Thursday, 1 November 2012

in your own time

somewhere a long time ago . . . 
time rise
time fall
time means nothing, nothing at all

I was going to write about the future but that will have to wait. Until tomorrow, I suppose. Having found ourselves with some time on our hands, Mrs Dave and I went to London for a few days.  We immersed ourselves in the past - partly intentionally. The National Theatre's production of War Horse was, as expected, absolutely breathtakingly good. We wandered out into the night to think about the day we'd experienced.  We started with the Tate's Pre-Raphaelite exhibition which was great, although I agree with Mrs D that the exhibits were rather packed in a bit too closely. We ended up in The Freemason's Arms round the corner from the New Theatre in Drury Lane, a Shephard Neame pub in Long Acre. Nothing special - old and new badly thrown together. All modern plasma screens and olde worlde charm(e). A bit naff and full of people shouting at their team on the ubiquitous football game. This was nothing like the lovely Greek restaurant we found housed in an old pub. It was tiny inside. The pub was the Kemble Head in Long Acre and the seats were all high up - all old, dark wood. To get round the problem of being cramped - it was pretty busy - they used what amounted to cake stands which was an interesting experience.  Especially for me as I'm usually very clumsy.   We got out unscathed.

I had picked up a copy of Simon Reynold's Retromania from Fopp the day before and alarm bells were already beginning to ring. All of the first Joni Mitchell albums in a cd set for £26!! Anyway, I recognise far too much of myself in Reynold's book. It's well worth a read. We also picked up a copy of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris which was great fun - well worth the couple of quid Fopp charged us. The Allen character, played by Owen Wilson (who looks disconcertingly like my hairdresser) comments on how the past isn't dead, "it isn't even past"* and explores how we all look back to a more rosier time that we'd prefer to live in. In the film, the Allen figure keeps travelling back to 1920's Paris  to meet Hemmingway, the Fitzgeralds and Dali, Picasso etc, and the lady he meets wants to go back to 1890's Paris to meet Lautrec et al.

Mrs Dave asked which time I would like to go back to - I guess I was happy in the 1970s when so much seemed new. Reynolds talks about the pre-internet/You Tube/digital era and how we had to watch it or miss it, buy it or lose it World we lived in then. It's a subject I return to often, socially and professionally, but the past really was another country and we certainly lived differently there. I had a collector's mentality and still have a bit of a hoarder's one, too. I am getting better. Reading books like this is helping, to be honest.  The point Reynolds makes about how we have little time now (at my age) to read or listen to all the stuff we've hoarded and continue to collect, worries me.  Why do we keep all that stuff? Why collect more? Perhaps I should just STOP buying stuff and listen to/read/watch the huge amount of cds/mp3s/books/mags/films that I've collected? What will happen to it after I'm gone?** Does anyone care? Anyone out there?

Hmm, this wasn't the blog I expected to write (the one I'd planned is on its way), nor has it turned out how I would have liked; but I guess the past few days being drenched in the past (Art galleries and WW1 plays'll do that) have brought a few ideas bubbling up to the surface. I seem to have grown up with either the past or the future in my head - rarely the present, it seems. What's to love about the present (Buddhists need not reply)? That is, other than, it's all we've got?

I have bookshelves full of books that I'll probably never actually get round to reading. The problem is that I keep going into shops and seeing yet another bloody book worth reading . . ! Still, at least I still read books - lots of people don't, remember! I must admit that I have no real interest in people trying to recreate the past - there's too much of it around.  I'll carry on accepting the stuff from the past. I'm surrounded! As I write I am listening to Johnnie Walker's programme on Jackson Browne's Running On Empty and Ms Mitchell's Blue. I do listen to modern music as well.  At least, what I call modern music. If an artist is touring, recording and writing new songs, then, as far as I'm concerned, it's modern music. I do get very tired of people saying that it's old music - as I've just said, if it's just been written and recorded then it must be new.  Oh! you mean it's written and recorded by someone older than about twenty? Ah, get a life. I may not be over the moon about the Stones still pushing out "product" at their age but the likes of Andy Powell and John Tams are relevant because they've got an audience and still have something to say to that audience.  Just because something's new from some youngster doesn't exactly make it relevant to someone of my age. Generation Console just doesn't speak to me and I don't feel "old" because I don't get it; I need people of (a little above) my age using the tools I understand to put modern life into perspective.  We all need a signpost, that's why we have maps. Great songs by our slightly older peers work as exactly that. If someone's felt a similar feeling to the one I'm undergoing . . . then all the better. It's only a signpost.

As I said, I sometimes get accused of listening to "old music" yet when I talk to contemporaries and (slightly) younger people they all seem to think I'm up-to-date!  Maybe Show of Hands, The Oysterband and Aimee Mann are (near enough) contemporaries of mine but, for god's sake, they are working currently and not living in the past. Okay, I mean when those first two are singing their own recent (original) stuff. Interestingly, when 30/40 year old types moan they're still going to concerts to see Eighties acts being their own tribute bands! If I occasionally go to see Wishbone Ash then at least their recent albums are contemporary - I don't think we can honestly say that about acts such as these. As far as I can see, Andy Powell feels that at least he's got something to say whereas the self-tribute acts have nothing else to give.

I guess this one will run and run. Hopefully not emptily . . .

*okay, okay, William Faulkner's "people" want to sue me . . . get a life
** it'll be thrown away just like it probably should have been. Ephemera.

NB: This is a slightly modified version of this post after re-reading it this morning:  it seemed a bit shouty - too many CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks!! Very poor writing. Must try harder.


Brendini said...

When I was a little boy, I fervently wished that I could have my own private cinema, instead of making multiple trips to the Astonia. I dreamt of owning films and watching them whenever I liked. Part of it has come true, first with VHS and then with DVD. I now own a lot of films that thrilled me as a boy, but never get time to watch them. Most attempts get a roll of the eyes from t'other half. What, exactly, is wrong with wanting to watch big screen Daleks on the telly??

Dave Leeke said...

Nothing, Brendan, nor is wanting to watch documentaries about pub culture and the British way of pub-life. But the Marty Feldman eye rolling starts as soon as I reach for the remote.

I think that the problem really is the way that whilst we've (re)-gained so much of the past because of the internet we also seem to have lost so much too. By living in a fragmented world we have lost the "Starman" or ""Hocus Pocus" moments that used to happen - as in, "did you see Whistle Test last night?"

Martyn Cornell said...

By living in a fragmented world we have lost the "Starman" or ""Hocus Pocus" moments that used to happen

It's migrated, grandad. You should see Twitter when 'X Factor'is on.

Seriously. (Sorry about calling yopu 'grandad', it amused me.) There ARE still those connected moments, but they happen live, on social media, rather than in the office/classroom the next day. Ask the kids you teach. The Olympic ceremonies, eg, were being commented live on Twitter as they were happening, and that's where people were havoing their interaction.

Dave Leeke said...

Fair point, Marytn. However, Mrs Dave and I were watching the Beeb's Bowie special from Friday night and the "Starman" moment still seemed like he was beaming in from space. But not as much as the "Whistle Test" appearance singing "Oh! You Pretty Things" - he WAS an alien.

My point about a fragmented World still stands, though. People in the Twittersphere may share those moments but are they the 22+ million that caught, say, Morecombe and Wise at the same moment?

Dave Leeke said...

Well, obviously they aren't - it should have said "as many as" or somesuch . . .