Saturday, 3 April 2010


What ripened fruit hung
from those dead branches
torn down and planted,
seeded deep into the earth?

What crop will it bring?

Ripened Fruit

The fruit is a reference to Jesus.

Also linked to the fruit is the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil both trees located in the Garden of Eden

I suppose the main idea that informed this phrase come from John 15:1

One of the ideas that informed this phrase was the song 'Strange Fruit' by Billie Holiday. And the poem 'Strange Fruit' by Seamus Heaney.

Dead Branches

The dead branches are a reference to the crucifix.

There are three references to dead branches. The first refers to the planks of wood used in the cross. The second is a reference to the Roman Empire and religion and Jewish religion at the time.

Planted Seeded

Refers specifically to Jesus' body placed in the garden tomb after his death recorded in Luke 23:50-56

But also informing these words are the vegetation cults recorded in The Golden Bough by James Frazer and used in The Waste Land by T S Eliot. Eliot writes in his infamous Notes on The Waste Land,

"To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies."


What ripened fruit hung
from those dead branches
torn down and planted,
seeded deep into the earth?

What crop will it bring?

Sunday, 2 August 2009


The back room is always a mess. We do not visit it and are hardly aware of its existence. But it is there, each day more and more things are thrown in. It is a very crowded and cluttered room. We stumble through it blindly in our sleep, searching, full of yearning, reaching out. It is a room full of fear and desire.

By day we barely know that it even exists. But it does. We carry it around with us where ever we go. It secretly and invisibly dominates whatever we think, whatever we say, however we act. There is always the room, hidden from view, shameful, obscene. But it is ours. It is us.

So we live our lives in the front room. That is where we invite our guests, our friends our lovers. We keep it dusted and clean. Everything is neat and tidy. Everything is on show. This is the best of us. It’s comfortable, filled with things we like. It is like a mirror reflecting our heavily made up faces.

At the church, by the alter, on our wedding day when we say “All that I am I give to you” we are offering our partner not only the front room of ourselves but also that hidden and messy back room. And when we say “I do” we are accepting our partner’s back room. We are saying I accept you – even that part of you that I don’t know, accepting even the part of you that you don’t even know exists. And we accept that we will probably never know what is in that room.

Occasionally we may stand at the door and prize it open and let a little light in. We may stare into that gloom, with fierce and bitter tears streaming down our faces - but not for too long.

It is a massive act of faith, a leap in the dark, a step across an abyss.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Two Concerts in One Week

First I saw James Taylor at the NIA in Birmingham on Sunday 5 July with two colleagues – escaping from three days of IB training at the NEC, and secondly I saw Leonard Cohen at Brooklands Mercedes Benz World in Weybridge on Saturday 11 July with a friend.

After we had booked the concert for James Taylor I checked him out on youtube – just to get a sense of the man again. I watched him in his twenties clearly uncomfortable and uneasy in front of the camera. His long 1970’s hair was a kind of shield hiding him. But the simple guitar man played beautifully.

And so fast forward 30 years or so to a rainy July evening in Birmingham and the NIA.

It seemed that everything needed was here to make a good evening, a great band, a good singer songwriter with a solid American folk pedigree.

But the evening fell flat as the songs unfolded. I think this was due to a number of problems. Firstly the location, the NIA is a vast soulless place. It was built as a sports arena, I think and it lacked atmosphere and warmth. Secondly the set was a soup of unnecessary colour and light. There were at least four things going on behind the band at any one time.

We thought he was trying to satisfy the needs of the half a dozen audiences he was trying to attract – the traditional folkies, a country audience, a young audience – the children and grandchildren of those first hippy listeners, the oldies – the grown up hippies themselves and those easy listeners who had stumbled across his latest CD.

I’m easily pleased really. I’m a simple consumer.

But the final nail in the coffin of the evening was James Taylor himself. His script that bridged the different songs was slick and polished enough. The one liners were delivered in a quiet unassuming voice. But he lacked raw exciting energy, strutting uncomfortably across the stage. At times he looked like a parody of an aging rock star from the sixties. He was a man going through his well worn performance. He could have done the concert blindfolded - a rock concert by numbers. At times I thought he was boring himself.

