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What love is

Fig.1. Recently engaged – early summer 1990 – showing off her engagement ring

To mark 20 years we exchanged platinum rings. Here's to the next 20.

To mark 20 years we exchanged platinum rings. Here’s to the next 20.

Fig.2 23 years on from the above in 1990,  20 years on from our marriage in December 1993 – showing off our rings to mark our 20th wedding anniversary

‘Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body.

That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do.

Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

We have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom has fallen from our branches we find that we were one tree and not two.

(Slightly adapted from Louis de Bernieres, 1994, ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’)

Fig. 3.  Just Married – 29th December 1993, Barton-on-the-Heath … and straight onto a pane to go skiing.

The nature of relationships in a connected world

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Fig. 1. A mashup with a screengrab from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’.

This uses an App called Studio from which I may have been expected or to which I am supposed to provide a link. As I screen grab then crop from the App so that I can ‘publish’ the way like now what?

The nature of relationships in a connected world do matter while the difference between face to face and online may be tangential. Whilst I feel I make new acquaintances online, of more interest  is how I have been able to pick up very old friendships  – even reconnecting with a Frenchman with whom I went on an exchange visit in 1978!

I wonder about the 150 connections given as a figure that can be maintained  – this depends very much on the person and their role. Even when I collected people for the joy of it as an undergraduate I doubt I could muster more than 70 I felt I knew something about and could care for, whilst my father in law, a well respected, influential and even loved university tutor has, in his eighties several hundred contacts – former students on whom he had an impact as an educator. So, the person and their role will have more to do with this ‘connectedness’, which comes with a price, My father in law saw/sees himself as an educator who put significantly more time than his contemporaries into the students rather than research.

I’d like therefore to see ‘digital scholarship’ associated with educators not simply for what they publish – collaboratively or otherwise, but by the ‘quality’ and ‘validity’ of the students they mentor, supervise, inspire and motivate – made all the more possible because of the extraordinary tools we now have at our fingertips.

Reference

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar. @4% or Kindle Location 199

Like Anais Nin and Henry Miller

Volume 4 of Anais Nin’s Journal

I’m through volume 4 of Anais Nin’s Journal. I wish I could have begun with her childhood diaries, or at least 1931 in Louciennes, Paris.

I can commune with an ageing lady who evidently attracted much attention from younger followers.

One thing which could soon influence this journal of mine will be an increasingly descriptive stance on the world and the people around me rather than deep and tedious introspection. No longer the book of self-analysis but the book of observations.

As a teenager I was clear in my mind that I was an observer.

I frequently stood back from the world the better to observe it. I would go to parties not only to participate but to tick off another experience and then write about it. (Don’t all teenagers do the same?)

Adulthood brings with it a crusting over of earlier enthusiasms

Adulthood brings with it a crusting over of earlier enthusiasms, unless of course the indulgent world encourages and develops those early desires.

Character sketches. Like drawings.

Can I do them? I must. Can I picture the people with whom I am familiar, let alone newcomers? Dad, for instance, (give me two years and several million words), or Mum, neither of them simple people in analytical terms. Are any of us?

The traumas of his current break up with wife No 3 could turn into a Hardy-esque catastrophe.

If only he wasn’t so public school and conservative. He stamps his foot and thinks P will return to him to cook his meals and do his washing. He sulks and becomes ill to persuade N  to give up things which matter to her so that she will nurse him.

I don’t have the nerve to be as blasé about money as Henry Miller

What in fact I crave is enough money to do more of this, precisely this, whether it makes a bean or not!

A diary is not book keeping with words

Finding Anais Nin and Henry Miller (at last) as allowed me to escape the book keeping approach to my previous diaries. Then the intention was to do little more than catalogue the events of the day, the week, the year (the cycle). Now, hopefully I can do much more. Here I can let vent, discuss, record, consider, practice my observations, try lines, invent words and phrases. Now, reading like a graduate, I can put notes in here (not in the Arch lever files).

As before I will dip in years later and find (or not find) reflections on those years gone by.

[This visit comes over seven years after the entry was written – 9th January 2000]

[Then this visit in August 2010 comes another ten years on]

  • Do I change my mind?
  • Have I learnt owt?

I wish I hadn’t driven over to a second hand book shop in Hay on Wye and sold my collection of Anais Nin diaries and the Henry Miller books I hadn’t graffittied with notes.

Dare I compare myself with the likes of Anais and Henry?

In my teens and early twenties I shared much of Anais’s sexual hunger (I adored the erotica she wrote and knew her for this alone for a decade or more). Today I relish the gutsy frankness of Henry Miller, flavoured by sticky fingers and his insatiable appetite for cunt. He didn’t have to intellectualise about loving a person the way we did.

I don’t enjoy intimate sex for sake of having sex.

