Summa: diary (January 1-6, 2024)

 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12.15).

December 20-30, 2023.

January 1 (New Year’s Day). At 7.31 am (GMT) my elder son messaged me from Osaka to confirm that he and his wife were safe, following the earthquake that had hit the north-east coast of Japan. They’d experienced only a deep subterranean tremor. As in life, a crisis is quantifiably different when experienced on the periphery than at its epicentre. My son amplified his account via a video conversation, mid morning. Before and thereafter, telephone calls were made to other family members, wishing them a hopeful, fruitful, and fulfilling life during the next twelve-months.

In between, I messaged friends, organised my Image Diary, moved cardboard boxes out of the house and into the garage, and confronted those disciplines of time, action, and devotion, of the mind, body and soul, that I’d let slip during the last year. A new year doesn’t bring with it any gift of greater determination, fortitude, and consistency. These things have to be fought for, day-by-day.

Proof of presence/presents (or not, in this case), using a refurbished Polaroid 635 Supercolor instant camera that my younger son had bought me for Christmas. It was manufactured in the early 1980s, originally. On this occasion, the camera accidentally fired in relative darkness and without flash. Instead of a selfie, I captured what was undoubtedly a haunt of obliging spirits. ‘Lava lamp, John!’

Polaroid 001 (January 1, 2024).

January 2 (Tuesday). 8.30 am: I cranked-up the study and the studio in readiness for my return to work (for which I’m ready). Now, where was I? A review of the next two months ahead, and the week and day before me, and a making of lists. This is a time for taking stock; realising accountability; recognising avoidance; remembering friends (living and dead, present and historic); re-establishing old routines; and initiating a few new ones.

9.00 am: I looked down the barrel of my tax returns for the year and began finalising my expenditure table. Death or taxes; which is worse? Death comes only once in a lifetime, whereas tax returns are surrendered annually (‘and then the judgement’). Following lunch, I completed the file/folder clearance of my computer desktops (which I’d begun before the Christmas vacation). 4.15 pm: After the rain:

7.15 pm: An evening orientating to a newly-acquired portable sound recorder. This just may spur the revival of the Aural Diary in the coming year. Unlike images, which seem to present themselves to my camera, sounds — in my experience — more often than not have had to be searched for. Engaging sonorities are far rarer than their visual counterpart.

January 3 (Wednesday). 8.15 am: A communion. 9.00 am: Back taxing. (In the background: A BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong.) My professional expenditure during this last year has been absorbed in the consumption of electrical cables, adaptors, hubs, research-related books, and computery bits ‘n bobs, for the most part. The tax return provides not only a helpful index to patterns of buying, but also an indicator regarding where economies can be made in the future. It’s a diary of my life in terms of often necessary, sometimes impulsive, and occasionally regrettable purchases. Those observations apart, the exercise is an undiluted chore (albeit buoyed by tea, coffee, and hot water) which I stared out. The ratio between outgoing expenditure and the income generated by such is embarrassingly disproportionate. If I were a business (and I am, technically, for tax purposes), I’d close down and apply for bankruptcy. (In the background: Keith Tippett’s The Unlonely Raindancer (2019).)

1.30 pm: Vacuuming and emptying a full bag stuffed with pine needles. This year’s Christmas tree has shed pine needles in great abundance every day ever since we first set it up. In this household, the tree remains on site until Twelfth Night. 2.00 pm: In the background, Miles Davis’s rendering of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1959). Gil Evans’ orchestral arrangements alone are worth the price of the album. The horns have a euphonic quality that I associate with colliery brass bands.

2.45 pm: The clouds had run out of rain, or so it seemed. I took the track towards the base of Constitution Hill, returning via Brynymor Road and Queen’s Road, passed the house where I shared a flat between 1983 and 84. When the sea was rough, the tide was in, and the wind was high, thebwaves cast small pebbles over the roof and pepper the cars parked behind the building with small dents and scratches. My bedroom window, which overlooked the seafront, was rendered like frosted glass by the salt deposit distilled from the sea water.

7.15 pm: I returned to learning my new kit. The manual’s ‘Precautions for use’ of the MicroSD cards used for sound recording include: ‘Do not hit them’. (Particularly, if they appear not to work because you’ve not bothered to read the introduction carefully enough.)

January 4 (Thursday). 8.45 am: A communion. A reminder of the disciplines. 9.30 am: A return to tax returns. Digging out royalty statements and correspondence regarding fees paid and received. I ought to pay more attention to my day dreams: these flights of ‘fancy’ (in the archaic sense of ‘realities’ created from the imagination rather than from life) bring into sharp relief otherwise unacknowledged ambitions and desires (virtuous and unworthy). Some fantasies remain stubbornly unrealisable. (I’m neither a capable nor an upright nor a brave enough man to rise to their challenge.) Others are self-seeking, or neglectful of others, or reckless and, as such, ought to be cast into the deepest ocean. But some are idealisations of the self that should be strived for and may be achievable, but only with an heroic effort over time.

12.00 pm: I moved on to other types of admin which are equally irksome to the flesh (regarding the flesh and its ailments). 1.30 pm: After lunch, I scrolled through two email accounts’ inbox in search of items that I could legitimately claim on expenses. 4.00 pm: Promenading, as the sun set. Even after forty years living in the town, this scene still inspires a mixture of deep-seated joy and contentment.

January 5 (Friday). 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Recalling the disciplines; taking the pulse of my inner life, acknowledging those things that ought not to be, and addressing prevarications. 9.oo am: Correspondence, RSA profile updating, banking admin, PayPal set-up, and mobile provider switching — all of which were interdependent activities. I prefer to acquit myself of those tasks that foster a low-level anxiety at their anticipation and frustration in their execution early-on in a new year. 10.00 am: A rainbow graced the town in the distance.

The last month or so and the first half of this year will be, in part, taken up with enhancing and consolidating professional promotion. To this end, I’ve begun reading Matthew Whiteside’s The Guidebook to Self-Releasing Your Music (2023). I’m not a musician, and I don’t regard my sound work as music. Although I can appreciate why some of it would fall into that category. Nevertheless, many of the principles that he discussed can be transferred to the field of sound-art practice. It’s a worthy introduction (itself a self-release) written by someone who has achieved what the book sets out to advise.

1.45 pm: More shenanigans with my PayPal set up. I don’t respond well to an AI-based online ‘assistant’. I awaited human advice. When it arrived, I still wasn’t sure that this was flesh and blood answering my queries. 3.00 pm: Studiology, and a return to the turntable. I’m in search of something to play with, without an objective and outside of a project. 7.30 pm: An evening in a book.

January 6 (Saturday). From the sublime to the ridiculous. 9.15 am: I paused a number of times on my morning promenade to observe this phenomenon. An elderly man sidled up to me and broke my reverie. ‘Where do those colours come from?’, he asked. ‘From the refraction of white light into its spectral components’, I replied (with an appearance of politeness that belied my irritation at being disturbed). ‘But where did the white light come from?’, he persisted. I thought to myself: ‘I can see where this is leading’. In Sunday School, my fellow scholars advised me that if I gave the answer ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ to all the questions posed, then, I’d be right some of the time and lauded all of the time for my earnest piety.

11.30-3.00 pm: The annual Twelfth Day ‘debaubling’ and defenestration of the Christmas tree:

See also: Intersections (archive);  Diary (September 15, 2018 – June 30, 2021)Diary (July 16, 2014 – September 4, 2018); John Harvey (main site); Instagram.

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