Said The Joker To The Thief: That Was 2021
Updated: Feb 14
It has just gone midday on Christmas Day 2021, as I write this. I am on my own, in a quiet house, with no distractions. I am reflecting on the year that was last, and acutely aware that something is slowly rumbling, in the world as we know it. Things feel strange; or at least, not the way they used to.
I am not aware of anyone who is cooking turkey this afternoon - or maybe, that is just because I am an unsociable curmudgeon - or indeed, it may be because there are more vegans around, than ever before. I don’t even recall having heard the usual raft of Christmas songs in shops, leading up to the event. GOOD!! It’s about time!
I rarely watch news of any description, and yet my mind is on the state of the world. The difference being, that since I happen to have some degree of selfishness, and am going through one of these stages where I seem to be out of sync with what the rest of the world thinks (are they ready for me, or am I ready for them?) the focus, happens to be, me and my own internal world.
This year has come with good and bad bits; although it’s definitely up there with having been one of the toughest years of my life, I’ve been able to consolidate a great deal of the work I produced in the last 2 years. I moved into an environment, where no-one was after me to do this or that, and I could make as much of a mess as I liked, doing Artwork or whatever it was I wanted to do, and not have to explain myself, or my daily doings, to anybody. I explored a ton of stuff with Art, which I would never have thought to do, the last year, or the year before (of this, more later). And, this year also bought me thinking time, and space to be alone; lots of it.
The bad bits, which, as are usual for me, seemed to come bound, gagged and otherwise wrapped up, with a consistent theme of power struggles, with both internal and external forces - external forces, having always seemed like a mystery to me, ever since I was very young. I sometimes wonder if society considers me the joker, or the thief, or both. Or whether, conversely, I am the one who is pranked, and stolen from.
For example: I was forced to cut my previously long hair into a short bob - not short-short, but to a length it hadn’t been shorn to since I was 6, due to the efforts of some Midnight Barber I was living with at the time, who was stealing my hair in the middle of the night whilst I slept - and whose Vince Noire fandom, in retrospect, was highly dubious. I was very upset, and it’s my intention to grow my hair back again some day. I used to have hair halfway down my back; but for now, it will have to do.
I was once again made homeless for a while, after a relationship breakup. On balance, it was better that I left, due to my feelings that the other party were rather controlling, and oppressive. It was stuffing my growth, and I have too much freedom of spirit, to exist in a state of permanent accountability.
I eventually ended up living in an artists’ community in Hackney Wick, which is possibly the most chaotically colourful, youthful, party-hearty place I have ever experienced. I was astounded, how every wall for miles around was plastered with graffiti; how almost nobody seemed to be over 24; and struck by the vibrant canal community, and the green spaces, to which I could periodically escape.
I also did well to consolidate much of the artwork I had been producing over the previous 2 years, into decent bodies of work. I produced no less than 20 new paintings, from the Hackney Wick area. Given some of the ordeals I had had to go through earlier on this year, this was something of an achievement. It also pushed my artistic boundaries, which I was grateful for. It gave me fresh eyes; I faithfully recorded the transient graffiti and Brutalist perspectives, in the knowledge that here, was something altogether different. I then had the work printed on trendy acrylic, aluminium and wood, courtesy of innovative design platform Gelato, and was thrilled to bits, with the result.
I self-published 4 books of my Art on Amazon, as it had been my mission to do so, for quite some time. I am one of those people who doesn’t hang around, when I have an idea fresh in my mind; whilst thinking time is important, manifesting is even more so. I consider my output to be my legacy, and from that point of view, I don’t care to sit around fiddling whilst Rome burns.
At long last, I completed an album of new songs, which I had been working on since early 2020. I also set up a book-writing site, www.thehornblower.com , designed to assist with individual writing projects, including biographies, art books, children’s books, thesis writing, proofreading, graphics, design, and more. I had had such fun with writing my own books, and it seemed that I should do more of this.
Never short on initiative, I then explored some of the wonderful courses offered by innovative online arts organisation Domestika, with a view to trying out a few things I had never done, before. Having done courses in digital arts, Kufic calligraphy (with a traditional bamboo/ reed pen), and pop-up books - and being amazed at the prices (about 10GBP for a short course, so, unlikely to leave you broke), I now truly believe, that traditional Art schools have been left by the wayside. They are simply not competitive; in no way do they offer the breadth, depth, nor modernity, of this type of education.
Now, I prefer to emphasize the positive, but, on to the grim parts: the last quarter of the year, brought a couple of events, which I would rather forget. I won’t say much about these for the time being, except that they came at great personal cost to me, both personally and financially (these, are the power-plays I was previously referring to). I don’t know how far the ramifications will stretch, but this is something for another time. They were just one example, of when one is in a place where one feels the whole world is against one; where one thinks, who is the joker? Who is the thief? Who or what is being played here? Or is everyone playing each other?
Especially in these times...who knows?
“There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None will level on the line
Nobody offered his word
‘No reason to get excited
The thief, he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin' falsely now
The hour's getting late, hey
“All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Well, uh, outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl, hey”
(Bob Dylan, “All Along The Watchtower”)