Have you seen Tim Cockburn?

This is a work of his, titled ‘Home’.

Home by Tim Cockburn

There is not much I want to say about ‘Home’.

One picture, two scenes. Or one scene, two pictures.

Joining and adjoining anyway.

Both together reveal the story. Without the other, ‘anyone’s guess’?

Will he get to sleep with her or be made to spend the night in the spare bedroom? Or on the living room couch?…

The bedroom – a woman reading a book, part of her night-time ritual, she reads a chapter each night, she makes herself  do it, ‘for where is the time otherwise?’ or she gives herself to quarter-to-ten having retired to bed at half-past-nine for she is a creature of habit and an early riser is part of her relentless routine.

Or she reads until her eyes can no longer focus on the page, her mind drifting in-and-out of consciousness, the book flopping in her hands before she falls into sleep, the light left on, again…

But that never happens for usually her husband alongside her is reading his paper and whenever he espies his wife’s head beginning to nod he will always reach over and switch off her lamp and place the book on her bedstead.

Or her husband is asleep alongside her but asleep with the quote marks as an aura of ‘are you still reading?’ pervades the near-silence.

She has heard something – a creak on the landing but in any case such attempts at quiet on his part are in vain as she heard him minutes earlier in a drunken awkwardness of attempting to open the front-door, or was it the back as more discreet from the eyes of ‘neighbours’…The husband perhaps knows this too as a ritual of a Friday or Saturday night or rather Saturday or Sunday morning…but feels obliged to pretend considerate quiet anyway, as he had creaking his way slowly up the stairs minutes previous.

The pet dog is expectant too, but its enthusiasm for this (approaching) master tempered as it knows this ritual too and that its other(reproaching) master won’t be sharing it.

Or if not a ritual he saw the light on from their bedroom as far back as ten minutes earlier when walking home from his drunken night-on-the-town, his inebriation dulling his sense of time but not space, the window’s glow both reprimanding him and beckoning him home.

But I would know not that without sight of the landing. The wife’s wary doorward glance may have been a mother’s as she heard a creaking floorboard as a sneaking child passes by kitchen-bound… or it was the sound of her husband approaching her bedroom but who had just popped out to the bathroom, they having been mid-row, as much why the husband made his nocturnal visit to give himself composure and or new line of verbal attack, or rather defence.

And with just a view of the landing I would not even know if the husband was, as it were, coming or going. He could be sneaking out rather than in. A secret highland dancer. Or had been given permission by his wife to go out and make a night of it she having retired early for the night and so not wanting to disturb her. Or his wife was a fanatic not about nocturnal silence but household cleanliness, never to allow footwear upon her carpeted and uncarpeted floors that had ever trod outside.

I would not even know if the man is a husband!

But seeing both bedroom and landing together it is then clear that he is not just a husband but one returning home and late or at least beyond the hour he is expected. And that their West Highland Terrier is indeed right to temper its enthusiasm with some wariness.

But as I wrote at the start this is but a cursory look.

Ships that passed

This is a tale about Ann. Ann made a lasting impression upon me. Though she might have been Ann with an e.

This is a tale too about being in love. Or believing that you are anyway.

I felt awkward in her presence so I reasoned that this might be because I was (falling) in love. And naturally what I was feeling for her she was feeling for me.

Teenage passport photoThis is finally then a tale of youthful narcissism.

Ann and I were co-workers. We got on well enough that we arranged to meet outside of our work. Seconds after we had so arranged, our meet had already escalated in my mind to a date and then quickly exploded to so much more. To Ann it was very likely still just a meet.

This first date we had arranged to go to the cinema. I had done my best to dress up presentable, though I fear hair-gel was involved, well it was the eighties. We met up outside a London Underground station of which I cannot remember, any more can I remember the film we went to see. I can though remember, very clearly, how the meet-up, date, romantic assignation began. For walking up the steps from the bowels of this particular Tube station was Ann. And a friend.

The eyes of this friend greeted me with a wary look which read ‘Really Ann, this is your date, you could be doing so much better’. It is amazing what you can read in someone’s eyes from just a fleeting glance.  Except from events that were to transpire she would not have been thinking that at all. It is amazing what you can project upon someone from just a fleeting glance into their eyes.

As I shook the hand of Ann’s friend saying ‘Pleased to meet you’ my eyes were saying ‘You’re not welcome’. It was that ocular message that I hoped would be understood by her. It was, for the rest of this cinema date all words between us were exchanged via Ann.

And as for me and my best laid lines. Now I had to appear at ease and witty with not just one female but two, one of whom at least definitely had no interest in pretending I was interesting.

Worst of it was that I had also bought Ann a gift. A gift based on a  more romantic expectation of this first date than it now transpired she had toward it or me. Luckily for me the gift was concealed in a bag I had taken to carrying around with me at that time.

