Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blown in and Vanished

I was extremely annoyed to discover how effective Vanish is.

It's a foul night tonight and it was just such a night more than a year ago when my relaxation was briefly shattered by a crashing of something immediately outside.  Investigation revealed it to be a print of a painting, the frame (which followed a short while after the print) narrowly missed knocking me out cold.  Strange that they came separately to the same place - my place - deposited by a huge puff of wind.

Up until that moment I'd never heard of Tony Klitz.   This soaking wet, smoke encrusted, print of London (known in some parts as 'the smoke'), and Eros in particular, was also signed in biro which raised my interest ten-fold.  Googling gave me quite a bit of information and I eventually made contact with the family who very kindly gave me some more, including why the print might be in this area but not how it might have left the smoke-filled room from whence it came.

One of my brothers loves London and I decided to clean the print up a bit and give it to him.   I don't know what possessed me to put the print in the bath liberally filled with Vanish and water.  Vanish it did, completely, apart from the paper it was printed on and part of the smoke.  

Though the print was gone, not all was lost, Mr Klitz's relative with whom I'd been communicating knew this area as a young girl and remembered the bathing pool especially.  She sent me a postcard that she'd kept all that time, another one for my collection.


The bathing pool has long gone - filled in with the rubble of the changing rooms and diving boards, a lone pillar and a slab of concrete sit like a headstone - here lie the remains of the pool.  The persons responsible didn't need Vanish to achieve its effect.  More recently the chalets have been demolished too, replaced by sheds masquerading as beach huts.  These lack any mystery or grandeur and look daft lined up ronsealed in uniform rows.

I've immersed myself in many things over the years, this bathing pool only once.   Smoking was one - but like the Tony Klitz print, I'm cleaning myself up, occasionally inhaling nicotine through a plastic tube that looks a bit like a cigarette holder, my carbon monoxide reading reduced from 35mg to 6 in a week.  Much to my surprise I'm nearly a bona-fide non-smoker (a reading of 5 or below denotes this).  The feeling of mortality has weighed heavily lately and the idea of having to redecorate the exceedingly tall rooms hung around me worse than the smoke that was promising to cling to the walls. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blown away

Did you know that a Fan fan club exists?  It does.  Fan's of fans have got together.  Who would join such a thing?  Yes I know, fan holders.  Of museum pieces and especially the HMV fan heater which caused me some confusion when remembering what HMV stood for.  My HMV is another thing that doesn't work, although my Belling bed warmer does so my feet are always warm as toast.

Here is another 'borrowed' photograph - it is of the HMV variety - isn't it gorgeous, must be the 'big boy' of fan heaters and someone clearly loves it - mine is the more usual bakelite kind.  I can't decide which is preferable, sparkling chrome - or cream and brown plastic.

I've been pondering the notion of the photograph (this is a regular occurrence that never results in a fixed position).  Between the poles of document and idea.  It's multiple uses and functions, the real and the fake and the fake-real or real-fake.   I wonder how many photographs have been taken since its beginning?  How many have been destroyed?  How many have changed lives for the better or worse?   It's rather sad as well as humbling when you find an album full of portraits/snapshots for sale in a junk shop - it was important enough once to be bound until time devoured it's meaning. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Numbered days

Apart from the usual way of knowing what day it is, that of the calendar, for the last few days (four to be exact) mine have been numbered separately by a pill packet.  So the 13th was the 1st, 14th the 2nd and so on.   I've yet to look what it was originally designed for - perhaps its current purpose?  A previous drug, withdrawn before me joining this course was apparently designed for depression but had a curious side effect, people didn't want to smoke, and so some bright spark started to issue them as non-smoking pills.  It didn't last.  There were dark mutterings about it on the course.

This drug isn't a nicotine substitute, it changes neurons in the brain (flicks a switch or two) so that the desire to smoke is lost - all you have to do is kick the hand to mouth habit. 

I started in the days when it was still sexy, even though there was plenty of evidence to the contrary, halfway through my childhood.  It was everywhere, the manufactured seductive nature of it screamed out of every screen, of every interaction every day and I became another sucker, inhaling it all along with many others.  

It took me a week of looking at the packet before gaining the courage to begin taking these pills.   Feeling like one of Oliver Sacks' subjects (who knew what miracle might occur?).  One a day (a quarter of the final dose) for the first 3 days, followed by two per day and then two at double the dose from day 8.  You continue to smoke in the first week and set a day to stop for week two.

From day one (the 13th), each night was restless, with plenty of wakefulness and vivid dreaming.  I stopped them Monday (halfway through day 4, still only at quarter the regular dose) after blanking out momentarily in the middle of the day while driving.  Maybe it was a co-incidence but it would be horribly ironic should the thing that's supposed to save me contributed towards my demise instead.  I hadn't realised that I started them on Friday the 13th.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Being called away

Today it is blowing a gale, the sea is high - so high it could be meeting me on the balcony, except I'm not out there. 

25 years ago almost to the day John Stonehouse did a co-incidental 'Reggie Perrin', leaving his clothes on his balcony and walking into the sea - he wouldn't do that here right now - his clothes would be in Dover joining a ferry bound for France within minutes.

It is impossible not to watch people when they come into your orbit.  And it is equally difficult not to get the jitters when you are watching someone do something a bit risky.   The desire to intervene is huge.   The need to watch becomes more urgent.  

