Isolation

 

Man Walking

I have been aware that my blog has been dormant for several months. I have had a long spell of chest infections this winter unfortunately brought on by having to live in a very damp apartment. The gentle sound of water running down the windows at night does not always bode well.

The last few months I have been engaged in the preparation and writing of a book, a segment of which will shortly appear on my blog. This part is about my first husband, Dr. Ernst Friedrich Blumberg. I have wanted to write about him for a very long time.

There have also been many interruptions with the constant thefts from my apartment of documents, letters, photos and other papers. My cupboards and cases are constantly searched and items regularly removed. If I sound blasé about the petty thievery it is not to downplay the fact that I know that my premises and property are being violated nor do I take Break and Entry lightly. Rather, it is a sign of resignation that as a 76 year old woman going to unscrupulous landlords and a variety of police stations in a variety of countries has proved fruitless.

There is an unpleasant demeanour in those one would have expected help from which emanates a smug disconcern at best or a relishing at worst with the implication that the senior complaining is paranoid. It has become abundantly clear to myself that many people in all levels of authority belong to some strange groups with strange agendas who actually enjoy coercing the weak and vulnerable while hiding behind  their clandestine  organizations. How and why I ended up on their hit list I will probably never know. What truly upsets me in my latter years is the overt cowardice of people I once claimed as friends and their refusal to even provide a snippet of information .

If any of the above needs qualifying I would simply like to say that when I was forced to sleep rough at 74 years of age in two different European countries and desperately reached out to the names in my address book only one came forward and regrettably that appeared to not only have strings attached to it but some leering free masonic types giggling in the background. What a price we pay for wanting to do our own thing in life, hurt nobody else, remain true to family and friends  but ultimately commit the worst sin of all which is to contract the poverty disease and not join some wretched fraternal boy scout or church congregation.

The thefts not being considered enough to deal with I received  another shock recently while using household, domestic , electrical equipment and the fuses went. I could not obtain a 5 amp fuse to fit the fuse box for the light circuit in my flat and as it was after hours I had to call The Northern Ireland Emergency Electrical Services. Yet another kind of shock. The worthy gentleman who arrived at my flat discovered that the seals on my 3 primary 80 amp fuses were broken and the cable connecting the fire detectors had been pulled out. I also discovered that my electricity had been isolated as the repairman confirmed that my electrical supply had been isolated from the primary supply coming in at street level. This struck me as so bizarre I confirmed it with his boss in their office who cheerfully told me he was quite right and that I was showing up with a non-active power supply

I told him I had recently changed energy providers to which he replied,”I don’t think you understand, your meter point reading is showing up as inactive.” I asked him,”Well, who  am I paying my monthly service provider cheques to then?”,to which he chuckled and ominously confirmed my fears that “there are a lot of strange things going on right now.”

 

If all this isn’t enough a recent request to Equifax to provide me with my credit report and credit score came back with only my address on it. When I telephoned them and got through to their call center in Manila they spent half an hour repetitively wasting my time forcing me to go over and over my address with them. They had no records of my bank accounts, credit cards, priority and non-priority debts.

In short, it reminded me of when I went to the Housing Executive in Canterbury only to find all my files had been digitally purged.

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The Road

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September, my birthday month has come and gone. It has always been my favourite month. In the past it included my grandmother’s birthday (Maria Horbal) and that of the child I believed to be my granddaughter, Chiara Harding. Chiara would be the only great, great grandchild  of my grandfather Mikhail Horbal and the only great grandchild of my father Robert James Gordon Finnigan. Families of two distinct cultures who happened to connect in a third nation. 

People should think of these things before they commit perjury to get their own way. Those governments, institutions and individuals who conspire and are accessories should think about this while they accept their untruths and perpetuate them. If shame comes to those who think evil what is the punishment for those who do evil?

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September is always a time of new beginnings; the end of summer and the prelude to winter. For many a new school year. Gardens have to be cleared for the coming winter and in the past pickling and preserving. Seventy years ago it also meant the annual slaughtering of one of my grandfather’s pigs. In 2013 I have come to appreciate and treasure my son’s reverence for birthdays. They are a three day event, rather like Xmas but family birthdays are real and not mythical. I read so much these days of families and christenings and celebrations and never cease to be discomfited by the divisions at all levels of society. For what end?

My birthday presents this year from my son are very special. I have lamented the loss of the library of art books collected over decades amongst my belongings which were sold at a ‘cowboy auction’ in Kelowna, Canada for $600. The insured value for it all had been $35,000. Ruan keeps a lookout in the many book stores and trys to find special art books for me at affordable prices for these special occasions such as my birthday. As he has no address for the child (now 13) which may be his daughter, my birthday takes on more gravitas.

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Ruan gave me three books this year. The first one with 926 pages, ’A world History of Art’ by Hugh Honour and John Fleming published by Lawrence King includes ancient art history and religions with many unusual maps and illustrations. It has much in it that I am not familiar with and has parallels with the older versions of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is well documented and illustrated. I had visited the Chapel briefly in the fifties with my then husband and was stunned when over 50 years later my son was able to arrange a private viewing for me of the Sistine Chapel and papal repository for arms and vestments including the famous ‘Room of Tears’ which the newly elected pontiff reflects upon prior to addressing the public audience. It was an overwhelming experience to quietly sit undisturbed in the Sistine Chapel and visualize centuries of people in that space. I thought of  Michelangelo painting on his back for 4 years on scaffolding . Light years away from any artist but he had been there in that room and created what it became. The book discusses Michelangelo and Raphael succinctly and integrates architecture well into the story. I have studied some architecture but welcome the more in depth analysis that the book offers.