Lucky too I had not gone down the route of more conventional first date gifts such as not too cheap wine, not too expensive chocolates, Van Morrison album, as they and my intentions towards her would then have been more difficult to conceal.

Instead I went with a book. Oh yes!

I had just finished reading the short-stories of Katherine Mansfield. the collection ‘Bliss and Other Stories’. I could perhaps have lent her my copy, or even made a gift of it by way of a seeming selfless (when actually self-absorbed) gesture, but no, I instead chose to buy her Katherine Mansfield but something obscurer, a Penguin Modern Classics collection of her letters and journals, to prove not just that I was sensitive but erudite too and possibly intellectual.…

The wind set up such a song in my bones that my dear doctor is once more sticking longer, stronger needles into my behind. Although I walk like the only child of a crab and an Indian colonel I feel it is going to do the trick…

To the Hon. Dorothy Brett [29 July 1919]

Cover of Penguin Modern Classics Katherine MansfieldThe gift was never proffered. You can see it there in that photograph above. For quite some time afterwards I could not bear to look at that book! But at the same time I was not going to throw it out, I had paid good money for it and one day would read it to its end, its now bitter end.

A second date did occur though and this time it was just the two of us, kind of. We had just finished our work shift and decided to leave together basking in the evening sunshine. Passing a pub we then decided rather than to pass it we should frequent it.

And so there we both were, sat down at a table with our respective drinks at the rescue, and a police-officer enters. Except it soon became evident that she was no police-officer, when she started unbuttoning her blouse. Yes I was on a date and a Stripogram was in the vicinity and I had to pretend to not be a lascivious male, rather a gentleman, an unruffled, composed one at that, above that sort of thing. I think I did this by changing my seat position with my back to the incident.

I did end up back at her place. She did not live alone, well not entirely, she had a land-lady, who we encountered as we entered her home. She gave me the once-over and the judgement of her eyes, again I believed, was not approval.

She took me straight to her bedroom, Ann that is, not the landlady, that really would have been a swift turn of events.

Ann’s bedroom being also her living room. A bed, or rather mattress took up most of the floor space. I was offered coffee and I accepted coffee, no metaphor in sight.

And yet despite clear overtures and remarks that I could stay the night I did not. I did not because it was clear she wanted me to stay because it was late and it was probably easier for me to spend the night at her place. Perhaps even to spite her landlady, she having felt her accusatory judgement too.

But I had been expecting more. The basis for such hopes in retrospect I can see were flimsy but at the time I felt that this was the inevitable order of events in these sorts of situations. I was expecting to, you know, sleep with her not sleep over with her. And if it was the latter on offer then I would have to make my excuses and leave.

A farewell kiss was involved, the sort a brother gives his sister.

After that, unsurprisingly, relations between us became distant. Soon after she left our place of work. She was out of my life, if not yet out of my heart or mind.

I was to find out that she had been seeing someone else. And shortly after she became engaged to this someone else. My feelings for Ann had never once been reciprocated, I was just some interesting distraction. Good old fashioned unrequited love. Or unrequited infatuation. Or unrequited lust. Anyway, unrequited.

Many people when become out of my life if I do later remember them it is often enough to do just that, remember them. Their life subsequently does not preoccupy me.

But I do wonder what became of Ann.

She was engaged so I assume she then became married.  But perhaps he was a cheating cad and they divorced shortly afterwards, she now on her fourth marriage, forever the hopeless hapless romantic pairing off with men not worthy of her.  Well Ann I am sorry, you had your chance, you chose in favour of a good man for an exciting man and well…

Or worse he was already married, he planning bigamy, cursed as he was from loving too much, until Ann was tipped off by a mutual friend and she ditched him before such a legal and romantic crime was consummated on the altar, realising to her horror that she had made a series of wrong decisions culminating in choosing the wrong man. I could have been hers.

And has spent the rest of her life wistfully regretting that night she asked a man to sleep over with her.

Or they have been happy in the state of marriage ever since with two daughters, two sons, two dogs and two cats. The picture of domestic and spiritual contentment.

And not once since as Ann thought of that night or me.

Ships that passed.

Fan Fiction Unrestricted

I recently posted about a piece of inadvertent fan-fiction I had created. I posted it on the fiction site Wattpad.

Due to some of its contents being of a sexual nature – very mildly and allusory it must be said – and they having a Ratings system I self-classified it as PG-13. (Parental Guidance 13 and under). It is even possible that I should have used their R classification which is their Adult/18/X-Rated equivalent. They’ve not said anything to me anyway!

What I had not realized was that by doing so the piece is not only restricted on Wattpad but it means if you are not registered with them you can not see it at all. In retrospect this does make sense as otherwise how would they tell the age of you reading it!

In effect therefore it is hidden away from the web.

