William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Sunday 1st November 2009 -- 6:00 pm
Emi finally returned home last Monday evening, (26th of October). She's been away for more than one month, even longer than that if you add in the two weeks she spent in Tokyo prior to this year's Nelsonica.
To say that I'm glad to have her home would be a total understatement. I've missed her very much and, even though we've spoken on the 'phone every single day, having her back here with me once again is such a joy.
Our two cats, Django and Tink were pleased to see her too, though Django tried to hide his amputated tail from Emi's view when she first entered the house. It was if he didn't want her to see his injury, or was embarrased by it. He's recovering o.k. now, no longer having to be confined to the house or forced to wear the protective collar that was causing him so much suffering. I had him back to the vet's at one point though, when his tail seemed to be bleeding, but it's healing well at the moment, if still bereft of fur and a few inches shorter than it should be. Still no idea how he was injured, although it looked to the vet as if it was a deliberate attack.
My own life has been mainly focussed on looking after the house andmyself.
Now that Emi is home, I can think about a few other things, including adding this entry to my online diary. But I've spent the last few days helping Emi back into her life here in the U.K.
Her mum has returned to hospital. Her condition not good but not really any worse than it was a few weeks ago. There is, however, little that can medically be done for her and at some point in the future, the inevitable will have to be faced. This could be very soon or early next year, according to the doctors over there. But it's not possible to put any accurate time-scale on it.
It's all very upsetting and worrying, especially for Emiko. At some point, as things move towards their sad conclusion, she will have to go to Japan again.For now though, I'm trying to be supportive and helpful, bring Emi a little respite from her worries.
We need to spend time together...one thing this situation has underlined is the preciousness of life, (and its fleetingness). As I've metioned before, the last few years have been very difficult for us. Mortality, illness, family problems, legal matters, job redundancies, one thing after another. Yes, we're at that time of life when these things happen, but we're also at a stage when many of our contemporaries have taken early retirement or are about to retire and settle down to enjoy a calmer, more gentle lifestyle.
My work as a musician hasn't afforded me such an opportunity and I have nothing to fall back on. Not that I want to give up my creative work, but I sometimes wish it wasn't quite so pressurised.
I spend a great deal of my life locked away in this cramped little room, surrounded by electricity and the low hum of recording equipment. That in itself isn't particularly healthy, but the constant desire to create and, (if such a thing were possible), 'perfect' my music, to express my thoughts and feelings through sound and words, has become all-consuming to the point of obsession. Of course it's also a pleasure, a privelege...but it can sometimes be a curse too.
Yesterday though, Emi and I drove over to Castle Howard for the afternoon. Autumn is beginning to change to winter now but there are still enough golds, mustard yellows, rich browns and deep reds on the trees to bring home the fragile beauty and gentle melancholy of the season.
We had afternoon tea in the main house's cafe. Sandwiches and cakes, a pot of Earl Gray tea for Emiko and a small bottle ofMerlot for me. We sat at one of the window tables, watching as the light shifted, flickered and faded, whilst peacocks wandered aimlessly across the lawns, their tails truncated, though still carrying a few short feathers of electric blue and green.
Less people there than the last time we visited, which is fine by me. I often wonder what it must have felt like, in times gone by, to be the owner of one of these glorious piles. Perhaps no need, back then, to think in commercial terms of how to best market it, to make it pay for itself.
I imagine myself, late at night, walking out through one of those magnificent french windows, stepping from the warm glow of a firelit, candle yellow, gilded grand hall, out into the sweet velvet twilight, into a landscape commissioned from some personal architect of dreams...
To walk alone amongst dark trees and silver fountains, to touch the ancient, rain-kissed statues as if they were supernatural consorts, frozen forever by their own chilled beauty, to taste wine-drunken breezes flowing from distant hills, to glimpse dragonflies darting over star-reflecting ponds, neon wings whirring like tiny kites veined with phosphor. And to know that all I surveyed, from here to forever, was MY domain, a realm where dreams could be realised, made manifest.
What must that have felt like? Even if that perfection was only sensed for a second? Amazing that such lives existed...no, still exist!
Today, we've stayed home. Rain and wind outside and a lingering grey darkness.
I've spent some time on the forum of my website. I'm always in two minds about such a thing. It isn't always good to know what some people think.
Fan websites are a mixed blessing. It's a bit like working in a shop or a supermarket checkout. Not everyone who crosses your path is someone you'd want to encounter under any other circumstances.
