I’m feeling like this painting today. Which doesn’t really tell anyone anything, since we all have different responses to the same things. And each of us has different responses to the same things at different times. Today, this painting reminds me of how I feel, which is as though my seams are being loosened, and stuff is bursting, running, oozing, dancing, meandering, flying out through the growing, softening cracks. That’s EMDR for you. Good value for money.

About this painting. It might not mean as much to me as it does, if I hadn’t landed a strange summer job in 1985, cataloguing the book collection of one of the artist’s descendants. The artist is the famed (and slightly fast-and-loose-with-the-truth) war artist, C.R.W. Nevinson, and this painting is called Bursting Shell. And I think it’s very beautiful – and a distressing window into warfare from the trenches.

His descendant was a Nevinson, but I’m a bit narked to discover (half a life beyond) that I couldn’t remember all his name without googling him – he was John L. Nevinson. He was in his 80’s, a hale fella who walked 10 miles a day, was an acknowledged expert on the history of fashion, a polyglot and polymath. He lived in a gentleman’s residence in Belgravia surrounded by about 4,000 books.

And I never met him. The reason why I had this job was that he’d been out on one of his long walks, and got knocked over by a cyclist, broke his leg, and ended up in hospital. I was halfway through cataloguing his books (on library cards, using a pre-war German typewriter) when I heard that he really had ended up in hospital. Once he was flat on his back, he stopped being hale, and never left the place alive. I was surprised by how upset I was by the news – but then, after cataloguing half his books, I felt as though I’d known him for some time. He often wrote little reviews in the flyleaf – often pretty scathing and funny. I was glad that I got to go to his funeral. I learned quite a lot, going through all those books. I enjoyed learning how to pronounce Uitgeversmaatschappij, that there was a firm of publishers in the 18th century called Bulgin & Rosser (almost as good as the Bath piano vendors Duck, Son, & Pinker), and that there existed once a man with the glorious name of Lord Ballantine Elphinstone.

Watch out for cyclists, won’t you.

That was then. Now, the EMDR I’m going through at the moment is making me feel the shell-shock of a life coloured by being used instead of loved as a child. There’s a tiny little kid in me who is distraught and furious about this, and who fucks things up every time I get into an intimate relationship with anyone – because she’s constantly trying to get that love she should have got as a child, which it’s neither appropriate nor possible to get, as an adult, from anyone. So all I can do is look for some way to hold her, and suppress my impatience. Blimey. And in spite of that, I can still love and be loved, just not the intimate, physical stuff. (Give it time. Okay.)

Bursting shell.

Change is happening. Otherwise I would not be feeling like this. Armistice, I hope. I’m hurting, and it’s better to say so.

Two songs to end with – the first is The Fury Brothers singing The Green Fields Of France, which is a raw and sentimental song about WWI, and which honours the lost ones and the walking wounded.

The second is Robert Wyatt singing At Last I Am Free, a song originally by Chic, of all bands – as I type this, I’m listening to their version for the first time. I’m always going to prefer Robert’s cover. It’s got a shy tenderness to it that I love. And it’s about escaping from something that looks like love, but isn’t. Yes.

[Why Bare? Of course because the last blog-thing was called Bear. But also because I feel unskinned at the moment, a bear without her pelt – and because I’m trying to be more naked in my awareness of me, to allow the sharp as well as the sweet, allow… allow.]


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