Category Archives: Writing

Posts about writing – or any experiences related to my efforts to learn the basics of creative writing.

Tango and Italy .. and another evening gone..

Another evening has just sunk from sight into the all consuming quicksand of Tango.

It all started as I was listening – for the hundredth time – to this absolutely beautiful late Di Sarli tango – Domani – sung by Mario Pomar. I just love this tango so much.

And then for some reason I thought  – why is it called Domani?

The  lyrics are Spanish of course. A bit of google translate shows that the protagonist – as usual crying in the bar – is called Don Giovanni. And once again – the orchestra  is Di Sarli.

And then I just started asking questions about the influence of Italians in the development of Tango. Fortunately I unearthed a wonderful paper by Llaria Serra :  ‘ “Italian Tango” Between Buenos Aires and Paolo Conte ‘ .  This is downloadable from here.

I just wanted to note some of the things from this paper that really interested me. There is much more of course..

  1. To quote Piazzolla himself “Sobre el tango flotan las melodías de los italianos”.
  2. The formative years of tango were 1890 – 1920 .. and Italians comprised 60% of the total immigration to Argentina before 1890.
  3. Italians were the organ grinders who first brought tango’s notes to the streets, and Italian men were among the first tango dancers.
  4. The tango had not yet reached downtown; it lingered in the suburbs, on the sidewalks, in front of the tenements where men danced accompanied by the hand-organs played by their owners, Neapolitan and Calabrese men with shiny black hair.
  5. One of the most beautiful definitions of tango in Argentina belongs to a famous composer and son of an Italian immigrant, Enrique Santos Discépolo: “Il tango è un pensiero triste che si balla” (“Tango is a sad thought that you can dance”).
  6. The harmonic structure of the first tango, according to Ucci, came from Italian opera and the Neapolitan canzonetta, with a preference for melodramatic themes of love and betrayal, and a lyrical style of violin and guitar playing.
  7. Just looking at he surnames Italian origin musicians that played tango throughout the golden age Matteucci lists 231 “bandoneónistas” (from Enrique Alessio to Marcelo Zoppolo); 138 piano players (from Juan Abbondanza to César Zagnoli); 179 violin players (from Juan Abatte to Orestes Zungri); 154 among viola, cello, double bass, guitar, flute and clarinet, and drum players; 57 poets and lyricists (from Santiago Adamini to César Vedani); and 55 singers.
  8. And going beyond their adopted names – who would have thought that Roberto Chanel’s real name was Alfredo Mazzucchi? or that Canaro – of course born in Uruguay – was actually called Canarozzo ? or that Firpo was born into a Italian family? And De Caro.. and Troilo ..

This wonderful paragraph completely intrigues me :

Today, tango in Italy has become a recreational dance. Lessons provide a meeting place for socialization but also a locus of difference in which to escape daily life. Tones of exoticism and positive otherness blend with “mysterious elements of virility, feminine beauty and sentimentality,”  and this “hybrid producer of otherness” has become an “example of a globalized postmodernity that can become an identity.”

I stopped myself – I had actually typed ‘locus of difference’ into a Google Search – but as my hand hovered over the enter key I felt the atypical urge to stay sane.

Another night, perhaps.


So do they

You are quiet.

You comply.

So do they.

Sometimes you scream – but absolutely no-one listens.

They hear – but they cover you with noise.

This is a judgement call they make.

They can’t let themselves hear you.

If they did they would have to wake up.

No-one wants to wake up to this.

So you still yourself. And in doing so you deny everything that matters.

When I was a child

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

For now we see through a glass, darkly

But as the power of Christmas eve approaches I can still, after all these years, enter exactly the same imaginative landscape that welcomed me as an only child. In this small corner of our house the door has been reopened for me.


I smile contentedly. I feel so alive in the most dreamlike of ways.

I am their friend, and we are off an adventure again. We three.

Long may it continue. The other side of the dream is sad enough.

Open that door

So many things just need us to start – to move – get an opportunity, meet someone – and then if we do take that first step and stay for a while we begin to understand so much – our world changes and we are all the richer for it.

