Breakfast with Georgia on my mind

Up at 05:20 this morning jolted awake by ache in right shoulder. So I’m hungry in Maidenhead at noon. So hungry I’m not able to think beyond the next bullet point on my trip list, a vital scrap of paper. A full breakfast is appealing but nothing to read as I’d already retuned the abandoned Art Crazy Nation by Matthew Collins (first task on the trip list). Flash visit to the children’s library (not in the Mackintosh sense) then hunt for a nearby eatery.

The Bear (Wetherspoon) is dark inside. Great for watching the televisions and for not seeing what is on one’s plate; lousy for reading even a children’s illustrated book. Settled in ‘O Yes’ on the corner of St Ives Road with my full English breakfast (double toast for some reason), tea and my book on Georgia O’Keefe in the Artists in their World series.

Georgia O’Keeffe – Red Canna (1923)
She is an artist whose work has been in my peripheral radar over the years, and after two eggs, bacon, beans etcetera I have a snapshot in my head of the artist and her canon of work. That’s why I adore children’s non-fiction – for giving an overview in an engaging way. I also adore unforeseen outcomes.

There was more than biography from Georgia O’Keefe. Her dedication to her art was a jolt to me that the process of writing is more important than the product. The product has been paramount for me in these past weeks. And product promotion! Good to get that reminder from Georgia of what is really essential. I also responded to the concept of her ‘Specials’, works done for herself to explore the medium. It’s been too long since I did that form of writing.

An hour later I returned to the library the fully read book and took my full belly to the supermarket.


Medea in a halfway house to horror

“Medea about to kill her children” by Eugène Delacroix (1862)

In Medea (New Venture Theatre, Brighton) the eponymous protagonist was superb. The actor enunciated her power deliveries, believably conveying the turbulence of emotions and torment in a murdering mother.

She was ably supported by a strong, on-cue cast, with the audience as intimate guests at the tables of the wedding breakfast.

Why then did this play not turn into a dramatic feast for me?

Partial time shift

This rendition of Euripides’ play was adapted by Tom Paulin. It was set in the late 40s judging by the gramophone, music and clothes. Why? I couldn’t see, hear or reason any relevance to relocating the personal drama to that era. After WW II as analogy for after Troy, yes. But Jason has been on his quest, wandered around and settled in Corinth with his wife Medea. She isn’t a Greek, stigmatised by Jason as a “gypsy”, so contemporary racism would have been the empathetic setting.

On top of that the language and attitudes of the characters are stuck in 431 BCE. The location remains rooted in Corinth with the characters obeisant to Greek mythological gods. Medea repeatedly boasts of being granddaughter of the sun god Helios, behaviour that would have Social Services whisk her kids into care faster than the unfit mother could whip her knife into them.

Such a thought shouldn’t intrude into the unfolding of the drama. My recurring disengagement from the storytelling was a consequence of the story and setting having not been fully moved into the target period. Medea’s early rant, almost a feminist manifesto, sounded like an outtake from a later decade, her Kantian “a beast with eloquence is still a beast” jarred as authored elegance.

Wonder why a little

The production’s keynote music, Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry time we say goodbye” has to my mind, fitting lyrics. With each goodbye to 430s BCE then goodbye to 40s AD and so on, my captivation in the story “dies a little”. And I did wonder a little about the choice of song. It was too sweet for the sentiments portrayed. Was this another casualty of the choice of period?

If a play is moved into another time the whole entity should make the transition: setting, language, sentiment, perspectives. That I enjoyed the evening says everything about the performances, especially the abused and tormented Medea.

Hoofing it in Brighton

“Let’s just pop up North Street and get my prints,” said Luvlady after we got off the bus returning us from Stanmer Park. Half way up we met the EDL (1) march coming down.

Brighton EDL march

More correctly we met the police front wall, the shoppers, the mounted police, the passengers waiting for and in stuck busses, the counter-demonstrators, the Brighton weekend visitors and the police following wall. Somewhere there must have been sufficient EDL marchers to hold their one banner.

“Get a photo,” said Luvlady, not to be deterred from collecting hers from the photo-shop on the far side of the mêlée. So I did. Not because Luvlady commands therefore I obey, but she often voices a feeling in me I haven’t yet given form in language or thought.

There was a spillage of counter-demonstrators round the police front wall. It was indicated to the line by the mounted officer. His horse decided this was where he wanted to go. I looked up from pulling my camera from its case at a large, heavy, brown mass clopping towards me. I backed only one step as my spine thumped the high stone plinth of HSBC’s cod-Doric façade.