Many fans, of course, are understanding, warm, thoughtful and supportive. Others more contentious, rude, deliberately confrontational or transparently egotistic. But, artists cannot choose their fans, just as most of us cannot choose our neighbours. Only friends and lovers come within our remit. The rest is down to chance. I guess that, on the whole, I've been lucky.
Oriental dinner tonight, Emi cooking Japanese style for us. Last night we ate out at 'Ceasars' restaurant in town...Italian and a fairly regular haunt of ours. Not expensive but, usually, a satisfying meal with good service from friendly and welcoming staff.
The packaging artwork for my next album 'NON-STOP MYSTERY ACTION' was completed yesterday. Just before Emi returned from Japan, I'd taken some rather surreal photographs of myself for it, sitting at the table in our dining room.
In one photograph, I have the head of a rabbit and on the table in front of me stands a pair of toy robots.
In another photograph I have the head of a robot, (actually a 1950's Selmer guitar amplifier turned on its side), and there are two small toy rabbits standing on the table.
The album is built around three soundtracks I recorded for three special Nelsonica video presentations. But there are six tracks in all, each one quite lengthy. They are like sound pictures, or scenes from a kind of sonic cinema. Spoken word, (my own), plus voice samples from movies and radio. Also digital static, drones, electronic flickerings, jazzy guitars, the sound of wind and rain and bells, even an opening dark blue 'blues' piece. A stream of consciousness kind of thing. Dreams unreeling in the night.
Track list/running order is as follows:-
1: 'THIS IS LIKE A GALAXY.'
2: 'WELCOME TO THE DREAM TRANSMISSION PAVILION.'
3: 'YES AND NO.'
4: 'WHEN THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN.'
5: 'MATERIALISATION PHENOMENA.'
6: 'THE DEPARTURE OF THE 20th CENTURY IN A HAIL OF MEMORY.'
Everything now ready for manufacture. Hopefully have it available in time for Christmas. The strangest Christmas album, maybe, but there's definitely something of a winter's night about it.
This will be my fifth album release this year...and two more already in the pipeline for later.
Compulsive? Obsessive? Driven? Perhaps.
Or maybe just thrilled by the gifts that music bestows.
The images accompanying this diary are as follows:-
1: A nice photo of Emiko , taken around the time Bill and Emi first got together.
2: An autumnal photo' of Castle Howard, taken by Bill 31st Oct '09.
3: Another Castle Howard photo' by Bill taken same day as previous shot.
4: A statue at Castle Howard, photo' by Bill, date as above.
5: Bill's self-portrait photograph for 'Non-Stop Mystery Action' album artwork, taken October '09.
6: Another 'Non-Stop Mystery Action' self-portrait by Bill, same date as above.
Saturday 28th November 2009 -- 11:00 am
Feeling tired and anxious. This diary entry, once again, begins with Emi leaving for Japan.
The last few weeks, since Emi returned from her previous trip to Tokyo, have been difficult. Her mother's condition has fluctuated, some days not too bad, others much more worrying.
Every day, Emi has kept in touch with the situation in Tokyo, via telephone calls to her elder brother and also to a lady who has been a long-time friend of her mother.
From them, we've recieved updates on the progress of the illness, or lack of it, and Emi has also regularly spoken on the 'phone with her mother, direct to the hospital.
It's been an emotional roller coaster for Emi and very stressful. Obviously, the immense distance from here to Japan has made the situation even more painful. On some occasions, Emi had expressed optimism after putting the 'phone down...her mum had been able to eat and sounded positive. On other occasions, things didn't seem good at all and Emi's despair was impossible to hide.
This last week though, her mother had been given a transfusion, (as she had been losing blood), and the result seemed to indicate that she might find the strength to survive through Christmas and into the New Year.
Emi's younger brother, (Masakazu), was already in the process of moving to a new apartment that would be suitable to accomodate himself and Emi's mother. The idea was that she would leave the hospital and move in with Masakazu until her illness became unmanageable, at which point she would have to be re-admitted to hospital. Professional day-care was also being discussed so that Emi's mum could be monitored at the apartment and helped as much as possible. Although very ill, she was looking forward to getting out of the hospital and spending some time with Masakazu and Emi's older brother, Kazutami. Sadly, this was not to be.
At 11:15 on Tuesday evening, (24th November), the 'phone rang. Emi and I had been watching television and we were almost about to retire to bed. Emi answered the 'phone. The call was from a friend of Emi's mother. She had telephoned to inform Emi that her mum had suddenly passed away, only one hour previous. No one was with her when she died.
