Sunday, 26 June 2011

It's summer. And this only means one thing. It never rains but it pours.

Right now it's gloriously sunny outside - hottest day of the year. I'm up to my eyes in work, rehearsals, books, plays, meetings, everything. It's the end of term. The play I'm producing has been cast, which is thrilling. I'm gearing up for Edinburgh, trying to work out where I can go travelling in September. Have been offered work in New Zealand but not sure if I have the funds to get over there, which is gutting.

I wish I knew what I want. I've got the whole summer ahead of me, therefore I want to be alone and independent. But sometimes people change that.

Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.

     Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
     Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
     I was neither at the hot gates
     Nor fought in the warm rain
     Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
     Bitten by flies, fought.
     My house is a decayed house,
     And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,
     Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
     Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
     The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
     Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
     The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
     Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.

                           I an old man,
   A dull head among windy spaces.

   Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a sign!"
   The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
   Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
   Came Christ the tiger

   In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,
   To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
   Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero
   With caressing hands, at Limoges
   Who walked all night in the next room;
   By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;
   By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room
   Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp
   Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles
   Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
   An old man in a draughty house
   Under a windy knob.

   After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
   History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
   And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
   Guides us by vanities. Think now
   She gives when our attention is distracted
   And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
   That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
   What's not believed in, or if still believed,
   In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
   Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
   Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
   Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
   Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
   Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
   These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

   The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
   We have not reached conclusion, when I
   Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
   I have not made this show purposelessly
   And it is not by any concitation
   Of the backward devils.
   I would meet you upon this honestly.
   I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
   To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
   I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
   Since what is kept must be adulterated?
   I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
   How should I use it for your closer contact?

   These with a thousand small deliberations
   Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
   Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
   With pungent sauces, multiply variety
   In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do
   Suspend its operations, will the weevil
   Delay? De Bilhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled
   Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear
   In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits
   Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
   White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,
   And an old man driven by the Trades
   To a sleepy corner.

                       Tenants of the house,
   Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

Have you heard of Robert Mapplethorpe? He's a photographer whose work is currently being curated by Pedro Almodóvar in an exhibition in Spain. He died in 1989 yet his work still feels current: it's edgy and honest and - in my opinion - can't be dated. I personally love his portraits, his nudes. I'm always one more for the human form than for landscape or still-life. I think there is nothing more interesting to look at than the human body. 

I think I love the shapes he makes with bodies most of all. He doesn't let the models speak for the photograph; the beauty of the photograph does not rest solely on the athletic bodies of the men, or the slender, muscular frames of the women. It rests on what he's done with them, which is more than other artists who photograph or paint nudes do. He contorts the bodies, picks up the light in the skin tone, in the shadows cast by skewed limbs. He places them in interesting situations, yet the photograph is never cluttered but remains classical-looking. What strikes me most is the candour of the photograph, the lack of make-up or artificial light. Yet he does pose the models - but it seems to be out of an artistic and very real interest in what they the visual effect will be, rather than in order to make a statement or lead the spectator to some conclusion. His is a very accessible artwork - they can mean something to everyone, and he photographs across the spectrum of styles. I think his photographs are earthy and truthful, and that's what I personally appreciate in photography - not a reliance on the setting up of an artistic scene.

   I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
   Since what is kept must be adulterated?
   I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
   How should I use it for your closer contact?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Jerôme Mesnager - street artist of those dancing, jointed figures I saw on the streets of Paris.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

I've never been a millionaire but I just know I'd be darling at it. ~ Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Semantically speaking, the word 'slut' doesn't mean: 'I enjoy my body and sexuality; I enjoy dressing how I want to dress; I am the embodiment of Girl Power, or its Noughties equivalent'. It means, and has come to mean, a woman who sleeps with a lot of men for payment. I see the word as synonymous with whore, in terms of the profession, not the insult. Therefore, I think 'SlutWalk' is erroneously named. It should rather be called, 'Empowered Women's Walk', 'Sexually Confident Women's Walk', 'The Stride of a Woman Who Does Not Want to Elicit Remarks or Unwelcome Attention from the Opposite Sex Based on What She is Wearing'.

In fairness, that last one doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

But what I dislike about the movement, apart from being precious about linguistics, is that it's a case of Us against Them. Women against Men. Because it is entirely sensible to equate the few chauvinistic men who are actually derogatory about a woman's body, with the men who don't give two ticks.

