Saturday, October 31, 2009

youth, climbing, exercise

Posted by PicasaNewly fledged.
Outside a sports shop, they are demonstrating a climbing machine. It consists of aligned, broad caterpillar of linked metal sheets, on to which handles and footholds are fitted. It passes over rollers at top and bottom, and is constantly rotating, so that climbers, who attempt to ascend it as they would a cliff face, are struggling with a surface that is moving downwards as they mount it. The device must be four to five metres high. Two children at a time, equipped with safety helmets, attempt the impossible never getting more than half way up. They undertake their task voluntarily, unlike Sisyphus in Hades, who you will remember was condemned for his misdeeds in life to push a large stone to the top of hill from which it always rolled down again.
In Calverley Ground, this afternoon, a thin, old man props his bike against the bandstand and strips off to a tee shirt and blue shorts. With some difficulty, he runs slowly up the steep, grassy slope above him, turns and runs down. Then up again and down again, up again and down ...

Friday, October 30, 2009

seasonal, Inferno, falling

Posted by Picasa The Grove in Autumn.
As I slowly read Dante's Inferno I am reminded of the passage in the Wasteland where Eliot begins by quoting, as usual, without acknowledging his sources, first from Baudelaire and then from Dante.
"Unreal city
Under the Brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs short and infrequent were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes upon his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where St Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine."
I have always loved those lines, which remind me of the time when I used to commute from Kent to Cannon Street, especially in winter when it was scarcely light, and when the train snaked into London, and I and my fellow commuters
plodded to work through the grey, City streets, as though we too were in the first circle of Hell. Line 2 is from Baudelaire, line 4 from The Inferno, canto 3, and line 5 from canto 4. How well Eliot manages to make the quotes his own and integrate them into the body of the poem as though they belong there, as now nearly hundred years after they were written, they do!
In the vegetable, garden this morning, a wind gets up, and suddenly leaves are falling and drifting around me, as though they are following stage directions.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

burning, chives, doubt

Posted by PicasaThe dry leaf flames when I set light to it.
It smoulders now . Like it, I smoulder still.
As it getting dark, I remember that I must cut some chives. Above the garden there is still light enough in the sky to see. I bend to cut the leaves with scissors and lay them in the stainless steel bowl which I have ready, before looking up at what remains of the sunset.
In an article in today's paper I am captivated by a judgment on scientists, which strikes me as unfair if applied to scientists, but fair enough when applied to others, particularly politicians: "Often in error, never in doubt."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

leaf, economy, rose

Posted by Picasamap of autumn map of fall
map of fading
map of fallen
trying to find a way that's all.
As I dismantle the bean poles and strip the bamboo of the remaining vines I enjoy the motions of economy. I save the last of the beans for de-podding and some late planted beans for cooking in the pods. In the next door bed there are still a few sunflowers sprouting miniature but perfect blooms. Nasturtiums too are still climbing the fence. The Autumn sun illuminates the petals so that they look transparent with the light glowing through them. I cut the sunflowers and nasturtiums for arranging in a vase. Beneath the sunflowers is a row of salad leaves, sown in the summer for cutting and not yet completely gone to seed. I select a few small cos lettuce leaves and some radicchio for colour and make a posy for a salad.
A mild but sunless day inspires two tedious jobs. The first is to move a rose bush which is being smothered by the rosemary on one side and the hibiscus on the other. The second is to rake the leaves from the lime tree off the lawn. By the time I am finishing I think that I am enjoying the chore. When I have put away the tools and looked back at the uncluttered crass, I enjoy having completed it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

