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May 2020

So, several weeks of ‘lockdown’, reducing all human contact. I santitise packages as they come in through the post.

 

On the roads there are no cars – animals are moving back into town. Everywhere is quiet – more birdsong!

 

One days seems to roll into another:

 

 

 

 

 

And the weeks…

 

 

My village would normally be full of people and cars. But, now I can walk down the High Street alone (we are allowed out for one hour per day).

 

 

 

 

The psychology of plagues is well known and does not seem to have changed much over the centuries: people fear, stock, but get used to it. Shocking figures of daily deaths – 1000+ – from Italy and Spain  a couple of months ago seem less shocking once visited again in the UK. Meanwhile, the government struggles to convince that it knows what it is doing.

 

 

 

For myself – apart from all the trips, etc. – daily life has not changed that much: I write in the morning and speak with students in the afternoon. Except that the latter are strictly Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, of course. And super busy since there is so much free stuff now being put out. Love Andrew Lloyd Webber,  and Gary Barlow’s Crooner series. Brian May of Queen showing guitar parts. Shakespeare Sonnets from Patrick Stewart. Chris Packham from his home in the New Forest. Free plays from the National Theatre. To name but a view. It certainly shows who does and does not put themselves out there. The aspect of it I love most is the very amateur approach these take – no glitz – just everyday. Show the reality of real art.

 

 

 

My horizons are immediately limited. No matter. I get to follow nature this year in a way that I have not managed before. I watch the flowers comes and go:

 

 

               

 

 

                 

 

 

Also, the insects. Bee on my Rosemary bush:

 

                 

 

 

 

Apple blossom on my tree:

 

                 

 

 

 

Some spectacular vistas in the Forest as well.

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

It is the season of the Bluebell:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love it when the leaves come out this time of year. It begins with a ‘green mist’ which gets more dense. It is a special sort of ‘spring green’ that does not last that long.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Garlic as well:

 

 

 

 

I love this. Recipes for wilted with pasta and some Dandelion, Garlic and Chick Pea flour cakes:

 

               

 

 

 

Ususally, these things come and go before I notice them! Too busy.

 

 

 

Earlier in the month (7th), there was an extraordinary large moon:

 

 

 

Then some spectacular skies around Easter:

 

 

 

 

Later in the month, a new crescent moon set beside Venus in the early night sky:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the high-spots of the month was the Musica en Moviemiento AAD course. This really took AAD work – with Zoom – to a whole new generation for me. Amazing to see what is now possible. Like 30+ guitarists spread out across countries and town in lockdown all managing to connect musically:

 

 

 

 

 

We did four meetings per week for three weeks, which included Guitar calisthenics, repertoire, T’ai Chi, Themes, Feldenkreis, Pranayama.

Top work!!

 

 

 

Lots of reading and music listening.

 

I think a highpoint CD wise was this one from the Chilean band Los Jaivas. They manage to be both Folk-rock and slightly psychedelic. Anyway, it works:

 

 

 

 

 

Sobering words from Jim Al-Khalili on the ways of things – how they really are – in terms of physics, the universe, etc. Highly mystical and spiritual by other words!!!:

 

 

 

 

 

April 2020

So, March 2020 turns about to be a momentous month, as it is the time that when Covid-19 struck.

One of the most scary aspects of it – for me – was the speed with which things developed. At one point, the situation was changing by the hour. Alarm bells over what was happening in Italy and Spain soon became a foreshadow of what was going to happen here. So, what began as a ‘well, it is only about 50 people who have this virus’, quickly mushroomed exponentially. As I write, it is some 50,000 people – a rise over just a couple of weeks or so.

 

Panic was immediately evidenced by stripped supermarket shelves and people stockpiled:

 

   

 

 

 

Something I had never seen before.

 

England was not exactly fast off the block. From my Public Health days I know that with large epidemics, there are only three ways forward: Find a vaccine (it is going to take at least a year); let people catch it and build immunity (will result in shocking numbers of deaths and an overloaded health service); Test-Trace-and-Isolate. Some countries moved fast on this one – Argentina, for example – and seem to be having some success. But not here. By the time the ‘lockdown’ was called the damage was done; especially in places like London where people are squashed together on the Tube – holding hand rails, etc. – the major source of contact infection. Many of the sick and dead now result from this inaction.

 

I have never known anything like this in my life. Plagues, of course, are famous. Like the ‘Black Death’ of the C14 and Bubonic plague in the C17. These were caused by a bacteria. In those days, there was the ‘Plague Doctor’ who came to attend you. The beak was for sweet smelling herbs apparently, such was the stench. The stick to prod you for diagnosis. Not that I think there was much he could do for you, that is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So-called ‘Spanish Flu’ 1918 was a virus but was indeed influenza. This one is a Coronavirus and seems particularly contagious. What we do know is that plague acts as major instigators of social change. We do not know in what direction, but clearly this is ‘shake-out’ time in terms of some businesses and ways of doing things. In the spirit of Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ – i.e., those who can adapt to change – already it is clear that all sorts of new systems are opening up whilst others are disappearing. Apparently, the level of traffic on the roads is equivalent to what it was in 1955.

