Night rider

As the world continues in its perambulations around the sun, and we continue to live through different, in many ways, reduced times, I seem to have found that I have reached the end of myself. It is not that I am at any immediate risk (insofar as I know) of meeting my maker and finally having a chance of remonstrating with them as to their decidedly shonky workmanship but more that I am totally depleted of energy and (largely) joie de vivre. I seem to have temporarily (I trust) lost the ability to bootstrap myself from knackered revenant to the life and soul of the party (even if that is often a party of one) despite minimal sleep. Even my haemoglobin has lost its lustre, or at least reduced in concentration within my bloodstream, and so I have been benched for three months by NHS Blood and Transplant.

I feel lack of sleep is a major contributor to my current ennui as is the lack of the usual novelty that life used to provide before mid-March. I fear the seams of my personal mine are currently exhausted: to massively over-extend an already creaking metaphor, I need to sink new shafts and, perhaps, invest in more powerful pumps to keep the water out. The urge to retreat from the world is strong: which I suspect means that I should do the exact opposite as I have learned to distrust my ‘instincts’ (one of many conversations I shall be having with the All Father).

Hope is not lost; merely misplaced: I’ve probably put it somewhere “safe”. With my blood no longer in demand, I can take more serious chemical measures to force myself into the reluctant arms of Morpheus. We shall temporarily side-step the issue of consent in our rather fractious relationship: I fear he’s just not that into me but I am unable to move on…

This afternoon, after a failed attempt to return to bed for a nap that never arrived (leaves on the line?), I discovered the unexpected history of the courgette. At this time of year, and now safely into middle-age, the mini-marrow forms a significant part of my diet and, indeed, today’s second dinner/lunch. Apparently, the harmless veg we know today was tamed by the autochthonous Americans from a wild and poisonous ancestor. I shudder to think of the generations that suffered and died to bring us the modern courgette. One has to admire their single-minded purpose towards what is, in many ways, such an unimpressive goal: and they didn’t even have the option of grilled halloumi to pair with it!

Secondly, after many Essay-less weeks, Radio 3 have suddenly dropped a dozen into my podcast inbox. The first few are based on the Decameron and come from the fine folk at 1927 – who I have always seen accompanied by extraordinary back projections, which do not transfer to the radio but their essential nature of 1927 very much does – and they are weird and wonderful and have rather perked me up. The power of novelty: even if the source material was knocked out by Boccaccio in the 14th century, appropriately at a time of plague…

I have managed to accomplish one thing this week, a high point in the otherwise rather featureless desert of my accomplishments: very much the Ely cathedral punctuating the Fenlands of my inanition of the last week. For at least five years, I’d been intending to head into the imagined darkness of the New Forest on a clear night for a bit of stargazing (fair-haired lessie optional). As so often with my plans, nothing then happened for a long time. The original thought had been to go by car, but lockdown has taught me that arboreal astronomy is accessible by bike. So, at 9pm on Wednesday evening I took my bike, new binoculars and a fortifying pint of Steam Town’s Stoke to a heathland portion of the Forest. It was a joy to cycle through the dark streets of the city, past its illuminated docks and cranes and then out through the suburbs into the countryside. The roads and cycle paths were mostly deserted and my two-wheeled steed made short work of the miles.

Despite entering the deep, dark wood during the hours of darkness I was safe because I have read widely and know how it important it is not to stray from the path. I had picked a location to the south of Ashurst that seemed to be maximally distant from any sources of light pollution. This plan was mostly a success, though the amber glow of Southampton does extend quite the distance from the city. Nevertheless, I was rewarded with an enormous bounty of stars, plus Jupiter and Saturn, many visible with my naked eyes (well, I was alone and so partial nudity was an option) and even more through my swanky new binoculars. I am force to admit that I do make a rather shaky tripod (OK, bipod), but the ground was a little damp for sitting down in a more stable configuration. More stargazing will definitely follow and the hours of darkness, if not periods of clear sky, are only growing longer as the year winds down. For my next excursion, I need to do a tad more research so that I know what I’m looking at: for now, if it isn’t Ursa Major or Orion, I am basically clueless.

