DAY 214: Inferno

June 15th, 2017 § 0 comments


I feel this is something of a metaphor (don’t we all love metaphors?) for the current state of affairs, of blogging, of my mind: I’d dealt with my rumination on the astounding and encouraging election result; and was preparing for a lengthy discussion of the music scene in North London as I see it, when the Grenfell Tower disastergrenfell struck, with the following consequences:

1. It displaced all other news – and that at a moment of national crisis, when we had (we have) no idea of who is to govern us;

2. It brought into the foreground questions (which should have been there all along) of how the rich act with complete disregard of health and safety regulations, which they treat as ‘red tape’ constraining the entrepreneur;

3. It brought together a multiplex of underfunding issues – of safety inspectors, rescuers, hospitals, firefighters,

fightersall down to the same mean-spirited (but very profitable) neoliberal culture which has prevailed for years, and is still central to our government. I appeal to you, citizens, let us give one more push and get these rotten apples in the rubbish heap of history, where they belong!

But seriously, reader, do you not despair of that Twitter culture which constantly chains you to the events of the last six, nay the last two hours? So that all your latest comments, however thoughtful, lose validity because you don’t know, can’t know, what’s just happened? I’m not seeking to disparage what I’ve just said; and the General Election, however ‘snap’, has been on the way for some time. But all these Daesh attacks (to take one random example) distract the blogger’s attentions from the eternal verities where it should rest. In particular – to take  the example towards which I was heading  - from contemporary music in Dalston. Back in November (I think) I was moved to write about the amazing Aphty Khea who performed in Kentish Town (post 197, I think, if you’re looking). I quote:

‘A tall woman in a long dress12814670_1117701058261868_7769792526235084374_nstrode onto the stage and began to set up (a daunting array of synths and other electronic equipment). This took the best part of half an hour. Did the audience know what was to come? I didn’t, I was getting restive, and when Aphty Khea (for it was she) finally unleashed her repertoire on the pub, I was completely bowled over. That someone who by rights should be performing for huge sums at the South Bank was playing for charity at the Fiddlers Elbow! I hadn’t heard such a dazzling, provocative display of pure art – I’d like to say for years, but I have a duty to my journalist’s conscience (is there such a thing?).’

Gutted is the usual term for what I was, to find that I’d just missed Aphty’s last gig for some time – and that in CamdenTown on Tuesday; I could easily have got to it. I’d set my sights on a different offering, compositions by the well-known (but not to me) composer Tansy Daviestansy who specialises among much else in dead modernist settings of translated troubadour ballads. The link will (should?) get you to ‘Troubairitz’ which is precisely that. A small crowd of enthusiasts sat, many on the floor (not me) and waited through some longish periods of drumming and stuff; between the real event, which was a series of recent and not-so-recent Davies offerings. Before heading off into the sticky Dalston Ramadan night.

Much earlier, of course, Arthur Brown of the Crazy World attended the Universities of London and Reading and studied philosophy and law, but he gravitated to music instead, forming his first band, Blues and Brown, while at Reading and produced his number 1 single ‘Fire‘, which is where we came in. None of his studies – even law? – led him to speculate, as he should – on the profitability of fire.

Or the irresponsibility of rulers. I suppose we could go back to Conrad’s Lord Jim (again, it’s only about 100 years) to find some lessons on how the British abandon health and safety regulations, particularly when Muslim pilgrims are involved. Preachy Marlow refers in Jim’s case to the ’struggles of an individual trying to save from the fire his idea of what his moral identity should be.’

A City’s Death By Fire – Poem by Derek Walcott. (This has no particular relevance but what the hell.)

After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city’s death by fire;
Under a candle’s eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.

 

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