a momentary lapse of reason

It is so quiet right now: my husband is next to me in bed, just the sound of him turning the pages of the Sunday Times.. occasionally a car passes somewhere, but it sounds more like waves on the shore.. the soft wet hushed sounds of a rainy summer day. It doesn't feel like there is another soul in this city.

Last night after he fell asleep, I couldn't sleep and was reading from Polly Samson's beautiful collection of short stories, Perfect Lives. I've felt she is a beautiful writer for years, having read other works by her, but I couldn't help feel the irony of the title.

You might have read in the news - it was streaming on twitter - her sweet, gentle son, Charlie Gilmour, was sentenced to 16 months in prison. While she and I are not actual hanging out friends, our lives do overlap: my brother plays keyboards for her husband, David Gilmour. In fact they were one of the first friendly faces I saw, when I ran into them, as one does in a dream, in the first few days that we had moved to London, from NY. It was so surreal: I walked into Bibendum's Oyster Bar, and there they were: Dave looking at me with these wise eyes that seem to bore into my head and read my mind, Polly with her liquid chocolate, gentle, 'girls' girl' eyes. (These are hers, by the way, in the top shot, which I took at her book signing in Hay last month. She is smiling in the shot, but still, even smiling, there always seems to be some kind of sadness.. it's in her writing, too: she just has such a sense of humanity).

There was so much emotion, so many thoughts, going through my mind when I read her beautiful story of a piano tuner late last night. How it must feel, to have a son who made a mistake - a 'moment of idiocy', as he called it - for which he immediately apologised for, took responsibility for, felt ashamed of. Without getting political, and as much as we are supporters of Prince Charles and Camilla.. I'm sorry, this is just my feelings - the punishment doesn't, as they say, fit the crime. The Telegraph article said that he 'had turned to drink and drugs after being rejected by his biological father' (he was adopted by David Gilmour). And I'm sorry, I have to say it, because it's what many of us are thinking: if his parents weren't as high profile and successful as they are, would the sentence be this harsh?

We all revere the Cenotaphs. I didn't even know how to spell the word - had to ask my husband - when I did a post on Remembrance Day. But I can't help feel that not one soldier who fought in the Great War, and died, would have wanted a young man to be jailed for a 'moment of idiocy'. He did not, after all, kill anyone, or commit treason.

And then, the title of a song that David wrote, and recorded and performed with, among other artists, my brother, came into my head (that's my brother on keyboards: dark curly hair, suit and tie - he looks, ironically, similar to Charlie Gilmour at court on Friday):

I thought back to that cold, damp winter's day in 1997 - when seeing two kind faces, as I roamed the strange streets of London, looking for a flat to rent - and realised that Charlie Gilmour would have been six at the time. I don't know him at all - although he was probably part of the whole, extended, modern, blended family that sat behind us recently at the O2 show, watching Dave and Roger Water perform together. And while the brownies I decided to make from scratch were baking, I realised that although we were facebook friends, I wasn't following Polly Samson on twitter, and that's when I saw her tweet "Just buried our old dog Tilly. She was 13 so not unexpected but her timing couldn't have been worse."

(This is not Tilly, by the way. It is our friends Annie and Tim, and their sons', dog Frodo).

Is there anyone out there who has not, in a moment of idiocy, done something that they regret? I can tell you a few stories of my own. I just thank God that I didn't get imprisoned for any of them.

I'm not a mother, so I can't begin to imagine what they must be feeling now. I can't stop thinking of this lovely boy/man, distraught at trying to reach out to his biological father, who only a month ago I saw with his kid sister on his lap, watching his dad play guitar - sitting scared and alone in a jail cell right now. One of the reasons I was afraid to have children was this: I just didn't know how you could bear to let them go.

And then, I read this tweet from Polly: 'My mum is at our house cooking us all Chinese food. And there's an unusually golden light after the rain.'

We are powerless over other people, places, and events. I know that much. But it is what WE do, and the dignity, and grace, the courage, and sometimes, when we can, even humour - how we respond to the blows that are inflicted upon us.. I hope that David and Polly, if they read this, will forgive me for taking photos and 'exploiting' their image like this (and my first thoughts, when I saw this in the paper on Friday, was 'what a great dress, I wonder if it's Victoria Beckham or Roland Mouret), but I'm writing this post this morning with the most profound respect for this family. To seek, even through pain, for the beauty - for the golden light after the rain - is the most inspiring message I can pass on this quiet summer morning.

