The Mirror and the Suitcase
I am no so longer young. I haven’t been so for many years really, only now there is no escaping the numbers and what they signify.
What do they signify, what do they mean, does anyone else really care that much? After all, my time is not theirs and if I am honest, the numbers that mark there age don’t mean that much to me. Or more accurately, the number does imply something, experience, time, plots that person onto some time chart, but how they feel about becoming this age or that, I can only really judge by my own feelings for that experience, or if older, my imagined ones.
They are numbered landmarks and that is all. The genuine ones are more often than not, to be found in between somewhere...or not at all. And when this happens, or more to the point, when things haven’t happened, the individual will inevitably hit the number rather than simply pass it by.
I am being objective and it sounds mechanical and a little cold. It is something I tell myself to remind myself, when the things I feel become undisciplined. It could also be called being realistic. It’s rather like questions, there are some that really do not have answers attached to them, so when asking them, one must make do with the question equalling the answer. Nothing wrong with a difficult question, but there is no point vexing yourself unduly, when you know you never will know that definitive, one truth or untruth even, that will silence the doubt.
It’s part of being human, a nod of recognition and a smile, tends to serve better than a frown.
When are we our actual age? When observing people, it does strike me from time to time, when the face and manner of someone, doesn't fit to their actual age. Often a youth will seem older or have a face I can imagine them being happier with, when they are in their forties for example. With girls sometimes, I feel occasionally that so and so will be much more content when they are a grandmother. Funny that, to add fifty years to a twenty year old. The opposite is also true. Some people are never reconciled to the age they become. They fight it and grow embittered, while others always retain a youthful quality.
I guess it depends on what state most fits that individual. Youth is more random and therefore more prone to error. In time people build, the layers of experience act as stability from which patterns or reliability emerge. Some are better in building than others and the ones that are not good, tend to be the more dissatisfied. But then many build, only to have it destroyed by circumstance. Then what? Rebuild? But nothing can be made “the same" twice, time passed, energy changes, the environment and attitudes to will also not be exactly the same. It reminds me, sometimes when looking at someone’s state or manner, the words "to be or not to be" come to mind. It is profoundly simple, but with accuracy the whys and how's of that individual will be unlocked.
The term, “to do or not to do” is just an important, but that's a question more for ourselves, than others.
This is a question I often ask myself when face to face with my paintings in the studio. Some days I really don’t know why I bother and struggle to find a reason for it all. But then I imagine how I would feel if I never tried, so I get back to work and stop asking impossible questions.
Our society is in love with youth and in denial of old age. Beginnings have hopes, ends just have inevitability. We like action not accountability. Consumption leads to waste. Like death, it is something we would rather not see as or be part of. Instant and easy. People work less for themselves, than for money. Money, like information is to knowledge, is a means, but not an end.
Tricky subject death. Most cross the street and avoid eye contact. It still sees them and they see it. They hold their breath until it passes, exhale heavily into the cold winter air when trouble has passed. It was unfortunate then, that they should bump into faith and belief around the next corner.
The excuse to not stop and chat, turned into a meeting, the meeting into an urgent business engagement, the business then become the emergency, that led to the fatality they were trying to avoid in the first place.
On Monday it snowed more heavily in London that it has done for years. The sky remained an even grey all day. It felt low somehow, concentrating the air and compressing us deeper into the snow.
Everything stopped. That’s not true, I went for a walk, I saw the odd train, cars passed and some shops were open. But I felt like everything had stopped. Children were not at school and people didn’t attempt to go to work in town. So they went for walks, made snowmen and slid down slopes. It was charming, natural, spontaneous. As though nature was reminding us, even curing us, of our troubles for a day. Our troubles of entanglement and estrangement. Our economic climate, our wilful enforcements, our short sighted material mumblings. All man made and most ultimately eminently forgettable. Our savage ways were covered two feet high with beautiful white snow. You cannot deny what your eyes see and not be affected by it. The unexpected shapes and patterns of familiar things, reminds you to revalue what's around you.
I walked across Old Deer Park to the river. Children were playing on the slope by the road. I passed the first of many snow men and continued to the Victorian footbridge on the Thames. A frozen stairway caught my eye in the opposite bank. I crossed the river to photograph it. The angle once there was not so good, so I continue along the towpath, until I found something worth photographing, which wasn’t difficult. The trees, the boats, the birds on the trees, the snow on the boats, the steps, the lampposts, the terracotta coloured bricks against the lime green metal arches, looked fantastic.
And so I continued slowly along the river, crossing Richmond Bridge and Petersham meadow until I reached the little church (the one that Van Gogh once drew) and grave yard on the other side.
The gravestones and the trees had an unexpected quality about them. The snow perched high like hats on the head stones and rested like veins over the leaves and trunks of the trees. Evidently no one had set foot in there that day, and I was careful not to complicate my walk around them, while in search of a good picture.
It didn’t feel particularly cold, I had wrapped up well, but after forty-five minutes and a number of stationary moments lining and deciding, I knew and felt it was time to go.
I ended my film, trying to capture two guys attempting with varying degrees of success, to fly there yellow and grey kite. They made good composition, however capturing the “perfect” arrangement of man with strings, man holding kite and kite airborne wasn't easy.
On the way home, I headed up the hill. The meadow was full of children and adolescents chatting, making snowmen or sledging on whatever flat material they could find, which made me smile. By the time I passed the church at the top of the hill (it has another at its foot) and started my descent, with my cloths so covered with snow by now, that I must have resembled Doctor Zhivago. A special day. .
Three days later the snow is still there, but in patches. Large lumps of it still remain in the streets and I’m sure there are still a number of snow men and women that remain in parks, gardens and on benches, taking it easy on our behalf, now that we have returned to our familiar pattern.
You are here, I am not here.
The map says we are in a recession, the politicians are fearful of a depression. The papers are full of it. It has become our meantime. We keep time by it, hold it close, like we do the lives of stars, the brutal murders, the unfortunate suicides, the disgraced politicians, the failing teams, the lucky horoscopes and the unlucky numbers that won't get us out of here.
But news in more tasty when it doesn’t really affect us, now there is a tension in the reports, are we going to the dogs or are the dogs coming to us, they ask?
Attitudes that were valued start to look shabby and cheap. Cheap like the pages of adverts on the cover and now the back page of some chronicles. Shabby like those deals the bankers made, the politicians conveniently overlooked and the population in its distracted state, cared so little about.
But systems are designed this way, not to really work, but only to look like they are. Working and caring, caring for us all, all those that can afford the ticket that is and not for the rest, the others, the unfortunate that strayed into the picture frame, who couldn't pick up the cheque, then tripped up trying to.
But invalids never get really hurt, do they? They are not like us, "the ones" the intended, who run terrified should they catch an accidental partial glimpse in a mirror of what, God forbid, they might become. No, the machines working perfectly, the ships on course, only you think we haven't seen, it's a shit ship on a crap course and one, some of us have been navigating to avoid for years.
Yes your rules and regulations, your correctness, your laws and injustices waged against the very people you claim to be protecting.
All these signs were there, but then you added a few more too help us to interpret those and then some, until the street is full of signs that no longer a signal a destination but have become the destination themselves. And you lament a lack of meaning and moral backbone in society, the state of modern life as seen on CCTV.
The objects are still on the table, the table that's never moved, the objects on it that don't stop moving, but are never changed. The distractions you turned to necessity grafted with clinical accuracy to create an obese society, unable now to even see its own feet.
Can we thank you now or later for all that has been said, done and done in, during your years of sly slumber upon that comfortable velvet armchair, that rulers throne you call home.
The Mirror and the Suitcase.