tiles, vent, porn

Posted by PicasaHung tiles from the side of a house at rest while the house is decorated.
The vent in the airy basement window where our kitchen is housed is now working again as it should. It is a neat device with plastic blades which rotate automatically in the draft and help to ventilate the room. You can open and close it with the help of pieces of string. When the central heating boiler was sited in the room, it served to keep noxious gasses at bay as well as allow the escape of cooking smells. We were, meanwhile, according to a recent law, not allowed to close it. British Gas was empowered to turn off the boiler if the vent was not open and the means of closing it, not permanently disabled. When they came to service the boiler, the more officious of its engineers would inspect the vent, and even went so far as to insist that the string to close it was removed. You could of course close the vent by rotating the plastic inside the louvre with your finger. And we did when the weather was very cold. But it was an awkward business and revived a humiliating impression of the "nanny state" at work. Now that the boiler has been moved to the ground floor, we are free to open and close the vent at pleasure. Today, Heidi cleanses it of the accumulated grime of several years and, with some difficulty, we put the pieces together again. Now with what satisfaction do I pull the string to open and, above all close the vent, when the spirit moves me!
On the other side of the road from The Crown at Groombridge is a pretty cottage with leaded windows and chocolate box calendar. Opposite is the church which is attached to the moated Groombridge Place. You might call it cosy and evocative of Miss Marple and a tradition of peaceful, English village life, which still persists, just about. We remark on how quiet the cottage always seems and ask the barmaid who brings our sandwich-lunch whether anyone lives there. "Oh yes," she says, "it belongs to a woman porn director, there aren't many women porn directors. " I don't expect she makes her films there," I say. "Sometimes she does," says the barmaid with relish; " and they have even been seen cavorting in the garden. Next time you're here, and she's about, I'll point her out to you. She looks like a normal lady."

Monday, October 26, 2009

chance, jelly, mummies

Posted by PicasaTwo photographs which didn't work out as intended but which I don't regret.
"Ghoulish vodka jelly shots for all who make an effort to dress up" says the notice outside The Compasses. "Join us for the Halloween Weekend."
Pictures of mummified animals - monkeys, bulls, cats, lions, dogs, crocodiles, among others- are to be found in this month's National Geographic Magazine. These ancient relics from Egypt have the power and directness of sculptures and leave you amazed at the immediacy of their presence. One caption reads: "A queen's pet gazelle was readied for eternity with the same lavish care as a member of the royal family. In fine, blue trimmed bandages and a custom made wooden coffin, it accompanied its owner to the grave in about 945 BC". The coffin, constructed in the shape of the animal in contained, adds to the feeling that you are looking at a sculpture. The intervening years seem to vanish when you consider them.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

space, perfection, walk

Posted by PicasaDirections.
Maria, the Spanish woman, who is usually behind the counter at Sainsbury's, takes much pride in her job. She chats away to every one as she serves them. As for me, she takes endless trouble to slice the Parma or Serrano ham I regularly buy, as delicately as possible, and what is more, to separate the fine slices with sheets of greaseproof paper, so that they don't stick together. "This is very good, " she says, " I only opened it yesterday." As usual she gives me a slice to sample. "You like it?" Of course I like it. She lays the slices one by on the paper spread out to receive them. With the last one, she is not entirely satisfied. "I don't like this, " she says, " it is not as it should be," and transfers it to the tray beneath the slicing machine She cuts another slice. "Enjoy your Parma ham and have a lovely day " she says as she makes a neat parcel to be sealed by the price label.
There is a way of walking, hands behind the back, which used to be considered gentlemanly. The Duke of Edinburgh did and his male offspring were encouraged to follow his example as the required alternative to sticking their hands in their pockets. But manners are changing. Nowadays, even Prince William and Prince Harry are seen with their hands in their pockets. I am not sure that I mind at all. But I can't help noticing a neighbour of more or less my own generation,who invariably walks with his hands clasped behind his back., as though he is inspecting something. This afternoon I spot him from afar a few steps behind his wife. And I think to myself, that is an interesting, if not a beautiful thing for today's Best of Now.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

