Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Marine Venus

I was setting off to Bristol to stay with my daughter for a few days, meeting up with a friend  there with whom I’m going to spend a few days walking  and needing something to read hurriedly picked Lawrence Durrell’s Reflections on a Marine Venus off a shelf. I was surprised by my choice, as I’ve never read any of his books, they never appealed.  I was introduced to them more than thirty years ago when I first met my partner.  I dipped into them but at the time in my mid twenties I was  reading the beat driven Karouac , psychedelic  Robbins and the  gangsters stories of Chandler and Runyan, not non stories about quaint but listless island living. I thought about my choice in the car, why had I chosen Durrell? Two words had caught my eye, marine and Venus. Marine Venus I liked how they sat together.
Later in the housing estate in the Bristol commuter land my kids inhabit from time to time, aptly nickname Dumpster Gardens, I start to read with more than a little trepidation. I’m captivated from the off, there is no pacey story, it’s still about living on an island but now I see an artist at work using as his medium the depths of the English language to sculpture a living, vibrant image, beautifully carved and shiningly polished like stone. What was once barren ground for me now fills me with pleasure and rather consume it rapidly I read slowly, only a few pages at a time, to savour its craftsmanship. It also opens up a visual pathway to my partner. She is there; I feel her presence in every page. My love of the road, beaten clothes, apple pie and ice cream, were influenced in part by Karouac. I know her love of light, sunlight and sharp heat, poetry, classical writing, languages, wine, her visual awareness of quality,  now I see one of her major influential sources and marvel at it myself.
Driving up I listened to Amadou and Mariam ‘the blind couple from Mali’ whose Afro blues has just the effect one needs to fly across the miles. Its all in French but it’s the sound of those rich African voices blending with the percussive beat that only Africans can achieve. On track five I hear an instrument I don’t recognise, it’s there pulsing out a regular beat amidst the floating lines of music, what is it? I wonder. Its a few minutes later that I realise it’s me, palming away on the car horn as I weave through the busy traffic. I’m practicing for the race convoy.
I listen to a wide variety of music. I am grateful to my son who has introduced me to a huge number of bands. It was the best money I ever spent when I bought him U2's The Joshua Tree with his birthday money when he was five. I think he had other plans for it but I told him then that it would have a major effect on his life. I was right. Amongst all those bands he directed me to The National are the stand out group, real quality. 

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