Friday, 20 May 2011

Like the fowls

I was most delighted and relieved to read in The Writer's Almanac this morning (Friday May 20): It is the birthday of French writer Honore de Balzac, born in Tours, France (1799). Balzac maintained a superhuman writing schedule, and the slavish hours he kept are a main subject of his correspondence. In an 1833 letter, he wrote: 'I go to bed at 6 or 7 in the evening, like the fowls. At 1 in the morning, I am awakened, and I will work until 8. At 8 o'clock I sleep again, for an hour and a half. Then I take some slight refreshment and a cup of pure coffee: and then I put myself once more in harness.' This uncannily resembles my own sleep patterns since I was able to choose them ie since starting to live on my own after 40 years of marriage. Unfortunately, unlike Balzac, I am still waiting to write my first doorstop blockbuster. The Writer's Almanac, which often inspires this blog, pops free into my inbox every day with a poem (read by Garrison Keillor) and some literary history. Yesterday a fascinating exercise was held at the Moffat Initiative, designed to enable those members who attended to sift out priorities for the year ahead. Moffat is a successful small town, with a great number of activities and good community communications in the shape of Moffat Online/Let's Live Local, the Moffat CAN initiative and innumerable clubs, societies, sports etc. There are buildings in the town that could do with refurbishment or redevelopment: the derelict Mercury Hotel which shames the south entrance to the town; the Institute, the Town Hall (formerly the Pump Room) and, shortly, the Grade II former Academy building. Suggested uses for the Academy include a 'Tate Moffat' or 'Moffat Modern'. The moderator of the Initiative's brainstorming session by chance had worked with Johnny Watson, East Lothian's king of potato seed merchants at Skateraw, where a similar modern art collection, including works by Richard Demarco and other living contemporary artists has been mooted. A modern art gallery, or gallery for modern art seems to have become the 21st century equivalent of a spa building or conference centre, either a 'destination' building in its own right such as the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the celebration of a world famous son such as the Turner at Margate or the Hepworth at Wakefield , the conversion of a building such as Tate Modern (power station) or the Baltic flour mill at Newcastle. The Initiative itself must shortly become self-financing, a bracing exercise that will no doubt bring out the best in us.

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