Connect Magazine Bard’s Eye View Aug-Sep 2003

Bards Eye View

It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside. It’s not one of those I can easily hide. If I was a sculptor, but then again no, or maybe an axilottle …. Sorry. It’s just that I’m feeling extremely relaxed as I write this. Extreeemely relaaaxxxed – that’s how you spell how relaxed I am. You see, I’ve been floating. I don’t mean floating as metaphor, drifting off above my troubles, beyond the toil, grime and strife of mundane life – although there has been a bit of that. I mean floating in a purpose-built float tank, a safe, warm chamber, 8’ high by 8’ long by 4’ wide, in 10” of water kept at body-temperature and so steeped in Epsom salts it’s seven times more buoyant than sea water. I’ve been lying in still waters, running deep. With only some ambient music and my own navel for company.

My friend Jeff (who interestingly shares the same surname as me, although we buy our own clothes) gave my wife and I vouchers for the Float Centre above Arcturus Books and Crystals. I’ve finally got around to using mine, and I wouldn’t mention it here if it wasn’t just so very, very good. My skin is now silky smooth, my breathing quiet and even, and my mind has an alert, pert, relaxed buoyancy which makes me a pleasure to talk to. I imagine.

There are those who say the unexamined life is not worth living. I say the uncontemplated navel is not worth piercing. I don’t know what I mean by that, but it gives me pleasure. I’m that relaxed. I recommend the Oasis Float Tank unreservedly. I think they do trial session for something like £20 (£17concs). I also recommend my friend Jeff, although there are no vouchers for Jeff. You just have to meet by chance and get to know him over time.

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I recently returned from Hayle where I was one of a number of artists running workshops as part of the Harbour Light Project, set up and organised by a lovely man called Graham Macey. Having spent the best part of two years filling in funding applications and training himself to use buzz words and phrases to fulfil funders’ criteria, Graham tells me he fears he’s contracted the condition ‘Fundraiser’s Fulsomeness’, whereby you can no longer make small talk. If someone asks, casually, what do you do? sufferers find themselves compelled to embark on a spiel: “I’m Arts Development Consultant for an exceptional new project. It’s a practical effort to engage the young people in a range of confidence-building arts activities. It’s a socially inclusive project, providing much needed blah, blah, blah….”

And it’s all true, but delivered with an eye-watering intensity and degree of detail which leaves the questioner gasping for air beneath a skip load of information and enthusiasm. Graham doesn’t actually suffer from this condition in my opinion, but when he told me about it I realised I could adapt it to help me with my little breathing problem.

Recently whenever I’ve answered the phone the person at the end has said something like, “Whoa, what have I interrupted?” or “Phew, have you been running?” Which is irksome and embarrassing. Especially when I’ve just reached languidly for the phone or, at most, strolled a few short yards.

Now, rather than discuss the state of my health and fitness, when they say, “Hey, you sound out of breath, been exercising?” I’ll say, “No, I’m just breathless with excitement about the Westcountry Storytelling Festival being held at Hood Manor, Dartington, from the 22nd to the 24th August! The line-up is so good, just thinking about it makes me hyperventilate slightly, although not in a worrying way.”

When they express scepticism: “And this makes you sound like you’ve just run a four-minute mile?” I’ll say, “Well obviously not just the Westcountry Storytelling Festival in August, it’s also brought on by the Off the Wall Festival of Comedy (promoted by MIND in Exeter and East Devon) in October.” “In October!” they’ll say, “surely that’s too far off to interfere with your breathing today!” “Ah,” I’ll say, “but entries for the Comic Verse Competition are coming in even as we speak, accompanied by £3 entry fee per poem or £10 for four. The closing date for entries is 25th August, and even if you don’t win a cash prize (I say this in italics for extra emphasis) chances are you’ll get a poem in the fabulous anthology which this year we guarantee to get out in time for Christmas….

I find this a very effective way of covering an embarrassing and unnerving condition until I can sort it out with my homeopath. Sadly, though, fewer and fewer people are ‘phoning me. And I’m becoming increasingly isolated.

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“Everywhere you go you take the weather with you” sang Crowded House. Millions of us agree with them, without knowing quite what they mean. Some people who might know what they mean are the men and women from the Met Office – which, you may have heard, is moving to Exeter.

There’s an understandable expectation among many people that with the arrival of the Met Office we’ll see an improvement in our weather. While some say this is ridiculous, others point out that it’s a scientific truism to say that ‘the observer affects the observed’ and therefore the close scrutiny our local weather will be subject to will inevitably have consequences. Some say that we can’t necessarily expect better weather, though we might get more weather, to which others snort in frank derision.

I don’t want to take sides in this debate. I’ll just say this: Those of us who’ve been watching the weather closely over the past few months have noticed it become more self-conscious. I sense your scepticism. How can weather be self-conscious? Check for yourself. Look out for clouds that seem unnecessarily fluffy, that linger longer than the stiff wind would suggest they ought. Look for sunlight that over-does its dappling through leafy branches. Watch for gusts and breezes playfully blowing a paper bag –does the scene seem a little too choreographed, does the bag look a little tired, jaded, over-rehearsed? It’s not for me to answer these questions. I’m just saying: Look again. Does the weather seem genuinely spontaneous? You tell me.

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