Sunday, 2 August 2009
The Continuing Psychopathy of Grey Squirrels, Stuffed Things and Northumberland Sojourn
Just a brief post having just arrived back from a stay in Northumberland. Saw daughter and admired her new house which has a great view across the council housing to the magnificent Weardale hills and valleys. Also admired her old and faithful motorbike and then off we went to the coast along with my cousin to enjoy the delights of the Northumberland coast and environs. Photographs above just give a flavour of what took my fancy, beaches, castles ( ruined and restored)and woods. A little museum in Seahouses visited during a downpour was full of knots, old fishing nets, lamps, dummies, tableaux and stuffed things. It had a small sink full of seawater that contained a few shells and a sad looking urchin which they described as a 'touching pool'. I did not feel it invited me to touch anything it contained, especially as the smell of something old and oceanic hung around it. I love these little museums that spring up , often in seaside resorts, they have a flavour of the slightly mad and eccentric about them. The waxwork museum in Great Yarmouth is a real contender for oddest seaside 'museum'/attraction ( friend and fellow poet Anne Berkeley has a great poem about this particular museum in her new collection Men from Praga) but the pencil museum at Keswick could give it a run for its money, along with the museum of wheelbarrows I only saw advertised but alas had no time to visit in the States, but the pictures advertising it alone were worth a look.
Stuffing things was mostly a Victorian and Edwardian hobby and there seemed a few birds and animals in this museum in Seahouses that had seen better days and were not a total triumph of the taxidermists art. The inside of a fisherman's cottage tableau, complete with roaring fire, pot dogs and stuffed pets had a audio play attached which seemed to be acted out by people at gun-point as they sounded a little stiff to say the least. This little 'play' seemed to want to stick in as many Northumbrian words as possible in order to educate the listener in the accent and terminology. This did not make for great realistic dialogue and when Grannie dummy offered to make small boy dummy 'a stoatie to tak' wi yer on the boat'. I thought I was in a remake of 'When the Boat Comes In'.
I also found a poster that serves to confirm my views on the grey squirrel. Just as the old red squirrel tries to re-establish a toe-hold somewhere in his native forests along comes the grey to try and wipe them out. No doubt they have secret germ warfare establishments deep in the heart of Sherwood forest manufacturing this pox and soon weapons of mass destruction will follow.
Found this 'Pieta' ( see above photos) in Alnwick cemetery. I have always been fascinated by this particular religious pose. Sometimes it is called Lamentations but usually this has other figures surrounding the central figure of Mary cradling the body of her son. I saw the Sam Taylor-Wood's 'Pieta', an installation video, some years ago at the Heywood Gallery. It was projected onto a huge screen and you could see every muscles straining in her neck and arms to hold up the body (played by Richard Downey Jnr ). It made my shoulders ache just watching it and the strength necessary to hold up a body in such a manner was brought literally into sharp focus. Since then this particular pose, represented in sculpture by many different artists, has always held a fascination for me. The mother holding her dead child is the ultimate grief, the worst nightmare and to do so after watching them die slowly in a barbaric form of torture makes the action even more horrific and grief laden. In the Michaelangelo Pieta, the most famous, Mary appears very young and her face passive as if in resignation. There is some who suggest that Michaelangelo saw this as a sculpture of Mary cradling the infant Jesus but what we see is the future that she can see unfolding for her child as she cradles him. Perhaps he did want to convey resignation and of course it was long before the time when total realism was seen as part of the artist's brief and he was still mixing the classical form with the new found freedoms of expression the Rennaissance had opened to the artist. However, the small wilted bunch of flowers tucked under the Virgin Mary's arm in the photograph of the Alnwick Pieta above says a little more about grief than a stone expression even carved by a master of the art could ever hope to.