Before then ‘it’ was the kind of passion that ‘other people did’ – not us.

Sometimes, at rare intervals in our lives and for whatever reason you receive some kind of invitation, someone opens that door for you and asks if you might like to follow them – or perhaps  simple chance just waits  to see if you will react.


But however it happens for that brief moment a door will open for you and you do, or you do not, walk though. And if you are incredibly lucky then  behind that door lies a whole new world.

A world like dance, or writing – or photography – or whatever it is for you that engages with you and presents such an unlimited space for you to play,  to learn, and to progress.


And playing, learning and curiosity surely defines what it is to be human. To be alive.

Such a precious moment – but so few open the door, and even less walk through.

Don’t stand still. Do it.



The Team Player

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be taken to listen to David Peace in conversation with Mark Lawson. The occasion was triggered by the visit to the UK of David Peace, and by the success of the recently published ‘Red or Dead’ – a work that explores the life of Bill Shankly.

And listening to the readings last night central to that man was certainly the concept of the team – that Liverpool was a team above all else and that no individual was as important as the team – a concept we hear so much of in our business life.

watching the gesture


But that wasn’t actually the only reason why I was thinking about teamwork – my post is more a result of watching the performance of Mark Lawson, as he flawlessly performed the role of the perfect foil for David Peace.

This role of the support man really in my view takes a lot of talent, an ability to be quietly confident, full of opinions but not opinionated.



We see this role in much of life – certainly in sports – perhaps the best example is the tireless support given to the lead riders in the Tour de France by the ‘domestiques’. And in business – the incredible talent that work behind the scenes and in the boardrooms of some the most creative CEOs – allowing them to perform as they do.

But what fascinates me now is that I see this too in certain people and the way they live their personal lives. Normally past the nervous stages of youth they are increasingly comfortable in themselves, they quietly smile, are full of experience but still loving the process of learning what is truly important to them.

They take a joy in helping others through nervous times, they enjoy being a friend.

They have found a way to use their personal experience and talent away from the direct light of the spotlight. What a great way to be.

Black, White, Urban and Intimate

This evening I decided to look back at some images I have taken in the last year.

Within a few minutes I realised that the ones I really love share some basic aspects in common.

  • They tend to be intimate – often shot from the hip, on the move, while walking past the subject.


  • They are in black and white


  • They are Urban


  • They are of people. I hesitate to call them portraits, more a kind of capture the moment.

They also seem to be reflective somehow. Pauses in conversations, or thoughtful reflection.


They are so often taken when traveling – I have commented before that the act of travel just seems to make me reach for a camera.

It is enlightening to see these images side by side with ones that don’t mean so much to me – and plan now to proactively build up my expertise in these kind of areas in order to create more that I really do feel satisfied with.

But I also think one of the messages for me – personally – is that it is time to live in a city again. So much of what interests me is urban.

Matisse, Guillem, Maliphant and Liberation

In the last week I have been fortunate to spend time at the Matisse cut outs at the Tate Modern, and to get a chance to see again Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant in Push

Both of course are wonderful – such talent.

I was really moved by a particular Matisse – Acrobats – a work that I had never seen before. It spoke to me of so many things.

One of the many examples on show inspired by the circus, to me it spoke of a journey between two realities – the one constrained and the other free.


Matisse Acrobats

I was thrilled to feel the same message in Push. I don’t think that these artists necessarily were thinking on these lines at all – but that is one of the reasons that abstract art and contemporary dance are so strong – you are free to connect with it in a way that makes sense for your own soul.




Sylvie Guillem and Maliphant in Push

So what this mean for me – am I constrained? Stifled?  Or free ?  Is it a progression over time?

I like to think that it is – and that in the last couple of years I have become far freer than ever before. But I know I have a long way to go – I am still too intense, too demanding, poor at just relaxing and enjoying the moment. At staying in the present.

The main image is from that great Christopher Bruce ballet – Swansong – that I last saw at Sadler’s wells back in 2007. At the end of that work the prisoner is finally liberated by death – and that image of him walking slowly offstage towards a distant light has stayed with me so strongly.