Leonard Cohen was different. I spotted an advert for the concert in a discarded Metro on a train back from London. Walking home I popped in to see my friend – a Leonard Cohen fan since the 1960’s. We despaired at the ticket prices; we reassured ourselves that they had sold out. We parted resigned to the fact we wouldn’t be seeing him.

But there we were on Saturday night. Two middle aged men queuing up to watch a 74 year old man hold an audience in the palm of his hands. And he did it for over two hours, with a sublime ease, as if he had been born for the part.

I knew we’d made the right decision to come as the first notes reached us. For Cohen had brought together musicians that produce a rich, tight and accomplished sound. I love the way he has fused beautifully electric and acoustic instruments.

I felt at home here with people that swapped seats with us so that I could sit next to the aisle – more leg room. At home with people that talked easily about the last time they’d been to a Cohen concert, then mentioned Nick Cave and The Boatman’s Call.

And he played everything on our wish list. I wanted to hear The Partisan - it was the absolute highlight of the concert for me – Boogie Street – where Sharon Robinson, Cohen’s co writer, sang a solo and Famous Blue Raincoat – a stunning performance. Of course he did Halleluiah but he must be pretty pissed off with that song by now.

A week earlier we had sat in the soulless National Indoor Arena, sheltering from a rainy July evening, watching an accomplished James Taylor go through his paces. But unlike that concert a week later we were outside under a grey sky that eventually rained down on us. We were captivated, totally enchanted – lost in the labyrinth of his songs and the gracious spell that Leonard Cohen cast.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Bank Holiday

Yesterday was a great day. A friend from the States stayed with us for two nights and yesterday after church I took the family and our friend to The White Swan in Twickenham for lunch. We sat outside in the sun a few yards from the river. It was warm and sunny and we had a great view of the water and everything on it.

After lunch we went to Marble Hill Park and walked along to the ferry. There has been a licence to carry foot passengers from that point on the river to Ham House on the south bank since the middle ages. Anyway we hired a rowing boat and started rowing up to Alexander Pope's old house - now St James School - and then around Eel Pie Island.

We have friends that live on the island and as we passed I spied one of them in the garden and called out to him. Within minutes he was in his boat and rowing up to us. We chatted and then he invited us to his house for tea.So we sat in a garden under the shade of a tree, drinking champaign and eating sandwiches, for ages.

It was a very beautiful day.

Friday, 15 May 2009


I left college just after one and decided to have lunch in Richmond Park. I thought about picking up a packaged sandwich at the seven eleven shop just down the road from the college. Or a sandwich from the nearby garage.

Then I remembered Angelo's. I used to go there for lunch years ago. It is part restaurant and part sandwich bar.

I think it was Angelo who served me. He must have been in his seventies. And we chatted. He spoke with a strong Italian accent. He apologised for taking time with my order. He said they never make sandwiches up before hand. Said their philosophy was slow food. Said it was an honour to make me a sandwich. Said I should eat my lunch very slowly. I assured him I would.

Then he wrapped up the sandwich in tin foil and put it in a bag. He said come back again and I said I would.

As I walked to the door a work experience assistant got to the door before me and opened it to let me out.

And the day that seemed so overcast and chilly suddenly came alive to me. And the shop with bottles of olive oils and chibatta bread, sun dried tomatoes and artichokes soaked in spiced olive oil blossomed with love.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Tallis Scholars

This evening we went to hear The Tallis Scholars at the Cadogan Hall in Sloane Square. It was a wonderful concert in a great setting. They just walked onto the stage - arranged their music on stands and just opened their mouths. And for just over an hour we were transported to another realm.

They sang Tallis, Byrd, Shepherd and Mundy.

Saturday, 9 May 2009


I watched a street fight.

I'd just left college when I stopped at the traffic lights in Twickenham. From the traffic queue I saw a small crowd gathered round the pavement. And then a lot of shouting. The crowd began to move away and revealled two bodies wrestling on the ground, turning off the pavement into the gutter.But there seemed to be four men involved. Two white men, late twenties early thirtes and two black youths in their late teens.

Then they were standing up.

The two older men seemed to be trying to walk away but they were being followed by the younger guys. The older men did not run but seemed to be walking in circles over the street to a parked van on the pavement with its door open. They walked round and round. One of the youths, tall quite broad kept on wanting to grab one of the men.

