Monday, 26 September 2022

Vimto, Gonks, and Wayfinders. I remember them

Mean Time I opened Mean Time, Carol Ann Duffy's 1993 collection of poetry, and poured myself a glass of wine. My cheeks started to glow, my head became lighter, my shoulders dropped, and everything in the world was fine. I began to feel sentimental at the thought of happy times past. Was it the wine or the poetry?

Nostalgia suffuses Mean Time, especially the first poem in the collection, The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team. It speaks directly to baby boomers, those who were at school in the 60s and 70s. The references tap on your heart with a hoppety beat; pop music, general knowledge, Vimto, Gonks, and Tuf Wayfinders shoes. What a great start to a great collection.

Nostalgia tho' can be tainted with shameful and frightening experiences. In Litany a bored child embarrasses her mum and momentarily silences the tedious conversation of her mother's friends. I laughed out loud at the last verse, to all intents and purposes the same childhood experience of a close friend:
"A boy in the playground, I said, told me
to fuck off; and a thrilled, malicious pause
salted my tongue like an imminent storm. Then
uproar. I'm sorry, Mrs Barr, Mrs Hunt, Mrs Emery,
sorry, Mrs Raine. Yes, I can summon their names.
My mother's mute shame. The taste of soap.
Thankfully I never had my mouth washed out with soap, but a know someone who did.

Stafford Afternoons's first stanza conjures up lazy, sunny weekends:
"Only there, the afternoons could suddenly pause
and when I looked up from lacing my shoe
a long road held no one, the gardens were empty,
an ice-cream van chimed and dwindled away.
What a shock then when the young girl in the poem encounters a flasher. I prefer Duffy's female treatment of the subject to the male humour of John Cooper Clarke's Gaberdine Angus (in Ten Years in and Open Necked Shirt).

Some experiences are just too bitter to succumb to nostalgia. Welltread recalls a undeserved punishment by a teacher. After all these years the adult has not forgotten:
"And all I could say was No. Welltread straightened my hand
as though he could read the future there, then hurt himself
more than he hurt me. There was no cause for complaint.
There was the burn of a cane in my palm, still smouldering.
The poems don't all recollect schooldays, although these days school kids study Valentine. This one is a metaphor for love, but "Not a red rose or a satin heart" kind of romance.

Later poems in the book evoke loneliness, sadness and regret. Room depicts an uncertain future for the lone, single renter:
"No curtains yet. A cool lightbulb
waiting for a moth. Hard silence.
The roofs of terraced houses stretch from here to how many months.
Adultery and Disgrace investigate broken relationships and the consequent feelings of remorse. Mean Time in particular laments:
"If the darkening sky could lift
more than one hour from this day
there are words I would never have said
nor have heard you say.
On finishing the last line of the last poem I poured myself another glass of wine and went straight back to the beginning.

Friday, 23 September 2022

Definitely, absolutely and without a doubt, 'my sort of book'

Small Things Like These Some of the books I read for Book Club are really not my sort of thing. I like to think I read them with good grace, and I really do try to find the best in them whilst admitting that I'm not the target readership for that sort of thing. Well, Claire Keegan's Small Things Like These is definitely, absolutely and without a doubt, my sort of book.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Massive prawns in Monaco?

It was Friday morning and I was texting an old friend in the UK I hadn't seen in ages.

"How's the expat life, Cabbie?"

"It's great, mon ami."

"Lots of massive prawns then, Cabbie?" (1)

And, it got me thinking. I can't remember the last time I had massive prawns in Monaco

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

A historic record of xenophobia

Heart of Darkness I was drawn to Heart of Darkness by the praise of a few academic fans. The book often appears in the English literary canon and I can see why it continues to be set reading for literature courses; it doubtless provokes much discussion.

Thursday, 8 September 2022

A book that starts with the ending

A House For Mr Biswas It's not often I read a book that starts at the end, tells the story, and then ends at the beginning, but this is exactly what VS Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas does. The opening reads, "Ten weeks before he died, Mr Mohun Biswas, a journalist of Sikkim Street, St James, Port of Spain, was sacked. He had been ill for some time". No need to worry about revealing any spoilers then.

Monday, 5 September 2022

The Prince and the Painter

I nearly missed this year's summer exhibition in Salle Antoine 1er, and you will too if you don't hurry. Le prince et le peintre - Albert 1er et Louis Tinayre, une amitié a la découverte du monde (1904-1922) has been on since mid-July and ends 11 September. It contains several items normally on show in the Oceanographic Museum, as well as loans from the Palace Archives and various institutions around France.

Entry is free in the afternoons from 13:00 to 19:00.

The artist

Louis Tinayre's life (1861-1942) was one of upheaval and adventure.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Christian Louboutin, L’Exhibition[niste], Chapitre II - Art or cobblers?

Make some time to see the Christian Louboutin exhibition before it closes on Sunday 28 August. I always find something interesting at the Grimaldi Forum summer shows, and this year is no different.

The official blurb calls it a "celebration of art through the wise and joyful eyes of contemporary designer Christian Louboutin". It's not just about the shoes then, plenty of which are on display. There are also examples of artworks that have inspired him, as well as collaborative projects with artists he admires.