There can't be anyone who disagrees with the basic sentiment behind the movement. No one can admit to thinking, If you dress provocatively, you deserve to get raped. That is the extreme notion that the SlutWalks are responding to. But that's almost ludicrous - it's more the grey-areas around that idea that are being explored. It's the receiving attention from a builder, from a white-van man; a wolf-whistle, a catcall. Note: just because there's a repetition of animal imagery in the names for these things, doesn't mean that we are being reduced to animals.

Obviously, there are different degrees of it. Once, I was running along the main road in the sun (never again). I was hot, sweaty, wearing a strap-top and itty-bitty shorts. I got a whistle and a honk from a car full of guys. When that happens, I just sort of roll my eyes and smile: who cares? 50 metres on, they've forgotten you. In a horribly patronising way, I think, Well, at least I've entertained them for, oh, the space of about 10 seconds. Poor  boys, they're so overwhelmed by the sight of me. Men are very simple, really, aren't they? (...And other condescending sentences).
However, on that same run, a van went past, slowing as it neared; the window rolled down and the guy inside said the most disgusting comment: something along the lines of, 'Yeah, I want to stick my cock down your throat! You'd fucking love that, wouldn't you? Or my big cock up your ass or in your wet pussy!' Typing that now makes me feel sick. And I felt objectified (I hate to use the word 'objectified': it holds such connotations of what I like to term 'big muff feminism'. And it shouldn't). I stopped in my tracks, and the van pulled away and sped up. I burst into tears, and walked home. So clearly, the difference lies in the severity of the comment. A catcall? Doesn't mean a thing. Prolonged attention? Annoying, but you can just ignore it. A deliberately foul-mouthed, perverse comment designed to provoke? That's different altogether, and that is what I personally would protest against. I was hurt, and outraged, and appalled, that these men thought they had the right to talk to me like that. As though I was something that could be commented on, without thought for my feelings. One of my personal problems - and it's slightly embarrassing sending this out into the cybersphere - is that I have been naturally endowed, and so that gets me unsolicited attention. I'm used to it. It doesn't matter. Most of the time it's harmless. But when I get comments like that, presumably because I have breasts 'like a pornstar', end quote, (but all real, baby), I realise that what I hate most is the feeling of powerlessness. If I am wearing a short skirt on a summer's day, and I get a whistle from a group of guys riding past or whatever, I can think, yeah, I instigated that because I chose to wear this, knowing that I look good (or at least, feel good in it). If I'm covered up, or if I'm not seeking attention (i.e. I'm on a run, my face is bright red and my hair is greasy 'cos I've been saving it up for a shower after the run) and I get it anyway, then there's a sense of powerlessness, because I didn't want that attention. When I'm on a run, I'm concentrating on my time, on my breathing, and god damn it, I am wearing the most supportive boulder-holder Bravissimo has to offer. I don't want attention from anyone.

Back to the SlutWalks. Marching through Newcastle in your bra and pants doesn't really make a protest. All it does is make you so cold you have nipples that could cut glass. Their message that women should be able to wear what they want without getting any attention is a bit unreasonable. If you're on a night out and you're wearing a bodycon dress and your boobs are out and your legs are out then who can blame the poor boys who can't help staring? It's hard for them, really it is (no pun intended). They're designed to love half-naked women, and you've just got to be sensible. Don't wear very little and then get on your feminist high-horse when some silly tosser makes a remark. If someone is downright rude or plain disgusting, that's when you are allowed (in my opinion) to get angry.

Personally, what I find frustrating is when it's hot outside (living in Britain, I am rarely placed in this terribly awkward situation) and for the sake of comfort, one wears a strap top and skirt, and you get a revolting comment. My response is to feel, What can I do? I can't help how I look and it's hot. I refuse to cover up in this heat simply to avoid idiotic remarks. Again, it's that sense of helplessness. I'm not ashamed of my body, because I work for it (although, admittedly, the whole breast thing is due more to divine intervention), so why should I cover it as though I were? But I am not dressed up for you, I am not seeking your approval, so please don't assume that simply because I am female, that gives you the right to comment on my body.

What's more, attitudes about this are different in different countries. Are there SlutWalks in Europe, in Asia? Or is this, as I suspect, an Anglo-American phenomenon?

