Monday, December 30, 2019

Last #songlyricsunday for 2019: Crazy paving and quilts - sweet natural love - passion and activism drive creative and vicious madness

My final #songlyricsunday post is around two quotes and one song - Melua [performer] and Batt [songwriter]'s The closest thing to crazy.

When first I listened to Closest thing to crazy in 2005 on the television I thought How far from crazy I was. And those times when I had felt excruciatingly sane [intensely painful; embarrassing; tedious; awkward - thanks Apple Dictionary].

Other people have done it too - like Mike Batt the writer and a band called Blake which does choral and chamber work.

A continual thread in my life since the early 1990s has been mental health activism and advocacy in the best traditions of the World Health Organisation and everything short of that.

The lyrics which caught my ears were Feeling twenty-two acting seventeen. One of the big things about mental health and emotional distress can be a disconnection/dissociation between chronological age; developmental expectation and experienced reality. This can be echoed and has resonance in significant relationships and attachments. And I was reaching a lifestage when I was technically beyond the reaches of youth mental health - which is often provided through the auspices of student life and psychiatric/psychological aftercare services.

Often this conflict and dissonance can productively be tackled through creative work like writing; art; music or whatever outlet and input you have.

How can I think I'm standing strong
Yet feel the air beneath my feet?
How can happiness feel so wrong?
How can misery feel so sweet?
How can you let me watch you sleep
Then break my dreams the way you do?
How can I have got in so deep?
Why did I fall in love with you?
This is the closest thing to crazy I have ever been
Feeling twenty two, acting seventeen
This is the nearest thing to crazy I have ever known
I was never crazy on my own
And now I know that there's a link between the two
Being close to craziness and being close to you
How can you make me fall apart
Then break my fall with loving lies?
It's so easy to break a heart
It's so easy to close your eyes
How can you treat me like a child?
Yet like a child I yearn for you
How can anyone feel so wild?
How can anyone feel so blue?
This is the closest thing to crazy I have ever been
Feeling twenty two, acting seventeen
This is the nearest thing to crazy I have ever known
I was never crazy on my own
And now I know that there's a link between the two
Being close to craziness and being close to you
And being close to you
And being close to you

My 2019 self picks up on the folie a deux aspect. And the correlation between being close to craziness and being close to you. It can also be about the intense friendships that we valorise in youth - and/or the lack and the disappointment we perceive as well as the imbalances and the indifferences involved.

And that strong feelings and yearning are often associated with children - at least the relatively uninhibited expression of these. I think Batt is trying to say something.

Especially when he writes How can happiness feel so wrong? which I associate intimately with scrupulosity [a feature of much obsessive-compulsive disorder and also the personality type version which is closely linked - especially those with a religious content and/or background - though not exclusively so - we Humanists feel it too] and with depressive and anxious thinking - both of which can insinuate and make themselves feel right - especially in terms of traumatic spirals of shame and of guilt whether connected with action or feeling.

How can misery feel so sweet? - that ambivalence is very familiar to high achievers. And to sensation seekers and those who demand a heap of themselves. Again - there is a strong ambivalence in the push-me-pull-you feeling - which is associated with attachment. You can hold the misery and the sweetness and they touch on and with one another - and of course the happiness contains the wrong even as wrong runs and walks away with happiness and sweetness.

An earlier Song Lyric Sunday was about dreams and lullabies and sleep.

And it is so good to know that you are never crazy on your own - that crazes HAVE A CONTEXT.

This I recognise through all the fads that any well-constituted young person or student at any level experiences. The crazes and dazes and lazes I tried to represent through my writing - like Bourdieu and his habitus and [re]production.

There are crazes which tell you to murder your mother or your little sister or your governess or your cousins. If not literally; metaphorically or through tools.

And if you are lucky and if you are sensible ...

Standing strong and feeling the air under your feet - air is supposed to be up there and around us all. We do all breathe it. And some good advice is to breathe between spoonfuls and hopefully breathe between sentences - this saves the Wall of Text effect.

What a wonderful sensory and cognitive image for Ms Melua to put to life through her singing and launch her impactful career.

Before I introduce my first quote - which is from a very fine man called Edward Everett Hale from old-school Boston [MA, USA - as contrasted to the Lincolnshire version in the United Kingdom] I would like to make some last and ancillary reflections.

Oh break the fall with loving lies. I know those as consoling fictions most particularly and poignantly from a certain Brian Friel [Irish playwright who died recently] when I first encountered them in January 2001 [about six weeks later than I should have - a failure to get the books and the scripts you see] and his introducer for Faber and Faber.

