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.