Thursday, 31 May 2012

An outbreak of art all round

Great news for lovers of art and culture generally in Moffat: Linda Lyons is opening an 'art work room' later this month. This comes hard on the heels of the opening of Storm and The Moffat Gallery and news of Sarah Watkins venture in Well St.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Some good advice

Excerpts from "How to be Perfect"  by Ron Padgett

Get some sleep.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.

Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don't stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don't
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm's length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
ball collection.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don't want.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Don't expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want

Don't be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don't think that progress exists. It doesn't.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don't do
anything to make it impossible.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Don't be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Be good.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It's a waste of time.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, "Water, please."

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there's shooting in the street, don't go near the window.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

My garden

It turns out that my garden at 21 Well Road will be quite literary. The pavement engraved with lines from  a 16th century French poem is now nearly laid. The poem by Joachim du Bellay 'Heureux qui, comme Ulysse' celebrates life lived as an adventure comparable to that of Ulysses and Jason and the Argonauts' quest for the Golden Fleece. Then, in old age, to satisfy the yearning to come home and live in peace  near one's loved ones. This gravel garden area will be planted with olive and bay trees to reflect the classical theme. The area beyond was a problem until yesterday afternoon, when, lying on a swing seat in the garden next door to mine, I saw the wonderful possibilities of a play pirate ship, currently sharing space with a shed and trampoline. I asked the owners and users of the pirate ship if they would mind it it were moored in my garden, to which they will have access through a gate in their hedge. The transfer was approved, and the pirate ship, repainted black, will now be the central feature of the area beyond the gravel garden. White flowers will be planted as 'foam' at the prow, and the colour theme of the circle surrounding the ship (mirroring the pavement) will be blue and green to suggest the sea. The literary inspiration for this area of the garden is James Elroy Flecker's poem The Old Ships, written just before his death, aged 30, from tuberculosis,  in 1915.

I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep
Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,
With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
And all those ships were certainly so old -
Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirate Genoese
Hell-raked them till they rolled
Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.
But now through friendly seas they softly run,
Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.
But I have seen,
Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn,
An image tumbled on a rose-swept bay,
A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
And, wonder's breath indrawn,
Thought I - who knows - who knows - but in that same
(Fished up beyond Aeaea, patched up new
- Stern painted brighter blue -)
That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.
It was so old a ship - who knows, who knows?
- And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
To see the mast burst open with a rose,
And the whole deck put on its leaves again.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Vidal Sassoon

Three pals, one possibly in need of a shave, another of a haircut
RIP Vidal Sassoon. As I have recorded here (ref to earlier post), I sort of shared a flat with him in  1960 when he was newly divorced from his first wife (of 3). To be more precise, aged 16, I lived in the same tiny building -now demolished -, as Vidal, in Curzon Place, Mayfair. He lived and partied with the likes of Roger Moore and Terry Stamp in the flat directly above mine and we sometimes shared the coffin-sized lift, just big enough for two if you breathed in. From my window, I could see the agent's door across Curzon Street where Albert Finney and other film stars would wait on the doorstep after buzzing the doorbell. A neighbouring resident in Curzon Place was the elderly dancer and actor (eg The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)Robert Helpmann. Because of the proximity of the flat to a brothel just down Curzon St, next to John Aspinall's gambling den and various expensive couturiers, leading to Shepherd Market, a notorious centre for prostitution, as well as home to a wonderful record shop called Discurio, it was assumed that I was 'on the game'. As a matter of curiosity, I shared a flat some time later in the same relationship (ie in the flat below) with John 'Ministry of Funny Walks' Cleese, in Lincoln House, Basil St next to Harrods (which in those days was a friendly and reasonably affordable family store where one could buy a bottle of milk in an emergency without taking out a second mortgage). The reason for the flat in Curzon Street, which might seem an odd place for parents to lodge their teenage daughter studying for 'A' levels, was that my father belonged to the Dorchester Group. This was, to put it bluntly, a cartel consisting of a small number of successful private developers, who met privately from time to time at the Dorchester hotel just two minutes walk along Park Lane from Curzon Place where they discussed strategy and carved up territory where competition might have been to their mutual disadvantage. Unlike other friends at the time, I never had my hair cut by Vidal, because I went (with Twiggy) to his apprentice and protege Lionel in Mayfair, near the flat, in Upper Brook St. I hoped to interview Vidal in 2010 when he was in London to launch his autobiography, but sadly it was not to be.

Monday, 7 May 2012

A strange purple scroll

I am starting to prepare for my M. Litt on 'Environment, Culture and Communication' with David Borthwick at the University of Glasgow's Crichton campus in Sept . A lead appeared this morning courtesy of the Writers Almanac, as follows: today is the birthday (b.1937) of Gary Snyder, a member of the US 'Beat' generation of poets, and is the one among them unexpectedly - to me -  known as the heir of Thoreau because of his interest in nature. The particular nature he celebrates in his poems is that of his native Washington State on the northwest Pacific coast of America, hence of the Sitka spruce the tree I grow in south Lanarkshire in Scotland. Who would have thought it? The 'Beats' and the Forestry Commission? Up to now, I had  the 'Beats' pegged as a pretty urban group. The  only 'Beat' I have had contact with to date was Allan Ginsberg, when he was staying on a barge in Oxford in the early 1960's. My friend Oenone spent that term, as was the custom of the time, with a strange purple scroll painted across half her face. Now a grandmother, it is thanks to her and her husband Roger that Anna The Tulip Pavord is coming to Moffat Book Events Beyond the Garden Gate May 25-27.

