News

April, 2021

We enter March and leave in April.

 

 

 

Spring signs a welcome indication of lighter days to come. Crocuses are amongst the earliest to appear in my garden and then a stronger lighter towards the forest:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have begun a new course of Tai Chi: a form that I have not done before but where many of the individual elements are familiar.  My teacher – English name Michael – begins with warm-up and then Qi Cong:

 

 

 

 

Just been reading a new biography of William Blake:

 

 

 

 

There are lots of biographies, and still more books which offer various angles on Blake: Jung, Gender, Freud, Political, Qabalah – not to mention my own Gnostic:

 

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

 

This one by Jason Whittaker is a sober and fair account of the life and works of…Of course, almost an impossible task: so little is known about the truth of his life and his works still defy ‘translation’. That being said, the author here clearly loves the man and his art, and his is a fairly accurate picture. It errs on the side of conventionality, and an early danger sign is his enthusiastic appropriation of the first substantive biography of Blake in the 1860s by Gilchrist: much of which is second or third hand accounts – now quoted as ‘truth’ – from individuals who knew people who knew people….a lot of it smacks of mid-Victorian romanticism, sadly. Nevertheless, Whittaker does not get too carried away: but there are many omissions – Bronowsky, Wilson, etc. The accounts of the prophecies are also sketchy in the extreme. Nevertheless, the book is well illustrated and offers a good Introduction to this artist/ poet – with nice graphics to match.

 

 

 

More on the Culture front, ‘Thursday Night is Culture Night’ here at home. Amongst this month’s highlights has been Citizen Kane: Orson Welles’ incredible first film from the 1940s.

 

 

 

This movie was seminal in several regards: the whole concept of time and trans-narrative; and every shot is a study piece in cinematic photography. Of course, it begins with those last enigmatic words of Kane – “Rosebud”. Who was she? What was her significance in Kane’s life? Also, it contains that scene where Bernstein – one of Kane’s editors – tells the story of the girl on the Jersey Ferry. How Ralph McTell utilizes this story in his own song begins my book on him: Parallel Lives: the Biographies of Ralph McTell.   

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/music-n/parallel-lives-the-biographies-of-ralph-mctell-preface-content-to-the-second-edition/

Oddly, Welles’ life went pretty much downhill after this film, indeed, the story it depicts in some ways ‘paralleled’ his own life – paradoxical.

 

 

 

Then, a new translation of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard:

 

 

 

 

Very good, of course. However, one of the invisible characters in this play is time itself, and the Chekov world tends to be elegiac. But, the translation here is very modern so the subtlety is somewhat lost. Still, great performance, of course, from Zoe Wannamaker.

 

 

 

Super interesting interview with Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare at the Whitechapel Gallery:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of new produce, so some nice recipes: a cauliflower bake, and then sea bass done Chinese style:

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This month also saw the Completion of the Musica en Moviemiento At-A-Distance course:

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were 30 on the list but we were around 20 at the final meeting – the others were guests, instructors, etc. Quite something: at 6 months, probably the longest GC course – ever! I remember doing a Level 4 course over one year where I wrote weekly themes, but that was in conjunction with a residential context. The MeM course was 100% AAD. Quite intense with almost daily small group work and monthly whole-group meetings: guitar, Themes, Morning exercises, Tai Chi, Qi Cong, Feldenkreis, Kitchen Craft, Pranayama, as well as professional support and recording challenges. What now??

 

 

 

Lots of reading this months. Amongst which, two significant accounts of the lying and ineptitude of the current British government and our charlatan Prime Minister. One wonders how it got to this? Actually, we know…..what to do about it is another question as a significant percentage of the voting population have allowed themselves to be duped!!!!  

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

Hey ho!  To cheer myself up, I have been saturating myself with West African Kora music:

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPsvNN2iIrQ

 

 

 

Then, there is always more spring:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March, 2021

 

 

They say that February can be a wicked month. In the event, it proved so-so – but definitely temperamental. A mixture of everything of a bit of sun – LOTS – of rain, and then an icy spell towards the end.

 

 

But, nature knows better than that and Imbolg, Candlemass, or St Brigid’s Day came along around the 2ndFebruary, to duly signify that ‘the light’ was indeed growing. The skies in the morning were a celebration:

 

   

 

 

Also the birds and animals know it: lots of twitterings in the garden with a view to staking a territorial claim. Even, the local Tom cat seem to decide it was time to take a patrol of set feline boundaries.

