February 2018

January comes in gently with sun and storms – it is an incredible mild winter here – no need to light my lovely fire yet!


A bit late with this posting because I have been in Berlin – about which, more next month!!
January the 6th – Epiphany. An important day for me as it is around now that we notice the light strengthening. It goes on for the months and, by the end, the days are noticeably longer. Birds begin the sing – nature is moving to Spring, even if humans are talking about ‘winter’.




Busy writing with one thing and another, but I take a trip over to Chichester to see the David Bomberg exhibition. A gifted artist of many styles, who is another example of someone who was not really appreciated in their lifetime. He is most original and insightful in his early ‘vortices’ pieces, but then took every which way looking for success, even some fairly straight takes whilst staying in Israel. And, then a wild, late period – almost Turner-easque.








A delightful day visiting in Worcestershire and then to their Cathedral to view the Via Crucis tableau, each based on the Stations of the cross. I had previously encountered them in Exeter and Bath, so it is somewhat of a ‘pilgrimage’ to follow them from one holy site to another. Now they move on to Hereford Cathedral – and then after??








Been listening a lot to Purcell…







…also re-reading the works of that extraordinary English writer, Bruce Chatwin….








January 2018



In a way, it has been a short month as the last News posting was mid-December; I realise, then, that I have already dealt with half of last month’s news – the last weeks of my time in South America (Wine tasting and guitar course).


However, the Christmas period is always a busy time, and I seem to have hit the ground running. The next day after my return I was in the university and then off on a one-day Satsang with Satyananda. I am going to transcribe my dialogues with him for the Satsang section of this website. The two sessions will be called: Freedom of Thinking and the Anatomy of Consciousness. Coming soon – just as quickly as I can transcribe….



It was also my birthday. I go to Bath for one of my favourite walks, and it is a lovely sunny day. The light here in December is so crystaline.






And, so we move to the Solstice – as always, I sense the change immediately: the sun is now returning to this part of the world.





Not so evident though on stormy coasts with the winter to come:





Whilst in London I see a couple of exhibitions. Firstly, one at the British Museum – a remarkable show on the Scythians, who were tribes in Siberia around 2 – 400 years BC. Fascinating people who left a treasure of jewelry and other artifacts which show the lives of these nomad, horse based people. In fact, it offers us more than what we have from similar times in the UK. It also demonstrates just how sophisticated they were, and the beliefs that orientated them. Unsurprisingly, the sun was an important god to them.





The other exhibition was of Cezanne portraits. Truly amazing and sets out how he was pretty much the father of modernism – that is before Picasso and Braque, etc. And, he seems to have accomplished this just by repeated and intense observation of the human figure. He certainly predates people like Spencer and Freud in his capture of the spirit of individual sitters.






So, Christmas! I elect to spend it on my own – a quiet time to reflect and indulge oneself. I make it super traditional with a tree and lights/ candles.






The Christmas day meal begins with salmon, then it is the traditional roast, and Christmas pudding.






The thing then is to settle by the fire and read. We have a tradition here of murder and ghost stories at Christmas (not sure why!?), so again I indulge in some of these. They are always of a certain cosy tradition – nothing too horrific, more intrigue in terms of the twists and turns of the plot.








However, given the very troubled times we live in, I also decide to ‘regroup’ a bit – intellectually, that is. So, a somewhat light hearted account of where this all began:






Lots and lots of Christmas music, but one of the finest is of the gospel group, The Blind Boys of Alabama singing traditional Christmas songs. Sublime:







December 2017

Bit of a strange month, as I was away for much of it ‘on the road’ in South America – Chile, Brazil, Argentina: basically, a mixture of some business – lectures, meetings with students/ publishers – and pleasure (more later).


But, first, I was down in Cornwall, and still pursuing the antics of surrealist, occult painter Ithell Colquhoun. Like, this rather lovely painting of the ‘Goddess of the Moon’:






Somewhat different was the extraordinary modernist icons of Jasper Johns in London: most famous being his various US flags and targets. Good stuff, but like so many abstract painters, he seems to have had a purple patch and then lost his way somewhat.





At last, a sympathetic and appreciative review of my biography of Ralph McTell – by Peter Landon.




When I set out to do this book, it was clear that I had to find a different sort of coverage since Ralph had written so much about his early life, and also another have covered the same from the standard journalistic approach. I also have to admit, that I was interested in bringing a range of my own interests and explorations to the topic, all whilst having at the core a straight, and affectionate, consideration of Ralph’s life and times. The approach to offer various layers was meant to create a ‘discursive montage’. As a result, linearity is avoided in certain sections. The reviewer says that because he cannot understand some of the language – and calls it ‘academic’ – this could put people off.. I suppose I would ask what might be an alternative response?: for example, like digging deeper into some of that language in these sections and finding out what is there. In other words, why blame the author for something the reader is not prepared to do? Especially, as one and all admits, these bits can be skipped and the main conventional parts focused on.

