< ) +
< Greek génei(on) chin derivative ) Latin gena) + -al
And upon waking at a relatively normal time (unusual for me) I find myself almost unnervingly in a genial mood. The mind is a little full of chatter, but it is of a receptive and relaxed kind. As much as what has been written at The Fiend seems hardnosed, philosophical, conspiracy-realist… there is something much more quotidian and light-mooded springing up in me on this particular morning. True, I am somewhat ghosted by my past… living in the neighbourhood I grew up in once more. But there is nothing very anxious about the experience today. Perhaps I was in a pub last night talking to a stranger. Making a new friend? It was definitely this week, though.
But now the friend has become more generic, more amorphous in my mind. They are the dream friend of one’s first reader. This is the friend who has entirely no judgement about them. They simply receive… and one is addressing them, as cleanly and as artfully as one can. In spiritual terms they are also the tutelary spirit, as the Latin denotes. Geniālis festive. In social terms one often becomes concerned about what our reception might be, by others. In Britain there is the notion of the thug… and possibly this is the person who is not yet receptive to very much of what one might say. It does not wholly serve my purposes here. Perhaps the thickheaded might be better, and could be woman or man, and can exist in all social classes. But these are only a part of the social atmosphere of a place. If one imagines, and inserts oneself into The Social most people can be — to some degree — receptive to what you choose to speak about. As Emily Dickinson said; most men say what to me. And I don’t think she particularly meant men in the combative feminist sense. She meant mankind. She was a poet of The How, over The What. It is very much The How that is food for geniality. And, as tutelary spirit of festivity, the genial in its spiritual being may well assist over the scene. You select carefully of course. Everything for its own particular context and mood. So I imagine and address that spirit in my mind, and give mind-speeches to the first half hour of my day, checking the phone for the time. Checking the date. And day.
It is Tuesday. Tuesday. The words have to sound new and fresh even if they are very familiar. As a landscape might be. It is always useful to walk a familiar landscape as if one were a naive tourist, and to go about a totally unfamiliar place as if one has lived there all your life. Reincarnation accepted, it may be that you have. You are a ghost of all your own previous lives, and a seed of all your future ones.
A fragment of Jim Morrison returns to me… I gave empty sermons to my head. And so I give empty sermons to my head, not the head of yesterday or tomorrow… only The Prime Momental. The Now. Create for myself a particular brand of headspace.
It is Tuesday the 26th of September, 2017. I prefer to write that out “long-hand” and not abbreviated, as in a letter.
The reasonless happiness has fallen upon me again. Bodily, perhaps I am in need of a little more sleep… but the mind is encouraging, and would prefer to gather up some perceptions. In the kitchen light has poured its myriad duvet-forms into the room, has established itself… And now it is Autumn 1873: in my biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and I compare the light and the view with Hopkins’s:
“This morning, blue mist breathing with wind across the garden after mass,” he writes, everything looking “less and nearer, not bigger and spacious in the fog. Tops of the trees hidden almost or where seen grey, till the sun threw a moist red light through them.” And this: “Woodpigeons come in flock into our field and on the trees… A doe comes to our sunken fence to be fed: she eats acorns and chestnuts and stands on the bank, a pretty tri-ped, forefeet together and hind set apart. The bucks grunt all night… and fight often: it is their season […] Wonderful downpour of leaf: when the morning sun began to melt the frost they fell at one touch and in a few minutes a whole tree was flung of them: they lay masking and papering the ground at the foot. Then the tree seems to be looking down on its cast self.”
There was a poem in which these great flags of stone already appeared. And they are great. These flags of stone. It is a small yard with a little shed at the bottom. I find the whole experience of it more auditory than perceptual… since it is so closed in as to make one exercise one’s auditory imagination all the more. The twittering of the wren. (I recall certain badgers that sometimes shuffle in, but only nocturnally). The flags and their weeds. Stained red-brick surrounding. The stalwart wall. Black and burnt. Red and orange. And an always-shut back gate (our garbage goes out the front these days) and, above it — and to the right — a large tree festively dancing… at least fifty or sixty feet above street-level. The winds here can be fairly bad depending on the season, but today the tree is dancing at about a medium degree of vigour and vitality. So it is a universe… between the slightly mould-green flags of stone and the blowy tree… no rain this morning. I still have to get used to the weather (the weather of my hometown).
But smalltalk, anyhoo. I used to teach my foreign students a bunch of English greetings, dialect or otherwise. The good thing about teaching language is that you notice things about language which you would not otherwise notice if you were simply using it. Words become commonplace in the mind too easily. In reality, they are magical, talismanic things. And the same goes for greetings.
Hello. How are you? These are the slightly standard things… with all their H’s intact. Hello. How are you? Not bad. Turned out nice again (which, with Northern humour, can seemingly be used even if the weather’s awful?)
And I’ll spell everything else how it sounds. Owarya? Yorlright? Whatfyabinupto? Nothing much. Nothing special. Ow’s the missus? Ow’s yer fellah? I went downt pub. I went ta town. I went down ta town. I went down the town. Pissed it down. Sun’s out! Bloody freezin. Bloody starvin. Owvya bin? Whatdyagetupto? Can’t be arsed. Couldn’t be fucked. Hold yer horses. Way to go, tarzan!
