humming inappropriate tunes?

A few weeks ago I found myself innocently humming the tune of ‘Two Little Boys’ by Rolf Harris. Then I remembered something. I remembered what we’ve come to know about Rolf Harris over the past few years and it seemed like a good reason to stop humming that song. It had taken on a sinister meaning and seemed inappropriate.
But is the song inappropriate now or is it alright for whistling around the house?

It’s a small incident that’s been nibbling away at me since.
Can the art people make, the songs people sing, the sermons ministers give be separated from their person they are or is it a stand along thing to be judged on it’s own merits?
I think that of course they can. Then other times I’m not so sure.

Here are some examples I’ve been thinking about.

For years people have been able to watch The Cosby Show and enjoy it as an innocent sitcom.But if the allegations against Bill Cosby that are flying around at the moment prove to be true does that change The Cosby Show? Does it mean that it’s no good now?
The same with the Woody Allen films or Michael Jackson songs. Incidentally I wonder why it’s OK for radio stations to play Michael Jackson songs but why it’s not OK to play a Gary Glitter track? What is the difference?

Some people don’t like Bono, they find him irritating for reasons such as tax arrangements and being a preachy rock star. Should we judge the latest U2 album (or any U2 album) with Bono’s personality in mind or is that irrelevant to the music? Lots of people seem to have reviewed Bono rather than the music.

One night I was listening to Lead Belly knowing that he was an American folk/blues music legend. When I started to read about his life story I found out that he had been in prison on numerous occasions. Once I found that it out it changed how I was listening to the music. I found I didn’t enjoy it as much.Should I allow the story of his life to colour what I hear in those 3mins?

On the other hand I’ve been known to crank up The Rolling Stones, they’ve some brilliant songs.
The knowledge that Bill Wyman in his late 40’s was dating a 13 yr old doesn’t seem to make me think less of The Rolling Stones. We probably don’t even know the half of what went on with some of those rock groups yet their excesses are seen as the stuff of rock legend. Jimmy Page apparently was infatuated with a 14yr old girl. Why is it rock n roll cool if a 70’s rock stars does it but hideous when a 70’s DJ?

Another example are some of the Psalms, the songs we sing and prayers we pray on Sunday morning written by King David. King David who was also a murderer.

If I was a ‘good man’ would that show in the work I create and make it good? Or does that not matter when it comes to creating music, art,writing could I just as easily write a good song if I was a murderer?

Should I be free to enjoy Rolf Harris singing ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’ just much now as 10 yrs ago? (Not that it was ever a good song)

I’m not sure why it’s nibbling at me.

king david67

notebooks and the dust of daily life

DSCN1755Last night I was just thinking about how much I enjoy  messing about with pens and a notebook.  Actually, I take that back. I don’t enjoy it lots of the time but have something deep inside that wants and needs to do it.

A while back I tried painting a few canvases but didn’t enjoy the experience much at all.

For me there was too much responsibility contained in that one white rectangle, too much pressure to say something or to fill it with a picture that might look just right on someones wall.

The thought of using paints  made me freeze and frustrated because of the infinite colours to choose from.  The cleaning of brushes annoyed me. Maybe the truth is that I don’t particularly want to paint or feel free when I tried to.

I didn’t like the feeling of responsibility  and mess whereas armed with my Staedtler Triplus Fineliners and notebook there are 30 colours to choose from, I can carry them to a coffee shop and just have to put a pen lid on.
I like the feel of them in my hand and the way they glide over paper, the way they don’t go dry if I loose a lid. They’re mobile, which is important to me. For me art isn’t something in a gallery or displayed  in museum, it is out in about the everyday so its good to have tools to capture the moments if they come. I’d generally rather have a look in any famous artists notes and ideas than his masterpieces.

Note books are intimate  as you have to touch it to read it rather than gaze up, hands off at an expensive painting on a wall. I can close the book over if I see someone being nosey and trying to look over to see what I’m up to. Notebooks suit me.

Thinking about it some more it is similar to my experience of recording music.
When I started off I enjoyed using a very basic 4-track cassette recorder. There was limited choice as there where only so many sounds you could record and layer on top of each other to make a song.

But I then one day I thought:-

‘Imagine what I could do with 16 tracks. So many options, so much freedom, I can make better music!’

So I splashed out on a 16 track Yamaha digital recorder and few condenser microphones to try and make some music.Then eventually the too many options and knobs to twirl and sliders to move, a thick instruction book to read and mic settings  to adjust and pop shield  to make from old tights and changing the reverb, add some chorus to the final mix and I was frustrated with making music.
The good intentions of  ‘much more freedom‘ killed the joy I had for recording music.

Musically it was a bit like trying to take things up from doodling in a sketch book to painting on canvas but I lost my enthusiasm for writing songs in the process and it hasn’t come back.

Speaking of sketching in books and doodling on 4-tracks.Maybe a there is a similar thing going on with blogging?

I know I blog a lot, it started way back before Facebook in the days of Myspace.

I like doing it as it helps me record ideas, track footsteps along the way. I like doing it in the same way as I like sketching in notebook, or messing about on 4-track.
Being a complete jackdaw for lifting  appropriate quotes I can see one from Pablo Picasso that I have never seen before but like:-

‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls’

I’m not sure if blogging, scribbling in notebooks, messing with the 4-track etc could be described as art.  I think everyone is an artist in some sense, then there are people who are artists in that they have spent many years training and working on what they do.  All I know about myself is that I feel I understand these quotes deep in my bones. Maybe we all do?

