I recently happened upon these rather homely images of the English countryside, colourful and imaginative. They seem in the same vein as John Nash and perhaps Stanley Spencer. The falling leaves in front of the Mill House, the stream and the pathway adds a certain timeless quality, slightly abstract and yet impressively lyrical. You can read more about this charming painter’s background at https://artuk.org/discover/artists/barnden-bruce-19252009
I have been contemplating this painting from the mythical world of this not well known German painter who lived (17 August 1861 – 23 August 1945) As Wikipedia informs us “In 1889, he attended the Académie Julian in Paris, where he came under the influence of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul-Albert Besnard.” Certainly the Art Nouveau and Symbolist styles are present but the general impression of this work is one of tranquil gathering from fruitful nature. After a summer of disturbingly high temperatures and draught it seems a pleasant reminder of what seems a different age. End of summer and Arcadia can exist and as I have recently discovered in the rich orchards of Trengwainton still in existence.
As I have been reading recently about Stanley Spencer and the aftermath of the First World War, I came across the following painting as a comparison. Von Hoffmann’s painting is dated 1906, and according to Boyd Hacock’s “A Crisis of Brilliance“, Spencer’s Apple Gatherers is dated 1912.
To anyone familiar with Spencer, the chunky figures have a certain primitive attractiveness- a robust Bob the Builder robust quality. The abundance and timelessness is achieved by the composition. The sketches upon which it is based shows the time and thought which went into the work. The plenitude of fruit and the couple linking arms around the apple suggest some kind of Eden restored.
During this peculiar August weather, I have been reading David Boyd Hancock’s remarkable account of young British Artists and the Great War. Firstly, the account has introduced me to the Slade Artists whose work I was fortunate to see a few year’s ago in the Dulwich Art Gallery. So I have become acquainted with the critical instructor Henry Tonks whose sarcasm of student’s drawing was interlaced with great conviction about fostering the development of fine talents. I have learned much about the deep courage of Stanley Spencer, the lyrical regard of Paul Nash and his brother for the countryside, and of how Nevinson subverted Futurism to convey the mechanical dreadfulness of modern warfare.
Secondly, Boyd Haycock is excellent on the personal relationships affecting the development and interaction between the painters. The upbringing of Mark Gertler and his passion for the wayward and difficult Dora Carrington, I found fascinating as the figures of Bloomsbury enter the scene: Strachey, Fry and of course, Ottoline Morrell. Rupert Brooke and D.H.Lawrence are included too and the various links with art dealers, sponsors and critics completely convey the vivid and sometimes lurid time.
Thirdly, the response of these sensitive souls to the destruction so suddenly released in 1914 is powerfully conveyed. Minds as well as bodies are for ever traumatised and the pictures generated under fire have enormous power. Reading about the stalemate which ensued and the trench warfare, the horrors suffered under artillery bombardment and perhaps especially, the unnatural distortion of countryside inevitably bring contemporary issues to mind.
the new LG TV with its True Voice advanced technology.
The channel didn’t matter, what we cared about was clarity
and pitch, the digital dialling down
of background noise, homing in on the frequency
of the newsreader’s voice: far off famine
wars, a politician sacked, another
celebrity whose phone was hacked. We sat
in the sweet spot, the speakers concentrating
I tend to collect books of poetry and poetry magazines and came across the above poem which I have not copied in full in the Poetry Review Volume 101:2 Summer 2011 This edition was subtitled The New Political Poetry and inside Dautch has written a letter to Emily Dickinson in which she writes about the Talmudic tradition in which contradictory truths are allowed to co-exist. and also about doubt in contradistinction, she says to a Western Tradition that emphasises single truths or epiphanies. This seems apparent too in the first section of the poem -or perhaps prose poem quoted above.
As is widely known Friday evenings in Jewish families constitute the advent of Shabbat and the poem has a certain cosiness, one might say Gemutlich quality about it. Yet also there exists a troubled contrast between the technical sound quality and the dreadful news on the radio which has been arbitrarily chosen. In the remainder of the poem, there is a concern shown about the intensity of the experience becoming overwhelming.
All that evening, as we transformed secular time into Shabbat, everything seemed heightened: the candles, bread, wine, vibrating; each molecule its own distinct, sacred, world.
There are several ways of looking at this feeling. Psychologically Melanie Klein might refer to feelings of envy overwhelming what on a deep level might represent the maternal perfect breast. This state also reminds me of certain lines from the beautiful hymn by W.Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) Immortal, Invisible, God only wise–
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light.
