#Brexit – an exorcism.

Ok. So it’s unwise to go there but it feels the best way. The best way to exorcise something – maybe everything. Don’t go looking for either a work of art or anything too comprehensive, here; too angry, too bitterly clear, too close to giving up.

Think I’ll bullet-point this, partly because many of you ferkers simply don’t deserve Fully Laid-out Arguments… and partly because I dread loading up more time into this sinkhole. Plus, to be honest, I don’t know the answers; the intricacies around Trading Agreements and Common Market doo-dahs being pret-ty far out of my sphere of knowledge and interest.

This is of course the chief reason Us Plebs should never in a million years been asked to vote on EU membership – the whole sorry business being a sop to the morons on the right of Cameron’s party. We have little specific knowledge but lorryloads of juicy prejudice relating to ‘Europe’. Johnson, Farage and their crypto-fascist colleagues have simply stoked all that unbecoming ‘othering’.

So we should never have been here. But we are. And amateurs like me – knowing little of the minutiae, churning with the whole cowabunga – are battling our best to make what feel like possibly moral and certainly philosophical calls, as we try to STAY TRUE to our UNDERSTANDINGS.

(So why? Because we still believe there is decency and brotherhood).

This, then, is where I’m driven to.

    • Can’t believe ANYONE could vote for or support the embarrassing clown that is Johnson, or his arse-wipe of a sidekick, Rees-Mogg.
    • How is it possible to support men who reek so utterly of privilege, arrogance, indulgence? How is it possible to avoid seeing their palpable, greedy ‘superiority?’ How could your flesh not creep when BOTH, recently, signalled ver-ry loudly that BEING RACIST IS ACTUALLY OKAY?
    • I get that most who support them do that out of like-minded xenophobia or outright racism… so I suppose that’s it.
    • Either that or you too actually believe in the Etonian Right to Rule; that there’s nothing unduly concerning about ONE SCHOOL providing the four countries in the union with god-knows-how-many Prime Ministers.
    • Here’s the nub. If you are a tory and in the Brexit Camp then the overwhelming odds are that you are either an outright racist, or what we might call a casual-cultural xenophobe.
    • (I salute those of you who are finally realising just how poisonous 2019 Conservatism has become and now scamper away in disgust, or better still whilst puffing out your chests and calling out the utter nastiness of it. Scary fact: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is presiding over something sinister and repugnant).
    • Percentage-wise, of those who voted for Brexit and now support Boris, I reckon *60% are outright racist and about 30-odd % xenophobes. The latter maybe have six more brain-cells than the former, per head, enabling them to actually avoid saying in public the stuff their dumb hearts are screaming inside.
    • I leave about *10% as folks who could make an intelligent argument for Brexit, devoid of any bigotry. (Okay. Re-thinking that I may revise that figure in the population upwards somewhat, to include those on the Left who can make a genuine, intellectual case for Brexit: despite the fact that we haven’t heard it, I do accept that this can be made. The EU is essentially imperialist and as witnessed in Greece, for example, arguably brutally so: I recognise that as a legitimate argument. The right has an almost total absence of legitimate arguments).
    • So we are divided and there may be no way back from that. Brexit is absolutely a function of bigotry. People on my side know what people on the other side are generally like. People on the other side hate us, for our snowflake-ism and our superiority – for surely if you are bigoted and we are not, then we are superior in that respect?
    • I can live with people hating my inability to discriminate – or discriminate waaaaay less crassly than they do. (All of us carry baggage and therefore all fall from the path of righteousness at some point, eh?) But all this is clear: the Brexit Project was and is founded on racism.
    • So it is RIGHT, for me that Parliament, is fighting against no deal. It is RIGHT that 20-plus tories have opposed that rush to the ‘cliff-edge’. And, importantly, it is implicit, in their revulsion towards Johnson and his cronies and his fawning admirers, that the moral component in this – however exposed it may leave us snowflakes – is a part of the argument.
    • Is there hope – you do wonder if we deserve any?
    • There is no hope for reconciliation, or virtually none. You Daily Mailers and me are probably not gonna be pals. I’ll talk to you and be civil enough when necessary but…
    • Fortunately, I do know some tories I genuinely like. I apologise to them for this contribution to our divisions and hope they respect my right to An Opinion. (Just need to get this out there and done. We will again take beers together).
    • There will be an election. I just don’t know how that will go, because The Clowns of the Right may club together; Farage may march his seedy mob right into centre-stage.
    • I respect Corbyn’s radicalism-against-the-odds but recognise that the cruel demonisation of the man (and his vacuum of leadership through the Brexit trauma) means he may not steer us through this. Specifically, he is unlikely to win out in a General Election.
    • Does this leave us with a new figurehead, a tactical voting imperative, or a possible Progressive Alliance, or similar? (Clearly talks have been taking place on this theme). As I said; I’m not sure we deserve any hope.