Wild and blue hmm? It does seem like a lot of relationships that people will enter to in this New Year 2020; especially if they are visiting a new city and/or a new country.

Edward Everett Hale claimed kinship with Keller through her Mum, Kate Keller. Kate Keller was a New England transplant to the Southeast of the USA during and just before the Civil War which bitterly divided that country. He was also a New England priest.

His words are quoted on page 87 of Joseph P. Lash's authoritative biography of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy - see I knew the Irish dander would come into handy here!

Lash describes Everett Hale as "one of New England's divines and social reformers" - in 1871 - some 9 years before Keller was born in 1880 - he started a group called Lend a Hand which was a very fine community organisation which advocated social work.

Poor, staid Laura Bridgman, who had been brought up in all the conventionalities of the most rigid New England propriety, used to say Helen was crazy. It was the craziness of sweet natural love.
Edward Everett Hale
[Lash 1980: 87] 

I think too of a young man identified as William who said Crazy is just a word in Torey Hayden's ground-breaking first work which was also published in 1980 One child. In French you would call it Enfant [but there is a much more evocative title] and in Polish Dziecko [which makes the ONE child part very clear]. Finally read it in late 2007. I do know that in German too it is called Meine Zeit mit Sheila.

Hayden's new book is called Lost Child and concerns a young lady in Wales who is known as Jessie. She has many of the calling cards of Reactive Attachment and characteristics of disinhibited social engagement.

And, oh, yes, the thing about sweet natural love which must have been lacking so much in Bridgman's upbringing and marked her so hard by the time she was 58. We know that she sought out so very much of it and needed lots of it. Partly due to the way Howe treated her.

And that Annie Sullivan said It is not a teacher the deaf-blind need ... it is another self. And she did try as far as she could be to represent that other self. Fraiberg writes very well in her Insights from the Blind which was very current when Lash was writing. Lash's principal biographical interest and original contribution to the Keller-Sullivan canon in the 1980s was in the socialism of Keller and the appeals she made to this compassionate conservatism which is what I would characterise the tone of Bostonian life at the time of Howe and Anagnos who was Howe's son-in-law.

I seem to remember how Keller grew like a clinging vine which brings home the nature of this love and this attachment - and how the adoration of Annie satisfied this side of her nature [the affectionate; ideological adolescent development].

Where Everett Hale says rigid I would say strict and then I had to go in and type the quote again a second time.

When you contrast the conventionalities as they were in the late 1800s you naturally - if you are an English Literature person - go thirty years into the Victorian era. What book do you expect I would pick up? And more specifically, what piece of feminist literary criticism would spice up this piece?

If you guessed that the title had passion in it - as in Charlotte Bronte: a passionate life by literary critic Lyndal Gordon - you would probably be correct.

So in context Gordon wrote an invigorating chapter called The Public Voice. In my musical world it makes me think of Morrissette and Ballard's All I really want which is the very first single from Jagged Little Pill.

The public voice which takes in late 140s and early 150s is very much about Jane Eyre in 1847 which Bronte had worked on for two years while she was in Manchester. Gordon brings out a cancelled line in the manuscript which had me thinking - what else had Bronte left out to shape the text that she did and that we know a hundred and sixty years later?

Here it is for you:

If he was subjugated so was I - and that by a strange and resistless sway

Also this capstone foundation of a paragraph shows us to be very careful before we accept what is avant garde and vanguard in literary criticism and its fashions and furbelows.

Aristotle does show us - the educated person does not simply accept. Six servants Kipling demonstrates to us - five Ws and an H.


The creative madness that Charlotte Bronte and other writers - Dickinson; Schreiner; Woolf; Plath - experienced in one way or another, is different from the vicious madness of Bertha. She is stupidly violent, like capricious fighter dogs with rending teeth. As Charlotte Bronte conceived her, Bertha was the cause of her misfortune, not her husband. It will not do to infuse Bertha with feminist sentiment if we care at all for what is there on the page as an emanation of its time and place. Women are not simply victims; they have, within them, the agency to discover gains in the most restrictive life. This is what Charlotte sought to show.
[Gordon 156: Charlotte Bronte - a passionate life 1994
which I am not sure if I read in 2002 first at the library - perhaps the September 2002 reading was another critic - Lucasta Miller I so strongly suspect
I know I read Gordon first myself in November 2017 around the second half of that month]

When first I read this excerpt in November 2017 ... the contrast between vicious madness and creative madness engaged me hard and would not leave me.

Someone very close to me reminded me that some eleven and a half years before, I had enacted a form of vicious madness [which is to say May 2006].

I experienced it in relation to a younger literary peer who had seemed to surpass me in accomplishment when I had stagnated for some ten months beforehand.