 

 

 

A kind of quiet month with the pandemic lockdown dragging a bit. Although still very busy with various.

 

 

 

A Musica en Moviemiento event and a Kitchen Craft challenge to prepare tapas and a dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, Shrove Tuesday, so a good excuse to make pancakes by another name:

 

 

 

 

 

Culture wise, one of the standout pieces was Adam Curtis’ Can’t Get You Out of Mm Head: an extraordinary watch of getting on 8 hours of film: available on BBC I-Player for a year if attainable where you are. Striking images and music (Robert Da Naja of Massive Attack was involved) and a strong narrative about the sorry state of the world. Much food for thought.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, some John Fahey activity: with Facebook, there is a real archiving thing going on turning up all manner of recordings, photos, reviews, publicity and the like. My own contribution – interview, performance recording, and publication is here: http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/john-fahey/

I really must write-up the day I spent with him – so much more than what I was able to get into the article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also found myself doing quite a bit of work on the Enneagram: a topic that matures and comes more and more alive for me as the years go by:

 

 

 

 

 

CD wise, I very much enjoyed John Wilson’s recording of ‘English’ strings. He does not go for the obvious – Elgar, Vaughan-Williams, Holst – but still missed opportunities. No Bernard Stevens, for example, so a great composer still overlooked.

I have Wilson’s equivalent with ‘French’ strings – I think I prefer that one! Being a Francophile….

 

 

 

 

I also very much enjoyed Francesco Corti’s Little Books: J S Bach. Nice to return to solo harpsichord music. Thankfully, recordings are now able to be in a way faithful to the tonality of this instrument. Before, it could be shrill, but is mellow now. 

 

 

 

The month’s reading has been dominated with Michel de Montaigne’s Essais – extraordinary homilies on all matter of life subjects: domestic, of love, politics, and life and death itself…

Lovely reading these again:

 

 

 

 

 

In a similar mood I went back to a favourite Catholic theologian – very important for me at one point, and his explorations of a kind of spiritual existentialism are always illuminating…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2021

 

 

 

January certainly lived up to its reputation: here, in the south of England, mostly grey and rain. That means not particularly cold. When I was a child, we would get at least 3 spells of snow in the Winter and they would last for 2 – 3 weeks, but not with climate change. Still, there were some days of cold and snow; here, where I live.

 

 

 

 

 

Good for walking out in the forest as well, where everything is asleep. Also, some good sunsets:

 

 

 

 

 

Interior work, then….

Some work on a piece I am doing on William Blake. So, here he is, Lucifer, Prince of Light, representing one form of evil; probably best illustrated in the Last Temptation of Christ. The lesson here is that when the devil passes by, he does not come dressed as the devil !!

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

 

 

 

 

 

At the other extreme, I am super happy to receive a new edition of Travail et Travailleurs en Algérie by my friend the French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu. It has been out of print for some 30 years or more. This work from 1963 really shaped his life, both professionally and personally.

 

 

 

 

 

I am referring to it in my new book, which is entitled Metanoia. http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/metanoia-and-bourdieu/

 

 

 

Also, been consulting some water colour work by a favourite, Hermann Hesse. I love his innocence and simplicity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In terms of reading of the month, this has been varied and broad. I watched the film of ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ – which really intrigued me. Apparently, it took Suzanna Clarke 14 years to write it: a kind of mixture of Jane Austin, Harry Potter, and Dr Who. What an intriguing world she creates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also read the beautiful prose of Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways – really a book about walking old paths. There is a clearly a tradition or this sort of thing: meditations of walking, life and the environment. One thinks of Edward Thomas, W H Hudson, Richards Jefferies and indeed Bruce Chatwin. Very good:

 

 

 

 

There are not many piece of classical music, I have more than one recording of. Of those that I do, most are of Bach’s music. So, a new recording of the Cello Suites is a must for me. This one by the young cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

 

 

 

 

 

She writes of ‘the intrinsic impossibility of this music is the very source of its freedom’.

 

So true…

 

Also, this statement made me think of playing Guitarist Craft Themes:

 

  • Can you play it/ have the notes?

 

  • Can you play it in time?

 

  • Can you play it in time and good tone?

