Thursday 18 April 2024

Danny Dyer on 'How to be a Man'

 Danny Dyer in ‘How to be a Man’ Channel 4, two one hour episodes.

Danny Dyer seems quite  likeable as he puts together a collection of rambles round this subject, from a kindly chat with his daughter about his grandson to looking at bondage gear and hearing about boundaries in a sex shop.
I read that he met his wife when she was 14 and they are still together so maybe he’s as nice as Paul Newman. He was discovered as an actor at a teenage acting club for disadvantaged children.

Danny  tells us the high suicide statistics for men and goes to a gym where men box and sometimes talk. He insists men and women are different- men not liking to talk on personal subjects face to face, being competitive, protective, physically stronger than women, but he also  finishes with an effective unpaid  advertisementent for cacao in a men’s retreat, dancing, venerating women and suggesting there are many ways to be a man outside the stereotypes.
Its good - hearted and might encourage both sexes to relax a bit about how they express their gender.

One thing bothered me in the first program so I made a tally in the second. One man other than Danny used the f word -  and in the presence of his small child. Danny however, in the 45 minutes if taking out the ads, and saying he spoke half the time, used ‘fuck’ or ‘fuckin’ 56 times - an average of about every 30 seconds. Once this referred to sex.
Now when he was on ‘Whose life is it anyway,’ investigating his ancestors, I do not remember this habit.
Is there a group for involuntary expletive addiction?

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Bruce Parry travels up the Amazon, BBC4

 Amazon with Bruce Parry, BBC 4   April 2024 Dir. Rob Sullivan

I watched Bruce Parry for an hour as he spent time with two isolated tribes in the Amazon forest and some loggers.
I got some appreciation that it’s a vast region in which tribes can remain fairly isolated although their clothes and gadgets show contact with the outside world as does their vulnerability to hepatitis B, originating from contact with prostitutes in the nearest city.
Bruce goes along with whatever the people around him are doing, from balancing on logs in the river to ordeals for men by ant sting.
He does not offer medication for suffering children or suggest that hours chanting over them may not cure them.
It does occasionally cross his mind that the natives may be playing to the camera. He calls the way they laugh at his difficulties ‘having a good sense of humour.’
I don’t hear Bruce asking what about if there’s equality between the sexes, toleration of differences, or acceptance of same sex relationships. He doesn’t find out how decisions are made, or what childcare is like. How do people go out beyond the tribal society and do they ever return?
There’s a great deal of male camaraderie - in fact what it mostly reminds me of is an episode of Top Gear - competition, jeering and public school peculiarities.
 In this Bruce holds up ok, eats, sleeps and after hearty hugs, leaves.

Art Exposed Julian Spalding

Art Exposed.  Julian Spalding. 2024

Julian Spalding has been a controversial curator and director of important art museums in uk and in this book he presents various writings about his experiences and his thoughts on art. These are put in alphabetical order which is novel as is that every person he meets is described physically.

Julian would like better lit art galleries. He has several times mooted shows such as one about Jesus, which were not mounted and he goes into the frustrations of his jobs as well as his successes.

He dislikes Duchamp and asserts that Damian Hirst’s work isn’t art. He  likes Beryl Cook ‘s paintings, using one for the cover of the book which made me hesitate to buy it.

He includes writing about very famous artists and lesser known ones that he has boldly championed. 

He deplores the lack of open submission shows and the undue influence of commercial art dealers. He dislikes Anthony Gormley, calling him ‘ the hollow man of British Art’. He extols drawing and loves Ruskin.

However, whatever his views are, this is a writer whose great energy and enthusiasm is clear and who has a wonderful ability to write clearly and vividly.

I was on the same unusual BA course as Julian Spalding at Nottingham University. It combined fine art taught in town at the art college with art history studied at the University on the out of town campus. There were only about ten students in each year and the four year course only ran for four years, I think because the two sets of staff could not cooperate.

I remember how articulate and passionate Julian was in telling our Professor what our demands were when Hornsey students came up to politicise us and we had our own minor revolution.

The revelation to me from this latest book is that Julian was brought up on a council estate and reared on ‘puritanical communism’. I was in the year after his and seeing him in action and being  best friends with a student who had lots of money I was entirely taken in by what he calls his adopted ‘aspirational accent’. One of my friends was secretly, as far as I know, in love with him.

I still can’t quite believe what he says about having these origins. 

I’m not mentioned in the book. I effortlessly failed to make what might have been a very beneficial contact with this man who went onto a stellar career. Once given a general invitation by his first wife Frankie, the renowned art historian, who was also at Nottingham, to visit them when I met her  by chance at a Bobbie Baker performance years later, I could not really imagine going to stay at their house because I couldn’t have returned their hospitality having nowhere to put up guests.

They both chose the art historical path after University whereas I pursued being an artist and supporting myself via school teaching at the comprehensive chalkface.