The clomp of iron-shod draught horse on concrete pavement slabs a mere metre from one’s feet dominates thought. Clomp, clomp. It’s hoofs are massive, making a ringing thunder. Clomp, screech, clomp-clomp as the horse wheels and regains its footing. Now my view is a panorama of hindquarters. The animal is that high, that wide, that heavy-footed and the wall behind me is unmoving. The horse can’t see me as it swings its buttocks to me. Clomp-clomp. I feel its heat.

Mounted police, EDL march, Brighton
Mounted police, EDL march, Brighton

These were my moments being aware of the fragility of my flesh and the nondeterminism in every situation.

I wasn’t being kettled, it wasn’t Peterloo, not Homs nor Helmand. They are a long way away.

Those few moments in North Street were a more forceful reminder than hours of television footage and debate.

The horse returned to the middle of the road, shoppers resumed passing and I snapped my photo. By then, Luvlady had hoofed it halfway up the street towards collecting her photos.

(1) English Defence League.

How far will woc go for a free coffee?

The flyer pushed through Luvlady’s door stalled on its flyby to the recycling box for I had spotted the words ‘free coffee’ in tiny print across the bottom corner. Something I, we, wanted in the letterbox bumf squadron. Doubly pleasing in that it showed my old hunter-gather visual acuity had not deserted me.

As is the norm for pensioner peregrinations – thanks to HMGov’s bus pass – this was to be a bus and foot expedition.

Phase 1. Down to Saltdean lido and walk along the undercliff to Rottingdean. It was uplifting to be given a sendoff by a drumming band: left, right, left right, round the corner to the bus stop. Encouraging to see so many females with skins and sticks. The band may have been performing not for us but for HRH’s Jubilee. Didn’t she have a costly Jubilee just ten years ago? Perhaps she’d forgotten.

Note: I know this blog is on an electronic medium but my posts to it are on a snail-mail delivery schedule. I am only seven weeks late with this one.

Distance travelled towards a free coffee: 1.8 miles (2.9 km).

Phase 2. Wait for the 12 or 14 or 27 bus to Brighton, walk through Pavilion Gardens to wait for the 25 bus. The bus shelters on Old Steine have a hint of Art Deco about them. Taking a photo crouching in the road when the bus is due has a hint of Artist Dodo about it. Fortunately, Luvlady’s visual acuity was sharp enough to spot the arriving double-decker.

In reassurance, the Brighton Pavilion has not undertaken dome mitosis, these are abutted photos to show the bus stop. The Pavilion kept getting in the background.

Distance travelled towards a free coffee: 6.2 miles (10.0km).

Phase 3. Climbed to top deck of the bus (because we can), front seat, Ordnance Survey (Explorer 122) map on lap (because I wasn’t sure where to disembark). Got off at the entrance to Stanmer Park. Convenient really as we intended walking round the park, through Great Wood to approach Stanmer Village – with the quested holy grail of free coffee – from the north side.

Distance travelled towards a free coffee: 9.5 miles (15.3 km).

Phase 4. Across the field, up, up the long incline into the woods, skirting the A27, pop out for a view, and back to come upon detritus of the asinine kind and of the arboreal kind.

More bucolic photos of this phase? One purpose of this blog is for me to have a go on the site’s photo carousel. It is on page 2. It would be on this page but I couldn’t figure out how to launch it from a single thumbnail rather than a thumbnail for every image on the carousel. Oops, I’ve stepped out of the walk into computer carping and self-referenced writing.

Distance travelled towards a free coffee: 11.4 miles (18.3 km).

Phase 5. Just before leaving Great Wood it started to rain. Stayed canopied by Great Wood watching local archeologists huddle under anoraks at a new dig in the adjacent field. Rain stopped, we walked into Stanmer Village, into the café and out (no toilets), into the public toilets across the street and out (wet hands, no paper towels). It’s a village and here’s the church, here’s the steeple, and inside, here’s the . . . nope, the people are in the café.

Distance travelled towards a free coffee: 12.2 miles (19.6 km).

Phase 6. Not in need of salvation but driven by salivation Luvlady and I walked the wrong way round the one-way system. In fact the village lane is a traffic roundabout in the shape of an elongated teardrop with the church as a stye at the bulbous end.

Stanmer House, a 1727 century mansion built by Sir Henry Pelham (British PM 1743-54) and now popular for film shoots, is comfortable and relaxing inside. It is elegant, until one looks up the grand staircase to see a 3×3 split screen filling the wall and showing promotional video.

Considering the walking done, Luvlady opted for a cream tea of two huge scones and appurtenances with coffee, while I exchanged the corner of the flyer for a free coffee. Luvlady shoved one of her scones my way. We sat with our backs to the silent staircase screens amused by servers trying to correctly deliver food against orders placed through the high-tech tills. Teething problems, no doubt. Very enjoyable – not just the buzzing workers, the whole experience.