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The second illustration is a horse effigy by the indigenous Sioux artists in the Dakotas. The Sioux were also present in the area of the town in Manitoba where I was born and lived. To quote from the book; ”Sitting Bull, the great Shaman and Chief and one of the leaders of a movement for the purification and revitalization of indigenous culture associated with the Ghost Dance religion. This was to lead, tragically, to the decimation of his people and the confinement of survivors on reservations.” (Page 757). To add to this story one need only take a cursory glance through the first few chapters of ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ to appreciate that although the Canadian authorities gave Sitting Bull and several thousand of his people permission to reside in Canada they did nothing to prevent the American authorities in Washington, USA from continuing to hound and hunt him down. I grew up with the splendours of the First Nation art and artefacts in the Winnipeg Art Gallery  and Museum and was overjoyed to see something written about the Sioux in an international art history book. This resonated well when I recently thought about my son’s first piano teacher in Winnipeg, Tom Stevenson. Tom’s musical lineage went back in a direct line via Myra Hess to Clara Schumann. Tom was also the first musician, a First Nation Cree, to become an accredited music teacher in Canada and a concert pianist. He was also a practising yogi.

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Another Illustration that I had not seen elsewhere was Joseph Beuys ‘Plight’. An installation with felt, grand piano, blackboard and clinical thermometer. The book includes the more usual Beuys work ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’. Joseph Beuys is one of the cerebral art wonders of the 20th century. When the long German series ‘Heimat’ was shown in the eighties in the UK I watched it repeatedly as Beuys’ engaging voice both narrated and illustrated the story. A firm legacy of Durer. Thankfully no one attempts to copy him. I love this book for the chapter on Cubism alone.

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The second book was truly a rare find. I had noticed it in the window of an Ox-Fam  book store several months ago but thought it was over priced and moved on without going into the shop. My son however went back a few weeks later and saw it on a shelf and bought it. The book ’Splendours of the Gonzaga’, a catalogue of an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, November 1981- January 1982  edited by David Chambers and Jane Martineau. It’s a catalogue like no other having 248 pages which comprise extravagant commentaries and lengthy inciteful essays. In addition to being a good history of the Gonzaga family who were important patrons and collectors of art it reveals many details of the works that were bought from the Gonzagas for  King Charles 1 in Britain contributing to the greatness of the British Royal Collection. Many of the Titians in this collection are from the Gonzaga family. There is a somewhat unique painting in the catalogue which I keep going back to ,’Young woman With a Lap Dog’ (the dog has a human face) by Lorenzo Costa which is also in the Royal Collection. The first 100 pages of the book are devoted to essays on the various members of the family and what they commissioned. The Gonzaga were the Dukes of Mantua. Mantua was also the home of Virgil and became the seat of the Gonzaga dynasty from 1328-1708 .

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Why my keen interest in this chapter of art history? My son, after the dissolution of my marriage was estranged from me for 12 years. It was extremely complicated but I understood and waited it out. It was a long 12 years. The 2nd time in my life that I had been on my own. I studied and worked, looked after my Mother, made some blunders and life moved on. I had read about Mantua and the Gonzagas and their patronage of art especially  Isabella d’Este, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Ferrara who became a Gonzaga in 1490. My son left England in 1997 disillusioned with an ever changing educational system and accepted a post in Rome at Marymount International School. He excelled himself producing a special Xmas concert for the school at the American church of Santa Susanna for an audience of members of the diplomatic corps,various dignitaries and others associated with the school. It was a huge success. However, Ruan’s classroom rules of behaviour did not correspond with those of some of his pupils and after placing a phone call to one of the parents to discuss a student’s use of a lighter in class, the parent a Mr. Previti then associated with Mr. Berlusconi in a legal capacity, his contract was not renewed which resulted in many of the teachers at Marymount resigning in protest.

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While at the school a sister Theresa introduced Ruan to Princess Gonzaga, (Adriana Buitoni) who had known Adriana from childhood and had known her mother the former Princess Gonzaga. Adriana was looking for someone to walk her dogs, live with her rent free and carry out other tasks. When he arrived in Rome, Ruan lived at Marymount in the convent from November 15th 1997 until he moved into Adriana’s residence a couple of weeks later. He had become interested in Catholicism and under the auspices of Princess Gonzaga and His Eminence, Antonio Pietroborgo (Padre Nino), the Gonzaga family Excorcist, my son entered into an intense study and dialogue which culminated in his baptism and other sacraments with Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 11, 1998: the Easter Vigil. Coincidentally his father’s birthday. Although Ruan’s paternal grandfather, Brian Harding was extremely active in the High Church of England all his life, Ruan’s father was a committed atheist and although he was brought up with Christian principles (his father had gone to the Anglican school – Bloxham – not Westminster which had historically been the paternal family school) he was generally kept away from anything Catholic. After about a year and a half Ruan ended his stay in the Gonzaga household, married in Santa Anna in the Vatican parish and had his assumed baby daughter baptized a Catholic.