‘The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.’
Pablo Picasso

‘A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.’
Albert Camus

‘Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul’
W. Somerset Maugham

Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos’
Stephen Sondheim

‘Art is the unceasing effort of competing with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding’ 
Gian Carlo Menotti

‘That’s the motivation of an artist – to seek attention of some kind’
James Taylor

a cup of tea with Vincent van Gogh

Bedroom in Arles

So I was lying in bed on Wednesday night reading a little book about Vincent van Gogh and staring at a plate of this painting, from my bedroom to Vincent’s bedroom in Arles, back and forth, back and forth. If wondered if Vincent had painted our bedroom would it have looked as peaceful? Could he have made my boxers look relaxing and Provencal?
I know lots of us feel a special bond to certain people and I guess that I feel a bond to Vincent. I know lots of people do, for different reasons.

‘He…had tried tried to be picture dealer, school-master, bookseller, and evangelist, and had suffered much doubt that he was good for anything at all. To his puritan family, who believed in the close connection of work and morality, he seemed an idler and a non-conforming eccentric. Actually he was a man with a calling, but still uncertain of what that calling was.’

Vincent van Gogh, Fontana Pocker Library of Great Art.

Maybe  the real hero in his story however is his brother Theo who faithfully supports his non-conforming eccentric brother through thick and thin. The fame for Theo should be as great as that for Vincent.

Anyway, so I was reading this all and thinking about it on Wednesday night.
Then yesterday afternoon H___ and I found ourselves at the home of a lovely couple down in Annalong, the sun glimmering out  on the Irish Sea and black guillemots fumbling about the harbour walls like misplaced penguins.
They offered us a cup of tea, and down came four china cups from the cupboard.One of them had them was printed with Vincent’s bedroom in Arles, which the lady poured tea into.  Then she passed that china cup to me.
What are the chances of that?

the umbrella of the gardener’s aunt is in the house

I was reading ‘The Moon and Sixpence‘  last night, saw this bit and something connected.

‘The only thing that seemed clear to me – and perhaps even this was fanciful – was that he was passionately striving for liberation from some power that held him. But what that power was and what line the liberation would take remained obscure. Each one of us is alone in the world. He is shut in a tower of brass, and can communicate with his fellows only by signs, and the signs have no common values, so that their sense is vague and uncertain. We seek pitifully to convey to others the  treasures of our heart, but they have not the power to accept them, and so we go lonely, side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown by them. We are like people living in a country whose language they know so little that, with all manner of beautiful and profound things to say, they are condemned to the banalities of the conversation manual. Their brain is seething with ideas, and they can only tell you that the umbrella of the gardener’s aunt is in the house.’

Somerset Maugham

300 onions all over again

Sometimes while sorting out the study I’ll find a notebook of some doodles I made on New Years Eve 2008, a time of uncertainty in our lives. We didn’t know if we would be moving back to Belfast or Northern Ireland from Dublin, whether we where coming or going.



Well to cut a long story short we did move and now 4 and a bit years later, I’m starting to feel the same again, except probably worse.
We might be moving on, or will be moving but we don’t really know when or where we’re moving too. Things are uncertain. I know that things are always uncertain for everyone, we never really know what is coming around the corner so in a way we should just take each day as it comes. But it’s not that easy. This whole church business seems to add extra angles that other people mightn’t have to worry about. Is that right?

So I’m feeling really unsettled. How long have we left here? Where will we be? Some probably think it an exciting thing but to be honest that wouldn’t be the thought that first comes to mind. It’s a bit scary. Maybe I should embrace the change or enjoy the ride. If only things were that easy!

acrylic procrastination

One of my resolutions for 2013 (because I’m old school sometimes and like that sort of thing) was to try some painting, something which I had never really tried before for different reasons.

One of those reasons is that there just isn’t much room in the house,
another reason is that jars of water and my clumsiness are a recipe for disaster,
another reason if you want another one is that I don’t really know what I’m supposed to  be doing,
perhaps another is that I wasn’t sure if I’d really enjoy it,
and another reason that I wasn’t sure what to paint.

Oh, and a few more. Paint and canvas can be expensive especially if  like me you would be fond of slapping it on. I can’t really afford to be experimenting to much in a cramped little room.

Maybe the main reason though (for me anyway) is that there are so many options and ways to go that it is hard to know when to stop or begin, what I’m even trying to achieve. We see so many images everyday that we can become image exhausted or image hyper active that I wonder what you can bring to the party. It’s like that in music. There is so much music that when you’re writing a song it’s hard to think what else you can bring to the party. Maybe it’s like that with writing as well, I don’t know.

In a way maybe you’ve just got to step out in faith and give it a go, ‘risk it for a biscuit’ and all that. Still another side of me says ‘What’s the point of putting all this effort in if you’re not really sure what you’re doing’. Which ends up tiring me out and makes me decide to walk to Lisburn instead. *To maybe buy paints. Which I think might help. But I’m not sure for certain. So will the money be a waste. Perhaps I should think about that more. Procrastination. Etc Etc.*

Adlent Calendar Day 3- Unionist Christmas Tree Experiment

city hall
















1 Find hardline Unionist friend (the type of person who might have been outside Belfast City Hall tonight)

2 Wait until he is out of the living room. Remove angel or star from top of their Christmas tree and replace with small Union Jack.

3 See if friend ever takes tree down or if he keeps Union flag flying for rest of the year.