Summa: diary (April 20-27, 2024)

Sans eyes, sans teeth, sans taste, sans everything (As You Like It).

April 20 (Saturday). 7.30 am: The Saturday ambulation. Joyous; glorious; resplendent. It was the silence as much as the light. A morning that I’d wish upon the whole world right now.

9.30 am: Correspondence. 10.00 am: Studiology. A review of yesterday’s samples. This morning’s objective was to generate material in readiness for Monday morning’s work. At this point in the project, my attention broadens to consider the full-orbed shape and content of this eighth and final release in The Aural Bible series, of which the ‘Affirmation’ suite is one element. And, beyond that, to consider the unknown thereafter. The character of what comes next is, in some small part, already evident in what has gone before. However, the greater part must of necessity lie beyond the imagination and reach.

April 22 (Monday). 6.15 am: Awake. 7.00 am: Writing. 7.30 am: Studiology. Saturday’s spade work paid dividends. ‘Plate VI: The Son (Return and Judgement)’ and ‘Statement VI’ have begun to develop together. This is a first in the context of the suite. Significant progress was made on the former. I’m conscious of accelerating the rate of composition in order to complete all eight compositions and eight statements before the impetus dissipates.

4.00 pm: Ambulation. In Aberystwyth’s municipal cemetery, there’s the grave of ‘Henry Evered Davies[.] Photographer’. I’d not noticed it before. According to People’s Collection Wales, he helped run his father’s commercial photography business at 26 Pier Street in the town, at the beginning of the 20th century. The shop was on the site of the now defunct Mandarin Chinese Restaurant. Henry Hicks Davies (his father) ‘was assisted by his wife Laura Anne, son Henry Evered Davies and daughter Elsie Laura Davies’. The father is listed in the trade journals as operating a photographic business between 1891 and 1923, first at 28 and afterwards at 26 Pier Street. Henry Evered’s wife, Margaret Mary, lived until she was 104 years of age?

April 23 (Tuesday). The Government’s Rwanda Bill was passed last night. What a shameful country the UK has become. I hope the Labour Party will exercise due humanity and remove this legislation from the books if, as seems likely, they’re elected this year. 7.30 am: Writing. 8.00 am: Studiology. A review of yesterday’s composition.

11.00 am. I can recall a time when picking up a repeat prescription at the pharmacy was as swift as buying a punnet of plums at the grocery. Now, it’s like waiting to obtain a first-class stamp on pension day at the Post Office, every time. 11.45 am: Back at the desk, pushing coloured tiles, turning knobs, and sliding levers, in the hope that something will emerge in excess of my efforts.

‘Statement VI’ began in the order of the words as they appear in the Nicene Creed. I proceed second-by-second, millimetre-by-millimetre, across the screen. Building without a plan; building in order to discover the plan. Boxes of sounds arranged on the parallel shelves of the compositional graphic. 7.30 pm: Writing and reading.

April 24 (Wednesday). 7.30 am: Writing. 8.15 am: Studiology. The completion of the ‘Statement VI’ draft took up the entire morning. On, then, to ‘Plate VII’: The Holy Spirit’ and ‘Statement VII’.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

Nicene Creed

The theme suggests a more ethereal and spacious composition than those that precede it. An enigma in stasis. 7.30 pm: Preparations for a long weekend away and a consultation with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist tomorrow. I wrote ‘The History of My Nose, in Two Nostrils’ to gather my thoughts about this ailing orifice and create an agenda for discussion.

April 25 (Thursday). Carmarthen/Bristol. Arrived at the hospital and almost immediately fell into a conversation, initiated by a limping Dyfed farmer, about the relative merits of the painter J W Waterhouse and the sculptor Andy Caro. The works that this farmer had seen were the former’s The Lady of Shallot (1888) and the latter’s Yellow Swing (1965) — which he described as only ‘a couple of f*cking girders painted yellow’. (Not quite, but leaning in the right direction.) I’ve learned over the years not to enter into disputes about art with ‘enthusiasts’ while in the public domain. My consultation with the clinician was illuminating in terms of my miscreant nose, faulty eyes, dry mouth, and failing taste buds. A plan of action was drawn up, but only after he’d inserted a camera up my nose and down my throat. Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to the discomfort.

5.30 pm: Arrived at the Bristol Airbnb. The half-an-hour walk to Clifton Village, where we’d booked dinner, took us across an overpass that sported a striking example of what, in any other context, might be classed as Soviet-inspired brutalist architecture. I assume it’s a lookout post, from which the traffic on the river below can be surveyed. My photograph of the structure looked like it should be included one of those ‘most boring postcards of Great Britain’ collections. The restaurant had a meat fridge that Francis Bacon would’ve warmed to.

April 26 (Friday). 10.00 am: A bus ride to the bus station for a recky ‘round one of the less distinguished areas of the city. Urban graffiti (profane and sacred) has spread over most every wall, both here and elsewhere. Visual noise.

11.30 am: I returned to the city centre calling in at St Stephen’s Church and the Cathedral — for respite. At the latter, someone several pews behind me broke my reflective silence, with: ‘Hello! Hello! Can you hear me? Are you there?’ She was not uttering the prayer of an earnest and doubting seeker but, rather, striking up a conversation with someone — who was further away than God in that moment — on her phone. Of all places!

The walk back to my accommodation passed parallel to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain. She ran aground off the coast of Northern Ireland as a result of poor navigation, and bankrupted her owners. An apt metaphor for the future of SS Broken Britain.

3.30 pm: After a tea and lie down, I visited Abbots Leigh. It’s one of those, to my mind, cloyingly English, white middle-class monocultures familiar to fans of The Vicar of Dibley (of whom I’m not one). Previously, I knew the village only as the name of a hymn tune by Rev Cyril Vincent Taylor (1907–1991), who composed it there. At Holy Trinity Church, there’s a brass memorial plaque that’s remarkable for having what appears to be an albumen photographic print of the deceased, taken when they were deceased, at its centre.

Dinner was taken at what’s reputedly the third best fish and chip restaurant in the UK. It did not disappoint.

April 27 (Saturday). A visit to Clevedon. I’d first encountered this seaside town in the late paintings of the British artist Peter Lanyon (1918–1964). When teaching at Bath Academy, he used to bring his students here to draw and paint from the landscape. Lanyon also undertook his own photographic survey of the area, to serve as an aide memoir. Some of his final works, before his tragic death in a gliding accident, were based on the town’s pier and bandstand: Clevedon Night (1964) and Clevedon Bandstand (1964), respectively.

On the horizon it’s possible to see Steep Holm and Flat Holm (where Marconi made the first ever wireless communication over open sea, on May 13, 1897) and, in the far distance, the coastline of Swansea, Newport, and Cardiff. When I was young, my maternal grandparents used to take me on a paddle steamer, the PS Waverley (which has resumed service in recent years), from Cardiff to Bristol and Weston-super-Mare. There was always a photographer on the docking pier to capture the moment when the passengers arrived — as though they were immigrants landing on Ellis Island.

3.15 pm: A visit to the extensive, if overblown, SS Great Britain museum. I remember seeing live TV coverage in 1970 of what remained of the vessel being hauled up the River Avon under Clifton Suspension Bridge to the same dry dock from which she had been launched on July 19, 1843. She was the Titanic of her day. The restoration has recreated a very plausible impression of what it must’ve been like to travel aboard when it served as a passenger liner. The ship was an astonishing achievement at the time. When I looked at her imposing red riveted rudder, my thoughts returned to Anthony Caro’s sculptures. Surely the Dyfed farmer would’ve approved of this.

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

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