This page is intended to highlight what is currently going on/ new posts, etc.
This page is intended to highlight what is currently going on/ new posts, etc.
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:
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:
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:
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’.
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:
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!!!
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: Sabbatical – in the Country.
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.
‘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!!!
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:
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:
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.
So, second month into super lockdown and things are the same, but all has changed. Certainly, one’s perspective – not just in ideas but actual experience.
We are in a world of isolation and masks:
Lots to say, of course, about the politics of what is going on – but why spoil a good blog?
My own life has gone in both directions of the micro-macro spectrum.
Micro to the extent that my world is my immediate environment – house, garden, forest. Apart from driving up the road to keep the wheels moving, I have not driven anywhere with the car for almost three months.
Super expansive though in terms of the scope of contacts and information on the Internet. To me, the Internet is Faustian: it allows us to do all these amazing things, but it also has its dark sides, and is mostly responsible for the rise of populism.
So, May – a special month.
1st May is Mayday, and I suitably celebrated with ‘Lily of the Valley’ in the house.
Also up a few times at 04.30 to hear the dawn chorus:
Elsewhere, it is that Green Man time of year:
The Forest is often on fire:
For me, I am unable to procure flowers from the Garden Centres – as they are closed. So, I leave a patch of my garden to go wild and enjoy the wild flowers: Buttercups for example:
Some roses as well:
The Buddha under a ‘cloud’ of petals:
I have also got to planting some seeds. Hopefully, these will turn into Courgettes:
A friend from students days, sent me a photo of the time. Mike in 1979 when he was living in France:
Still cooking lots: leek and potato pie – and bread!!!
I have been desperately searching the house for hidden supplies of chocolate. My latest and last find:
Some of my lectures were published on YouTube. In the Court of King Crimson from last year in Santiago, Chile. With Spanish Interpretation:
Also, this month I did a lecture on Bourdieu and Social Suffering for a university in Buenas Aires, Argentina:
Still possible to get all manner of culture from the Internet. This month, various plays from the National Theatre have been a feature. All excellent.
An ex-pupil sent me a film he had made – video plus a reading of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats’ poem The Man who dreamed of Faeryland:
I was very into Yeats when I was a student; he was influential on another poet became committed to William Blake:
In fact, it has been quite a poetic month: also reading the poems of Arseny Tarkovsky – son of Andrei:
So, quite an extravaganza of reading and listening to music – being so ‘home’ bound:
I completed the detailed reading of In Search of the Miraculous by P D Ouspensky, who was an early student of Gurdjieff. It is, in fact, his account of meeting Gurdjieff and what he was taught. I did the reading with a friend – 15 pages per half month – it took us about 18 months.
I am also publishing my précis of the book here:
Also, I have been reading Peter Kingsley’s extraordinary account of Jung and the Red Book: Catafalque.
Literature wise, I have been reading Ben Okri’s Freedom Artist, which is a ‘magic realist’, allegory of the current world – should we say ‘dystopia. It is to be read ‘slowly’. It has the sub-title, Who is the Prisoner?. The answer at the end seems to be ‘the ego’ – so quite a lot to meditate on there.
I began the month re-listening Robert Simpson’s String Quartets. Again, one of those lesser known English composers. I like them. A bit like Bernard Stevens: radical and strident without every submitting to chaos and abandoning the pastoral, which is so important in English music.
The sunny weather however, had me gravitating to more exotic climes: Reggae and the amazing Malian singer Salif Keita – what a Joy!!
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.
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!!!:
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:
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:
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!!!