A Dagger In The Art

We recently had a Dutch student stay with us, and a conversation about famous Dutch people provoked two inevitables:

1. My son contributing every single footballer from the Netherlands that he could think of,

and 2. the namedrop of Vincent Van Gogh.

“Van Gogh!” exclaimed my daughter, “wasn’t that him that bit off his own ear?”

What followed were some incredible attempts by my children to fit their ears into their mouths, a feat surely impossible unless they were elephants.

Later that evening I finished a biography I was reading of The Mamas and the Papas. If ever there was a group that was destined not to stay together it was these guys. Remember that great 90’s film The Commitments, about an Irish group that imploded just as they were about to hit the big time?

It was like that. You had Michelle who was married to John; John who was friends with Denny; Denny who was friends with Cass; Cass who was both in love with Denny and friends with Michelle.

Then, just as they were about to sign a recording contract with a record company, Michelle and Denny had an affair. John was angry with Denny. Denny felt guilty about cheating on his friend and upsetting Cass. Cass was angry with Denny and Michelle. Michelle was angry because John blamed her and not Denny. And on and on ad nauseum.

Now it was time to make music. Somehow they managed to last two years.

John, much in the way of songwriters both before and after, used the turmoil in his life to create art. Just like Abba, where the recently divorced Björn came up with the lyrics of The Winner Takes It All and  gave it thoughtfully to his ex-wife to sing,

John wrote I Saw Her Again about this betrayal and the group took their medicine and recorded it. Probably with many sideways glances.

From this I began to think of the recently deceased Dolores O’Riordan. Although the cause of death in that London hotel has yet to be disclosed, and it would be wrong to speculate, there are tales of depression and breakdowns, bipolar and a suicide attempt, all in the wake of her terrible  experience as a young girl when she was sexually abused between the age of eight and twelve by a man known to her family.

A man who, though she never publically named, approached her at her father’s funeral, as she had long dreaded, tearfully apologising for what he had done.

I thought once again about how artists turn pain into art; about creative tension, struggle and catharsis. How some need to somehow get it out in their work.

And, with Dolores’ personal disclosures, witnessed the heartbreak of this Cranberries song, Fee Fi Fo, shared below complete with lyrics.



Russ Meehan, aka Qubek, is an artist whose work can be encountered during any walk around the Manchester area.

His murals feature throughout the region, including a huge image of 22 bees in the Northern Quarter, which represents the 22 killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Meehan was asked to do the mural by Marc Gallanders, a graphic designer who set up the Bee Strong MCR in a bid to spread positivity in the wake of the Manchester bomb, and help children and adults have conversations about what happened. His project supplies worker bees which will be placed across Greater Manchester in a show of condolence and solidarity.
The 22 bees mural – a tribute to those killed at Manchester Arena was created in Monton.
Gallanders says: “We decided on Monton as I live there and a lot of the local schools had children directly affected by the attack, and we wanted to spread the love and the message of togetherness beyond the city centre.

“As months have gone by since the attack, we wanted the piece to help move the city and the community forward with a symbolic design.”

The new painting gives the illusion that bricks have been taken out of the wall, revealing a garden with bright flowers, blue skies, and of course – bees.

Meehan explains some of the symbolism in the work: “The flowers have all got meanings – I went through a library of flowers and read through what each of them meant.

“Snapdragons, they symbolise grace and strength, and in the same family there are some statice – which aren’t fully in bloom in the picture, they’re just behind the daffodils – they are a symbol of remembrance and symbolise sympathy and success.

“The rose at the bottom symbolises love, when you think of all the love which poured out of Manchester I thought that was a nice symbol to put in there.

“Also the rose is red because of Lancashire. Daisies symbolise innocence and purity.

“On the left hand side there’s a flower called the king protea, that stands for change and transformation and it signifies daring and resourcefulness.

“The daffodil, it’s indicative of rebirth, new beginnings, and eternal life. Now I’m not really very religious, but I think that’s a nice meaning, it’s like the flowers and the piece is in remembrance to those who have passed away. It’s almost like they’re living on through the art work.

“The bees represent the people of Manchester: hardworking individuals around the city. I didn’t want to drag it up again… I wanted to make a piece of art that celebrated not just the people who were there on the night but everyone in Manchester.

“It’s an overall celebration of people, and the love that people have for each other in this city.”


Come On, Aileen

The first storm of the season, named Aileen, is due to hit tonight. For perspective, Aileen is no Irma, but still. I’ve taken down the hanging baskets and an outside lantern which is as much as I can do with no hatches to batten down.

The afternoon I spent working on a second poetry collection I’m trying to put together, while listening to a group from my favourite music period.

I have a friend who loves the eighties, and would instantly recognise the nod given by the title of this post. My own go-to listening preference stretches from the mid-sixties to early seventies. The Beatles; The Doors; The Kinks; The Rolling Stones; Tim Buckley; Cream; Cohen;  Dylan, I love all of these and more.

Being born in 1971 means that in my youth I’ve never been in vogue, musically. And don’t even mention my dress sense!

Listening to music helps when I’m writing. The group I was listening to today was Jefferson Airplane. Why do I like these?

Go and ask Alice. When she’s ten feet tall.

The Soldier And The Painter

A few months ago I read The Noise Of Time by Julian Barnes, written from the perspective of the composer Shostakovich in Stalinist Russia. I remember thinking at the time how difficult it must have been for creatives living under such regimes. Often it is the writers and the poets who are the first among the disappeared.


I woke in the early hours of this morning with the remnants of a dream clinging to the shirt tails of my emerging sense of self. The dream was of an artist-a painter, who was living in a country that was under some kind of communist or military rule. He had been called to be conscripted into the army, but his passion was for his art. He was stood before a desk being questioned by a seated officer, a strict disciplinarian, who was giving him the party line about what his duty to his country was, and what an honour it is to serve the ‘leader’ and to give your life for the cause. 

The young man replied that he had no intention to die for the cause, but rather to live for his art.

This provoked a concerted effort from the officer to bring the young man around to the official way of thinking.

The artist replied “I’m not going to be a soldier anymore than you are going to be my psychologist.”

That was it. I woke up with that last line rattling around my brain, a film with no closure, a story with no end.

It has been some months since I read The Nosie Of Time, and haven’t really thought of it since, so I’m not too sure if that was where the seeds of my dream were sown. And to be honest the storyline was not really the same as that in my dream.

But I feel a little cheated. I was filled with admiration for my conjured character, whoever he was. Maybe he served as an archetype for all of those creative types that I spoke about at the start of this post. I feel like I really need to know what happened to that young artist, and what price he paid for his courageous stance.

I probably will never know. Perhaps I should write it myself.

Andy and Anna peace movement?

This is a post by Swedish artist Anna that was inspired by a conversation on one of my posts-some light hearted comments on a dark-subject post. Our newly fledged Anglo-Scandinavian peace movement. In Polyester or fleece 🙂

Annas Art - FärgaregårdsAnna

A comments thread that maybe went wild?

You can read the post and the comments to get a picture of what happened. Here’s the link.


This is the comments that made me create an image in my head

And here’s the drawing 😉

Thanks Andy for the inspiration to the drawing!


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