If this disturbs the normal expectation that the author tells the reader what they should think and offers a way of appreciating the nature of one’s appreciation of Ralph’s work, well, that was intention.  Putting it together, does the reader better understand the life and work in an integrated fashion’? As Peter Landon writes, ‘You may not have been through the exact same experiences, but you could well recall the same historical events. You may well end up, as I did, with an even greater appreciation of Ralph’s work and a better understanding of your own position and how you got to be where you are today’. Exactly!! Thank you Peter.




Sorry if what follows has the air of ‘holiday snaps’, but better have a visual round up than me waxing endlessly. So, I shall keep comments to a minimum.


First I am in Brazil – and a first Brazilian ‘tasting menu’ thanks to my contact there Fabio. Do not ask me what they all were, but they sure tasted good: various combinations of spice, fruit and other exotic ingredients.








I get interviewed by both the TV AND Radio.




I also get to choose one King Crimson track for the rock show. I choose Frame by Frame:





Then, a chance to explore a Brazilian book shop and purchase some CDs of Brazilian music.






Airports are the same the world over:





In Argentina, and a visit to the 7th highest mountain in the world: Anconcagua. I arrived in 37degrees of heat, but it snowed this day!! Luckily, someone was able to lend me a coat.





A trip to Santiago, Chile, the university and a chance to see the remarkable Icelandic band: Sigur Ros:








Well received.



Lots of fun with pals Lucho and Lili:




Mike gets into the Matte:








Some fairly spectacular scenery; including where valleys have been flooded for the generation of electricity.







Still hot, and I take a solitary meal; but soon acquire a companion:






Speaking of food, there was Lucho’s magnificent Paella – cooked over hot coals in the garden:





And, more scenery:








In between, visiting the local wine vineyards: apparently, there are some 2000+ in the Mendoza area.





This lady was so enthusiastic about here wine: she said it contained the whole of life – in fact the different blends were named after her husband, father, children, etc.



We end up with a fine guitar course in a lovely setting..







On my final day, there is a magnificent sunset.




Walking up the road, and we are ambushed by ‘the kids’ yelling, and they gather for a farewell photo.




Like Trauffaut’s ‘les Mistons’, they could not understand the adult world, especially when I just sat and read a book when there was swimming, bike riding, football, TV, shouting, trampolining, etc.




Oh, yes, and taking great relish in disturbing my reading!!




A lot of fun, though.

November 2017

October skipped along and the last vestiges of summer – leaves, apples, flowers – are now all but gone. Time for a trip far west and a few days in Penwith, Cornwall – they have at least 30 mins. more daylight down there!! On my way down, I visit the isolated Church at Templar – a site, which is indeed associated with the Knights Templar in antiquity. It is surrounded with their references, and the nearby countryside includes all manner of menhirs and iron-age hill forts. Bodmin Moor is one of the most wild parts of England, and it is nice to be there on sunny day with blue skies. I take time to sit in the silence of the place and then catch up with one of the custodians of the place.






The weather is kind to me, and I later visit Mounts Bay with its enigmatic St. Michael’s Mount – a place, which has always fascinated me. This is a place that is also known for Starling murmurations: that inexplicable behaviour of these birds at dawn and dusk as literally thoughands of them swarm around – apparently as one. Certainly, their twists and turns and acrobatics are sometimes hypnotizing.




It is that time of year. I travel north to join in the seasonal celebrations. Whether one calls this Samhain, or Allantide, or Halloween, or All Saints there is a general agreement that somehow the veil between the material and immaterial world is very thin at this point of the year. Certainly, the darkness grows: there is then a celebration of both embracing the darkness whilst staying in touch with the energy of light. Much music playing as well. Further food celebrations including fruits of the harvest.





Plenty going on culture wise. I visit Bath Studios for their anniversary exhibition: a marvelous range of visual creativity and an opportunity to speak directly with the various artists.





I then travel down to Exeter to see an early performance in the tour of my friend Ralph McTell. A extremely good set, enhanced even more with Ralph and his team inviting new/ young players to open the evening for him. Afterwards, I work the queue for the merchandise table, and am happy to sign several copies of my biography of Ralph – 2nd Edition.






Further me writing: a new academic book (posted here in the academic section of this blog) and the final part of my Extended Essay on King Crimson I (1969) is posted on the DGM page.







More music, I go to Brighton to see the soul/ gospel singer Emeli Sande. An amazing show – 12 piece band and stunning lighting – that manages to be both spectacular and intimate: at one point she comes down to the audience and sings with just her and the piano. Thrilling stuff.





