December 28, 2004


How fragile we are as individuals and as the human race doesn't really register in our consciousness unless we fall ill, or someone close to us dies or a mind-boggling disaster occurs where thousands of lives are lost in an instant (currently about 60,000 are estimated to have been wiped out by the tsunami). It's then that the penny drops: our physical presence here on this planet is as fragile as a house on stilts in a tidal wave. Those of us privileged to live in the "developed" areas of the world are cocooned into losing sight of just how fine a thread anchors us to life. Read this moving lament for the fisherfolk of Sri Lanka by Steve Bonta who doesn't gloss over the difference between "them" and "us". And here is information about where to send donations to aid the survivors of this tragedy (thanks to Dave Bonta ). Mass destruction caused by nature or by humans, it's always the innocent who suffer. And the guilty, in both cases, carry on destroying like there's no tomorrow. At least nature doesn't know what it's doing.(The above photo of a tsunami is from here).

On a scale of insignificance, one being the most insignificant and ten the almost significant, the news that I spent Christmas and the past few days in bed with a raging bout of flu would be number one. So why mention it at all? Because the fact that the body can decide to wipe out our plans and dreams hadn't struck me quite so clearly before. Today I began to feel more normal - the barbed wire wrapped around my chest is loosening, the bucket of phlegm attached to my nose is draining and limbs ache slightly less. But for a while there I really thought I might have to cancel Egypt. When we think we are in charge of our lives, able to come and go as we please, masters of the universe, the body can say "NO! Remember that you are merely dust". Allright, it was only flu but a lesson nonetheless. I do believe the spirit outlasts the body, yes. But you need the body to get your spirit to Egypt, don't you?


December 15, 2004


Instead of a more traditional seasonal image I've decided to post this as my greeting card for all who drop by here regularly or who just happen to be passing by at this time. It's a photo of a work I've just finished which will be shown in an exhibition of works on paper to be held at the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre in Scunthorpe (North Lincolnshire) from 12 February to 30 April 2005. The original measures 77 X 70 cms and is a wall-hanging consisting of six handmade paper sheets stitched with coloured threads and linked together.I was thinking of my own family (father, mother, two daughters and a son) when I drew the stylized heads but then I started applying gold and this had the effect of transforming them from the particular to the universal. Although they bear a vague ressemblance to actual persons they are now metaphors for the spirit which is eternal in all of us. They don't belong to any particular age or place or ethnicity or religious tradition yet they seem sacred, transcending the material. I'm offering this image to you with my very best wishes for the season, however you celebrate it. I've also made a greeting card from the "Mother" and "Son" heads and have been sending it by email and snailmail to friends.

family album COMMENTS

December 11, 2004


Do I deserve to win?Yes I came first in the best designed and most beautiful blog category of the Edublog Weblog Awards and yes I know I'm neither academic or intentionally educational and I know there are hundreds if not thousands of others more beautiful and better designed and I know there will be at this very moment some people saying under their breath pfft pshaw harrumph it's not as if this was a big thing like the Oscars or the Nobel or the Booker or the Turner or the Guardian Weblog competition and yes I agree that competitions and awards are meaningless and undemocratic and absolutely everybody is best at something and yes I'm aware that I have Isssues concerning guilt about excelling at anything because of traumatic childhood experiences and yes I must go right now and console those who did not come first and those who weren't even nominated though they deserved to be and take them all out to dinner and give them champagne and flowers and apologise apologise apologise. But I won. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Thank you all of you who voted for me and thank you James of Edublogs and thank you incsub .


December 5-B, 2004


First of all I must tell you that I have been nominated, no-me-nat-ed,
"the best designed and most beautiful blog" and you must go there immediately and add your vote. But only if you love me. Thank you very much Barbara Dieu in Brazil.


If thousands of passionate Ukranian seekers after truth and democracy can stay out on the streets in the freezing cold for 12 days and succeed in their protest against corruption then there's hope for the Other America in similar circumstances. Isn't there?

And now back to trivia.


These are the boots.It was love at first sight. We mutually winked and twinkled. They were Augustine boots, I had drawn them in my cartoony dreams. I tried them on at once. Perfect: jaunty, comical, bold but not brash, assertive but not pushy, chunky but funky. The problem with the price could be overcome by not thinking about it and stroking my credit card.

So I bought them and took them home and did not wear them for a month. But finally I could no longer put off the risk of sullying my solemates and I put them on for the private view of the London Artists Book Fair at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts). To get there entails walking from home to tube station, down and up some stairs inside the subway, out at Charing Cross Station, across Trafalgar Square and various pedestrian crossings, under the Admiralty Arch into Pall Mall and then a fair distance along the Mall to the entrance of the ICA . If by then my feet were tired it would be normal. They were not tired. They were traumatised. Wounded. Acutely aware of every single bump and scratch and pebble and dip in the pavements of London.