 

Lots of material coming online: free concerts, free plays, free art tours. Also, community groups and friends writing in with suggestions, recipes, information, etc.

 

   

 

 

 

Sadly, my trip to Argentina is cancelled:

 

 

 

 

Unless I want to pay for 14 days of quarantine. The guitar course of Musica en Moviemiento is cancelled. However, we immediately commit to doing a three-week ‘at-a-distance’ course, including Guitar Work, Themes, T’ai Chi, Pranayama. And, so, one evening, there are 30 people on my Zoom screen for the inaugural meeting. Amazing – and a lot of energy and good will generated.

 

 

 

Oddly enough, at this dark time, spring suddenly announces itself, and we have some of the nicest weather that we have had for months!!! The clocks go forward and we have lighter evenings:

 

Sunrise:

 

 

 

 

Sunset:

 

 

 

 

All the flowers are out as well.

 

 

 

Wild flowers too. Like the Lesser Celendine – which offers a cure for piles apparently – and the pansies (these are spread by ants because the flower seed as a small amount of food on it for them, so they take them back to their nests).

 

 

         

                

 

 

 

We are allowed one hour’s walk as exercise each day. Luckily, I have the forest at my doorstep:

 

   

 

 

 

All this is clearly to go on for a long time. Life and reports will therefore take on a ‘micro’ character.  More books, more reading. More music. So, maybe more than one book of the month, and CD.

 

 

This month, I have been reading ‘Gurdjieff Reconsidered’.

 

 

 

Despite its title, it is really a ‘Gurdjieff revisited’. Not exactly a hagiography but certain something ‘in praise’ of Gurdfieff. Lots of anecdotes from his pupils working with him, especially in the USA and France. Many I knew but there were some I did not. The problem is, with this sort of book, that it can take on the character of an ‘apology’. Not really, here, but there is a tendency to ‘excuse’ what might be questionable. The problem is then that there is this way of copying and emulating what he offered rather than ‘recreating it’. What he left, after all, is a resource for application and extension. Not a doctrine to be held by the faithful. The work comes from ‘Being’ – not personality. Easy to mix these up.

Really, for those wishing to know more about what Gurdjieff was about, I would recommend Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. Précised here:

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/esoteric/in-search-of-the-miraculous-p-d-ouspensky/

 

 

 

 

I have also been reading some more Barry Lopez: About this Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory.

 

 

He really is my favourite writer and, by this I do mean writer. He can take something like going to the shops to buy bread and turn it into a evocative poetry. His writing is really like porcelain – fine and delicate. Someone once asked him how he does it, what advice he would give to a world-be writer. He said, ‘First, find out what you truly believe’. This is work that needs to be read slowly – to savour every word and sentence. He mostly writes about travelling and work experiences. Oddly, however, in the course of these, something else emerges which is truly philosophical and pertains to life, human’s relationship to the world, and the permanence of death.

 

 

Speaking of which, I have been much exercised with French writer Albert Camus’ La Peste (The Plague). Part allegory for the Nazi occupation of France and part philosophical meditation on living under the shadow of death, it is a remarkable meditation of the way people behave in such circumstances.

 

 

 

 

For music, something light-hearted: the new CD by Tame Impala – The Slow Rush.

 

 

In a way, this is pure pop – bubble-gum. Yet, I love its young vitality, synth sounds and freshness. Recorded partly in Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia, it is soaked through with sunshine and that outdoor living vibe. The sort of thing you have on in the car as you go off to the beach ‘barby’ with your six-pack in hand. Ha!!!

 

 

 

March 2020

 

February turned out to be even more wet than December and January. I do not think it has stopped raining:

 

 

 

 

I went up to London to do a lecture at the Institute of Education, UCL.

 

   

 

Good reception.

 

 

While there, I took in the exhibition of the Belgium artist Spilliaert at the RAA. Quite impressive this, and very Scandinavian – even if he was not! He often painted in inks, which he combined with graphite. Subjects were somewhat ‘lonely’ figures in their own landscapes – a mixture of Munch and Hopper, perhaps.

 

 

 

 

 

Then, to Cornwall. Stormy walks around Lands End:

 

 

 

 

 

Next, on to my home village of Mousehole (Mowsel).

 

   

 

 

Very different to Mousehole in the past:

 

 

 

This came from an exhibition of photos of local people – at work and at play – at the Penlee Gallery:

 

 

 

 

 

A local artist, Herbert Dyer, here working with Copper which he shaped into ornamental figures. I have a small example of his work – Newlyn on a matchbox holder:

 

   

 

 

 

A mixture of sun and clouds in Penzance and Marazion/ St Michael’s Mount:

 

   

 

 

 

In Penzance, I also went to a concert of Piano and Flute music: music by Mozart, Messiaen, Haydn, Franck, and Reinecke. All good stuff, but I was reminded that Mozart disliked the flute and, after a couple of hours of its shrill tones, I too had had enough! Ironically, the best piece was probably the Mozart.