 

  • Are you counting the rhythm and the bars

 

  • Are you playing it in accord with the Primaries: alternate picking, etc.?

 

  • Can you do all this whilst giving some attention to yourself?

 

  • Can you do all this, give some attention to yourself, and the audience?

 

  • Do you know the note you are playing in respect to all the other notes in the piece?

 

  • Can you do this whilst giving attention to the piece within the set list/ repertoire?

 

  • Can you do all this whilst giving attention to the place of this concert performance within the entire concert calendar?

 

  • Can you do all this whilst setting the concert calendar within the week?

 

  • Can you set the week within the month and the month within the year?

 

  • Can you set the year within your lifetime?

 

  • Can you set your lifetime within eternity and the universe?

 

  • Can you be aware of all this when you play a single note?

 

 

Well……It is the New Year, so a piece I recorded as a New Year song – Remember:

 

 

 

January, 2021

 

 

 

December and a suitably dark month.

 

 

 

I like it in the forest though. The light becomes very crystalline – silvers and greys.

 

 

   

 

 

 

Meanwhile, things are afoot in the country – the wild life knows that spring is around the corner; they are one season ahead of us:

 

 

IMG_8919

 

 

 

Sad times, the Covid virus comes and goes according to the degree of lockdown; we are about to enter another one. Meanwhile, the UK leaves the EU. A terrible mistake brought upon by lack of intelligence and education – and cowardice. And people not speaking up for what is right and wrong. The best reply to anyone who passes off cowardice as ‘open-mindedness’ is the old advice not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out. If you are with a political movement, employer, social network or partner that insists you let your brains fall out for the sake of a quiet life, run as fast as you can.

 

 

 

We have a MeM workshop day and I present Kitchen Craft. One of the challenges was to make a bowl of soup and present it. My effort:

 

 

 

 

We also played the Third Relation: quite something – 20+ guitarists spread out across the globe all playing together thanks to Zoom:

 

 

 

 

Speaking of Guitar Craft, my ‘Brief Introductory Guide to Practice’ is now with the printer/ graphic designer. More soon:

 

 

 

 

 

It being the time of relaxation, I have been reading a lot of popular fiction: whodunits and the like. Also, ready the Autobiography of John Cowper Powys. A extraordinary man with writings and way of life – as were his brothers Llewellyn and Theodore. I am down to give a talk about JCP and Blake in the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

I also like reading social history of Britain – now a book about 1965 when I was but a child. Fascinating to learn more about what was going on at this time…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…..a time led, of course, by The Beatles – culturally – so, good to embrace the comfort music of Paul McCartney and his latest – III. Like catching up with an old friend after a while and finding out what they have been up to. A great CD:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December, 2020

 

 

Hello December as the year now closes in:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November is what I call the ‘pit’ of the year; especially the last two weeks as the leaves fall and the rain rains.

 

     

 

A time a meteorological disturbance. Still, on fine days, I get out into the forest.

 

Sometimes the forest seems on fire:

 

   

 

 

Spectacular skies as well. Sunrise and sunset one day

 

   

 

 

A very large Beaver Moon in November: we are now looking for the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter on 21stDecember. The first time this has happened for about 800 years.

 

 

 

 

All this talk of rural-ity and the skies brings to mind special types of music for this time of year. Lord of the Rings by Bo Hansen, which has become a classic. It reeks of misty moors and things that live there. An evocative piece.

 

 

 

 

 

I have also been listening to some beautiful Georgian choir singing:

 

 

 

 

And, still into medieval polyphony:

 

 

 

 

 

It is reputedly a time of year when the veil between the material and spirit worlds is at its thinnest. It certainly feels that way in terms of dreams, premonitions, intuitions, etc.

I have been catching up on my pagan studies care of various writings from the Boscastle Witchcraft Museum Journal. Some very interesting accounts of the way we have negotiated with nature – both visible and invisible:

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhat continuing the mood of things unseen, I have also begun The Black Notebooks from C G Jung – an extraordinary account of one’s man’s exploration of his subconscious and what it may signify for us all:

 

 

 

 

 

I have also been reading the fragments of Heraclitus: simple lines loaded with ‘points of seeing’. One of the great tragedies of humankind is their amnesia. All this was known but then….’forgotten’.