hip, pockets, local

Posted by Picasa Rose hip.
In recent years I have reverted to wearing a jacket rather than, what is more usual nowadays, a sweater over a shirt or tee shirt. The reason has nothing to do with fashion, etiquette or appearances. It is simply that jackets have pockets and I need pockets. A list of the contents of my pockets at this momentmay throw some light on my need though it it does not in any sense excuse its eccentricity, which I freely admit.
Jacket pocketsInside right Pentel Twist Erase retractable pencil with extending eraser. Parker ballpen. Pair of quick reader spectacles in metal case with clip on facility.
Inside left Mobile telephone, only switched on in rare cases of necessity.
Lower right Moleskin notebook wherein much of this blog derives its raw material - an essential tool owing to memory riddled with holes.Lower left Sony compact camera.
Trouser pockets
Front right Spare pen - Parker roller ball, which doesn't leak because it has a top. I need a spare pen in case I am not wearing my jacket. Pruning knife with Sheffield carbon steel blade and a chestnut covers pinned to the steel frame, polished by long usage. Technically, carrying this knife is against the law, but as I spend so much time in the garden across the road or in my own garden where I am in constant need of it, I can probably claim it as an essential tool, rather than admit it to be an offensive weapon. Some loose change of small denominations.
Front left hand Pocket cotton handkerchief. Packet of tissues. Spare mini-notebook, which comes in useful when jacket is not worn and when I need to write down something of ephemeral value. Wallet.
Rear For ease of access, loose change of high of higher denominations. It is noticable that old people tend to be slow with change dithering over its computation and holding up the younger generation in the queue behind. I wish to postpone as long as possible my own contribution to such delays and irrations.
Stopping to look at the landscaping work in progress in Calverley Ground - the park which borders the opposite side of the town to The Common - I am spoken to by a man in a tweed hat who is passing. "This is an archeological site," he says to me: "Did you know it was an acheological site? Roman artefacts have been found here." He then proceeds to develop what amounts to a lecture on the history and prehistory of the Park, which gradually takes in other parts of the town and the surrounding countryside. He speaks of former owners of the land, the Crown, the Church and several members of the nobility to which it passed. He speaks of the river, which used to flow under the park. He speaks of local sarsen stones and the sites of pagan temples, which include the park where we are standing, the nearby Grove, and Wellington Rocks on The Common. He refers to lay lines and eventually to the Freemasons. As we proceed - we are going in the same direction - he explains a fact about the road off the park, which we are just entering - a cul de sac. "The identical terrace houses were originally built for letting", he says "and you would have thought that maximum use would have been made of the space available, for economic reasons. Yet on one side of the road, there are 12 houses and on the other 13. " He hastens to explain that 12 and 13 is a significant Masonic alignment. "The Freemasons built Tunbridge Wells, " he says."Tunbridge Wells is layed out like Jerusalem." By this time we have reached his front door and after thanking him, I walk, on amazed at how much I have learnt about the town where I have lived for the last 20 years, in the space of 15 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

elderberries, tea, reptile

Posted by Picasa A few months ago these were saucer shaped inflorescences, white and scented.
We have recently taken to drinking a cup of tea before the BBC 10 0'clock news. Not ordinary tea but, inspired by Mma Ramotswe of The No1 Ladies' Detective Agency, red bush tea. At first we had a cup each, but recently Heidi has owned up to not liking the tea as much as the biscuit which she dunks in it. The solution: she has one or, at most, two dunks of her ginger biscuit in my cup. A solution to a problem of taste and logistics worthy of Mma Ramotswe herself.
In the grass in The Grove is a creature of reptilian aspect, one foot forward as though in pursuit of some object. Is it a tortoise or a large lizard? On closer inspection it is one of those brown plastic bags with projecting handles, which are designed for owners to clean up after their pets . They tie the two handles together to make a neat package for the refuse bin. It is empty but I walk away wishing it had been a reptile.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