 

 

A trip to the Tate Gallery in St Ives for the Naum Gabo exhibition:

 

   

 

 

   

 

I have always associated Naum Gabo with geometric constructivism:

 

 

But, it turns out he had a much broader range of output than I knew. Albeit still in geometric mode. Anyway, an important figure in the development of St Ives arts in the 30 and 40s.

 

   

 

 

 

For Books, I finally completed the Hesse biography.

 

 

 

 

There is a really terrible review of this book by John Gray in the New Statesman.

https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/12/Hermann-hesse-Wanderer-Shadow-Gunnar-Decker-review

 

In fact, he hardly seems to have read the book after the opening sections and takes the opportunity to list all the reasons he does not Hesse, which are so obvious.

Turns out that Hesse was a lot tougher than one might think: volunteered for the front in the First World War and sheltered various refugees in the second. More interestingly, is the way he was a kind of early pioneer to the sort of ‘self-discovery’ explorations that became the norm with younger generations in the post war period. His parents were Pietist Lutherians – he was born in 1877 – and he had a torrid time with their attitude to life and literature. Hesse made lots of mistakes – like marrying the wrong person three times and for all the wrong reasons. And, he did end up extremely sensitive and neurotic. However, he opposed German nationalism against a lot of public disapproval. In his life and work we see his struggle for a certain kind of spiritual consciousness. Clearly, he was doing this against the background of nineteenth century German philosophy and with none of the techniques we now have at our dispossal. But, he was aiming for something credible – I am certain of that – and did suffer for the positions he took in attaining it. Indeed, it is a position many of us are still struggling for – and against reactionary hectoring by the likes of Gray.

 

 

 

Somewhat as an antidote to all that, I read Agnes Poirier’s account of the Parisian Left Bank:

 

 

 

 

Not so academic and a bit journalistic, still it captures the lives lived and the views shared (and otherwise) by artists, writers and philosophers from the 1930s onwards; of course, also focusing on what happened in the second world war. All the star Parisian Left Bankers are there: Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Vian, Greco, etc. A very lively and telling read.

 

 

 

My CD of the months is Brahms’ Late Piano pieces.  Lovely playing here from Stephen Hough. The title suggests a spirit of sadness and departure, but this is not how these come across – these are not like Strauss’s Last Four Songs. There are more introspective pieces but many are very lively. Nevertheless, the mood is somewhat of ‘aloneness’ – as if someone playing for and to themselves in a separate room. Great CD:

 

 

 

 

As I write, the country seems to be going into lock-down over the Coronavirus. We shall see what happens. Nevertheless, with everyday now the light is strengthening and there are signs of spring:

 

   

 

  

February 2020

 

January appears to have been a quiet month, after my return from South America/ Australia.

 

On the down side, it does not seem to have stopped raining since my return; but warm!

 

 

 

 

Epiphany on the 6th, and a special day where the strength of lighted is noted – the sun is returning!!

 

And, there are hints of spring:

 

 

 

 

Also, an amazing Wolf Moon – on a night when it was clear enough to enjoy it. Exceptionally, it coincided with a Lunar eclipse making the spectacle even more intense:

 

 

https://www.space.com/35281-january-full-moon.html

 

 

 

 

More King Crimson writing. My Anniversary Essay went out on the DGM page:

 

 

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/music-n/king-crimson-i-1969-50th-anniversary-essay-2019/

 

 

 

Someone sent me a photo from my past. This would have been in 1978 when I lived in Toulouse, France and worked for the Aérospatiale there! 44 years ago!:

 

         

 

 

 

Some interesting reading and listening this month.

 

 

For my CD of the month, I choose the latest from Michael Kiwanuka.

 

 

 

What am amazing combinations of sounds, vibes and sources. I hear, believe it or not, tropes of: Tim Hardin, Fifth Dimension, Cornershop, Bill Withers, Yousou N’Dour, Samba and Marvin Gaye. If he ever gets to synthesise all of these as one voice, that would be some formidable sound. Still rather good though….

 

 

 

 

I am still reading the Hesse book from last month as it is rather long – 800 pages. Enjoying it and learning a lot more about a writer who I have always felt drawn to: like the way he tried to enroll for the front line in the First World, his very troubled relationship with his parents, and the way he was completed ostracized by German intellectuals for his lack of nationalist fervor. He comes over a lot tougher than often thought. Also, there is this struggle for personal self-hood that was resonant with those reading him from the 1960s – here you see the buds of the struggle opening in another time, and therefore not fully developed. He made a lot of mistakes along the way, not least marrying three times to women he seemed to have very little in common with. But, it was the done thing:

 

 

 

 

When I used to visit the house of John Fowles in Lyme Regis, there was this painting that he kept over his stairway. At dusk, there would always be a lamp lit there – I took it as a kind of symbol of ‘at home’ or presence. Incidentally, it is a practice I have adopted myself: always light a lamp at dusk to acknowledge that special point of the day – when the day is over but the night not yet arrived.