By a twist of fate, I end up speaking with Terence Stamp in London. Terence was one of the ‘beautiful’ people from the 1960s, and it is even thought that he is the reference of ‘Terry and Julie’ from the ‘Waterloo Sunset’ song by the Kinks – Julie being Julie Christie, with whom he acted in the film Far from the Madding Crowd. He has had an interesting life to say the least, coming from the East End of London, combining being one of the fashionable set with both artistic credibility (he appeared in films directed by Fellini and Pasolini) and undertaking somewhat of a spiritual journey (he was close to Krishnamurti and spent several years in India – before leaving to play a villain in the Superman film). Some of this has been included in a recent memoir, which is really a briefer version of his series of biographies. Anyway, he understand immediately what I am talking about, and is there before me. He shakes my hand and looks me in the eye.






Afterward, I mull on the way structures in one’s life link up: his girlfriend was Jean Shrimpton who was a super model in the 1960s, but then went on to own and run the Abbey Hotel in Penzance. I ended up having lunch with her and the artist John Miller once without knowing who they were. Miller’s paintings, of course, adorn the sleeves of Robert Fripp’s soundscape CDs. Both Miller and Fripp were also at Sherborne, the locale of the courses given by J G Bennett in the 1970s. Bennett was a student of Gurdjieff – Stamp acted in a film version of the latter’s Meetings with Remarkable Men. With my own associations with Penzance, Miller, Bennett, and Fripp, one might call this elective affinities, or more precisely, ‘you cannot avoid your circle’. Anyway, there was certainly a resonance at this particular meeting.


More music, and I go to see the Malian singer Habib Koite – a tremendous evening of African sounds.






As for book and CDs of the month, various things on the go. However, I have been absorbed by an account of Passchendaele – the 3rd battle of Ypres in the First World War – whose 100th anniversary falls this year. No comment: it speaks for itself:





Two CDs, at two extremes of the spectrum:


Robert Plant – West Coast Blues tinged with African textures – very exciting:





Then, a fairly obscure Russian composer, whose recordings I am currently working my way through.





Now off to South America for circa. 5 weeks. I always aim to get these News reports out in the first week of the month. However, I may be a little later next month as I do not return until after this date. And then Christmas….

October 2017

It’s been a book filled month, so rather than a ‘book of the month’, there seem to be several!!


Excuse me if I begin with my very own: the second edition of my ‘biographies’ of Ralph McTell. Revised and Expanded, it took a lot of work editing, with which I was ably supported by John Beresford, editor of the ‘Ralph, Albert, Sydney’ fan-site, who has, I might say, a quite extraordinary knowledge and appreciation of Ralph’s work.





Anyway, the new edition has a lot more refinement of my quest to integrate a scholarly narrative within and about a popular vernacular. John also came down from Manchester and we recorded an interview with me talking about the origins and content of the book.





Then I was given a copy of the recent reprint of articles from the Systematics Journal 1962-73. More about Mr Bennett and his ideas from my own Esoteric section of this very site.




Rupert White’s book on Cornish Art, Modernism and Earth mysteries and the like finally came out. It was originally entitled ‘Magic and Modernism’, but seems to have been re-titled at the last moment as ‘The Re-Enchanted Landscape’. He certainly has collected together an interesting set of individuals who were based down in Cornwall at various times, drew inspiration both from the landscape and Pagan traditions there, and expressed these in various forms of creative output.





Then, there is The Tryst:





Written by the well-known author Monique Roffey, it is really inspired by the Lilith myth – the woman who predated Eve for Adam’s ‘affections’. It is a racey read and a kind of celebration of rampant femininity. She certainly writes in a convincing and beguiling manner. My only complaint was that the man in the story is pretty much a dupe and putty in the hands of the main female character – Lilah. But, then again, that is probably in the nature of the story of what happens in the ‘empire of the senses’. The conclusion is a little like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ – that they are lucky to survive the encounter.




Music wise, I got to see probably ‘the’ exponent of traditional German Music Hall/ Cabaret style, Ute Lemper – a ‘master’. ‘er, sorry, ‘mistress’ of the genre. She really managed to create an atmosphere of sleaze and decadence, as well as romance and heroism faced with affairs of the heart in a challenging world. She also included some favourite French chanson: Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel.




Also, caught up with Ralph McTell – one of the sets he has been doing with Wizz Jones, who was the one who invited him down to Cornwall in the first place – see my book for fuller account!! A good evening with a retro look at their separate and joint song repertoire.




Art wise, I was able to get to the beautiful exhibition of Church panel paintings from the late Medieval period (14th century); as particularly exemplified by some new acquisitions at the National Gallery in London of the Italian artist Giovanni da Rimini.





Somewhat in total contrast, I was also in Venice for this year’s Biennale: always a lot of fun, and some pretty wild art in settings, which never fail to intoxicate me. All very different.









The British artist Damien Hirst also has a two venue installation show there, under the title Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable . The story is that a ship went down in ancient times, the wreck of which has only just been discovered. What was on show pretty much looked like authentic archeological finds, ranging from statues that were several meters high to gold coins and jewellery. Just to make a point (?), there was also the odd shell encrusted Micky Mouse and Goofy thrown in for good measure. Well you have to admire his audacity.