 

 

 

 

 

A little light reading as well: popular thriller writer Robert Harris and his latest: The Second Sleep. It is based in 1468 when a young priest goes to administer the funeral rites of another priest who has just died in an accidental fall. He describes a medieval world of village life and the various characters – all very atmospheric. Then, the young priest is going through the office  and desk papers, etc. of the deceased. In one of the drawers, he comes across a small object about 2 inches by 5 inches. The front is made of glass and the back is a grey metal. However, inscribed into the metal back is an Apple with a bite taken out of it. What’s going on?…..quite….read on….

 

 

 

 

 

A little bit of artwork from me of my guitar for the forthcoming GC book publication:

 

 

 

 

 

I have also posted some new pieces concerning Bourdieu: one on his Metanoia – what is it? How do we do it?

The other on Bourdieu, language and literacy:

 

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/metanoia-and-bourdieu/

 

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/bourdieu-language-and-literacy/

 

 

 

So, as I write this on the second Sunday of Advent – two candles lit – I end with some words from Ronald Knox, which sum up the two sides of my relationship to this time of year: one Christian and one Pagan. They are both important, but I sense the Pagan one acutely as the year moves towards its completion and we look for birth of semtpi-eternal fire.  Also, me playing a Christmas carol – waiting, in expectation, for spirit to enter into us. 

 

‘Come, Holy Spirit, not with outward manifestations, not with tongues of fire, but silently, as the warmth of spring creeps into the barren earth: come into this cenacle of a human heart, and stir its dull airs with the breath of hope’.

 

 

 

 

Midnight Clear

 

 

 

 

November, 2020

Welcome to November….

 

 

 

This time of year, I should be in South America, but the Covid 19 situation, with a new Lockdown in the UK, makes this impossible. So, more opportunity to connect with my immediate locale.

 

 

The forest continues on its autumnal transformation.

 

 

   

 

 

 

Everywhere there are Bats and Owls. Mushrooms too:

 

 

 

 

But, in a lull in the epidemic, I escape to Cornwall – and am blessed with sunny days.

On my way down, I stop off at Temple Church – a kind of pilgrimage for me. It is the site of an old Knights Templar monastery. It is still a very atmospheric place. When I first encountered it about 30 years ago, it was almost derelict; but now it is much restored:

 

 

   

 

 

 

Then, on to Gwithian to catch the sunset:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I base myself in Zennor but also make it over to Mousehole – my home village. And one of the ancient cross – I used to stand on when I was a child – just near the former home of Ithell Colquhoun – Stone Cross Cottage:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, a walk to Lamorna along the cliffs. Here, is a secret: if you walk West through the village of Mousehole and up Raginnis Hill to the coast path – not the first one to the cave but the second one along the cliff past the old Coastguard’s Lookout – we used to call it ‘the crackers’ – you will come to this little stream in the rocks. I always pause there and sometimes bathe my feet. It is a kind of Holy Well. Must be my favourite spot!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stop for a traditional Cornish Lunch and later tea with Saffron Cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another day, I have a Dowsing event at Tregeseal Stone Circle and then hang around to do some sketching.

 

 

   

 

 

 

Another day and another favourite stone circle: Boscowen-Un:

 

 

 

 

 

These places are 4000 years old.

 

 

 

I also find my way down to the Lizard.  Lion Rock – can you see why it is called this?

 

 

 

 

              

 

 

 

Also, Lands End : the end of the country. A place for beautiful sunsets.

 

 

     

 

 

 

Back home then in the New Forest, and an increasingly inside life. I take in a few films from the Internet. Another Shakespeare – Henry V. And a film about the making of the first English Language Dictionary. Both good…

 

 

   

 

 

 

Also a film about Hannah Arendt. Incredibly, she was in a collection camp as a Jewess in the second world war but then escaped to USA. She was asked by a newspaper to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann – one of the leading Nazis of the war. She received a lot of criticism because she refused to denounce him as a ‘monster’. She also coined the phrase, ‘the banality of evil’, protesting that he just did not think – an incredible insight from someone – her – who was close to Heidegger, who was a Nazi sympathizer and wrote a book called ‘What is called Thinking’. A thought provoking film:

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, the forest is now on fire….

 

 

   

 

 

 

……which is very apt since I have been reading books with fire/ light in the titles. Firstly, Glimpse of Light about a philosopher who buries himself in Norway as a way of asking ultimate questions – reminds me of another philosopher and a friend. Also, a book of writing from the archetypal psychologist, James Hillman – A Blue Fire.

