In which we visit the Tate
Deciding to do something cultural whilst in the Big City, I visited Tate Modern to see Rachel Whiteread’s Embankment, her Turbine Hall installation made up of thousands of plastic casts of cardboard boxes.
As I’d visited the work warehouse earlier in the day, my first reaction was: “this isn’t a very neat warehouse”. My second reaction was “ooh, I could just do with a cup of tea”, because the stacks and stacks of white boxes make me think of a giant pile of sugar lumps.* One leak in the roof, and the whole thing would just dissolve.
It was good to see, though, that kids love Embankment. They were all over it, playing hide and seek, darting in and out between piles of boxes. It’s good to have art that you can get inside and move around in, and use for your own purposes like that. The kids might not be thinking about the plight of London’s homeless, but Art** isn’t just for the artist’s purposes. It’s what you make of it that counts.
* In fact, I’m tempted to make a model replica of Embankment entirely out of sugar cubes and starch paste.
** With a capital A, of course.
In which we visit bearing gifts
I’m not very good at talking to people. I’m not very good at picking up on signals. Ironically, though, this means that I’m no worse talking to people on the phone than I am talking to them face-to-face. On the phone you can’t see anyone’s body language; in person, I don’t spot it anyway.
At work, our main warehouse is over in Another Part Of The Forest. Big Dave pops over there every few months, but I never get to visit myself. All I ever get to do is talk to the office staff on the phone. They have no idea what I look like, I have no idea what they look like. On the phone, though, we get along wonderfully. As close as I ever get to flirting.*
So, I decide to visit. On my way to London, I stopped off in Another Part Of The Forest, and took them all some chocolate.
They don’t look anything like my mental image. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. And when I mentioned that I might pop by again the next time I was passing, they seemed to like the idea.
Probably because of the chocolate, of course.
* well, I was accused of it, anyway.
In which FP goes away for a bit
Not content with going away last weekend, I’m off again!
I’m away for slightly longer this time – a whole week – but I have managed to write some posts about last weekend, which should keep appearing until I’m back. And whilst I’m away, comment moderation will be in the safe hands of Vee, to keep the site ticking over. See you soon!
In which we consider myths of the literal and the figurative
(read part one here)
I thought I’d better get around to finishing this post off, because the Tower Of London ravens are in the news again. Now that bird flu has started to make its way into Western Europe, the Ravenmaster is getting ready to move his birds into the top-quality indoor aviary mentioned previously, and the story is making its way into all the papers.* We can’t have the ravens dying on us; the fate of the country isn’t at stake.
Except, though, that the idea that the fate of the nation depends on the Tower’s ravens is all a big misunderstanding. The myth isn’t about living ravens at all. The real myth is that the fate of the nation depends on the raven god staying at the Tower. Furthermore, according to some, he already left.
The closest we have to the original superstition is in medieval Welsh myth. In Branwen, Daughter of Llyr, part of the Mabinogion, the hero Bran – “Raven” – is mortally wounded in a battle with the Irish. He tells his companions to cut off his head, and bury it on Tower Hill. The head stays alive for 87 years, but eventually the spell is broken, and they do as they were told:
[The followers of Bran] could not rest but journeyed forth with the head towards London. And they buried the head in the White Mount, and when it was buried, this was the third goodly concealment; and it was the third ill-fated disclosure when it was disinterred, insamuch as no invasion from across the sea came to this island while the head was in that concealment.**
The Iron Age people of Western Europe were big on heads and head cults. Stone heads have been found buried at various archaeological sites, and this passage is the best evidence we have as to why they were buried: they were protective talismans. Clearly, the writers of the Mabinogion believed in their power, too. They have to explain why the Welsh lost control of south-eastern Britain, when the raven god’s head was protecting them from invasion. Answer: the English only managed to invade after the head was removed. The blame for this is placed on King Arthur, who, not being superstitious himself, deliberately dug the head up in the hope of making his armies try harder. It worked, whilst Arthur himself was around; but after his death, Britain fell to the English.***
So, in short, the Tower Ravens might be a twisted survival of an ancient Welsh myth. The modern version of the story doesn’t appear in print, though, until the late 19th century, well after the Celtic Revival, and well after the Mabinogion had been published in English. Furthermore, the original story is that the promised fall of the nation has already happened; and England is the country that replaced it. If the Tower’s ravens do all leave one day, we English don’t have much to worry about; we are the people they were meant to be protecting the country from in the first place.
* and a lot of people are searching the web and coming here for more information.
** From the Charlotte Guest translation of the Mabinogion available from Project Gutenberg.
*** This part of the story isn’t in the Mabinogion; I’m taking it from Mythology Of The British Isles by Geoffrey Ashe.
In which Big Dave is threatening
Last week, I told you about Big Dave’s Impending Date. This week, I’ve been finding out what happened. This is all retold second-hand from what he told me; but this is pretty much exactly how he said it.