And means that the link I provided in my post would have taken you to content you could not see unless you were prepared to register with the site. Not what I was intending at all.

So I shall shortly be publishing it here without restrictions. Although I wonder if WordPress should have an age-classification system. That was rhetorical wonder! As that’s a whole hornets’ nest I do not want to stir up here!

Tiny Furniture: Art Imitating Art

Lena Dunham is all about these days.

There is Girls which she writes, directs and acts in. She likely does other things in it too.

By way of familiarising myself with her and some back-story I watched a 2010 film she also wrote, directed and acted in, Tiny Furniture.

Like Girls it is documenting her life as lived. In this case as lived in 2010 in New York, just come out of a relationship of three years, recently graduated college and wanting to be an artist and needing jobs in the meantime to support that. Familiar enough tropes right? Okay I just wanted to write tropes in a blog post and promise not to do it again!

She is also living with her sister and mother whilst doing that.

And her sister is a poet. And her mother an artist photographer.

But her sister really is her sister, Grace Dunham. And Grace Dunham really is a poet.

And their mother really is their mother, Laurie Simmons. And Laurie Simmons really is an artist photographer.

And the film is so named Tiny Furniture because the mum photographs tiny furniture. And she does so in real life.

The family parallels do end there though. Her husband, their father, is the artist Carroll Dunham and he is not featured in the film. Or if he is I did not see him, though I would not know him if I did see him! Hmmm. Anyway.

Here are some of Laurie Simmons’ photographs of tiny furniture.

Laurie Simmons Long House

Long House (Downstairs Kitchen) 2004

TV Room Laurie Simmons

Long House (TV Room), 2004

Red Bathroom Laurie Simmons

Long House (Red Bathroom/ Blue Figure), 2004

Aunts and Uncles

On New Years Day one of my Aunts died. Or passed away as it is more usually softly called.

My relationship with this Aunt was not close. In latter years I would never visit, at most send her and her husband (my mother’s brother) a Christmas Card. We did live hundreds of miles apart but this was not the reason for the distance between us. This description could apply to nearly all my aunts and uncles, whatever the geographical space separating us.

I do have fondness towards my aunts and uncles. But ‘fondness’ though a warm word is not as warm as ‘affection’ let alone ‘love’.

I have nieces and nephews myself whom I love and love spending time with. I did not get much nephew time with my own aunts and uncles. And wonder why.

Most of my aunts and uncles have children of their own and I do not. Perhaps then this is why I am able to spend more uncle-time as I have no father-time with sons and daughters to consume my love, time, energy, affection.

But I have an aunt and uncle who do not have children and did not spend too much time with them either.

The distance between us may be related to the geographical miles between us. Certainly with social media, and Facebook in particular, I am able to keep in a more constant contact with my nieces and nephews than if we did not have this access – I live in Scotland and have one set of nieces and nephews in London England and another on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Had their been social media in the decades I was born and schooled in (the 1960’s and 1970’s) perhaps this would have held those avuncular and – what is the equivalent for aunt?! – bonds together.

But if I think about it the most likely reason for our emotional distance are the relationships between those aunts and uncles and my own mother and father. Their own sibling rivalries which ebbed and flowed over the years. Nevermind the added in-law dimension.

As children our adult relationships are naturally siphoned and routed through our parents. And so if they are not getting along with one of their own adult relatives then quite likely we children are not going to be allowed to get along with those adult relatives either.

Husbands and wives can get divorced. Brothers and sisters as adults are not so required but in all but name and legal statute they can be too.

I opened by noting that I was out of the habit in recent years of visiting my aunts and uncles. Sadly there is one event that remains a notable exception that will always bring most of us together again. A funeral.

And with age they occur more often. They become less shocking and grievous and more resigned to and contemplative. And we resume our conversations with each other. Some polite small talk, even more nostalgia and sometimes we go deeper too. We usually end by promising to keep in touch. And then we don’t….until the next funeral.

I close with a photograph featuring my recently departed aunt (we are at our most euphemistic with death – the one area we are perhaps even more euphemistic about is a bit of what you fancy?!). The photograph is the wedding of another of my aunts and uncles but one of the few I possess with her in. It is the after-reception you are seeing.

Family Wedding photoMy mum’s parents are in there and so is my mum but I am not telling you which. You are free to guess! My dad is in there too but has stood behind someone taller and only the hair of his head can be seen. I don’t know whether this was his intention! The photo is filled up with other aunts and uncles too.

There are a number in this photograph I do not recognize which I think is typical of old family wedding photos. I am presuming/hoping those unknown to me are all friends of various family members and not family members who I cannot make sense of in their younger state!

They are stood outside the home of my grandparents.

A Sculpture

Foundry Statue Morrisons CloseThis above sculpture may or may not be particularly noteworthy to you.