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For me all these events were quite extraordinary. Closely tied to art in a rather grand way. My father-in-law, Brian Harding, in his day, was recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Titian. This catalogue has been an engrossing experience. To commemorate the occasion Ruan was given an antique medallion as a present on the night of his baptism by Adriana which was said to have come from her family collection. Unfortunately in 2012 unable to raise money to pay for accommodation Ruan had to sell the medallion. It was his decision and I believe a sad one. There are some illustrations in the catalogue which reveals medallions not unlike his which appear to have been created at the same time. So that is the story of why I was so pleased to receive this catalogue/book for my birthday.

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The 3rd book that was was part of my 76th birthday present was ‘The Secret Code’ by Priya Hemenway which is an in depth and very original analysis of the theory of the Golden Section and the Greek letter Phi. Ruan had seen this book and said he had been looking for something like that for me and so it was purchased and put away for September 21st. Unless you are very fortunate it is unlikely you will be taught these things in art school today. My familiarity with the Golden Section i.e. ratio – 0.618 was firstly intuitive and then later learned and applied. Fortunately  at long last a truly accessible and user friendly work has been written with a holistic and multi disciplinary approach to the Divine Ratio. Divine Ratio also relates to music which is also defined in this book. My son was thoroughly taught this when he studied composition privately with Dudley Hyams in Sussex. Later he was published as Joshua Ruan. I have chosen 4 illustrations. The first from Chapter one – Probing the Mysteries of Divine Proportion, a woodcut by  Camille Flammarion showing someone breaking through the medieval world to see the underlying mechanisms that turn the world. The second illustration from Chapter 6 ‘The Sacrament Of The Last Supper‘ by Salvador Dali and the third illustration, Kepler and his Theory of the Music of the Spheres exemplified in his Mysterium Cosmographicum. I am always looking for something about Kepler and a few months ago picked up a small paperback by the Irish writer John Banville on him. The book has 203 pages and on page 106 the 4th is the Golden Section illustrated. This is self-explanatory and is what causes problems for those who do not understand a lot of contemporary art. In my opinion all artists in all disciplines whether they are mathematically inclined or not should have a sound understanding of what Golden Section means in order to work with it’s application This particular book of Phi is almost like a book of hours but instead of prayers they are litanies on how to make art.

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A year ago in this blog, in ¾ Time I wrote about my 75th birthday. Much has evolved in these past 12 months. I have a greater awareness of the depth of involvement of strangers and other ‘family’ members in my life. This involvement has a far reaching impact and is clearly intended to destroy not only myself but also my son. This is not too extreme a point. The intention has been clearly for us to be on the street, so death has been the ultimate aim. I would conservatively call it constructive homicide. It is an issue to reflect upon.  As more information on the situation surfaces the number of people involved and who some of them are is both disturbing and puzzling. It is a microcosm of the world as it appears today. I have no doubt whatsoever that as more and more is revealed it simply reflects the sheer shabbiness of the human race. The legend of Faust is no longer a legend but has become the beacon for what can only be the ultimate end for all as in Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road.

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Journey Into Light

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It is the little everyday things that keep one going in this life.

I was feeling somewhat saddened by the end of the availability of a very good little daily newspaper, very cheap from the mainland when I read in same newspaper of a special exhibition taking place in London “Jumping for Joyce“. 20 contemporary artists were commissioned by the Francis Kyle gallery in London  to do responses and interpretations on James Joyce and his work. The review (John Walsh-Independent) and photos were very enticing and I thought that rather than despair at not going to London, see if they had a catalogue. They did and it arrived two days later. Feeling very pleased about this as it exceeded my expectations I decided to venture forth next day to St. George’s Market in Belfast. It’s enclosed so weather is irrelevant.

Wandering about not knowing what to taste or look at next I came to a bookstall (Belfast is amazing for second hand books) and idly looking through a reduced price box I light upon one of my beloved Russian books that I no longer have. It is £1! So with the £10 for the painting catalogue on Joyce and my book of photos of pre-revolutionary Russia for a total of £11 I have rediscovered Utopia. The Joyce paintings have a very European feel to them. For me, they illustrate Joyce‘s works intensely and intuitively. For someone whose writings we are led to believe are exceedingly complex this group of artists have been quite comfortable in their interpretations. Needless to say, the paintings would benefit from closer look. When you can look at a work of art and think this is really capturing the artist’s thoughts and it is an aesthetically realized composition it is quite enough. Although not totally enamoured with them all they appear to be successfully worked and one particular piece, a ceramic cat “Leopold Bloom’s Black Cat” by Psiche Hughes I would love to own. Another work which is also the cover of the catalogue “The Wanderer 11” by Anna Wimbledon is one of those pieces that catches in my throat. Joyce was such an appealing man. Who cares what faults he had. The feminists engage in their endless debates on Nora Barnacle but she was his muse. Full Stop. I was not entirely convinced by some of the interpretations of Molly Bloom (Nora) amongst the works but she herself was complex and I would suspect too enigmatic to be fully understood. Still the challenge is always there. She lives. My Russian photo collection includes some old photos of the Crimea which has a connection to my Mother’s paternal family of which I have never been able to discover the source. I had hoped one day to visit Crimea and maybe learn something intuitively or psychically . Hopefully it may still happen.