Quite a remarkable show on at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum as well by the American artist Mark Tobey (1890-1976) – a precursor of American Expressionism.




All this activity, and I have not been listening to that much music. Some recent Russian CDs, about which, more next month, but in between, I have been working through the complete pieces by Mahler as CD of the month. A good selection, although it just shows what a wide range of interpretations of Mahler there is.





Otherwise, the last days of summer as autumn closes in….Clevedon…





September 2017

August and traditionally holiday time, I don’t really do ‘holiday’ as such, but I do do travelling.

So, off to Brittany, as the only area in France I have never visited. France is big – bigger than England – and so Brittany is already sizeable.




I was a bit surprised, I expected it to be rather Cornwall Plus but it was its own place: quite flat and mostly modern buildings – and farms! Still, the coasts were very impressive – long dunes and spectacular bays. There were also all the rocks all over the place.



I was based around North Finstere, Which somewhat reminded me of the song of the similar name from the latest CD by June Tabor – Ashore:





For me, Brittany was a country of: Dunes, Chapels, Crosses, Rocks, Cider, Crepes, Choirs, Fish, Markets, Sea, Stones, and Sunsets.




And Alain Stivell, of course:






Whilst there, I visited Le Poldu and Pont-Aven, where Gauguin lived for a while:





Painters within the Nabis group (‘The Prophets’ – Maurice Denis, Bonnard, Vuillard, Sérusier) also met and worked there. I ended up admiring their work more and Gauguin’s work less – still all very interesting. Apparently, he hid when Van Gogh came to visit him there.




A quick trip to Weymouth, where my mother lived as a child. Typical English seaside with fair, candy-floss, and fish n’ chips.




This shop has been here decades and we went there as children – now adults!!




More travelling took me back to my old workplace of Trinity College, Dublin. To do some work and also catch up with various ones. A good trip: the sun shone, the accommodation was home-from-home and a real please to see old friends over a glass or two.





Whilst there, I got to see the Vermeer exhibition.





Pretty good. Of course, Vermeer only did about 34 paintings – of at least only that number are left, and only four signed. There are exorbitant amounts charged by overseas galleries to loan out key works. One way Museums get around it these days is to ‘fill out’ with paintings by other artists associated with the master. I came across a similar trick in London last years with ‘the people Caravaggio influenced. There we 10 actual Vermeer paintings in Dublin, which sadly only rather showed up how much not as good all those associated with him were. Still, he was not beneath copying someone else; except all always seemed to do a better job!




Whilst in art mode, I also get to see the Giacometti in London: these tall thin figures which Sartre referred to as somewhere ‘between being and nothingness’. The exhibition was badly curated and there were just too many on display. Still, it showed the evolution of his style very clearly. He apparently inspired Dali to dedicate himself to surrealism and Giacometti himself dipped in and out of it: rather sociable, he always seemed to manage to maintain friendships with other artists, André Breton, for example, even after falling out with them over work. I liked him and his generous spirit, even if he seemed determined to strip men and women to their essential natures.






Whilst in London, I was also delighted to see some free WOMAD music on the South Bank, in a general atmosphere of summer festivities. Surely, we need it!!!




The contemporary artist David Barton has dedicated his latest book to me – a great honour.





I met David at a critical moment in my life some years ago. He has been a very important mentor for me, and always encouraging in my creative explorations. He worked with Anton Ehrenzweig at Goldsmith’s College London, the ideas of whom he introduced to me. The Hidden Order of Art became very important to my understanding of the creative process – or, at least as far as the psychology of art/ music can take you.




Some years back, David’s wife, Moya, also shared with me her enthusiasm for the work of the British ‘Surrealist’/ Occult painter Ithell Colquhoun, which has since preoccupied me with various researches.




Summer, so, appropriate that this month’s ‘CD of the Month’ is the latest by West African Oumou Sangaré. I have seen her perform a few times and it is always rich an intoxicating music.







For Book of the Month, there is some completion, but I have been re-reading various forms – poetry and literature – of what I call ‘charismatic’ work, so clearly defined in Le Grands Meaulnes (1913) by Alain-Fournier, with its ‘lost domain’ theme.





I shall be publishing an article, which discusses all this shortly on this web. Here is an extract:

‘John Fowles cites Le Grands Meaulnes as a previously unacknowledged primary source for his Jungian story of transformation, The Magus, which ends with the enigmatic aphorism, cras amet qui numquan amavit, quiqu amavit cras amet. Following on from Le Grands Meaulnes, which Fowles refers to as ‘adolescent’, he describes The Magus (1977/ 66) also as ‘a novel of adolescence written by a retarded adolescent’ (p. 9); sentiments quoted approvingly by Julian Barnes in his review of a new edition of the Alain-Fournier classic (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/apr/13/grand-meaulnes-wanderer-julian-barnes). In a typical externalist aside, Barnes draws attention to the final carnival fireworks in Le Grands Meaulnes as announcing the end of romanticism just before the ‘reality’ of World War 1 broke out. That being said, it seems that the sublime world, just out of sight, occasionally encountered in the magical, and often personified in women and men (even boys), is not a disposition easily overturned; rather its seems endemic in the human psyche and its aesthetic. Most of subsequent Fowles’ novels, for example – The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), The Ebony Tower (1974), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982), A Maggot (1985) – contain strong elements of this search for the unreachable.’

