Diaries etc…

It was nice to see the postman today. Even though he was wearing blue plastic gloves and put the mail on the car instead of handing it to me.

I drove slowly along the marsh towards the shop, and a police car was patrolling the entire sea wall from Pett Level to Winchelsea Beach, looking for people who were ‘flouting social distancing rules’, by erm.. gathering… or walking with people they don’t live with, or something hitherto perfectly acceptable and life-enhancing. I am obeying the rules, but something inside me is deeply raging against the machine.. In the queue I looked at people in the eye, wanting to connect, wanting some kind of interaction. No one else seemed to want to. They seemed depressed. That’s what imposed isolation does to people. They eye each other as if the other were a weapon of mass destruction. On social media, many have become Stasi-like, pointing fingers, with judgmental tones, and talking (shouting) in CAPITAL LETTERS! I just watch, and post pictures of a painting or an uplifting article if there are any circulating. If it happens, the ramifications of taking our exercise privilege away will be far-reaching, unthinkable. Physical exercise boosts immunity against all manner of ills, not least , it improves our chances of deflecting viruses, depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, absolutely everything. I spoke to an eminent doctor friend, who advises the government about the importance of exercise at this time, and he soothed my fears and he said the CMO is fighting the proposed ban. It’s funny having friends in high places.

I said to N yesterday ‘I never thought in my lifetime I would be living under totalitarianism’. He didn’t answer so I gently pressed him for an answer, and he replied, ‘I have always known I have been’. He’s right of course. He usually is, in his cautious way. N being extremely well-read, I always ask him questions regarding history or politics, or any academic subject for that matter. Although his caution has often frustrated me, as I have been known to throw mine to the proverbial wind, although never quite daring to fall from virtue, like a rebel angel, but still having fun while doing it, he has maintained a constant state of equanimity in his choices and behaviours.

I always thought of myself as the optimist in our relationship, but in the case of this pandemic, it would seem he is the optimist, paradoxically because he has always been a pessimist. So he has prepared his mind for a situation such as this his whole life. When I wanted to sell our house and buy a smaller place in Hastings and one in Spain, or take out some of my own investment in the house, he always resisted. At this point in time, I am glad he did. I am glad to be away from people although I do so desperately crave them, but under totalitarian control, I need the space, and above all, the sea. Oh to be at sea. But I don’t have a boat.

‘The important thing is to not stop questioning’. Albert Einstein.

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Diaries in the time of Corona continued

‘They say beauty comes from a spirit that has weathered many
 hardships in life and somehow continues with resilience.
Grace can be found in a soul who ages softly, even amid the tempest.

 I think the loveliest by far is the one whose gentle heart bears
a hundred scars from caring, yet still finds a way
to pick up the lamp, one more time, to light the way for love.’

Susan Frybort

I was trying to write a poem today for our Zoom workshop tomorrow but it just wasn’t happening, so I am going to use this one by Susan Frybort instead. It is amazing what can be achieved online, with the right people. We are such a lovely group and I feel such love for those women. I want to reach out and hug each one of them.

I keep forgetting. I might be in denial about the gravity of the situation, or it’s just so hard to accept, but the acceptance grows daily. This time is different. As the radio keeps saying, it’s unprecedented. We don’t have the psychological muscle memory to know how to assimilate this and how to act, think, feel. At first I felt we had entered a parallel universe, and everything crumbled. The death of the ego, a cognitive re-framing. I was strong at first, strangely so. Maybe it was adrenaline. Then weeping, and headaches. A Dark Night of the Soul. Trying to find solace in poetry and nature, and the original meaning of Dark Night of the Soul, I found this poem by Spanish mystic St John of the Cross. It is an ecstatic poem.

‘On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.’

I realised I needed to be kind and to be of service in some way, so today I put on a dress again, and in this strange ever more self-reflective world I took a selfie in the dress and posted it on ‘Frock Up Friday,’ a Facebook page which was created by two of my Hastings friends to cheer ourselves up and cheer each other on. Sometimes when you pretend to be happy, you end up happy. It helps that the weather is kind. I took two vulnerable friends some organic veg and left it on their doorstep. No contact. Just texting. Then, stupidly ‘forgot’ again and texted my daughter to see if she wanted to go for a walk, but she declined, her boyfriend not at all keen on the idea. Re-learning. Queueing (how do you even spell that?) at the co-op two metres apart. Everyone co-operating, friendly, united.