 

The very same painting was used on the cover of the original edition of A Maggot:

 

 

 

 

In the intro. to this book, Fowles explains how he came across the water colour. What attracted him to it, besides the subtle colours and the vivacity of the face staring back at him, was that it was dated in a very precise way – and unusual for that: 6 July 1683. Fowles’ novels always seemed to begin with a single – dream – image for him. He recounts how one such image that kept coming back was of a group of figures riding on horseback against a sky at dusk somewhere in the West of England.  One day, he connected that image with the painting and told their story.

And, what a strange story it is: beginning with intrigue and the sexual habits of the ‘gentlemen’ of the day and – along the way – even reproducing copies of magazines of the day – ending up in a mystery story involving alchemaic philosophy, possible visitors from outer space, individual liberation/ salvation, and the founding of a significant breakaway sect of the Quakers.

It was just about the last piece of fiction Fowles wrote, although living for another 20 years. Given his very atheistic views and attachment to natural history, it is quite extraordinary that he should write such a book.

He insisted that it was not a ‘historical novel’ (pace Lukacs), but as the title suggests, A Maggot – which he explains is not only the larval stage of a winged creature but a term with a much older (and now obsolete) definition, ‘a whim or quirk’. Maybe this is part explanation and part apology.

There is a third meaning given in the novel.

Reading it again after 35 years, I found it most intriguing and enigmatic.  

 

 

January 2020

So, December and back in winter UK.  Some efforts to get used to a new climate!!

 

At work too. The university…..

 

 

 

 

I get to see the new William Blake exhibition at the Tate Britain; the first for twenty years or more.

 

 

 

 

This is probably the third major exhibition of his that I have seen and each one has been very different from the last. The first was just lots of pieces on show; the second offered a number of historical narratives – as was the norm in museum approach at the time. I was getting ready not to like this one. However, I was mistaken: it was a fine show. The pieces were not too crowded – either in terms of spaces between them or the narratives they offered.

 

 

 

Amused to see this notice at the entrance to the exhibition:

 

 

Good to see some actual writing in Blake’s own hand. Also, a very nice photo of the house in Broad Street, London where he was born:

 

 

 

 

 

This reminded me that he was actually born into quite a comfortable family: his parents kept a haberdasher/ hardware shop.  Quite something in 1757!!! There is always controversy as to how well off Blake was. It is true that aside from his original works – which he sold very little – he did have a number of good commissions for engraving – which was his profession. That being said, expenses were high – all that copper plating for his books ( Jerusalem is 100 plates!). Apart from his three years in Felpham, he lived most of his life with his wife in two rooms! So, he could not be that rich. When he died, most of the engraved copper plates were sold off to support his widow! Only one fragment remains.

 

 

 

Blake was/ is a major influence on me since my early days. I wrote various pieces around him here:

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/literature/blake-and-gnosis/

 

 

 

The exhibition included the famous Sea of Time and Space from Arlington Court, Devon.

 

 

 

 

This picture was only discovered later in the C20 when it was found covered in dust on top of a wardrobe. Happily, the dust had protected it from the light, which faded many of his watercolours. This picture is seminal piece from him and sets out his view of life/ death, souls, and the material/ spiritual worlds. For him, water signifies materialism; so we see people drowning in it, and indeed being saved from it when the ‘fabric’ of existence is severed. I wrote a piece on the Beach Boys where I pursued ‘water’, the sea, as a metaphor for life – connecting it with Heideggerian Dasein. A lot of fun.  It is here:

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/bourdieu/bourdieu-and-the-beach-boys/

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas and some nice flowers sent to me from a dear friend:

 

 

 

 

Also, a nice card from Musica en Moviemiento together with a recording of a piece we did on the recent course:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forest is very wintry:

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some nice encouraging New Year cards/ video going the rounds:

 

 

 

 

 

This month I have been reading a new biography of Hermann Hesse, a writer I often come back to at difficult times. He seems to understand the tension between the inner and outer worlds and what to make of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Some nice soundscape sounds from Daniel Lanois as my CD of the month:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

November-December 2019

So, way behind with last month’s report; therefore, I have decided to offer a two-month bumper posting. This kind of works out since I have been away for 6 weeks in Australia and South American. In a way, it is holiday ‘snaps’ but, along the way some quite telling experiences.

 

 

 

Before I even left, I managed to take in some art in London.

 

 

Firstly, the extraordinary sculpture piece in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern in London. The piece is called Fons Americanus by the artist Kara Walker. It stands some 13 meters high and is a kind of mimic of the sculpture of outside Buckingham Palace, London, which celebrates Victorian Imperialism. However, in this piece, the artist draws attention to the slave trade on which the wealth of Britain was made. A theme which had resonances while I was in South America – reading of the millions of slaves that were brought to that continent to service the various natural exploitations there. A kind of piece about the links between America, Europe and Africa.