hallucinogen, nails, berries

Posted by PicasaFly agaric appears every year on the triangular shrubbery in Berkeley Road known as "The Village Green". It is probably the easiest species of fungus to recognise. Its name is derived from its use since medieval times to "stupefy flies". To achieve that objective you break the cap into small pieces which you scatter in platefuls of milk. According to Roger Phillips (Mushrooms and Other Fungi of Great Britain and Europe), it is used as a hallucinogen by the Lapps, who picked up the habit of eating it from their reindeer. On them and on the reindeer it has a similar effect. The muscles of the intoxicated person start to twitch and pull convulsively. This is followed by a death like sleep. Upon waking the person, or reindeer, is usually filled with elation and is physically very active. Most guides describe the fungus simply as poisonous.
Economics is rarely so fascinating. An unusual insight into its mechanics is afforded by Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder (This is the third time I have mentioned this book of which I am now reluctantly nearing the end). In describing the visit of Captain Cook and Joseph Banks to Tahiti in 1769, Holmes draws attention to the importance of iron nails as a currency. "Much of the crews' time was spent bargaining with local girls for sexual favours. The basic currency was any type of usable metal object: there was no need for gold or silver or trinkets. Among the able seamen the initial going rate was one ships nail for one ordinary fuck..." "...Cook disapproved of sexual bartering and made regular attempts to regulate the trade in love making, ' quite unsupported' he later dryly observed by any of his officers. He remained philosophical, observing not without humour that there was a cautionary tale told about Captain Wallis' ship the Dolphin, when leaving Polynesian waters two years previously, so many nails had been surreptitiously prised out of her timbers that she almost split apart in the next Pacific storm she encountered".
Plenty of berries are supposed to indicate a severe winter. But why? How do berries or the trees that bear them know? Holly has as good a crop of berries this year as I can remember. The trees are glowing like braziers. But then again, its been a particularly good year for wine, enough rain to swell the fruit and sun to ripen it. What's good for grapes should be good for holly. There's no lore that I have heard of that says a good vintage is followed by a hard winter. Or is there?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

shadow, patterns,confrontation

Posted by PicasaI am standing on the corner of Mount Sion and Little Mount Sion focusing on the shadow of the house opposite and its chimney pot, and coincidentally on a lamp post and and its shadow. A neighbour emerges from a doorway and as we greet one another says: "Photographing a lamp post!" in a tone of voice which might be reserved for a well-intentioned but rather foolish child.
Patterns of leaves from the lime tree are pressed flat on the wet tarmac this morning, as though they are not real, but printed there. Leaves from the same tree are also scattered loosely and lie lightly on the hedge and grass as if it is they, which are real and have inspired the glossy, golden, prints on the black road.
In The Grove this afternoon, there are two crows, as usual at this time of year. And as usual they strut up and down pecking at the ground, but they are also staking out their territory. On the other side of a path, they spot a thin, curious cat. At once they begin cawing noisily and flap over to alight within a few feet of the cat. The cat crouches adopting a half-defensive, half-hunting posture. The crows advance and then retreat. The cat advances and then retreats. Both parties in the end grow bored with the stand-off and depart by their different means of locomotion. Peace with honour?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

workshop, vine, visitor

Posted by PicasaOutside the car repair workshop.
In the vegetable garden a bracing wind blows round the green tomatoes which have yet to ripen. I recall that I have long suspected that the tomatoes in supermarkets, which are offered as "ripened on the vine", have probably not, as one might suppose ripened while still on the growing plant. Rather, they will have ripened on the stems ,which will have been cut from the plant while the fruit are still green. It seems sensible for me to follow the example of commerce, and I cut a basket full of green tomatoes so that, out of the wind and threatening frosts, they can "ripen on the vine" indoors. Alternatively, in honour of the movie, it may be a case of "fried green tomatoes."
This morning what looks like a newly fledged pigeon arrives on door doorstep. As we gawp at it, it flies on to the front gate where it adjusts it self to the wide world. I take some photographs before it flies across the road where on a wall it joins two other pigeons - its parents or siblings? It's hard to tell but judging by the way they nuzzle one another, it seems to be a welcome reunion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

fishes, leaves, 2.30

Posted by PicasaOn ice 2.
The big oak at the corner of the Grove is shedding its long leaves. Children rejoice in their crunchy generosity. They kick them as they wade among them, throw them in the air, and one little girl fills her dolls' pram with them. Meanwhile, whenever there is a gust of wind the dropping leaves swirl and shimmy in the air.
In the health food shop, a customer is helping the assistant with the prices of some of his purchases of which she is not certai. "That one is 2.30," he says, "the dentists' price." "Yes, " she says appreciatively, " I used to be a dentist's receptionist. We always used to say that. Some people got it; some didn't."I overhear this as I am leaving. I don't get it. As I close the door I consider going back into the shop and asking for an explanation. Then, just in time, I get it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

