August 18, 2018

I saw, through a curtain of loosely-woven black netting, a room filled with an intense and expanding light (Aberystwuth, 2.40 am).

I woke every few hours from what seemed like a continuous dream about desolate rooms. On putting down my feet on the bedroom carpet, I recalled the photographs that I’d taken in 1987 of my primary school in Abertillery, prior to its demolition. The resemblance was remarkable:

Photographs of places that, and of people who, are no longer either extant or accessible have a power and melancholy independent of the image’s quality. Indeed, an artless or poorly executed photograph is sometimes all the more potent for that. It’s a residue or remnant of what has been removed: precious and irreplaceable. Often, the photograph is also the visual embodiment of memories, not only of the moment when it was taken, but also of the many associations one has with the represented place or person before and after that event. To view the photograph is to, variously, return to or reconnect with the subject.

I mistakenly applied shaving gel to my hair this morning. But it worked. Cereal and two slices of toast for breakfast. (‘John, you are becoming positively reckless!’) 8.45 am: A communion. 9.15 am: On with the paper, and a discussion about Samuel and Eli (1 Sam. 3). I continued uploading CDs to my decimated iTunes library in the background. In so doing, I reconnected with the end-credits theme from David Lynch’s wonderful, if flawed, sci-fi film Dune (1984). (Music is like photography in this respect; it can both encapsulate and trigger powerful memories.) ‘Take My Hand’ embodies the best in 80s pop music. I’ve never been sure what emotion it articulates for me. Perhaps it’s a longing; or a sadness that catches you up only later on in life; or a regret about something that either was not or could not; or a secure and gentle affection in season. On with studies: visions and auditions:

After lunch, I speed-walked into town to stretch my muscles (with particular emphasis on the Achilles’ tendon), deposit money, and find solitary respite at my local watering hole. The establishment often plays 1940s and 50s Bebop. I sat down with Miles Davis, black coffee (decaf), and granola cake. Now, this was cool sophistication. It’d started to rain when I entered. Others followed seeking shelter. My customary perch was occupied … again. (‘Take it like a man, John!’):

2.30 pm: Back at my desk, I took up the cause of the morning’s inquiry for a further hour. I’d not yet got to the core reasons why the research needs to be undertaken and how the findings may be applied. Presently, my endeavour is driven by a curiosity to know for knowledge’s sake. From the outset, I’ve realised that this study will throw up more questions and possibilities than can be addressed in the paper. I’m opening a field, while at the same time trying to gather relevant academic studies within its boundary. One must attend to the bigger picture even as the smaller part is placed under the magnifying glass. 4.30 pm: I returned to the conference overview. Whatever other targets I’m aiming at, this one needs to be hit firmly at the bullseye.

5.20 pm: I wound down to Petula Clark’s I Know a Place (1964). So many memories are contained within that song. I wish I knew such a place.

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