Houses and Ghosts

Italo Calvino said:

The more enlightened our houses are,  the more their walls ooze ghosts. 

The true meaning of this quote remains just beyond the reach of my comprehension, however it somehow stirs a desire to write.

I have never seen a ghost in a house, but in a place I like to walk is the ghost of a crofters cottage, a relic of bygone times, the roofless granite shell endures although bushes grow as freely within the rooms as in the garden.

The care with which these stones were placed draws me to linger there and ponder upon this lesson in balance and stability.  The walls are built of rough-cut granite blocks, I note how the irregularities of each one are gracefully hidden by facing them inwards to each other so the hollow of one accommodates the jutting point of another, presenting to the world the ‘best’ face, a reassuringly orderly assembly of  randomly formed rocks.  Granite is especially difficult to work so for this kind of farm dwelling only certain feature stones have been shaped into orderly rectilinear shapes, the chimeny stack, the door and window lintels and door step.  

chimney

The skill of the builder is to choose a rock that fits well with it’s neighbours, turning the best face outward, each finds a significant place within the wall. By now most of the lime mortar has been eroded away yet the integrity of the structure remains, enduring the frosts and buffeting winds, still showing a well composed face to the world.  The innate strength of a house relies upon a strict adherence to geometric form, yet here is one made up of randomly shaped pieces. The builder would have had no choice but to use whatever material was to hand and make the best of it.

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Music on the Brain

Music on the Brain
Posted on November 20, 2013

Dear Reader, does this ring a bell with you?

There is music in my mind constantly, sometimes the last tune I was listening to, an old favourite, sometimes a catchy Pop tune lodges there and will not remove even one I do not like!  Mostly a stream-of-consciousness style on-going spontaneous composition. this continues day and night I believe, which is perhaps unusual, how do I know the mind is busy with tunes through the sleeping hours?

My Dentist asked me about it, She said “your teeth are unusually worn down at the surface, what on earth do you eat that would cause such wear and tear? I thought for a moment then the realisation came. I become conscious at times that I tap out rhythms with my teeth keeping time with my inner musical activity, a combination of tapping and sliding movements satisfyingly audible through the skull, my jaw must be working away right through the night. While working at the carpenters bench especially I notice myself doing this and often while walking through the busy town, the whole body is involved, footsteps, sawing and hammering all fall into the rhythm or syncopate with it.

Well… so what?  so I am a musician through and through, yet the habit concerns me, I notice the level of inner music activity increases with anxiety levels, which suggests it may be a displacement activity that is comforting and displaces worrisome thoughts.

I am clearly not alone in this:  http://www.wrongplanet.net/postt121329.html

What about during speech? surely you might think the incessant musical activity must be put on hold while speaking, probably true yet you will be aware that speech has its own cadences, it’s own hidden melodies.

Have you heard The Sursiks?   

their CD titled, I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS SINGING is a celebration of the inherent melody of speech. Every track begins with a loop of human speech taken from recorded voicemail messages, it’s a clever concept. The musicians listen carefully to the speaking voice, viewing the waveform on a computer screen, the melodic pitches are identified, the rhythms the phrasing, all is notated, learned and improvised around with guitar, percussion, organ, trumpet etc the accompaniments are skillfully arranged to make a convincing song structure. Backing singers echo a phrase here and there adding emphasis, the result is most entertaining, at times hilarious and thought provoking.

More http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=22017

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Wicked – ain’t what it used to be

Wicked,  used to be an adjective you’d want to avoid being labelled with, however it is a word that always had a kind of double meaning, to have a wicked sense of humour is seen as a loveable, even enviable aspect of personality.  Now I rarely hear this word used as a term of disdain, if people say something you did was wicked, it means you won the approval of your peers.

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I met a man at a party once, I enquired after his profession as is the custom at certain types of party.  He worked for the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) scouring the publications of the day for new words.  If an original word or phrase is known to be in common usage that is not enough to qualify for inclusion in the OED, someone has to find at least two (I think) instances of this word or phrase printed in a published book, newspaper,  newsletter or periodical to have it accepted as a legitimate subject of discussion among the lexicological community.

What an interesting job I thought.

New ideas need new words to express them succinctly, as do new forms of technology, activity, or forms found in Nature.  Some might argue

“there is nothing new under the sun”

but humans live in a temporal world, characterised by CHANGE, so the minting of new coins in the currency of speech is evidence to me that we need them to uphold a sense of freshness, newness to help draw our attention to new things as they arise.  There is a kind of thrill about finding something new.

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An Elegant Gesture of Defiance

On the dining table my father spread out the beautifully penned manuscript for the family to see, written in cursive script reminiscent of Elisabethan calligraphy, and beautifully embellished with coloured inks although the choice of paper was somewhat unconventional for hand writing of this quality.   I remember how moved my father was to find this unusual document among the census forms which it was his duty to collect.

So what was the motive for covering the pages of a census form with calligraphy?  Two or three pages of skillfully executed rhyming verse made an eloquent statement of protest. A poem of annoyance directed towards bureauocratic systems in general and the decennial census ritual in particular.  It was well expressed with a touch of  humour I recall.

I wish I had a photograph, but of course if I had one to show that would constitute a breach of confidentiality, and my father was a law abiding citizen although I suppose sharing the sight of this rare treasure with his family might be regarded as an infringement of some sort.  As far as I am aware the UK Statistics Authority have no powers to punish beyond the grave, despite their obsessive hoarding of personal life details in archive vaults.   The collecting authorities would no doubt have described the aforementioned document as a spoiled form, which I must confess makes me smile,  a term which sparkles with irony to further reinforce the artist’s heart felt message.

My father would have dutifully submitted the aforementioned ‘spoiled form’ along with all the correctly completed ones, the clerk who had the interesting task of extracting data from this document might well remember it still,  I do hope it made their day.  I would love to know what became of this bohemian piece of artwork.

Was it unceremoniously shredded to a resounding chorus of “tut tut tut” in the climate controlled high security corner of a busy office ?

Is it displayed to this day in the private gallery of a retired civil servant?  or respectfully stored in a special archive for the collected works of that celebrated author, Anon?

——————– oOo ——————–

Post script:
A few days ago I sent a print of this text to my Sister asking if she remembered the document, the incident or anything about it.   Her reply is interesting, she remembers a census form, correctly filled in with the required personal details in hand written copper-plate cursive script, probably she thought penned by an elderly person who would have been taught at school to write that way.

I stand firmly by my version of the incident, however I am obliged to reflect for a moment upon how trustworthy human memory might really be.

It seems to me that our memories, especially the ones we like to cherish and share with others are subject to being strongly modified to fit with our changing world view. My sister tends to respect authority figures, whereas I will admit to being somewhat wary of them. So if I did indeed see an elegantly defiant piece of artwork this would have resonated with my world view, whereas someone who readily accepts the status quo would feel disaproval and be dismissive about the importance of such things, or choose to remember a subtly different interpretation of events perhaps.

To round off this post here is a poem I composed for a get-well card. My friend Bob was hospitalised with concussion after he came off his bicycle on a sharp corner. You may wonder how this is relevant?, be patient until the last verse.

How soft the software engineer
how hard the black tarmac
how loose the grit at the corner
where Bob took a skid coming back

If only we could cut and paste
events of yesterday
the part where Bob set off down hill
and cast all cares away

The programming would be tricky
but probably worth the sweat
software for re-writing history
would be popular you can bet

The most difficult part of the project
would be reliable memory
ask any three witnesses what they saw
and they never will agree.

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