Tuesday, November 09, 2021

A Site Of Many Eccentricities

We suburban people have a tendency towards doing our best to stamp out difference, which presumably most of us feel disturbs the equilibrium. Hence Barnet Council's decision to rip up the beautiful painted paving stones that our resident artist Ben Wilson created about ten years ago. Here he is in The Guardian, finally achieving some recognition: 


Just think- we almost had a destination outdoor art gallery on our doorstep! Luckily, I encountered Ben in 2006 and he painted a custom chewing gum painting for my first solo album cover. I've bumped into him several times since then: he has the friendly demeanour of a proper folk artist, and he has a very relaxed approach to the destruction of his work, whether by footfall (this painting is at the top of Normandy Avenue, and has almost completely worn away), or aggressive council policy. Somewhat charmingly, he got the wrong street. I was living in Bedford Avenue at the time, next street along, but I liked the oblique relationship: it seems to fit in with the whole idea.


This morning, I conjured up spirit-of-Ben. The artist Derek Tyman contacted me to ask for a 60 minute audio cassette, which he said could be a compilation playlist of favourite songs from Youtube for an art project he is doing on a barge in Holland (more about that in another posting probably). Further down the email was reference to other sound-based things artists had submitted, and I decided to submit an Other Things recording. So I went out for a walk with my guitar, retracing the steps of the early morning  lockdown walk I made where I came across the Little Egret. I have written an odd-sounding song about the encounter, and dug out two more 'nature' songs to take with me. With the recording facility of my phone on, I talked through the walk as I ambled along, and then spread out under a tree to sing Woodwide Web. The grass under the tree was still very wet with dew but it was a sunny spot, and a dog-walking woman stood in the distance and watched suspiciously. This is an outside recording of that song from another time:


I suppose I'd thought there would be more dog walkers and possibly more panting and barking: it gets a little congested along there, but I failed to write the song about dogs that I'd meant to write, so it really didn't matter. Further along, on a park bench and to the accompaniment of the very loud Council grass mower, I sang the Little Egret song and also one of mine and Robert's, Won't You Tell Me. A woman walked past with a baby in a pram and smiled, but the audience was mostly magpies. After 54 minutes, the walk came to a natural end and I strolled home, of course passing much more extraordinary sights: identical adult twins on a bike ride together, and a man doing very 'loud' arm stretching exercises as he walked along the pathway. And I almost deleted the recording by accident, but I think it's still intact.

When I got back into town, a schoolgirl was singing really loudly to her friends just outside the church. I guess it must be a singing sortuva day, but no matter how hard I sang, the Little Egret didn't come back. The magpies will have to suffice.

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