Finding more beauty in the every day. Took a photo of the chair in my kitchen, Stopping to really look at things. Living in the moment. Immersing myself in poetry.

‘“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.’

Emily Dickinson.

Chair. Finding beauty in ordinary things.

~

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Diaries in the time of Corona

With everything that has happened over recent months, I feel that I need to write. The world feels forever changed, but outside my window I can hear neighbours talking loudly and the sun is shining. I went to L.A. a couple of months ago and spent a few weeks there painting and enjoying a taste of a former life. Little did I know how things would change. In the house where I was staying, my friends often had CNN running almost 24/7. As I wandered into the house to get some filtered water or coffee, and I would hear the news about the coronavirus in China and remarked to Brad, my friend, how it sounded ominous, and he agreed, but we spoke little of it. I remember going to the Broad art museum though and seeing a couple of people in masks, and before my flight back, Elizabeth handed me a mask and said ‘Please wear this’. I said I would but I didn’t and stuffed it into my pocket and just made a bee line for the bar and ordered a Pinot Grigio to calm my flight nerves a bit. I remember I had applied oregano oil to the soles of my feet, in order to make some attempt at deflecting the possibility of contagion. A few people on the flight we wearing masks.

Two months later, and today is my son’s 16th birthday. He is taking it all in his stride. N is too, as stoic as ever. It takes a crisis like this to see people’s true natures. My own more mercurial nature is quite clear. Some days are better than others. I lost a couple of teaching jobs, but N kept his as it is contractual and he is teaching online. Remy is the generation that didn’t have to sit his GCSEs and it will all go on predicted grades. My daughter, a manager and impressario at a music events venue has lost her job. I hope it is temporary. It made me weep when they shut the Printworks and I sobbed, thinking of all the joyful nights I have spent there dancing the night away. All the pubs are closed in Hastings, naturally. I felt and still feel so sad for all the older men who need the pubs for human connection and to sit over a beer and put the world to rights around a fire in a pub. Such a vital need for connection, communication and friendship, just cut off. These are the people they are trying to save, but the outcome from deprivation of social connection may prove to be far worse than the actual virus.

So many people like myself, had hopes and dreams, so many people are unsure. So many people have to face the strangeness and primal assault on their senses of others recoiling if they come too near. All these terms like social distancing, lockdown, isolation, are deeply insidious and sinister and I hope they do not become part of our regular vernacular. Yes it feels like totalitarian control and it is. All the conspiracy theories fly around social media and no one knows which narrative to believe in. I am not attached to any particular narrative.

I feel for my daughter’s generation, who had to take out loans to go to university, who didn’t have the opportunities I had and now have to go through this. I lived my youth in a part of a golden era. I try to hold on to the positives that will come out of this. That we will reflect on our treatment of Gaia, and perhaps will embrace a more socialist society, as that is what is happening as many people are receiving universal credit. The whole paradigm is being shaken up. I am teaching a bit online but looking for more online work. Painting grounds me and I am infinitely grateful for the cliff top path and my relationship with it. Some days I still feel happy. Some days I long for the hugs with my daughter who I am not supposed to see often. It is times like this when I long for her. We are so close. The other day I went to Hastings and walked along the seafront with a friend and we sat on the beach, as they are not yet closed to us. We sat at a distance as there are people taking photos of people, like Gestapo and posting them on social media. We stopped and talked to friends who were working on their front gardens or tinkering or shopping for food. It felt almost normal.

My life is simpler now. I am still painting a long commission for a client in Switzerland. My energy feels more scattered so am taking longer than usual. I have completely stopped drinking alcohol and completely stopped the occasional cigarette I used to enjoy. I am looking after myself as much as possible and getting as much food from my local farm shop and juicing beetroot and apples a lot. I have become a vegetarian. I am getting more migraines which I can tell are stress related. I am doing the job that’s nearest. I am having weekly Zoom meetings with my wonderful women friends from the Spanish retreat last year. That feels important. I am now limiting my time on social media. I will walk more, try to read more actual books, keep my dreams alive, paint more, enjoy more small details, love everyone more. All my life I have wanted to move to Spain, and I still aim to, although have been very alarmed by the draconian measures and fines there. I used to see it as my place for freedom. I am questioning that. I am questioning everything.

