The Rolling Stones – ‘Emotional Rescue’
In an interview with Stuart Maconie about a compilation, English Weather, he and Pete Wiggs had compiled, Bob Stanley was asked if they were trying to evoke a certain period with the songs they had chosen? In reply he said the day after the 60s; before the 70s knew what the 70s were.
A song like 1980’s ‘Emotional Rescue’ (and Dylan’s ‘Jokerman’  comes to mind also) evokes for me, if I can adapt Stanley’s phrase, the day after the 70s; before The Rolling Stones (or Dylan) knew what the 80s were. However, where Stanley means his positively, I don’t necessarily.
In actual count of time, he was no longer in his first youth. The Spring now enlivening England with its alternate sunshine and blizzards was one of many that had passed over his head, leaving it a becoming iron-grey. But just as the years had failed to deprive him of his slender figure, so had they been impotent to quench his indomitable spirit. Together with a juvenile waistline, he still retained the bright enthusiasms and the fresh, unspoilt outlook of a slightly inebriated undergraduate – though to catch him at his best, as he would have been the first to admit, you had to catch him in London.
So goes the introduction to Uncle Fred in P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred in the Springtime. It’s my first Wodehouse novel I’ve read and I’m beginning to sense that quality (which was mentioned to me) a Wodehouse novel possesses – its ability to pull you up out of despondency; this no doubt connected to, as Stephen Fry writes in praise on the book’s back cover, its ‘sunlit perfection,[…] its warmth and splendour’.
I also wanted to give this particular passage a mention because it kind of touches on a point that came up in a conversation I was having recently: when someone refers to maturity, or perhaps more often levels the charge of immaturity (not that the narrator of Uncle Fred is doing so here), what exactly do they mean? What was this measured in then, when Uncle Fred was on the loose, and now? Responsibilities? Appearance? As a work colleague said to me the other day: “My Dad never wore jeans; if he had I would have been shocked.”
The National – Slow Show
As if sensing The National were to imminently announce a new single and tour I had begun listening to them again rather a lot recently. And now after the release of the single and, through some enterprising work undertaken by my friend Euan, securing a London ticket (this made even more exciting because – for reasons to lengthy to go into now – this will be my first big gig for some years) my listening has continued; playing their 2007 album Boxer quite a few times, off which ‘Slow Show’ is one of my favourite songs.
In any case, what both VanderMeer’s Borne and Roberts’s Bête do is describe a future (far future in one case, near in the other) in which human beings live permanently in an uncanny valley, where the boundaries between the human and the nonhuman are never erased but never quite fixed either, so that anxiety over these matters is woven into the texture of everyday experience. Which sounds exhausting. And if VanderMeer is right, then the management of this anxiety will become focused not on the unanswerable questions of what is or is not human, but rather on a slightly but profoundly different question: What is a person? – things and creatures, conscience and personhood
Alan Jacobs, insightful as usual, on his Text Patterns blog.
Trying to define what swimming means to me is like looking at a shell sitting in a few feet of clear, still water. There it is, in sharp focus, but once I reach for it, breaking the surface, the ripples refract the shell. It becomes five shells, twenty-five shells, some smaller, some larger, and I blindly feel for what I saw perfectly before trying to grasp it – Leanne Shapton
‘Swimming’ is an ancient technique in which the coordinated thrashing of the arms and legs provides propulsion through water. Effectively, the human participant becomes a boat – Alan Partridge
The great depths of the sea began to beat like music […] The music invaded him, commanding his hands, his arms, his pelvis to keep time. Water streamed of his forehead and into his hair. The cold of the ocean became, with its new rhythm, a fierce heat. Never had movement been so exquisite a thing – ‘The Colonel’s Daughter’, Rose Tremain
a significant capture in the lungs,
that elegant trap deep inside.
Reading Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies I began thinking of other writings on swimming I’ve liked: Alan Partridge’s swimming training in Nomad; and the moment in Rose Tremain’s short story where Jim Reese keeps swimming out to sea. The two lines following this are the two closing lines from a poem, ‘Swimming,’, I’ve been writing for a few years, and which I’m beginning to suspect I’ll struggle to finish. Where I want the poem to end up is mixing between that I’ve quoted; where it’s been and is now is another matter.
Mogwai – Take Me Somewhere Nice
I’ve been listening to Rock Action, the album that ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ is on, this week. It’s my favourite Mogwai album. In fact it’s probably the only Mogwai album I have really properly got into. I can even remember where and how much I bought it for: MVC Bromley for £1.
The Nursery are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to fund their new theatre space near Liverpool Street. I’ve been spending a bit of time recently in their current space at London Bridge (which they are retaining), so I thought I’d try to lend a hand by posting about the campaign.
The good news is they have already reached their initial target; the even better news is they’ve extended the campaign (The Nursery Power Up), so if you wish you can still check out what they’re about, contribute and receive one of their perks for doing so.