The last month or so has seen me shifting between divergent expressions of how I feel. On the one hand, the romantic, pastoral response to new environments I’ve discovered under lockdown, and on the other, an angry, subversive interpretation of the concept of “Odd”.
First up the pastoral. Another response to one of Dave Martin’s and Hannah McDowell’s Artistic Expressions of Ageing workshops when we thought of the impact of the environment throughout your life. My first thought was of the iconic, possibly last poem by Helen Dunmore “Hold out your arms”.
And then of a wooded, riverside walk in the St. Anne’s area of Bristol I discovered during lockdown. I could truly understand the concept of “forest bathing” walking along the path. I used my photo as driver for experiences across the life course. (I superimposed the following words over the image at the time but am unable to transfer this here).
St. Anne’s Undisturbed
Trees sheltering, wild garlic and bluebell sap,
Nails splicing a daisy stem and conkers,
Applewood smoking, blackberries simmering,
Frost and leaf mould,
Heart, earth, pulsing, shifting, growing, breaking, settling.
By way of contrast, the theme of “Odd” was suggested by Louisa Fearnley who has very kindly been hosting our Odd Lot Theatre and Film Zoom meet-ups. A poem , a monologue or whatever which we would record. So “Oddly Enough” (below) came out of this. I began by trying to film myself on my phone in the back garden. Predictably this solitary exercise felt and appeared very laboured and I wasn’t happy with it.
Certainly I look a bit stressed here. It also evidences that my hair has started to go white during lockdown!
So thankfully Andreea Rea agreed to film me, Rebecca Braccialarghe and Liz Cashdan in July (others from Odd Lot to be filmed in August). We spent a good, two hours at Greenbank Cemetery (another amazing place I discovered during lockdown) and I think we got a much better result. Hair a mess, old clothes and a less contrived effect. Thank you, Andreea for being both an excellent director and camerawoman! Screen shot and link to all our films to follow when we put them in the public domain, hopefully by the end of August.
I could not help but preface this piece with a quote from Elif Shafak’s TED talk: “The Revolutionary Power of Diverse Thought." https://archive.org/details/ElifShafak_2017G. It sums up everything that concerns me at the moment.
‘Slowly and systematically we are denied the right to be complex’ ( Elif Shafak 2017)
Sorry I’m not the way you’d like me to be,
Sorry I slip through the cracks of your neat, tidy world.
This makes me interstitial,
This gives me a little power
Should I choose to use it.
My life, my rules.
Why should I,
Why should I want to fit in?
Sorry I’m the garbage category that irritates you
Spoiling the software
Because none of the above apply to me.
Sorry if I linger a while on your conscience,
But I can’t resist
Making you feel uncomfortable,
Just a little bit.
I’m sorry I have zero fucks to give,
I’m sorry my red lips stick it to the Man.
Rather a lot.
But I have a bit of a mouth on me,
I just want to make you, him and every other fucker else
Sorry I’m not quite the full ticket
So very imperfect
So perfectly odd.
So don’t write me out a moral prescription, Doctor Virtue
Because I just won’t take the pills.
Forgive me, Father but
I’d rather watch Tiger King than Normal People.
He’s a piece of work isn’t he?
“You’ve got a face on you like a smacked arse.”
Jo Cross July 2020