Friday, July 31, 2009

going down? meltdown, macaw

Way down or way up?
This notice on the door at the back of the Black Pig seems , as specific notices often do, to lend itself to a more general interpretation: "Please be aware that the terrace may get hot and melt. Please ensure that your personal belongings are not left on the floor to avoid stains."
"There's a parrot across the road," shouts Heidi. And indeed there is the macaw - the one with the rude laugh who says "hullo" in three or four different voices - from round the corner. Now it has escaped and settled in a rhododendron clipped into a cube beside the drive of the house opposite. It pokes its head out as though it is a cuckoo in a clock. Along comes its owner, Sarah: "I'll strangle him," she says. With a little coaxing she takes him into her welcoming arms. "I ought to clip his wings, " she says, "but they're so beautiful," and strokes the long blue feathers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

cans, modern music, bean

Posted by PicasaConsider watering cans.
Listening to the Proms this morning on BBC I player I am struck by a short piece by Jรถrg Widman, a young German composer. I know little of modern music or how it works. But this, with its apparent (the composer says so when interviewed) reference to Beethoven's Seventh symphony, has stuck in my mind all day. "Only the bones of Beethoven are left", says the composer. But I reckon I can hear them, and, most memorable, I can still hear the repetition of sounds half way between clicks and whispers, which intervene among the bones. Beside it the Mozart violin concerto, beautifully performed seems less important - something which I never thought that I could say about Mozart. I'm just going to listen to Widman again.
The supports for the climbing beans in the garden are now covered in green. The flowers are white, red or scarlet depending on the bean variety. Near the ground the first beans hang ready to eat. I pick one of the longer ones and crunch it between my teeth tasting the miraculous transformation which has taken place since I set out the plants back in May. What does green taste like? It tastes like a runner bean freshly picked from the vine.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

rose, leeks, cards

Posted by PicasaToday's rosebuds.
This morning I set out leeks, perhaps the easiest and most trouble free of garden tasks. You bore holes with a dibber, drop in the slender leek plants, which you have dug up from the row where the seeds were sown in the Spring, and Bob's your uncle. Oh yes, and then you go down the line of plants with a watering can without its rose, and fill each hole with water, which draws down the roots and ensures that they take. The space round the plants fill up naturally with the surrounding soil and with the leeks themselves as they fatten.
Are Walter Scott's novels as boring and artifcial as many people apparently believe? I read Ivanhoe when I was young, and found it exciting enough, though not enough to make me want to tackle others. Thinking today for some reason about Scott, I come across these words which he quoted from Don Quixote in his journal when, aged 54, and the father of 12 children, he realized that he was facing financial ruin. "Patience, cousin, and shuffle the cards, " he wrote. The ruin, when it came, drove him to produce almost a dozen more novels on top of his already vast literary output, to pay off his debts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

insignia, bean, wires

Posted by PicasaPart of the coat of arms on the bridge which takes the road over the platforms of Tunbridge Wells railway station. It reads in full Onward Invicta. It is the insignia of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, a company now long forgotten. For anybody who cares about such things, the company once owned two cross-Channel ferries linked to its railway, called Onward and Invicta.
Someone has planted a runner bean in a pot beneath the railings of a front garden, where it is, as I write, busy climbing.
A telephone engineer attends one of those boxes on the pavement, where telephone lines meet in a tangle of wires. It has both its doors wide open as a group of grey haired tourists approach inspecting the architecture of Mount Sion. The engineer steps aside to let them pass. Their eyes raised to rooftops and architraves, the tourists do not notice the wires, nor do they hear the voices of those who still rely on landlines.

Monday, July 27, 2009

eyes, sandwiches, who?

