November is always the ‘pit’ of the year for me..
So, I tend to take my mind off things by keeping busy.
The forest begins the month in lovely autumn colours – and mushrooms!
A trip to Salisbury, and a visit to their lovely cathedral.
And, then to Cornwall.
Those who read this Blog know that I tend to visit Temple Church on the way down – with its stone sculptures from the actual Knights Templar Abbey that gives the name to the place.
I am down there to do some Dowsing: Plan a Gara at St Just – ancient gathering/ yheatre site. It turns out to be a meridian energy structure with a clear core and radiating rings.
St Just has become a bit of an artists’ community. But, has also lost much of its indigenous industry. The sad sight of the Warren’s Pasty factory – closed a couple of years ago with the loss of hundreds of jobs. Their ‘Cornish’ pasties are now made out side of Cornwall. Yet more industrial decay caused by Tory neoliberal economic policy. It is a scourge:
Up to Cape Cornwall for exhilarating cliff walks. Also some prehistoric sites and crosses:
And, then down to my home village of Mousehole. Thankfully deserted now of the crowds that invade in the summer.
Christmas is coming and I mix my Christmas pudding:
Pretty active in the kitchen this month with vegetarian dishes:
I take a visit to Roche Court sculpture park. Always some intriguing pieces there. This time from Richard Deacon and Gary Hume:
Also, a lovely production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette from the National Theatre:
Did a great MeM guitar day with the Salta team in Argentina. Amazing connection across all of these miles:
All things Beatles at the moment: and there is the new CD, book and film from the Let it Be sessions. Lots to mull over here. The continued attachment to this band is because they were that good – my nephew’s son (16) knows everything about them. But, also, their music evokes an era of youth, energy and optimism – sadly in short supply these days. One of the associated projects to the Get Back material was Paul McCartney speaking with Rick Rubin. Fascinating conversation with Macca really involved for once. They play various pieces and break them down on the studio mixer, so you can isolate each element. Lots of asides and anecdotes, and flashes of him composing before your very eyes. Yes! it really is that easy…
As for book, I have been reading Tony Blake’s The Intelligent Enneagram half chapter at a time, and discussing it intensely with a friend. Lots of insights into the various forces it contains and how they elucidate creative systems:
Speaking of Blake – another one, William, my spiritual mentor, it was the anniversary of his birthday this month – 28th November (1757). Here, his magnificent Ancient of Days:
Lots of listening this month. In particular, two ladies: the renowned Russian composer Sofia Gubaidalina; and the English contemporary composer Jocelyn Pook:
To end, I came across this lovely piece by Paul Simon, the subject of which is the surrealist artist Rene Magritte. Lovely!!!
Apparently, it was the only song he composed without having a musical instrument to hand.
He took the title from a magazine article and worked out the rest while driving his car!!
The month began with a trip to Cornwall.
Wild scenes down there along the coast.
I was there to do some Dowsing work on the Treryn Dinas Iron Age fort near Porthcurno. Some fascinating finds.
Also, some country walking:
And then a trip to Lands End for the sunset:
I also did some Wasi-Sabi photography while I was there. Beauty in the overlooked:
Then to Zennor Church and to visit and old friend there – the Zennor Mermaid who lulled the vicar to his death:
And, here is another Cornish reference. A rather splendid photo of Pamela Colman-Smith – probably one of the best I have seen of her. A couple of quiz questions for those who routinely read this Blog site: why is she a significant figure in the history of British esotericism? What is the Cornwall connection?
Really, The Beatles somewhat passed me by as I was only a child in the 60s. I do remember mention of Sgt Pepper as part of the zeitgeist but had little interest. But, then, in 1969, my first 45 rpm single purchased as a teenager was Hey Jude, with that iconic Apple label. I read a book on The Beatles as part of the socio-cultural scene in the 60s. However, I cannot say I learnt much and, disappointingly, the author told The Beatles story – all the usual events – and then the various socio-cultural events of the day in alternate chapters – not really as one and the other influencing the other. Other than say they did, that is!
I attempted something along those lines in my last lecture tour in Australia.