And over the years we have shared so many interpretations of the madness of Bertha and how Charlotte Bronte conceived her.

When we care about what is on the page - and only what is on the PAGE - and not what may lie in the world beyond the page [for example in Batt's The walls of the world].

Gordon of course is right - fundamentally right - about the agency to discover gains in the most restrictive life.

The dog is often a harbinger of fear and of trauma. They are also very comforting and play roles of help; companionship; care; empathy. Some ten years ago I read a wonderful passage about animals and unconditional love - which is again in contrast with inhumanity to humanity. Or Cards against humanity especially in a behaviourist manifestation.

What I would add is - feminism is not primarily about victimhood. Patriarchy and misogyny depend upon the manufacturing and reinforcement of victimology. Perhaps this makes me a radical feminist as opposed/a natural step from liberal feminism. Certainly the feminism as it was practised and experienced in the 1990s and crystallised and became an efflux in the 2000s.

Some really great essayists people can and should read:

  1. Coventry by Rachel Cusk
  2. Make it scream make it burn by Leslie Jamieson
  3. Trick mirror by Jia Tolentino
In their different ways they show agency and gains discovered in lives which are more or less restricted; whether by self or others or society and the interactions and relations involved.

Their passion is informed and their activism infectious.

Also I question creative madness and I problematise it especially in relation to Woolf and Plath and even Schreiner who I first encountered from a friendship with Vera Brittain and also Winifred Holtby. Literary life during the First World War and even during the Second was really something especially when you follow women poets and novelists and activists like Vida Goldstein and the women in Wayward Women which is an exhibition at the Old Treasury Building.

I had read Brittain back in July-August 1998 when I encountered Testament of Youth. It is a formidable text which saw me through so much during that period.

Another element is obviously colonialisation and the West Indies. Now I was not particularly naive at that point [which is to say May 1995 when first I read Jane Eyre] to West Indians in Britain and indeed the wider Commonwealth - had indeed put my hand at creating some and did over the next few months; like Sally Wallace who is a competitor to my romantic heroine in Mysterious Girl Conspicious Boy. Dorothy Edwards and her story about dinner ladies was a big inspiration to me in 1991 in that regard [The cat flap and the apple pie]. Obviously the racialisation/racialised identity and the Blackness/Brownness.

These women of course have agency too as Sue Sharpe's Just like a girl shows us. And I think too of Grace Forrest's philantrophic and social justice work.

If you were picking up what I was dropping in my Words don't come easy post [the one about Don't] I discovered much more Glenn Mederios especially his duet with Elsa - Love always finds a reason / Friend you give me a reason.

There was Nothing's gonna change my love for you and Lonely don't visit me any more.

And also why thirty matters. Not thirty years, exactly [even though the thirty-year rule is such a big thing in the public service and when we have literary and journalistic embargoes on our Right to Know as in the European Court of Human Rights and other places]. I was meaning more like thirty percent. In the Bourse there is often a thirty percent return for an exceptional stock or a well-performing equity. And when the reference point is something like a hundred, well, 70 to 130 can mean a big difference. Two deviations either way. And sometimes 30 words a minute in the typing world can make a big difference.

Then I remember that thirty is also three multiplied by ten and we have thirty days in our months like April and like June and indeed like September and November.

I am writing Crazy paving and quilts on the 30th day of the month.

I am wishing you, too, a happy New Year [and I realise that if I want to book the old Krakow restaurant/hotel that Jan Morris told us about in Fifty years of Europe for New Years' Eve I should have done it on 15 October 2019 - a date which proved very significant in my professional and personal life - she calls it a very pretentious kind of restaurant] and Sylwester and a great New Year's Eve however you define and choose. I will remind you that we have still 18 years to fix the New Millennial Bug - the one that is in 2038 and every second on the computer is 999,999,999,999 repeating.

Now if such a bug were on smartphones - and on iDevices - apparently my iPad's Photos app is not working so well just now and has not done since a big zoom.

It was offered me that I perhaps delve into the latest iThing and I am accepting and I am in process. Right now the Dreamy Fish is a heavyweight and it has a World Clock which takes me through Kuala Lumpur and Kiev and Tehran and Montreal and Caracas and St Peter Port and Paris.

Remembering the Suffragette Ribbon and the Artists' Society which I wish to visit in mid-January 2020. The Romanesque architecture is brilliant and invigorating to use two words.

Ah - the vulnerabilities in the devices and our selves.