*My numbers don’t matter – and yes I know they’re inflammatory. But I’m leaving them in as food for thought. I really think that racism is that central.

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In which I *make judgements*…

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States is many things – feels like many things. Firstly it’s a disaster, in philosophical/symbolic/moral terms as well as with regard to what passes for American Policy, both within and outside the country.

There, that’s my colours nailed; my duff liberalism exposed.  Maybe you know the rest, in the way I know I’m right – we’re right – to make our case against.  Maybe it’s not wise to rub my certainties up against yours or his, or hers?  But given I’m too shocked and angry to waste energy on fencing around, here – with no apologies – is my case against.

The Trump campaign was a shameless appeal to the dumb machismo at the core of America (and, frighteningly, possibly everywhere else) which made it okay to holler prejudice as opposed to make arguments about policy.  Racism and misogyny in particular have been validated – made sound, acceptable and poison-free – through both a shockingly calculated Republican narrative and via Trump’s refreshingly non-groomed mouthings-off.  *Coughs, strikingly*.

They won by glorifying in the stupidity and prejudice of a whole lot of people; not (please note) just the allegedly dumb and downtrodden working or non-working classes, who a) blame immigrants for everything b) hate politicians.  In the same way that Farage in the UK tapped into something despite being a patently inadequate human, Trump – surely part dangerous clown, part ardent lap-dancing club regular? – won out by smearing innuendo and worse across anything that felt like an issue.  In doing so, he lurched all of us, everywhere further away from civilisation.

Yes, civilisation.  A word I think we should maybe look to claim back from pro-Western morons and well-meaning anthropologists alike.

(We know that the idea of that c-word has been hi-jacked and traduced too often but maybe we need it as a weapon against the tyranny of cynicism and xenophobia; and maybe if we can find a way to use it in the absolutely non-geographically or culturally specific sense then we can get past the problem?  Because we need to defend ideals and it should be possible to describe aspirations which are plainly good and true and common whatever your – or their, origins, yes?)  But we digress; let’s get to the bulletpoint; Trump is not a good man.

We don’t even need to have clarity on the various charges against him: Trump is not a good man because he doesn’t so much court trashy-but-serious enmities as wallow in them.  Everything is about the other – who can’t be trusted or tolerated.  This and the idea that government is necessarily bad.

We can point to ‘difficult times’ as a factor in this evil.  Economies stretched, jobs threatened.  Perfectly natural for people to be protectionist, right?  Wrong.  It is wrong to be hostile, or ungenerous – not natural.  We are no longer tribal beasts.  For all the evidence to the contrary it is incumbent upon us to be better than that, to oppose (in this case) the pornography that is Trumpdom and elsewhere the pornography that is religious zealotry or fanaticism.

Sure the Democrats might have picked a less divisive candidate and certainly one less steeped in the baggage of the Political Class.  Hilary Clinton – brilliant and committed though she may be – was arguably a softish target for those disaffected and disconnected by that link between money and family, politics and power.  Who knows where a more ordinary candidate might have gotten to?