Travelling to other countries in the past and in the present has always been considered a valued component for culture and yet in Joyce’s Ulysses a lifetime of “travel” is experienced in one day. Joyce insisted that he was not serious about the work and yet the monumental detail hints strongly that perhaps “internal” is the ultimate journey. He would like us to think that he is playing with surface but he delves too thoroughly into the subconscious and like many great writers was not afraid to wade into the murky waters of every mans’ soul. It is curious that Joyce who after leaving Dublin spent his life travelling and yet his major works are journeys within the subconscious.Finnegan’s Wake itself offers many challenges. There is still much to discover.

The exhibition goes on to the end of September.

Flea Circus

Said the flea let us fly

Said the fly let us flee

And they flew through a flaw in a flue.

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I had planned to return to the UK for some time. I had also planned to never leave France in 1987 so I knew things would not necessarily go as hoped or as intended.

Some people feel that everyone should stay in their own country and not move about or travel or emigrate. I wondered what kind of mind set could be so self-limiting until my daughter-in-law in Rome, Simona Lotito informed my son that he should go back home.

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This gives rise to the question for many people as where exactly is “home”. The German word for home is “Heimat” more along the lines of homeland. My son’s ancestry is quite mixed. Basically half English, the other half comprising Irish, English-Scot and Russian sub-dividing into a complex mixture of Polish, Ukrainian Cossack and Prussian. For an Italian to tell someone to go “home” is quite an extraordinary comment. If every Italian in the world outside of Italy went back home the country would sink into the sea.

My son is a 2nd generation Canadian unless one takes into account his great grandfather who was the first to arrive in Canada which would then make him a 4th generation Canadian. The reason for my pedanticism is not simply to amuse the reader but make them aware that within Italian/Roman culture there exists a brag factor of snobbishness for those that can claim 7 generations which my daughter-in-law’s family alleges.

In the Vatican parish of St. Anna with Father Stefano Canuto present my daughter-in- law on the telephone to me categorically told me that my son was not the biological father of his daughter, Chiara Harding. So, I do not know if she is a 5th generation Canadian or simply a stay-at-home Italian. In an interesting aside my grandfather who had fled, prior to WWI, Austria so as not to have to fight against Britain (he had served in the Austrian cavalry). Although he had spent several years in Canada he was badly treated by the Canadian authorities and was quietly advised to go to the wilds of Manitoba. He was able to take his savings with him which he gave to a banker, Mr. Alloway of Portage la Prairie, to invest who promptly defrauded him threatening him with being sent to an internment camp. They were substantial and were earned in the logging camps of British Columbia. Many years later my grandfather was given a special document when he applied for Canadian citizenship and became a naturalized Canadian stating that he had the equivalent status and rights of a natural born Englishman in Britain and would be considered as English.

So if my granddaughter (not proven without DNA which the Lotito/Sallustio  families will not allow) is actually my granddaughter she could be a 5th generation Canadian forced to live in Italy. She has not been given the opportunity to know if she is Italian and or Canadian. Hence—home and homeland can inadvertently become quite an important issue. My son tells me that at her birth in the delivery room these thoughts went through his head and came to bear hours later when Chiara’s great grandmother Marcella Occhiodoro  and her aunt Concetta were disparagingly musing upon Chaira’s nationality. They were apparently noting that the Canadian part of her nationality “could be a problem” in the future for some reason as it was officially registered at her birth when she was issued with her Italian tax Codice Fiscale.

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As in a previous blog entry I mentioned that my own Mother was never permitted to see her great granddaughter. So if an Italian insists everyone must stay in their own country why would they choose to send their daughter for English lessons with my son and then be party to the matrimony in the Vatican, the marriage blessed publicly on television by Pope John Paul II and then little Chiara baptized with water from the Jordan River in Israel in the Church of the Canadian Martyrs in Rome with a Vatican priest, Father Stefano Canuto officiating? By way of note the very same church that Chiara’s Italian grandparents Cecilia Sallustio and Sandro Lotito loved and wanted to get married in themselves prior to their divorce on the grounds that Sandro had abandoned Cecilia and his daughter Simona for his new lady love Guiseppina. Regarding the separation and divorce of my son from Simona, his wife, she has been to court several times and had provisional rulings made in her favour without Ruan ever being informed of court appearance dates.

The conclusions of many reasonable people will be that my son abandoned his wife and young child just as his father-in-law is alleged to have done, but is this the whole truth I wonder? Both children over two generations were the same age when both fathers for whatever reasons felt a need to flee.

Chaos Theory in Practice

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At this precise moment in time a rather large number of hackers are trying to prevent me from writing this blog. At this precise moment in time children are being raped, murdered or worse, in your neighbourhood. Someone in your neighbourhood is dying of hunger and others are simply dying alone and uncared for. Still others are being abdicated from the universal life force through subtle and sinister means.
 