I want to try to keep this going.

The other day I put on a dress and make up just to remember how it feels.

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Online art classes

Online art courses with me. ❤
The cost is reduced for the next few months.
$50 USD via Paypal, prior to the course. There are a series of paintings throughout different courses, from start to finish of the painting. One painting per course. Effectively, this is $50 per painting. There are various painting courses. Each course has a different theme, available only to course participants. I can send the private video links to you all at once, so that you can watch them and paint with me in your own time. You can choose how many courses you wish to do.

https://www.alicemason.net/blog/online-classes/illustrations

A brief description of each course:

‘Alice’s Garden’.’ A painting of a Paradise Garden, with mountains, lemon trees, pink blossom tree with birds and plants in the foreground.

‘The Lovers.’ This is a favourite theme of mine and also a favourite theme of many noteworthy painters throughout art history, particularly Marc Chagall.

‘Mystic Self Portrait’ (with two moons) wherein we explore ourselves and our intentions, thoughts and desires through words as under-painting, symbols, colours and visual imagery as metaphors for that which we wish to evoke in our lives.

‘The Goddess of Abundance’ (with doves) is based on a much loved painting which I sold, but loved so much I wanted to paint her again so decided to paint her for a course.

‘Aerial’, a painting inspired by an album by Kate Bush. Abstract/figurative landscape with white bird.

‘Nispero’; simply a painting of a woman’s face surrounded by leaves, and was filmed in a beautiful garden of a cortijo in Spain, where I will soon be holding art retreats.

‘Solea’, an abstract/decorative painting created through pattern, stencil, glazing and controlled paint drips.

You can choose which painting you would like to do.

I see the painting as a kind of secular prayer for that which we wish to manifest or evoke in this life, either literally or metaphorically. We will be painting together and I will be guiding you, holding your hand the whole way. I will form a Facebook group page for those on the course, where we can share ideas, insights, thoughts and photographs, and I will give feedback. To register an interest in learning with me from the comfort of your own home, please contact me or email alicejulietmason@gmail.com. I will be offering meditative, gentle guidance, setting intentions, using the painting as a form of meditation and healing, knowing the painting as a secular prayer. Painting modern iconography. Teaching my own techniques: the methods I use such as painting my birds, or other spirit animals, how to paint a face, a figure, light and shade, a symbolic landscape, glazing, color washes, pattern, how to bring forms forward or push them back through glazes, using under-painting through abstracted techniques, adding white, or leaving white space, using words as under-painting too. Techniques such as glazing, dry brush-work, stippling, acrylic pen-work, detailing, and stenciling. Working from my favorite themes: Iconography, Goddess archetypes, the Divine Feminine, Jungian archetypes, symbolism, mysticism, metaphysical art, shamanic and alchemical totems, sacred geometry, pattern, ornament, process and intuitive painting.
For me, there must always be the still-point. The point where you find the zone, where the painting is painting itself through you as the conduit. Or you come to a point where there is a deep meditation. This is my intention in my art practice and in teaching.

To register an interest DM me,
or email me: alicejulietmason@gmail.com

See more here: http://www.alicemason.net

Materials:

A selection of acrylic paints. Daler Rowney or Golden are good makes. Colors: cadmium red, quinadridone crimson, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, burnt umber, yellow ochre, titanium white, sap green Also a good make of purple. I use Windsor and Newton purple.

A selection of brushes, from fine-tipped to slightly thicker and up to 0.5 inch, or 1 cm thickness. Also a bristly brush. This is for stippling and stenciling. Make sure the end is slightly stubby. Thickness of this bristly brush is about 1 cm, or 0.5 inch. Also a simple household paint brush. This is for varnishing and decoupage.

Stencils. There are many different designs and they are available online. I get mine from Amazon.

A selection of fine-tipped acrylic Posca pens. A variety of colors, including white.