Now, after the remaster box sets, etc, etc., the stereo versions, the individual remasters, and the Anthology series which provided the footnotes to The Beatles’ recordings, we have the Let It Be book, films, CDs. Of course, they are a must for those who remember these times, and indeed many who do not, The Let It Be project was not, of course The Beatles last recorded LP – Abbey Road was – but it was released – as The Beatles broke up. Let IT Beseemed a suitable sentiment of the day as I remember.
Not perhaps their greatest record or indeed collection of songs. But, this is what they sounded like – playing together live – in those years. That is, not as an exercise in recording techniques. In that way it is raw but superbly musical.
Then there is the book. Lots of sumptuous photos here, and then transcripts of The Beatles working on the album. Here, you have the genome of creativity: with all the false starts, bad stuff, laughter, arguments, etc. Anyone involved in a group creative project knows about this. But, hey, imagine having the transcript of a conversation you had with a group of friends published and poured over for significance 50 years later?! Such is the continuing draw of that special fairy dust. Indeed, the Apple label itself is enough to connect again: yes, we were there, we were part of that. The flame continues to burn.
Even the fact that all this is coming out just before Christmas – it was always like that: The Beatles Christmas gift – set the tone for the season..
Elsewhere, I have been having a bit of an Irish renaissance – care of the music of Sean O’Riada:
Also, some lovely music from Iran:
It has been a poetry month as well, with readings from Rimbaud and John Clare.
Samhain came at the end of the month. Now the darkness dominates until the Winter Solstice.
Storms in the forest and many tree casualties; including one of my favourites, under which I would often sit on my walks. Before and After:
Some time off on sabbatical over the summer and time to take a break.
Time is a key theme this month.
Now back in full autumn mode. Autumn: A time of flowers and fruits in my garden – Harvest.
In the forest too it is time for turning. The Rowan tree and the colours of the heathers:
September is also the time of the Autumn Equinox: Hare Moon, Harvest Moon – the time of equal light and darkness in the globe.
After now the dark grows….
One highlight of the month was the Completion of the latest MeM (Musica en Moviemiento) course. We celebrated with two days of calisthenics and performances from teams in Santiago, Chile, La Plata, Argentina, Ecuador and Mendoza, Argentina. All in all, very good work, on guitar but also involving Themes, Feldenkrais, and Pranayama.
One area was Kitchen Craft, and dishes were cooked according to principles of the Kitchen with a little Enneagram work thrown in – Involution and Evolution:
Our study piece was the Moving Force, which each of the teams performed honourably:
A photo arrived of an early Guitar Craft course in Italy – 2002. I am there on my knees to the right with the team. Amazing!
Some excellent theatre this month – both from the National Theatre. Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson) and Under Milkwood (Dylan Thomas).
Under Milkwood had a lead from Michael Sheen – a favourite actor of mine. The piece is really based on a village but out of time – almost disembodied voices offers reflections of their past, present and futures. A kind of poetic tapestry.
Here Michael reciting Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night – an iconic poem by Thomas about refusing the ‘dying of the light’ – perhaps apt for autumn!!!:
I have been putting together some of my own art, which is posted elsewhere on this site:
Also studying the ephemera art of Andy Goldsworthy – an artist who builds in nature so that it fits and then erodes in time.
Lots of other work on the temporal dimension, the extended present moment, etc. http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/esoteric/hyparxis-attention/
Speaking of time and nature, I have also been studying cloud forming and formations:
And, then, happy sounds from 1967. At the time, I was just a child and I hardly remember the ‘summer of love’. But, the vibe here is unmistakable. Happy music with an RnB groove. Kinda’ of an antidote from the previous intensity of Pet Sounds and Smile – and moving to later classics, Surfs Up. I particularly like: Darlin’, Wild Honey, Country Air, Aren’t you Glad.
Did I say, here in my part of the globe, we seemed to have jumped from a dodgy spring into an early autumn – missing out the summer in between/ A spider in my bath in June, and ferns in the forest turning yellow! Lammas yesterday – the first stirrings of the darkness:
So, very hot – 35 in my garden – for a few days: but, LOTS of rain and clouds.
