Saturday, 27 November 2010

Looking in

I'm not sure where, if anywhere, this post is going to go. But I feel compelled to write about something.

It stems, in part, from childhood memories, let's say from around the mid-70s. That something is represented by the pub. More specifically, about the fact that I couldn't go into the pub - nor would I have necessarily wanted to. But the pub was a domain which resonated with mystery, with grown-up things, with things which were other and separate and about which I could only imagine.

Most pubs then, at least as far as memory serves, had high windows (no doubt that's more about the fact that I was knee-high to your average grown-up) and frosted glass. The latter in particular fuelled this sense of otherness - bright lights or dim lights, amorphous shapes moving around accompanied by the sound of chatter, laughter and music in the background.

The pub seemed like a gateway to an adult world, where people talked about grown-up things. Where they could spend some of the money they'd earned at work (another unimaginable concept for me at the time).

I imagine the talk to be of the politics of the day: miner's strikes, power cuts, the three-day week, OPEC, the EEC (the "Common Market") - or more frequently, about the football, last night's television, a smattering of gossip and a serving of bawdy humour on the side. All dressed up in the attitudes and mores of the day. Over a pint of Mansfield, or Double Diamond maybe.

I couldn't imagine entering that world. In fact, as far as my local pub (from where I grew up, and occasionally revisit) is concerned, I still feel slightly self-conscious when I happen to walk in there. Plus I've still never ever gotten over the novelty of walking into any pub or bar and ordering a pint of ale.

But I suppose it's not really about the specifics (nor about the nostalgia), and more the sense of access - or lack of - to something other, something esoteric. Something tantalising perhaps, due to a combination of proximity (eg being able to peer through the frosted glass) and distance (the same frosted glass acting as a barrier).

I remember the feeling though, akin to what I've described above, aged 21. There was a school reunion at the local welfare, and I remember standing at the top of the stairwell and suddenly halting at the (again) frosted glass doors. There was a different sense of the other at this point - I had moved to the city and was in the middle of my art college days. I had long straggly hair, ripped jeans, outsize, baggy jumpers and all the rest, and knew I would stick out like a sore thumb when I walked in to see my old school mates. I stood there, hesitant, wondering whether I might even just turn and walk back home.

Then, as it happened, SJ turned up, and he was dressed in old army stores gear, big Dr Marten boots, and his hair was a jubilant mass of dreadlocks. He boldly strolled into the function room and I followed him, suddenly not feeling quite so other.

The underlying point to these musings is, I think, that the combination of barriers and gateways - both real and imaginary - is something which has permeated my outlook.

One barrier to my creative side, I've realised, is that to fully immerse myself in it and in what it requires, to fully get into the flow of it, often requires a leap: a leap which takes me from the outside looking in - a view which shows one's ideas and methods in a diffuse and rather abstract light - into being right in the centre and fully, intuitively conversant in it all, to a different and more fluent (or fluid) relationship between the self and the realisation of those ideas.

Sometimes this leap is fairly easy. Sometimes it is aided by a sense of permission (hearing or seeing the work or approach of someone else which serves to lend a certain validity). Other times it's forced by sheer will, usually accompanied by the sound of me chiding myself to stop being so bloody silly.


Dave King said...

I'd never thought of it quite that way before, but I work a lot from memories, especially of childhood, and I find your idea of barriers and gateways quite intriguing. I must give it some thought of my own. A thoroughly worthwhile post. Thanks for it.

trousers said...

Thanks Dave, and good to see you again. I think this sense of barriers and gateways has always been there in one form or another. When I used to paint landscapes for example, much of it was about the little barriers that delineate the spaces between near and far, intimate and distant...and about what those things may suggest.

The juxtaposition between - and the tension between - different elements has always fascinated me. Like I say, I think these things have always been there to inform my outlook - so this feels less about theorising and more about just clarifying a mode or a theme (say).

Zhoen said...

Tangent: No adults I knew went into bars, but the first word I could spell was BAR. Late 60s, it was in neon all over, hard to miss.

Fire Byrd said...

Sometimes when life is tough and/or I'm scared I have to jump into a small place, like concentrating on the birds in the garden say and let the bigger fright go. That immersion in nature always brings me to a safer place. Unless I'm stuck on a hill of course!!!