A selection of decoupage (decopatch) papers. Not too many; just of your choosing, 1-3 sheets.

Decoupage (decopatch) glue.

Gold Dutch metal (much cheaper than gold leaf.) One sheet only used in this painting but it is bought in a small booklet so you will have plenty left over.

A canvas, canvas board, or acrylic paper. Dimensions approximately 30 cm by 40 cm, or 12 inches by 16 inches.

A 3B pencil.

A palette. Glass jars for water. Kitchen towel or rags to mop up or dab.

All materials can be bought online.

During each course of approximately 10 -25 videos, I take you on a journey of a painting, from beginning to end. I make ‘mistakes’ which are all an inevitable part of the process, and how to correct them or change them, and guide you through the painting and teach you my techniques, thoughts and insights. There are long periods where I am simply painting, with the camera following my progress, and you can paint along with me, pausing or advancing the video when you need to. I encourage you to make your own decisions. The course entitled ‘The Lovers’ is a painting of two lovers in a landscape, but you may choose to paint just one person. It’s all up to you. You may choose to use different colors to the ones I use. I have a Facebook group page where we share our thoughts, pictures, questions and ideas. Or you can email me privately with photos or questions. I do my best to always answer any questions you may have. After you have made the payment to me via Paypal, I will send you the links to all the videos, which are available only to course participants. I believe this will be the easiest way for you to work in your own time. The cost via Paypal is $50 USD, and the email associated with my Paypal is: alicemason367@hotmail.com

Paypal also does a currency conversion for you if you are from another country or you can pay directly in USD via Paypal.

Artists who inspire me:

So many, but here are a few to look at to start with:

Henri Rousseau, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cecil Collins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Modigliani, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, William Blake, Pierre Bonnard, Raoul Dufy, Odilon Redon, Gustav Moreau.

Alice x

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Thoughts on covid-19 and my home town

With all that is happening in the world because of Covid-19 and the ramifications, it is easy to become anxious. Every day I wake up with a feeling of slight unease, and a sort of ‘Day of the Triffids’ sensation, like everything has irrevocably altered, and I slowly feel my way into ‘reality’ wondering whether anything new has unfolded overnight, what the government has said now, which new countries are in ‘lockdown,’ (horrible word) and what, if anything I need to do for my family. My elderly Mum is pretty stoic about things, and she won’t be bored at home if she has to self-isolate. Like her, I find the idea of self-quarantine not a problem at all, as a painter, and we are naturally inclined to self-imposed exile in order to create. I am filming more online painting classes and teaching English remotely now, as the council has told me that my Syrian students need to be protected due to what they have been through and some of them have health issues. I will really miss them. Those women are my true heroes and I genuinely love them.

The sun came out properly today so I decided to see what Hastings was like, as I haven’t been there for a week at least, and things are changing so rapidly, I don’t know how long we will have our relative freedoms. The whole notion of freedom seems so highly questionable, and in this brave new world it seems we are not free at all. My favourite country in the world, Spain, is in ‘lockdown’. It pains me even to think about that. Such a country of conviviality, community and exuberance. I pray it will return to its former character. I had made plans to be there for at least a month or two, possibly longer from this summer, and I have absolutely no idea if it will be possible. I have to be optimistic. I dream of cafes and people meeting and sitting outside, the old men sitting in rows, passing the time of day for hours on end. I dream of walking in the mountains and coming across new places and exploring. It will have to wait. Everything feels unknown. I have to find my centre. Luckily N is so calm and it grounds me to be around him. He almost seems to be enjoying the strangeness of it all. We are laughing again. Funny how life is.

Boris Johnson has some kind of herd immunity philosophy, probably acquired from weird maverick Cummings; a typical Tory mindset stiff-upper-lip, almost beseeching old people to take one for the team, and the rest of us to just ‘get on with it’. That could change too.. Now he is asking older people to potentially self-isolate for up to four months. No one knows what the fuck is going on.

