Saturday, August 27, 2011

FEATURE 89 - What The Water Gave Me

The new single from Florence & the Machine, which opens with a chord change lifted straight from The Cure circa 'A Forest', then builds slowly into a stomping song repeatedly urging us all to put stones in our pockets and drown. Gosh, she's a cheery woman. Wasn't sure about it at first, but its grown on me to the point I'm humming it at work. Bodes well for the new album.

The video is an unadventurous blend of studio recording shots and outside miming, with Florence in her Mystic Meg lacy flounce. I have to say, she looks a little haggard here and on edge, if not out of it. She did seem to overwork and be in danger of overexposure last year, because she was literally everywhere after 'Lungs' struck gold. I hope she's not holding all of it together with the aid of chemicals.

POEM - Automobile

It feels as though
I've applied the brakes
and slowly brought the automobile
to a halt
and now I'm sat
in the car
looking out
at the freshly salted streets
and the people
and feel withdrawn from both them
and the exegesis of the Dharma.

The keys
are still in the ignition
I can start the car
anytime I want
but for now
all motion
has been stopped.

Should I get out
open the car door
and go for a walk
in those streets
and beckoning alleys
do something wildly adventurous
in a backstreet cafe
and gain that spurious sense
of liberty
movement brings?

And then do I get back into the car
and drive off?

Written 24/04/2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

DIARY 145 - The Scores On The Doors

Well, just so you know, we finished converting eleven doors in our first community yesterday. Hurrah 1 Hurrah 2 Hurrah 3!!!! It took a total of 21 days spread over 5 weeks, and approximately 238 Man-hours. There was a lot of trial and error, where more time was given to working out what would or would not be the best way of doing stuff, than we'll be doing subsequently. I expect the next community to not take anything quite as long, because its got about a quarter less rooms, we know what we're doing now, and we are a three person team not a two. Well.....lets just see what transpires eh?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

FEATURE 87 - Marion & Geoff

Comedy and sadness sit uncomfortably side by side in these short episodes from Marion & Geoff. Rob Brydon plays Keith Barret a taxi driver. All these to camera monologues show us is how Keith attempts rather simplemindedly to make the best of a bad job, and sometimes not to see what's glaringly obvious to the viewer, that he's being walked all over and treated appallingly.

DIARY 144 - By the creaking of my bones

The local council recently changed the way they wished to designate our Buddhist communities. It used to be as some sort of nominal family type house, now they want to call us a house of multiple occupancy, or HOM's for short. What makes a communal house not a community is an interesting topic. But to base your decision on - either its a family home, or it must be a HOM, seems dreadfully simplistic. Windhorse has been fighting this designation change for the last few years, but finally they've had to throw in the towel. Once so designated the houses all had to be inspected, registered and a raft of very expensive alterations float in its wake. For which you get no financial support, only a timeline, by the end of which you're expected to have completed all the work required.

The main thing that's been done is having fire doors and automatic door closers fitted on all the rooms in these community houses. My project, is to salvage some self-respect and dignity from this unwanted intrusion, by applying panel molding to the external surfaces of the fire doors. This makes them look less institutional, and more in keeping with the age of our properties, which is generally late 19th century. On the surface this might seem quite a nice simple straightforward, if not pleasant and rewarding, project for me to do. I thought so too...once.

I had an unexpectedly intense emotional response whilst I sanded and scraped away at old paintwork. I experienced strong feelings of desperation and loneliness, an 'Oh No, not again' response, battled with huge resistances and with wanting to run away from it all. Though I'm not doing this alone, I am working with someone whom I don't know, and in one of our most dimly lit, oppressively cramped and rambling terrace buildings. What this triggered were discomforting feelings surrounding two previous projects;running my own business, and the Ipswich Buddhist Centre decoration. Both of which I did carry out largely on my own. Each was at an emotionally difficult time, in one I was struggling single-handed to keep my business afloat, in the other I used every spare hour I had to get the new centre ready to open. The latter was also during the first year after my ordination, a challenging period for anyone. But aside from such difficulties, there was a touchy relationship with an individual I lived and worked with. If my response is anything to go by, I've not fully got over either of these difficult periods in my life.

Whilst the fire doors were installed, the paintwork on the period door frames had been bashed about quite a bit. So initially the job was to scrape off the loose and sand down the fractured nibbled edges of the existing paintwork. In addition we also had to learn how to work round there being at least two, and on some days four community members around in their rooms. Any idea we'd be able to proceed systematically through the building, had swiftly to be rethought. daily we were having to rejig or abandon our work schedule or plans. I can do logistic, organisation and planning, but even at the best of times I derive no pleasure or satisfaction from it. If I end up doing too much of it, or become frustrated in the doing of it, I can become a very unhappy man. This year has contained a little too much of such activity.

The door project consists of a sequence of laborious, if not tedious, tasks, most requiring the simple application of elbow grease, and persistence. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to hard work, or a bit of tedium and tenacity, but there is the matter of scale, and how much time, to take into account. There's been a huge amount of preparatory work involved in getting all eleven doors of one community ready to paint. The sanding, scraping, filling, priming, sawing, drawing, sticking, followed by more filling, priming, final sanding before glossing. Its felt interminable, as if I've been a treadmill that would never reach its end.......and this is just the first community, there are four more scheduled to do. The total project has in the region of 45-55 doors, and we've yet to complete 11.

