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Ice Spoke of the Spells
by Carl Halling
08/22/06
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Introduction: A Westfield Narrative 1

"Ice Spoke of the Spells" was created out of modified versions of four previously published pieces, namely, the original "Ice Spoke of the Spells of Calm", together with "West of the Fields Long Gone", "She Dear One who Followed Me" and "Of All Sad Words of Tongue or Pen", all of which first saw the light of day at Blogster. A definitive version was published at Blogster in May 2008.
Thanks to the large quantity of notes I committed to paper while at Westfield, this long vanished college can live again through writings I've painstakingly forged out of them, such as the first paragraph of the poetic piece below, "The Nice Guy on the Sidelines". It was based on several conversations I had with Ged, a great Westfield friend. He was a moody, tough-talking kid with a rocker's quiff from Liverpool who I think had been around during the Punk days at Eric's, but whose heart was pure gold. I'm sure these talks took place late one night in late 1982 in Scorpio's, a Greek restaurant opposite the college on the Finchley Road following a performance at college of Lorca's "Blood Wedding" in which I'd played the part of the Novio, or bridegroom. The previous summer Ged had played Malvolio in a production of Shakespeare's "Twelth Night" at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Directed by Dawn Austwick, the play's action had been transplanted to an Arcadian swinging sixties, with Ged interpreting Malvolio as a brooding relic from the previous decade, while I as Feste was perfectly of my time as a wandering minstrel in flowing hippie clothes. When we re-performed it at the college the following winter term we were like returning heroes, at least that's how it seemed to me.
The second paragraph constitutes the main poetic body of the first "Ice Spoke". It started life like much of the Westfield material as diary notes written on spare scraps of paper only to be shelved for more than two decades, and refers to a single evening at Westfield, almost certainly taking place in 1983, but perhaps '82. It gives some indication of my social hypersensitivity and unceasing need for attention, affection and approval within a social setting, and the way it affected close Westfield friends.

Ice Spoke of the Spells

I think you should be
0ne of the greats,
Carl, but you've
Given up and that's sad...
You drink too much,
You think, ____ it
And you go out and get _____,
When I'm 27 I'd be happy
To be like you...
In your writing,
Make sure you've got
Something really
Unbeatable...
Then say...
'Here, you _______!'
At sixteen,
You knew
You were a genius,
At nineteen,
You thought
You were a failure
& Now you think...
What's genius anyway?

Those sad faces
My soul was
In knots
I couldn’t speak!
I felt like the nice guy
On the sidelines,
Gentle
But strong…
I spoke
Of the spells of calm
And the hysterical
Reactions
Psychic
Exhaustion
Then anxious
Elation
I’d only approached
The latter
By my third
And Gail said
Your eyes are
Sparkling
You must be
Happy…
S. said: “I’m afraid…
You’re inscrutable
You’re not just
Blasé,
Are you?”
I spoke
Of the spells of calm
And the hysterical
Reactions
Psychic
Exhaustion
Then anxious elation.

A Westfield Narrative 2

On and off throughout the 1980s, I catalogued my days through notebooks, cassette tapes, odd scraps of paper, and so on. Some of these rough diary entries produced "She Dear One Who Followed Me" which is featured below. It first existed as a series of scrawled notes based on conversations I'd had in 1982 or '83 with a young Frenchwoman who was once a very dear friend. One of these resulted from an incident in which I'd made a fool of myself by storming off during a gig after having broken broken a guitar string. As the guitar belonged to my flatmate David who was in the audience, he quite reasonably expressed his displeasure out loud, while my musical partner Aidan told me to keep playing. Instead of doing this, I threw a fit of pique before making my way back to Golders Green.
The first section ending with "you could hurt me, you know", makes use of extracts from several separate conversations, which were also edited; while the second, ending with "your look" was taken from a single heavily edited conversation. The final section, also taken from a single conversation, was reproduced word for word. As a whole, it provides something of an insight into how my friend saw me in those days...as a far darker and more complex individual than my good time guy persona might have suggested; but she was not alone in doing this.

She Dear One Who Followed Me

It was she, bless her,
who followed me...
she'd been crying...
she's too good for me,
that's for sure...
"Your friends
are too good to you...
it makes me sick
to see them...
you don't really give...
you indulge in conversation,
but your mind
is always elsewhere,
ticking over.
You could hurt me,
you know...
You are a Don Juan,
so much.
Like him, you have
no desires...
I think you have
deep fears...
There's something so...so...
your look.
It's not that
you're empty...
but that there is
an omnipresent sadness
about you, a fatality..."

A Westfied Narrative 3

The final section of this story, "Some Sad Dark Secret", once part of an older Blogster piece was based on notes contained within a single piece of scrap paper which I unearthed about a year and a half ago, and probably dating from 1982 or '83. The first three sections contain words of advice offered me by Dr Margaret Mein, who was my principle tutor during my final year at Westfield. Under her galvanising mentorship I studied the controversial and often disturbing writings of Andre Gide as my main subject, and throughout '85, she tirelessly encouraged my intellectual and literary inclinations, in the firm belief that I had the makings of a professional academic or writer. The fourth and fifth sections have as their basis words once spoken to me by another of my Westfield tutors. They refer to my former desire to shock by the affectation of an almost hysterical vehemence of tone in my writings, as well as the endless inclusion of ranting lists.

Some Sad Dark Secret

Dr M. said:
“Temper
Your enthusiasm,
The extremes
Of your
reactions,
You should have
A more
Conventional
Frame
On which to
Hang your
unconventionality.”

The tone of some
Of my work
Is often
A little dubious,
She said.
She thought
That there
Was something
Wrong,
That I’m hiding
Some sad and dark
Secret
From the world.

She told me
Not to rhapsodise,
That it would be
Difficult,
Impossible, perhaps,
For me to
Harness
My dynamism.
“Don’t push People”,
She said.
“You make
Yourself
Vulnerable”.

Dr H. said:
“By the third page,
I felt I’d been
Bulldozed.
I can almost see
Your soapbox.
Like Rousseau,
You’re telling us
What to do.
You seem to
Work yourself
Into such an
emotional pitch…

And this
Extraordinary
Capacity for lists.


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