I particularly like this French, Livre de Poche, edition with its evocative front cover picture, and yellow spine.

August 2017

Summer now flying by and indeed the first stirrings of autumn: the birds have stopped singing and there is heavy dew in the morning. Before the summer broke – days and days of rain, which left all the flowers bedraggled – I made it down to Somerset and somewhat of an undiscovered gem: Exmoor. Lots of walks in beautiful country.





There are funny curios as well, like the steam railways running along the north coast near Minehead. It represents a memory of the past: silver service on the trains, oldie world stations, cardboard tickets and heavily upholstered seats.






And, lost domain like cafés/ craft shops – again, apparently from a time past.






I also went to view Blake’s cottage in Felpham, West Sussex. The poet William Blake only spent 3 years outside of London – and this is where. The Blake Society of St James, of which I was a founder member in the 1980s, managed to purchase the cottage last year when it came on the market for the first time in almost 100 years. The asking price was 500K GBP. Having begun a fundraising scheme, it managed to raise 50K in six months. Not enough. So, they let go of the idea of purchasing it. Then, an anonymous donor phoned up and offered the other 450K. As Blake said, ‘I live by miracles’.






Anyway, there are plans now to restore it to something like its original condition when Blake lived there and also build some sort of study/ retreat centre for those looking to dwell – scholarly or otherwise – in a Blakean spirit.




Every year, a rose small rose bush grows in my garden and produces a single rose, which it beckons me pick it and take into my home. This is this year’s:






Up to London for the Pink Floyd exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum. These ‘fashion/ pop exhibitions have become popular – and successful – in recent years, with high numbers attending. The current one follows others on Bowie, 60s Pop/ Rock Revolution. It adopts a similar format; chronological account of the band, lots of gear, original lyrics and stage designs, etc., and then a final ‘concert’ auditorium. This time, recording/ headphones were supplied, which turned off and on as you approached the various cabinets. Amazing. Lots of fun; although I do wonder what it is doing in a museum and little or no effort is made to offer any sort of socio-cultural account of the Pink Floyd phenomenon.






Meanwhile, down on Chichester, I go to the Pallant House Gallery for the John Minton (1917-1957) exhibition. Minton was very much part of the romantic revival of the English pastorale, with the likes of Nash, Sutherland, etc. Good to see the development of his work. An amazing graphic artist, able to render detail in a formidable way. Yet, he seemed to get distracted in designing book covers, for which there was a big demand, and eventually lost his vision almost all together, ending his life at a relatively young age. Enjoyable, but the sense of dying creativity was rather palpable as the exhibition proceeded.






July always marks WOMAD time (World of Music, Arts and Dance), which is really a festival of music and arts from around the world: Africa, Europe, South America, Asia.






Partly the brain child of the rock star Peter Gabriel, the first festival was in 1982 in Shepton Mallet. I missed the first one, which was an artistic success but a financial disaster: so, much so that Gabriel’s former band Genesis had to reform with him to do a benefit to cover the expenses and costs. There then followed years of uncertainty moves in siting: Mersea Island, Clevedon, Bracknell, Carlyon Bay, Morecombe, Brighton, London, Bristol. I certainly remember a free festival in Bristol, which was pretty much on orange boxes – the whole carried by the enthusiasm of those involved. My first festival was in London’s ICA in 1983, and was really one of those personal epiphanies for me – I had never quite seen anything like it. The first half was a group of Aboriginal musicians. If that was not enough to ‘blow the mind’, the second have had the 9 piece West African drum troupe (and dancers) Ekome from Bristol. They just played non-stop. I remember it was a hot summer evening and the audience just started stripping off. Very powerful for an impressionable young man. Anyway, many festivals followed, both in England (especially Reading and Charlton Park) and around the World. A book has just come out by another co-founder – Thomas Brooman. Going through his list, I counted I had been to 35 events in its 35 year history, including Winter Warmers and one-day events.







My book of the month is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Ishiguro, of course, is a famed novelist, selling millions of books and famed for The Remains of the Day. The Buried Giant is his most recent, and appeared after a 10 year gap. Generally, it was not well reviewed, which I think is wrong. Critiques said it was too Tolkienesque for apparently being set in the past – King Arthur’s time. I think this is unfair, however. To me, it is an allegory, which could just as easily be set in the distant future – a bit like Richard Jefferies’ After London, Wild England – kind of post-apocalypse. For me it is exploring issues of post-colonialism and even post-modernism and the state, with this key note of memory/ forgetfulness. It is also elegiac, dwelling on the nature of love between individuals and the way they build their lives on it. A very special novel in my view.