This whole question infers a kind of intelligence and appreciation from the Great American Public that simply may not be there.  The Yanks have voted by instinct, with their guts.  There’s been a vacuum where the political debate might have been.  Hilary was beaten partly, no doubt, by personal dislike and sexism against her but mainly by rottenness – fear and loathing for The Other.  A different Democrat may have been subsumed beneath the same, amoral shitstorm.

So do we capitulate to this?  Do we mither about the role of Social Media in the criminal dumbness of things but then accept that t’internet, rather than facilitating an explosion in knowledge, has merely handed things on a plate to those who can bawl or troll loudest?  Do we wonder how the hell this election can happen when kids are taught about good citizenship and World Wars and what adherents to the great religions of the world actually study?  Do we, at any level, accept that sexism, racism and homophobia are acceptable – never mind legitimate levers towards the destiny of civilised nations?  NO WE DON’T.

We need to think a bit, for sure, longer-term about how people can be so uneducated that Trumpdom’s choices become attractive… when they are repulsive.  We need to be smarter and more engaged at a political level – here I mean everything from discussing things with friends and family to making minor stands or major stands on local or national issues.  In short, those of us who fall under the banner of humanist(?) progressives(?) need to stand up – be counted.

Donald Trump is indecent and malicious and creepy.  He is President.  His list of campaign promises (some of which I accept are likely to melt away in the reality of responsibility) reads like some weird fascist agenda.  Really.  (He will build a wall; he will kick foreigners out; he will make the nation great again.)   This is beyond divisive, beyond inflammatory.  This is beyond the pale.

If the presence of the North Atlantic Ocean comforts us Brits, or anything about this extraordinary and concerning American Dream makes us Brits feel in any way superior then we better look out.  There’s nowhere to hide from this.  The Global Village is real – even when played out in cyberspace.

Not only do we rely on the U.S. to patrol the planet militarily, but on philosophical/symbolic/cultural matters, we have shared arteries.  We have our own politics but they are mediated around western possibilities.

Traditionally, this has meant relative freedom, relative tolerance.  America has raced ahead in the negative re-calibration of all that; meaning it’s just a little easier, a little more do-able, for some noisy or dangerously insular or aggressive or nationalistic hoodlum (or billionaire) to jump up on a tank or a pedestal and shoot his mouth off… and get hollers of support.

He might do this and claim to be fighting back against the Political Class – for you, the Forgotten Ones.  He probably will tell you he’s out to save your job, keep those others off/out/away.  He might look like a bloke you could share a pint with. Just be careful.

Our representatives.

27th Jan 2014
To our representatives at Pembrokeshire County Council,

Here’s a letter, written last night and brought on, as it were, by the public meeting held at St David’s City Hall. There, 200 people were united against what they feel to be your obvious disingenuousness re- the process towards change in Pembrokeshire schools. (For disingenuousness read illegality, in fact. The allegation will be made that your agents – as well as being involved in a wider sham – gave explicit assurances that have now been… how shall we say? Contradicted.) Which is why my letter had a furious, arguably unhelpful tone. I leave it untouched, however, on the grounds that you – our representatives – need to know how we feel about you.

This morning I know I should be calmer, less confrontational. I should be thinking that another angry letter will change nothing, will only make you bridle and ‘dig in’ to your already embattled positions. Let’s face it, you must by now be used to public humiliation. Why would you even listen to me, to us?
I have two answers to that question.
1. Because you are our representatives
2. Because we believe you have broken the law and we will root out every error and misrepresentation from Pembs County Council in this whole, tawdry affair.

Oops. That sounded a tad hostile again. Let me re-phrase.
We, the folks of the peninsula, the St David’s posse, believe significant irregularities are present in the handling of the schools issue. We believe it is criminally wrong to close Ysgol Dewi Sant. We mistrust the entire ‘consultation process’. We demand that the Council throws out the proposal to close several schools and fail to re-open Ysgol Dewi Sant in another form, on the same site. We are exploring all avenues to fight this.

