The Andover Estate

The Andover Estate is situated where Hornsey Road and Seven Sisters Road meet. I lived there when I was seven years old. I attended Montem Primary School on Hornsey Road next to “Hornsey Swimming Pool and Laundry” with the illuminated figure of a diving woman, which I remember vividly.

On this sunny afternoon the estate looked lovely. The red-brick buildings are small and the estate is laid out in cul-de-sacs and little clusters of flats/maisonettes/terraces called “walks”, with plenty of small playgrounds, trees and little squares. It was light, quiet, clean and well cared for – indeed, one bloc, or island of flats, was in the process of being renovated. Some kids were playing on the enclosed football pitch on which I once played, some cars were being fixed in the cul-de-sacs, some dog-walking (bull terriers), a little corner shop….

I went up to the raised walkway on which our flat was located. As I went past my flat I was struck, out of the blue, by an exact and unique odour from over 30 years ago. I always thought it was cat piss. Today I thought it might be old cooking oil. But that’s not relevant here. The thing is, I only smelt that smell as I walked past my flatnot along the rest of the walk. Odour arouses memory; but can memory arouse odour? I wondered.

On my way home, I noticed a new illuminated sign above the swimming pool. It read: I AM THE CREATION OF YOUR IMAGINATION.

 

 

Enlightenment at Kew Gardens

It was two days into the Summer holidays, a mild and sunny day with big soft clouds and an energising breeze.

We visited the Palm House first and then explored the quiter paths behind it, where the gardens become more wooded. I asked which tree we should sit under for our picnic.

“That one.”

She had picked a small tree which stood not quite in the middle of the lawn, but rather just inside the line of large trees which gave the opening its space. It seemed too small to me and its branches began low to the ground so we could not really sit under it. We sat next to it then, on the side to which it cast shade, towards the centre of the lawn and away from the path, which partially concealed us from the path and gave us a small sense of privacy and the freedom of the lawn.

Conscientiously, and lazily, I looked at the tree’s label – being at Kew – skitted over the name, noting only that it was Japanese. It was a funny tree: fine, small, low to the ground; a dark-silvery bark; its foliage was neither sparse nor dense, each leaf was distinct, neither petit nor rough, its green neither vibrant light nor swarthy dark.

After having our snack, she began to practise cartwheels. I lay back, rested my eyes and listened to her chattering to herself, to the breeze in the trees, and to other voices strumming cheerfully in the distance.

 

 

XXIX – “Whoever lays hold of it will lose it”

Whoever takes the empire and wishes to do anything to it I see will have no respite. The empire is a sacred vessel and nothing should be done to it. Whoever does anything to it will ruin it; whoever lays hold of it will lose it.

Hence some things lead and some follow;

Some breathe gently and some hard;

Some are strong and some are weak;

Some destroy and some are destroyed.

Therefore the sage avoids excess, extravagence, and arrogance.

 

The message becomes more and more clear to me: the sage neither struggles nor conspires to achieve and sustain the power of the state.

 

 

 

 

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

All generations will call me blessed

Your pregnancy was a scandal

You were banished from your home town

You fled the massacre of the innocents

All generations will call me blessed

You saw your son deserted

You saw him dying on the cross

You buried his dead body

All generations will call me blessed

You saw that he rose again

You were taken into heaven

 

You said, All generations will call me blessed. Blessed Mary, you are the pinnacle of humanity, the greatest of all creatures, the queen of heaven, the most just, the most compassionate, the most strong and the most true; you are greatly venerated. Like a great mother and a great ruler, nourish, protect and guide us we pray, so that we too may grow great in the Holy Ghost, follow in the steps of Christ, and rejoice with you in eternal glory: Amen.

 

 

 

XVIII – “The greatest cutting does not sever”

Know the male

But keep to the role of the female

And be a ravine to the empire.

If you are a ravine to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will not desert you

And you will again return to being a babe.

Know the white

But keep to the role of the black

And be a model to the empire.

If you are a model to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will not be wanting

And you will return to the infinite.

Know honour

But keep to the role of the disgraced

And be a valley to the empire,

Then the constant virtue will be sufficient

And you will return to being the uncarved block.

When the uncarved block shatters it becomes vessels. The sage makes use of these and becomes the lord over the officials.

Hence the greatest cutting

Does not sever.

There is gentleness in the role of the female, and depth in the ravine; on the other hand there is the black, the strong, the uncarved block. Make use of officials’ knowledge, not their conspiratorial obsequiousness (disgrace is lack of favour; do not court favour). When you rule, cut, show you can cut, but do not sever.

After Representation, pt 5

In a theatre, the actor is supposed to express feelings in public which are normally bottled up. In a way, the actor is truly allowed to be himself on stage – the rest of the time he is bottled up. The audience makes this possible – and accesses feelings normally bottled up. So the actor is not representing someone else to the audience when he is playing Hamlet, rather there is an experience, shared by actor and audience, of something bottled up. Applause is the expression of the success or otherwise of the evening’s entertainment in that respect. Here, the audience is not handing over responsibility for certain feelings to the actor, or allowing the actor to have certain feelings that the audience member is denying himself; rather, theatre opens up these feelings for everyone.

This what the celebration of the actor expresses. It is excellent when it is not accompanied by the diminishing of personal responsibility.

At each moment it is important both to maximise the sense of personal responsibility, and authority – by not giving it to someone else – but also to circumscribe its limits in relation to others and to the earth – by not taking it from anyone else.

Representational democracy might well be a contradiction in terms. The concept of representation, without God, is rotten, God’s corpse we could almost say. If there is to be an advancement of democracy in Europe, it will be towards direct democracy.

After Representation, pt 4

Of course, I would love to be elected, to speak for you, to represent you, to have you cheer my every word. I find it hard to imagine how that could not be desirable, except that I have always also felt sickened by the idea, that it would be an awful denigration of your nobility to do something like that. I would disrespect you for it, and hate myself.

But it is good to be cheered on in art, at least in sport and theatre, from personal experience. But here you are willing me on because there is an identification between us which surpasses representation.

Take sport. As a runner I enjoy competing in cross country races for my club. One could say, I represent my club, it’s true. But really it’s a group of people I’m running with, and we are being cheered on by people who belong to our club. When club comrades cheer me on as I struggle up a hill, they are identifying with struggle and the feelings of success and failure… they are not giving me the authority or responsibility to struggle for them: they are identifying (in some way empathising) with that struggle.