The pub stuff gets a little more racey, and the expletives get thrown around a lot more. I love that thing in Withnail and I too; gizza wheeze o’ that fag. Too right! You miserable cunt. ‘Alf a bitter and a packet o’ cheese and onion. What a knobhead!
I heard this one last week: willya quit tweakin yer bloody ‘tache! For fucksake…! Yer daft bastard! Yer daft cunt! Orrible. Whatjawanna go an’ do that for? What’s the damage, love? (price). Language is priceless. Men address women as love or pet in this part of the north (duck is the common form in Staffordshire). Women can say pet or love of men younger than themselves, perhaps. This new fangled habit of addressing people as honey is not my style, either in the familial-couple way, or in the honey-to-strangers way. I’m a love man, myself. But you won’t get me saying love to any old woman. Mate is mate, and always has been. (I also like being able to use the familiar mate even when genuinely wishing someone ill. It also really pisses them off. Which can be useful).
And so I head down the familiar valley with a bunch of owaryas between my ears… and over the very-familiar Eagley Brook. Up Hough Lane. Which has now got sealed access at the bottom so you can’t drive the dip anymore. Then up the familiar steps by the old playing fields, take a right into the back end of Bromley Cross, and merge with a slight hubbub of people outside the banks of shops down from where the old Volunteer used to be (it is now a Sainsbury’s).
Today I attempt to buy coffee from a new bakery there. But the lady in the shop says that they don’t have the hot water properly boiled yet. I say I prefer a coffee lukewarm anyway… so she sez I can have it for free. She qualifies this by saying that she’ll do it so “…you can’t sue me if you get ill” (this is 21st Century England where everyone seems to imagine they are going to be shafted by the next man). I reply… “Oh, and I thought you were just being generous” And decide to take it that way anyway, since it is a genial Tuesday in Bromley Cross, and the sun is out. And I have a free coffee.
The street is fairly busy, and I head down towards Sainsbury’s and down Bromley Cross Road. Bromley Cross Road is a deceptively long road. It leads down to the train station. I make a left here, and head up the side of Turton High School, my old secondary (which I loathed with all my wretched teenage heart). Today I don’t care… and perception of the whole area avoids all tendency toward memory. Except to register that a sports centre has replaced where the old tennis and football ground used to be. Here I sit and drink my coffee.
There’s a small car park across the road, in front of the railway line. A light breeze moves through the trees. (This be Varyu, Psyche… emissary and element of the world-soul). No trains come or go. Or at least not to my knowledge. There is nothing very aesthetically pleasing about this part of Chapeltown Road. Further up it gets more leafy… and if I had more time I would go up over the hill and walk The Jumbles Reservoir (Morrissey: “…the stars reflect in the reservoirs”? I forget the whole lyric) but today I have to go back home to help do a removal job with my dad.
What is that coloured panelling they put on all the fronts of the buildings round this way? Sheet plastic under all the triangular eaves. Usually white or red. It really doesn’t do the houses any favours.
But anyway, what would the greats make of The Genial, I wonder. Whitman built a whole oeuvre out of it, I guess. All those New York lounge bars. Swinburne was a genial, giggley type of a man, I’d imagine. He used to walk up Putney Hill for his half pint of beer everyday. Robert Graves remembers him in an essay somewhere. A fawning giggley little man. Not so with Pound or Wyndham Lewis, I’d imagine. (Although Pound went back to Whitman, later). But I guess Ezra was probably more fond of cats than humans by the age of sixty or seventy. Nothing of Brahma for him, then…?
All the Celts have the genial very much on them. Sometimes geniality in the extreme… is it? Dylan Thomas. Yeats, possibly? Although Yeats, I think, would be a kind of mixture of the very genial and the very distanced and analytical, mebbe. Still more genial than Pound, though. Reality and Justice. Reality sticks to the genial like flour to egg… it is macrocosmical. Whitman stands under the macrocosmos, flagging down streetcars. Justice stands back and is quietly and meticulously weighing-up, quietly assessing.
Dickinson loves her scientifico-minutiae… the microcosmos is her central aura. Possibly genial, but a little highly strung with it… over time? Shakespeare, the arch-genialist? Yes… but a little like Yeats too. (If there is one Shakespeare…?)
But without the genial we will have lost the presence of each other somehow… would be divided amongst ourselves… the internet, for the most part, is — unfortunately — not very genial. There is more justice than reality upon the penumbra of the web-page or the online video. The genial requires nature’s auditory invitations. It also needs the social hubbub, of multiple voices speaking at once? Is there only very little of this on the ‘net? Well, it is very presentable… the internet. Hubbubs are not ever presentable, surely. They simply exist, simply are. There is always room for this… whatever comes out of the human throat, I’d expect. As if it were simply a question of tone, of invitation…?
But back down the road, pellegrino! Back down the valley. Back across the brook. With that hubbub in your head.
Aindriú Ó Domhnaill, 2017