Thursday, April 24, 2008

Prunus continued

Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn)

Prunus avium 'Plena', easily identified because it's a much bigger tree than other double white cherries, photographed 24th April

Prunus 'Hokusai' photographed 12th April

Prunus 'Amanogawa' photographed 24th April

Prunus avium (Wild Cherry)

Prunus 'Cheal's Weeping Cherry' photographed 20th April

Here are some more of the photos I've taken recently. Where is 'Kanzan', you ask? The truth is, most of the ornamental cherries I've seen are not practical to photograph. These trees are typically found in suburban gardens rather than parks and (I feel rather than know) the act of taking photos outside someone's garden is now an act viewed with extreme suspicion. I only felt comfortable about it if I was well away from a view of the house.

It used to be different; we didn't mind so much, a few years ago, if we saw someone taking pictures with an Instamatic. After all, a suburban home does (necessarily) have its public face, the view that is taken in by the casual glance of a passer-by. The photo snapped by an Instamatic from the street more or less represented that public face and nothing else. A modern camera captures so much more information; even if there was no invasive intent, nothing stops someone later zooming in to the image and having an invasive poke around.

And besides that, in the old days there wasn't the remotest chance of a casual snap being published; the instruments of publication, the press and the book trade, were securely in the hands of professionals: high-class gents (they usually were male) who were never likely to turn up in your neighbourhood. But now any old passing stranger can publish their picures.

The idea of publishing that was current until recently was an enormity. Perhaps we panic unreasonably - Internet-publishing is nearly always closer to publication in the pre-Caxton sense; sticking a picture on a wall or sharing it round your immediate circle of pals. But anyway, we've remembered again that a photo steals your soul.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

my haul

Comfortably secured from anything like real poverty, the extreme parsimony of one who has merely over-extended himself is more of a luxury than a constraint. While my friend at work treated himself to a shotgun, ninety quid's worth of cartridges, an iPod Nano G3 and a KFC Variety Bucket, we window-shopped for a bar of chocolate.

So there was a book sale in the reference library near where I work. There is something pleasing about the mere act of taking books away from a reference library, but in my present state of indigence I did not indulge myself very much. I bought, for 20p, a book about Henri Michaux which abundantly conveyed (or rather, reiterated) the author's enthusiasm for Michaux, and there matters stayed. It seemed that the book sale was not a great success. These, of course, are the books that no-one wants to read any more, but that doesn't bother me much, a lot of my lifelong tastes (e.g. for Scott) have been determined by what I could pick up for almost nothing. A few weeks went by, and then appeared an offer that I really couldn't refuse. For the last few days of the sale, we were encouraged to fill an ample plastic bag to the brim and to pay only a pound for the whole lot.

So vast an influx of literature could not, of course, be entirely read through, and perhaps I scarcely intended it. What follows therefore is in the spirit of Pierre Bayard, the result as much of surveying as of reading.

The Oxford Book of Verse 1945-1980, Chosen by D.J. Enright. "For reasons hinted at above, the anthology may be considered reactionary. It could with equal justice be reckoned revolutionary - and with equal senselessness, since neither adjective has any certain or central place in this domain" (from the editor's introduction). In other words, he knew it would be called reactionary and no-one would ever dream of calling it revolutionary - I'm quite impressed by the underlying attempt, hopeless as it is, to taint the former charge with the evident absurdity of the latter. I've yet to hit on a poem I liked, though I know there are some.

Shelley's Literary and Philosophical Criticism ed. John Shawcross, 1909. The editor had no excessive admiration for Shelley's prose, but felt compelled to issue a selection that expurgated his political and atheistic work - the mature Shelley was not even very interested in politics, Shawcross claims. Here's something I just read in Saarikoski's Edge of Europe (a fantastic book, which I'll review as soon as I can get it together): "I went to Helsinki, spent three days there and met a lot of people, but none of them said anything memorable because all the people I met were intellectuals, and intellectuals always say what they mean without meaning what they say, and this makes it hard to have conversations with them." Shelley in his prose, the poems I'm not sure about, but what appeals in the prose is a willingness to stand by what he says. You think of Shelley as idealistic, but he's more dangerous than that. He says of Jesus Christ and of Rousseau (this is the Essay on Christianity) that they didn't really mean that one should literally give away all one's possessions or return to nature: "Nothing is more obviously false than that the remedy for the inequality among men consists in their return to the condition of savages and beasts". Most poets of a radical type would be tempted to assert the doctrines in their literal form - it would come over a lot sexier. But Shelley was political in his very bones; he was interested in the implementation of justice. So of the idealistic early church in the first generation after Jesus, "It was a circumstance of no moment that the first adherents of the system of Jesus Christ cast their property into a common stock. The same degree of community of property could have subsisted without this formality, which served only to extend a temptation of dishonesty to the treasurers..." This formality - that's where I hear the Shelley that takes my breath away. This could be misconstrued perhaps as timidly prudential or self-serving - not at all. Shelley believes in a distinct path to equality: the spread of knowledge brings individuals to moral maturity and results in a just society which results in equality. The final sentence of the Defence of Poetry is there not for the glory of poetry but to concentrate attention on effecting material change.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

in my chair

He nursed her, he nursed her, while it lasted - this would aways be true.