In Hastings I passed two women with scarves wrapped self-protectively around their faces. Some of the independent shops in the old town looked joyfully decorated, holding on to a semblance of normality. I walked into the new town, which has always been semi-apocalyptic anyway, ever since Thatcher closed down mental health facilities and shoved people into the community. It has never really recovered from that, although some gentrification has taken place. There was a man preaching and beseeching everyone to ‘Repent in the name of Jesus Christ’. I had never seen him before. I bumped into some good friends and we consciously avoided kisses and hugs and we remarked upon it. We chatted about how weird it all was. There is definitely a feeling of solidarity and it feels good to connect in person. I walked to Trinity Wholefoods and stocked up on brown rice and turmeric, along with my fellow hippies and hipsters. It was busier than usual.

I walked along the seafront and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine, and had a cappuccino in the Crown, which felt lovely and friendly. I consciously soaked up the atmosphere and felt how precious it all is. I was extra nice and friendly towards others too, consciously acknowledging their humanity and existence. It brings tears to my eyes, it really does. How we can feel free, but we never really have been have we? They can’t take away our spirit though. I hope this brings about a healing and solidarity, both to the earth and our relationship to it and each other. I hope it makes us more mindful of the food we eat, how it is sourced, how we treat animals, each other. I hope we slow down and reflect, and realise that the world has needed this collective slowing down and to end the pathological need to be busy all the time.

Details on my online art classes here: http://www.alicemason.net

Ten days later..

It’s surprising how I vacillate between a sort of elation to a well of despair, or worry, in the light of this pandemic. In so many ways my life hasn’t changed much, as I am still working on a few art commissions. The commission I am working on is slow as I can’t seem to settle, and just take to the cliff top and walk it out, where I sit in a special secret spot where somebody once placed a blue bench, hidden in the woods above the sea. It is the most magical spot and I used to take my kids down there in bluebell season. I feel so lucky to have this place on my doorstep, and sometimes you can hear the sea bubbling below when the tide is in. It is divine. Today I knew I needed grounding, and took off my shoes and stood above the sea in the woods and slowed down.

It is the most unbelievable and unprecedented time where so many have lost their jobs and bars, cafes and pubs closed. We are being told to stay at home. I have always freewheeled in life, choosing an unstructured life, while also enjoying the structure of life kept in place by others. I miss my friends, I miss the messy, chaotic joyous gatherings, the music, the coffees with friends and the occasional wild night of dancing and wine. For someone who enjoys the exhilaration of change in spite of my relatively solitary nature, I orbit people and places rather than being in the centre of things, I find the uncertainty very difficult. Time to acquiesce into this unknowing.

For some this enforced staying at home is even more challenging as the pace of life and frenetic running around has been instilled in us since birth. It feels like house arrest. We don’t have the psychological muscle memory. There is almost too much to write about and I can only reflect on a few things. Just the things that are nearest.. Even writing is too much. The ramifications so vast. There is such ambivalence running through me about what is really going on. I can’t seem to accept official narratives and the new vernacular……

Sometimes there is a deep peace where I can sense Gaia is breathing again. When I tune in with the earth I find peace.

This quote from Blaise Pascal comes to mind:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

And so we must learn to sit with our uncertainty. And hope. As Arundhati Roy said— ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’

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Online Art Classes

In these strange and challenging times, where many of us are withdrawing from normal life or self-isolating, a good way to remain grounded and calm is to paint. I have always done this throughout my life, and painting is the way I stay calm and happy. Over the past few years I have made quite a few online art classes, and if you are interested in participating in them, here are some details: 
https://www.alicemason.net/blog/online-classes/illustrations

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Two Planets 2

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.
Seneca. 🧡

This year will be the year that I make the move. Summer can’t come soon enough.

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Two Planets

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Art Lessons via Skype

A demo of me painting. My Art lessons via Skype are tailored to your individual needs and we paint together, where I show you my techniques, how to mix colour, how to glaze, how to use gold leaf, and many more techniques. For any enquiries contact me on: alicejulietmason@gmail.com

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Rufus Wainwright in Hastings and thoughts about weather and music.