Posted by PicasaKipling is supposed to have written somewhere of the half human expression in dogs' eyes.
"Maria, at the supermarket delicatessen, always cheerful, sends you off with variations of: 'have a wonderful day," "have a wonderful Sunday", "have a wonderful rest of the week end." And she means it. Today, as I buy some ham, she says: "have some wonderful sandwiches!"
"Who is it who can tell me who I am?" King Lear speaking. I couldn't place the quote, which was put to me by Lucy as a cue for my next contribution to the Compasses collaboration in which we are engaged. But once I had looked it up and recalled its contents it began to haunt me. Ten monosyllabic words, which seem so important when you think about their meaning in the play. I wasn't quite sure how to proceed with the answer, but Lear pointed the way to a resonance. My answer is posted on Compasses today.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

neglected, thought, overheard

Posted by PicasaCorner of a long neglected fence beside a car park.
I think to myself: "I've got writers' blog."
Snatch of conversation caught as a group of people pass me in Mount Sion: "Jesus! Our Christmas parties are so much more tame!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

found, painted lady, lingering

Posted by PicasaTennis ball lost and found.
Looking out of the rear window of a shop, I see a buddleia in full bloom surrounded, as it is supposed to be, but by no means always is, by butterflies. They are mostly whites. but, "look there's a painted lady," says the shopkeeper. And he is right. And there were more.
As I walk down Mount Pleasant after the Farmer's Market, I can still taste the little cube of a local Cheddar type cheese, which I sampled from one of the stalls. I think to myself that I should have bought some, but then, I reflect, that the fleeting aftertaste, is probably better and more memorable than the taste of a whole slice scoffed with bread or biscuits.

Friday, July 24, 2009

waiting,contrast, fashion

Posted by PicasaWaiting for the soldiers 3.

This afternoon behind me, over the High Street and Common are black clouds rolling across a grey sky. In front of me, over the Grove, is blue sky with puffy white clouds moving fast in the wind. That is 10 minutes ago. Now the sky overhead is overcast and the rain is beginning to fall in large, heavy drops, as thunder growls and passing cars hiss over the wet tarmac.

The fashion which said: to hell with rhyme and metre as long as you express yourself freely with honesty and originality, is long past. And a good thing on the whole. A book arrives, this morning, from America to remind me of this. It is the collected poems of the near, forgotten American poet, Wendel Kees, whose work was referred to me a few days ago by my brother. Says David Wojahn in the introduction: "Kee's poetry exhibited nothing of Surrealist, Beat or Confessional, and in an era, during which verse in open forms became the prosodic party line, Kee's frequent reliance on received poetic form and meters made his writing look decidedly out of date. " I suspect it doesn't any more, which may be good news for Barrett Bonden, who recently began to post sonnets and a villanelle on his technically inclined blog, Works Wells. Particularly so because the volume which arrived to day contains five villanelles and - Bonden has it seems himself been contemplating one - a sestina.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

sunflower, kite-flying, litter

Posted by PicasaThe flower which is promised is one of those dark caramel coloured sunflowers.

George, a neighbour, has been a way for most of the summer. He doesn't quite recognise me and I have to look carefully to see if it is who I think it is. Eventually we relax, free of the worry that one or both of us might be greeting a stranger. "It's day for kite-flying," he says. The wind's been blowing since we came home." And my heart lifts at the thought of kites above the Grove.

A man in a blue pin-striped suit and tie comes out of his house and picks up a couple of paper bags that look as though they once contained fast food. He holds them by the tips of his fingers well away from his suit, and, as he walks through the Grove, deposits them in one of the smart black and gold litter bin.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

bean flower, moving, fox

Posted by Picasa Runner bean in bud.

The elder tree at the end of the vegetable garden has sprays of little green spheres - the berries to be. They are spread out in the shape of the saucers, formed of white florets, which preceded them. As the berries swell and ripen they will hang in purple bunches. For the time being I want to photograph the berries while they are still small and green. But, as though they do not like the intrusion, they try to dodge the lens and move up and down in the wind, which bustles about in the tree tops.

Last night as, we are preparing for bed, Heidi points out of the window at a fox in the middle of the road. It stands still as though trying to make up its mind what to do next. "There he goes," says Heidi as he makes for the twitten, "off to the dustbins".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

unfolding, new view, parrot

Posted by Picasa The agapanthus begins to unfold its buds.