 

 

 

 

Also, the Anthony Gormley at the Royal Academy.

 

 

 

 

Back at the Tate Modern and the somewhat whimsical pieces by the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. Interestingly, he too had a Turbine Hall installation some years ago: a big sun set in mist in which spectators were invited to sit. The sensual nature of his art was demonstrated in the various pieces in various ways: his interest in architecture; shapes; colours. One had distorted 3-D effects, another mist with lights running through it; still another where you are invited to walk through a long tunnel of coloured mist. Perhaps not the most profound art but certainly I cannot think of another that invites you to get inside it in such a complete way.

 

       

 

 

   

 

   

 

 

Before I leave, the last rose of summe in my garden:

 

 

 

 

And some photos – then and now – of Lyndhurst where I live:

 

 

 

 

First, Fremantle, Perth, West Australia. One of my favourite places. The plan is to mix some business – in effect sessions at universities – with some pleasure – chilling out in the local terrain. So, beaches and sunsets:

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

While there, I also get to reacquaint myself with Aboriginal art, which fascinates me – indeed, as does their whole culture:

 

 

   

 

 

 

On to Adelaide and another favourite place. I am greeted by the ‘cheese festival’  -quite something – and my host Justin. Here, I have a seminar, a masterclass and a public lecture. The last is a discussion of the 1960s and The Beatles. A great crowd turn up, including one who went to school with Brian Epstein. LOTS of post lecture discussion. Later a trip to the Adelaide beach as the weather hits – HOT. Also, more Aboriginal art, included some contemporary artists:

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also pose next to the only other place in the world that has Grenfell Street:

 

 

A one-string fiddle I play in the Centre of Creative/ Performance Arts:

 

 

Flight to Melbourne:

 

 

Not one of my favourite cities – despite its heavy cultural involvement. Maybe it is just too English for me – well, the weather is. It is very cosmopolitan, but then lively for that. For example, the only place where I have come across premises of the Theological Society (who incidentally hold Georgina Houghton’s work):

 

 

   

 

 

 

Again, Lecture, Masterclass, and individual student tutorials:

 

 

Soon, I am leapfrogging from Melbourne to Santiago to Salta. Happy to be back again in the Samsi Yoga/ Tai Chi Centre in Salta and to be with my host Vijaya:

 

 

   

 

 

 

We are on for another MeM Course: https://musicaenmovimiento.com

 

 

 

We are about 18 and run a Performance/ Intro and Active Listening course in a nearby retreat centre:

 

 

 

Quite a stunning environment marked by spectacular scenary. The local trees are extremely tall. Also, despite being in a convent/ monastery, some have managed to develop distinctive Sheela Na Gig  characteristics:

 

 

   

 

 

Also, the sound of the Cojoyo – a kind of moth which attracts its mate by rubbing its wings together. We had this first in the morning and later in the evening. They begin and then build to a cacophony until pretty much stopping:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later a performance at Samsi. Here, a clip from the sound check – playing Fallen Angel by King Crimson: https://www.instagram.com/p/B5gNnToJb5-/

 

 

 

The plan was for me to return to Chile to do more lectures, but the demonstrations there made this practically difficult. Therefore, instead, I went back top Patagonia – Bariloche. In typical Patagonian style the weather here was cold and windy. In fact, we reached 4 degrees one day – this allowed me to state that on this trip, I had gone from 4 to 40 and everything in between.

 

 

 

Again spectacular scenary:

 

 

   

 

I get to see a Green Lake – because of sediment deposit and the motorbike that Che Guevara rode on an epic bile ride from Argentina up through South America to Venezuela:

 

 

   

 

 

A 1600 year old tree and spectacular waterfalls:

 

 

 

 

 

Also, a ‘black glacier’:

 

 

 

 

 

After six weeks, time to return to the UK – again a dramatic drop in temperature.

 

 

 

Reading and listening. Again lots happening and lots of words and sounds. But to note are, first the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, with its elements of magical realism and post modernist themes of time and place:

 

 

 

 

 

Also, of course, the posthumous CD of Leonard Cohen. More a recital of poems than a set of songs – similar to the Dear Heather CD –  but telling in its insight into himself, love and life:

 

 

No one to follow
And nothing to teach
Except that the goal
Falls short of the reach

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2019

 

 

September saw us tip into autumn and the days now are frequently grey and rainy. Equinox on the 23rd this year saw the equal balance between light and dark, but now the darkness grows.

 

Sunny days too, though, in between and so-called ‘spring’ tides at this time of year, which means that they are higher and lower than is the norm.

 

 

I spent this time down in Cornwall.