But the location may be. It is for me. For it is situated on a traffic roundabout, and not even a particularly busy traffic roundabout rather one that is mostly passed by shoppers on their way to and from a grocery supermarket, or to get their vehicles filled up with petrol or diesel, or even washed.

Sculpture MorrisonsOn the other hand perhaps it is a good way of this sculpture getting attention to itself as likely most shoppers are creatures of habit and will be passing by this roundabout and thus sculpture on a regular and frequent basis. At some point their curiosity must get the better of them, even the most resolutely art-unimpressed of them, to wander over from their parked vehicles and take a look at it? Certainly this was the case with me.

I thought it fitting to take round about pictures of this roundabout sculpture! Here’s another one.

Morrison's Supermarket Sculpture I took these photos on 12.12.12 but I am making no significance of that – am not going to tag this post so and attract ‘those types’ to my blog! – but you can see it was a frosty winter-day and it gave an added other-worldly dimension to the setting I felt.

At first I tried to get pictures without traffic but traffic proved to be quite persistent in that regard – who would have thought in the middle of the day outside a supermarket carpark! – and in the end relented thinking the pictures are more realistic with the presence of a constant stream of traffic. Though perhaps the presence of a strange man at that time of the day taking photographs of said sculpture triggered their interest and attention much more than the sculpture would have otherwise done!

Sculpture Morrisons Car WashI did not just want to photograph and share it with you though, I wanted to find out more details about it and its creator/s hopefully by way of a plaque – but as I closed up on it there was  no plaque to be discovered – a sculpture with no name and no sculptor giving their name to it, this only piqued my interest more.

Morrisons Sculpture Close Up

I could see that it was representing a foundry with an industrial type bucket pouring molten steel – its usual industrial process diverted from railway switches and crossings instead suspended in time and motion. So perhaps this was the site of a previous industry on this now retail space?

I say retail space as the plan is to extend into a retail park – currently though it is just that supermarket and a drive-by fast food chain (Okay McDonalds, which aside I learn is the third busiest branch in the UK – we are but a smallish town of thirty or so thousand so what does that say about our health!) but there is an area of land nearby fenced off with hoarding waiting for new tenants and it is named the Foundry Retail Park.

This would be my next move to check out their business site and see if they had any further details as to this work.

What I should add is that this supermarket – admire how I am steadfastly not naming it remaining commercially pure despite it being quite clear from the photographs to any of you familiar with it or indeed not familiar with it seeing as the name appears in a few of the photos! – only opened last year, 2011, and the sculpture followed shortly after.

The developers of this land are known as Carillon-Richardson (two separate companies in a business marriage) but the details they provide are sketchy – literally! – including plans and work-in-progress photos of the supermarket build but which then terminate unfinished in July 2011.

Carillon Richardson Bathgate Development Aerial Shot

I then discovered a website for a graphic design consultancy To The Point who are responsible for the branding for this retail park and in a blog post of September 27 they detail that the site is indeed built upon the site of an old foundry – Balbardie Steel Foundry.

This foundry having many owners the latter being  Balfour Beatty and was closed in 2009 according to the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland which includes 72 digital images of the site including this!

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

RCAHMS digital photography View of sculpture alongside public path of line of dismantled railway with back view of foundry buildings from south. DP053459 Copyright RCAHMS

The sculpture had a previous life, but was this life its first life?

And still no details of its provenance. By the way if you like photographs of derelict industrial spaces (as I do!) then there are many colour and black-and-white photographs to feast yourselves upon in this collection including another of this sculpture but that is just it, it keeps being referred to generically as a ‘sculpture’.

I did discover that the steelworks itself was originally opened in 1907 so spanned a full-century before being laid-to-rest (business actually relocated to nearby Queensferry) and there is much detail of its history and main industries undertaken, but no reference to the sculpture. The mystery remains. But in these Internet times there can be no mysteries, can there?!

Keech Furnace Technologies

KFC Foundry Website Images

Well the web did allow me to establish that a South African company Keech Furnace Technology had this listed as one of their previous works as Balbardie Steel Foundry Germiston. Known by their abbreviation, KFT specialise in the design, production and service of electric arc furnaces. They were founded in 1978 so could they have undertaken this sculpture? If so there is no detail on their website.

Credit to the supermarket whose sculpture this sits in front of, okay I relent, Morrisons!, who have commissioned a number of statues situated in front of their other stores such as the two featured below. The first for a Tyneside store, the second a Leyland store.

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Jarrow Crusade by Graham Ibbeson

Leyland Motors Sculpture

Leyland Motors Sculpture by Stephen Charnock

They though both have information, about their work and their creators.

The sculpture the star of this post remains though a mystery, to me and it seems to the Internet.

To you?

Foundry Sculpture Bathgate