Here’s my letter of last evening-

To our representatives on Pembrokeshire County Council,

Wow. You’ve excelled yourself, people. Known throughout the land for setting the bar hilariously low on matters of ethics and professionalism and integrity, you guys have engineered a tour-de-force to top the previous lamentable efforts. I refer of course to the monument to Kafkaesque lunacy that is your move towards closing umpteen schools, including the finest one in the county – Ysgol Dewi Sant. It’s an extraordinary – I say it again, even for you! – achievement.

It began of course with the spectacular all-new and hugely trumpeted ‘consultation process’ – the one where you would set new standards in inclusivity, practically cuddling all those of us who troubled to go to the public meetings arranged for ‘our voices to be heard’. They were slick, they were well choreographed and they were, as we now know, utterly irrelevant. Because erm… remarkably the upshot has been your wise men (and a particularly active wise woman, we suspect) plumping for an option that she has practised before, elsewhere. Put simply, the public have been betrayed; again.

Let me make just a little of the case for those who will now fight the Ysgol Dewi Sant corner – and my family include ourselves amongst that number. We attended a public meeting in which

a) a huge wedge of valuable time was spent through the sagacious representatives of the Education Dept and Council reminding us that this was the most comprehensive consultation process the universe had ever witnessed… and

b) the public were promised that in the event of any school closing pupils could only be transferred to a ‘better school’.
It was also said – indeed the very notion was scoffed at – that the best school in Pembrokeshire simply could not (therefore) be closed. And now look.

To be clear, I /we are saying that not only do we feel that the selective use of particular chunks of information helpful to their agenda meant the Council has made a mistake, we are clear that diabolical porkies have been told, in a public place. And there will – as there should be – serious consequences arising from this.

Minutes taken by locals who sadly through experience cannot trust the council, confirm the truth of things… and these will be part of the case against PCC.

I could go on but believe me I/we are not in the business of revealing the full inviolable force of our many arguments against you. Much powder will be kept dry as the wit and the integrity and the diverse talents amongst the St Davids community gathers itself. You, our representatives have been warned. You will never be able to regain either the trust or respect of this community; never. But you can do the right thing, this once, and consign the proposal to close Ysgol Dewi Sant to the bin.

Yours,

a YDS parent.

Under Milk Wood. Inna BBC Wales stylee.

To begin at the beginning. Michael Sheen is quietly electrifying, like the night itself. Tom Jones twinkles and twitches amiably, like some sea-faring, rabbit-nosed cat king. Jonathan Pryce poisons the missus (and vice-versa,) only she lacks the manual. And Charlotte Church’s sheets are surely as virtuous and polar a white as it says, there, there in those voiced words; in the silken, cobblestone rap of it.

Sorry. Fa-ar too tempting to slip into sub-Llareggubian; the language of herons and otters and shouting dogs and oh, people – the living and the dead. In the lush, daft, dusky, gloriously humdrum thrall of that beautiful, rippling world, who wouldn’t? When the warmest and bestest of Welsh Wales are up there, winking at us – who wouldn’t be seduced?

I am. Whilst knowing enough of this dumpy oddball Thomas to intellectually challenge that ludicrous pomp, that selfishness, that (arguably?) misogynist micro-creed of his. Whilst being the bloke who (o-kaay, metaphorically) pours a pint over him, for his braying, his idleness, his middle-classness.

Despite the despites I confess that for me Dylan still breaks right out and runs off giggling, wheezing, to hide in some upturned boat. Incorrigible bastard that he is, he’s probably still there, swigging something gross but writing something else that’s utterly life-affirming; for which we must forgive him. Something beautiful, fearless and inviolably good because – whatever the inadequacies of the man – it’s flooded with supreme and undeniable warmth.

This BBC Wales/National Theatre Wales version of Under Milk Wood is seductively good not because it is flawless or universally beautifully performed (though in its predominantly purple passages it does have that quality) but because it simply gets Thomas. And Laugharne and all that defying of the banal – and the humour of his language and the web-footed lives of the protagonists. It gets all of that beautifully.

Here though, a necessary note. I say protagonists rather than characters aware of the difficulty some have with the writer’s neglect for building or ‘developing’ ‘character’. But I’m with Thomas, refreshed, in fact by his inspired cartoons in this and nearly every instance.

