I forgot to put my notebook in my bag this past weekend. This almost never happens. It's ironic because I've been carrying around 'The Golden Notebook' by Doris Lessing for the last week or so - a dense novel about a woman named Anna who writes in different coloured notebooks for different aspects of her life and fears she is going mad. My notebook at present is jungle-coloured and was a Secret Santa gift this Christmas just gone. But I didn't have it with me at the weekend.
So when I wanted to scribble things down, I had to use what was at hand. Which happened to be a green postcard I picked up in the Poetry Library a few weeks ago that has been floating around in my bag ever since. It has a poem on the front called Gooseberries by Edwin Morgan.
what I love about Hank
is his string vest
what I hate about the twins
is their three gloves
what I love about Mabel
is her teeter
what I hate about gooseberries
is their look, feel, smell and taste
My father has a similar view of this particular hairy berry. And he happened to be down In London, along with my mother, at the weekend. This meant that we 'did culture'. Therefore I have interesting things written down at angles in black ballpoint on the back of the postcard.
'The cannibalistic nature of the golden orb-weaver makes it impractical to farm them'. Well, farming cannibalistic spiders would be a bit of a nightmare. This rather poetic phrase is in regard to the bright yellow cape and shawl we saw at the V&A, made from the silk of more than a million spiders. Eighty people in the highlands of Madagascar collected, harnessed and released wild spiders every day for seven years to produce enough silk. Part of the display was a vast watercolour sketch of the design for the cape surrounded by swirls of hand-written spider-poems and spider-texts that inspired it. I would love to swish that cape...
'This Living Hand (after Keats)'. In one of the corridors of the V&A was a display case that held a simple round medal bearing the words 'this living hand' in beautiful calligraphy. The paint used for these words is touch sensitive - it will fade or grow bolder when handled. A perfect pairing of object and poem.
'Picasso dined with the widowed Lady Keynes in 1950. He asked if she still danced. She said yes, and they danced together on the pavement of Gordon Square'. We went to the Picasso exhibition at Tate Britain, and my favourite part was the Ballet Russes room, with all the sketches of dancers, set designs and vivid ideas for costumes. Picasso created amazing visuals for 'Parade'. I had a bit of an obsession with Diaghilev a while back (still do). I watched documentaries, and read the 'The Bloomsbury Ballerina' by Judith Mackrell - a biography of the Ballet Russes dancer Lydia Lopokova who married Maynard Keynes and lived round the corner from the centre of my London world when I first moved here. Picasso drew her portrait. And, evidently, danced with her on ground that I have frequently skipped over.
'He draws noses like mine'. Large and sloping, one continuous line from top of forehead to tip of nose. Some may call these noses Roman, but I'm going to refer to my facial blight as a Picasso nose from now on.
'Coded portraits of lovers'. Picasso had a much younger mistress by the name of Marie-Thérèse Walker and she became his muse, brightly-coloured and made of curves. He painted her as though she was looking straight out of the paintings whilst also having one side of her heart-shaped face kissing the other, like a secret lover entering her portrait. The accents of her name face each other similarly. I love that the child she had with Picasso was named Maria de la Concepción. Marie-Thérèse hanged herself four years after Picasso's death, yet she was never a model for any of his weeping women portraits. She was always light and bright and happy in his pictures.
'Constable - I have done a good deal of skying'. We had to dash up to the Romantics exhibition. It's a pre-requisite when visiting Tate Britain. I admire Constable for using sky as a verb. Cloud-gazing is for romantics, and he does a pretty good job of pinning them down in paint.
Austen may have created rich novelistic worlds on a little bit of ivory two inches wide, but I think I got quite a lot onto the back of a gooseberry.