We were also watching a show on the BBC on my favourite art movement, the Impressionists. Waldemar Januszczak is brilliant and I'd urge you to watch this first show, Gang of Four. I didn't realise, for example, that the name The Impressionists was actually an insult from a critic named Louis Leroy, who was mocking Money's gorgeous, ground breaking painting 'Impression, soleil levant' (Impression, Sunrise).

Another thing Januszczak said last night - which I've always felt - is that the secret of understanding the Impressionists' work is to get as close to the paintings as you are allowed. To see the detail: to understand the.. courage. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to the Tate Modern and sat in front of Monet's Waterlilies, and just gazed. Then I move in close, and it's almost like I'm hallucinating: each time, I see something else. It is moving, always moving, because life is always in a state of flux. And whatever is happening right now - however painful - it will not always be this way. Which is all the more reason to take it all in while we can.

Because, always, and certainly for us yesterday, between the rain and the sadness of the sky, is that golden moment - and it is happening, suddenly now, as I type this - when the clouds part, and the sunshine becomes golden. As Polly retweeted: 'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.'


The Foolish Aesthete said...

Love the "eyes" photo and the impressionistic ones. (I've experimented with that too and they don't always turn out successfully!) Your point about the term "Impressionist" being insulting is amusing because I remember reading that Degas also rejected being called an Impressionist! Perhaps when we pass on, we'll also be called terms we would have preferred not to be associated with ;-)

Anonymous said...

I so want to read those short stories by Polly Samson, will try and get it somewhere tomorrow...wise, intelligent post Jill, as always xx


Anonymous said...

Hi, Jill:
Your post on Charlie Gilmour provided an empathetic perspective on young people who get caught up in destructive behavious as part of a crowd. This also happened during Vancouver's hockey riot. An excellent article in The Georgia Straight newspaper pointed out how easily young pepole adopt the crowd mentality because their brains have not yet matured: http://www.straight.com/article-400112/vancouver/sometimes-riot-normal

'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in' -- from Leonard Cohen's song Anthem - helps provides perspective on disappointments.

- Louise aka Anonymous

the nyanzi report said...

Hi Jill.

I also watched that impressionist show by Waldemar Januszczak. He is a brilliant presenter with great timing and execution. Did you happen to the one he did about Manet?

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Veshoevius said...

I'm inclined to think he'll get a lighter rap on the knuckles because his parents are famous but I'm quite cynical like that. I thought there was poetic irony when it turned out that student protester ignorantly swinging from the flag of the cenotaph was the son of band who wrote "we don't need no education". Sure he didn't kill anyone and I do hope the judge doesn't set out to make an example out of him beyond what he deserves, but the naivety of youth, momentary lapses of reason due to drunkeness, drug abuse, crimes of passion, mob mentality or whatever shouldn't excuse irresponsible behaviour on the part of individuals.

mtg said...

The punishment does seem harsh... But whatever happened happened. I hope Charlie can leave this behind and learn from it, as opposed to letting this stupid incident define his whole life. I know it's easier said than done... This comment actually applies more to his relationship with his biological father.
I read this post as I was getting a package together for a teenage boy who is in a sort of a drug rehab facility. His mother died two years ago (brain tumor) leaving two boys and two girls behind. The boy in the drug rehab is the oldest of them.. I can't find any words to write in a note to him. I just have hope that he finds his purpose in life and does not waste it. Easier said than done, but you always hope.

jill said...

Each of your comments are fascinating to me - thank you - and everyone touched on something different. Veshoevius: it's funny, my brother happens to play keyboards with both halves of the Pink Floyd split, but Another Brick in the Wall is one of Roger Water's songs - not David Gilmour. They each have very different aesthetics, and that kind of 'we don't need no education' mentality is so not David, who is much more of cerebral, elegant man. And I agree with you - the naivety of youth shouldn't excuse irresponsible behaviour, and it seemed pretty clear even before this came to trial that his parents gave him shit for what he did. And more importantly: he also felt ashamed, and apologised, long before he knew what kind of OTT sentence he might be getting.

And Maya I feel the same way: he seems such a gentle soul, and I hope that even these days in prison now, that it is not damaging him. I'll write to you privately - this story of the boy who wrote his mother.. I can understand why you couldn't find the right words. I just had a similar experience.. anyway, I'll write you. Thank you.

David: I plan to watch Manet on iPlayer! Thank you.

Louise aka Anonymous: I didn't know that was Leonard Cohen! I'll have to tell Mr. Dot: he's a fan.

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