So, at first it was the hugely daunting nature of the task itself, and my mental/emotional response to doing it. Then came a physical consequence;the severe inflammation of the osteo-arthritis in my hands. I can do the sanding, the scraping,the sawing and the painting, but it always results in some level of increased inflammation and pain in my hand joints. Each task is repetitive, requiring I hold my hands in one way, tensely and repeatedly for long periods of time. The hand sawing of 144 mitred pieces of panel molding was one marathon endeavour that took two and a half days. So I've been learning to bear with these throbbing tender painful things on the end of my arms. This constant pain in my hands did bring me to tears this week. Working whilst enduring it, has also become quite exhausting. I can't grip or hold things with them. I can't hold even not very heavy things other than in the palm of my hand, I have to ask someone else to open bottles for me, all of which is humbling.

By Wednesday lunchtime my energy was running low, and I began to feel slightly nauseous. This is often an early sign I'm coming down with something. By the next day I had an intense migraine type head cold and spent much of the next few days in bed. This enforced time at home, mindlessly watching lots of I-Player, has allowed both me and my hands to take a break and recover, a bit. But I do have to take what's happened seriously, and reconsider if, under the current set-up, I can continue to undertake the completion of the 3-4 month project as originally outlined. I may have to acknowledge I physically can't do such a large scale painting project anymore. This is, I believe, what I've found most upsetting, the diminishing of my physical capabilities. No doubt one of many, on the slippery slope to getting older, and death. Dylan Thomas talked about raging against the dying of the light, I felt I've understood this week, from my direct experience, exactly what he meant by that. But I can rage all I like, it wont make it go away.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

FILM REVIEW - Animal Kingdom

Joe's 17, and his mum has just died from an overdose. He rings his Gran to ask for her help. This is after all what Gran does, she always sorts out other peoples messes. His Mother was estranged from her family, partly to protect her son from their influence, with, as it turns out, good reason. For when Joe moves into the family home, he sees first hand the casual criminality of his uncles, a criminality he tries to keep his distance from. As events unfold, he finds he cannot avoid becoming implicated. The police are after all his Uncles, but most notably the eldest, Pope. Eventually this results in the cold- blooded murder of one of them by the police. His family take revenge with the indiscriminate murder of two policemen. Joe is held for questioning. Subsequently he finds out his girlfriend has been killed by Pope, his Uncle. Whose side will Joe eventually turn out to be on?

Animal Kingdom, is a gripping, intelligent film about the emotional bonds in this disarmingly ordinary criminal family. Joe remarks in the opening few minutes of the movie, that every criminal knows his time at liberty will run out some day, that the consequences of their actions eventually will catch up with them. This mood of fearful expectancy pervades the whole movie, when will these guys get there comeuppance?

There are three stand out performances. At the centre is James Frecheville, as Joe. who is sometimes blank and numb, at other times clearly scared and horrified. His performance is subtly understated, as this teenager on the cusp of being a grown man, thrown into the maelstrom of his treacherous family. The second is Ben Mendelson as Pope, the eldest and most vicious Uncle. When Gran says to him, in an passing remark over lunch -'don't you think you should start taking your medication again?' you can see in his face that he's more than a little out of control. All the really tense menacing moments in the movie are when Pope is around. Jackie Weaver as Gran, is a superlative performance, as the families Matriarch. She is the one who quietly holds everything together with the sentimentality of her kisses, gently scolds the men for having gone too far in taking revenge for their friends murder, and always, always tries to put things right. Outwardly warm and un-involved, but really a cold-hearted and dispassionate pragmatist who'd murder her own Grandson, if it proved necessary. It's a scarily impressive performance, for which she has deservedly won numerous film awards.

The film script rarely puts a foot wrong, portraying these people as people with all their personal idiosyncrasies, however dangerous their impulses might be. What violence there is, though occasionally graphic, is sparingly used. When intensity and apprehension is called for, its built through the deft use of long lingering shots and musical inference. There is something magnificently mythic about the world painted in Animal Kingdom, where the small details of the story echo much larger human and universal themes of love, loss and loyalty. This turns the film into something that is strongly reminiscent of a modern day Greek Tragedy.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

DIARY 143 - The stuff of dreams

If you've had a tough week,and nothing you usually do seems to quite hit the mark, you're feeling generally apathetic and listless. Well, sometimes you just need to get away from your usual environs. Jnanasalin and I both felt a bit ragged and run down, so we went out for a day in Sheringham, which from Cambridge is about a two and a half hour journey. But, its always been worth it. Even in the height of Summer, when the streets and beaches are swarming with holiday makers. Lounging around on a beach reading a newspaper, rather than visiting our usual Cambridge Coffee House Of Choice, is a more than refreshing change. I was quite surprised at how quickly I perked up, just with the thought of going there. Whilst there, we nurtured colourful ideas of opening Sheringham's first bijou Art Deco Tea Room, with a superlative range of teas, coffees and cakes. Ah! the stuff of dreams.