What I was hinting at last month [and probably ten days ago also] was a concept of developmental vulnerability - which is measured in six fields. Roughly language; social; gross motor; fine motor; emotional and a sense of general/holistic health and fitness [the sort that Marilla Cuthbert alludes to through the narrator when she talks about a sense of humour being an indication of the fitness of things]. We call this a comprehensive assessment and we try to do it at certain intervals - so that it is not a big and scary thing - but can be met with equanimity and with fidelity and a Middle Way such as is embodied in a Yusuf Islam song.

Still want to say Chocolate Buddha is a very fine production and I think Geoffrey Falk has a critique of it in his Rock and holy waters - which is an example of #yourfaveisproblematic - especially when Christopher Cross's Arthur's theme is almost entirely encoded through dhimmis - probably not quite so when You say it's for harmony and for tolerance - and my own hypocorism comes up. [Someone may look for another hypo- word in relation to my interpretations of harmony and tolerance - especially during my campaigning days and years!]

We call this thing psychoeducational and psychosocial. I think of it as like a spider's web or like a plot with Louise Bourgeois and Maman the spider - she knits it and then she stays away.

Wonderful song from Wilbur the pig - it is called I can talk - in the 1973 Hanna-Barbera adaptation which defined a generation's experience of Charlotte's Web on screens big and small.

Thirty years ago I saw it as a puppet production.

And there is still Hugo's Notre Dame to read - thinking too of St Patrick and his Cathedral and the Artist's Trail for the Heidelberg School. And the big tinny bells and the roses and the hedges. The Lutheran church is very dignified and active and unpretentious.

I am working through Endacott's trilogy of the Seven Lakes and also the book about Freya. I have read Unreliable Memoirs and seen Jojo Rabbit. Very glad I took the chance to buy this self-published Australian author who uses an awesome designer and illustrator. The King, Gidyon, reminds me of a few people I have known - especially the moment he tries to teach advanced mathematics to seven and eight year olds in the Royal Families and not the Assassin Family which his retainer and special person Elen-ai [who is of very low birth and rose up through the ranks through loyalty and dignity and protection] is part of. And to think he is only seventeen still! It is a year after the Queendom of the Seven Lakes which I read over Christmas and Boxing Day/St Stephen's Day 2019.

Janine McCulloch's book about Provence and Cote d'Azur from 2013 was one of my more planned impulsive purchases. She describes the markets and attractions and cities and villages with panache and with a honesty worthy of more than the lifestyle work she is too often pigeoned in.

There is one other nice book I read through the break - it is a story in pictures by the author of the Lunch Lady series who uses minimal colours to express and make testimony to his grandparents and his mother Leslie and his father Brian Hennessey [yes I know - very Irish - in contrast to the Polish and Swedish in the grandparents' diaspora life]. It is the second graphic novel I have read in 2019 since Roz Chast's Can't we talk about something more pleasant which is about the illness and decline and legacy of her troubled relationship with her ageing parents as they go through the chronic and the terminal and the quotidian. I do like the way Jarrett has gone through things and done things and showed us his artistic efforts and career and how he influences the next generation who in turn influences the next and it is never ever one way.

The direction is like the thing we call crazy paving which would describe lots of cobblestones and also the crazy quilt. When I think of the latter I think of Moorhouse and Hogan and Lily and Jack and Maddy and Spike - I have not quite got up the guts or the garters to buy Unconditional Love. The legacy of the haute behaviourism of the second half of the 1990s is not quite resolved, particularly the bits which clash with the eclectic humanism I adopted and adapted. And then I realise how far I have to begin!

I trust I will meet the challenge with decency; dignity; diplomacy - finding my own language of worth and corresponding with and through all the worthy courses of present communication and future life.

Goodbye, au revoir, do widzenia ...

Friday, December 20, 2019

A golden start; a dream run: Glissando and Teetaatumtee when they came for a Christmas visit

It all started with a Glastonbury-like feeling in a local paddock in the space between 1987 and 1988.

I was a small girl who if given my own head would use it and quietly - and sometimes not so quietly - wander.

Some four or five years later Glissando and Teetaatumtee came for a Christmas and New Year visit [1992-93].

Teetaatumtee liked the outdoors very much and he liked me and I liked him and we had fond memories and appreciated one another's Being and Presence more than Presents.

It is like the spirit of the Oh very young song by Yusuf Islam in the 1970s.

Glissando was a musician and a very quiet man who liked the semirural settings which were characteristic of our milieu and our world very much.

Like many children and teenagers in my orbit, Teetaatumtee appreciated the lattice treehouse that was in my garden from 1990 to 2000 - he liked the inside and the windows and the desk and the dolls' house that had been made.