A newspaper suggests an award for (the actress) Sarah Jessica Parker for the ‘revolutionary’ idea of instigating the removal of pubic hair which has had the unexpected result of substantially reducing pubic lice, a great public health hazard. Rather large numbers of the same race worldwide are killing each other daily. It is not dementia people should be concerned with but generic amorality brought on by apathy and indifference the results of which has been the diffusion of an unbridled new technology creating dissociative behaviour worldwide. I think King David played a very different Harp when he composed his psalms.
 
The church is desperately concerned about whether women should be bishops and or priests while money is blowing about like sand in a Sirocco. The churches are still empty unless it is a wedding/funeral and the innocence of childhood is still a perpetuated myth. It has taken six years for something to finally be done about Madeleine McCann. Who will be stolen to order next week? The catalogue must be full.
The price of  food is rising daily but the shareholders, that is you if you have sold your soul, must have their dividends.
Meanwhile the hackers are still with me. They are on somebody’s payroll. Are our taxes paying for this? How many libraries in how many countries have I had to patiently try and get things done on the computer with these creepy  cyber stalkers hovering around me?

The Inability to View-Past and Present

Although not owning a DVD player I had to purchase a DVD recently which cost the sum of 50 pence for 329 minutes of viewing. The contents included a film I did not know of ‘For The Moment‘, a drama of the training of WW2 bomber pilots in rural Manitoba training pilots on Harvard aircraft.

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I grew up in the town of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba which had two of these training centres in the area. My Father worked in the bigger airport, MacDonald, 11 miles away from our home. The base was also a training ground for gunners and other pilots throughout the war. Dad used to bring pilots home from the pub who had missed their last bus and they slept all over our lounge till dawn. I never saw them but when I got up in the morning I would go and count the teacups on the counter and would then go and inform my Mother how many had been to stay ( I was 5 years old at the time).

At the end of the war my Father had a stack of paintings – about 20-25 which these young pilots had done during their stay and which they had left in his safe keep. It was an unusual collection. I used to go up to the attic from time to time and looked at them with much curiosity. There were some of the prairie landscape, mostly night scenes featuring the moon, the others of the planes and some of their parts, wings in particular, the airport itself but no animals or people. My father kept these works for 20 years until he died. I think he always hoped that someone would come back for them. He never talked about the pilots or the paintings. They were just there.

When I returned from the UK for the first time I went home to collect the paintings and see if I could find out who some of the artists were. My Mother had remarried and her new husband had destroyed them all.

So I saw this DVD and a glimmer of hope arose. Discovering that I could purchase a cheap DVD player as I do not have a TV I thought it would not be difficult.

First stop — a catalogue ordering establishment wanted a hefty insurance policy with no guarantee for sudden power surges(2 kettles and 3 radios replaced ) which destroys equipment. On to the next shop. One sullen clerk appears, monosyllabic and suddenly another clerk appears with a piece of paper which he thrusts at the first clerk who is now unable to speak at all. A well known chain store — strange sales practises. On to shop three, a second hand store and pawnbrokers. I’m on home ground here. Yes, they have a very good one, very cheap with a 6 months total guarantee but he must just go upstairs for a moment and 5 minutes later he comes back down. I take out my money but alas and alack he says the cord is damaged and therefore due to health and safety regulations he cannot sell me the item. Okay – I will buy the apparatus and I will get a cord elsewhere. Not possible I am told.

No, I haven’t seen the DVD yet. But I will find a way with or without power surges and health and safety issues  etc. etc. I will find out what I can about the RAF pilots of 1942 and whether they were amongst the ones who did the paintings at MacDonald.

Prairie Flowers

It is my inclination to write about the travails of moving about in several countries and of living in the present UK. Before that I thought I’d make a few comments on problems that I have had with insects for over a year. I have been working on details of my experiences with tyranny and those chapters will follow the ones on journeying. It was the subject of tyranny that led me to make comments on insects. Kafka’s Metamorphosis has always interested me and it is one of those books that I always go back to and rethink the story again. From an artist’s point of view it is very much a 3D visualization but it goes much beyond that. Anyway I will come back to that again sometimes.

Last summer was spent in a house of spiders-large-small and giant (not literally but a bird like creature marching about does take on a dimensional aspect). I do not have a real problem with spiders but it is very unpleasant to be bitten by them. Many of us have been conditioned by the whimsies of childhood; eency weency spider, crawling up the spout and poor little Miss Muffitt frightened off her Tuffitt, leaving her curds and whey. But accommodation in hostels, short term rental flats and rooms with arachnophilic landladies gave me rather a lot of experience that was not in any way whimsical.