Relax. I don’t make an argument for suspension of normal critical faculties so much as a plea to listen and to allow the poetry of the thing (remember that?) to do its work. The contemporary, over-thunk, painfully work-shopped calibration of meaningful events-in-the-life-of thing is just one end of the spectrum, no? (One that often feels deadly to me, if I’m honest.) I for one make no apology for sharing the instinct and predilection for unreasonable colour; defying the banal. The essence of this Dylan Thomas stuff is love of life.

The current BBC Wales production is brilliantly as well as lavishly cast, bringing together a fabulous and familiar but authentic posse of Welsh talent. Most clearly revel in it – and again, who wouldn’t? Apart from the above-named stars the likes of Katherine Jenkins and Bryn Terfel are called upon, in both cases to sing as well as act – briefly. Casting the former, in the role of Polly Garter, was deliciously sharp. You may find yourself caught between laughing or letching but I predict you will generally be caught, somewhere in the gambol.

The notes (on BBCiplayer – go within the next three days!) describe, somewhat pretentiously, a ‘community’ of Welsh performers. This sounds counter to both the notion and actuality of a production linking/sharing points and people ‘twixt L.A. and Laugharne itself. (Laptops are as key to this as erm… lapwings). We, the audience, are bounced between places which are essentially locations only for the words; a bedroom; a car; a room with a view over Llareggub. Meaning the actors faces and those words (only) carry us. But there is something shared here, and yes, I’m thinking something of the communal about the evident, joyful, raising of the actor’s game. We are wrapped within it, as are they.

Hard and probably wrong to single out moments or performances. (Go see, you fools!) However, Sheen’s opening monologue is magnificently compelling. It’s authoritative and true – big-league in a good way like Gareth Bale back from Real for an exhibition match at The Liberty (say). Playing absurdly stunningly but with humility.

I may be wrong but I like to think that Sheen bought in to the idea of this as a both a national event and a privilege – and one in which he led. He would know that the myths and loves around Dylan Thomas and Wales are so inseparable in their big-hearted, boozy expressivity that there is a feeling of something essential here, beyond any literary or poetic quality the work may have.

The production itself is smart enough to offer a glimpse or two of actors watching other actors. So as Sheen begins the capture, we see or sense there is delight and maybe a touch of awe in the excitement of the watching troupe. It’s – in this case – a delightful device. Inspiring, I imagine, for the supporting cast.

But please do watch. Watch and mainly listen. If unfamiliar don’t go in there thinking there’s any real action. It’s just words. I would argue it’s freeing and even revelatory for those who read or write at all – and I do mean at all – but waddoo I know? I’m the sort of bloke who smiles when folk (well, the dead) ask

Is there bosoms and robins?
Fightin’ an’ onions?

Or when the town gossip screeches
Who’s Dead? Who’s dyin’?
There’s a lovely day – aaaw the cost of soap flakes!

But waddoo I know?

I know there’s something powerful caught here, in Under Milk Wood; still.

I’ve watched this production three times and tried to calm down and say something sensible and articulate and mature. But I am undone by smiles. The thing is a triumph and a joy. It’s there to be felt and heard. Thomas feels hilariously, possibly weirdly relevant to a Wales that is as sassy and starlit – or as dumb and dusky – as the next place. 100 years on from his birth, Laugharne(I know) is still beautiful and sleepy and murderously awash with gossip and treachery and love that divides as well as binds. Like everywhere.

So how is it unique? Simple answer… because of the voices. Voices that this poet, Dylan Thomas, from a writing shed overlooking the Taf, really heard, really felt.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/p01x5k4n/ – do watch!!

The Case for Sport – 2.

I have personal experience of the brilliance of sport. By that I mean I’ve both felt and witnessed (and I’ll have you know occasionally been the origin of) daft-but-magic moments arising from running round the place/chucking or hoofing things, very often in the midst of some grinning or, okay, gurning pack of mates.

