HEALTH & WELLBEiNG: Addiction

Today I had a blip. Or a relapse. In fact I’ve had two, as I had one yesterday, as well. Yesterday, I had a bottle of this:

Lovely. But no good for me, alas.

I posted about enjoying this tipple back in August of ‘23. But, for better or worse, I’ve become someone for whom, it would seem, any alcohol is a bad idea.

And I’ve been practicing this realisation pretty well. Being tee-total for about four months solid now. And that span of time would be quite a bit longer, except for a previous relapse.

The thing is, booze disinhibits, and leads me to other foolishness. But I’m not going to dwell on any of that. Because I don’t want to empower it with the oxygen of attention.

Instead, I want to take this post as an opportunity to meditate more broadly on addictive behaviour across the board. I think I’m prone to addictive habits. And modern consumer culture exploits us all mercilessly, in this respect.

Books. A definite addiction.

I have, or have had, addictions to T-shirts, trainers, drums, guitars, tools, wood, art materials, toy soldiers, models, books, records, CDs, and more. We sanitise and legitimise this behaviour as ‘collecting’.

More books…

I think it’s high time I began a series of purges. I’ve been flirting with decluttering for a good long while now. But my most harmful addictions are telling me I need to address two themes very much addressed in strands of Buddhism:

Craving

Attachment

So, I’m going to take today’s disturbing wake-up call as a call to purgative action. Indeed, one of the ways I got through this difficult day was tidying up around our home. Nowhere near enough. But each little step in the right direction eventually adds up.

Sometimes I hold on to stuff thinking ‘I can sell that’. And I really ought to try and sell a shitload of stuff. But I also ought to just give or throw stuff away.

Two Hasegawa egg-planes, consigned to the bin.

I think the freedom gained by shedding stuff will far outweigh the loss of the stuff itself. This said, there have been times when I’ve regretted getting rid of stuff. But there are two things about that:

First, I should dial back my attachment to material things. Easy come, easy go. Second, most of the stuff I’ve got rid of, I either don’t miss, or really oughtn’t.

MiSC: St. George’s Day

Raphael’s St George & the Dragon, c. 1505-6.

Today, April 23rd, is St George’s Day. Here in March it was celebrated early, over the last weekend. We had intended to go down to the event. But in the end we didn’t bother! Both too tired, alas.

The Glorification of St Felix and St Adauctus, Carlo Innocenzo Carlone.

The ‘facts’ of the supposed martyrdom of Felix and Audactus are, according to Wikipedia, ‘a legendary embellishment of a misunderstood inscription’. The Chinese whispers that underpin religious tradition, eh!?

Why do I jump from George to Felix and co? Because the latter are thought to perhaps have some grounding in historical fact. Oh, and also because I like the Carlone painting.

To my mind all religion is the legendary embellishment of the misunderstood. It’s best hope of any connection with reality is as poetic metaphor.

DAYS OUT/MiSC: Waresley & Gamlingay; Peaks & Troughs

St. James The Great, Gamlingay.

Today was a bit of a struggle. I tried to book more work. But shifts there were none! Watched a bit of afternoon snooker. Fell asleep for about an hour.

Water pump.

As on a few other recent occasions, I felt steamroller flat. Like a dirigible that’s just been sat on by Mt Everest. Such levels of fatigue get to be depressing. I had a doc’ appointment (well, ‘nurse practitioner!). But nothing has been diagnosed.

Strange village erection.

Getting out for work is always something of a tonic, for cabin fever. But in addition to exhaustion, poverty is grindingly depressing. Bills went out today that took me over my overdraft limit. I spent a lot of this morning trying to sort money shit out.

A white Twix?

Oh dear, this is the kind of trivia that I sometimes loathe the interweb for! But… what can I say? Other than… a White Twix?

My delivery rounds finished in Gamlingay. So I took the opportunity to have a walk around St Mary The Virgin. Very impressive, externally. But shut, sadly.

She’s a whopper! Back end.

I’ve even applied for a ‘cost of living’ grant, online. I’ll be applying for Council Tax reduction as well. Grimly enervating soul destroying stuff!

Middle.

The first thing to really lift my spirits, as I drove around delivering today, was passing through the picturesque village of Waresley.

Front/Tower.

Then a bit later, I had a nice chat with a lady I delivered to in Gamlingay, about MX5s. She had a more modern one, with an electric collapsible hardtop. She also had a very stylish old home.

The view from where I parked.

And just down the street from this nice lady’s home, the enormous weighty pile that is St Mary The Virgin.