There must be a person at the other end. “There’s nothing wrong with it if both people enjoy it,” offered Suzi on one of our very few affair like reprieves in September 1989. She was justifying her repeated infidelity, a trait I worried about in her when I first met her aged 15, cared less about when we starting going out together a year later … until we started to hurt each other another five years on from that.

If I’d known Anais Nin in my youth (20’s)

I would have been her Hugo making money not in the City, but in the cash crazy world of advertising in the 1980’s. Hard when my inclination was to scrap it all and do a Henry Miller . If only my hunger had been to find a personal voice rather than a public (and paid) one.

Though I’m struggling with “Tropic of Capricorn” after the narrative and journalistic rumpus of “Tropic of Cancer” I am still inclined to pick out a few truths. I am still keen to hear someone else’s voice justifying and provoking my difference:

“At this a faint smile paned over his face. He thought it extraordinary that I should remember such things. He was already married, a father, and working in a factory making fancy pipe canes. He considered it extraordinary to remember events that happened so far back in the past.”

And so Henry Miller goes on to indulge his memory on a rock fight that killed a boy when they were only 8 years.

Like Henry Miller I relish dredging up, reliving and reviving childhood events. (And Nabakov, some to think of it). Courtesy of a diary I started age 13 it is too easy for me to relive many moments, from many days, many, many years ago. An adequate entry, as no one got to see the contents of these diaries until 2000, was enough to bring the moment alive, to trigger the memory, to tag that moment, wherever it might have been. As an exercise I went back to my earliest memories, scrambling around the recesses of my mind to put down events from when I was four, five and six … first day at school, first day at boarding prep-school, my parents splitting up … the three day week.

I love to dissect the pain and pleasure of past relationships too, especially the passion and punches of yours truly and ‘Suzi Bean’.

Milan Kundera: The unbearable lightness of being

Restless night, Dream about writing and about the books I am reading. Up around 4.30 a.m. Online to Blog. I feel I need to get some ideas down, to ‘externalise’ once again this conversation I have with myself.

Red Nose Day

Reading ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being.’

I came to this book, via the film, via my Tereza (Juliette Binoche) and my Sabina (Lena Olin), my vulnerable teenager lover who became mistress to another … and to me. She was my girlfriend and my childhood sweetheart.

‘Any schoolboy can do physics experiments in the laboratory to test various scientific hypotheses. But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.’ Milan Kundera.

Is life a ‘botched long-distance race?

It’s become that for me. I once detested wasting five minutes in a day and had counted the minutes. I now waist five days, five weeks, even five weeks. I’ve kept little record of what I’ve done for the last year. Just as I can’t keep a journal if I am ill, so I find I have no desire to ‘converse’ with myself like this if I am deeply depressed. Being unwilling to keep my journal is both a symptom and a cause of the depression. The less I ‘post,’ the more days I miss, the more depressed I become, the more disabled I feel.

‘Express the value of your body in terms of the modesty you accord it.’

‘If love is to be unforgettable fortuitous must immediately flutter down to it like birds to Francis of Assisi’s shoulders.’

There are moments of poetry like this, tucked into the narrative.

On the one hand Milan Kundera is a philosopher, attempting to offer an objective appraisal of human relationships, whilst on the other he twists in this strands of subjectivity. We live our lives like this, struggling to comprehend our actions and our emotions.

What makes us who we are?

‘The crew of her soul rushed up to the deck of her body.’

This is when Tereza fell in love with Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis).

I love lines like this, the way it is expressed, my sympathy for the emotion; my recollection of times likes this. When you hope that you love will be reciprocated, after a gamble, you don’t know whether you will be accepted or rejected. I was on tenterhooks for weeks with Wanda, which explains the depth of our love – I hope. There was no quick fix fuck, no one-night stand; no will this lust turn into love.

‘When you sit face to face with someone who is pleasant, respectful, and polite, you have a hard time reminding yourself that nothing he says is true, that nothing is sincere. Maintaining non-belief (constantly, systematically, without the slightest vacillation) requires a tremendous effort and the proper training – in other words, frequent police interrogations.’ On Tomas versus the Czech communists.

‘Love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into poetic memory.’

There is an emotional value to the way feelings are expressed and recorded.

‘Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third or fourth life in which to compare various decisions.’

It is a film premise – getting life over, having a second or third chance.

We are stuck with the choices we make, the decisions we make, the rash or the brave, the impulsive or well considered, the emotional or objective. Sometimes the best decision to take is no decision at all.

The pain of writing and how pain feeds the writing too

The pain of writing

‘Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what, making a scene come right, making a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy, at any rate it is a constant idea of mine, that behind the cotton wool of daily existence is hidden a pattern, that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this, that the whole worlds is a work of art, that we are parts of the work of art … we are the words, we are the music, we are the thing itself.’