 

Penzance:

 

 

 

 

Zennor:

 

 

 

Mousehole:

 

 

 

Gwithian Towans:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Same place by day:

 

 

                        

 

 

Whilst there, it was a pleasure to go to a concert of the Marazion Apollo Male Voice Choir. Such choirs are traditional down that way:

 

 

 

 

In my home village of Mousehole, they unveiled a plaque for Grenfell Street:

 

 

 

 

To be honest, I never heard it called that as a boy – no one ever seems to have referred to it in that way. But, now, it has an obvious association with ‘the tower’ and I believe there are efforts to connect the two. Still, funny to see….

 

 

 

In my own garden, it is harvest time: I am drowning in Apples!!!

 

 

 

 

For some odd reason, the first edition of my book Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts seems to have been doing the rounds on the web:

 

 

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/pierre-bourdieu-key-concepts-2nd-edition-full-text/

 

 

 

LOTS of art this month.

 

 

 

Firstly, London, and the Royal Academy:

 

 

 

 

Felix Vallotton. A most peculiar artist. Born Swiss, he later moved to Paris and became a Nabis. Despite radical views he married into a rich bourgeois family. The outcomes were not happy and successful for him. He ended up painting these strange Hopper-like pictures where the figures in them seem to be disconnected from each other. Quite eerie!

 

 

 

 

Helene Schjerfbeck was no less strange. Coming from Finland and spending much of her life cooped up with her mother in a small apartment. Nevertheless, some fine paintings – she really was a pioneer of form and representation.

 

 

 

Then there are her self-portraits. She executed several across the years of her long life – she lived to 86. Yet these are quite disturbing, and the life seems to bleach her away. In the end, there seems nothing left of her in the painting – as she must have felt in real life. So, a meditation on aging.

 

 

             

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

Something altogether different from the Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga at the Tate St Ives. A different aesthetic here with the focus on environment – how it changes and the place of people in that process:

 

 

 

 

My CD of the month is Sattva 0101 that a student of mine brought back from Mexico for me. This is really high-up modern jazz fusion in the style of Hermeto Pasquale. Very nice.

 

 

 

 

Reading quite a lot this month. Including the collection of essays, poems, articles, etc. from Lindsay Clarke:

 

 

 

 

His The Chymical Wedding was pivotal for me at one point when I was grappling with the connections between my life and alchemy.

 

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lindsay-clarke-2/the-chymical-wedding/

 

 

 

On a related theme, the new William Blake exhibition opened at the Tate, Britain. More on that in a future post. Here is something to whet the appetite:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2019

August seemed to fly by at great speed.

 

Unusually for me, I had some visitors and this enabled us to get out and explore some of the beautiful English countryside in Dorset: Abbotsbury and Knowlton Rings:

 

 

   

 

 

Knowlton Rings is an ancient earthwork – about 4000 years old and in the tradition of Stonehenge. It is also on various important Ley lines. As can be seen – a Church was built in the middle of it: this was a common practice to Christianise pagan and Druid sites. One might conclude that it did not succeed in this case!!!

 

Weather so-so but generally good.

 

I then went on what I call a ‘retreat’: this because I switch off all connections: mobile phones, social media, computer, everything. Of course, there is a pile of ‘stuff’ waiting for me upon my return but I am finding it increasingly necessary to disconnect – to regain some of my privacy. This time I went for 2 weeks which was the most substantial time I have managed so far. Certainly time to just be in the present time and place rather than dodging all over the world and in different time zones.

 

I also got to see Satyananda. Always special for me to catch up with him and attend one of his Satsangs. Anyone who has read my dialogues with him will know what a profound effect encountering his spiritual tradition had on me:

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/esoteric/

 

Book and CD of the month both mean a lot to me.

 

Firstly, the particular short story by Thomas Mann: Mario and the Magician. Mann wrote it in 1929 as an allegory of the rise of fascism in Germany and, sadly, it is still relevant today to the case of Brexit Britain. It tells the story of how a magician comes and intoxicates his audience with his tricks, attitudes and lies. It is really about power and education and ignorance – for personal gain. The story ends in bloodshed and my sense is there will be blood spilt on the streets of the UK before we resolve the present crisis. As another story – Albert Camus’ The Plague (La Peste), it never really goes away: the ‘bacillus’ just goes underground waiting for the right conditions to break out again.

 

 

 

The CD is a recording of the performance given by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the WOMAD festival in 1985. That is over 30 years ago and I was there. I remember it was on Mersea Island near Colchester in Essex and was one of the first of these festivals for me to attend. He went on around midnight and stunned the audience with his intense Qawwali singing – a kind of Sufi praise music of ecstasy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nusrat_Fateh_Ali_Khan

 

 

 

Quite frankly, we had never seen anything like it. He went on to performance and other WOMADs and in the concert hall, but nothing for me matches the impact of this first encounter. Now, with the aid of modern technology they have been able to produce a good rendition of the concert which, after all, was recorded with just 8 analogue microphones.