Anyway it’s a fascinating read by a man who struck me as very clever and  eloquent and has  written a number of books that are original and enjoyable.

Sunday 10 March 2024

Women's Work at Helston Museum of Cornish Life March 8-23rd 2024

 Women’s Work- an art exhibition at Helston Museum of Cornish Life, Market Place, Helston.
March 8 - 23, Monday to Saturday, 10 - 4  Free admission.

Stina Falle, an artist living in Goldsithney, had the idea to organise an art exhibition inspired by the example of Denny Long, who often worked with groups of women, and lived in Cornwall for some years before her final illness.

Somehow a group of women emerged, many who knew the artist Denny Long, and it was agreed to make a mandala of segments united by the theme of women who have been inspiring.

The result is an extremely varied assemblage which is arranged to flow in a circle of colour to be viewed horizontally in the round. The women referenced range from groups to individuals, from personal contacts to famous people. The media chosen contrast paint, collaged materials, embroidered surfaces and printed fabrics. There is a book with further information about the pieces and visitors may write their own contributions in a book provided.

In addition women are contributing other work united by the theme of women - part of what can be termed fourth wave feminist action. This will be in the upstairs gallery area at the back of the museum, please check for lift access.


Susie Chaikin mosaic 'femininity rising'

Also there will be a wide variety of workshops from a reading session to all kinds of creative activities and making reusable eco friendly sanitary pads. These sessions are free, and can be seen listed at the museum information online site -

Stina Falle commented about the process of allowing the mandala to emerge from the effort, skills and enthusiasm of the group ‘I think everything we do in a collective way contributes to a sense of generosity and co - operation in the world - which is what we need.’


Sarah Sullivan 'She of the Sea Totem'

Charlie Lewin , felt vessel

Lydia Corbett, Picasso's 'Sylvette' at Penwith gallery, St Ives March 8 to April 6 , 2024

 Lydia Corbett, Picasso’s Sylvette, Penwith Gallery St Ives, March 8 to 6 April 2024

You can view this exhibition through extensive photographs online but far better to go there and enjoy the show in the large gallery where the displays of painted pots and the paintings and drawings which make a dynamic impact from a distance are displayed so beautifully and you can examine Lucien Berman’s book on Lydia Corbett’s ceramic objects, He was there when I visited and explained how despite failing sight Lydia can respond to the curved forms made for her and draw her designs of faces that enliven these pots, recalling how Picasso worked in Vallauris at the time when aged 19 she was drawn by him repeatedly.



Her paintings are very Picasso-esque with also influences from Chagall and I thought Bernard Buffet, who was promoted by her father. Her drawing style reminded me also of the illustrator Charles Keeping who drew for Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical children’s novels.

Lydia Corbett, now 90 years old, was present and I was so pleased to meet her. She has a gentle manner and French accent and a very positive inspirational attitude to life and the need to express love.

Her daughter Isabel Coulton was there and I congratulated her on the excellent book she wrote with her mother, ‘I was Sylvette’ which I re-read recently. It is a really captivating vivid account of Lydia’s life from being a child in occupied France through to school at Summerhill, and later living at Dartington  School of Art. It is illustrated well with many family photographs that give a sense of her complicated history and her family connections. She only took up painting at 45 after her children were independant.

Naturally her relationship with Picasso is fascinating and she insists in the book that he treated her with respect - he was in his seventies - and was a fatherly figure with no sexual predation involved. She modelled for him clothed, with her blonde ponytail which she said was seen and copied by Brigitte Bardot.

The show is a room full of exuberant energy which whilst so reminiscent of Picasso reveals Lydia’s enjoyment of making her own use of his language.

Incidentally we have a great Picasso in Tate St Ives, a very sensitive expressive face, just round a corner in the main galleries and my favourite work in there.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Rambert 'Death Trap' at Ha;; for Cornwall March 2nd 2024

 Rambert ‘Death Trap’ Hall for Cornwall , March 2024

Years ago I did a painting, ‘an afternoon at the ballet Rambert’ - seen here - but recently I spent an evening at what is now it seems all too correctly named just ‘Rambert’ in which Ben Duke presents ‘Death Trap’, a performance of spoken theatre with songs and an occasional few minutes of dance.

At the end the usual enthusiastic whoopers were vocal and many stood to show their approval but in the queue to pay in the car park some usual suspects who have seen Rambert dance over many years were in agreed disappointment with this development away from dance.

I found the evening a muddle of many ideas thrown together. Presumably it was considered creative to do this and to mix moments of satire about news media with myth, ritual, live musical theatre and some short pieces of dance.

Notices warned of nudity, bad language and strobe lighting but none of these were in evidence.

Lack of any information sheet meant I was puzzled how the two parts connected, only to find later from previous reviews that they are separate pieces.