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render:O help us to see
Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.
and in the next verse-
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccesssible hid from our eyes
…..and in this poem, of course, our ears as well although the background sound of snow shuffling down the roof paradoxically helps the evening feel complete. Reading Col Toibin’s book Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know just yesterday on W.B.Yeat’s artist’s father and the concept of the gaze, I came across the former’s well known poem about the Second Coming-
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun…
In any event Aviva Dautch is worthy of future consideration and here is a discussion on displacement, migration and exile in which she takes part:-
It was a bright and sunny morning as we pulled back the curtains in our hotel room and after tucking into some tasty bacon sandwiches we were back in the car for another day of sightseeing. Our starting point was to be Land’s End, the headland that sits at the most westerly point of England […]
This shopping precinct seems full of empty shops. It feels as though the local economy has not recovered from Covid and this environment has taken on the strangeness of the new normal. This in turn raises questions about the whole construct of “normality” and how normal the old normal really was. The empty frame, one might ask oneself; is it really empty? The frame itself can become a tool to investigate the reality on which attention is focussed.
“Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics, our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change“
Furthermore from Fairhurst and Sarr-
“Just like a photographer, when we select a frame for a subject, we choose which aspect or portion of the subject we will focus on and which we will exclude. When we choose to highlight some aspect of our subject over others, we make it more noticeable, more meaningful, and more memorable to others. Our framing adds color or accentuates the subject in unique ways. For this reason, frames determine whether people notice problems, how they understand and remember problems, and how they evaluate and act upon them (Entman, 1993).
Frames exert their power not only through what they highlight, but also through what they leave out. In framing, when we create a bias towards one interpretation of our subject, we exclude other aspects, including those that may produce opposite or alternative interpretations.”
The frame might be the area of domestic politics which when focussed upon excessively means that political discourse becomes isolated. This has been the case in the U.K. where foreign affairs has suffered much neglect. Statesmen with detailed understanding of policy seem few. Consequently issues nearby are outside the frame. The events leading up to the invasion of 🇺🇦 Ukraine 🇺🇦 are now the return of the repressed.
The doleful and economically depressed scenario locally has a dreamlike quality at times somewhat reminiscent of paintings by de Chirico or Rene Magritte. Outside the frame there are grander landscapes.
It is always interesting to surmise what was happening in the world when you were a very small child. This intriguing black and white film from 1947, Hue and Cry has some of the answers. It is set in the feral landscapes of bombed out London. However, the spirit and humour of the kids captures some of the trauma of the recent blitz but much more the youngsters resilience. The following clip shows a little of what I mean.
I found this DvD in one of my local charity shops and was intrigued by the fact that the plot revolves around a children’s comic called The Trump. The blurb on the reverse also mentioned that it was the first of the famous Ealing Comedies and there were fascinating shots of post-war London’s exterior locations. In fact as I watched the film it in some parts reminded me of seeing the recent gang wars of Sondheim’s West Side Story as filmed by Spielberg. Indeed some of the visual tropes or tricks were similar too. This second clip gives details about the locations of the film and how they look today.
Passing beyond the psychogeography of “Hue and Cry” I also thought there was a sort of undertext. The working class children with their naïve and energetic enthusiasm overcome the sharks and spivs in their criminal activities. Very much the product of those heroic times when the Atlee government brought so much to recovery. There was something democratic if somewhat frenetic here which vividly contrasts with life here today. The hectic has become frenetic in a Governent of the Posh Boys and what used to be known in Lambeth as Wide Boys.
To finish on a more upbeat note; this film has amusing glimpses of life in the old Covent Garden Market. It is worth watching for that alone. However, the acting of Lambeth born Harry Fowler, Jack Warner and especially Alastair Sim is superb. Talking of markets let me conclude with these lines from Charlotte Mew’s Saturday Market.
The splendid Penzance Literary Festival has chosen this topic as the inspiration for this year’s event. I have taken out my larger dictionaries and looked a little at its usage and etymology. The latter is not difficult as it derives directly from Latin and basically means something like the capacity to jump back.