 

He also collaborated with various other musicians; at one time Massive Attack reworked some of his recordings. Also Peter Gabriel: most noticeably in the Passion piece for the soundtrack to the film The Last Temptation of Christ:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7tWUuJyyak

 

Other sources:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_–_Sources

These pieces and others from these traditions were incredibly influential and moved me deeply over the years.

 

Nusrat here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSMIDIt2Ku4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2019

Summer advancing on all fronts. Weather not so good which….is not good! I hear my first owl when out walking and then see a spider in my house. (Very) early signs of autumn.

 

 

Some quite grey days and, then when it is hot, it is very hot.

 

 

Harvesting happening all around me. Very near me is where an English meadow is prepared for making hay and returning wild flower seeds to the ground.

 

 

We also have an eclipse of the Moon – this is where the earth gets in between the sun and the moon and so projects a shadow onto it. For once, it is a clear night and so very visible for a few hours. Up to 60% coverage.

 

   

 

 

 

Otherwise, it is often very thundery – like this spectacular lightening storm one night:

 

 

 

 

Per chance, I find myself in Castlerigg stone circle. I highly significant place for me, and I have not been there for a while:

 

 

 

 

Apparently, it is approximately 4000 years old – it is certainly in a very prominent position. Despite there being around 1300 such circles in Great Britain and Brittany, no one seems to know who built them and why!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlerigg_stone_circle

 

I also get to Studland in Dorset to examine the rock colours and formations – a fascinating place.

 

 

 

 

Also, once the home of one of the Powys Brothers who interest me so much; namely, T F Powys:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._F._Powys

But, that is a different story….

 

Art going takes in some remarkable work. Firstly, that of Frank Bowling – someone who has – until this retrospective – been overlooked in England for too long. Of course, it does not help that he has spent so much time in USA but, really, his large abstract painting are stunning:

 

              

 

 

                  

 

 

 

The Duveen Galleries at the Tate were taken up with ‘Asset Strippers’ by Mike Nelson – really a collection of once used and now obsolete industrial machinery. Some of it I recognized, and it was a meditation on ingenuity and its fading in the light of progress – and thus mixed up with time, death and the beauty they now hold – in themselves:

 

 

 

The magnificent Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery with her incredible set-ups. It is amazing all of which she can convey simply by dressing up in period or site specific costume and presenting herself as at one with it:

 

 

 

 

Academically, I do an excellent conference – Ekphrasis – Inspired by Art– with a student/ colleague of mine (Lisa Koning). We focus on two feminine, surrealist painters: Ithell Colquhoun and Dorothea Tanning:

 

   

 

 

 

My piece on IC is here:

https://www.academia.edu/36130049/Bourdieu_and_Art_Painting_-_De-authorising_Narratives_The_Case_of_Ithell_Colquhoun_Part_I

 

Whilst speaking about academic matters, here is an IntroductionI did on Bourdieu – with subtitles in Spanish:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvtrQvn3Xi0

 

I learn of the strange story of a possible ancestor:

 

 

Obviously, married life was not good for him and, when she left for another, he decided to take out an add stating he was was not liable for her actions/ debts.

 

Later in the month, I travel to Norway for a wedding on a farm. Surprisingly, the temperature is in the 30s – but a good time is had by all on the side of the Trondheim Fiord:

 

   

 

 

 

Of course, that far north is a very long day: it is hardly dark by midnight and is getting light again by 03.00 – so, about two hours of darkness. The actual sun sets at 22.30 and rises again around 04.00.

Of course, the opposite applies in the Winter! Still, a magical part of the world.

 

CD of the month – what else??!!

 

 

 

Interestingly, the actual CD has a rare use of the Duodecad, an integral part of Bennett’s Systematics:

  

 

 

 

 

https://www.systematics.org/systematics_Introduction

 

 

 

My Book of the Month is the summer read of Andrew Miller, Now we shall be Entirely Free:

 

 

 

 

Quite a story this, taking in a returning soldier from the war with Napoleon in Spain in the C19 and his recovery which involves a trip to the Scottish islands and the encounter there with a ‘new age’ community of the day. He is pursued by a couple of others who seek revenge but really are looking to cover their own misdemeanors as soldiers. There is also romance and excursions into the ways of life of the day, ashore and at sea as well, and the personalities that surround the times – including advances in modern medicine. As a say, quite a read with a suitable climatic ending!!.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2019

June was a not very nice month weather wise: grey skies and rain on most days. This is worrying given the fact that we also had the summer solstice. We are moving towards winter again now. Time to plan my next trip to the sun!!

 

A friend visited and it literally poured down every day. The ‘seaside’ at Chesil Beach in Dorset gives an idea. Look at those clouds! Nevertheless, time for an ephemeral sculpture:

 

 

   

 

 

 

Another trip to Chichester in Sussex had us running out of the rain to the glorious cathedral. An English country garden but, again, look at the sky!

