Sunday, 30 July 2017

Portrait of Andi at 16 - St George's Uniform

A flag fluttering in a soft breeze; fluttering, hesitating; hesitating, fluttering again.

The wind is a machine, we will insist upon this fact. For we are free to imagine the hands of a clock; two sun soaked legs making this easy for us. Tick. It is twenty five past six. Tick. Tock. Tick. The skirt flutters, the arms move infinitesimally, time spreading like clouds… We are a sheet, made of cotton, and washed only yesterday, we are not… A white sky? I really do not know what you are talking about. The white sheet, obstinately insisting upon its rights, will be heard. Here is a literalist, an egoist and a bore. We send her to the back of the class. Unease following her through the room, whispers susurrate across the desks, until, with a hard look and a ferociously loud silence, we restore the old order. A window quietly rattles. And we return to the blackboard, with its half-finished drawing: a forlorn Father Time trampled into oblivion under the feet of a triumphant dragon…

A page turns over.

The book is comfortable on this girl’s lap. Here is God at the centre of his creation. A motor inside the mechanism. It is God’s word that moves this machine, the machine controlling the rhythm of his speech.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Late Middle Age

You are clothing the future
In old suits, veteran waistcoats,
Those once expensive shirts.
They are rich in autumnal colours.
The trousers bright red,
Your tie the exquisite yellow
Of ripe leaves…

A ready-made architecture,
Designed to withstand
The inclement weather
Of your long winter years.
A Palladian house
New as the day it was built,
Centuries out of date…

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Clean It Up!

R.W. Johnson is rude and coarse. Leslie Stephen is charming, tolerant and generous, but even he is a little, a teensy-weeny bit, unkind. Few intellectuals like the liberals. The reason is an old and simple one: the professional’s irritation at the amateur who will insist on bumbling into their workshop and telling them how it should be done.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A Spat

We blame Henry. Inviting us to join him in this fog-filled park he walks too quickly; is getting too far ahead, skipping along with his little lantern we surmised was our servant. We stumble behind, on a feeble path of light, hardly seeing our own footsteps; thoughts tripping over sentences, our ideas zigzag amongst the wild beds, and are lost in this park’s overgrown prose. Hallo! I’m so sorry. Pushing aside the branches of a bush I bump into a pretty woman, who looks worried, fragile… I am lost. Can you help me? She wants, she says, to get out of this park, this fog, this man’s entangling paragraphs. I shake my head; shout out: Henry! Henry Green!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Beautiful Blossoms

He plants his ideas. Flowers in a garden; growing like trees, the roots tunnelling the earth, a boundary wall cracks, there are waves in the pavement… Drunk already! It’s eleven o’clock man! In the morning! Get get out of my… A man trips, nudged aside by a passing cyclist he stumbles into the road, a car swerves, it is shouting. There is so much noise. What the… 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Flamingos

















Our too familiar eyes. Turn the binoculars the right way round and… Wow! It is overwhelming! Marvellous! Ouch! Hitting our nose on the strange we see stars. What? Yes! We have entered a cartoon and become a caricature. Retreating into a pompous naivety we transform the new into the odd, the weird, the bizarre; seeing the new in its proper size the new becoming the exotic becomes a fabulous beast, a giant; and we…we are now pigmies to our own familiarity; we think of an ordinary bush next to a luxuriant palm tree; a hedgehog under a parasol… New images flooding the mind, this picture sinks from sight and we sail over the sun bled waters with centaurs for company. Though even now, in this imaginary jungle, we wear them still: our eyes, our workday spectacles. It is why on this spit of land, a pike in the middle of an African river, the natives shrink to such meagre scale, smaller with every passing glance; too commonplace to be noticed much.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Old Dreams and Mad Futures

Ostranenie. Definitions are for dictionaries. To understand this term properly we must experience it for ourselves, read it in novels. Here, Ostranenie is both fact and symbol.

The coffin factory proved to be an area cleared of undergrowth, though shadowed by great trees; it was bounded on one side by a stream, a small river almost, some fifteen feet wide, running fast with troubled, muddy, yellowish water. Felled trunks were stacked here and there, and at the water’s edge was a row of vast cumbrous Chinese coffins in various stages of completion. A few sepoys squatted on the ground, most of them asleep. There was a pile of ammunition boxes, and in one of the coffins lay Sam Holl, with his unwound turban draped across him to protect his face from mosquitoes. In the coffin he looked very dead, except for the khaki cloth over his mouth which rose and fell evenly with his breathing. Alan looked down on him, numbed by a sudden quietness. Holl lay awkwardly with both hands resting on his left hip as if on a sword hilt, his crossed legs covered by folds of his turban cloth. He looked like a thirteenth-century crusader, militant, potent still in the sleep of death. But not dead; and in Alan’s body there surged a sober but fierce acknowledgment. He stood looking for a little while, almost feeding on Holl’s presence; then he sat quietly down at the foot of the coffin to wait; almost at once he was himself asleep.