Emi was inconsolable, absolutely devastated. Witnessing her distress, her raw outpuring of grief, was heartbreaking for me. I can't begin to explain the anguish and helplessnness I felt and I won't even try.
The next few hours were filled with tearful calls to and from Japan. All I could do was hold Emi close and bear witness to her pain as the news sunk in.
Emi had spoken with her mother only two days before and there had been no indication that the end was quite so near. Consequently, the shock we experienced was far more severe than expected. We had optimistically presumed that things would continue unchanged into the New Year, or at least until a serious deterioration would signal that it was time for Emi to fly to her mother's side.
To add to this awful situation, Emiko was due, the following morning, (Wednesday), to create a unique floral arrangement for the Lord Mayor's Mansion House in York. As mentioned in a previous diary entry, she had been invited to take part in a special Christmas Flower Festival in aid of the Lord Mayor's annnual charity appeal and had spent the previous two days getting all the neccesary materials and flowers together. She'd had a wonderful design in mind, but, after the 'phone call from Tokyo, she was so emotionally disraught that I couldn't imagine how she could possibly go ahead with the work as planned.
I suggested that, first thing in the morning, I should call the organiser and explain the situation to see if it would be possible to excuse her from the project. Emi, however, insisted that she must try and get through it and honour the invitation.
That sad night, we hardly slept and by morning were both feeling weak and emotionally drained. We had to be at the Mansion House very early to unload all the flowers and other neccesary items from the car, so got dressed and grabbed a quick breakfast of tea and toast. I was acting as 'flower roadie' for Emi and packed everything she needed into the boot and rear seat of the car before setting off into the city through the slow moving early morning traffic.
Once at the Mansion House we unloaded everything and carried it up the grand staircase into the Mansion House's State Room where Emi had been given a personal site for her arrangement. This was situated on an antique table beneath a pair of imposing oil paintings of two ancient York Mayors.
I left her to begin work on the arrangement and returned to the car to remove it from the precinct and drive to a car park. The traffic was still jammed up so it took a little while to get where I needed to be. I then walked back through the crowds of office workers and tourists into the centre of town and was admitted back into the Mansion House.
For the next couple of hours, I watched as Emi created a beautiful, classy arrangement that perfectly complimented the two enormous portraits that towered over it. Her face looked tired, sad and careworn but, as she became more and more engrossed in the creative process, I could see some inner light return to her eyes.
I know from personal experience how healing creative work can be, even if only temporary. Emi worked quickly and with greatpurpose, knowing exactly what she was aiming for. At one point, she stood back from the arrangement to view its progress, then turned to me and said, "I'm doing this for Mama, she wants me to make it beautiful for her..."
And the finished result was indeed beautiful, subtle, sophisticated and perfectly suited to its setting. I felt so proud of her.
There's something about Emi's work that is hard to define. Just as there are many musicians who have technical or academic excellence and yet whose work somehow doesn't move the listener beyond a superficial kind of admiration, there are flower artists who can reproduce the latest floral fashions with competent technical skill but who lack the warmth and depth that is required to make the work sing. Emi's work is different, it sings graciously...it has, for want of a better word, 'soul.'
It's this subtle quality that appeals to those with cultured tastes, a quality that connects on a deeper level, without recourse to 'trendy' gimmicks or flashy display. But, just as with music, sophisticated work can often pass a mainstream audience by.
Well...that was Wednesday morning. Once the arrangement was completed we returned home and began the process of finding a flight to Tokyo for Emi. After several calls to a travel agency in London, (the same agency she had used to book her two previous trips to Japan), a flight was finally secured for today, Friday 27th November. From Manchester to Paris, then Paris to Tokyo.
I could sense Emi's relief that she would be able to get there in time for her mother's funeral. Unfortunately, it wasn't practical for me to accompany her to Japan. This will be the third trip to Tokyo for her this year, (plus one last year), and the combined impact of these unexpected but neccesary trips on our finances has been marked.
Also, because of the suddeness of recent events, there would not have been time for us to arrange for our cats to be taken care of, (which would also incur further expense). Emi's car is in for substantial repairs too and I need to be here to deal with that and several other pressing domestic responsibilities. So here I sit, typing these words and hoping that all will be well.
I'm just praying that Emiko will be able to deal with the emotional impact of her mother's funeral without me by her side. She's told me not to worry, that she can cope...but, of course, I'll worry anyway.