Now, what you will have to forgive me for calling my life’s work is absolutely centred on all this fizz. I really am privileged to be right in it, this lurv/sport/runrunrun-like-crazy vortex, where (for example!) the most perfect and comradely sharing often spins. So I know the invincibly good and penetrating and healthy and edgy stuff that grows here. (I’m aware too, in passing that bringing the L-word into this is ill-advised at best but do not withdraw it; I’m happy to postulate some dumb theory whereby love of people and of adrenalin becomes intrinsic to a trillion transformations.)

I also know that some are suspicious of (what they think is) sport’s adversarial nature. Some children being exposed or even damaged through failure before their peers – this does happen, this is important – but the failure is of coaching. Good coaches encourage a way through and skilfully re-calibrate what’s offered – how big the challenge might be. They make it appropriate and they lift the child through any difficulty. They splash in extra praise and make the thing (which may have changed) achievable; the ‘non-athlete’ joins the game and things bundle forward, before anybody clocks or judges the ‘fact’ that Johnny or Jess was momentarily lost.

This isn’t idealist nonsense. This is good coaching in Primary Education. Coaches facilitating the expression of talent – young, low or high, clunky or beautifully co-ordinated – coherent. Developing people as well as skills.

Every day I see this and I see children warming to allegedly less able mates as they clatter a ball off a tee; the former clapping and bouncing or high-fiving with proper joy and the latter arms raised in seminal triumph. No matter that the grooved majority can beast a bouncing ball around the park, the elation around Johnny clumping that helpfully immobile sphere with electrifying conviction is, in my experience, generally heart-warmingly shared. Indeed I am positive by nature partly because I see children sharing in somebody else’s triumph every working day. If that pleasure leaches through all manner of things in my life… how great must it feel for the suddenly emerging starlet?

I recently underwent further training on what are known as multiskills and wider skills to enrich and improve the link between my cricket coaching and the broader Junior Curriculum. Interestingly, one of the reasons for this training was because (allegedly) there is a perception amongst Secondary School sports teachers that new intakes of children have relatively poor sports/co-ordination skills. This may or may not be an accurate reflection of how things are – hard to know how meaningful such a general view might be? Hard to know if this is what Secondary School sportsfolks are always likely to say? – but if there is any truth in this notion, it ain’t good… and it ain’t surprising.

I have my own view on both a practical and philosophical level re- the state of sports provision in Primary Schools and maybe sometime I’ll share that. What I want to do here is reiterate my case for how MASSIVE it could be – how elevating, how life-changing.

Children learn to support/learn/calculate/share/plan as well as move, smile and co-ordinate in my sessions – and in thousands of other games lessons every week. We coaches are not solely in the business of cultivating champions or tweaking technical skills, though we hope, of course, for those things too. I am personally motivated at least as much by the aspiration to draw some tiny but also wonderful moment from a child who likely never ‘achieves’ at all in ‘class’ as to get some gifted child to smash the ball mega-miles.

I have a very clear picture in my mind right now of a wee fellah aged eight – sporting the worst home-shorn Mohican I have ever seen – so deep into listening and following a chasing and catching game and so bursting with the effort of breaking through into success that the phrase I occasionally fall back on – outliving himself – springs to mind. He’d simply gone somewhere new and ecstatic, like he’d shed a skin or thrown off some burden. He was living somebody else’s better life, blazing around a playground utterly into the game. Joined, essential to it, loving it, feeling every bit as brilliant as those good guys – the ones who always have their hands up in class.

I see these revelations almost daily and I cherish them. They make me ever more certain that the essence of what I do contains a valuable strategic purpose – to enthuse children towards new cricket teams – on the back of a truly healthy, civilised, populist impulse. What could be more generous or supportive or right than sharing some fun, building some confidence(s) and enabling better, fuller learning? Good sport coaching does all that… which is why I write to defend it… and extoll its virtues.

Okay here comes the deep breath/get real bit, where again, incidentally, despite monumental temptation I hold back from lambasting the suffocating reactionaries that may or may not be responsible for policy on this stuff… because the time will come, right?