fish, toys, revisions

Posted by PicasaOn ice.
Birthdays for two grandsons (7 and 9) come this month and next, and then there's Christmas. So I spend some time looking at a catalogue from a company called Bright Minds. The trouble is I want the toys for myself. How to choose between: a remote controlled hairy spider (to help me overcome my arachnophobia); a radio controlled flying saucer; a kit that turns an empty drinks can into a robot; propeller racer, which "blazes over smooth surfaces"; a kit to make a robot which walks "like a silly duck"; a projector, and casts a realistic image of the moon on to the walls and ceiling of your room and, apart from going through the moon's 12 phases, has a "soft, tranquil light"; a solar system kit which does the same for the planets; and any number of construction kits including Meccano (suddenly, how I miss Meccano!).
Quite recently I found myself quoting or, as I thought mis-quoting," Wordsworth's recollection from The Prelude. How "...The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom" and "we hissed along the polished ice" and, later he " ...retired into a silent bay or sportively glanced sideways, leaving the tumultuous throng, to cut across the image of a star..." Wasn't it "the reflex of a star" a friend remarked? And he was right, and I was right. "The image of a star" comes in the original version of The Prelude completed in 1805, while "the reflex of a star" is in the revised version of 1814. There is no doubt in my mind that "reflex of a star" is a significant improvement. Just now, I am reminded of this alteration by a passage in Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder, when the author refers to an earlier version of Keats' sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer. Remember: "... when stout Cortez with eagle eyes stared at the Pacific" ? Originally, Holmes tells us Keats wrote "... when stout Cortez with wan'dring eyes stared at the Pacific". He thinks that the original is better and so, on this occasion, do I.
This time the original version is better.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

free, English, turbot

Posted by PicasaUnleashed.
A few days ago Barrett Bonden said to me: "We are lucky to be born speaking English". We were sitting in a pub at the time, but I made a note of it despite the onward flow of conversation, because it chimed in with what I been thinking a few days earlier. There are at least two reasons why it a fortunate to have one's ear tuned from birth to the measured and gentle tones and stately rhythms of English. First, it has become an international language and the language of commerce and trade. But secondly and more important, it is the receptacle of great poetry and prose that echos through the centuries from the Middle Ages to the age of the Web. Sometimes in the morning, before being fully awake phrases come to me from folklore and nursery tales, from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, from the English Hymnal from Chaucer and Shakespeare, from Milton and Wordsworth and Coleridge, from T S Eliot and W H Auden and many more remembered and half remembered sources. All have in common the capacity to imprint themselves in the brain so that the word, which come to mind when speaking or writing, are infused with their sentiments and sounds.
How many miles to Babylon,
Four score miles and ten
Shall we get there by candlelight?
Aye and back again...
To give and not to count the cost, neither to ask for any reward ...
Give us this day our daily bread ...
Our revels now are ended...
The mind is its own place and in itself
Can make a Heaven of hell , a Hell of Heaven...
Now he rose and twitched his mantle blue:
Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new...
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills..
He who would valiant be ...
Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements...
Jack and Jill went up the hill ...
And all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well ...
And death shall have no dominion ...
As I turn on the tap for a moment, the words and those that follow them in context flood into my mind at random from the profound and limitless source of the language. I could go on and on, as phrases in my brimming mind push and jostle for inclusion. Yes, fortunate indeed.
In the Farmers' Market in the Pantiles, fresh wild turbot. We buy a whole one for a treat. Wild!