The term resilience was introduced into the English language in the early 17th Century from the Latin verb resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil (Concise Oxford Dictionary, Tenth Edition).
resilience (n.) … 1620s, “act of rebounding or springing back,” often of immaterial things, from Latin resiliens, present participle of resilire “to rebound,
We get the English expressions ‘Salient’ and ‘To sally forth’ from the Latin verb Salio -to jump. In Cassell’s Latin Dictionary we learn of the Salii who were apparently a college of priests who jumped and leapt about worshipping Mars in a procession accompanied by singers and armed dancers. Instituted bt Numa Pompilius apparently.
Returning to the concept of Resilience we can distinguish its meaning from something like Endurance or Durability; it is more springy, elastic and perhaps energetic. Principally, of course, the concern around the concept relates to the inner resources for coping with Covid and the restrictions consequent upon it. It is the psychology of resilience which makes it a concept current in the zeitgeist. Without much prompting Google asks –
What are the 5 skills of resilience?
Five Key Stress Resilience Skills
Attention – flexibility & stability of focus.
Letting go (1) – physical.
Letting go (2) – mental.
Accessing & sustaining positive emotion.
Additionally it further questions-
What are the 7 C’s of resilience?
Dr Ginsburg, child paediatrician and human development expert, proposes that there are 7 integral and interrelated components that make up being resilient – competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.
Whilst thinking about this topic, I came across these lines from a poem entitled Women Running, based upon Picasso’s painting entitled Deux femmes courant sur la plage which seem apposite and uplifting-
That arm laid across the horizon,
the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull
me from my skin and I become one of them,
believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,
believe I’m young again, believe age
has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship
at the altar of energy, not the energy
huge with hate which revels in tearing apart,
in crushing to dust but the momentum
which carries blood to the brain, these women
across the plage, lovers as they couple
and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom. Myra Schneider
Memories of the recent past may not always be resurrected with pride. Indeed, they may be suppressed in an attempt to avoid guilt and pain. When it comes to the rough treatment of young women, unmarried and with child, in the years before the establishment of the Welfare State, recalling matters grows still more uncomfortable. The recognition of the catalogue of penury, ignorance and pain which led to unwanted babies, abortion and infanticide in the not so very distant past is not easy to absorb. However, there are advantages in looking over such painful issues. Firstly to discover that other brave women, in the form of a local society whose members responded to give succour at a time while others simply condemned “moral weakness”. Secondly, some such misfortunes; broken relationships, fear of infection and addictions plaguing our Grandparent’s generation remain today. What then can be usefully learnt from the records of the “Refuge for Girls in Trouble” set up in 1907 in Penzance?
In assembling an overview of the work of the Penwith Rescue and Preventative Society, Jenny Dearlove clearly demonstrates the often makeshift approach to the social care of young women in dire distress through unwanted pregnancy. It outlines one solution by the good folk of one Cornish town. This story contains an interesting medley of personal statements from care workers, committee members and others attempting to relieve distress. In giving a panorama of these dark times, it is necessary to deal with the uncomfortable details of dire distress; abortion, drunkeness, severe poverty, prejudice, dirt and disease. However, without such charitable interventions how much worse would the situation of these girls and babies have been?
It seems that often the young women were moved out of the area, quite often separated from their babies. Many alternative institutions beside the Penzance Rescue Society appear somewhat dire. The photograph of Madron Workhouse ( the text is liberally illustrated) in particular looks like the forlorn last hope that it undoubtedly was. In addition to illustrations there are several appendices with a very useful timeline that conveys the benefits of the development of the Welfare State and changing regulations toward contraception. Material inventions such as effective plumbing, electric cookers and later still, the washing machine were an obvious boon even when relationships between the occupants of the care homes and hostels were not always as they might be.
Doubtless, one beneficial aspect of this book are the questions which it raises. For certain men do not come out of the account with any credit.Not only those who left their girlfriends with unsought pregnancies but those who had forced their attentions on vulnerable women. Women’s suffrage and following campaigns, although limited at first, helped create a climate for change which went on to benefit children. Additionally, the book encourages thought about the difference between un helpful moralistic stances and more neighborly generosity expressed by giving practical assistance.
Some of the most interesting issues concern the differences between the organisers and what would nowadays be called, front line staff. There is early evidence of multi[ple pressures on the latter. Professional Social Work really only took off in the 1960s and its resourcing remains subject to political control and financial cuts. Currently, bearing in mind profound lapses in child care and paucity of welfare provision we might do well to acknowledge rather forgotten women who got down to the task of sustaining others who, in the parlance of the time, were considered to have “fallen”……..
All are one now, roses and lovers,
Not known of the cliffs and the fields and the sea