 

 

            

 

 

 

I am reading another book about an early Bluesman – Charley Patton. It is written by John Fahey, who was a great guitarist, composer and indeed writer/ thinker. I once spent the day with him and interviewed him for a guitar magazine:

 

 

 

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/john-fahey/

 

He was such a psychokinetic individual, one day was like a month in terms of experience and conversation. I intend to write that up one of these days.

 

 

 

Great music from  new acoustic CD from West African singer Oumou Sangaree. Also, some lovely C15 polyphony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week it was Samhain, All Saints Eve, a Full Moon/ Blue Moon. The veil between the spirit and material world is very thin this time of year. So, many insights, intuitions and coincidences. We live in portentous times!!!

 

 

 

 

October, 2020

Month six of the restriction and summer moves into autumn, and the micro life continues.

 

The skies suggest that autumn has indeed come to the forest again – the 22nd is the Autumn Equinox – balance of light and dark.

 

 

 

Still, we have an Indian summer – what the French call ‘Les jours de St Martin’ – and it is almost 30 in my garden. The forest plants are not fooled, however. The ferns sense it first and begin to turn brown.

 

       

 

 

The heather also appears, and crab apples – a sharp, wild apple that people pin and make Crab apple jelly as a kind of met accompaniment:

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

Then, these little fellows – Sundew. They are in fact a carnivorous plant – their sticky stems attracting small insects which get stuck on them. They then digest. They are actually quite rare, but grow well in this hidden corner of the New Forest.

 

 

 

 

 

I have my own harvest. Tomatoes from my plants which soon turn red:

 

 

 

 

 

The last rose of summer from the bush that grows and climbs against my house;

 

 

 

 

Then, this visitor. I hate spiders!! I try to persuade her to live outdoors, but she explains that the clue is in the title – ‘house spider’. They are harmless, and even keep other insects down, but I have to struggle to co-habit with her.

 

 

 

 

 

Lots more cooking and a consignment of fresh fish from Newlyn Fish market!!

 

 

   

 

 

 

I also re-arrange my room with warmer colours for the season.

 

 

 

 

I continue my read and view run-through of Shakespeare plays. Firstly, two brilliant productions from near all-black casts and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

     

 

 

 

Then, a lovely adaptation of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Emily Watson. What a character Edmund is: the first ‘new age’ man:

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of reading and listening.

 

 

 

The sonatas of Viktor Ullman.

 

 

 

 

 

Then some Argentinian guitar music – it is where I should now be. Ah, my heart aches….

 

 

 

 

 

I have just re-read Hidden Riches by Desiree Hirst – a bit of a mysterious writer to me as, despite the fact that the book is brilliantly sourced and referenced I can find almost no other publications from her. What happened? Anyway,  she deals with the esoteric tradition that goes back to Plato, the Kabalah, Hermes, and Gnosticism and tracks it through to the renaissance and the poet William Blake, who has been a spiritual teacher for me since around my mid 20s. A remarkable read (thank you Robert Fripp for gifting it to me).

 

 

 

 

 

I have also read a book that had a seminal effect on my at about the same age:

 

 

 

 

 

With its apocryphal words:

 

 

Contemplate the fire, contemplate the clouds, and when omens appear and begin to sound in your soul, abandon yourself to them without wondering beforehand whether it seems convenient or good to do. If you hesitate, you will spoil your own being, and become little more than a bourgeois façade which endorses you and you will become a fossil. Our God is named Abraxas and is both God and the Devil at the same time. You will find him both in your world of delight and of shadows. Abraxas is not opposed to any of your thoughts, or any of your dreams, but he will abandon you if you become normal and unapproachable. He will abandon you to look for another pot in which to cook his thoughts.

 

 

 

 

August, 2020

Five months in to the pandemic.

 

Things have gone two steps forward and one step back. In the UK, society went from complete lockdown to easing a little. Where I live, shops have opened, even pubs and restaurants – and people have tried to provide conditions that are safe. What ‘is’ safe is a moot question however and there has been a lot of swinging around – other cities in lockdown again. We are to wear masks – although no-one seems to be clear when and where. As the photo of Bournemouth beach shows – some throw caution to the wind:

 

 

 

 

 

Kinda’ weird when the ‘enemy’ is invisible. Everything looks so normal but it is clearly not.