Friday, October 16, 2009

this way, icecream, miniature

Posted by PicasaIsland in the sun.
It is detail which brings history to life. In Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder, biographies of contemporary scientists are linked to form a panorama of exploration, invention and discovery against the background of the Romantic movement in art and literature. In one of the chapters on the great astronomer William Herschel there is a description of his audience with Napoleon in the Malmaison Palace in 1802. Nothing much of significance was apparently said by either of the two men - one of whom had conquered half of Europe and the other discovered the planet Uranus - but it was noted that it was extremely hot, 38 deg in the shade, and that ice creams were served in a variety of different flavours.
There are still a few sunflowers on the wind blown stalks in the vegetable garden but they are small and neat, not much bigger than dandelions, and friendlier by far than he extravagant disks of their brazen youth.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

zen, spotlit, cups

Posted by PicasaNot the only pebble on the beach.
Through the window of the sitting room the sun streams in upon a vase of red roses with dramatic effect. The petals are infused with light and the shadows within the flowers are at the same time sharpened l to recall an underlying presence of darkness.
In a restaurant, one of a group of women is talking about last night's party. "We were in our cups," she says. "We were quite over-refreshed. My daughter says 'plastered', but I prefer 'over-refreshed.'"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

wave, roof, plane

Posted by PicasaWatching waves break can be soothing, but as Hokusai demonstrates better than this photograph, an image of a wave in the process of breaking and robbed of its denouement, is packed with dramatic potential.
I catch part of a TV documentary on the inventor of the silicon chip, Robert Boyce. One image in particular stays with me. His sister recalls him as a boy making a small but viable glider. She describes how he got it on to a roof and ran with it. "He came to the edge," she says, "and then kept going. He was the sort of person who got to the end of a roof and kept going".
In the vegetable garden I look up to see a small, red monoplane banking steeply and circling overhead, a manoeuvre which seems to require extra revs, because its engine makes the enthusiastic noise, which as small boys we tried to imitate in wartime fighter planes joining battle. Above the plane, a pale daytime crescent moon looks on complacently.
There's a reply to Lucy's question Just what are you doing with yourself over on Compasses


Monday, October 12, 2009

cat, cable, melancholy

Posted by PicasaPussyfooting.
A reel of yellow cable squeaks as a workman energetically unwinds it and pushes it through a small manhole into which it mysteriously disappears. A small child gazes in wonderment at the disappearing cable, as I do, until I realize where it is going. At an open manhole cover further along, another workman is hauling and guiding the cable through a duct beneath the pavement, where so much is going on that is hidden from us.
In the vegetable garden a low, misty sun casts a melancholy light on the fading leaves of beans and large, sear leaves of the exhausted courgette plants. There are cobwebs among the last nasturtiums and expiring roses. A few beans with swollen pods remain for me to pick. A pleasing smell of decay emerges from the compost heap, where decay is more welcome than elsewhere.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

palm, Mermaid, questions

Posted by PicasaPalm trees are harmonious to contemplate.
Sitting in a cosy corner of the Mermaid Tavern with glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a plate of plaice and chips and in the company of loved ones is a beautiful thing. The rain has meanwhile chased the tourists from the streets of Rye leaving us to appreciate the strange mixture of the old and the new, the odd and the elegant in a seaport from which the sea has long ago retreated.
Yesterday's emails are full of questions, which demand fairly prompt answers. Some from Clare Grant, who has a deadline, on the subject of blogging in general and blogging in Tunbridge Wells in particular, are particularly intriguing. Having replied in detail I feel paradoxically as though I have learnt something, which I suppose comes from formulating answers to questions, which I have not put to myself, but would, on reflection, have liked to.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

swimmers, peace, hawk

Posted by Picasa Back soon.
Dialogue in an antique shop in Rye packed with junk. Man enters shop. He looks hungry. The shop owner, an old man with a high pitched voice, replies to the shopper's silent question: "Nothing military. Absolutely nothing. Zilch." Still silent, exits the shopper with military interests.
Over the Grove flies a sparrow hawk. It is looking for something upon which to swoop.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

summer, beans, rainforest

Posted by PicasaThe last sunflowers of summer photographed in the garden before we went on holiday. Now there are only a few stunted blooms left for the first frosts to finish off.
At this time of year one of the pleasures of the vegetable garden remains the climbing beans - borlotti and different varieties of French bean, which have swelled , and are ready to be de-podded, softened in simmering water and sauteed with seasonings. This morning, I pick a basketful in the Autumn sunshine.
As fashions go, this is the era of the rain forest. Everything and anything that originates in the flood plains and forests of the Amazon seems now to be guaranteed a sales platform on the basis of its provenance. The juice of something called Acai berries (euterpe doracea), has found its way into our house via an old friend of Heidi's in Florida. "Thirty times more anthoyanin antioxidents than red wine" says the label. To complete the picture I note that the health food shop in the High Street is now selling Chiczca organic Mayan forest chewing gum.