Virginia Woolf ‘A Sketch of the Past’

Last Saturday I had an outpatient appointment at Eastbourne Hospital for an endoscopy.

For three days, I suffered from the most dreadful stomach pains and diarrhoea; it felt like I had a rat inside my stomach eating its way out. I slept a great deal, drank masses of water, tried hard not to vomit (I have a tendency not to stop) and read a couple of books cover to cover.

Lizzie Siddal ‘The tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel’ by Lucinda Hawksley

A gripping novel, it will be made into a film: I wish I could, a decade ago I would have given such a thought a go. I would have contacted the publisher, probably found an agent in America was already selling the rights or that it is being made into a film in New Zealand as I write.

I was passionate about the Pre-Raphaelites in my teens and twenties.

I was a budding artist, my mother had taught me how to draw from life from the age of four. Her tutor at Durham University had been Quentin Bell, child of the Bloomsbury Group and Charlton House. I liked doing portraits the most, of girls in particular. I fancied having my own Jane Morris and copied some drawings down of her by Millais. I wanted my own muse, my own ‘stunner’ and found her in the form of FF. Art as a career fell by the wayside, though I have directed often enough to have the pleasure of running auditions. If I can no longer have my muse, then I will write a contemporary story of an artist or director who becomes obsessed with someone he first sees on the Internet. You can’t just ask them out for dinner, or buy them coffee across the road. They are likely to live hundreds of miles away and may well speak only rudimentary English.

’Fathers and Sons. The Autobiography of a Family’ by Alexander Waugh

A birthday present from my mother who knows that two years after his death I’m still having problems controlling my feelings in relation to my late father and his fourth wife, my third stepmother and the shenanigans over his belongings. ‘So, plenty of father’s turn out to be xxx’ was how I put it to Mum. She’s given up defending her former husband and the father of her four children. I’ve not been in the mood for liking him at all for over 18 months. I caught something on T.V. about Peter Sellers the other day, how he walked in on his family one Saturday afternoon and declared to his wife and two children, then aged 6 and 8, then he wasn’t going to live with them any more. His sparky little daughter asked, ‘do you not love us any more, Daddy?’ to which Peter Sellers replied, ‘I still love you, I just love my Sophia (Loren) more.’ My father did much the same thing; he implied that he was leaving because he couldn’t stand us, although the real reason was his inability to remain faithful. My father, fed up with his children, age 6,8,10 and 12 badgering him over whether they’d see him at Christmas declared that as far as he was concerned Christmas was like any other day. We never saw him at Christmas again, though a bag of gifts in a Hamley’s bag, often unwrapped, would be delivered a few days before Christmas. If we forget to get him something for Christmas or his birthday, he’d complain. We never complained when birthday cards arrived “pp’d’ by his secretary though. Parents, who’d have them? There something we have no choice over. If we could choose them the way we choose our partners, we’d do a better a job of it.

Therefore, I’m smarting.

I’m writing several thousand words a day. Being in bed at home has broken the cycle of getting kids up, dressed, fed, lunch boxes made, into Lewes, into school, find somewhere to park, go to my office. Fall asleep, have a coffee, do some writing. Now I sit up, boot up, pick up whatever I was doing the day before or an hour before, and press on. I have several threads busily jangling, different chapters of this ‘thing.’

All this and I’ve got back into the habit not only of writing these entries, but of transcribing a few entries each day from diaries that take me back nearly twenty years, to the dark days of a tedious break-up with my ‘girlfriend 18-24’ who having been ‘mine’ for nearly five years was now someone else’s. She was on the verge of moving abroad permanently, on return trips in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989 we had brief reunions.

I look back on this now and wish she’d dropped me hard, as I had done with a couple of girlfriends. Anything else is slow death and it stops you moving on. Throughout this period, though I had six or seven great girlfriends I dropped two and let a couple stumble as brief encounters because ‘she of my teenage years’ reappeared on the scene. I’m enjoying the pain of recalling my feelings and applying it to various stories, the hurt, the jealousy, the difficult decisions, the deceit, the hopes, the dark days and bright days and the complete, tedious, life sapping ghastliness of it that left me in tears so often while trying to face other personal calamities in relation to my career and living in London that I needed to share with her. We had promised each other to be in touch when either one of us decided to get married; this I duly did. ‘What about me?’ she asked at which point I realised forever entangled, like a first marriage that had ended in divorce. The greater the distance between us then the better.

Next, up on my reading list:

  • Labels by Evelyn Waugh (travel writing)
  • Will this do? By Auberon Waugh (autobiography)
  • No Abiding City by Evelyn Waugh (autobiography)
  • Virginia Wolf by James King (biography)
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