Following up from last month – a lovely – and rare! Photo of Mousehole Cave/ Many associated experiences, etc.
In the last month, we have done six – yes, SIX – Musica en Moviemiento guitar workshop days: https://musicaenmovimiento.com
Amazing what is possible these days with ZOOM. We even manage to play music together – and silence too.
Mind you, this takes extraordinary tenacity sometimes.
Here with a micro meeting – with me represented by I-Phone on a chair. That is me and my view….. Still an extra ordinary day/ meeting.
Also, incidences of Kitchen Craft to an amazing level. This is what the Salta team produced:
Me at home continues to broaden a range of cuisines and dishes. How to turn this:
A kind of take on the Greek Gigantes.
Some art: the amazing work of Nicholas Roerich:
Also plays from the National Theatre: Yerma and A View from a Bridge. Both excellent, if both somewhat about the mental breakdown of an individual. Still, it reminded me how good contemporary theatre can be. The latter, in particular, by Arthur Miller, is a Masterclass in dramatic dialogue. Every sentence laden and open to reflection.
Also, following up last month, I have been reading the final book publication of one of my favourite authors: Barry Lopez:
In this book, he writes of various experiences in nature but, by doing so, manages to express our entire relationship to life and the world – indeed, what it is to be human and alive. An extraordinary read. Needless to say, he is/ was concerned: ‘What is going to happen to us?’, he asks at one point. Indeed…..
Sometimes, only one thing will do…..
Well, it is summer…….!
June was the month of mid-summer. Still, in England, it was the usual white/grey skies and rain!!
But, nature carries on. The birds have stopped singing now and their chicks are growing and fledging.
Flowers aglow in the garden and meadows:
Bees busy on flowers in my garden.
And, some spectacular sunsets and sunrises:
I escape to Cornwall for a few days and almost avoid the tourists and the G7 summit in Carbis Bay. Cliff walks and favourite prehistoric landmarks:
I also join a group to study sun/ moon/ star alignments for various menhirs and stone circles:
Cornish hedgerows are alive with wild flowers.
In my garden, these little fellows pay a visit:
I also escape to Chesil beach and draw patterns with the beach pebbles:
Back home and I begin a new course on martial art self-defense: Wing Chun. Apparently, it was invented by Chinese women for self protection. It is therefore more close to the body work and hand based:
I had not seen it reported but I learn that one of my favourite writers Barry Lopez – had died – on Christmas day 2020:
Horizon fades from blue to black
with infinite tenderness
tonight. Yet even at full dusk a smear
of cobalt rings the tree line. Maybe
endless love await us. I know you believed
so, even as forests and rivers turned to fire,
libraries to ash. Now that you’re not here
to tend them, I see the lamps you lit for us.
Sometimes it is important to see the darkness,
you would say, to regard one another other,
and our trembling. Or on other nights, like
now: we must look up. How is this same
moon in my sky hanging over you these
small hours? Do you feel its comforts?
As you sleep through the final stretch
how badly I want you to know we have
the torches now, my friend, we’ll protect the flame,
while you are free to be the wind again.
On the artist – writer, musician, painter, poet, sculptor, craftsperson – Krishnamurti nails it:
Then words from Bhagavan Ramana later:
I also visit ‘the Refus Stone’. Oddly people travel to the New Forest especially to see it. However, even though I have lived here for about 30 years, and it is only about 5 miles from where I live, I had not visited it before.
Refus – 1200s – turns out to be a ‘bad man’ – and it is not really certain that this is indeed the spot where he was ‘accidentally’ killed by an arrow glancing off of a stag. Fun but underwhelming.
I watched Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Good – an early play about mixed up twins and mistaken identities. Very good.
Also, the amazing Samsara: a film of photography depicting time, circles/ circuits, nature, life, etc.
Book and CD wise, it is not often that a book changes the way we think. This one did for me.
I find myself ‘grooving’ to summer sounds – African, South American, Mediterranean French. So, what better than Georges Moustaki:
Then the first European Salif Keita record:
This was an early example of what happened when the digital studio guys in Paris got hold of African stars such as Keita, Baaba Maal, Yousou N’Dour, Thomas Mapfumo, etc.
