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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 25, 2009
    Should a man blog on his wedding day?
    Should a man blog on his wedding day?

    Better men than I have done it and escaped opprobrium as geeks or a-romantics. But I might not.

    If a man blogs on his wedding day it must mean that:
    - he's so relaxed about the forthcoming nuptials that he can switch into reflexive mode for half an hour;
    - he's so full of the occasion that he needs the world - or at least his 150 online readers - to know;
    - he's so addicted to the computer that he just can't help himself.

    If a man blogs on his wedding day it's probably because:
    - he can't sleep and has to fill the long hours before the arrival of the best man and the wedding cars;
    - his wife-in-waiting can't sleep and she's been phoning every 20 minutes since 5.30am, so he may as well get up;
    - after hours and days of escorting his beloved shopping for chocolates, bedding, jewels, rings and lingerie the emotionally and financially shattered groom-to-be is asleep, and blogging is what he does in his sleep.

    If a man blogs on his wedding day it's likely that:
    - it's displacement activity for the speech he can't complete;
    - it takes his mind off that embarrassing 'first dance' he'll be subjected to later;
    - he needed to make a last-minute honeymoon booking and on the world wide web one thing leads to another.

    I shan't be blogging on my wedding day. But the night before: that's near enough.

    John and Diana Davies, as of 26 Sept 2009. A marriage made in Toxteth and to be continued in Croxteth
    Thanks to all who've supported and encouraged us on our way towards the 'big day'
    Monday, September 21, 2009
    Stag Night Karting

    My last Saturday of singleness spent on a kart track in Aintree Industrial Estate. Filmed on his phone by Mark Coleman.

    From my Stag Night - Karting - September 2009 Flickr video set
    Tuesday, September 15, 2009
    The Red Horse at Cheltenham
    Billy Childish may have stolen the (art) show at Greenbelt with his engaging conversation with Malcolm Doney - which began with him presenting himself as a determined religious outsider ('I never read the Old Testament ... it's all a bit bloody and ghastly, innit? No, I like the other feller, the later one, he's all friendly...') and developed into a candid and thoughtful explication of his Chatham-style, damaged goods take on spirituality. But in the venue of racing legends where around the site equine champions are celebrated in outdoor statuary, romanesque wall friezes and Hall of Fame history display panels, it was a red horse which most captivated me, and many others, the work of another artist in the very excellent Visionaries exhibition.

    Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Green George catches the eye with its bright and unexpected colours. Green George... why? In an artists statement Hicks-Jenkins says that his work began with the horse:
    ‘Once I'd completed the horse, the incandescent colour of which was an early notion I'd had to make the saint's mount almost a creature of another, more heavenly realm, I knew in a moment that no conventional skin colour for Saint George could withstand close proximity to that flaming Cadmium Red. Suddenly green became my favoured option for George. And once I'd started painting with a green-laden brush, I loved the results. I loved the way red applied to George's lips and hectic cheeks transformed his appearance into a glorious and unexpected adventure. I loved the links green made to ideas of re-generation and rebirth, the allusion to a whippy sapling flooded with the promise of newness, growth and hope. Just what a warrior saint should be. And of course there was the idea of Viriditas (Green Flame), the term coined by Hildegard of Bingen to express the 'greening power of God'.
    All this, of course, at Greenbelt which really pulled out the stops on the visual arts front this year. Loved it.

    Monday, September 14, 2009
    Luminescence at the pit head
    Brian Salkeld recalls the past: in his poem, displayed in laminate on an information board on the old Sutton Manor Collery site, the ex-miner says, 'The years roll back, I hear the sound / Of winding engine steam / I see the pulleys turning / On the headgear in my dream'.

    The spin on the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa's Dream is that '...the head of a girl with eyes closed, seemingly in a dream-like state ... is the artist’s response to ... conversations with the ex-miners and members of the wider local community who wanted a piece that looked to a brighter future and created a beautiful and contemplative space for future generations, not least their own grandchildren, at the top of the former spoil heap.'

    On a sunny Sunday afternoon it's not contemplative, because beneath Dream children play, dogs sniff and tourists angle their lenses upwards towards the strange head. But it has a beauty - you can tell that when you're speeding along the M62 beneath it, flicking your eyes between the trees looking for a glance. Close up it becomes more apparent, the loveliness of this shining figure, luminescent in Spanish dolomite and titanium dioxide, sitting on the forty years worth of untouched coal which permeates the four miles of seams which run beneath.

    I don't know if Dream carries any more or less meaning as a gathering-point for the young people of St Helens than the night clubs, park gates and garage forecourts of the town which sits below this silent head, or for their hopes and aspirations. But it is a remarkable contribution to the local landscape and it does inspire interest, provoke stillness, register respect.

