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 […]Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall — Love Travelling Blog
Orphic wind, you blow far and wide;
You will enter the realms of the sea;
As I cherished a world not yet made
I relinquished the useless “I”
From Poem 25 in Osip Mandelstam’s Stone
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.
In social philosophy there is a particular frame theory which is referred to by Goffman. There is a useful discussion of this at http://philosophyreaders.blogspot.com/2018/09/frames-as-ways-of-seeing-world.html?m=1 In this there is a useful quotation from Lakoff-
“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.
Women to the Rescue by Jenny Dearlove
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
Women to the Rescue
A Penzance Refuge for Girls in Trouble
Available from The Hypatia Trust https://hypatia-trust.org.uk/contact
A tall donnish schoolmaster enters the gate
only a little late, dismounts
with a certain characteristic style
steering between the other master’s cars
He holds both bars and stomps,
observed by some third form boys, behind
the staffroom, past the prefect’s den
and parks his velociped in the cycle shed.
Allons enfants! We foregather before him
in serried desks- pupils in pupitres.
and listen to his high voice entreating us
to sing a folk song about a peasant soup.
Pacing the long dias by the grand piano
he encouraged us to belt ’em out. Pronunciation
rather than grammar was his choice forte.
We embraced “Auprès de ma blonde
“Qu’il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon.“, the
Marseillaise and Sous le pont d’avignon
The lyrics he swiftly chalked above
the staves on the board in the Music Room.
Thinking back, he may have been batered
by the War and tough times along
with the Chinese Inland Mission.
Appearing himself like a cross between Ho Chi Min
and Ezra Pound.
Even then I thought he may not
have fitted in with the other masters
being deemed eccentric he would not have minded
entirely blinded to such bourgeois mores.
“China Reconstructs” tucked under his arm
and head full of ideograms, I wonder
just what I might still learn from him now.
Two schoolmasters sat shredding their gowns in the late afternoon in the hut and during the urbane conversation fed the torn off pieces into the gap at the top of the stove. In such a manner, a little more warmth was afforded to extend their discourse for another few minutes. Their talk was conducted with epigrams in various European languages and spiced with the odd Latin tag. The stove added to the convivial ambience and the prevailing gemutlichkeit.
Let us move on from this staffroom tale, occasioned as it was by a copy I had made of some features of a well-known painting by Braque. Here it is:-
Here is the small sketch that I made several years ago:-
The painting with its lovely colours may be found in Yale University Art Gallery and is discussed at https://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/50855
I wondered why this painting held my interest and began to recall that a good number of my lessons at Grammar School were delivered in the damp but sometimes warm and cosy Temporary Huts. In my memory these seem to have been in the late afternoon and within the sound of the games field outside. One of these was the so-called Prefect’s Hut which I cannot ever remember actually entering. A good deal of R.E. seems to have taken place in such huts which were on raised piles of concrete blocks. There may have been a coloured oil map of Paul’s Journeys or the Middle East on a roller above the blackboard. Then there was German that I was supposed to be cramming for Oxbridge Entrance. All of which was rather a failure although I was quite interested in Scientific Terms like Bremstrahlung-(German: “braking radiation”; electromagnetic radiation produced by a sudden slowing down or deflection of charged particles (especially electrons) passing through matter in the vicinity of the strong electric fields of atomic nuclei. Nowadays my German has somewhat improved and in particular psychoanalytic words like durcharbeiten hold greater appeal.
In recalling particular lessons in cosy atmospheres, one in particular springs to mind taught my my own Form Master- a retired Wing Commander who had an intriguing time in Special Operations and would frequently preface remarks with “As my old friend, Bill Penny used to say…….” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Penney,_Baron_Penney Anyway, this lesson was an attempt to demonstrate measuring the acceleration due to gravity. It involved a swinging lath on a pin supported by a retort stand and a falling lead ball which left a mark on said lath when released using a string mechanism. A pipe smoker and hence possessing a lighter to burn through the thread, his use of the rather ersatz apparatus combined the master’s cricketing interests effectively. It produced a reasonable estimate of “g”.in those days in centimetre- gram-second units and we proceeded to consider some of the sources of error in the value we obtained.
The huts may be seen in the bottom left hand corner of the pre 1980 view of my Grammar School. Whilst not actually Nissen Huts these rather shabby buildings brought to mind the many black and white Second World War films that were much in vogue in the Sixties.
