Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dem Bones

It's funny, how advancing age can make you as body-conscious as an athlete or, worse, some preening gym-rat.  I've been having various age-related, wear'n'tear issues with my personal infrastructure and, after a number of sessions with physiotherapists and podiatrists, have become acutely aware of myself as, essentially, a skeleton strung together with tendons.  The posters they have on their clinic walls don't help: mainly Look and Learn-style pictures of cadavers playing tennis or lifting heavy crates.

Do you know those Dance of Death and memento mori engravings that were so popular in the days before the discovery of penicillin (not to mention soap)?  That's how I keep seeing myself, sat at this computer, self-consciously adjusting my posture to align dem bones properly.  If I look out the window, I see skeletons bobbing along the pavement, or hunched behind the wheel of a car (straighten that spine!).  It's a bit like the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where the moonlight reveals the crew of the Black Pearl to be skeletal zombies (oops, spoiler alert).

It all reminded me of the days when I was young and nothing hurt, and I had a thing about bones and print-making.  I would spend hours carving and cutting pictures into lino and wood.  Unfortunately, my main aesthetic influences back then were album covers (remember, these were the days before the internet) so everything came out looking like Death Metal artwork.  I dug these two ancient proof prints out of a drawer, and although they are unfinished I found I was pleased with some of the touches.

I'd like to say it's something that I might take up again one day, but I know my ageing fingers couldn't hold or control those little woodcutting gouges for more than 10 minutes without screaming in protest.  Did you know there are no muscles in your fingers?  It's all done with bones and tendons...

Notes for the linguistically-challenged:  "Totentanz" is German for "Dance of Death".  The legend around the image is "Radix malorum cupiditas est" i.e. The love of riches is the root of all evil".  "Furcifer" is Latin for "one who is destined to be hung on the two-pronged fork" i.e. a "gallows-bird"...


Zouk Delors said...

"all done with bones and tendons"

Also, did you know the 2nd and 3rd fingers share a muscle, so can't be moved completely independently?

That TotenTänzer is definitely going to have trouble with his/her spine later in death, don't you think?

Thanks for showing us some of your old prints. Any chance of seeing some old cartoons sometime?

eeyorn said...

While clearing out my father's house in December, I came across a mosaic-tiled table lamp along with a wooden football rattle tucked away at the back of the garage. They were the sole attempts of mine in the field of the manual arts. Both got consigned to the dump.

I don't recall you being into Death Metal imagery, or engraving, for that matter - when were these done?

The challenges thrown up by the body in advancing years are worrying, aren't they? I'm currently doing a very creditable Aqualung impression.

Mike C. said...

Zouk, eeyorn,

I can't remember my cartoons, eeyorn can't remember my prints...

Guys, I think we have to agree to agree that anything that happened between 1966 and 1976 (the extent of our mutual histories) is now "beyond reasonable recollection"!

Yes, sad to say, we're on the brink of getting old... (as the other Mr. D said, "it ain't dark yet, but it's gettin' there").


Mike C. said...


Mind, having said that, I now realise that I, too, removed one of those very same tiled lamps from my parents' (mobile) home when I cleared it. We made them in woodwork, and it sat in pride of place in their living room for 40 years, despite its hideousness.


Zouk Delors said...

"Could be soon we'll cease to sound,
Slowly upstairs, faster down,
Then to revisit stony ground
We used to know"
(I. Anderson)

Mike C. said...

Do you know -- and I'm honestly not making this up -- I had to look those lyrics up on Google. I was amazed to discover they're from a song on "Stand Up", an album I must have once known by heart.

Which only goes to make the same point, I suppose. Forty years is a very long time...