A pigeon has taken up part-time residence in a nest in the wisteria over the front door. It does not spend much time there and there is no evidence of eggs or nestlings, though there was quite a fuss in the building of the nest - twigs and feathers scattered on the front doorstep. We see it sometimes sitting on the roof opposite before taking off for the wisteria into which it disappears.It just seems to be a convenient place to take a rest. As I cross the road to go the vegetable garden, I look a back at the house, and see the big patch of green beside and above the front door, and realize how the pigeon must see it as an attractive place to take refuge. It is not the first bird to nest there. For several years in succession blackbirds preceded it and produced young, which fledged interestingly enough. on two occasions, during the mens' final and Wimbledon.

I peer though the hedge of the house where a raucous parrot lives. Because of the warm weather its cage is in the garden. It has many human voices, often repeating the words "hullo" in a range of tones from falsetto to a husky contralto. Today, as it rattles at the bars of its cage, it is laughing, not a discrete intellectual laugh, rather a bawdy laugh, a spiteful laugh. On the lawn beside the cage is a crow, not in the least disturbed by the din, though it may well itself be its object. Eventually the crow flies off, nonchalantly and perhaps not entirely aware of the extent of its freedom.

Monday, July 20, 2009

stain, Eggleston, disguise

Posted by Picasa The French poet and diplomat Paul Claudel spent 20 years in China and Japan following World War 1. He was one of the first western poets to be inspired by haiku and the like. His Hundred Movements of the Fan, consists of very short poems "only one phrase, enough just to support a breath - a sound, feeling, words - or the beating of the wing of a fan". Here is one which this rose petal fallen on the grass in our garden prompts me to quote:
A rose so strongly red
it stains the soul
like wine.
All the poems in the collection in the original French and in the translation by Andrew Harvey and Iain Watson, are arranged in patterns to this (which Blogger does not seem to want me to reproduce), and accompanied by two Japanese characters.
One thing in particular strikes me the other night about the TV interview with the American photographer William Eggleston (BBC 1 Imagine), whose idiosyncratic black and white and colour photographs of objects and places, I find profoundly inspiring and thought-provoking despite or perhaps because of their great simplicity. He says that he only photographs a subject once so as not to have the problem of making a choice about which one to print.
In the vegetable garden, I search among the plants for the first French beans, of which the small pods mimic the stems and leaves. Looking for zucchini among, their exuberant plants, whose spreading leaves are already beginning to overshadow rows of beans and lettuces, I find myself challenged by the same sort of disguise adopted by the fruit.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

courgette, situated, watering

Posted by PicasaOr, rather, because the seeds came from Italy, a zucchino flower.

In the supermarket, a notice next to the onions, proclaims: "The garlic is now situated with the herb display".

Having filled two watering cans, I am forced to abandon them outside the door by a heavy shower, which makes them redundant.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

soldiers 2, horsetails, web

Posted by PicasaWaiting for the soldiers 2.
From the train I see beside the rails a mass of horsetail (equisetum) a pernicious, deep rooted weed, but beautiful in it its new and luxuriant growth like a gathering of green haired girls.
In the area outide the basement window hangs a cobweb anchored at four ends like a firemen's blanket. Its centre rises and falls in the wind as though someone is gently shaking it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

parade, buzzed, grumble

Posted by Picasa Waiting for the soldiers. The people of Tunbridge Wells line the streets to welcome the return from Afghanistan of the 1st Battalion, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. There is a parade at the Assembly Hall. The people I talk to have admiration and affection for the soldiers but do not seem to understand what they are being asked to fight for.
In the Grove, three boys come up behind me and roar past on skate boards. One extends his arms like wings and bends his knees so that he is a few inches off the ground. It brings to my mind the games we used to play as children when we pretended to be be fighter planes - spitfires, hurricanes and, I dare say, messeschmitts. There was a certain noise we used to make not unlike the skate boards, but similar: a nasal "aeirr... ung", which, 70 years later, I can still hear in my mind

I pass a few moments with neighbour, Devern, during which we indulge in a luxurious grumble. The town hall building is being sold off to developers, who plan to turn it into a hotel and a shopping centre. The abandoned cinema site opposite the town hall is still undeveloped despite planning permission for a hotel and shopping centre. Council rates cannot be charged for unoccupied buildings with the result that they remain unoccupied much longer than should. The local paper is useless. The ground is too dry and it is raining everywhere except in Tunbridge Wells. And so on. Ah that's better!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ragwort, name tabs, jay