Perhaps it exists only in the imagination. I remember visiting the Cafe Central in Vienna with its wide variety of journals and literary magazines, gorgeous variety of coffees and its habitués. Mostly tourists when I visited but there were the ghosts of writers and revolutionists from Krauss to Trotsky. Then naturally the confectionary of all types and colours. Not quite Penzance but in its many transformations at lest one or two establishments have provided an atmosphere conducive to reading, talking and day-dreaming. The creative aspect of the latter sometimes under-rated.
In my youth it was a pasty on the beach with a towel before large bath towels were in vogue. Before we began to worry about the depletion of the ozone layer and the St Ives Times and Echo would boast about the town’s high monthly U.V Index statistics.
Sweet pastries filled the mouths
of those who sat beside us
and stayed for a while.
How the hours went by,
people just passing through
The descending sun ending
a forever with you.
(See Lily at https://hellopoetry.com/words/cafe/
The décor seems to change frequently. Decorators and interior designers must make considerable profit with properties so frquently changing hands. Different styles come into vogue, multiple mixes of gin followed by martinis with names as hot and suggestive to suit. The patrons change as does the topics loudly conversed. The rate of change changes until suddenly they become silent, empty and inaccessible. No more ladies who lunch with sleeping babies in stylish prams.
Their salads come and their forks they deploy
you can tell this is a luncheon they will enjoy.
They catch up on all the news
Sharing with one another their views.
No gossip here – they are not that type
But occasionally you will hear a gripe.
About a husband , son or some other man
Someone who should be hit over the head with a pan.
Elections come and go and it seems the wrong people get elected over and over. Those who don’t enjoy cafes or approve of culture and provide illusions about taking back control, whose egos are inflated by a sterile nationalism that was out of date at least a hundred years ago.
There are some animals whose presence seems to fit in with the soporific state of the nation. They represent perhaps the affectionate tranquillity which is more English than the butcher’s dogs and greased pigs of the contemporary age.
Clearly, that which we personally find nostalgic, pertains to ourselves alone but are there paintings which evoke in general this kind of mood state in the viewer? One painting which possibly does is this Matisse. It is discussed in detail on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxe,_Calme_et_Volupt%C3%A9
The fact that the title comes from Baudelaire is partly evidence to this state of mind-
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
This lines are from a poem called L’Invitation au voyage and certainly the second stanza has a definite cosy feel to it even when google translated into English-
Polished by the years,
Would decorate our room;
The rarest flowers
Mixing their smells
With the vague scents of amber,
The rich ceilings,
Everything would speak there
To the soul in secret
His sweet native language.
Returning to the painting itself, the colours invoke a sense of delicious and delicate luxury, as does the seaside setting and the recumbent nude figures. The sailing boat with its gaff rig beneath the boughs of the tree, which itself offers a protective quality, suggests that the shore may be quitted should ennui prove too troublesome.
On a personal level, my interest in this technique was stimulated by a term we did in the third year with our art teacher, Charlie Mac, when he suggested we paint using pointillist technique to give our work a more lively quality. We did some nice work from the end of the harbour pier in Penzance. However in the above m, Matisse was following the suggestions of Signac and creating a seminal work of Fauvism. The wild beasts are here in a somewhat pussycat or kittenish era even Louis Vauxcelles, who used the term, the following year in 1905 might grudgingly admit.
This portrait by Roger Fry of Virginia Woolf has I think a somewhat similar pointillist character. However, it evokes nostalgia because I can remember from childhood people dressing in warm woollen jumpers and staring pensively into the distance. This painting is on loan to Leeds Gallery from its owner.
In reading about museums I discovered that Derrida had written about archives. He develops a post modern approach to how the perspectives on the past are subject to change. Witness the recent debates about racism and colonialism in relation to this.
There are two moving poems by Louis MacNeice that moved me when I read them this morning. The first was an early poem called just “Museums” with a pronounced rhyme scheme. The second is more interesting and called “In the Reading Room at the British Museum”. The final line is perhaps more poignant than ever.
Museums by MacNeice
Museums offer us, running from among the buses,
A centrally heated refuge, parquet floors and sarcophaguses,
Into whose tall fake porches we hurry without a sound
Like a beetle under a brick that lies, useless, on the ground.
Warmed and cajoled by the silence the cowed cypher revives,
Mirrors himself in the cases of pots, paces himself by marble lives,
Makes believe it was he that was the glory that was Rome,
Soft on his cheek the nimbus of other people’s martyrdom,
And then returns to the street, his mind an arena where sprawls
Any number of consumptive Keatses and dying Gauls.