 

I have stayed put with very little use of the car. The seasons change – now we move into full summer. But, really, it is autumn for nature – the countryside has done what it is going to do. Last weekend was Lammas or Lughnasadh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This festival or sabat marks two things: the celebration of the beginning of harvest; the first stirrings of the darkness – the death and resurrection of the Holly King. His influence will only grow more apparent as the days, weeks and months go forward now.

Spectacular skies and sunsets in the forest:

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

The forest is now dark green – it has lost that fresh spring green. The berries are also out. Like the Rowan Tree: a tree for protection against wicked forces!

 

 

 

 

 

As for my own ‘harvest’, the plants have grown well but produce has been modest so far. One courgette on my courgette plant!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, I have been active with cooking with summer things. A favourite – Pea and Broad Bean Risotto with parmesan:

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews coming in.

One from Meyn Mamvro – a magazine which deals with prehistoric sites in Cornwall – stone circles, holy wells, etc. Unhappily, exploring these has had to be virtual and at a distance.

 

Also, the latest from the Powys Review – an association dedicated to that extraordinary literary family from Dorset.

https://www.powys-society.org

‘Magical’ best describes their rural parables and tales. I am down to speak at their summer conference next year – assuming we can actually meet. Although, by then, I guess Zoom will become a norm for social interactions!!!

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/literature/john-cowper-powys-and-william-blake/

 

     

 

 

 

Some good theatre this month ‘At Home’: a fine production of Terence Ratigan’s The Deep Blue Sea; and then that Shakespearean tales of jealousy, Othello!!

 

 

                     

 

 

 

 

 

Other virtual events included, WOMAD At Home – in  lieu of the actual festival. All the usual was there: performance, workshops, talks, shops, recipes, etc.

 

 

 

 

Lots of writing this month. I shall be posting some knew chapters on Bourdieu later this month – as a forerunner to the new book, and looking for responses and feedback. No one who looks at my work would be surprised at this focus; but actually, they would find further developments in my thinking about him and his philosophy. http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/bourdieu/

For me, his books are ‘canonic’: each time I read them, I find new insights and understanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of reading and listening this month, too. So, two CDs and two books.

The CDs are: a collection from classic Lee Konitz – modern jazz and swing with a high level of smooth sophistication; and another collection of country blues players. The latter is amazing with some names I definitely had not heard of – Little Hat Jones, Papa Egg Shell, the Two Poor Boys and ‘Funny Papa’ Smith. If not classic, the 25 pieces are still beautiful songs from the 20s and 30, spirited singing and excellent guitar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music features also in one of my books: Mahler – The Eighth – by Stephen Johnson. Johnson is a fine musical journalist but he is also a musician himself, which means he can get inside the piece and explain what is going on. The symphony itself – surely a masterpiece of the Mahlerian oeuvre – is analysed section by section. But, then, there is analysis of the socio-cultural background of the day and his personal state. The eighth was actually written in 1907 but not performed until 1910 – the year Mahler in fact died. One does get a sense of mounting crisis – partly precipitated by his health problems and discovering that his wife – Alma – was having an affair with Walter Gropious. Quite a lady was Alma!! Read her diaries and letters!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other book was a biography of Pamela Colman Smith. Who? Yes, not that well known but actually she designed and painted the Waite-Rider Tarot card deck that has become a principle source to go to for those looking for divination. PCS turns out to be quite an individual as well: she used to perform recitals of Jamaican faery tales and plays with her toy theatre. She also knew Yeats – Jack and William Butler – as well as Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. She also had successful exhibitions of her art – one was the first non-photographic exhibition to be held at Arthur Stieglitz’s gallery in New York. Her style is very original – a kind of mix of Japonese, Pre-raphaelite, and Comic book. Faery! Anyway, she was born in 1878 and her style did not survive the onset of modernism from the twentieth century. Although being a member the Golden Dawn, she later converted to Catholicism and spent most to the second half of her life in Cornwall – first the Lizard and then Bude, where she died penniless. Even her grave was unmarked!! Anyway, a fascinating read from Dawn Robinson:

 

 

              

 

 

 

   