I met my friend/sister-in-law in the ICA entrance and tried to explain the full physical and psychological import of my chiropodic agony. She was sympathetic and gave me her arm to lean against. Putting a brave face on, I wobbled up interminable stairs, chatting to strangers and fellow book-artists. Did I really pay attention to the occasionally marvellous work on show? Does art matter if your feet are burning and you've been betrayed by boots you believed in?

I had to make the same journey in reverse, on the same feet, to get back home. In the final stretch, only a few hundred yards from my door, I considered sitting on the pavement and howling. But I behaved rationally. I sat on the sofa, took off the bastard boots and examined the soles of my feet. The part where the toes meet the round fleshy bit was inflamed and corrugated as if gravel had been ground into it with a steam roller. Strangely, the pattern on my feet matched the corrugations on the soles of the boots. I put my hand inside the boots and the penny dropped: beyond the fancy designer label (JOCOMOMOLA de SYBILLA) the pretty leather lining was as thin as a slice of Parma ham and about as efficient in protecting the foot during the act of walking on city streets.

Booted outYou may have noticed that I am good at complaining. So good that family and friends often ask me to do their complaining for them. I am the Cyrano de Bergerac of Righteous Indignation. It must be righteous. I won't bother with common or garden or unjustified whining. I looked at the Customer Service address on the back of the boots' receipt and fired off an unassailable email as well as a copy by snailmail. Against me was the fact that more than a month had elapsed and that I had worn the damn things. But I explained my case at length and ended by asking if these boots had actually been tested on human feet. The reply came quickly and was apologetic, even grateful for my feedback which would be passed on to the buying team. I was advised to bring the boots back to the store for inspection. Essential to the art of righteous complaining is the conviction that you are right, they are wrong, but you're going to be nice about it.

It was in that frame of mind that I returned to TopShop in Oxford Street. For the benefit of those above the age of 16 who don't know TopShop or similar department stores, it is the equivalent of medieval (or contemporary) torture chambers. Their instruments of torture are sound, light, heat and overcrowding. The sound is a brain-crunching million decibel repetitious incessant insane inane pounding noise known, I believe, as "heavy metal". The light is from flashing video screens everywhere, forcing you to watch said insanity disporting itself live. In between are racks and racks and rows and rows of garments, some quite tempting, fighting for your confused attention. It's hell, the real thing, the genuine Inferno. But, like many people, I go to hell sometimes because you can find bargains there.

Anyway, I was waiting in line at the Refunds desk, desperately hanging on to my indignation whilst the brainwashing audio-visual effects tried to beat me into submission. I handed the boots, my letter and the reply to a pleasant, submissive sales assistant who went to fetch a manager. The manager read the letters, heard my impassioned plea, examined the boots and went to get a second opinion. She returned saying they sell a lot of these boots, no one else has complained and there are no manufacturing defects. I bit my inner child's lip, counted to ten and did not say that most people do not complain because they don't know how and they're afraid to. Instead I suggested that a foot-size 37 (U.S. 6) sales assistant could put on the boots and go out walking on the street for about half an hour. This and further reasonable remarks from me seemed to have a mind-altering effect and the manager said that she couldn't give me a refund, but as a gesture of good will, she would let me go and choose other things in the store for the same amount.I apologise for the length of this story but even when you know you're right, the sweet smell of success has to be shared.


December 5, 2004 Oops. It's not the 5th it's the 3rd. I need more sleep.


Machines revoltIt started yesterday morning when I got up. I went to the kitchen to turn on the boiler as usual. There was a loud bang, some rattling, knocking, gurgling and crashing. Then nothing. Dead. No pilot light, no flame, no heat, no hot water. Nada. Rien de rien. Consulted the very old manual, tried various maneuvres. No use. Phoned boiler repair service. Got the answering machine. Too cold to work indoors. Stayed out all day doing some errands and wasting time. Came home and the boiler was working. But the phone was dead. So was the computer. And the lights in the house were dimming on and off. Went out to make a couple of calls from a phone booth. It didn't work.(Don't have a mobile phone. Don't want a mobile phone). Tried another booth, succeeded. Warned people I was incommunicado. Went back home and to channel my agression watched I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here whilst eating a large plate of ravioli. Afterwards, tried the phone again. It was working. So was the computer. The machines are going to pay for this behaviour. Revolution will not be tolerated.