On Derrida this link may be of interest
When I think of paintings from interiors of the scene beyond, I tend to think of the South of France,of Dufy or perhaps Matisse. There is something too which reminds me of looking out from a safe place to the activity beyond. It recalls hours in childhood, perhaps when bored watching the summer visitors who looking lost were exploring the cobbled hill outside, often looking somewhat lost themselves.
The above is a view in an Oxford suburb into the garden with trees and a bird-feeder beyond.
This is a view from an upstairs window in Cornwall. The rubber plant has not survived my feckless care unfortunately.
This is a view from the Newlyn Art Gallery cafe which has a splendid large window overlooking the Mount and Bay.
A sea view at Christmas
A friend has sent me this useful link-
I have previously posted about Red Vienna – the time in the 1930s when an attempt was made to establish a form of social security system in the elegant city and when worker’s flats were built to ease the conditions of poorer citizens. Notoriously, they were shelled by nationalists in the dark period leading up to the Anschluss when the Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany. https://jacobinmag.com/2017/02/red-vienna-austria-housing-urban-planning
Karl Polanyi wrote: “Vienna achieved one of the most spectacular cultural triumphs of Western history … an unexampled moral and intellectual rise in the condition of a highly developed industrial working class which, protected by the Vienna system, withstood the degrading effects of grave economic dislocation and achieved a level never reached before by the masses of the people in any industrial society.”
In my personal psychogeography towns and cities remind me of St Ives where I spent many years of my early life. After the gas works was deconstructed and I think, before the Tate arrived many of the fisherman’s lofts and artist studios next to Porthmeor Beach were replaced by the Barnaloft and then the Piazza flats. They seemed to stand out as a statement of the modernism with which the town had been associated. The interior courtyard of the latter had an interesting Hepworth sculpture. They were not by any means worker’s flats but were frequently occupied by what has since been called champagne socialists.
Before the flats were constructed there was the beach cafe occupied by the Val Baker family. This was a homely venue offering a superb view of the sea and marvellous sunsets over it to the West. Little was seen of Denys himself whom I assumed was upstairs with leonine head bent over the typewriter. Denys may be somewhat forgotten but represented the spirit of bohemian values to the locals. He had been active in promoting the celtic culture as a Welshman intrigued by Cornwall and St Ives in particular. He and his wife were committed to pacifism and had been active in the committee of 100. https://www.rainydaygallery.co.uk/denysvalbaker.html
The Foot family has been long associated with St Ives. Issac Foot, bibliophile and liberal politician as well as a staunch Methodist stood in the town for Parliament. That by-election was rather interesting in the troubled atmosphere of 1937 and very narrow indeed. Isaac Foot went on to become Mayor of Plymouth.
Paul Foot his grandson and active contributor to Private Eye was often to be seen around the town. He was an active and intelligent member of the Socialist Worker’s Party as well as a campaigning journalist with a splendid sense of humour. He died rather young and was a notable loss to radical progress in this country. His book on Red Shelley is a moving introduction to that committed poet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Foot_(journalist)
Also some years ago spontaneous outdoor performances were given by another group associated with the Foot family-The Footsbarn Theatre Group. These were jolly and musical. Particularly memorable was a performance in St Ives Guildhall of Around the World in Eighty Days with a scence at the Old Bore’s Club which was gloriously funny -a tour de force.
Which leaves us with the intriguing figure of Peter Shore. Any Freudian would not be surprised that given his name he might have been strongly attracted by the glorious beach at Porthmeor. I used to see him taking his morning beverage be-shorted high above the sands at Barnaloft. These buildings were designed by the St Ives Architect, Cyril Gilbert- a shy charming gentleman who later ran the superb Wills Street Gallery near the Police Station. I digress- Shore was a fascinating figure who it seems travelled from the intellectual left of the party to total opposition to what was then called the Common Market. He was for some time an active M.P. for Stepney. Apparently he acted in a sort of Alistair Campbell role in that he advised on media promotion. I well remember how he responded when interviewed later in his career by someone like Robin Day or Brian Walden. He would begin by rephrasing the question and pointing out the precise strength of the case to which he was opposed. It was about then to be devastated by the power of his retort. However, in the questioning this just didn’t happen due to the interviewer’s interruption. You were left with the impression of his honesty and rather sad disappointment. And yet now I feel a little more straight honesty in political matters is crucial- a Balm of Gilead.
Sometimes it is salutary to hear what the opposite case – this clip exudes English chauvinism which is deeply misguided.