss: of pride and confidence, and loss.

The singers held them with a sob in the voice, as the world reeled.

Nothing was the same; the snake turned, and columns shook and crumbled. Argentina became a backward look, a lost glory, the plaster falling from the cornice of the fashionable street, never to be replaced.

The long, troubled look into the dark of La Plata at night; only warships churned, some never to return. Later, the Belgrano, sunk like the fortunes of Presidents, before and after.

To remember the songs. Tango is a passion. At times it shows a light across the delta, a boat perhaps, where fishermen can still make a living.

Tango lives on in the wilderness, far from home. It establishes cult centres: Paris, New Orleans, even Helsinki, Tokyo.

Lately the Paris based performers, dancers, musicians, singers joined in a dance-based beat and rhythm to become ‘The Gotan Project.’

But it always returns home: Buenos Aires, its’ columns and chipped marble, the peeling paint. The passion as strong as ever.  Whenever the blood is taxed in its artery, the economy lays its stifling torpid weight on all, bodies can still transport the soul, dance it out into the brag, and the ultimate sacrifice of self, that Tango enacts.

Out of the head of the snake a bird flies, from its body the blood beat and rhythm; its poised draw-back places precisely the footstep of new rhythms.

 

From SUR (South) 1948, lyrics Homero Manzi:

Ancient San Juan and Boeda street corner, the whole sky,

                                             Pompeya and farther down, the floods

                                             Your loose hair of a bride in my memory

                                             And your name floating in the farewell.

                                             The blacksmith’s corner, mud and pampa,

                                             Our house, our sidewalk, and the ditch

                                             And a scent of weeds and alfalfa

                                             That fills the heart all over again.

 Or the accumulation of urban details: witnesses: A MEDIA LUZ (In Half Light), 1925. Lyrics: Carlos Cesar Lenzi

Corrientes three-four-eight

                                            Second floor, elevator.

                                            There are no doorman, nor neighbours.

                                            Inside, cocktail and love.

                                            Loft furnished by Maple:

                                            Piano, rug and nightlamp,

                                            A telephone that answers,

                                            A phonograph that cries

                                            Old tangos of my flower,

                                            And a porcelain cat.

 

 

The mystery of: CHARLMOS (Let’s Chat) 1942. Lyrics: Luis Rubinstein

                                            Belgrano 6-0-1-1?

                                           I would like to speak to Renee…

                                           She doesn’t live there?… No, don’t hang up…

                                           Could I talk with you?

 

                                           Don’t hang up…the afternoon is gloomy.

                                           I feel sentimental.

                                           I know Renee does not exist…

                                           Let’s chat…

                                           …life is so short…

                                           let’s dream, in the grey

                                           rainy afternoon…

 

From the same period the highly impressionistic, almost surreal: TINTA ROJA (Red Ink) 1942. Lyrics: Catulo Castillo

                                         Thick wall,

                                                               Red ink in the

                                         Gray of yesterday…

                                         Your emotion

                                         Of brick, happy

                                         Over my alley.

                                         And a blotch

                                         Painted the corner,

                                         And the cop

                                         That in the wide of the night

                                         Placed to the end of the beat

                                         As a clasp…

 And then suddenly, possibly a future: PRELUDIO PARA EL ANO 3001. (Prelude for the year 3001) Lyrics: Horacio Ferrer, and music by the modern master Astor Piazollo.

                                            I’ll be reborn in Buenos Aires in another June afternoon

                                            With a tremendous desire to love and to live.

                                            I’ll be reborn fatally, it will be the year 3001

                                            And there will be an Autumn Sunday at san Martin square

                                            Little stray dogs will bark at my shadow

                                            With my modest baggage I’ll arrive from the beyond

                                           And kneeling down on my dirty and pretty River Plate

                                            I’ll knead me another tireless heart of mud and salt

                                            And three shoe shiners, three clowns and three

                                           Sorcerers will come, my immortal accomplices…..