Another insect has come to the fore; Bed Bugs. My only relationship with Bed Bugs in my 75 years was only related to me by my Mother from stories of hardship while I was an infant, which is an interesting story in itself but that will be told much later. Travelling about and looking for work and affordable living space while trying to keep off the streets is stressful at any time so as it was foremost in my mind I was not surprised when I broke out in large welts while staying in a hostel. I assumed that I was in overload but to be safe got antiseptics, and creams etc. Moving to another hostel it suddenly accelerated and it became a surface issue. I had to live elsewhere for a short period and found a very clean but extremely cheap little rural hotel where the welts and itching disappeared. Returning to my previous abode I succumbed again to even more welts and itching and a mild general physical deterioration. In short I began to feel rather ill. In desperation and with luck – the Universe poked her head out and took a hand; I found a flat. Comfort once again but short lived. This time I went to a local doctor. I was seen by a part time female GP whose speciality was dermatology who immediately diagnosed Scabies. Now if like me you have ever nursed in outlying areas of the Canadian Prairies you will know what Scabies are. Many children living in unhygienic conditions are covered in very distinctive rashes unmistakeably Scabies (Google). I returned home with the standard prescription and decided that there was more to this scenario (the last 10 years of my life has taught me a lot and many experiences that I could have done without) and I had overlooked something. I checked clothing and bedding scrupulously (I grew up with a Mother who regularly Dettolled the family dog –  I know what to look for). I found it in my bedding; only one. I went out and bought a canister of industrial Raid for Cockroaches. Now anybody who has ever lived in France knows that you cannot kill Cockroaches with anything but it would more than likely work on the lowly Bed Bug. It did. It dies in the jar immediately enveloped by the Raid Cockroach spray. My welts disappeared. Nothing for a few weeks. Then a repeat performance. One bug. Major microscopic search revealing no others. Armies of one. kurelek

Repetition of same scene a few weeks later. The assumption is that I have missed something. No, I sprayed regularly – everything saturated (I have subsequently developed a cough) and everything is washed in an unsafe amount of disinfectant.

Now being me and the life I lead (and have lead – being stupidly unaware) I know that someone is placing this insect in my apartment in my bed on a regular basis. The apartment is monitored (I have proof of that – so clever these psychic spies) but why Bed Bugs? Is it to break me down emotionally, wear my down physically or just a primitive, childish form of general irritation? A perverse  form of ‘Knock out Ginger’ (ringing doorbells and running away)? As this scenario unfolds I will relate how I am dealing with it. Having had pets most of my life especially cats I am more than familiar with fleas. However this little mystery of uninvited guests is not only an issue of why but also of who knows about it and condones it. There is regular traffic in and out of my apartment when I am out during the day. For all I know someone(s) is coming in and sleeping in my bed when I am out. (It is only a daybed, after all). Remember  Goldilocks knew someone had been sitting in her chair before she got to the porridge bowl. I ignored these things in the past but that was and is, unwise. In the meanwhile I watch and wait. Strange and tedious times living in this New World Order.

I now have a collection of Bed Bugs. Am not quite certain how they can become some form of Art but am working on the idea.Surely as interesting as dirty underwear? Do Google the insect, quite distinctive looking,easily spotted.

Death Versus Life

Throughout my life I have always had books written by Russian authors close at hand. Being half Slavic it is not surprising and there have even been times that I have laboriously read in the original – just short paragraphs but to get the real feel of the words as I remembered their meanings. One of my favourites is  Gogol’s Dead Souls. The main character Chichikov buys Dead Souls i.e. names of serfs who have died and collects on loans he receives for these spirits before they are erased in the next census. Macabre, but he’s essentially a “wide-boy”.

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I started to apply this way of thinking to the present day and was fascinated when I heard on the radio that the Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond appears to believe that the budget for Social Services, i.e. Welfare should have their funding cut rather than his Defence dept.. Now when you reflect on this thinking it would appear that Mr. Hammond is less exploitive and more pragmatic, read cold blooded, as he opts for two Dead souls with one bullet. The money goes to defence, defence today is actually offence so someone is killed with defence bullets and with less spent on welfare or social services another person or persons can or will die–elderly from the cold due to an inability to afford extra heat, or eat healthy food, mothers with children with husbands out of work due to company close down and with no expansion in work creation or entrepreneurship, returning veterans unable to obtain work for various reasons. The outstanding one being the vast change in communications and the unplanned for fallout from that. I am sure The Huffington Post will be commenting at some point.

In either situation it is a double win with a possibility of an extra for Mr Hammond in Defence. Gogol would have been impressed and in awe of such mathematical ingenuity. Clearly whoever has the greater kill must be the winner. No doubt Mr. Hammond will be accorded due accolades as are bestowed upon alphas and betas of his ilk. Chichikov, Gogol’s purchaser of Dead Souls would have expected major honors for advancing such a noble scheme legitimately.

One has only to look at the ongoing government’s applause for the head of the NHS’s skills, Sir David Nicholson. The applause appears to be his success with a growing genocide.  Population control is working. Again a double header. Treat the elderly barbarically, they die, therefore they no longer require treatment which costs money and they no longer receive a pension which the government then harvests.  A hundred and sixty years later or so and  we have a truly refined version of Dead Souls.

Another longtime favourite is Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’. Briefly, the devil comes to town and provides a circus with magic. Olympics anyone? An expensive mask to hide the truth and it is treasonable in some countries if you don’t vociferously endorse the charade. In this story Bulgakov suggests that cowardice is the most grave of all vices. Is anyone watching the statistics for the dying and the hungry and homeless? The churches are understandably empty. Great places for good hot lunches and accommodation. Maybe Christianity doesn’t really exist because there wasn’t a Christ. Maybe we have imagined it all. Could someone reinvent him, but please, without any codicils and ensuing slaughters to justify these forms of population control. Gogol’s people had, at least in the book, “naturally” died.

Double plus bad, Winston.