My CD of the month is actually a record: of a CD of a record. That is the re-issue/ remastered version of Peter Gabriel’s Passion album (1988): now on 180 vinyl, and half-speed – played at 45 rpm. This is music he recorded for the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, based on Nicos Kazantzakis’ novel. The book re-tells the Christ story, with a meditation of the faces of evil and temptation. Gabriel wrote a soundtrack drawing on traditional musics from the Middle-east, interspersed with modern synthesisers, and indeed music from Africa and India more broadly. In this new all-analogue version, the tonic sonority is truly amazing to bathe in.










July 2017

June began with my stay in Cornwall for a few days – more art and meetings around the researches I have been doing down there. I also caught up with the Shallal Dance Troupe, performing against the lovely backdrop at the Minack Theatre Porthcurno.





They are basically a mix of dancers, many mentally and physically disabled. It was also an improvised performance – amazing to watch it unfold before your eyes. I really liked the way the dancers drew the audience into the performance where there was no barrier between the two. Quite something to experience.




May/ June are my favourite months of the year – midsummer. The garden bursts into life and there is bird song every morning and evening, and much chirping from this years young-ones.





At 05.24 on the 21st was the Solstice – where the sun is nearest to this part of the Earth. After that, it is moving away again – or, at least, we from it!!





I always comment – somewhat ironically – that I feel it instantly. In Wiccan terms, it is the death of the Oak King and the birth of the Holly King. We will not feel the ‘first stirrings of darkness’ until the end of July but we are certainly on the path to Christmas now; it is just like all beginnings, it is invisible!!




Two less happy events: The General Election in the UK and Grenfell Tower. On the Election, and indeed Brexit generally, I have held back from saying too much about it on my webpage – indeed, to do so would seem to sully the site. That being said, one hundred years after the event, we seem to have re-found that First World War mentality, where no-one can think of anything to do other to send millions over the top to be cut to shreds by machine gun fire – socio-economic in this case. I never thought I would see the country gripped by such madness.



As for Grenfell Tower, it is quite something to see my name emblazoned across the newspaper headlines: ‘Grenfell for Justice’, and ‘Grenfell Fury Breaks Out into the Streets’. A terrible tragedy that has been years in the making and represents a whole ethos, where people look the other way from doing what is right.



A spring trip to Paris for the Arts in Society Conference. Great fun.





I like this conference with the range of the Arts it represents and the interface between academic and art practitioners. I did a joint paper with a colleague from Trinity College on Performance Pedagogy.






Lots of fun there and a chance to sample French cuisine. I used to go to Paris a lot in the 1980s and 90s: with the School French exchange, and to work with Pierre Bourdieu. A trip there would not be complete without going to his grave to pay my respects to my friend and mentor:





We also came across the Hotel du Commerce, which features in the biography of the folk singer Ralph McTell:





He also wrote a song about it and his adventures there.



Speaking of which, the second edition of my own study of his life and work is nearing completion and should be out soon now. The first edition sold out, and I am happy to revise, edit and extend for the second edition. John Beresford, who manages a web site dedicated to Ralph’s work, also came down and interviewed me at the University:





I am hoping the interview will go out on YouTube as a complementary piece once the book is published.




One of the great joys of travelling around the world doing academic conferences is the contacts one makes. Great, therefore, to see colleagues from the University of Canberra at a Conference at Winchester on writing, poetry, and related scholarly issues.






This gives me an opportunity to develop work and thinking about literature and poetry, as with my associate student who is writing a novel on ‘The Cuckold Man and the Dishonest Woman’ (see New for May). Before I began working at a university, I used to read literature and poetry all the time but, when one’s job is reading, it becomes less of a pleasure the go home and read for leisure. I therefore gravitated to music and art. So, it very exciting to get back to a literary audience and its work.



Book of the Month is Lila by Robert Pirsig.





He, of course, is the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mechanics, which was a seminal novel. I have read it many times – a charismatic read. Funny enough, he only wrote two books – Zen and Lila. A signed reprint of the latter has been sat on my shelf for about ten years. One day in April this year, I decided to take it down to read it. Once I had started reading, I thought I would check out his biography in Wikipedia, only to find that he died on the 24th April 2017 – yes, the very day, I took it down to read.




People say that it is ‘not as good as Zen’, in the way that people do. But, this is very unfair. Firstly, it does not understand the nature of creativity and its expression/ reception. Secondly, it is a kind of Coda to Zen – so neither, better or worst. More a completion of a single creative trope.