I concede nothing is easy and sport is no panacea. And there are choices to be made on what money is spent where.
I do however maintain that substantial and intelligent use of games not only makes sense but is transformative in a way that may be hard to find elsewhere. If children’s ability to listen is central to much of school life – can’t or won’t listen? Fail – then dynamic games, challenging games can (and do) cultivate listening, whilst improving behaviour/attention span/problem solving.

Sport done well is a gift to many who may need to express unseen talents or (know what?) just run and smile a bit. Throw in the undoubted ‘social skills’ – sharing/toleration/patience/camaraderie and you’re getting pretty good value for your money. Maybe that’s something the Honourable Secretary of State might instinctively respond to?

Your own… personal… Mu-nich.

The Munich Trove. What a great story. The spiriting away of proper high-end modern art – Chagall/Picasso/Dix etc etc – by sleeping cohorts of either greedily ambivalent or conflictingly discerning Nazis, bearing canvases through dark tunnels in hay-carts or on dark, dark trains. Or by packing them on reluctant mules for clandestine hikes over the Schwarzwald. Or somewhere – somewhere misty. This is surely so-o fabulous we may have to wheel out the You Couldn’t Dream It Up subheading. More fun though, methinks, to dream up our own, life-changing stash…

Except maybe not a stash; not something the buggers could legitimately take back. No – NO – a gift, a spectacular, real, fuck right off GIFT that The Authorities could gawp at all they liked but never take away. So you can choose to openly display it – put one in the conservatory dwarling, put one right there in the front fucking window!! Wherever you want. And there’s no denying it’s yours. Phew. Woddablast that would be. In my head now it’s already sorted.

So yeh My Inheritance of absurdly wonderful art-stuff happens thissaway – in a whirl. I’m in Venice… and there’s a mighty storm… and everything must surely be lost ’til I swallow up the sea and spit it back out, harmlessly into er… The Dalmatians. And the Richest Man Ever Ever –who has been watching from an unsinkable mega-schooner thing, whilst supping fine Prosecco – sees, and promptly magics up, without my knowledge, the following. For me. To keep.

(If that was all a bit urgent it’s because I just want to get to the bit where I think about which paintings really quick, okay?) Because, yeh, it feels like I kindof get to choose… or does the Rich Bloke like … read my mind?

Hmm. Not clear on that. But whatever, suddenly, they’re all there! On the carpet. With the dog still sleeping under-neath! WOW!! Or should that be POW!!?!!

You Couldn’t Dream It Up But…

The first thing I see is yeh – the biggest. Back there, behind the dog, the parcels and everything. Parked against the wall but taking up half the goddam room. A ginormous box-like rectangle, like a fish-tank only I don’t know yet what’s in it because it’s wrapped in stuff. If I unwrap it now… OMG!! Shark!!

Settle down and think.  And try to be articulate.

Never known how much I like this but ‘The Impossibility of Death or Whatever Thingy’ – Damien Hirst. Bloody great shark in the living room. And what’s the label saying? Oh yeh. Maybe the title is massive on this one. ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. How brooding and primeval and slow (actually) and bewitching and swallowing and challenging is that? Great work, RB and thanks for the early monster red-herring curve-ball. It’s awesome. I know that’s a totally naff and inadequate word for it but close up, that is awesome. And yeh – a surprise.

Whoa. Okay so clambering into this pile here now and… it’s hilarious this. Propped against each other. Just plonked down, pretty much.

Oh, okay – this is great. This is great. This I’ve always loved or been drawn to; David Bomberg – The Mud Bath. Always just thought it’s remarkable and somehow has so many levels, only about half of which I’m getting. But it really pays to look. Nationalism and chaos and blood/mud, I imagine… but there’s something both kinetically charged and sophisticated going on here. It’s a radical British treasure; absolutely e-ssen-tial. Nice one – great start.  Chuffed with that.

Just realised we’re effectively into a Desert Island Discs thing here. How groovy is that? 20-odd artefacts here though, by the look. And they’re all ‘modern’, I think. So it is my Munich.