It was puzzling that the man sacrificed wearing a  goat’s head who danced himself to death was then soon afterwards revived to dance acrobatically and inventively with his lover.
At one point I hoped a woman was going to intervene to stop the weird sacrifice but it had gone ahead, with many current good causes for protest called out during a group circle dance.

The singer was excellent even managing to bring some serious emotion to the well worn cliche of ‘feelings’- was this a deliberately set almost impossible challenge?
The signer was very expressive and occasionally amusing.
The musicians were fine.
The best humour was in the opening remarks about stopping the performance to accommodate any necessary phone calls in the audience.
The dancers were so good but only given a few minutes to use this medium.

Next year I will read the reviews before I book and hope Rambert return to giving us the treat of an evening of dance.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Watching Dr Zhivago again.

When did I first see this film?  1965
I was so young, so much yet to do - I knew very little of revolution, ….

Now - do I prefer Strelnikov to the Dr, with his infidelity and charm?
Julie Christie like a cover of Vogue.
I had a lacy scarf like hers which I knitted.

My mother and I used to play and sing Lara’s song.
For years I always played it whenever I visited.
At 97 my sweet mother made me cry.
She said, ‘ I didn’t know you played the piano dear’.
She had taught me to play from the age of five.

Its so calm and slow, widescreen.

How beautiful Russia is in the snow, how lovely when I visited in the 80’s, the anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s  flight in space - me wanting a baby, looking at the soldiers in Gorky Park, before, before I met Kevin to love me, before he died, murdered by two strangers for no reason,  before the others, before, before, until Pedyr loved me, but died of cancer, before my new life alone….

Luxury and vice - and why did my mother never point out the immorality - nor in Gigi- just loving  the music and the clothes, the beauty - leaving the meaning for me to sort out alone.

Ignoring anything unpleasant until some later time - later when it has to be seen.

Ignoring what’s under your nose, and secrets, disgusting family secrets, maybe I have never heard them all.

Only the romance and imagination encouraged.

And is this the essence of Dr Zhivago?

Now I see the disgusting rape where Komarovsky says Lara is a slut, where the writer makes her give in to it - and break Pasha’s heart - shoots the rapist but miss killing him and he lets her go.

Well it’s all believable. And as we know the plot so ironic when Komarovsky says he gives Lara to the Dr as a wedding present.

‘Happy men don’t volunteer’. So the narrator assumes Pasha was not happy with Lara and their baby.

Do all revolutions fail?
The stupid First World War.
Chance meetings leading to love.
As they can.

‘I wish they’d decide which gang of hooligans constitutes the government of this country.’ Says the Uncle.
How apt for us today.

Unconsummated love as the strongest? Longing and a song - oh yes, always the way…..

But we are a mixture of romance and reality and the story gets this across so well.
Half way through I cry, when Tanya has not told her husband she has no fuel and she weeps.

Balalaika ……

The scene I best remember is Strelnikov  on his train - but I remember it more dramatically like Turner’s ‘Rain steam and speed’.

Then I remember when Yury walks down a path and is captured - I have always - before that. —  been afraid my father would get lost for ever when he would get off a train before our stop - and stroll on the platform despite my mother’s pleadings - it’s later than this first time that Yury gets forced to serve the Reds as a doctor.

Fancy having a country retreat with Russian domes like this wealthy family, with  a nearby cottage to live in.

Now I can’t remember how it ends.

The Tsar and his family is shot.

Yury gets used to his double life with two women, but guilt makes him give up Lara.
Oh - he gets captured on the way home - so I got that mixed up with the train.

The Cruelty of war.
We see it come into Yury’s  mind to run away, he thinks he sees his wife.
Gets back to Lara- his wife has gone away back to Moscow.

Is this why men want two women - to save them should there be a crisis?
Lara met Tanya
Tanya being deported. She left the balalaika.

Oh now I remember the odious Komarovsky will help - he is a survivor. He has some feeling that he must help Lara.They refuse the help and go to Varykinow.
Hardy would let them die -  what does Solzhenitsyn do?

  ‘The private life is dead’ - it makes the revolution seem bad - and it’s proved to be of course untrue.

If they had met before.

Victor comes still to save them. Says Strelnikov is dead and was a murderer, had been captured and killed himself.

‘Is your delicacy so exorbitant that you would sacrifice a woman and a child to it?’ Victor - so Yury saves her and loses her. Tanya is pregnant with Yury’s child.
He remains in Moscow - suitably with a heart problem, sees Lara one day,  runs to her and dies before he reaches her. His poetry lives on. Lara meets his brother at the funeral , she lost the child years before - picture of Stalin, her child is found later by the brother- Komarovsky let go of her hand.

She plays the balalaika!

I’m watching it on a small tv but with the memory of sitting in the shared darkness of a cinema with the wide expanses of Russia before me and the unknown expanse of what my life might be and the power of love and death as they have bowled me over since.