Friday, 24 March 2017

Follow on from last post

Humph . . . the vid was removed, so here's the original screening that people were reacting to. I defy you not to at least have a few goose-bumps.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Human voice

While posting something on Facebook earlier I watched (as you do - er what was I doing . . .) a video posted by a friend. The choice of song isn't something I would particularly listen to but the voice is extraordinary goose-bump wise.

The twenty-two year old from Kazakhstan, Dimash Kudaibergenov has an incredible octave range, and happily for him, he's lovely to watch too.

Someone has kindly made this collection of extracts of people's reaction to his singing - worth catching especially the girl's reaction at around 8.42 . . .

We are all moved by art, ballet, sunsets, orchestras, films, books, cake, etc but perhaps a truly unusual and frisson-inducing voice unites most humans.

It was especially interesting to me to find this as I recently wrote a short story that features humans' emotional reactions to singing.

In the story, Dog, an Earth-visiting alien slowly pieces together but possibly never understands human behaviour. Befriended and given shelter by a young woman called Ruby, our hero is left in her flat while she goes to work. After trying all of the fridge's contents and exploring her book collection he takes a bath.  When his saviour returns and hears him singing in the bathroom she reacts in a way that surprises him.


I like this so much that I stand and try out all the modulations, tones and possibilities. Jars and bottles rattle. The water surface undulates against my legs.
As I reach the top note that I can see – blue with shimmering edges – the bathroom door opens. Ruby stands with the open-mouthed expression again. She has dropped her bag. Tears run.
I stop the singing and the sound continues, flailing itself against the tiles.
Taking a cloth from a pile, I step out and wrap my lower half.
“Forgive me, did my phonic experiment alarm you?”
She says nothing but steps forward, even lunges; grasps me and fastens her mouth to mine. Hot colour swarms in my head. My tongue dances in her mouth as her hands slide over my wet skin.
She pulls away suddenly: “Oh . . . I don’t know quite what happened. Sorry.”
I think about this gift: “So, that was a kiss?”
“It was . . . but I don’t usually go about seizing and kissing people – well, at least not without knowing them for a while.”
I pull her back to me: “Would you mind if we did it again?” 
Link to the song that's mostly in the background of the extracts video

Monday, 20 March 2017

Healthy obsessions

One of our daily dog walks is called: 'going up the top,' the top being an open plateau of vine fields above where we live. At the end of the gravelly, winding lane is the wine domain and at the back of the building, what was a field of scrubby grass. Over the last two years I've watched with interest this gradually change to an intricate and wonderfully eccentric garden.
I vaguely know the owner of this patch (excellent accordionist with her family group, Rodinka) and have stopped to throw a casual 'bon courage' or 'come and take some of our baby cactus plants', but yesterday I went and had a proper chat about the garden and asked if I could take some photos. She was surprised but pleased.

So, today I went up with a basket of cactus and the camera.
There is a BIG story which she says she will relate to me over a beer soon at their 'fete de Printemps' (spring) but a very shortened version is that she arrived twenty-three years from Czechoslovakia ago with her partner and seven month old baby in the same van pictured here in the garden. They had been playing music for a theatre troupe, liked the area and . . . never left. I have yet to learn how the van came to its resting place and look forward to finding out.
I asked why after so many years had she suddenly started to create the garden and she said it was after the Cypress hedge got burnt. She'd cleared some stuff away, cut back some plants and then it just started - grabbed her, a gardening obsession: plants, recycling, using stuff from the wine domaine - old wood, pallets, unwanted bricks, tiles, etc.

Beer bottle edging - (two bottles a day)         The Van


Now spring has arrived the the artist-gardener-musician is often out there from six in the morning till eight at night, creating, playing and experimenting, with no particular plan but with an inherent and marvellous skill in green-fingered improvising.


Friday, 17 March 2017

Marking time

How often do we realise we are in The Now? In The Present Time. I suppose I register it a few times a day, maybe not always.
We humans are always busy thinking about what should be done, what might happen, what should have happened, what we didn't have time to accomplish; looking forward to something - holidays, Christmas (arg) life-marking events, weddings, a new car, a new dog . . . and so on, forever. But what of all the days that merge into a continual blur of time?
Within our own blur of days there are certain routines - very occasionally broken due to visits elsewhere or work, etc; routines that mark the days progression and bring me back to the Here and Now. Breakfast is probably the most resonant time: twenty minutes or so when at least two of us are at home, dogs waiting for crusts, smell of coffee, fried egg on toast . . . we probably talk about similar things to the day before - state of the world, which art college our son will be off to in September, the behaviour of the chickens already chorusing for scraps outside.
A calm and comforting time that I always wish to extend as much is possible - bit more hot milk, half a slice of toast . . .
It's the point when I wash up the old orange coffee pot ready for the following morning that I realise I'm in The Moment, and where I hopefully will be the following morning, rinsing the same pot and starting the day.

       Prized 70s coffee pot given to us by friends who knew we would love it

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Living with someone else

And not just with my husband. I assume as with most writers, my current main character inhabits my head quite a lot of the time, including during sleep.
I woke this morning to realise that, Hamish - second-hand bookshop owner and failed poet - needs to actually live somewhere else other than Bound's Green, London, due to certain distances between his various haunts. So, most of the London mapping I had done on my last city wanderings were in fact inaccurate and he should actually be living in Camden. Of course I can travel around the city on Google Earth but it's not the same; I need (and want) to walk the roads he would walk, take the buses and visit the shops he would go in, at least the ones that are still there (book set in 1985).