 

 

       

 

While there, we visited the Pallant House Gallery which specializes in English art. This little miniature reproduction of some examples – rather nice:

 

 

     

 

 

The big event of the month was the King Crimson Anniversary Concert at the Albert Hall in London:

 

 

     

 

 

 

I went as a Four Quarter Maintainer, which was good work (http://www.gurdjiefflegacy.org/40articles/theredeemedbeelzebub.htm). A pre-show ‘Royal package’ had people present from across the world (see report below).

 

 

 

 

Spectacular scenes in the auditorium (including a famous face – well, famous for us!!):

 

 

 

 

 

Going from one extreme to another, I went to see the Puppini Sisters in a town near here.

 

 

 

 

Very much retro since the venue was an old type of cinema you get in England. Lovely ‘biz’ type stage and internal décor:

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

The Puppini Sisters camp it up with glamorous costumes and routine. Behind it all, however, is tight musical harmony based on the Andrew Sisters style of the 1940s +. A great show.

 

I also gave an Introductory lecture on Reflexivity for the H3 University. Quite something to have a Zoom link up with people from across the globe: New Zealand, Canada, Europe, Americas. Recording here:

 

 

 


https://vimeo.com/343310348

 

The password is: H3Unigrenfell

 

 

I had had a new book published of some of my conversations with Pierre Bourdieu:

 

 

 

It is published in Australia:

 

https://recentworkpress.com/product/encounters-1/?fbclid=IwAR383-arsKqdBQ6TiZqoa8pvvXAdrTjpiMi3lZdnzuhWAtbTno6g_XWxgGQ

 

An earlier version of the text can be found on this site:

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/bourdieu/encounters-i-pierre-bourdieu-and-michael-grenfell/

 

Two books of the month since they are somehow linked, and both French. Firstly, Didier Eribon’s semi-sociological reflection on his life and times. Which is very much in the epistemological tradition set by Pierre Bourdieu.

 

 

 

 

 

Then, a more explicit fiction from Laurent Gaude (Le Soleil des Scorta). but again describing a family across the generations from the 1870s to today – what touched, moved and affected them:

 

 

 

 

 

My CD is by Emma Smith – The Huntress. Some cool jazz singing here with fine accompaniment. What impressed me was that these are new pieces written by Emma herself with collaborators, but certainly in the tradition of the finest jazz songs.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNEH7eymwNc

 

 

 

 

 

King Crimson: Four Quarter Maintainer Report

 

Wednesday 20thJune 2019, Royal Albert Hall, London

 

Whilst travelling to the Albert Hall, I had two thoughts:

 

Firstly, when did FQM duties begin for me? We know that a beginning is invisible and certainly, in the past, I have been an FQM on my own. The present round, however, was when Captain Ferni suddenly wrote to me out of the blue prior to the Bournemouth shows in the UK last year.  Here, we were organised an ‘on’. Since then, the whole FQM movement has grown with a website, exercises, AAD-ers, and a large contributing team.

 

My second though was about FQM itself. I wondered if it is meant FOUR Quarter Maintainers, or Four QUARTER Maintainers FOUR-QUARTER Maintainers? I knew what I role was.

 

Well such ruminations were theoretical since when we arrived, we quickly grouped and were away – a team of six. We learnt that the Albert Hall did not allow us to stand and in fact had given us tickets – in a row – near the stage. Which seemed a bit strange…

 

We first attended the Royal Package meeting. This was well attended with several rows of royal packagers. It was clear that these were real aficionados: some coming from the USA and attending every night. The warmth and interest in all things KC was very evident. Robert spoke a little, there was then opportunities for mutual photography. David then brought everyone up to date before Gavin and Pat appeared for Q&A. Some good questions from where I was sitting – and good interesting answers.

 

We broke up and left the magnificent arena. There was then some intermingling and social interaction. Some people I knew, and some who I did not know but who seemed to know me.

 

We then encircled and formally began our FQM duties confirming our commitment to the exercise. . As I say, sitting in a row was a bit odd, so I gave myself the task of picturing myself standing in the far quarter looking at the stage; not that easy since the hall  was round.

 

Actually, I was sat in an ideal position in the line of the three drummers. Glance to my right and it was the band; to my left the hall, which was near full.

 

The show began in a way I recognized from before but soon, it was very clear that some pieces had been rearranged extensively. The sound was amazing: clear, balanced and not too loud. A standing ovation greeted the band and there were others during the show for pieces such as Epitaph.

 

The lights lit half of the arena and the audience were a good balance of the older and the younger. Some were obviously immediately into it, with nodding heads – really grooving.

 

For me, being so close to the band, the music appeared both very sure and fragile-like at the same time; sort of hanging there together.

 

The audience seemed well behaved photography wise. Only twice did I look into the audience and catch a tiny light of a mobile.

 

Mostly I managed to keep my attention on my FQM duties and the exercise. At one point point I lost it – in Discipline – and sort of gave myself to the music – nodding away with the rest. I caught the eye of Ferni in the row in front of me and he was grinning at me, nodding and grooving too. This kind of woke me up sol I was able to groove and stay alert.

 

Quite a show!!