Big window, little window.
Looking back out from within.
One of numerous fab doors.

I had a saunter around the perimeter of this imposing edifice. And whilst doing so fell in with a very nice tweedy gentleman, who was walking what I assume was either his daughter or granddaughter.

Mightily impressive. Mixing materials.

He made some interestingly jocular remarks about my interest in the church, inc. an allusion to lead thievery. To which I riposted with something about it being the only affordable source of lead for my toy soldiers, which he liked.

An even funkier door.

These delivery rounds interactions can, as they were today, be quite pleasant. All of which helped pull me out of a mire of exhausted poverty-stricken maudlin ruminating.

The main entrance.

We agreed what a shame church vandalism and theft are. And I lamented that this church has always been closed when I’ve tried to view it. The little girl – a blond pig-tailed sweetie – then piped up about it only being open on Sundays.

Porch and tower, from the graveyard.

I told her I’d had something of a falling out with God, and generally avoided calling at his house when he might be in. I wonder what she made of that? I really liked them, and they seemed pleased with me!

Just lovely.

All of which reminds me of a quote I recently read, that was attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, about the pleasures of puttering about. Indeed, Kurt! You are spot on. Who know what little gems of experience life has in store for us?

Signs of conservation, on the columns and pointing.
Groovy little n’ large combo again.

I ought also to mention that I briefly dropped in on Dad and co, in Hardwick, before starting work. They very kindly took receipt of some Freecycle wood/glass doors I’d been given, for me to collect. Which I did.

Cute little door.
Big stained glass window. Reflected light.

I’d love to get inside St Mary The Virgin (snigger, chortle, etc), and see this window from t’other side. Another time, perhaps?

HOME/MiSC: Bonfire of Bullshit…

A satisfying pagan ritual.

Every now and again, rather than shredding old paperwork (I had a shredder once, but it broke down eventually), I like to burn it.

Ok, it takes a bit longer than other disposal methods. But it’s far more satisfying. And probably more secure as well.

Ashes to ashes…

The most satisfying things to be burnt on this occasion were: stuff from our failed IVF treatment programmes, and the bumpf around my recent court case.

May it Burn in Hell, that Bastard Bullshit!

MUSiC/MEDiA: Michael Cuscuna, 1948-2024, R.I.P.

Started out as a drummer!

This obituary just popped up in my FB feed. Another legend from the world of Jazz leaves the earthly jam session.

Michael Cuscuna, best known for his work on the Blue Note catalogue, and as co-founder of DeLuxe reissue imprint Mosaic, died yesterday, aged 75.

Read more about Cuscuna’s life in Jazz in this Downbeat feature.

I’m chuffed to read that he started out as a drummer (and also apparently played sax and flute!), as one myself.

Cuscuna, Bearsville Studio, Woodstock, 1972

This quote from Cuscuna pops up here and there on the web:

I remember once I was doing a record with Dexter Gordon at 30th Street called Gotham City, and Art Blakey was on drums. During the session Art looked at me and said, ‘Man, you remind me of Alfred Lion.’ That was the greatest line I ever heard, you know?

This puts me in mind of something Tolkien has Faramir say to Sam, in The Lord of The Rings: ‘The praise of the praiseworthy is above all reward’. Indeed. Well, Cuscuna must’ve felt, in that moment, that he’d achieved something worthwhile.

DAYS iN & OUT: Cutting Up Waste Wood, ‘Fixing’ Fence, etc.

After; still not quite there yet, but much better.

There’s been an old broken door and various bits of wood, lying around looking ‘orribly messy in this spot, over the autumn and winter.

Before; remains of a door.
Messy and nearly empty woodpile.

I chopped it all up for the woodpile today. The woodpile has gone from almost totally empty to nearly full. Result! This also frees up space to work on finishing the pond.

A beautiful Robin, spying on my work.

We think the Robin in the above picture may be nesting nearby. He keeps popping back to this spot. Hunting and catching insects, admiring my tidying, and keeping a beady eye or two on us. Bless him!

LUNCH BREAK

After a quick dump, or rather, trip to the dump, to get rid of some junky bits of ‘wood’, I came home to lunch in the garden with Teresa. A boiger!

Burger off…
Mmm… Red Leicester and sweet chilli sauce.

Next job, fix some sagging fencing. This ought to be our neighbours’ responsibility. It’s their fence. There are some other parts of the fence that are as bad, or worse. They’ll need attending to in dew coarse.