July 2020

Third month of lockdown and of ‘micro-life’: I say ‘micro’ but really it has gone both ways: certainly, one’s world shrinks to everyday surroundings and becoming very attentive to things at the doorstep. I have followed nature this year in a way I have not done before – the days, the weeks, and months. For a while there was great stillness, but things became unsettled this month. Various reasons for this: the enormity of the situation became clear to people – and this virus is going nowhere – also, the strain of lockdown became evident. As I write, things are being relaxed: pubs, shops, art galleries, public spaces. There are also mounting crises: theatres for example and various other employment places are shedding jobs. So, we still wait and see,,,,,

 

 

June was the month of the Summer Solstice in my part of the globe: 22.53 on the 20th to be exact, but the day is normally celebrated on the 21st. We have had weeks of sunshine and blue skies, but the Solstice was suitably grey and rainy. Still, I was up at 04.15 to greet the event. Some rain and a little dawn chorus from my resident blackbird:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skies later were spectacular:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forest too:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ‘grey mare’ celebrating. And a cow too!!!:

 

   

 

 

 

 

Sun re-established itself and we hit the highest temperature of the year: in my garden at least:

 

 

 

 

 

 

One result was that the Lavender bush burst forth: Beautiful colours and sounding like a Beehive.

 

 

   

 

 

 

               

 

 

My plants are coming on too. Courgettes – care of a special fertiliser I have been manufacturing:

 

 

     

 

 

 

Sadly, one result of the extra sun is that people go crazy for the beach. A major incident was called at Bournemouth when they were invaded by thousands of sea-seekers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One understands the sentiment, but ‘social distancing’ clearly has gone to the wall. We shall see if this affects the infection rate!!

 

 

 

 

Someone sent me a photo of a previous time:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at this, one might think it was last year – it could be. But, actually, it around 1966 – yes, that is almost 55 years ago – and is a photo of the Folk Cottage in Mitchell, Cornwall – a celebrated and now famous folk club. Those were the days when the post-war generation were full of energy and spirit. Everything seemed possible.

Actually, this room was/ is upstairs in the building and many folk singers performed there. In fact, there was almost a folk club everywhere. Various ones in Bristol, where I lived and other famous ones in Cornwall where my family came from.

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of visiting this place and speaking with the now owners/ residents. They showed me around and now this is one of their bedrooms. To think that the mermaid painting was somewhere beneath their wallpaper!

Incidentally, the singer is the middle is Ralph McTell, who I also had the pleasure to speak with this month.

Of course, I wrote a biography of him a while back. Parallel Lives:

http://www.michaelgrenfell.co.uk/ralph-mctell-intro-to-parallel-lives-see-pomera-press/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside my house, I am cooking a lot…… Like Gooseberry Crumble – a rare treat.

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of cultural consumption as well – again, some procured from inside the house and others on the Internet. Of the latter, a very good production for the National Theatre in London of A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream by Shakespeare. A very weird play, perhaps apt for mischieviousness and madness of summer nights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such long days, full nature, and soft summer evenings have also inspired me to listen to Delius with his ecstatic pieces: Walk to the Paradise Garden, Summer Night on the River, A Song of Summer and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. The titles speak for themselves. Incidentally, I have also been listening to his Requiem, Mass of Life and songs based on Whitman poems – Songs of Farewell.

 

 

 

 

 

With all this, and somewhat following up on last month with Robert Simpson, I have also been listening to other English composers: Nicholas Maw and Bernard Stevens. I love the way they are both radical and pastoral.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

More follow up in reading as well. First Jung’s Red Book. I have had this pretty much since it came out but it is almost impossible to read since it is enormous. So, this edition is ‘reader friendly’: small sized so that one can easily handle it – and read it!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other book has been by Barry Lopez: Of Wolves and Men.

Readers of this page will know I have been enthusing about him for a while. His prose is like fine porcelain. When I suggest him to people, they just look at me oddly. I think it is the name. I mean what is it? A kind of mix of the mundane and the exotic. This book focuses on ‘the Wolf’ – not an obvious topic of course. Through the pages, he shows how it has become the focus of mythology, faery tale, wonder, fear, and, incidentally, almost hunted to extinction. One such legend, is that the gods were to turn them into humans but only got as far as the eyes. I mean, look at the photo.

 

 

 

As with other books like Arctic Dreams, bit by bit Lopez gets into the ways of these animals and show their sensitivities. In the end, one gets a picture of the subtle dynamic of life itself and how far human beings have gone in destroying it.