Monday, January 30, 2023
Thursday, January 26, 2023
I’ve had a love hate relationship with London over the years. If someone I love lives there and I can visit them, I love the place: I have a companion and I feel safe. Being accompanied overcomes my country mouse nerves and any loneliness and alienation the place might engender. There was a time around the turn of the century when both Zoë and Isaac lived there and I would visit quite often. They would take me to the new ‘in’ places and indulge me. It was huge fun.
I was writing pieces for the Times, and my visits made guest appearances in some of my articles, such as this one:
...For several years my eldest two children have lived in London, thus providing me with comfortable bolt-holes from which they could take me out to sample the delights of young urban chic entertainment.
How else would I - a country bumpkin who has led a sheltered life - have the chance to sample tequila slammers in an ex-engineering-workshop bar in Hoxton, with décor so uncompromisingly industrial I expected the ladies loos to consist of a row of galvanised buckets? My last exciting foray into their lives led to cocktails in a private bar with a secret Soho location, which, when I entered the blacked out frontage, made me feel as if I was time travelling back to the prohibition...
Then they both moved out - one to Sheffield and one to the USA - and my visits to London became less frequent. They centred on protest demonstrations, such as this one against the bombing of Gaza in 2014
and on major exhibitions, such as the wonderful Hockney one in 2012, which I went to with my siblings. The poster still hangs on the bedroom wall.
Then I began to visit Het. She invited me to stay when I was grieving for Mary and it was so lovely it’s since been hard to keep away. I’ve had so many restorative and stimulating visits since 2016 that I feel as though her spare bedroom is my personal fiefdom.
We talk and look at art, and eat nice things, occasionally have a glass of bubbly, and talk. We’ve been to the theatre and the ballet several times. One visit inspired this painting:
|Steve Bray (wearing a hat) is holding the placard to the right of the picture|
Monday, January 23, 2023
I always planned to come back on February 1st and say whether I was going to resume the blog or give it up, but I'm here now.
Have you read the desperate news about the writer Hanif Kureishi? He fell in Rome and woke up paralysed and has been tweeting his thoughts and feelings from his bed, via his wife and son.
In her insightful piece about him in the Financial Times, Rebecca Watson said this:
This seems relevant to me and my blog.
But it’s done me good to have a break. I’ve been able to concentrate on getting through a cold dark January with the news getting worse and even more upsetting. For example:
This is the U.K., not some dodgy, uncivilised country. Or is that where we are now?
Up top in his bubble, Sunak thinks our priorities are these:
When I was a student doing my psychology degree I took the Eysenck Personality Inventory and discovered that amongst other things I was “tender minded.” This is probably why I get so deeply upset about all the things I rant about on here. But I realised this month that I really need to toughen up.
One of my Christmas presents was a DIY neon sign. You shape a length of black wire and clip pink plastic tubing to it. The tubing is attached to a battery pack. I chose my word, but because I have fat fingers, Dave did 85% of the work. I wanted a sign I would see every morning when I am sitting in bed doing Quordle that would encourage me to toughen up. I might be wrong about it, but somehow “Be more stoical” didn't sound sufficiently punchy (or neon-worthy,) so I chose “Courage.”
Sunday, January 01, 2023
Wishing you hope
I finished the Still Life with Covid painting:
|Still Life with Covid|
Acrylic on board.
It could be better, but I am leaving it. "A work of art is never finished, only abandoned." (source possibly da Vinci)
I had a wonderful time with the family on Friday, and lots of lovely cuddles with my new baby granddaughter. Strangely, though, I came home feeling older than usual. Partly, it's because I think that Covid has made me deafer and I forgot to take my hearing aids. It wasn't just that, though. I came home with a feeling that perhaps old people are irrelevant.
I shared the thought with Dave and naturally, given his take on life, he agreed. "The best that old people can hope for is that they don't become toothless, fat and smelly."
His dark and bracing view of life always makes me laugh. Since then I've been thinking about my mother and my gran. They both lived into their 90s, and if they were "irrelevant" in their later years - and I am not saying they were - they were very much loved and they were very loving. And love is never irrelevant.
Dave came in as I was drinking my morning tea in bed and said “The headlines are all about people celebrating the New Year. All over the world! What on earth is there to celebrate?” (He used rather fruitier language than this.)
I feel the same as Dave.
But don’t worry, this is not going to be another miserable, moany post.
I feel bad there has been so much moaning on here this last year. I don’t want 2023 to be the same.
I’m here to say that I hope this year brings you happiness and whatever personal qualities you wish you had.
I’m wishing myself unselfishness, tact, courage and hope.
I’m also here to say that I want to take some time off from the blog. When I looked back at this last year’s posts there is so much struggle against despair, so many complaints about the government, more poems than I’ve every shared before. And the reason for this last is that thing that Ted Hughes said about poetry:
I’m hoping that when I come back I’ll be in a better frame of mind and have lots of funny and interesting things to tell you. My brother's just been on the phone and when I told him I was taking a break he said "You can't take a break. People will be disappointed."
When I said I didn't want to moan on endlessly, he said "Well, don't moan. Be positive."
But to my mind the value of the blog is that it's authentic. It has to come from inside me. That's the point of it.
Somewhere in the back of my head, my mother is saying "Go in the other room, and don't come back until you can be nice."
So I hope to see you in February.
Or maybe next week.
🙄And I'll leave you with Greta Thunberg:
"Right now we are in desperate need of hope. But hope is not about pretending that everything will be fine. To me, hope is not something that is given to you, it is something you have to earn, to create. It cannot be gained passively...Hope is taking action."