Archive for the ‘Americana’ Category


What a great piece of music Mussorgsky’s The Great Gate of Kiev is. Just borrowed the Pictures from an Exhibition CD from the library and er… listening to it.  I see Kandinsky did a cool painting based on Hartmann’s original design too. This is my second blog in October, when I have only been  managing one a month so far. Just squeezed it in before November – an extra hour today with the clocks going back, that’s what it will be then. Reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August at the moment, as I have been “volunteered” by our tutor John Toft to do a presentation of about two hours, related in some way to these works; fortunately it is scheduled for after Christmas, so lots of time to figure out a piece of work that might begin to approach a standard worthy of the great man from Oxford, Mississippi and our 1930s USA study group ( at Bradwell Lodge Community Centre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, every other Thursday).  Seems funny making the journey there from home, the first time last Thursday, as most of the route is the one I took for 21 years from 1981 until I retired from the College ( which was demolished this year and is now the site of a huge Sainsbury’s). I think that apostrophe is in the right place – please note I did not put one in 1930s USA earlier. That would have been a ‘Crewe Comma’ of course and has indeed got itself on the sheet distributed to us at the start of our sessions. Never mind, it’s the thought that counts and what a great idea this course is, totally put together and the location organised by members of the group. When I ‘did’ the previous course, under the auspices of Keele University, we looked for a while at American architecture and art and in 18 days time I’m off to Chicago with Beth for a six day break – me from Retirement, Beth from Work. Very excited about that – well, as excited as you can get at 65, and then a bit more. Of course, the recent appearance of bombs on cargo planes, in parcels from Yemen to Chicago synagogues adds an extra frisson to the trip.

It’s a new month and so I feel it’s also time for a few blogged thoughts. Have received news that Keele University have chosen to close all their Continuing Education classes ( at least the ones I have been attending for the last 2 years – see blog of 10 February, 2010 ). They don’t call it that of course. Couched in some vague euphemisms about retirements in the Department, reduced and devolved budgets and such.  However, now the good news. Have also heard that some of the old stalwarts of one of the classes and the tutor have combined their not inconsiderable wills, intellects and regard for their fellow human beings to arrange with our local pub for our new classes to use the pub’s function room and the tutor has already put together our new syllabus on the theme of  Twentieth Century Liberation movements. To be studied through eight sessions on literature, with a further session devoted to related movements in art and one more on a play yet to be chosen. Wonderful. (If this is what the latest pathetic slogan of  our government means by the Big Society, then I like it. But it isn’t really, is it). How we pay the tutor is nobody else’s business. I already have Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, used to have Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City but had to buy it again along with Meridian (Alice Walker), Disgrace (J M Coetzee) and The Help ( Kathryn Stockett ). How good is that, to have a real reason to buy some new books. The accompanying links are there for me to see some background and also because sometimes such links means you follow one and don’t get back to where you came from for hours, if at all.

Been to Leek today to meet up with someone doing their family tree and who has discovered she is related to my wife. Leek is not like any other town round here and since we spent most of our 2 hours today in a cafe talking, we plan to return soon for a prolonged mooch around the streets, back streets and shops.

Looking after next door’s stick insects – am told there are 8 in the two containers but have only spotted 6 so far amongst the foliage. Hope they are all apparent when I hand them back in 10 days time…… What odd pets.

A long time ago in a town far away (well 80 miles) I came 28th out of 29 in Woodwork at my grammar school. This didn’t bother anybody too much, as my Dad’s life experience up to that time told him that working with your hands was to be avoided if at all possible, since it meant low wages and being treated badly altogether. This he was keen to tell me, so as to encourage me in more “academic” pursuits which he hoped would lead to a world he knew very little about, but he knew was desirable – anything where brain work was involved, something called “the professions” and it looked like I might make it there if I kept working at the school work that wasn’t Woodwork or Metalwork. His observations were based on a career which started at 14 in the workhouse, (still operating in 1926), through french polishing furniture and spraying cars, coupled with the odd encounter with a solicitor he had to visit to put a deposit down on our house and a dentist for whom he did some french polishing. Such programming against manual work was supported by the school, with its public school pretensions, so what years later came to be called Design and Technology was dropped from the curriculum for clever pupils. Fifty years later I can knock a nail straight in a piece of wood fairly successfully, say 9 times out of 10 and saw a pretty straight line if I concentrate really hard. The shelves I build don’t wobble. The quiet thrill such achievements now create equates in a funny sort of way to the non-manual work high points or “achievements” I sometimes reached working with rebellious adolescent school pupils for many years (after a disastrous stop-off for 2 years in accountancy training).

I have so far read the first 40 pages of  The Case for Working with Your Hands or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good by Matthew Crawford and am liking what he is saying very much indeed. I loved my non-manual, “professional” job most of the time and I don’t think Crawford is so much arguing against such jobs as campaigning for a shift in middle class attitudes towards manual workers that is a bit more respectful than the commonplace “We’ve found a marvellous, plumber and he’s so cheap…!”. I may return to this theme after completing the book.

Watched and enjoyed two-thirds of Peter Bogdanovitch‘s documentary on Tom Petty last night. Another delight of the BBC’s superb website and still an hour to go. Anyway the documentary included the thought by one observer that creativity such as Petty’s is often associated with the artist’s loss of his (sic) much loved mother at an early age and a poor relationship with his father, both the case here. The clues, it was said, are in the underlying bitterness, anger and sorrow in even some of the more upbeat songs he wrote and sang. Not always discernible by me but the voice itself nearly always has it. I go along with all that but not with Larkin’s “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. Sad bastard. Good poem though!  Am now listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on Spotify. Excellent.

Bought loads of fish today at Morrisons in Crewe, which I hope is going to be a regular event. Anything we should know about some awful facts on Morrisons and/or their fish? Probably something. Invented an alternative to the phrase “rogue apostrophe” – “Crewe comma”. And I see  Morrisons doesn’t have one.

Recent tests show we are clear from breast, bowel, cervical and prostrate cancer between us here! Working on a few other things currently though….

I guess parenthood is one of the major features of my all-time favourite movie and heartbreaking short story – “Tomorrow” by William Faulkner. The whole thing is breathtaking, literally, especially Robert Duvall’s portrayal of the central character.

 

Thanks again Bill (and Horton Foote).

General election campaigning is all over today so been to vote at the Civic Centre for one of the candidates who promises to sort out the economy; watched the indoor bowls for a while. How civilised, one activity in the world where all that is solid has melted into air and then one where it all looks pretty solid to me.

Started (obviously) reading the Communist Manifesto again while waiting at two NHS hospitals for B’s drug test monitoring, consultation on a proposed new treatment and finally a breast cancer screening.  All free at the point of need.

Beth rings us up to check out funeral protocol as she is going to one and it’s the first for her on her own.

Have dug out two Be Good Tanyas CDs to put on this computer. Excellent listening when you’re in the mood, a very Southern sound it seems to me, though they’re from Vancouver, British Columbia.

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