Adj. Analytical- using or skilled in using analysis (i.e., separating a whole- intellectual or substantial- into its elemental parts or basic principles).
Let me separate my response to this picture into some elemental parts…
1. What a beautiful response.
2. I have no idea how to respond to this.
3. Is it bad that I find myself thinking that Sue got the easy part of this deal and I got the hard part…?
4. I don’t understand what analytical really means.
5. How can I have suggested it as the title of a strand if I don’t know what it means?
6. So what did I mean when I wrote the word analytical?
7. I meant theory. I meant ideas. I meant comment and criticism and response. I meant something kind of like philosophy, even though I’ve never really been able to grasp philosophical ideas, even when I’ve tried.
8. I have a feeling I’ve trapped myself in a corner. Can I still make it work for me? Maybe it can take me somewhere- even if that ends up being another corner.
9. Maybe I should just analyse the picture…
Fine. FINE- on a red brick wall. Green grass at the bottom. An addition to the top of the building that reminds me of Tate Modern. Is Tate Modern made of brick? Given that the origins of this project came out of a discussion about the Turner Prize, and how we weren’t ever going to get it, given that this is, after all, art, then if it were Tate Modern- how fitting. But I don’t think I’m going to look up photos of Tate Modern to see if it has brick elevations. I’m just going to let it be a kind of Tate-Modern-in-my-head. It’s a nice picture, but my response to it, my feelings of huge admiration, an urge to laugh, a sense of being floored, beaten, certainly provoked, come not out of the picture, but out of the way the picture responds to the text that I wrote. Which of course is the point of the project. Nice.
Looking at the keyboard- just like now. A computer keyboard- though different. Not a laptop exactly, as it wouldn’t quite have fitted on my lap. An oblong thing with a small screen that opened up, an early portable computer my dad got for me. Looking down at that keyboard. It would be morning. Probably around ten. I would have squeezed every last minute I feasibly could out of breakfast and reading the papers. I would have climbed the stairs. Opened up that stupid computer. Opened a file. Remember floppy disks? I would have put in one of those. Look at the screen. Look at the keyboard. Attempt to follow my thought as they move slowly, without focus, as though through a thick and viscose agent, something between custard and snot.
I was eighteen, the only girl in my year at school who hadn’t applied to university. My parents were very relaxed, but I remember huddled talks with my form teacher Miss Russell: “Are you sure?”. I was sure. Not even the disastrous and painful set back, when I realised the job in theatre that I thought had been promised me wasn’t going to materialise, made me question my decision. I was done with school. I was going to-
-going to make great and amazing work. I would direct plays and write novels, paint pictures. Be incredible. Be talked about. Be a glittering magnet, the centre of every room like Noel Coward, only more serious and less funny. I was going to get out of that little world and be real. Be really me.
And it really was me, there, looking at the keyboard. Looking down at the keyboard. Looking up at the clock. What was I trying to write? My first attempt at a novel, the sadly unfinished Louisa dates from after this time. Short stories? There must have been something. Possibly, like now, looking at this picture, I knew there were ideas in there but I simply couldn’t swim out to them. I can’t remember.
But I remember the clock, its round face, its position, exactly, on my desk in relation to the screen. The hour hand The minute hand. The second hand. Round and round it went, that little second hand, faithful but ineffective because it was always just a little past ten. Which would make it two hours, minimum, until I could consider lunch. Then what? Another four till the working day might be considered over. And then what? Out on the town? Hit some clubs? Dancing at the Savoy? A whole evening and every single one of my friends was at university now and I was scared of strangers. I could watch television. I could dream about my future, though where was the fun in dreaming about the future when it was now supposed to be happening. And then I could sleep, but I would always have to wake up again and restart the cycle: the toast, the papers, the stairs. Looking down at the keyboard and getting eaten alive by the clock.
It didn’t take long for me to crack. To find myself in my parent’s study, squeezing my body into as small a space as possible, desperately reading. I remember the belief I had that the circuit made by the contact of my two hands with either side of the book was the only thing that stopped me from imploding. When my mother came home from work and asked me how my day had been I cried. I called my father at the office and asked if he could come home early. I still believed that he could fix things. I don’t remember what he said to me that night, but then next morning, and all subsequent ones, I went swimming first thing with my mother. That was good. Even so, I couldn’t help notice that it only delayed briefly the papers, the breakfast, the stairs. I wonder how the whole things would have resolved itself if the telephone hadn’t rung one morning and a red haired angel hadn’t been flown down between the painted wooden wings of my real/imaginary life to whisk me away to a whole other universe.
Something would have happened of course. Back then I wouldn’t have believed it. The clock had such a hold on my imagination that it obliterated my belief in change. Now I know change’s inevitability, but the hours still dominate. Not as deserts I need to crawl through but as something I mostly waste. Mostly. Since I finished the books, my time at the studio, that I had been so hungry for, has become almost intimidating- a place to call people without knowing what words to use with them. I enjoyed looking at this picture though. Good blues and reds. Redcliffs- right? I enjoyed how, even though I know it’s Finn, it made me think about Ben, walking along the beach in California parallel to us but not with us, on New Year’s Day- what was it- fifteen years ago?
I’m going to give them names now, because otherwise this whole thing is going to start to get complicated, what with the him’s and her’s and he’s and she’s- not to mention all the backstory, all that stuff I could never quite figure out how to get into films without a load of clunky time consuming dialogue. But back to names. I’m going to call her Diana. He can be Noah. And the ex girlfriend, the one with the straight blond hair and the hard blue eyes, she’s going to be Nina. Or Louise. No- Nina. Noah and Nina. Yeesh…
So Diana. She has a Masters Degree in Latin American Studies from Cambridge. When she was 12 she started writing to a pen pal in Mexico City, Gloria Vargas. She and Gloria exchanged visits over the years, and Diana learned Spanish both at school and independently. She comes from a left wing family with a keen interest in politics and social justice, which she inherited. She’s a protester. She's spent time camping in trees to fight road building. She’s an active member of all sorts of groups. Her contact with Gloria came out of her and her family’s involvement with the Stop The War Coalition in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
At Cambridge (her first degree was in Bristol, French and Spanish) she made a particular study of Indigenous Groups in Mexico, and formed contact with various people in the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas, where she made two separate visits and where she still has friends. She works as a translator now, while slowly completing a PhD. That’s how she and Noah first met. He’s a documentary producer, and was making a film about kidnappings in South America.
He’d been impressed by Diana’s knowledge and passion, and he’d liked her sharp, ironic sense of humour. He found her passion and involvement in politics slightly galling. He thought of himself as left wing, but he rarely got involved. When they talked she’d made him feel like he really wanted too, though he never did anything about it. He was focussing on his career. But he enjoyed the couple of times he’d met up with her after, once at the screening of the film and once at a conference. She’d been his first choice when he needed an interpreter for a new project, and again she’d done an excellent job. But that was just after Nina had left him of course, and he was in a sorry state.