    Pic from my Dream Flickr photoset
    Monday, September 07, 2009
    Simulacra and small epiphanies in the new Edinburgh
    Rather late but in Borders at the weekend, during a lull in bed-linen purchasing I at last located the issue of Product which features Gordon McGregor's very readable essay on psychogeography, The Paths of Least Resistance.

    Mister Roy noted in his review of the article ages ago, that this piece, published in 'Scotland's finest arts and politics magazine', 'offers a welcome north-of-the-border perspective, as a lot of writing about psychogeography stays trapped in a kind of Dunhill packet 'London - Paris - New York' axis.' Which is partly true, though this particular pre-history of contemporary psychogeography ends with the Situationists and inevitably features various Parisien flaneurs. Although R.L. Stevenson gets a welcome inclusion it's inescapable that his Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is set in
    London. Iain Sinclair and his capital-city contemporaries are studiously ignored here, but there is mention of two of his oft-quoted inspirations, Blake and De Quincey.

    McGregor uses his 'beginners guide' to psychogeogaphy as a jumping-off point for an extended reflection on the present problematic state of Edinburgh where 'the urban agenda' has done what it is also done in London and Manchester: 'fallen foul of ... rapacious over-development ... development that values such ineffable values as charm and character only in as far as they can be quantified.'

    Interesting to compare and contrast the Lettrist Ivan Chtcheglov's 'playful' Formulary for a new Urbanism where his dream city is divided into various arrondissemements named as The Happy Quarter, The Useful Quarter, The Sinister Quarter, and so on, with a central Edinburgh which is suffering 'from an ailment just as corrosive to the imagination as the flux marking its outer limits':
    As one approaches the heritage core of the city one passes through an event horizon beyond which the city is not so much lived-in as curated. The carapaces of heritage buildings now play host to an industry whose function is to celebrate a stereotyped version of the past, such that the city becomes a simulacra of its original self; a museum to false memory in which even the citizens become tourists.
    McGregor identifies the stroller and the deriviste as being among those who can still contribute to a revolution in everyday life.
    Scratch under the surface and we may discover a substrata of older narratives, of quietly resonant corners which hide away and hope to be forgotten. There, among the marginalia of city life, the abandoned warehouses and half-deserted streets may yet form the backdrop to certain revelatory moments, certain small epiphanies.
    Wednesday, September 02, 2009
    Iain Sinclair at Greenbelt

    It was good to welcome Iain and Anna Sinclair to Greenbelt. He seemed to enjoy himself onstage with me and then later in his own show in which the orbital traveller took the audience in an indoor ampitheatre at Cheltenham Racecourse on a few brief circuits of his epic M25 journey and held a line with the poet John Clare and the journey he made from the lunatic asylum, Fairmead House, High Beach, Epping Forest, to Clare's home in Helpston, near Peterborough.

    I've spent all of today so far transcribing my conversation with Iain (available as a cd or download here). I've got as far as the questions at the end and thanks Liam, The Manchester Zedder, for yours. And venue host Ian. I didn't get the name of the other contributor so if you're him, or know him, then for the record, please let me know.

    One highlight from a good hour last Sunday afternoon: Iain Sinclair on walking the everyday...
    John D:
    A phrase which you use [in London Orbital] to describe, I think when you are reflecting on the motorway experience, perhaps the experience of drivers, but I wonder if it's also a phrase which also be applied to walking, where you said, 'Through repetition, boredom becomes transcendence'. And Greenbelt folks know that in the last few years I've been talking about exploring the idea of the everyday and trying to break through the boredom and look for the transcendence within everyday life, and it just occurred to me to ask you the question about whether the act of walking just in our everyday environment - for you, where you live in Hackney perhaps - can help in some way or other to promote what the Situationists proposed as a revolution in everyday life: a different way of thinking about our environment and relating to it?

    Iain S:
    Yes, I think absolutely, on a very simplistic practical level, the thing I do every single morning is exactly the same walk through a cross-section of Hackney, the path passes through London Fields which has changed dramatically lately, it's become a sort of Portobello Road area, very upmarket, through areas behind Mare Street which are still impoverished, and burnt-out warehouses or travelling families who are living on petrol stations, into Victoria Park and back along a canal. This is like a forty-minute walk. But simply by doing exactly the same walk every day my radar bumping off things confirms my own identity, and if something's changed then I change with it. And also your whole body, all the molecules, are shaken up a little and doing that same walk every single day, quite briskly, really does clear my head, allows the night's dreams and things to settle, prepares you for the writing of the day, and so in a sense I do regard it as a kind of walking meditation, as a kind of reconnection with London in every sense. Practically it might be thought to be be boring because you're seeing the same thing every day but actually it is the everyday becoming transcendent in a very simple way.
    Iain Sinclair at Greenbelt pic by Elaine Duigenan from the Greenbelt Festival Official Pictures' Flickr photostream