We all know I'm a self-confessed Francophile, in all of the cliched wine-drinking, Sartre-expounding, little-boulangerie-in-Montmartre-you-won't-have-heard-of-darling, ways. But the reason I love the Continent?* It makes me feel good about myself. There. I've finally admitted it! The sole reason I love Paris. In Paris, men come up to you and talk to you. There's something flirtatious about it. They are actually trying to charm you into bed with them. The fact is, they know that they have the advantage of being French - of being tanned, rolling their 'r's, living in a romantic capital and being able to say, 'Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?' with the correct pronunciation. But if you tell them to leave you alone, they will. Guys have come up to me, talked to me, flirted with me for a bit, but when I've said something along the lines of, 'Okay, but go away now', they do. You don't get whistles or catcalls in Paris. If a man fancies you, he'll come up and talk to you. There's something unashamed, unabashed about the way French/Spanish/Italian men treat women on the street (maybe not French/Spanish/Italian women, probably only shy English tourist girls who are bowled over and flattered by the attention - and, oh, how cunning! of course, the men know this). A sly honk from a car full of lads on an English road has something a bit pathetic, embarrassed and pervy about it. I want to say, If you are actually interested in me, come up and talk to me. European men I have spoken to at least attempt it. Even if their mind is only on the prize, at least they're willing to endure the awkward small talk beforehand, to work for it a bit. It's brave of them. Especially because I titter, 'Oh, you're so sweet! ......but no.' (Does it ever work for them? Do they actually expect English girls to wilt and flail and blush and swoon into the nearest hotel with them?)

The important thing is not to equate a lewd comment with rape. They should not even come into the same sentence. Verbal interference is so far removed from physical interference. Touching is never, NEVER allowed. And I don't know one decent guy who actually thinks that it is. Luckily, I've rarely been prey to this.This is what strikes me the most about the SlutWalks: the aura of over-reaction that is so often associated with the feminist movement. Of course there was going to be, and quite rightly so, an outcry over that policeman who said that a woman should expect to get raped if she wears provocative clothing. But rape is a very, very different ballgame from a middle-aged scaffolder whistling at someone because he's bored and he's been on the same scaffold for three hours. The SlutWalks do not make a difference to anything, and I fail to see their aim exactly. To publicise a message of 'Rape is never acceptable' seems to be stating the obvious. And if they are preaching against catcalls and casual comments received on the street, who are they preaching to exactly? The men who would potentially be the ones making those comments? It all seems to me to be making a big fuss for the sake of media attention. Simply put, they want to be on TV. Making noises because they can, because they like the sound of their own loudspeaker.

*Tongue-in-cheek, right? Paris definitely has loads of art galleries and pretty buildings and bookstores and... stuff. And it's the most beautiful city on earth, yah?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Day through three it has transferred Stasu aluminium flakonchik from under validol
Half filled with a white powder.
- Hold, Sanych, from сеpдца отpываю. For cleanliness I do not warrant, but mysha
Has died from one grain - I caught it longer. Hе heat up also itself on language not
Try. From you becomes...
- Gee whizz! You know, I, perhaps, it directly in it flakonchike
With tissue paper I will stick, and from above ordinary salt nasyplju.
- And to open as you will be? If the need - so it forces to open it
Business is silent and imperceptible.
- And I to a paper will paste a thread and on the top of it I will deduce - have pulled a thread
The piece of paper has torn, trjasanul flakonchik - and salt with poison will mix up.
- Hu-well, pационализатоp, look itself not travanis. Still something
It is necessary?
- Hе, I to myself have made the rest. In, estimate...
Stas has put on a bench of boots and, having bent down, has pulled for hardly appreciable
Scaffold small knot on a heel. After it has jumped out narrow and thin, length with
Palm, the two-edged edge which is coming to an end small - in three fingers,
The rounded off basis instead of the handle.
ZHenka at once recognised in it ground on a stone nozhovochnoe a cloth and
It was twisted in a smile. Having noticed a sceptical view of the friend, Stas has held back about
The second same, but twice a smaller edge, vshitym in a collar top
Canvas shtormovki.


I'm gonna travel the world.

Laptop broken for a while; things are back on track and hunky dory. Lost all photographs ever taken, all music, all documents. But there's always more to photograph, always more to listen to.