Ah, I remember it well: 1987, I was just getting into what became known as ‘Global’ music – which basically means anywhere. WOMAD (https://womad.co.uk) had just found its best festival site in Reading. Everything seemed possible. Little did I know that, after some years teaching French and German in a secondary school in London, my life was about to irrevocably change:
On the music front, great to see Andy Kershaw again producing radio shows – now as a pod cast:
The very best in global sounds!!!
A very late spring in England!
Nature continues its course, of course.
The month began with ‘Bird Song Day’: time to get up at 03.00 in order to listen to the Dawn chorus. I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise preceded by fine bird song:
Basically, bird song has two messages: comes and have sex with me; get away from my territory. Life is simpler in the natural world; basically, humans have the same messages but disguise them with all sorts of cultural coverings. In terms of birds, the female chooses the male with the loudest song, so they are singing for all they are worth. If you listen carefully, there is a cuckoo on the background here. Makes me think of that famous piece of music by Delius – On hearing the first cuckoo in spring!
Trees in the forest also produced that lovely spring green that only lasts for a while:
Soon after, however, the clouds arrived and pretty much did not leave for the month – it turned out to be the wettest May on record!! Stormy winds even blew over hear pots near my house.
All this drove me indoors. Some more cooking experiments. A creamy, asparagus dish since that plant is now in season.
With the lockdown, some of the restaurants have tried ‘cook at home’ boxes. I ordered one to see how that would go. Quite nice, but a good example of the skills of culinary photography. Mine and their version:
Struck down by wind and rain, I also had recourse to my collection of DVDs. The basic rule is that I do not like any film after around 1974 (there are a few exceptions!!). So, one wet and windy weekend found me viewing a couple of Stanley Kubrick classics: Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The first of these is a funny farce about what happens when an American General goes mad and orders the American nuclear bomb stock on the Soviet Union with no chance of recall. A brilliant account of the absurdity of the situation: like the general being obsessed with ‘precious bodily fluids’ and fluoride (Quite an interesting early version of ‘conspiracy theories’).
Peter Sellers plays four parts: one being the US President. Apparently, he improvised much of the script. A classic line, when another American General is scrapping with the Soviet ambassador, is, ‘Gentlemen, I will not have fighting in the war room’. Interesting, also, to see this film in terms of the creative process: it started out being completely different and evolved according to creative insight and necessity. Each of Kubrick’s films is unique and very different. They are all brilliant in their own way: only one – Paths of Glory – I find impossible to watch – one of the saddest films I have ever seen.
I remember when 2001 came out and, then, it seemed perfectly possible that we would be living like that at the end of the century – when of course, it is nothing like it. A very enigmatic film with a single strand running through it – much debated and misunderstood – like, what is the black monolith? Of course, Kubrick said things to send people off-course and even demanded his archive notes and outtake filming be destroyed so as not to give the game away. Actually, the key ideas are obvious. Firstly, the black monolith gives the man-apes consciousness by invoking ‘the other’ – this carries across the film. Secondly, the first thing the man-apes do with nascent intelligence is kill another. This is true of HAL as well: the onboard computer who terminates the lives of all the astronauts in suspended animation. Why? The stress of cognitive dissonance when he has to lie makes him paranoid; so, he makes a ‘rational’ decision, which is not rational – just like human beings. In this, he is ‘right’ that the computer’s mistake was due to ‘human error’ – just not one seen as such. Finally, the scene in ‘the hotel’. The key concept here is we are what we observe; we are where are attention is. In the film this is demonstrated in time and space. The broken glass is an ‘accident’ – or ‘shock’ – a sure way to get us to take notice (conscious energy). The final scene is ‘cosmic consciousness’, of course. Again, interesting to see how the film started out being something completely different, and the creativity that arose in making it the masterpiece it is came from taking out as much as adding – and paying attention to the unexpected!!