clouds, growl, sorry

Posted by PicasaThree clouds at sunset.
The unconscious noises made by the man sitting opposite me on the train begins to fascinate me. Every few minutes there occurs from behind his paper a low growl. Is it a purr of contentment?
Or an expression of suppressed rage? I am still asking myself the questions when he gathers together his things and leaves the the train At London Bridge. I will never know but I enjoy the speculation.
A pub, which we used to frequent in the distant past and visit yesterday, has suddenly become an old fashioned, busy drinking place, with excellent real ale. It is in a narrow street, lined on either side by workman's cottages now almost all of them, smartened up, or as they say, gentrified. "Look," says Barrett Bonden. On a lamp post opposite the pub entrance, testament both to its popularity and to the no smoking rules, which drive smokers who want to drink and smoke at the same time out of doors, is a notice which reads: "No drinking on this side of the street."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

texture 2, true, exhalations

Posted by PicasaThe texture of sunbeds 2. Stacked.
When I assert the truth of a proposition I have often noticed that it immediately seems to be less true than I thought it was at the time of formulating the words. There seems to be a hiatus between the conception and the expression, a hiatus into which doubt has flowed. I am glad therefore that I am not, nor ever have been, nor ever want to be a politician. For politicians have to defend their propositions all the time and are forced to negotiate the devious paths of compromise to achieve what become inevitably limited aims. Not that one should condemn politicians whose profession is burdened by so much responsibility. It is a necessary profession. Somebody has got to do the job. It simply strikes me as I listen to them, what a beautiful thing it is not to have practice their irksome trade.
To walk, this afternoon, in the fine, warm rain and smell the oils and resins in the exhalations of earth, grass and the leaves.

Monday, October 05, 2009

texture, clock, fruit

Posted by PicasaThe texture of sun beds.
Some years ago I inherited a handsome Charles Frodsham bracket clock. It has a superb movement and, as a clock expert explained to me, it goes back to the period in the Nineteenth Century before the English clock-making industry was undermined by less expensive and less efficient German movements with which it was difficult to compete. It keeps good time, but it is temperamental. It doesn't like being moved. I moved it once to a different room and it stopped for several weeks. It was only, when learning how expensive it would be to repair it, that I tentatively wound it again and set it going, and found that it was still working, that I realized its potential for unexpected recovery. Since then it behaved itself well for several years. Until, that is, I moved it again. Within a short while, it began, within a period of 24 hours, to go too fast or too slow without any indication as to why. Attempts to regulate it were unsuccessful. Then we went on holiday. When we returned, the clock had stopped - it requires a weekly wind. To my surprise I find that the day after winding and resetting it, it has kept perfect time, and at the end of the week has gained only half a minute. Now a week and a bit after coming home, it seems still to be behaving well. It is a mystery, because I cannot think of any factors, like a sudden change of temperature, the presence of someone with a hypnotic personality, a change of government or an earthquake, that can explain its recovery, though it is very welcome. Old clocks are in some ways like pets, which become friends and one is concerned for their well being.
Every morning, I prepare for breakfast, two plates of fruit, which I slice and arrange in elegant patterns. I am not sure why I started to do this. ( I think it was because Heidi did not very much care for fruit that you could not peel with a deft movement and scoff, so that I had to make it as interesting as possible). I look forward to this ritual - a daily exercise in creative presentation -and to varying it according to the season.
On top of the fruit, sometimes goes a blob of Greek yogurt. Today I am able to surmount each mound of yogurt with a single, wild strawberry, which I notice has ripened in the garden. The plant, or its ancestor, has been in the garden for more than 20 years since I moved into this house, and it is always a pleasure to harvest its beautiful but minute and meagre offerings.