I’m just going to pull them out and see what’s here. Almost brutally. Line them up or separate them. Jesus. Be careful enough Vinnybach.

Okay, this is really interesting because RB has obviously caught hold of something here; my sense of what’s bloody magnificent or powerful or attractive, rubbing up against conflicting (used that word already I know but it’s right, again) emotions around the artist. Lucian Freud. Part of me thinks genius, part of me thinks brute. The flesh and the eyes; painted or flippin’ ravaged? Incredibly sexual workings-over of the subjects – the people. Unbelievable – no! Corporeal/supra-believable. Hugely, intimidatingly present bodies… and those eyes.

Brilliantly, this one’s a subtler variation. Girl in bed, 1952. But it’s still all eyes. Beautiful. Welling. Meaning (I’m guessing) this man can’t have been a complete brute; there’s just too much poignancy here. What’s next?

Okay. So we’ve gone back a bit. Vlaminck. And I saw a painting of his in Helsinki, I think… but was it this one? No. But it was… it made me think, it made me re-appreciate Vlaminck, position him way higher. This isn’t it. This is ‘Under the Bridge at Bezons’, 1906 and it’s strong again – from that heavy-daubed fauve scene. Colourful ,obviously. Strongish whiff of Van Gogh maybe. Wouldn’t immediately have chosen that. Maybe that’s the point? Move on.

Now this is fantastic. Inspired work by the RB Geezer. A Rothko, but one of the earlyish ones, before he really got going on the Universal wotnots – the ‘mausoleums’ and all that. (Which I love.) Untitled (Subway) c. 1937. Saw this on ‘Power of Art’ – the Simon Schama thing – which I also loved. Weirdly seductive crazee-mirror people on a platform which is also a trance… deeply fascinating. And so, so hinting at the godlike free-form genius to come; a revelation because of the contrast with Seagram murals and all that. A much littler story but a wonderful one. 

And now immediately a BI-IG Print. Of a Richard Deacon sculpture/installation. Whorls of bentwood. Okay… and this would really be about the object’s presence in the room, in the space. But I’ve got it in the two dimensions. Interesting. ‘What Could Make Me Feel This Way 2’. Airy and modern and kindof unstill in a way I’m still trying to get to grips with. Wouldn’t fit so in cibachrome.  Top choice again – think something about the beauty of diversity and open-mindedness is being suggested here. Fabulous.

How many things do they get on Desert Island Discs? Is it eight? And two luxuries? Well I’ve got more than that here but for my next gift (or choice) I have… something again I recognise but which is reduced (as it were) from installation to print form. Judy Chicago’s ‘Dinner Party’. Epic and genuinely significant feminist statement from the seventies – still major now. A table laid in celebration and observance of brilliant (largely forgotten) women, controversially featuring ‘vaginal forms’ as plates. Iconic. Massive. Demanding. Demanding recognition. Stunning. If the original installation is still in the Brooklyn Museum(?) let’s us blokes hire a plane and go pay homage. Seriously. Flog a painting or two and go. Onwards.

Last of my eight for now (I’m saving a shedload for private viewing)is… a Miro. A Miro because I love his range. From surreal poetry to polemicist to farm-boy naif to metropolitan boxer. With that particular Catalonian angle, broiling with heat and deftness and parochialism and utopian heart. ‘Constellations’. Symbols that I can’t yet read. Wow, wadda gift. What a mixture of gifts we have. What are yours like?

marathon boy

who were we running for or from

when we could run?

who?

in our endless unstockinged feet

with that endless dizzy lope towards the tape –

the tape that drew us and wrapped us like mummies.

who ran alongside?

was it a lifelong friend who carried us through

their heart transporting ours?

or a stranger – or twenty thousand – who twinkled their encouragement?

i can’t remember.

there was the race –

my pop PB-ed, i think

but unconfirmed.

then, before we know it,

tightly, the pull-string

on the rucksack of my heart

is tugged.

and i think

i think a cheer goes up.

i can’t remember.