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Saturday, 14 September 2013

White room

"So I'm superfluous?" I say to my son as he's giving me coffee and a custard slice in the front room of his flat, overlooking Great Western Road.

"I was going to go for 'obsolete'," he tells me.

"Even worse," I say. "Either way you don't need my help?"

"Why would I?" he asks.

"I'm better at filling in forms than you."

"Not by much," he says, which is true. But you get used to trying to help your kids. The knowledge that they're as capable as you, maybe more so, takes ten years to penetrate, in my experience.

"Not to change the subject, but about this room," I say.

"What about it?" he says.

"'Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes,'" I say.

"I know," he says. "Except the sun shines here all the time. This is my studio. So I want it white and I want it minimalist. Lots of light, no distractions."

"Well that's what you got. But spend much time in here, you'll go snow-blind. Also you need chairs. My bum hurts already from sitting on the floorboards."

"You're too skinny," he says. "The human arse is supposed to be fleshy. It wants padding. You ain't got none. Eat more cakes and you'll be comfier."

"Trouble with that is you can't tell the calories where to collect," I say. "Suppose I stuff myself with custard slices for a month and the fat goes to the wrong place, like my head."

"Nobody would notice," he says. "There is something you can help me with, come to think of it."

"Yeah?" I say.

"Yeah," he says. "Personal statement for Art College. It's about who I am, what I've done, why I'm doing what I'm doing, and what I want to do in future."
"You any thoughts?" I say.

"Millions," he says. "But not sure how to write them so they make any sense."

"You talk, I write, you edit," I suggest.

"Fair enough," he says. "Well, I've always done art stuff. But if I was painting I used to try to make paintings."

"Pfff," I say. "How dumb was that?"

"It was," he says. "I'd get pissed off because they'd never turn out right."

 "So what's the alternative?" I say.

"Process," he says. "It's the big thing I've learnedArt is about the process not the product." 

"Sounds vague and meaningless to me," I say.

"It's not," he says. "It's perfectly clear. It's about having ideas, developing them, generating ideas from those ideas, linking back to other people's stuff. That's the process." 

"But surely you got to produce something or what's the point?" I say. 

You do," he says. "Lots of stuff. You just don't make that your main aim. You don't force it to happen."

He sips his coffee and looks out the window, towards Chinatown beyond the red flats. "I was talking to Stu Kidd about this," he says. "He's a musician so he got it right away. Said some of the tunes on his latest album with The Wellgreen had been dicking about his head for years."

"An album is a product," I say. 

"Course it is," he says. "But if he'd produced it when he first got the ideas, it wouldn't have been as good. I guess it's about stocking your brain with stuff and letting it percolate and form connections, then come out in its own good time."

"My point exactly," I say. "There's stuff in my head been percolating for decades. You should use it more."

"I was going to go for centuries, chief. It's too long. You're a bit like these custard slices," he says, picking one up and waggling it at me.

"Squishy and strangely comforting?" I say.

"Well past their sell-by date," he says.

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