Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A low is not just a weather system...

It’s been a bit of a depressing week so far. I tell myself it’s a post-holiday low, but trying that idea out on a colleague I got laughed at wolvishly and told not to take holidays in that case – gee, thanks for the suggestion. But several not-good things have happened since I came back from Cornwall and the upshot is that I feel “stale, flat and unprofitable”, as Hamlet puts it (or is it Macbeth?).

I’ve been ticked off at work (for doing something extremely stupid, so entirely deserved, but no less embarrassing for that), I’ve made the deflating discovery that someone I rather fancy thinks it is funny (& yes, I know disgust would be worse, but amusement as a reaction doesn’t exactly boost the self-esteem either!), the Muse seems to have gone walkabout, leaving me bereft of creative inspiration for weeks; and now I have lost about 90% of what had promised to be a bumper tomato crop, to the vile condition called tomato blight.

The blight is the worst, to be honest, because it is irremediable. It struck while I was on holiday, so I wasn’t able to get straight in there and pick the tomatoes themselves before they were destroyed, and make chutney out of them. When I went away, I had fifteen tall, gangling vines dense with scarlet and green toms. When I came back, I had fifteen crumpled, blackened dead things, hung with blotched wrecks of fruit. It was a heart-breaking sight. So I won’t be pressing bags of my lovely toms on friends and colleagues with proud cries of “Oh, it’s such a glut this year, I can’t keep up with it!” >sigh<

To make matters worse, I feel as though I had abandoned my plants to their fate by going on holiday at the time I did. I know the law doesn’t recognise “cruelty to plants” as a crime, but I feel criminal just the same.

With regard to my Muse, I know she’s a crotchety creature, and I must await her return with patience. I have a tried-and-tested technique for keeping the creative juices in suspension, as it were (that’s probably a very bad metaphor, scientifically speaking – suspension of juice, anyone?). I’ll do a bit of quick sketching, and I will garden, sew and cook. They’re all creative activities. And I’ll avoid looking at the easel or the laptop, and do my best to hush that nagging inner voice that says “What if you never get inspired again?” because it does no good at all to listen to it.

I used to get in trouble at Art College for doing this; I was told roundly on several occasions that it was pathetic self-indulgence to talk about “creative inspiration”, and that any artist worthy of the name had no problem at all working systematically and to schedule. At first I protested, but putting your tutors’ collective backs up isn’t a good idea; in the end I used simply to apologise and say I’d try to discipline myself better. Then I’d go back to the studio and generate empty rubbish, piles of bullsh*t, until the Muse came calling on my brain again.

I wonder if the denial of the existence of inspiration is one of the reasons why so much contemporary art is derivative drivel and cr*p? Ooh, contentious thought there, Dent. But I wonder, nonetheless…

I remind myself that this weekend I am going to a European Food Fair and a concert performance of “Tristan und Isolde”. I can combine my Food-vulture and Culture-vulture hats in one, which is nice, and “Tristan” should be super. Low patches happen, one just has to weather them and be grateful they are not something worse. Autumn is a time of consolidating and digging in, setting the structures for new developments and next stages; the concert and ballet seasons are just starting; the weather so far is balmy and sweet; Kew Gardens are full of cyclamen and colchicums, and the glasshouses are full of gorgeous bromeliads and the like… I can’t complain, I really can’t. Low patches happen.

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