Just realised I’ve been posting quite a bit of late about street (and canal) art and not mentioned a fine example I see most days just down the road at the junction of the London and Wolverton Roads and Horsefair Green at the south end of Stony Stratford High Street:
It’s a memorial to Toby Jarvis, painted by a relative in 2001 – a panorama of Stony through the ages – and as can be seen, a decade on, it’s showing its age, colours fading and the wall bearing witness to recent hard winters. It would be a great shame to lose it, though on the other more protected side of the shops, in the passageway through to Horsefair Green, there is a smaller rendition of the scene (pictured below – click on it for an enlargement) incorporated into a much bigger design featuring a house (about one-third scale,) a couple of conifers and, under the arch of a rainbow, the ghost of a house lurking behind clouds in a vivid blue sky.
It was on Horsefair Green last Sunday that we sauntered through the delights and tombolas of the annual Town Fayre, courtesy of the local Lion Club. There was a rousing Pirates of the Caribbean from the Bradwell Silver Band, who seemed to have put on a bit more oomph than in previous years. They’ve been going since 1901, originating at the LNWR railway works at Wolverton, and long may they continue.
Another tradition still working its magic was the Punch and Judy show, ‘Professor’ Des Turner here pictured jigging along to the Silver Band with his little wooden friend. The kids loved it, sitting entranced then screaming along when bid and witnessing scenes of extreme violence – the baby being thrown out the window was the least of it.
Casual violence is taken for granted as a fact of life – it’s just a question of when you get mugged or burgled rather than if – in Brixton in the mid ’80s in Geoff Dyer’s ‘The colour of memory‘ (1989), but there’s a lot more to the life than that. His first novel is a fictional memoir of – I can’t do better than the Times reviewer quoted on the back cover – the DHSS funded bohemian existence, not so much a novel, more a collection of tableaux, of sweet and sour captured moments, snap shots from the shifting lives of a small group of friends over the space of a year in South London. It reminded me of Alan Ginsberg’s Sunflower sutra, poetry suddenly there, no rules as to where it can be found.
Given it’s Geoff Dyer even the dull moments shine and already the trademark nods of Nietzsche and Rilke are in evidence, though with Rilke, in a nice touch, it’s a book of his that serves well as body armour. He’s already playing games. After the quotes and before the novel starts, we get a page consisting of a brief passage in italics: “I read a few phrases at random, flicked through some more pages and then turned back to the beginning and read …” It’s what you do as a reader, right? The passage returns at the end, its context – everything – is changed. It’s a first person narrative, but of all the characters in the book the obvious Dyer character is Freddie, the writer, but that is not to be the case. Turns out Freddie is the writer; can there be a Barthes-ian death-of-the-author gag going on here? Not that it matters; this is a young man’s book, but it’s still a Dyer, full of wit, acute observation and compassion. His generation, a lost generation?
“Every generation wants to think it’s lost. Take us. Who could have been more lost than us? We’re so lost we’re virtually extinct,” he said and everyone laughed. “As far as I can see there are only two things to be glad about. We are just old enough and just young enough to realise the full joy of short hair. And we are just about on cue for the jazz revival.”
I could go on quoting the insights, the bon mots (“That’s not a novel: it’s an alibi.“), the bon paragraphs even. There’s a lovely passage about how a greasy spoon becomes , via a Time Out review, “the sort of place in which a working knowledge of the novels of Jack Kerouac was preferred if not actually required.” And on it goes. The thing is, even though you’re given nothing about how they got there, which could be said to be a bit disingenuous of the Oxbridge educated Dyer (‘scholarship boy’ he hastens to add in a bio somewhere), you quickly care about these people. Enough!
As you might have noticed, I am on a bit of Dyer binge at the moment and I had his third novel, Paris trance (1998) lined up for next. But this is how it starts: “When Luke came to Paris with the intention of writing a book based on his experiences […]” So maybe, I’ll give him a rest, take a break, but I shall certainly return.
And a slight return to the Stony mural. Here’s a detail from the sheltered side; more blank walls and the people who walk by them every day deserve more of something like this; thanks B.Jarvis. The street as gallery, let a thousand styles bloom; the slight problem of quality control is surely surmountable.