The Queen Of Tarts

The Queen Of Tarts

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The government of the day has advised senior citizens i.e., the likes of me , to go back to school and get back in the work force to ease the economic situation. Now my knowledge of political economics is limited. If I go back in the work field am I not going to take a job away from someone younger?

Not for me to query this philosophy. Okay, so I am an SRN with Midwifery. However my past training precludes me from nursing today. I was seriously taught that nursing was the highest of the arts (which is why it is not strange that I have had a parallel life in art). However, nursing is no longer an art—nurses are now technicians. That avenue is no longer open to me. Is there something wrong with being a technician – well it is neither art nor nursing so better to go with something else. Dismissing what I have already learned I do not think is an option.  So, back into business administration? Have lots of experience with bookkeeping and public relations (I went to business school before nursing…….I had a practical father). I did work quite seriously in the computer world for many years but not actually with computers – unless it was unavoidable. After many years with the family Electronics company; J & J Electronics, I was business manager in my husband’s pioneering software firm : MOLIMERX. The business world has changed drastically in the last 20 years- I feel that I am probably too old to get a handle on that one again. Then there was the art world which included 10 years in sales, gallery management and curating. Now a few health problems and age have created some limitation on that as a career renewal so I thought …what do I like best….books and literature, especially Russian literature. I didn’t quite know how I would turn that interest into income but the universe always points out a direction—eventually. So….I got a brochure on the local university, the beautiful Queen’s and what do I see? One of my favourite books, Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘Master and Margarita’ is being offered in an Open Learning program with credits. This I can do. Where it will lead, I do not know. Happily I went off to class thinking that the bonus of a Russian lecturer with an apparent PhD named Elena Farztdinova was going to be a real plus. This was something I had not experienced since nursing. My instructors then were highly educated and the many doctors who lectured were generally specialists in their respective fields.

Doing my 4 years fine arts program had not been a wholly enlightening experience as many of my instructors did not have the qualifications or teaching experience that one generally takes for granted at a teaching institution so this was really going to be an experience in my endeavours to get with the government program.  Bulgakov’s works I had been reading throughout my life, Russian culture I am familiar with and  as for Communism, I know a little bit more about it than I ever wanted to.

Also having a son who has taught at all levels of education gave me another insight. So now I am back in the classroom. Dr. Elena Farztdinova begins her lecture with photographs of Bulgakov and his surroundings with images of places mentioned in ‘The Master and Margarita‘. She works in her lectures between computer and screen. The book to her is very funny. Communism was not too bad in Russia in the twenties. If you did not co-operate you did not go to university and so on. Bulgakov clearly did not co-operate and then was so harassed and frightened he did not know what he was doing. All in the book. He was writing knowing the floor could slide away from him at any time. As a physician he also knew that the kidney disease he suffered from had killed his father. I had hoped that I would get more insight into the figure of the cat in the book. The big black cat. How the Russians love cats. They are an intrinsic part of their psyche and culture which is inseparable from magic. Black or otherwise. See the cat photo at the beginning of my blog. It is from the Moscow Cat Theatre. Only in Russia. With all the symbolism in this book one could spend an entire lifetime studying just this novel. There is a parallel story in the novel about Pontius Pilate. Absolutely brilliant and riveting. The book swims in Surrealism. The imagery ricochets throughout with constant references to mythology and history. This novel requires someone who knows the story and there is nowhere to hide. Bulgakov is haunted  by Stalin in real life and this is conveyed throughout the book. A senstive, courageous artist played like a mouse. The cat and mouse game so enjoyed by the totalitarian mind set. Elena does not want to go there. Questions are sidelined or ignored. It becomes obvious to me that my possible 5 credits are not going to any post graduate education. And so the lessons go and I record the third one and review it at home. These classes are not going to lead me in any fruitful direction. The wise route is to conserve my energy. Read the book again for myself and keep adding translator notes to my file.

Going back to school is not going to be without new challenges but I will persevere. Solace comes from  Through The Looking Glass. Back to the White Queen and Lewis Carroll.

“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today.” It’s jam every other day: today isn’t any other day, you, know”

In the meantime I shall continue painting and pursue the idea that my work will eventually sell again. Perhaps another portrait of my daughter-in-law in Rome, Simona Lotito in the surrealist style of  Chagall captured so well in Bulgakov’s book. All is not lost. And while on the subject of quasi progeny, I recently popped down to Dublin and had a wonderful cup of tea and cake at a lovely little shop called the Queen of Tarts whereupon I glanced out the window only to see an old associate/friend of my daughter’s passing by on the way to work in a local restaurant.

Centenary

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Anastasia Finnigan, my Mother, was born 100 years ago on December 29th,1912.

It was a strange experience honouring her birth. I felt her presence. Her birthday was always special for me and ever since I can remember I tried to convey that to her.This year was a little extra special although she is dead. I bought a large bouquet of white carnations, over 100 buds and had a candle light vigil for her. Ruan, her grandson and I had tea in the afternoon with fruitcake (which she loved) and a glass of port. It was solemn but not sad. She would have been a little disturbed by the white carnations but they are for death, Mother’s day was always honoured with a red carnation if you had a living Mother. For some reason that always resonated with her. For me birth  has more meaning than death. You treasure someone’s birth, surely.