Each of us has some version of our own prison – some sense of how our wings are clipped. But once you see a way to free yourself… it’s just amazing – what else is there?


What interests me?

Getting interested in something is weird – right? I mean – why does it actually happen? What gets those synapses to fire, those connections to build.. what makes us go after something – while  something else leaves us cold..?

The image for this post is from a book I am thoroughly enjoying – to give full credit immediately it is called ‘How not to be wrong – the hidden maths of everyday life’ – by Jordan Ellenberg.

The image is a page that introduces part two – but I could have picked many other images and thoughts.

So – what is it that so interests me – because this is exactly the kind of writing and playful though that  does indeed make me smile  and turn that page. It is hard to think this through objectively, but I think that for me there are some main important themes to this :

  • Learning

I love to learn – and this writing is absolutely encouraging me to be a student – if the author delivers on his promise I am certainly going to learn from reading on. I am so curious about some of these topics, and I want to learn.

  • Connections

As a generalist I have always loved drawing the connections between things, dance –  art – literature – running a business – I remember so loving ‘Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’ by Douglas R Hofstadter – so many years ago now but such a wonderful example of exploring such different perspectives and the way they illuminate our existence.

This extract is promising exactly that kind of connection, of illuminating this particular idea with the light and perspective from some very different understanding.

  •  Authority

This is part two – I have been reading for a while – so I have within me a respect for Mr Ellenberg that is for me very meaningful in some deep way.

Mentors, coaches, teachers – they are all so  important to me – and they need to be the best I can find. Perhaps this above all else is what matters to me .. this quiet time on my terrace this particular evening with this particular book and a glass of wine is a chance to share time with someone that is able to communicate great ideas to me. To help me on my journey.

Thank you Mr Ellenberg – I raise my glass to you. And if you could see me do that I think you might choose to smile, and quietly nod  back at this student in the very back row of this evening’s maths class.

It’s all a Journey

So much of what I love to do is described by people I respect as a journey.

People seem to be talking about it everywhere – the growth in the business is a journey – tango is a journey. It’s all “part of the journey’ ..

Why? What does it mean?

I suppose on one level it just means change.  As you improve your understanding changes – perspectives change. What seems to be important shifts again and again.

But journeys as an analogy normally have some kind of destination in mind, some kind of finish. What I sense from the deeper subjects in life is that the journey is endless – that just when you thought you were getting somewhere you realise that you have been missing the point of the whole thing. You reach some level of competence that temporarily satisfies you then you meet someone who has gone deeper, further and you feel like a child again.

When there is no destination but  everything around you is changing the only frame of reference left to cling to is the journey itself.  Meaning shifts around me like insubstantial shadows of dancers on a wall – calling me nearer with outstretched arms only to dissolve  as I approach, as the light changes yet again. My own shadow gets in the way – it is too strong – it’s  heaviness  interferes with the spirits that beckon me on.

We are not alone in these journeys but always accompanied by a guide – a Virgil – who themselves undertake a complex role. If we do not have a guide we seek them out, the way is just too hard without them.The guides themselves are active participants in your journey and complex in themselves. They manage a difficult relationship with you, offering just enough to keep you true and not so much as to drown you. At times they might be a father figure, a coach, a harsh critic or someone who quietly smiles – reassuring you that he indeed knows the way and that such understanding might one day pass to you.

I know enough now not to ask the foolish question of where this journey is going. But who truly choses their journey – for what reason am I walking here now, how did I end up on this particular journey, with this particular Virgil?

What keeps me going – ignoring the easier paths that litter the landscape  of my mind?

Creative session on Art and Writing

Great session this weekend with Wendy Ann Greenhalgh using art to inspire our writing.

Very enjoyable 3 hours – including three guided exercises as we moved on a journey from lyrical and figurative art to complete abstraction – creating drafts for a Flash piece and two free form exercises to develop further.









I really enjoyed this – in a basic sense this is very similar to how I work with my own photos to get creative writing started – but on a very different level in terms of the art work involved and the great guidance offered by Wendy.

Just need to turn those drafts into at least one article to publish – two weeks to go!