I have tracked down my doppelganger, another Elizabeth Roberts, author of Realm of The Black Mountain - a history of Montenegro, thanks to Amelia Wise of Cornell University Press, who sent me Elizabeth's email address at Trinity College, Oxford. I have contacted my namesake and await her reply.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


I have embarked on a search for someone called Elizabeth Roberts. This is not a postmodern exercise in narcissistic navel gazing, although my name is Elizabeth Roberts. I once (1992) wrote a very potted history of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.  In 2007,  while browsing in John Sandoe, the Chelsea bookshop, the proprietor Johnny de Falbe congratulated me on the publication of Realm of the Black Mountain – a history of Montenegro published by Cornell University Press by....... Elizabeth Roberts whom I have never met, despite having been involved for most of my adult life -  ie 50 years - in Russia and her Republics.

I am indebted to the online The Writers Almanac for the reminder that today is the 106th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud , born in Freiburg, Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic), in 1856. He is usually associated with Vienna, where he lived from the age of four until the Germans occupied it in 1938. He then moved to London, where he died of throat cancer in 1939. Freud wrote such books as including The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), and Civilization and Its Discontents (1930).
Freud started his professional life as a medical doctor, but as a Jew in the 19th century Hapsburg empire, he knew his prospects in medicine were probably limited. He became interested in psychology, especially in a mental illness called hysteria, which caused patients to suffer from tics, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and hallucinations. Freud learned that some doctors were using hypnosis to treat hysteria, and he went to France to see the use of hypnosis firsthand. Seeing that a patient could be talked out of his or her symptoms gave Freud the idea that the symptoms were a product of the mind and not the body. He learned the method of hypnosis himself and began to treat patients, but he had little success. Then one of Freud's colleagues told him about a patient named Anna O., whose hysterical symptoms had improved when she told stories about her life. The woman herself named this process of storytelling "the talking cure."
Over the next few years, he developed the idea that his patients were not conscious of all their desires and fears, that many of their own thoughts were hidden from them in their unconscious mind. He believed that their unconscious mind would reveal itself in various ways, through slips of the tongue, jokes, and especially dreams. What made his ideas so revolutionary and controversial was that he didn't just apply them to mentally ill patients, but to all human beings, even himself.
Though he's fallen out of favor in the scientific community, many of his revolutionary concepts -- like the idea of the unconscious, the interpretation of dreams, and the idea of repressed feelings causing harm -- have entered our culture and our literature. And even though they haven't read his books, most people are still familiar with his concepts, like the Oedipus complex, the ego, the phallic symbol, (see  illustration above left) and the Freudian slip.

Talking of slips showing: in an interview on this morning's (Sunday May 6 2012) BBCTV1 Sunday programme, presenter Andrew Marr, interviewing a Greek political commentator, referred to a 'worrying' shift of support ahead of the Greek elections to parties whose programmes included rejection of the European austerity plan and unrestricted immigration. - thereby exposing the BBC's well known but nevertheless regrettable political bias. Why should people's legitimate democratic choices, if different from the centre left/liberal consensus be described as 'worrying'?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Ram's head motifs

I'm collecting ram's head motifs for The Moffat Gallery, our new artspace at 21 Well Road, Moffat, to be opened by Richard Demarco, doyen of the Scottish avant garde on May 25 2012 with 'Paths' a suite of 12 black and white photographs by my sister Jennifer Gough-Cooper of Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, Little Sparta, in south Lanarkshire. I've also been getting to grips with posting details of Beyond the Garden Gate, Moffat Book Events' next entertainment May 26 & 27 2012 on The Gist, Peter Renwick's new online events and exhibitions noticeboard for D&G arts. Next up: learning how to give a new look to Moffat Book Events website. But first I'm off to vote - it's a great spring day again here in the south of Scotland, so there should be a good turnout.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

New Artspace for Moffat

The Moffat Gallery is a new contemporary artspace, formerly a builder's yard and early 18th cottage near the town centre. The gallery building and pend lead through into a  gravel display space and garden  featuring a pavement by sculptor Peter Coates who, with Ian Hamilton Finlay, made the memorial to Princess Diana  outside the Serpentine Gallery in  London. The Moffat pavement, appropriately for a town whose emblem is a ram, is engraved with the first lines of a sonnet by the 16th century French poet Joachim du Bellay refering to Ulysses and the Golden Fleece* and forms the centrepiece of a garden being made by Dawa Sherpa and Janet Wheatcroft of Craigieburn Garden, Moffat. Plans for 2012 include: Paths (suite of 12 black and white photographs by Jennifer Gough-Cooper of Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden at Little Sparta); Documenting Change work in progress by Argyll-based landscape artist Lizzie Rose, arising from a two-year residency in a commercial forestry plantation in south Lanarkshire as it was being turned into part of the enormous Clyde windfarm; Weaver of Grass, about a remarkable artist who wove clothing out of grass (book and poem by Chrys Salt with a short film) and The Dying Empire - book launch of a new history of the last days of the Hapsburgs by Moffat Book Events chairman Andrew Wheatcroft. 

A commission to make a visitors book for the Moffat Gallery will be announced on May 25
Joachim DU BELLAY   (1522-1560)
Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Ou comme celui-là qui conquit la toison,
Et puis est retourné, plein d'usage et raison,
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son âge !

Link to French actor Gerard Philippe reciting 'Heureux qui, comme Ulysse' can be found on You Tube

We have our opening party and a private view here on May 25 12noon-2pm. Do come and have a look.