No-one should be burdened by me, there are nursing institutions. I fought against institutions all my life. It is right.

At last I can go ahead and publish my

When someone dies, a large scab gets peeled away and mysteriously lost, and the world appears in simpler colours. The emptiness is pleasing in a way. It nags at you that you don't know where the large scab has gone (it's about the size of the slate bed that underlies a snooker table - not quite so much, perhaps). All the nursing, and the unfinished, unsettled conversation, which ends with a question.

that no-one should know the way it was for us. We lived differently enough, we were never in the papers. It was sorry, tawdry, strange. What does it matter that this information cannot be processed? That's only for now. One day among the trillions it may be possible. Throw it all down, tell the stories you don't even understand yourself, the stories you know you distort. Yet, as I write this, the distinctive thing that seemed just a minute ago so essential to preserve about our lives begins to thin out and to swim rapidly away from my gaze. Was it all in my head?


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Prunus, early-mid

(above) Prunus 'Shirotae'

(above) - Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii).

Above and below, Prunus domestica wildings

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Harry unzipped his pocket and felt around - lozenges, plectrum..

Here we go.

He unfolded it. Plugger got to his feet and pulled open the fridge.

Kale. .... Kale. What is that. I need some breakfast! J.J. Kale, that is. Eh?

Nell gets it. I don't know about it man.

He's a shithead.

It's about Con. Three times a week for thirty years

Forty years.

Forty years, are you sure? Anyway, banging out Say Good Mama three four times a week. It's all he knows.

So if it weren't for Con.

Don't get me wrong, but one hit.

And Mississippi

Like I said, one fucking hit. I'd as soon drop the connection and tour as a fucking tribute band.

Yeah right, but it's not so easy you know. No fuck-ups there, it's gotta be right spot on. I like to see us doing the 4-part harmonies in Mr fucking Blue Skies. Hey mate. I like to see you ripping out the solo in Bohemian fucking Twatsode. Note-perfect, you know?


Like fuck.

Help me. I can't read this shit. Here, take it.

Plugger closed the fridge.

What's it saying?

Crikey. How many points have you got man?

What's this shit about court?

Who's gonna drive the van? Harry. I mean, you play real good. Loose. You know, we're the Axe. Don't matter if we come apart. It's the Axe. That's what they pay for. Something real. Fucking tribute shite. Fucking theatres. Musicals man! I mean - we . are . Rock . and . Roll .

The floor upstairs creaked.

My little girl. Maureen. Hello sweetheart.

She came sleepily into the lounge and Harry opened his arms to her.

I'm not the Axe. You're not the Axe. I never even heard of the Axe that much when I was a nipper. Generational thing. Funny thing, cos Con, when he knew I grew up in Horley Mead, Con said that's why you're the Axe man. But the truth is not one of them was from off of an estate. Cotterall, God rest his soul. His folks were fucking loaded.

Yeah. His old man paid for the bike... That's what I heard.

You won't get nothing out of Con. He never went...

to the funerals.

Right. There's times I think he was no more there than you or I.

Mitty was saying about taking him to Nuneaton to see his boy.

Mitty should keep his fucking nose out. Why can't his boy come over here if he's so mad about - Jesus, you wouldn't wish it on him.

Plugger slumped in the chair and began rolling. You got eggs, right.

I don't know man.

I just seen them. Fried bread. That's the kind of food I like. Do you ever go back?

Never. It must be fifteen years. None of the people I grew up with would be there. If they didn't move on they died. My mum and dad, we weren't really Horley folk. Being Micks and all. I don't fucking miss it. I'll tell you another thing. You know at the end of the main set it's der-ner-der-DOM-DOM...

Been on the run all my life...

Yeah. I hate that song. Shift over a bit, sweetheart. Mitty made us do it. He "exhumed" it, he said - it came off of their live album, which was a fucking catastrophe, sold about fifty units, the sound engineer was - you know, all he'd ever done was Dutch boompah - Eurobeat shite - he had no fucking clue. That's by the by. Mitty dug up this fucking tune, "anthemic" he said it was. Anyway, so Con had to learn it cos of fucking Mitty carrying on. He hates it more than I do. He's never remembered it.

But he played on it...

Not only that, he wrote the fucking song! I'd never even seen the album before but, that knobhead in Chepstow last month, he brought it with him and I read it on the sleeve. C. Lynch. It's him! Even Mitty didn't know that.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

celandine / turkey

You need long air to see. Crouched in the box room that she planned as a home office, he tried to make out the S/N. In summer you can't see for stuff and in winter there's no stuff to see. Still warm and bright; too early for home. Meet hi in the flying papers. Must some time, yes yes! The business end of the season.


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