A new Eileen Agar exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. When Read and Penrose knocked on her studio door and asked her to join the 1936 first surrealist exhibition in London, she declared ‘I am not a surrealist’. They replied, ‘well, you are now!’, and she did exhibit, although she thereafter struggled to distance herself from that movement. True, her work is more than that – and endlessly inventive and interesting. It made me think about Ithell Colquhoun who I have been researching, but fared much less well – dying poor, ill and in obscurity.
IC has been appropriated by two constituencies in contemporary times: the feminist surrealists (‘recovering’ female voices) and the whole earth goddess/ esoteric groups. For me, ‘by overstating her achievement, they understand it’. Still, Agar became and remained well known and successful through her life.
Bookwise, I have been enjoying Carlo Rovelli’s account of quantum mechanics – Helgoland:
Also, the biography of the French post-modernist Jacques Derrida:
Of course, postmodernism is and always was ‘reactionary and dangerous’. A indulgent approach to using philosophy to destroy philosophy by using philosophy; thus, wanting the benefits of being both in and outside of the field by denying its socio-structural conditions of the production of the conditions of its provenance abnd production.
Music-wise, some lovely singing from Moniker Kaur who offers a range of songs from the Sikh community. As I say, some beautiful singing, although I do not always get, these days, the need to give everything a dreamy, digital wash. Would much prefer traditional instruments. It’s like I never feel enthusiastic about ‘fusion’ music – individual traditions are much too rich to be ‘watered down’ and diluted by another one, in my view.
And, then, something completely different: Godspeed you! Black Emperor. I originally bought a CD of their music on the basis of their name alone; figuring that anyone with the pretension to come up with such a title must be interesting (other favourite band titles are: Half-Man Half-Biscuit, Throbbing Gristle, and Gaye Bykers of Acid. So, so they were/ are in a full-throttle proggy sort of way. Perhaps such posture cannot be maintained and the new CD – AND STATES END – is good whilst perhaps not reaching the apogee of their style. Highly enjoyable, though.
We move into April – a month of cold – even snow – and warm days. Spring is advanced now and the birds and animals are busy.
Some walking and the contrasting skies and branches:
But, in my garden, the next flowers appear: Apple blossom and the Rosemary flowers (delicate blue).
Lots of nice bright Dandelions in my garden too so I make fritters with them and Wild Garlic which is also alive and kicking this time of year:
It has been a month of talks and symposia: Like the London Textile Fashion Museum. Another on how to make Soul Dough Bread. We seem to have reverted to be being home bound – everything comes to us. Like plays: this month’s viewing from the National Theatre was Julie – a modern re-write of Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’:
It did not really work. While Strindberg’s ephemeral and somewhat drenched in C19 decadence, the Julie in this version just came over as a spoilt brat. Sad, really, because the acting by the entire cast was first rate!
Busy with my Tai Chi: we complete the 32 Posture form very soon now. I love doing Tai Chi and Chi Gong:
There has been some relaxation of the Lockdown: not that it affects me much, but the Brits react in a characteristic manner!:
Some philosophical issues to investigate relating to the relationship between the particularity and the Whole ( pace Goethe):
Also, been working my way through Ramana Maharishi’s Forty Verses . Amazing expression of the potential of human consciousness and its implications:
The other book I have been working through is Jennifer Rampling’s scholarly account of the rise of Alchemy in Britain between the C13 and C17 – a revealing text indeed, which sets the scene for understanding why we think the way we do – by what was included and excluded in modern ways of interacting with the world:
Also, Edgar Morin’s reflections:
The man is now 100 years old and has always been there: his account refers to the 1930s, the Second World War, the Resistance (he was an active member), and the history of post war France. He knew everyone!!!!
He made me smile: he said he met Bourdieu who was warm to him but then attacked him at the conference. I think the difference is that Bourdieu had an epistemological vision that he developed in a range of subject contexts, whilst Morin developed a different view of everything he considered. A prolific writer and TV intellectual. Just the sort Bourdieu detested but his reflections of the change in France are both personal and invoke the spirit of the times.
Lots and lots of music and from some unusual sources. First, I discover the lovely Catalonian music of Marina Rossell – certainly something to get one in the sunny mood:
Then some lovely pieces from the Armenian musician Art Tuncboyaciyan:
As a follow-up to our work on the MeM AAD course, this from friend and associate Ugo Adam produced with band members – also friends and associates. Stunning stuff.