I have decided to have a CD of the Month as well; that is, the CD I have been playing most. And what better place to begin than the new stereo remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:






The ‘Summer of Love’ – 50 years ago in 1967 – passed me by as I was only a child, but I do remember that feel in the air that something was going on. And, the new version? As is well known, up to and including this record, the Beatles were only interested in the Mono versions of their albums. It seems incredible that, up until now, what Stereo version we have, has simply been a rough cut, with all the instruments in one channel and the vocals in the other. This new remix has, therefore, been a real opportunity to make a genuine stereo version, which they have done by going back and incorporating all the mono tracks into a true stereo mix.



And, is it better than the Mono mix? Well, putting my ‘record reviewer’ hat on, I would say that the Mono mix is iconic and set in time. However, IF you are going to have a Stereo mix, then this one is brilliant, and indeed has an enhanced dynamism and vibrancy compared with the Mono version. So, worth getting and enjoying whilst celebrating the ‘summer of love’ and what it stood for.

June 2017

We are moving into late spring and early summer – my favourite time of year in this part of the world. Bluebells are out and carpet the woods if one knows where to look. Also, there are many young foals in the fields. It being the UK, however, lovely sunny days are often followed by a return to winter. Even so, long light evenings – bliss.






I travelled down to Cornwall on the turn of the months and visited several ‘open studios’. This is where various amateur and semi-professional artists open their studios for the week. Most areas now do this. It is a great time to see a wide range of work in a very short period of time; to speak with the various artists, craftspeople and potters about there work. Studio prices are also very tempting as the artists are able to subtract the 50/60% commission that is normally charged by galleries. I came a way with a selection of pieces!






Up nearer my home, it was a pleasure to see the Unthanks. This two-part sister group have made a name for themselves singing in Geordie dialect – that is from Newcastle. Their harmonies are beautiful and they have a very respectful backing band. This tour has them singing arrangements of songs written and recorded by Molly Drake, mother of the famous Nick Drake, who has become somewhat of a cult figure. His guitar playing and songs are beautiful but he committed suicide, somewhat as a result of lack of success, in 1974. Really, he sank into obscurity but was then rediscovered and praised in later years. Then, years after that, recordings were found of his mother’s songs, accompanied on piano. Also, some of her poems. The connection between mother and son was immediately evident in the similarity of mood, melody and subject matter. Now, the Unthanks have done recordings of her songs, accompanied by poems recited by Nick’s sister Gabrielle.




A lovely evening of music – the band came out in both the break and after the show to chat with the audience members, which made for a very personable event.






Back to the venue next door to see The Woman in Black – a rather macabre ghost story. England has a tradition of ghost stories going back many years and Susan Hill, the author of this story, wrote it somewhat as a spoof, but it turned out to be genuinely spooky. Then, a play adaptation was made, which has run in London’s West End since the 1980s. Quite good to watch, and based around just two actors who played all the part, mimed others, and generally created the necessary sinister atmosphere. The actors also did a Q&A afterwards – these sorts of interactional events are becoming increasingly common and are a great way to deepen one’s enjoyment and understanding of the process behind art and performance.





Also a trip to Bath to see an exhibition of the work of Peter Breugel, the famous Dutch artist of the sixteenth century. They had a good range of his work, including one depicting Dutch proverbs. It seems his work was so popular, he did ‘templates’ of his most famous pieces which could be used by an associate artist to produce multiple ‘copies’ – as were of many of his famous works. There were also example of religious scenes, flowers and portraits. It really showed me that artists were ‘taking charge’ of aspects of their own work way before the rise of ‘arts for arts sake’ in the nineteenth century with Manet and the Impressionists (see Bourdieu: The Rules of Art or my own: http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/art/art-rules/……).





In the proverbs painting as well was the famous ‘cuckold man and dishonest woman’, which is a central motive to a PhD novel an associate student of mine is doing. We have spent a long time working on the various significant elements in this image.







The second part of my extended essay on the band King Crimson was also posted.




The essay is in 3 parts and part 2 in parts 1 and 2 because of its length. Really, it deals with the first incarnation of King Crimson in 1969 and adopts a socio-cultural approach, together with explorations into creativity from the perspectives of philosophy, psychology and spirituality. It also gives an account of my own experience with listening to the group around this time. Part 3 will appear later this year and I am presently working on another essay, which takes the story up to 1975, which was probably the first cut-off period.





Book of the month discusses the modern Islamic Enlightenment, showing what a rich set of progressive ideas have been developed in Islamic countries in modern times.



May 2017

The year is certainly hotting up, although not necessarily weather-wise – this is the UK after all. Well, meteorologically it is warmer and we are experiencing lovely light evenings – I can walk to way past nine now. Bird song and lush spring green. It is the period of the year when ‘winter can at last be banished’ and there are various pagan practices for doing so. Like ‘May Horns’ in Penzance where the blowing of horns is seen as one means of sending the last vestiges of winter away.