Time-warp barber shop in Muswell Hill, which Hamish could go in as his lover (taxidermist) lives above her premises on Duke's Avenue (currently a chemist's shop but as taxidermy shops are rare even in London I've had to relax my rules a little)

Monday, 13 March 2017

Feeling stressed? Watch this.

I don't think I've ever heard anything narrated in such a calmly and deliciously articulate way, even if the owner of the voice is talking about possible sheep-death caused by brambles . . .
I came across this while researching a plant that ensnares sheep in Peru - I had imagined a triffid-like bit of flora that lances out a green spiny limb and drags the unfortunate animal into a gaping mouth but actually it's similar to the bramble bush in that wool-clad animals will wander while feeding into a patch of the thorny plants and become entangled.  Any further wriggling to get free will make it more captive until . . . well, the end, sadly, through starvation or bird attack, etc.
A clever bit of evolution - a sheep-sized bag of ready made fertiliser at the foot of the plant. Ugh.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Serpent dog

I often look at our beautiful second-hand greyhounds and wonder at their sheer noble elegance and grace.
This is 'Bali' half dog-half serpent (musical instrument or snake) after leaping from the car this morning into a field of early spring flowers.
Someone who came to see us yesterday told me that the English cousins of these dogs are let out onto the moors of Yorkshire when deemed to be too old for racing to wander like ever-thinning silhouettes, muzzled so they eventually die from not being able to eat . . . I knew about the horrors of what happens to the Spanish greyhounds (which ours are) - hanged, starved, beaten etc, but I hadn't realised there was a UK equivalent cruelty.
I think we will always be accompanied by two of these marvellous, gentle and good-for-the-eye hounds. A drop in the ocean perhaps but at least we can bequeath the gifts of good food, regular walkies, the sofa, and love on a few.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

We will never time travel

Husband trying to re-connect the small, boingy overflow pipe that was blocked with a happy bacteria colony

Some days you just realise how unlikely it is that we as a race will develop more than we have when sinks still have to be unblocked by unscrewing a filthy plastic bit of plumbing that is impossible to get at and superbly easy to get cross-threaded - and that's the French system. I seem to remember the UK version being even more challenging.
I doubt that every home will have a robot that will cook, stack the dishwasher, answer the phone and unblock your sink, or that we will live on packs of space food and be able to tune into what everyone is thinking - or at least I hope not.
I sometimes wonder if we should have stopped and taken stock in the 1970s; about the time that cassette recorders were wildly exciting and plastic hadn't completely taken over the planet - but then I would be writing this in a notebook and no one except me and perhaps a few bored friends would ever see my musings . . . I wonder if there's any wine in the fridge. Yes, wine, cheddar and an episode of something comforting.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Keeping a light on in the soul

A beautifully enigmatic house that I might not have seen near Narbonne station if my son hadn't  had suggested going for a walk rather than shivering and lusting after chocolate in the vending machine while having to wait an hour for the connecting train

A very good friend of mine sent a blog post of her brother's to me yesterday, part of which was discussing the fact that in the 'olden days' - i.e before internet and even as far back as no phones, possibly even newspapers, people didn't really know much about anything beyond a few muddy fields/patch of desert/icy tundra, depending on where they happened to be on the planet and would go about their business, occasionally hearing something about the next village, or town, possibly city, possibly across seas, maybe once a year for somewhere so distant . . .
We now carry this weight of information about with us all the time, plus all our small domestic worries and fears, and perhaps it's really not too healthy. Anyway, if it is or it isn't this post is about taking a few minutes for the soul each day - leaving a constant homely light on, getting outside even if it's a total damp fog-out, to look at other things that we share this globe with: trees, birds, dogs, weeds - even a weed covered with morning drops of dew can be a startlingly beautiful thing in contrast to a picture of a ranting politician.


                            Go outside and look at clouds - a wonderful and cost-free activity

Today, I did feel overloaded: one of those days where everything builds up into a vast mound of impossible-to-scale stuff.
I drove to collect water from our local source without remembering the drive and filled bottles while worrying about my ageing mother, my ageing God-mother, our ageing car, my about to go to uni son, where will he live? the hillside behind our house full of trees that all need cutting, the storyline I'm working on, why is it taking so long for the people who have my last book to decide what to do with it, the roofs that need clearing of moss, my aching legs, the computer that keeps announcing 'your start-up disc is full' the chimney that needs cleaning, the dogs that need expensive tic-preventative treatments, my husband who works too hard, whether we should update our wills, etc, etc . . . plus all the stuff I happened to have glanced at in The Guardian, and that tear-inducing film about ill-treated animals someone had loaded up on Facebook.
Two things stopped this mania: one - talking to another friend who has an incredibly small amount of time to spare in her life about artist activities and the other, going for a walk in the rain with the dogs. I got wet feet and a wet head but felt revitalised on returning to the house. The trees on the slope suddenly seemed quite all right - I'll get round to cutting them in due course, the boy will be fine, mother will age more and she'll be fine in her warm caring care home, and everything else is really Ok compared to most of the screaming headlines that I saw this morning, and perhaps might not look at tomorrow.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Aw . . . and silver linings

When I was in London last, walking and planning where things would take place in my latest book, I happened upon the most perfect location for 'Hamish's' book shop: a small, dusty and wonderfully-atmospheric book shop betwixt Bloomsbury and King's Cross, which was perfect in every way. Then I discovered on returning to my hotel room/work space and consulting Google that the shop had already been used for this brilliant comedy. Damn. Still, I'm only borrowing it in my head.

We had somehow missed this series, being well away from Channel Four since the early 2000s.

Now happily making our way through the box set . . .