The man was there a short while ago, standing precariously on the concrete groin opposite my window.  Buffeted by the wind, his raincoat flapping madly, he was showered with spray from the waves that were bigger than him.  I watched as he occasionally looked from side to side.  From time to time - possibly in a rather pointless attempt to look normal standing where he was in that extreme weather - he swung his arms about his torso (as people prior to beginning Tai Chi sometimes do) and circled his head around his neck.   Once or twice he glanced behind as though aware he was being watched, Rupert Sheldrake describes it in his book 'The Sense of Being Stared At'.   I was watching, fully visible through my window, camera jammed to my eye (it acts like binoculars) like Harry Beech in Graham Swift's 'Out of this World' - until my phone rang and distracted me for five minutes.

Hopefully he is now safely indoors, lounging in front of the fire, feet up and relaxed, with not a thought in the world for the very odd person who was watching him enjoy, at close quarters, the wild sea.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weird day(s)

I've been mulling over a rather strange event, having a large family means this happens fairly often.  Although this one ranks up there with the strangest, if not THE most odd.  We are rarely bored because there is always one of us contributing to the drama of life in some way or other.  Occasionally it's not us directly - someone will barge in and implicate us.  So much so that the tv hardly gets watched - why bother - it's all happening here and now.  Time is rarely slow and sometimes it would be helpful if it was.

Madam Blavatsky I guess would have an answer to my question, though it might be murky.  Krishnamurti would probably tell me to answer it myself.   What would Ken Wilber say?  Possibly suggest a brain scan, one that would show the effects on the brain of meditation.

One of my aunts was a spiritualist and that probably kindled my interest in the unanswerable.  I've experimented with all kinds of things since - I feel there are always more questions than answers and maybe that's healthy.  It tells me that we don't know much really and it makes things more interesting while we strive to find out, presumably is also why we have scientists seeking to prove things. 

Theosophy was an important influence on Kandinsky, Klee, Brancusi, Mondrian and Malevich, among others.  Also on Hilma af Klint (see Adrian Searle's Guardian article 2006).

Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus at a similar time to Itten, Klee, Albers, Moholy-Nagy and Schlemmer - I wish I'd been there.  Hilma af Klint worked separately in Sweden seemingly unaware of the spiritual shenanigans of the teachers at the Bauhaus.
And the mystery of the last couple of days?  That will probably never be solved.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Going South

Glenny's illustration appeared in Vogue in the 1930's accompanying an article by Mrs John Buchan.  Those days where women were frequently known by their husband's name hung around for a long time, still existing even in the early 80's the first time I got married.   Their demise was well and truly finalized once we were no longer considered to be chattel by the tax man (or woman) and as a consequence were taxed independently.   But that's not the subject for today and it all seems a long time ago. 

Since brutal circumstances forced me to virtually ditch my car a few years ago - other forms of travel are necessary.  One is the bicycle.  Today I promised myself that I would begin to edit the footage that Sue had copiously taken, but I've been distracted again.  It is at least on the same subject.

Living on the flat makes cycling a rather easy and excellent thing to do (especially if it's not too windy).  I was intrigued by an ad for a saddle circa 1900:

Constra?  Constrain?  The ad says that it's perfect for both sexes, injury is impossible, it is ornamental and smart. As well as being adjustable to the size of rider.  I wonder what medical condition made people give up and then begin again due to this particular saddle, what was accommodated in its gaps?  Where has the thing gone?  Why isn't it still made, given its claims?  Did it adjust itself while being sat on?  And cause injury?  To what?

Meanwhile on the opposite page, if the saddle didn't work :

And Frith would come along and photograph you either on the bike or in the bath-chair, failing that provide you with a beautifully framed image of somewhere else in the world to take your mind off your ailment, they must have been one of the first stock photo agencies.  Turn over the page and there is the much needed cycling route from London Bridge.

It makes the effort of walking pale into insignificance.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Some days I wonder about the human race.  Are we here to hinder one another or are we here to help each other? 

There appear to be some people who seem to take great delight in just making things harder for everybody else.

Train ticket collectors for example.  Not the ones who go through the train checking or selling tickets - I generally find them to be ok.  No I mean the mean ones standing at the gate in full regalia.  When their uniform has gone to their head.   Isn't it a given that when travelling - a person is often a bit stressed, with crowds to fight through, bags to (wo)manhandle,  trains to catch, connections to make (other trains to catch).  Stifling, sweaty, dirty airless air to negotiate.  And then you get to the gate, the collector is talking with a colleague and pretends not to notice the queue forming and finally: "You can't use this ticket before 10.30" or "Just you wait a moment" or "Where's the other part of your ticket" and "Why don't you just lick my boots and then I might let you through" (I made that up).

Anyway they are can't people.  I met another one today in a charity shop of all places (usually they are brilliant people) - no I was not buying the duck.   I tried to buy a collection of piano music using a £2 coin given to me by another charity shop (still not the duck) - the lady wasn't having any of it "I can't take that it doesn't look real - it's too shiny".

My parents are brilliant - "there is no such thing as can't" we learned early on (go back to previous post of Seven Sisters 'Exfoliation' - they were used to the underground looking like that - ticket collectors were pleasant, friendly people then) and they brought us lot up to be fairly decent people (no easy task).  However, I discovered that in their younger days they'd gone to Paris and to the Folies Bergere.  Hmmmm.  I have a superb pair of brass theatre glasses given to me by Mum that I am convinced still has one of Dad's eyelashes glued to it from that time. 

Josephine Baker in her banana dress probably wasn't there then as they are not THAT old.  Although she might have been because she was definitely a can person.   Ms Baker was a tour de force in her time, apart from working in the Folies Bergere and Vaudeville she was active in the US Civil Rights Movement, was given a Medal of Honour for her work in the French Resistance and was adored by Picasso, Hemingway, EE Cummings, Alexander Calder and Castro to name a tiny few.

Just up the road at the Moulin Rouge the CanCan was in full swing.  It wasn't just the absinthe, they also had their own spirit.  No Edible Panties needed there.