The month was just coming to a close when a collaboration between Real World Records and the Music Department of the University of Oxford offered a Sensoround play back of a recording of the great Pakistani Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Known as the best Qawwali singer ever!!
The recording was from a WOMAD festival performance in Mersea Island in 1985 – and I was there!!! Hmmmm? 36 years ago!!!! And, what has changed since?
Sadly, Khan passed away some years back, but here is a sample of what one can expect from the CD of the same performance:
We enter March and leave in April.
Spring signs a welcome indication of lighter days to come. Crocuses are amongst the earliest to appear in my garden and then a stronger lighter towards the forest:
I have begun a new course of Tai Chi: a form that I have not done before but where many of the individual elements are familiar. My teacher – English name Michael – begins with warm-up and then Qi Cong:
Just been reading a new biography of William Blake:
There are lots of biographies, and still more books which offer various angles on Blake: Jung, Gender, Freud, Political, Qabalah – not to mention my own Gnostic:
This one by Jason Whittaker is a sober and fair account of the life and works of…Of course, almost an impossible task: so little is known about the truth of his life and his works still defy ‘translation’. That being said, the author here clearly loves the man and his art, and his is a fairly accurate picture. It errs on the side of conventionality, and an early danger sign is his enthusiastic appropriation of the first substantive biography of Blake in the 1860s by Gilchrist: much of which is second or third hand accounts – now quoted as ‘truth’ – from individuals who knew people who knew people….a lot of it smacks of mid-Victorian romanticism, sadly. Nevertheless, Whittaker does not get too carried away: but there are many omissions – Bronowsky, Wilson, etc. The accounts of the prophecies are also sketchy in the extreme. Nevertheless, the book is well illustrated and offers a good Introduction to this artist/ poet – with nice graphics to match.
More on the Culture front, ‘Thursday Night is Culture Night’ here at home. Amongst this month’s highlights has been Citizen Kane: Orson Welles’ incredible first film from the 1940s.
This movie was seminal in several regards: the whole concept of time and trans-narrative; and every shot is a study piece in cinematic photography. Of course, it begins with those last enigmatic words of Kane – “Rosebud”. Who was she? What was her significance in Kane’s life? Also, it contains that scene where Bernstein – one of Kane’s editors – tells the story of the girl on the Jersey Ferry. How Ralph McTell utilizes this story in his own song begins my book on him: Parallel Lives: the Biographies of Ralph McTell.
Oddly, Welles’ life went pretty much downhill after this film, indeed, the story it depicts in some ways ‘paralleled’ his own life – paradoxical.
Then, a new translation of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard:
Very good, of course. However, one of the invisible characters in this play is time itself, and the Chekov world tends to be elegiac. But, the translation here is very modern so the subtlety is somewhat lost. Still, great performance, of course, from Zoe Wannamaker.
Super interesting interview with Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare at the Whitechapel Gallery:
Lots of new produce, so some nice recipes: a cauliflower bake, and then sea bass done Chinese style:
This month also saw the Completion of the Musica en Moviemiento At-A-Distance course:
There were 30 on the list but we were around 20 at the final meeting – the others were guests, instructors, etc. Quite something: at 6 months, probably the longest GC course – ever! I remember doing a Level 4 course over one year where I wrote weekly themes, but that was in conjunction with a residential context. The MeM course was 100% AAD. Quite intense with almost daily small group work and monthly whole-group meetings: guitar, Themes, Morning exercises, Tai Chi, Qi Cong, Feldenkreis, Kitchen Craft, Pranayama, as well as professional support and recording challenges. What now??
Lots of reading this months. Amongst which, two significant accounts of the lying and ineptitude of the current British government and our charlatan Prime Minister. One wonders how it got to this? Actually, we know…..what to do about it is another question as a significant percentage of the voting population have allowed themselves to be duped!!!!
Hey ho! To cheer myself up, I have been saturating myself with West African Kora music:
Then, there is always more spring: