Letter from a Wimbledon Wildcard
Letter from a Wimbledon Wildcard
The snide remarks about my sad tennis footwear got to me. Even a whip-round was suggested to deal with this. I would fix.
Whilst playing this wonderful game, I often ruminated on the very close and frequent Schoenberg/ Gershwin tennis matches. I imagined their tennis styles would mirror that of their wonderfully disparate musical genres. Schoenberg would be full of cool, perfectly calculated and cerebral ground strokes, not much spin, Gershwin loads of flourishes, rich slicing and topspin and theatrical volleying. How delightful.
Anyway …thinks, I must support the local High Street, none of this online stuff, as a way of getting my footwear. Putting on my old shoes (in the porch), an hour or so passed before I got to the shoe shop, this involved driving, visits to the Supermarket, and about a kilometre uphill stroll.
Shoes were produced, tried one on, and the sales assistant said I should do both feet. Really? I took of my left shoe. The salesman recoiled in a state of utter incredulity.
Verrucas? Smelly socks? NO! He had seen a bloody great toad right in the middle of that shoe.
Toad was very alive and very well and, one wonders, looking at him, do toads ever become the exact embodiment of being pissed off?
Was he ever!
The assistant became unglued. If I had said ‘look, if you can spare a box of tennis balls and a shirt or two, as a freebie, I will sort this problem and get the hell out of here,’ I bet he would have gone for that deal.
Cooler heads prevailed. ‘Leave him where he is’, I suggested. I will wear my new shoes home, and he can go in the bag in his shoe.
The following morning, our neighbour wondered why on earth there was an old empty tennis shoe planted in the middle of our garden.
They still remember it in the town.
By now the one- legged seagull (aka Pegleg) had eaten almost all the ‘Beyond Aesthetics’ copy. Yet there was one chunk that remained. Curious, our man (aka Robinson) read this last uneaten fragment. Maybe Pegleg found it totally indigestible?
It read ‘The bogus separation between art and theory is broken down by interventionist uses of quotation which rely on a theoretical understanding of the way ideology informs subjectivity, in order to undermine the culturally- loaded meanings invested in images. Since, as Hal Foster wrote, any truly critical practice must transform rather than merely manipulate signification, (re) construct rather than simply dispense structures of subjectivity’
(At our OAP bingo evenings, we talk of little else. -Ed)
Robinson rolled this into a ball and wondered how far he could throw it, but was distracted by Pegleg . The dear bird was now cross-eyed and looked in extreme discomfort. What followed with his friend was a most violent attack of diarrhoea. This bird had dumped (pro rata) the biggest load of crap Robinson had ever seen. But, of course, he knew that anyway.
Robinson glanced at the offending bottle, a vessel redolent of such hope, a hope that had morphed into a wasteland. There was still a small slip of paper stuck to the base of the bottle. Should he read it? Why not?
It was a note about some recent paintings by an artist that Robinson had never heard of. Didn’t look up to much. Anyway, he reads (by Abi) the following:
‘This series of small paintings from David Armitage, entitled ‘Fragments’ contains elements or sections of other works. In a process of palimpsest the work involved was re-used or altered but potentially still bore visible traces with its earlier form.’
Robinson was fascinated by this ‘palimpsest’ term. It sounds like something that a teenage son or daughter would not talk to their parents about. Or it could be a wee beastie that scuttles around a lot and keeps you awake at night.
Anyway, he stuffed all the remaining bits back into the bottle, climbed to the top of an adjacent cliff, gave it three swings around the head, and let it go.
His anguished cry of despair followed the bottle far out to sea. It could be heard for miles around.
When he awoke from a troubled nights sleep, our man did not feel like breakfasting on another dollop of ‘beyond aesthetics’. Instead, he noticed that several shorter pieces had been appended to this magnum opus ….in effect, slighter ruminations of Artspeak.
These pieces were dignified by their brevity, if not their gravitas or syntax.
He started on this little gem. ‘The significance of an ordinary item…. an inventive and unusual exploration of the cultural history of the button with all it’s metaphorical and lexical suggestiveness’….(true!) or… ‘In a process of palimpsest, the work evolved or was reused or altered but potentially still bore visible traces of its earlier form…. the result is a body of work that reflects themes of female identity, diversity and transition. (Gosh!). or ‘What follows is: impossibility to believe in discussion for imagery…..#towards aphasia, towards immobility, for a progressive identification of consciousness and praxis….
Was our man developing a morbid fascination with this tosh? Rather like watching kitsch soap operas when nobody was around? He was armed with acres of this twaddle that would make the winter nights fly by.
Nights! Nights! His dream hurtled back.
He had invented an ABM machine! (An Art Bollocks Machine) and it had made him a fortune. The punter simply keyed in the show he or she was doing. As a demo he chose a show called ‘An anthology of socks full of cold porridge’ (international of course.) This opened more bollocks doors than a French farce. He asked for 3x A4 pages, double spaced, paid his money, and Bingo! The machine chuntered out the result. Terrific stuff!
This market was huge. Think of anything, as is now academic, call it art, and good old
ABM would do the business. It did a fabulous job on ‘German battle cruisers and the suspender belt’. An international touring show, people now speak of little else.
He had a rude awakening. A one- legged seagull had befriended him and was demanding some breakfast. The bird seemed quite keen on snacking on the recently arrived paperwork. He pecked at it. Wanted more. Was it edible?
Let’s find out in the final episode…
Another scene. A desert island. The lone inhabitant (he had tried to sail across the Pacific in a very large yoghurt pot) was surviving, but only just. He had found enough to eat locally, but had saved up the tastiest bits of his sandals for a kind of culinary ‘Michelin Moment’. However, after some instinctive premonition he decided on a more modest seafood meal instead.
Was there some kind of celebration in prospect, perhaps not unconnected with the world he had left behind? This was an immense loss, as powerful as life itself.
He gazed out to sea, this gap would never be closed….. nostalgia flooded in.
But wait. He sat bolt upright.
Ah…tricks, a mirage, a cliche even… Was that the light bouncing off the neck of a bottle?
A bottle that bobbled toward him? Did this bottle contain a tightly rolled scroll of documents? His sun- stroked neurones had led to a wandering mind more than once.
Our man was a fine string player in an earlier life. Could this vessel contain an autographed score of Beethoven’s Op. 132 string quartet? Music that the Gods could listen to but could never hope to write. Ever. His spirits rose.
He waded out to get the very real object. Yes, a scroll of papers was contained within.
As he gently extracted them, our man wept.
A moment to be savoured! The text was in English!
He settled down under his favourite palm tree and began to read. It was a review of a conceptual art show. It was headed ‘Beyond Aesthetics, Readings in cultural intervention’. There was pages of this stuff… deep, deep, joy!
Agog with anticipation, he read the following:
‘During the past two decades the breakdown in humanist metaphysics has radically transformed theories of the production and reception of art. Humanist fallacies of the individual as an essential self have been deconstructed by post- structural explanations of the formation of subjectivity through language and its representations.
The art object is no longer conceived as an autonomous, transparent device reflecting the unmediated intentions of its maker, but read as a visual text ‘read’ through the lens of the cultural fabric which furnishes the meanings encoded in art.
Roland Barthes’s famous dictum that ‘the birth of the reader must be at the cost of of the death of the author’ has suffered an overly reductive interpretation as simply entailing the impossibility of originality, which has been used to justify the supposed futility of attempts to generate new imagery. Abandoning the modernist pursuit of
‘Making It new’, reactionary artists now gratuitously ‘quote’ existing images. But as Jean Baudrillard commented, quotation is never a goal in itself… the play on second and third degree quotes…. is a pathological form of the end of art, a sentimental form’.
If, as Barthes wrote, ‘a text’s unity lies not in its origin but…….’
At this point, (about 10% of ‘beyond aesthetics’), our man drifted off…. perchance to dream… about what I wonder?
See ‘cast your bread’ episode 2
I am sure that the temptation to overload an ad goes back to biblical times…
Hullo Design helper,
Picture the scene…Hot and biblical….Eve has just popped in to see the editor of The Garden of Eden Gazette. ‘Right! Ephraim’, she snapped,’ On my tiny ad. I want you to make the picture of the Apple tree bigger, AND, I want to put in a load more words and the serpent of course’…. the space allowed stays the same, so sort it for me’
‘Look, Sweetie, said Ephraim, stroking his great white beard, ‘I get this all the time’. The best I can do is meet you halfway. I so LOVE all your suggestions and when you see the next revise, you will see that I HAVE included a load of them. Not all, but that’s called ‘C’est la vie’ in Gaul. In Terra Australis they say ‘We ain’t playing for a bloody sheep station.’ Also, I have Griselda from Gethsemane Graphics on my ploughshare wanting to print the damn thing. Pronto. ‘AND! Just had a call on the ram’s horn from Adam and he would like a fig leaf border and a couple of your buy to let holiday cottages on the Tigris dropped in somewhere… No can do.
My man Paul from Tarsus is a whizz on this kind of kiddie… his patience is as long as my beard and, even as I write, he as a revised brief. As Soon as I get it I will forward it to you.
As Liebniz was heard to say ‘It will be the best of all possible worlds’ Of that I am certain.
Hullo, I think Griselda has just turned up with a cleft stick… O dear!!
Quite Right Too!!
We keep very good company.
Trevor’s Choice Tipples
Trevor was an ardent reader of Malcolm Gluck’s splendid ‘SUPERPLONK’ in Saturday’s Guardian. He was much taken with a review of E & E Black Pepper Shiraz, which Gluck described as a ‘molar crunching, heart – stoppingly wonderful red wine.’
Trev got to it before I did….
The T-bone steak seemed about the size of a dustbin lid , well seasoned and nicely cooked by the look of it. It nestled behind the near- side front wheel of my car, just outside the kitchen window. My puzzlement increased when I heard our neighbour’s wife, in a rather perplexed and shrill voice enquire ‘Brian, have you eaten your steak?’
The steak was then obscured by a bundle of orange fur.
Oh God,! NOT AGAIN! Two hours previously a group of people walked past our front gate. One of them pointed at Hamish and with thinly disguised fury screamed ‘That’s the one, BLOODY CAT’!
Some 10 years earlier, in 1977, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch was published.
One of the main protagonists in the story (and subsequent stories) was and is Hamish the ginger cat. A complete invention of course. We had no pets and were awaiting copies of the said book when, one morning, our children, aged about 5 and 3 called for Ronda and I to come to the kitchen AT ONCE!
On the doorstep sat a perfect example of life imitating art. He might as well have jumped out of the pages of the book. Even his whiskers matched. He was dubbed Hamish and lived with us for about 12 years.It seems he had been unceremoniously dumped by a distant neighbour. Why? He had demolished her young child’s birthday cake by the simple expedient of eating all the cream and fancy trimmings which adorned this exquisite creation. After a string of such incidents, her patience ran out.
Essentially Hamish was a fearless thug and as cunning as a dunny rat with a gold tooth. This had it’s advantages. One day I discovered an Alsatian bitch in our garden merrily trampling over the seedlings. I rushed out intervene but just as quickly in- rushed. Yellow fangs snarled, hackles rose and laser- like eyes fixed on my throat.
With what dignity I could muster I retreated inside. My ginger friend was sleeping off a heavy lunch. By now he had lost one eye, half an ear and had more dents and tears in the bodywork than an ancient stock-car. What remained of him was a bundle of teeth and claws held together by whipcord sinews. I took him outside and pointed his good eye at the Alsatian. What followed was the concept of an orange Exocet missile. He flew in a splendid glowing arc aiming squarely for the carotid artery. The Alsatian was terrified. It reared, stumbled and yowled as it got caught in some fencing wire which she dragged down the road.
Back inside, I glanced in the fridge and saw the ample remains of some very tender beef which was going to be re- cycled. As Hamish tucked into a goodly chunk of this, I am absolutely certain he knew it was for a job well done.
He was no mug.
His stay with us was a kind of symmetry, he came out of the blue and left to go ‘who knows where?’ The children looked everywhere for him, as did we all, but no joy. I think he knew his time was up and found some secluded spot. He wouldn’t want any of his umpteen vanquished rivals dancing on his grave.
Forty years later, he is about to entertain a third generation of readers. He lives on.
30 or so years later… Our cottage in a Sussex village.
It is late, wife and children have gone to bed. I am in a small galley kitchen clearing up after a splendid meal with some friends. Radio 3 is employed to keep me company. My toil with the dishcloth stopped abruptly as I was plunged into a manic scherzo, gloriously anarchic stuff. It stops, starts again, stops, repeats, does it all again. Mad but terrific music. Who on earth was this? The bell-like scherzo gave way to a sublime adagio, deeply felt, almost Schubertian in its profound sense of yearning. By now, dishes done, I was sitting on the floor, keeping company with the remains of a splendid 20 year old port.
As is often the way of the classical tradition, the fourth and final movement involves a triumphant resolution of many musical arguments. ‘Right, sweetie’, I thought, if you can extend, equal, or beat what came before, I have stumbled across a musical voice that is of the highest order. Why had I got to thirty something and never heard it? He delivered, my God, did he ever. By the time we got to the closing pages I resembled a quivering bundle that could have been the result of the contents of a boiled-over pot that had oozed to the floor. An emotional wreck, contemplating an experience that will live with me for the rest of my days, and , with any luck, beyond.
Same music, Radio 3, about 10 years later, this time on the car radio as I made my way to somewhere about 2 hours from home. After roughly about one and a half hours had elapsed, I was coming again on the closing pages of this sublime musical argument. At this point I became dimly aware of a flashing blue light in my rear view mirror. Oh God! What to do? I pulled over and indicated by a series of gestures that… ‘could the officer wait two minutes until my musical journeys end?’ I desperately hoped my finger gestures and facial expressions would not be misconstrued. Tricky. I guess the noise issuing from the car confirmed my request. Shortly after, I emerged from the car, red-eyed with tears and looking visibly shaken. The young officer, bless him, assumed my demeanour and apparent distress was caused by a traffic violation. He politely told me to get my brake light fixed ASAP.