Summa: diary (January 13-19, 2024)


January 13 (Saturday). My unsolicited response to a demo of a new song written by one of my old bandmates from my late teens:

The composition reminds me of early Rolling Stones material. What I particularly like about [your band’s] songs is their ability to deal with love and relationships without any pretence to idealism. You discuss folly, disappointment, and unfulfilled yearning. That, I guess, is the essence of the blues.

3.00 pm: An unsolicited reverie, related to the same period:

I heard a propeller plane passing over, and experienced a sudden, spontaneous, and profound sensation (rather than a memory) of hearing the same, on a similarly overcast Saturday afternoon, while sitting in silence in my parents’ front room at Abertillery, over fifty years ago. On closing my eyes, I was back there once again — having travelled through time and space, if only in thought and feeling.

January 15 (Monday). I once read that the artist Bernard Cohen (b.1933) painted a small aeroplane in the corner of one of his pictures because, he explained, ‘that’s what I heard when painting it’. An acknowledgment of sound made manifest, visually.

An unsolicited understanding:

It struck me that all three of my modes of practice — the audible, visual, and textual — ought to be brought into play simultaneously, rather than be considered and engaged sequentially (as they are at present). (Wired in parallel as opposed to in series, as electricians say.) However, they need not be dealt with in the same way at the same time. For example, one may be engaged creatively, while another administratively, and yet another in terms of research.

Occasionally, mercifully, you may experience a day that appears dark, even in bright sunlight. It’s difficult to describe. There is about this day: a discord; a resistance; an uncanny principle of malevolence that frustrates your every effort; the awful weight of inertia, bearing down; a suffocating deadness. The day limps along — and you with it — as though diseased. You long to get to the end of it, to sleep, and to awake to something more generous.

January 16 (Tuesday).

‘Don’t grow old’, the doctor told her. With ageing comes a gradual diminishing of sensations, perceptions, memory, vitality, mobility, dexterity, and mental agility. Ironically, this takes place at a time when our sense of self is most acute; life’s experiences (for better and for worse) have crystallised into a modest wisdom and insightfulness; our appreciation of family and friendships is enhanced; our intellect is alive with curiosity and questions, like never before; our vision for life and work is more certain that its ever been; and a sense of urgency — the realisation that the clock is ticking — presses hard upon us.

We know our postmen by name. They’re dedicated to the customer and acquit their responsibilities with consummate professionalism. It’s demanding work. Carrying heavy or cumbersome parcels to and from their van, up and down long streets, requires strength and determination. The grass root troops of the Post Office [Swyddfa’r Post] in the UK are by and large solid and exemplary folk. Never judge a company by the unconscionable actions of its management.

January 17 (Wednesday).

Some years ago, I studied Ignatian spirituality and the practice of reflecting upon Scripture using the mind’s-eye. In practice this involves visualising the characters and context of the biblical narrative. The devotee is encouraged to focus on how the characters are dressed and arranged in relation to one another, as well as upon the scene in which they’re situated — the landscape, sky, architecture, animals, those in the background, and the ambient sounds. I failed the exercise dismally, and realised that I didn’t have an illustrator’s imagination. (My standard of biblical envisioning is on a par with Fuzzy-Felt.) Of course, this is precisely the skill required by figurative-realist painters of biblical scenesthe capacity to see beyond what’s explicitly denoted in the text.

My Protestant heritage had conditioned me to read biblical passages for dialogue and narrative development, chiefly. My mental conception of the persons and their locale is at best schematic — like a faint and incomplete outline drawn against an otherwise neutral background.

January 18 (Thursday).

As many have said before: It’s a great privilege to grow old. Not all have the chance; and some choose not to remain in this life long enough. It’s one thing to fall victim to a fatal illness, or succumb to an accident that sweeps you away in an instant; one thing to determinately call it a day yourself; but quite another for someone to rob you of your life — and long before time. The murder of an infant or toddler at the hands of a parent or carer is, to my mind, one of the most appalling crimes imaginable. I hope never to cease being shocked by it. The duration of a life is no measure of its value and significance. But with length of days comes a responsibility to invest the capital of whatever facilities and opportunities have been entrusted to us in this life and, at its end, hand it back with interest.

January 19 (Friday). This week had been set aside for research and writing. I wanted to break back into the ‘Nothing is Without Sound’ [working title] book, by way of the case study: ‘Malchus Ear’. Headway has been made. In addition, ideas have arisen from the study which could inform my sound and visual practice in the future.

Tata Steel have announced the loss of 2,800 jobs in Wales, 2,500 of which will be at its Port Talbot site. In 2017, I initiated a sound project with the company based upon a unique and unresearched portfolio of photographs from the 1920s, documenting the construction of the site. Unfortunately, at the time, another industrial dispute prevented Tata from engaging with the project. Copyright issues over the portfolio prevented me from adapting its images. I’d got as far as developing a image to sound conversion algorithm, in collaboration with Aberyswyth University’s Department of Computer Science. Some plans must be abandoned for reasons that are outside of one’s control. Port Talbot Steelworks was named after Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, the cousin of William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the pioneers of photography.

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

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Another wonderfully readable entry again, thanks for sharing it. I’m glad you acknowledge the other (ironic ) side of aging too., I’m not sure if I’ve ever been sadder or happier than now. Certainly I’m glad to still be here.

    • johnscriptorium
      January 22, 2024 6:50 am

      “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair” (Charles Dickens).


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