Total distance travelled for a free coffee: 12.4 miles (20.0km).

Phase 7. Then came the traveling of the distance back from the free coffee. Being seasoned bus-pass travellers we knew times and left the comfortable seating minutes before the hourly bus service from Stanmer Village to Brighton was due.

I like this wall shot and not just because of the content and the composition. It reminded me of Edna O’Brien’s portrait by Jane Bown CBE in ‘Women of Consequence’, where the look caught in face and posture could launch 1,000 words and not capture it.

Here in Stanmer though, the look may be wondering if her woc will return from exploring the donkey wheel in the well-house before the imminent but rare bus arrives and departs.

Goto page 2 for gallery of these, and more photos.

At the typeface May 2012

Current project: Story collection as an ebook

Product. Before my long weekend break in Manorbier Youth Hostel (with Luvlady and sixteen of her kin including genuine youths) I achieved editing a third of the stories. Before I get complacent must remember I started with the stories needing least editing.

Manorbier YH bedroom
Manorbier YH bedroom

After Manorbier came days of woc-type tunnel vision: editing, editing, editing. Nearing the far end of the tunnel came a reappraisal of the content. The shorter stories might be better in a subsequent ‘Espresso Coffee Break’ collection. Deliberated this over a few days. Then ‘Hemp Rope’ (short and too erotic for this collection), ‘Goggling’ (very short) and ‘Carreras Stone’ (unfathomable) are out.

With ‘RG PI’ out because bringing the original narrative up to the standard of the play will take too long, ‘Heartsease’ has come in. It should have been in from the start as it still welled my eyes when editing the familiar tale. That probably means I’m too emotionally close to the work to be objective about its worth.

It’s inclusion brings a complication as I want to link the story to the youth group stage play version. The Heartsease playscript is currently only visible on my website and I don’t want that to become an e-commerce site. I’m happy for e-Sellers to take a commission for all that hassle.

Emerged from the tunnel of editing the stories for a few moments of brilliant blindness. Then a yes/no/yes/no indecision to change a title revealed two typos in its text from lax cut-pasting. Sigh. So soon back into the tunnel vision: proof-reading, proof-reading, proof-reading.

Production. Used the Story Cellar high-tech method of colour-daubed paper strips to sequence the stories. Updated the prelims and credits then full expansion of the master and conversion to EPUB. A virtual book first, virtual fist in the air – yes!

Promotion. After just one week, I’m thinking of taking a shotgun to my Twitter account. When they are not torrent advertising tweets are encoded with #hashtags, short-URLs, T-abbrs (that’s an abbreviation for ‘tweet-abbreviations’). I’m finding it easier to read hieroglyphics.

Time exploring my expanded armoury for virtual communication (web, blog, tweeting). Finding my tweets are like chirruping in a vacuum. I am enjoying writing the blog pieces though no one is reading them. Nothing new there.

Reassessed promotion mechanisms and why they’re not working. Simple. I’m not putting time into finding contacts. I am behaving the same as when I didn’t have the mechanisms. Old dog, new tricks?

In an attempt to turn myself back into a puppy (metaphorically not mischievously) I managed to set up so new blog posts notify my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Mention of which, yes, opened a Facebook account. There I can land on three different pages from various triggers giving the impression ‘confused.woc’ has arrived on the site. The Timeline interface looks much clearer.

Customising Facebook reminds me of Microsoft in that it demands users do things its way. Facebook insists my alternative name be ‘Woc’ when I want ‘woc’ or ‘WOC’ plus it refuses to put ‘Olson’ as my middle name. The middle name is not an option when creating the account.

Worst of all, considering those I’ve heard who did not want Timeline but had it foisted on them, I want it but Facebook won’t let me have it. I am ostracised by a social network site.

And another thing! If Facebook wants to roll out Timeline for everyone, why create new accounts with the old format? Daft. Oh dear, turning myself into Mr Irritated. Soothed by the nice friends round my account, when I find which page they arrive on.

Postscript. There was brilliant sun during the last week of May so out in garden digging, planting weeding and watering as exercise, therapy and a vent for frustrations. Active in the sunshine, active with the story texts and I won’t mention the other things making woc a happy chap.

A mandate to bicker

I had hoped the letter “Can’t claim Labour has no mandate” (Slough Express 25th May) was a councillor responding to my published letter explaining why I spoilt my ballot paper (from wocNote post). I am so naïve. This letter was just the eternal Labour vs Conservative mutual defamation.

It was no surprise to read Slough councillors continuing to bicker and play their party politics violin while the flames of disaffection have consumed 80% of the electorate.