Weeknote, Sunday 4th June 2023

I’ve been feeling somewhat melancholy this week. I suspect the cause of that is mostly physical: I have also been feeling quite run down, not to the point of exhaustion but definitely lacking in energy. The two things usually go hand in hand: Kim has occasionally described how my emotions emerge from me like a cloud, surrounding me, and it works both ways. When my body is struggling, my emotions cluster around me, and when I’m feeling strong emotions, I wear it across my body like a gaudy sash.

We spent part of the last long weekend before August dog sitting two Bedlington terriers who manage to combine whip-smarts with the utter irrationality of all dog kind when it comes to the three things most important to them: snacks, shitting and chasing rabbits. I miss having a dog although I would probably want one that wasn’t quite so excitable. An elderly dog who likes a little amble and wistful glance towards the rabbits in the field is probably about my speed.

On Wednesday we went up to that there London to see Jeremy Deller in conversation with Emma Warren talking about Art is Magic. I love his work – honestly if you don’t like We’re here because we’re here you have no heart – but I also love that he’s not a trained artist, didn’t go to art school, and is what the art establishment likes to call and “outsider artist”. That’s a phrase which, of course, reeks of the privilege they have and how they like to project it. We are insiders – you are an outsider. And we all know that outsiders aren’t to be trusted.

It’s possibly one of the reasons why it’s taken me fifty years to admit to myself that some of what I do might actually be art, rather than craft or a trade. We shall see. It still feels more than a little uncomfortable.

Kim has been off in France – first Paris, then Montpellier – doing fun art things since Thursday. That meant she didn’t have to suffer the FA Cup Final with me (our friend Edward came round for shit talking and snack eating) and I’m taking the opportunity to do a bunch of chores that have been on my list of things to do for far too long. Related: my back now hurts. One more thing to talk to the doctor about at some point.

Things I have been writing

I wrote something on my experience of covid. This isn’t the first thing I have written about the pandemic, but I think it’s the most complete account of how it’s made me feel, and think, and act differently.

Things I have been reading

I finished off M John Harrison’s “anti-memoir” Wish I was here in just a couple of days. It’s very Harrison: don’t expect a linear narrative about the events in his life, or a how-to manual on writing weird fiction. It’s as much a piece of art writing as the rest of his recent work, and has the opacity and determination not to explain things which he’s really been playing around with for a long time.

Of course I loved it, but I’ve always loved his work, ever since as a nine or 10 year old I picked up a copy of The Centauri Device while on holiday in Spain. I was obsessed with science fiction and this was the only book I would find amongst the tiny selection of English-language paperbacks in the Spanish newsagent which catered to Brits on their cheap package holiday. Harold Robbins, James Clavell, Dennis Wheatley and M John Harrison. I have sometimes wondered quite how they ended up stocking it, but whoever decided that a Spanish newsagent was the right place for a story of spacefaring anarchists deserves my thanks.

I’m not sure what to read next. This is always an interesting moment: a few days of paralysis while I work out what my brain wants to absorb. I’m tempted to jump into Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki as a bit of a break from fiction. It’s been in the book pile for a couple of weeks, which is usually the optimum time for reading: any longer, and it tends to get buried by other options. Any shorter, and it interrupts what I’m already reading. And I hate to stop reading a book before the end: abandoning something always feels like a moral failure, even though intellectually I know it’s the right thing to do.

Ian Betteridge @ianbetteridge