Then a man intervened tried to come between the two and facing the youth shouted at him to stop. "Stop right now" and "let it go." He repeated this again and again. But he could not let it go.

Eventually the older men got into the parked van for shelter I think but as they tried to close the door the other teenager raised his bunch of keys that were around his neck and swung the keys down hard against the side van window. It shattered. The men got out and called the police.

The teenagers started walking away.

And then the police arrived - maybe within two minutes. And the teenagers were caught and put inside a police van.

I don't know how it started. I don't know who started it. The teenagers were the aggressors throughout. And yet why didn't the older men just run or get away. They could have done that at any time. What shocked me was the cold, expressionless - almost robotic behaviour of the younger pair. There was nothing said, just cold mechanical violence.

I didn't do much. I called out from the car for them to stop. I got out but felt rather helpless really. I gave my name to the police in case they wanted a witness statement.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Film Review Weeping Camel

Weeping Camel is a truly beautiful Mongolian film. Set in the Gobi Desert. It must be one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. It tells the simple story of a nomadic family.

A camel has a hard time giving birth and when she eventually does she rejects her colt immediately. It is up to the family to find a way to bring mother and colt back together again.

A beautifully shot film - the unrelenting barrenness of the desert, the intimate and tender relationships between humans and their animals, and the relationships within the family, the fragility of traditional life and traditions and the the modern world - its motorbikes, computer games and satilite dishes.

My children asked why anyone would choose to live in the desert. And I wasn't sure I had an easy answer.

But it is to the traditional ways that the family find an answer to their problem. The film offers us a glimpse of a way of life that almost certainly is dying out.

Moving, sentive, touching.

Photo Camelus bactrianus by Jerrold

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Theatre Review Othello

We went to see Lenny Henry play Othello at The Rose Theatre in Kingston. We got tickets for the last night. It was an interesting experience. I think one feature of great story telling is when you can completely forget yourself. To reach that state for me is pretty rare but I managed it for two scenes of this performance. Which for me that is pretty good going.

So he managed to help me forget red nose day, a pathetic recent sitcom, a fairly recent performance Live at the Apollo even forget briefly Hughie Greene's Opportunity Knocks. And made me believe in the crucial scenes of Act 3 Scene 3 and 4 that I was watching a man totally obsessed with jealousy and hate.

And this despite Lenny Henry stomping around the stage as if he was a builder and delivering some of the lines as if his head was stuck in a bucket of water.

The people surrounding him on that square of light were a mixed bag.

But I was pleased to be there on a late spring evening - a mildness in the air and Kingston enjoying a quiet renaissance.

Film Review Jesus of Montreal

We rediscovered this film over Easter. And it was as striking and disturbing as it was the first time. It is a great modern re-telling of the Easter story. Instead of Nazareth we have Montreal, instead of Pharisees - the established Roman Catholic church, instead of the desert a city sky scrapper, and the tempter a slick city lawyer.
The resurrection is perhaps a little too neat but this is a thought provoking, under stated, interesting film full of subtlety and humour. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Snow Men

“The human body is 61.8 percent water by weight.”

By Friday all across the Old Deer Park
in the grey dawn light
the scattered remains of snowmen
loomed out of the frozen mist
like the ancient ruins
of a Megalithic temple.

For last Monday, families gathered here
in their hundreds, and knelt in the snow for hours,
truant executives with their children
and built from the snow of the ground
fragile and frozen men.

The air filled with laughter,
and hands burnt with cold -
compelled to gather and sculpt
an image of themselves
from the pure white unbroken fields of ice.

Is it a kind of worship?
To kneel and stare
at this white line of fragile beauty
to mould a mirror image of ourselves.
And wonder at its strangeness.
To make and stand before ourselves
anew and clean -
a late Christmas gift.

© David Loffman

22 March 2009

Saturday, 21 March 2009

First Thought

For a long time now the Conjuring Sunlight blog has become a sort of art blog and I've cut down on writing about my thoughts and ideas. I used to write book, music and film reviews for example. I included sermons and general observations and journal entries. These have been forced out as the One Line Project has dominated for almost two years now.

One way of managing this was to set up other blogs - Conjured Sunlight and The Sermons. However these two blogs do not cover the occasional thought or review. So here is another blog. A thoughts and ideas blog. Lets see if I'll have the time and the head space to write it.