Going out on my bike does remain the one constant that brings my joy, however banjaxed I am and when all other joys have fled, and this weekend looks free of gales or lightning (at least at the moment), so I may will be out and about during the hours of daylight. Hopefully, the combination of some exercise and a chemical cosh at bedtime will restore me to a more normal (for me, and possibly Norfolk) state…

The artist as canvas

Some might suggest I have rather been neglecting my canvas of late, and I suppose that they would have a point.  I have been considering whether GofaDM needs a change and part of me feels that the more diary-like posts should be shown the door (and, if necessary, encouraged to use it).  However, without the impetus provided by the events of my so-called life I fear that the muse would have meagre rations indeed to use for sustenance.

As a relatively recent post suggested, I am keen to avoid becoming any more of a caricature of myself than is already the case.  I am too young (in my own eyes) to start ossifying and living within the constraints of an ever diminishing self-image.   In consequence, I may be a little too keen in my pursuit of novelty, but I’ll let you be the judge…

I am currently in Edinburgh, ostensibly to combine catching up with friends with the multitude of delights offered by its annual Science Festival.  Being the butterfly-minded creature that I am, I have also allowed my attention to wander into history, the visual arts, dimmer switches for LED lamps and cinema.  I have also discovered a hitherto unknown talent when it comes to estimating bolt sizes.  Oh yes, I am the complete package!

This very lunchtime, my desire for the new led me to sample a smoothy containing a selection of fruits, ginger and – controversially – spinach.  It looked worrying, but tasted rather fine.  Bouyed by this success, my main course contained blue murder: surprisingly quiet and I assume it to be some sort of cheese.  My dessert was chocolate cake containing avocado – rather tasty and presumably healthier than usual – garnished with white chocolate and horseradish ice cream (they were out of marmite ice cream: this is not a joke).  The ice cream, I feel, was more of an acquired taste and each mouthful remained as unexpected as its predecessor.

However, my most exotic new experience came yesterday evening.  As part of the Science Festival I went to an evening of anatomy and body painting.  At this I learned much about the shoulder and its environs and about how relatively flimsy is the join between my arms and the rest of my body (NB: this is not unique to me: everyone’s arms are broadly the same in this respect).  I wound up acting as the model for our teacher (and so the whole class) as she painted my bones, muscles and fascia onto one side of my upper body.  My friend attempted the same on the other.  He did a rather better job than I had expected as the image below illustrates (those of a nervous disposition should look away now).


The Illustrated Man

Why, you may ask, is he in the position known to the yoga enthusiast as Downward Facing Dog (or as close as he can manage at his age)?  According to our tutor, this would better display my body’s underlying structure and, to illustrate this claim, she is pointing out my thoracolumbar fascia.  I’m not entirely convinced this could not have been achieved without my blood rushing to my head, but didn’t feel certain enough of my ground to argue the point and at least my calves benefitted from a decent stretching.

I rather enjoyed the whole sensation of having my body painted and am inordinately pleased with the results.  Sadly, social convention – and the Edinburgh weather – meant I did have to replace my clothing before I ventured outside.  Concern for my bedsheets also meant that I had to shower, destorying the artwork,  (just) before bed-time.  The paint came off very readily in warm water and produced some lovely rainbow colours in the bath before they disappeared down the plug-hole.

What we have learned from this experience is that I am far more of an exhibitionist than even I had imagined.  If anyone is need of a body to paint, I can make myself available at very low (or no) cost.  The session was filmed by the Festival and, unless I am demoted to the cutting room floor, I may have a somewhat starring role in this celluloid gem.  I was also rather extensively photographed by my fellow students and so it is no longer just the back of my head which has acquired an unexpected degree of fame.  I now find myself, perhaps, rather less opposed to the concept of tattooing than might once have been the case – but the permanence remains an issue, I am as inconstant as the wind so I think I’ll stick to being painted as a more fleeting work of art…