All greased up

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Hamish and I almost ran out of stories to tell each other (we are friends since 1984) and he finds it ridiculous how I start to tell him something that he’s heard three or four times already. For my part, I find some of his interests – military uniforms, orders of chivalry, royal palaces, etc. – fairly tedious. He does go on about these things. Conversely, as I fill in the fine detail of my artistic, religious and psychological preoccupations (they can be quite dark) I occasionally catch him drifting off to sleep. If I speak sharply to him, he quickly clicks back into consciousness.

To add to the boredom of our friendship (we’re starting to sit in silence like an old married couple), Hamish just cooks pasta. I don’t wish to misrepresent his culinary skills – we did have stir-fry once or twice – but you can only eat so much pasta before starting to long for something more traditional. Amongst all the ludicrous snobberies that we have to endure, the one about English food is high up on my list of irritations. Why are meat and two veg. so risible? And would my cultivated friends die if they were obliged to eat a plate of sausage, chips and baked beans with a bit of HP sauce on the side? And a slice of white bread? And a cup of milky tea? This is the stuff you eat in “greasy spoons”. Good fun. If I’m with my friend Michael Bonaventure, he’ll light up a cigarette when he’s finished. We can sit there for hours on end like that. But Michael is a total diamond. He agrees with me that you need a well done sausage in your mouth now and again.

Anyway, back to Hamish’s visit. We got in some nice walks, albeit coughing all the way (we both had ‘flu). We went first to Erasmuspark and then, finally, when we felt a bit stronger, to Rembrandtpark as well. I enjoy Rembrandtpark, even though it’s ugly. It has stupid modern bridges, and only a single nice wooden one. (H. photographed me standing there). We enjoyed some of the tall modern apartment blocks adjacent to the park. Nice feeling. Probably Rembrandtpark is quite cruisy at night…..I imagine. Why wouldn’t it be? Well, I’ll not be going there to find out, so, whatever. But this is a topic – the behaviour of gay men – that crops up frequently in our discussions. That whole Hampstead Heath thing, and my view that in some ancient societies (ancient Greece for example) orgiastic behaviour was integrated into religious practice. But we like our purity and innocence, don’t we. Oh we do, we do. Now I remind myself of my most hated hymn at school……

All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all. Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings, He made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings. The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate, He made them, high or lowly, And ordered their estate. The purple headed mountains, The river running by, The sunset and the morning That brightens up the sky. The cold wind in the winter, The pleasant summer sun, The ripe fruits in the garden, He made them every one. The tall trees in the greenwood, The meadows where we play, The rushes by the water, To gather every day. He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well.

Even as a child, being stuck in an assembly hall full of kids singing. All things bright and beautiful was murder. And as I always say, children have all of the feelings and none of the words. So I didn’t know how to say who are you fucking kidding?

And there, in the greenwood, someone wearing nothing but a leather jacket and a pair of army boots is bent over by a tree getting fucked by a row of men. Each little flower that opens………… tra la la.


1961, Bridget Riley "Movement in Squares"

1961, Bridget Riley “Movement in Squares”

My last partner pointed out that I serve music as if it were a goddess. And he added that if you worship a god, he/she should look after you in return. This thought has stayed with me for several years.

It reoccurs to me this morning as I make a neat copy of the duo I wrote yesterday evening (“Future” – number seven of the eight songs I am working on). This duo is for mezzo and tenor, singing in thirds. It interests me how when you combine high tenor with a mezzo singing just a third above, you get the illusion that the mezzo notes are actually beneath the tenor ones. Curious – an aural equivalent of one of those eye popping moments in Bridget Riley. Incidentally, as I love her work so much, along with that of her style compatriots, I wonder why I have written so much neo-romantic music. Yet more to think about…

Anyway, why I was put in mind of the goddess issue is because the songs I have been writing (I did the texts as well) deal directly, for the first time, with my own biography. I am sure that other works I have composed treat this obliquely, but that is not the same thing. Here I include actual sentences that were said by me or by others. And each situation is one that I know from my own story. So, it occurs to me this morning that here, finally, there is chance of some reward. That I can say what happened in my life. Not that it matters to anyone, not that it adds anything new to what we know. But that it is a joy to say it.