A temporary bodge on some dodgy fencing.
Before (post is just leaning on fence!).
Riding my sawhorse, chopping out an angle.
Much better!

Look very carefully at the above pic’. Maybe zoom in on it… whaddya see? It’s our little red-chested avian friend. Perched on the post.

Our little pal checking out my work.

He actually landed on the post right after I’d finished putting in the last screw. Like a wee red-breasted foreman, making sure I’d done the job to his satisfaction! I didn’t think I’d caught that moment. But in fact I did!

We reckon he’s nesting t’other side o’ the fence. We can hear the shrill clamour of his bairns. Bless ‘em!

Fixing the honeysuckle trellis.

One section of trellis that’s got honeysuckle growing on it (thanks, mum!) was starting to fall to bits. So I secured it better to the fence beneath (above). And, along the end that was coming apart, I screwed all the members together (below).

All these joints were coming apart.

I secured this trellis panel using recycled fixtures that came off the knackered old fence-post, repurposed above as a prop, where the neighbours fence was caving in.

The wisteria coming back to life.

Spring is still a little chilly. But the sunshine and new growth makes it all glorious.

BOOK REViEW: Steeple Chasing, Peter Ross

Just finished this. Parts of it are wonderful five star fare. But I have to note that it has a few characteristics that irk me slightly. We’ll get to that later.

The first thing to say is that I’m definitely a ‘church crawler’. A term coined – acc. to author Peter Ross in this book – by poet and church lover, John Betjeman. It’s almost an addiction with me.

But, to the book. Some chapters, such as those on the Great Fire and The Blitz, and the one about Cats, were – for me at least – pure unadulterated pleasure. Others – a rather large one titled ‘Wen’, perhaps most notably – bounce around rather more variably.

If you love churches, and especially a certain kind of church – not so much the Friends’ Meeting Houses of the Quakers, or Baptist Chapels, rather the High Anglican, and Catholic, etc. – then this is almost a no-brainer. Get a copy, read it, enjoy it!

But it’s possibly in the books attempts to cast it’s net so wide, in the human aspects, rather than the bricks, wood and glass, and the earnest and constant display of erudition, that it feels almost like it is trying too hard.

It doesn’t feel quite as relaxed as the prose style appears to signal. And it appears to partake of that contemporary non-fiction need to tick as many boxes as possible. I think I like the old fashioned unashamed this is me/my style way.

The author.

Even the way chapters or sub-sections start with what feels very like a fiction writer’s style of momentary immersion (examples) smacks of a trend in modern writing.

But I feel rather Grouch like, saying all of this! Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Coming at it, as I do, from a secular point of view (I was bought up ‘in faith’, but – possibly as with Ross? – moved on from it pretty swiftly), I’m somewhat relieved to hear how often the author encounters fellow secular church worshippers.

But I’m ambivalent about his softly, softly stance on the possible dissonance between secular aesthetes and connoisseurs, and more conventionally conformist believers. And I’m unsure as to the need to take in all comers; it’s that ticking all the boxes/covering all the bases thing again.

My biggest surprise and complaint, however, is that the churches themselves often seem to play second fiddle to the ‘talking heads’. For one thing, I think this book would definitely benefit from more and better pictures. So much of what one falls in love with in and around old churches is visual and sensory.

Ross does make a point of saying that, for him, a large part of the interest churches have is the human history they speak of. Maybe there I diverge from him a little? But, interestingly, he frequently alludes to the best experiences being when alone in churches; I totally agree. But that kind of runs counter to his human interest thread.

Also available in bearded mode.

Also, whilst I agree that churches are indeed a reflection of huge wellsprings of human life and endeavour, they are almost like plainsong: a blending of many voices into anonymous wholes.

My own brand of secular aesthetic love of churches kind of turns away from folk, at least as it manifests in me personally. I’m minded of the Samuel Beckett line ‘beyond the fatuous clamour, the silence…’

The next words in that quote – ‘of which the universe is made’ – then take me back to the title of another book, about a sacred building, Universe of Stone (a work about Chartres Cathedral, that I own but haven’t read just yet!).

So, undoubtedly there are all these connections, which Ross elucidates and celebrates. But some of these resonate more, some less, with me. And I’m drawn more to the silent creations of art and architecture, than the Babel of particular human stories.

So, as already noted, I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of old churches. But as you can see, I have caveats and reservations.

Another of these, one that strikes me quite forcibly as I try to wind up this review, is something that also affects my ability to enjoy Stately Homes.

Also by Ross. Looks worth reading.