At the same time, there is always one eye on fertility. May 1st is Beltane after all and Green Man season. We are approaching the period of maximum pro-creativity, at least in the seasonal calendar – here, there are chicks and young horses in the forest. Central to all this is also ‘the Lord of Misrule’ who is a legendary character sent to stir things up in the belief that creativity happens best under not always ideal conditions – it needs something to kick against. Another Cornish custom is the ‘Obby Horse’ in Padstow that runs in and out of houses spreading mischief while folk dance and – well, get inebriated!!







Socio-politically there is much to say since things seem to be falling apart – I have never known such division in my life-time. The UK seems to be at civil war: we have a general election in the offing but I fear this will not resolve anything and for sure things are going to get a lot worst before they get better.




Culturally it was a supper active month for me. I went to the Opera – one of the few arts that I am not that enamored with. However, this was ‘popular’ and ‘classical’ opera in the form of Madame Butterfly by Puccini.





Of course, it is so well known that it has become almost clichéd. However, as all great art, its effects live on. So, I have seen it many times but still sat in rapt attention as the sad story unfolded: the original twixt, the consequences, the heartbreak of the ‘humming chorus’ where Butterfly waits for her now married ‘husband’ to come and he does not, and the final tragic ending. Cio-Cio San was sung by a brilliant young singer from Seoul, Karah Son. She certainly looked the part. When she takes the ‘honorable’ way out at the end – her paths of escape having closed one by one – there are thunderous orchestral chords as the now distraught Pinkerton cries ‘Butterfly’ three times as the terrible consequences of his actions become all too apparent. This left me in tears.


A good contrast, therefore, when my outing the next night took me to a local amateur dramatic society’s production of Abigail’s Party – a now famous play based around a small dinner party including a divorcee whose daughter – Abigail – is having her own party.





It was first broadcast by the BBC in 1977 on the night we had a huge hurricane in Britain. We woke up to trees across the roads and no electricity. The play came from the now famous director Mike Leigh who approaches work by getting his actors to improvise around a given situation/ scenario. This was has the excruciating Beverly at its core: voluptuous, gin swilling, with a taste for Demi Voussos and kitsch semi-erotic painting. Her long suffering husband is at her beck and call, as are the rest of her guests as she directs the evening. Lots of laughs about a certain culture and a certain time, but with a more thought provoking underside with respect to how we have built on these since!!


Lots of art also happening. One around paintings from the years after the Soviet Revolution; of course, by then art was meant to reflect the utopia of the new communist state. And so it did – with lots of asides on the reality. It makes one realize, again, how romantic the vision of a Marxist state is/ was. There seems little evidence, however, that we can bulk the wheels of capitalism for however long it lasts, and this exhibition is an important reminder about a – very large – country that tried.





Speaking of capitalism , another art exhibition dealt with American art after the economic crisis in the 1930s.





A particularly interesting period for me, since it covers a time just before American expressionism that I have looked at in some detail. One of the most famous paintings from the period I had previously seen in Chicago – and here it is in London; apparently almost one of the first times it has been allowed out of its home gallery.




Created in 1930, it depicts a farmer standing beside a woman that has been interpreted to be either his wife or his daughter. The figures were modeled by Wood’s sister, Nan Wood Graham, and Wood and Graham’s dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron evoking 19th-century Americana, and the man is holding a pitchfork. The looks on their faces are meant to indicate the anxieties of the period and the hard work they undertook in order to survive. Edward Hopper’s ‘lonely’ city individuals are the other side of the coin: people lost in the urban crowds.





Howard Hodgkin – a famous English – has recently died and, as seems often to be the case, a major exhibition of his work was planned to open at around about the same time. This was is specifically ‘portraits’. I write portraits but most of these are not discernably so, and are overtly abstract.





There were some early paintings and sketches to show how he could recall someone’s face almost perfectly from memory – good visual memory, then. But, most of the others were straight abstract. I have reacted against his work in the past, so I was curious to see what I would make of them this time. I found it was best when I just enjoyed the paintings for what they were – their colours and dynamism were truly engaging. However, when some sort of date and/ or name was given to them, I found it rather pretentious.
Then a real treat, and an invite to the ‘family and friends’ rehearsal of King Crimson in preparation for their forthcoming American tours. What can I say? Won’t give the game away but can certainly promise would-be concert goers that they are in for a real treat. Many pieces reworked and developed, other new additions – some real surprises. In fact, I was so knocked out by it, that I sort of wandered off post concert and missed the opportunity to speak to various ones. Well….





Two books of the month this month: One, on a man’s enquiry into that most famous of paintings – Las Meninas by Velázquez. The main author is Michael Jacobs but he died mid-project, so it was completed by his friend Ed Vulliamy. Of course, it is all about ‘gaze’ and perspective. Famously, it was discussed by Foucault at the beginning of his book The Order of Things. Lacan then critiques his account.








The other book is about Saturn.