Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Varnishing the Past



While F is still stuck in Barcelona amid the traffic chaos while people try to return home, I keep my mind occupied doing practical things. I’ve varnished most of the floor of my work room, dismembered a stack of shelves I never liked and sawn it up for firewood. To prepare for painting the walls I move furniture around, remove whole shelves of folders, books and accumulated scraps of paper with vital information scribbled on them, sort through envelopes, printing paper, old notes and letters, pens and pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, ink cartridges, rulers, paper clips, staples, foreign stamps removed from letters [why do I keep them?] ceramic tiles, unused, bought from a tile shop near the Place des Vosges in the Marais, Paris, old calendars, and a ton of postcards bought in various parts of the world.

From the walls I remove photos of family, friends, hommages to Giancarlo and Robert Capa, photos of Dhermis and Tirana in Albania, of the Canal St. Martin, of the sculpture of the dancer near the beach at Budva, Montenegro, posters from readings and exhibitions– Le Scriptorium, Venus Rising, of the poem Black Cat, displayed on Edinburgh buses and of Water Barge from the Glasgow Underground. There are photos of the Buddha in York University campus, and one of a winged and roguish Mercury, tying on his sandals and throwing a provocative glance over his shoulder.



I also remove lists of work in progress, things to do, a list of summer time changes from 1917 on, a picture I painted years ago, a crayon drawing of a brown bear my son did, also years ago.

I am stripping years of my life from these walls, and scraping off the remnants of blue tack, sticky particles of past.

Meanwhile several of my neighbours are saying how is F? Is she managing to get a flight? Will she be home soon?

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