These imposing edifices, just like castles and palaces (and all three of these types of buildings share certain features) are also part of a history of colonisation and oppression; dominance and control; exploitation and subjugation.

And the final and additional chapter of this paperback edition, which concerns royalty and churches, with Westminster Abbey as a nexus around the death of Liz and coronation of Chuck, troubles me on this subject, with the complete omission of any reference to that side of the history of churches.

I think one of the reasons I can and do enjoy churches the way that I do is predicated on their fall from dominance. That creates a safe neutral space for my secular enjoyment of these powerful buildings.

There’s a whole and much bigger ‘universe of stone’, which most of us are forced to live in, that is pretty grotesquely ugly, in it’s banality, to which most of us are subjected for almost all of our lives. The squalid brutal ugliness of much utilitarian architecture in contemporary society. The sort of stuff that prompts Grayson Perry to say (mistakenly, in my view) that ‘Democracy has bad taste’.

Like Stately Homes and Royal Palaces, churches have played a big part in a history of control and dominance. ‘God and my right’, we see in them, over and over. That’s an aspect of churchology not really addressed here. And this book is a bit poorer for that lacunae, to my mind.

It’s strange for me, this review. I loved this book. Ok, I have a few criticisms. But what’s doing my head in a bit is that my review seems dominated by the latter, rather than the former. But there you go!

ART/HOME: Early Ukiyo-e Master, Robert Vergez

First print cut out.

On the one hand it feels barbaric and sacrilegious, cutting up nice art books. But, on the other, that’s why I bought this particular title. To turn as many of the pics as poss’ into framed prints. Some for our home, the remainder to sell.

Here are a selection of images from this book, pre-op’, so to speak.

Apparently ukiyo-e translates as ‘pictures of the floating world’, which in itself is quite beautiful. The period of their popularity is, I’ve read, 17th-19th C. And, as per the book title, these examples are ‘early’.

I wonder if the colours have faded and become more muted? I kind of suspect they might once have been more vivid, when originally printed. But I rather like the effect time has wrought.

It’s interesting to compare…
… the use/positioning of any text.
Rather different in style.

Most of the examples in this book are single figures. Tall and thin. With practically no background or contextual detail. But there’s a segment given over to ‘scenes’, which are landscape and not portrait in orientation, include multitudinous figures, and contextual detail or settings.

Dodgy old geezer with phallic object… hmmm!?

This one – above – is a bit odd. And rather saucily suggestive. The lady below looks across from the opposite page, rather disapprovingly.

… she’s not impressed!

All told, I think this book is a great way for us to procure numerous Japanese prints. Some for the beautification of our home. The remainder I hope to sell.

Lovely stuff!

The print that leaped out at me was the one above and on the right. Which also appears, cut from the book, atop this post. I got a cheap frame from TOFS, for £5, and… thar she blows:

Not ideal, as yet, but…

I need to get a frame mount cutter. Then I can tailor-make picture mount frames, which’ll make such pieces look a lot better. The tool I need is something like this:

Need me one of these!

For the time being, I’m using the pre-cut supplied mounting card.

On the bedroom wall.

And, finally, the print is up in the wall of our bedroom.

MUSiC: Tino Contreras

Jazzman CD comp’.

It’s amazing, the quantity of human activity that’s out there, waiting to be discovered. Tino Contreras, a prolific Mexican jazz dude, is new to me. A multi-instrumentalist, whose main instrument is drums, with a passion for jazz. Sounds totally up my boulevard!

Love both the cover and the concept.

I hope that some of the tracks from the above album are on the Jazzman compilation. I just ordered the latter via Discogs, for £3.99.

Another (poss’ earlier?) version of the Jazz Mass?
Dig this Didactic Album!
His final album, from 2020.

Rather amazingly, this dude, born in 1924, only passed quite recently, in 2021, aged 97! And he put out an album (on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label) – above – the year before he passed. Aged 96… Pretty bonkers!

The young Tino, c. 1940.

Why ‘FC’ on the kick drum display head, you might ask? Well, his full name was Fortino Contreras Gonzalez. From which he obviously derived the more contracted version. And in this early photograph, it seems he was going by his full name, albeit abbreviated to just the first two initials, a la Gene Krupa/Buddy Rich, etc.

Tino, Errol Garner (?), and Mike Bravo (c. ‘62?).

There’s a terrific interview from 2018 with Tino here.

Tino and his group toured Europe in ‘62.

The above photo was allegedly taken in Turkey!

I love this photo. What a hip young cat!