The return from my three weeks in Los Angeles has been met with storm after storm, with wild winds, driving rain, drizzle, low pressure and the darkest clouds. The sun has so rarely appeared that it’s enough for me to feel quiet despair. Even my daily walks along the cliff have been hampered because of the depth of the mud. Occasionally I pull on my wellies and brave the elements regardless, with a determination I know not from where, other than necessity. Occasionally I put on music either to soothe me, like Lyle Mays, or defiant empowering music like African Head Charge, to release the energy that needs to move through me. Of course, painting too. And my current job as peripatetic English teacher to Syrian refugees is incredibly rewarding and I feel I am helping them and perhaps even inspiring them. I showed one of my students the work of British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, as she is studying the art and design diploma, and now she want to be an architect. This makes me happy.

As I sat with my despair yesterday about the relentless storms, dreaming of Spain, and a ticket to see Rufus Wainwright in my bag, I almost cried off, due to a persistent weather-related migraine. However, I put a big scarf on and went to the White Rock Pavilion to meet my cousin Roger, a music lover like me. The White Rock is a smallish theatre, so the venue was perfect. Rufus was performing as part of the Hastings International Piano Festival, and was accompanied by a part of the London Symphony Orchestra. He was dressed in a brown and gold-striped suit with just the right amount of bling and fabulousness and in his middle years has grown a beard which really suits him. His voice is still this incredible instrument. Lavish and mellifluous, with the quality almost of a wood instrument or something reminiscent of teak, with warmth, depth and just the right amount of something solid and hard and distinctly north American. He told stories, funny ones, personal ones, sensitive ones, and engaged the audience with his warmth, sensitivity, emotion and humour. Occasionally he forgot the lines and had to start over, which only added to the sense of intimacy, and his total ownership of his craft and lack of rigidity. He seems so at ease in his skin.

Every song he sang got me right in the solar plexus. Tears rolled down my cheeks, I laughed, smiled, cheered (at the end of songs) and felt fully engaged. I see a lot of live music and often musicians or song-writers seem a little removed or detached from the audience. Rufus draws you right in. You feel like a friend. He feels like a friend. My daughter had been lucky enough to meet him at a lavish music biz party a few days before and she told him how her Mum (me) had raised her on his music. She could tell he was moved, and he touched his heart as a gesture to her words. There was a time when I was addicted to listening to him, as the emotion in his work helped me with the emotion in my mindscape. Dinner At Eight was a song we played so often, as it is a song he wrote about his Dad, (Loudon Wainwright III) and the abandonment wound, and Ellie and I listened to it to help us cope with ours on the part of her biological father.

Rufus is such a pure vessel for music and it just moves right through him and you are drawn in and so present with every note he sings, every chord he plays and every nuance of complexity, every word. The melodies are often long fluid meandering rivers, meeting cascades and confluences. The lyrics are fascinating, his sentences complex and they run into each other, with never a trite word or thought conveyed. His song ‘Poses’ had me feeling that I was almost sitting next to him, so present was I with every second of that piece. My head nodding in agreement or shaking in some sort of conveyance of understanding. It was like a conversation. He was mesmerising. Vulnerability is strength, and he possesses both, which makes him so beautiful. His honesty, true originality and intimacy are simply unparalleled.

His music also takes me back to my love as a child for musical theatre, and how I always wanted to be a singer, the compositions of people like Ravel; one of his pieces was interwoven with Ravel’s Bolero. There are allusions to Gershwin and of course Judy Garland. His final piece was an intimate performance of Somewhere over the Rainbow, where he sat on the edge of the stage and sang out pure and simple. There were two standing ovations. Hastings loved him.

I wonder too, if the best songwriters are made in countries or places where the weather is cold or disagreeable as Rufus is from Montreal, and was of course fortunate to have the wonderful Kate McGarrigle as his mother, whom he so clearly adored. That thought about songwriters is definitely arguable, but there certainly are some great songwriters from Canada and the northerly places. Joni, Leonard, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Prince, Van Morrison, John Martyn, Nick Drake, the Beatles, Bowie… the list is long.

Later, after our cups ran over, they ran over some more as we went to an evening/night of contemporary dance floor jazz at the Printworks, organised by my daughter Eleanor, and Jeff Higgins and Gavin O’Brien of Beaten Track, where we saw a great band headed by jazz saxophonist Sean Khan, and it was so good to dance. Today I feel different. Music heals and heals again.

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