Glissando appreciated quiet time and undemanding company with my mother who when we had known each other most actively was an advocate-activist-secretary.

They appreciated the contemplation.

Last Friday was the anniversary of martial law in Poland.

When I looked for "Walęsa" in my notebooks I remembered that Jean-Michael Jarre had a concert from 2005. It was in the Lenin Shipyard or perhaps the Conrad.

There is a very fine poem by Apollo Korzeniowski which he wrote to his brother-in-law:

Ready is your boat, and in the outspread sails,
Blows the wind, lighthearted,
Some of us life may deceive,
You will choose the right way.

May cowards tremble at lofty waves,
To you they bring good fortune!
You know the hidden reefs
And are familiar with the tempest!

Your eager boat, with eagle’s wings,
Will make a rapid passage,

And, steered with reason, governed by strength,
Will reach the shores of fame!

But, resting on your journey,
In the golden lands of fortune,
Remember, o remember, with a sigh,

Those who perished in the tempest!

I read it in Gustaf Morf's The Polish heritage of Joseph Conrad.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Body of Knowledge: reflections on #gfchildgenius2019 - and one more sleep to #2019ukgeneralelection

Fifty-six seconds into Joe's version of Radiohead's No surprises - which is about Theresa May and the last three years of her political life [2016-present] - there is a great line which at first when I heard it the week before last I believed I had hallucinated it:

Negotiate my sacrifice

Then in context there was "Handshake with Jeremy Corbyn"

and the chorus Not so strong and not so stable now.

Joe is an incredible, indescribable team of political satirists who I had got onto when I was looking up Common People which was the satire of 2010 - there is a terrific Rees-Mogg version talking about that whole Etonian attitude.

And Clive James died towards the end of November 2019 - I thought I would pass on writing about that until I sounded and felt less like a self-centred three-year-old. Unmoored and abandoned, you know, was probably the core of that feeling. James, of course, was an Australian expatriate, who went to Pembroke College, and demystified oh so much with his unique take on life. He had spent the last nine years living with leukaemia. Yes - from roughly 71 to 80 years old.

I have two of James's critical anthologies: The crystal bucket and In the land of shadows.

And in November 2007 - the Big Kahuna - the Cultural Amnesia.

Then there was the whole Marie Frederiksson tribute. She has just died too. So good to know her Swedish songs from the 1990s as well as all the awesome things she did with Roxette.

The Grand Final of Child Genius happened on the Special Broadcasting Service.

Our four genii were Karin whose mother is a doctor; Mahesh and Aidan who both attained perfect scores in the anatomy round [15 points is what you need] and Callum who was doing it for a young lady in the competition - Cecilia - and also has a phenomenal knowledge of the human body.

Callum was the one who said the brain did everything. His brain does a lot - 145 and more in the Intelligence Quotient stakes.

Karin is very very confident and she had 14 all up; Callum had 10.

The genii spent time with a University mentor and showed off their skills.

As there was a tiebreaker and 10 questions were required the last 5-10 minutes were intense!

Turned out to be all the general knowledge.

I yelled out that there were twelve stars in the European Union flag - this is something that will always be; no matter how many countries enter or leave. That is a form of strength and stability I do appreciate very very much. [Aidan answered that question too very quickly - speed is Aidan's big thing - Mahesh has a good memory which is not necessarily photographic/eidetic - but fortunately that kind of memory is not the only one which will succeed in gifted land; whether under pressure or not].

Also the Swedish flag. Love the way they described it.

I will always remember about fibres as the thing that holds the body together when your body makes clots. Some people thought capillaries or celluite or another connector beginning with C.

The first three questions in everyone's set were relatively easy. This was usually because of missing letters like portmanteau...

And the spelling - I got none of them correct at all.

The mathematics - I kept my distance [would have to do the sums backwards and/or sideways].

Mahesh made a wonderful acceptance speech - thanking his Mum for helping him study and Aidan for being such a good competitor and keeping him all the way down to the wire - and his whole Sri Lankan Tamil family and friends and community.

Aidan shone when he received the silver medal.

Remembering how very big the trophy is for 12-year-old Mahesh - it must have taken up his whole middle.

Thinking of how Callum lost confidence after about question 10 and promptly had the next four go wrong.

Karin - well, Karin! She shone on the stage and her mother and father and brother were there.

So happy to see all the genii and their families in the audience as well as everyone who has been interested in this competition's 2019 iteration - people like Susan Carland and the people of Mensa and the universities.

And really, The last leg? HUGH GRANT is "the prime minister Britain needs right now?" ;*).

No, afternoon sleeps do not make elections go any faster - though they may well be needed and desired after a tussle at the ballot box.