As readers of my published 'Diary Of A Hyperdreamer' book will recall, Japanese funerals are elaborate affairs and not a little disturbing for Westerners, especially those of us used to a slightly less viceral approach to cremation. I was in Tokyo with Emi for her father's funeral a few years ago and had first-hand experience of this. I'm thinking back to that time now and, despite Emi's attempts to re-assure me, can't help thinking that it is going to be very tough on her. She's a remarkably strong person in many ways, although very feminine and gentle. But Japanese funerals are something of an endurance test. Nevertheless, she's certainly much stronger than me when it comes to these things.
On a less depressing note:
Yesterday, we were invited to attend a special lunch party at the Mansion House, given by the Lord Mayor, as a 'thank you' to the various floral artists who had created arrangements for the Flower Festival. Emi wasn't sure at first if she was up to attending, feeling so drained and tired...but she said 'yes' and we once more found ourselves in the State Room, enjoying a pleasant lunch and chatting with the Mayor who seemed very interested in how Emi and I got together. Turned out he enjoys listening to classical music and jazz so we had a chat about music too. He seemed to be impressed by Emi's arrangement and complimented her on her work.
Many of the other arrangements for the festival had been created by members of the Acomb Flower Guild (which is apparently one of the oldest and best in the country). The ladies of the Guild also seemed suitably impressed by Emi's talents and have invited her to become a member. One floral artist who spoke with us said that she had been involved with various flower guilds around the country for many years but had never come across one that contained so much talent before. She was full of enthusiasm for it and urged Emi to go along to their next meeting to see what it was all about.
I was pleased that Emi responded positively to the invitation and she now has contact details and will be visiting the Guild when she returns from Japan. I think she would like to take up the invitation to join...It might be a very positive thing for her, especially in view of the difficult times she's had to endure these last few years. And it may hopefully provide a further outlet for her talents.
Last night was devoted to packing Emi's suitcases. We intended to get an early night as she needed to catch a very early train to Manchester airport but it was midnight when we finally turned off the light. I couldn't sleep, just laid there in the darkness turning over the events of the last few days. Emi wasn't asleep either and we ended up talking about her mother's passing, life in general, and tried to apply a Buddhist perspective.A certain degree of acceptance was, I think, achieved.
It seemed as if we'd only just drifted off to sleep when the bedside clock told us that it was 4-30 am and time for Emi to get up and get ready to leave. I stumbled out of bed just a little later, at 5 am, and dragged on some warm clothes I'd laid aside the night before.
Outside it felt very cold and there was a light layer of ice on the windscreen of the car. I ran the engine and watched the windows slowly demist, then, with Emi on board, set off for the station. Two sleepy people, travelling in the darkness.
There were no other cars on the road until we reached the centre of town, and even then just the odd one or two. I parked and hauled Emi's luggage over the station footbridge to platform nine where the Manchester Airport train was already waiting. I got her settled at a window seat and placed her cases safely in the luggage area. We hugged each other close, saying that it was 'only' for ten days this time, but I knew that ten days would feel far too long. I glanced at my watch and hopped off the train. Then, standing on the platform, waiting for it to depart, I gestured to Emi through the carriage window to take out her mobile 'phone. I called her on mine so that we could talk to each other despite the glass separating us and the train's closed door. Within seconds, the train pulled away and out of the station and we were lost to each other's view, but we continued to talk on our mobile 'phones as I made my way back over the bridge to my car.
The usual sadness as I returned home, alone. Undressed and crawled back into bed but couldn't sleep. Turned on the reading lamp and picked up a book. Read for amost an hour, then drifted off into a dream.
At 8 o'clock the 'phone rang. It was Chio, a friend of Emi's. She asked if she could speak with her. I informed her that she had already left for the airport. Further attempts at sleep proved fruitless so I eventually got up and made myself some breakfast.
Then a brief call from Emiko to say she was at Manchester airport and about to board the 'plane for Paris. A couple of hours later, I got another call from her at the airport in Paris...she was just about to board the 'plane to Japan. She will now be many miles away on her long journey. (It's now 10 pm on the evening of 27th November here.)
She will try to call me from Narita airport when she arrives. (There's a nine hour time difference between England and Japan so this will be in the early hours of Saturday morning, UK time.)
Then it will be a daily call from me to her mother's apartment until she returns home on the 7th of December.
Meanwhile, it's just me and the cats...existing.
All images accompanying this diary entry are of Emiko's flower arrangement for the Mansion House Flower Festival in York.