Quick summary of the Story So Far: Big Dave asked a girl from the Darts League out, even though she wasn’t single, because her dad kept pressuring him to do it. On Saturday, they were supposed to be going out for a drink.
Well, she cancelled. Then, on Sunday, she didn’t show up at the darts. So, Dave asks around a bit to see what’s going on. It turns out, she went to visit her ex, who then decided to beat her up.
Dave pops round to visit, and sees the rather nasty bruises all over her face, which explain why she hasn’t been about. “You won’t do anything though, will you?” she said to him, nervously.
“Of course not,” says Big Dave, fingers crossed behind his back. As soon as he leaves her, he goes straight round to the man’s house. As soon as he opens the door, Dave’s hands are round his neck and he’s up against the wall.
Now, there is a reason he’s called Big Dave. And the man in question is, according to Dave, your typical kind of girlfriend-beater: small and skinny himself, and a coward. The sort of bully who will take his anger out on people he knows aren’t going to fight back. With Dave there, he needs to change his trousers. “I don’t have a problem with you, mate,” he kept stammering. “You do now,” Dave replies. He leaves without doing any damage, but with Dire Threats should anything happen in future.
I’m slightly in two minds about all this myself. On the one hand, the scumbag sounds like a nasty piece of work who clearly had it coming. Nevertheless, I’m still a little nervous around vigilante justice. Especially when I share an office with the vigilante in question. And the girl Dave was trying to help isn’t talking to him at the moment. Because she didn’t want anyone to make a fuss about it. She just wanted everyone to ignore her hideous bruises and let it all die down again.
In which we wonder what we’re hiding
…now and again I’m still taken aback when I read something on a blog that I hadn’t previously considered. … I mean when someone, as part of a post, mentions something specific about themselves that I hadn’t previously noted.
You should go and read the whole thing, because it’s good. Essentially,* he loves the occasional sudden reminders that you don’t know much about even your regular reads. There are fundamental parts of their personalities that don’t get mentioned.
Personally, when I started this blog, I particularly wanted to hide certain things. Well, “hide” is the wrong word – “omit” would be better. So, there are lots of things about myself that I don’t talk about.** Some of the things on the original list, though, have probably seeped through by now. It makes me wonder, though: those of you who read this site even though you don’t know me personally, or from one of the messageboard sites I post on. Do you care that you don’t know very much about me?***
* and, Gordon, if you’re reading this, I hope I’m not misrepresenting you by my overly-trimmed summary
** some just because they’re boring.
*** after all, your mental picture of me is probably better-looking than the real thing.
In which FP returns from London
Well, I’m back at the office again, pleased to see that WordPress‘s advance-publishing feature works as advertised, to get Saturday’s post up whilst I was still waking up in my hotel bed in Barking.
I had a wonderful weekend away, got a bit emotional at W and P’s wedding, and danced very enthusiastically at their wedding party. I’ll be posting more about it in the next few days, partly because I’m going away again next week, and “what I did on my holidays” will be easy to get written in advance. So, coming soon on this blog: flirting by chocolate, failed blogstalking, sugarcube art (with hide and seek), a stressed registrar, adventures on the District Line, posing for photos, fairy lights, laughter, and lashings and lashings of
ginger beer champagne.
Photos will be coming too, once I get my rolls and rolls of film back from the chemists, and get them all scanned. I’m old-fashioned, me.
In which Big Dave may be on to something
Big Dave At The Office is making a move back onto the dating scene. He’s mostly doing this, as far as I can tell, by playing darts.
I knew he was on his dad’s darts team, playing weekly at various dodgy-sounding pubs round the area.* I knew, too, that there was a woman on the team – also there with her dad – who he was getting friendly with; but that as she isn’t single, nothing had happened.
“So, I was at the darts last Thursday,” says Big Dave, “and you remember that lass I was telling you about? She wasn’t there, but her dad just comes up to us and says: ‘Why haven’t you boned my daughter yet?’ As if he’s insulted that I haven’t, or something.”
“But I thought she wasn’t single?”
“Well, yeah,” said Dave. “Anyway, this week, I was stood talking to her after the match, and her dad comes up to us again. And he says to her: ‘Why haven’t you let him bone you yet?’ I think he’s trying to drop hints.”
“Subtle,” I said. “Very subtle. What does he say to her boyfriend?”
“Well, I dunno,” he replied. “But we’re kind of going on a date on Saturday.”
If I hear how he gets on, I will keep you posted.
* such as the one where local pre-teens will hang about in the car park offering to get you practically anything for twenty quid, and if you take them up on it, will return with a freshly-nicked anything within a couple of hours.
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