Mama was a part of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was born in a town now known as Tolstoi. After WW1 it became Poland, then after WW2 it became Russia and is now Ukraine. Because of the concentration of Jews in the town during WW2 it was more or less obliterated. My Mother was always extremely adamant that  her hometown was a town and not a village (with cobbled streets, dating back to the Romans). One of her happier experiences about 8 months before she died was spending a whole afternoon at my computer checking out names of friends that she had remembered from childhood. Ruan had researched places and names for her and had set everything up. She loved it and proved to be adept at handling a computer for the first time. She was totally engrossed and I saw my Mother in another light.

She was part of something that I knew nothing of. One name she sought was Margulies/Margolies. Someone with that name was also seeking to find anyone who had survived the war. My Mother had left in 1925, the town devastated by many occupations. I found it interesting that a little Greek Catholic girl would have so many Jewish friends. When I commented she was surprised.They were her playmates. Her Mother had sold their home to a local Jewish family when they left the country. My grandmother had survived with her children (her husband was in Canada and could not get back in to the country) selling vegetables, jams, eggs and milk to her mostly Jewish clients. I thought of all this the afternoon and evening of the 29th and wondered what Mama would make of our lives now. I tuned into the radio to have a late night listen and to think my thoughts when a song came on that I had not heard for over 45 years. It was something my Mother always sang to me and to my children, untill my Father died and then not ever again. It was the Connemara Cradle Song:

Roses love sunshine, Violets love due,

Angels in heaven, know I love you.

Hear the wind blow love, hear the wind blow.

She must have learned it from my Father, how else could she have known it? I did not recall him singing this (he sang, played the piano and harmonica) but who knows and unfortunately I never asked. It was a part of my family culture.

I then realized how much I missed her, even though she had made my life more difficult than she knew. I had divorced once, she was horrified that I would consider it again. How could I do this …..to her?? MY husband, John Harding, robbed her blind without any conscience. It was a family trait. The Hardings’ had collected ground rents in London for centuries, so what. Present day Harding family members keep valuable belongings (music manuscripts) and have allowed valuable douments to be destroyed that they were storing – letters from composers to my son  and a letter of Elgar’s that I had bought at auction. Destroyed by a water leak only to be told “they were only some letters”. But don’t rock the boat.

I wonder what she would make of all the stalking, harassing and hacking that we are subjected to on a daily basis. Stalking in the UK now carries a 5 year prison sentence. They are lining up.

The harassment started in Kelowna, cars following me slowly while I walked along the sidewalk, some with women drivers.The most unpleasant thing I think about is the incident which hastened my Mother’s death. She was unable to sit at a computer again so I tried to bring her books which she would enjoy. The last one she read I had in storage which I was unable to continue paying for because I was kept so short of money and Ruan was not allowed to earn anything. She got herself to a telephone one afternoon and timidly asked me if she had to stay in her room I asked why and and with growing horror heard her relate her experience of the night before where a woman in the next bed (bedridden) had some man come in and have intercourse with her for some time and so much so that her bed rammed my mother’s and it shook and rattled.

I guess it ‘s funny on a TV program but if you are 91 and dying, maybe not? The nurses on duty were unable to cope as the two individuals seemed to be well connected. There was also a cat in the room, permanently. You ask why I did not have her in a private room – MY mother was heavily addicted to morphine and whenever she tried to get up she would fall at night. Her falls hastened her death but it was why I had her in a room with more people as the nurses would need to enter more often.

No one seemed to take this too seriously in Canada so I can only assume it has become standard practice for elderly people in hospitals. Unfortunately for my Mother in her case she was still traumatized from an incident in her childhood when her own Mother – Maria Horbal – was gang raped by Turkish soldiers in her home. My grandmother had seen the soldiers coming and fearing that they would steal her children she hid them quickly. Thinking their mother dead my mother and older sister fled to my grandfather’s uncle, the local sheriff and he took charge. The men were found, dealt with and unfortunately buried on the family property, a constant reminder of what had happened. An interesting event later was that the Turkish government had their bodies exhumed and returned to Turkey, about 10 years after the family had moved to Canada.

Needless to say, that night in hospital all this came back to my Mother. She was subsequently moved to another room but developed bed sores and I could not understand why. One day I stripped her bed to the bottom only to find the matrress soaked through in urine. Everything was changed but by then it was too late. The morphine helped and she had a peaceful, calm end. She would frequently wake up and smile at me. My beautiful mother. Two weeks before she died Ruan asked if she would like to speak to her great grandaughter Chiara Harding in Rome. He had been very unhappy that she was unable to see his daughter. My Mother could not travel and his wife Simona had refused to come to Canada, She thought it unnecessary. It would have meant so much to Mom…death is more acceptable if there is continuity. It was especially so for my Mother. So this,her last Christmas, on Christmas morning he played the piano for the patients (yes, a concert pianist) as he had promised her and the nurses hooked up the phone and she spoke (in Italian as he had helped her) to her only grandchild in italy. Then she was ready to die. Mama could have lived much longer but she was tired and she knew that things were out of her control. This lady who had done so much in her life. The little girl from Tolstoi (near Chortkiv).

Rest Mama Rest, Let the winds blow.