Posted by Picasa Ragwort is in flower all over the place at the moment, at least on uncultivated land and land where livestock does not graze. This bold plant, seen in the mass, can be magnificent to behold "so bright and glaring that the very light of the rich sunshine doth to paleness turn". (John Clare). It is poisonous to horses and cattle, as one of its country names, "mare's fart", indicates. I was glad to see it growing in the area of the Grove, which they have left unmowed to encourage wild life. So far no horses or cattle graze there.
In the window of a drapery shop is an advertisement for made-to-order, traditional woven name tapes. Examples of the different styles of embroidered lettering are shown. The names, chosen to illustrate the styles, are: H G Wells, Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens, D H Lawrence,Thomas Hardy, Samuel Becket and Oscar Wilde.
The pigeon, which I often see on the fence outside the bathroom window, looks different today. To my pleasure I realize that this morning I am looking at a jay, a bird which is not too common round here, while there are probably more pigeons than people.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

patterns, bustle, music

Posted by Picasa Although a rocket flower is not in itself impressive, just look at the veins on each petal. They could be an art nouveau motif. Viewed vertically they seem to represent a stylised vase of flowers. What is constantly surprising in patterns in nature is the way complex shapes are reproduced exactly over and over again. The flowers, as I suggested yesterday look and taste good in a salad, when one forget the patterns on their petals.

It turns out fine and sunny, but an edgy wind bustles in trees and shrubs, and its restless form settles in the back of your mind, and makes you look over your shoulder to see if anyone is following you.

Across the Grove comes a whining suggestion of music, a hint of a broken rhythm. It is explained by some workmen using an electric plane beyond the trees. Because so distant, it is quite a pleasing sound which seems to capture the windy mood of the weather.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

visitor, precision, salad

Posted by Picasa
Outside the bathroom window.

Marianne Moore is the most precise of poets. In the title poem of her book of poems The Arctic Ox I find:
Camels are snobbish
and sheep unintelligent;
water buffaloes, neurasthenic -
even murderous.
Reindeer seem over-serious...

A row of rocket has gone to seed and become a row of white flowers each with four frail petals delicately veined. I plan a salad of the flowers on which fine shavings of Parmesan will be scattered together with a few of the remaining rocket leaves.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Posted by Picasa
Sitting in the garden I watch the light of the setting sun catch the feathers of this pigeon, which I manage to photograph it as it decides to leave.
Every morning I can tell the time by the sound of the newspaper crunching through the letter box, the door of the house opposite opening so that that someone can take in the milk, and the sound of my alarm clock, which is switched off, but cannot pass the hour at which it is set, (7. 15) in complete silence, and gives a little click to acknowledge its function.
Another anniversary. At this time of year the berries of some rowan trees which I pass seem overnight to have turned a rusty red. And I reflect, as ever, that the colour seems to be a token of winter before the summer has truly got under way.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

witnesses, dentistry, crawling

Posted by Picasa The clientele of the Grove Tavern witness the historic unveiling of the new hand-painted inn sign. A mix up with Blogger prevented me from including this picture in yesterday's post. But that an event of such importance occurs so seldom in our quiet village area of Tunbridge Wells, has encouraged me to persist, as indeed has Barrett Bonden's lament for the disappearing pubs of his county of Herefordshire See yesterday's comments).

Dentists have not, until recently, been drawn into a search for new customers or had to use the techniques known for want of a better word as "marketing". But what is marketing if it is not the message outside the dental practice in the High Street? The name, for example, Gentle Dental is an immediate challenge to those who fear the drill more than the toothache. Additional words appeal to the other attraction of dentistry apart from freedom from pain - vanity. "Dentistry to make you smile", it says and reinforces the assertion with the words: "Inspirational smiles Inspirational dentistry. Step inside to make an appointment."

Now is the season when the prolific and energetic clematis montana rubens, having flowered in the spring, begins to grow, sending its tendrils out on missions of aggression and conquest. We usually see it clambering over walls and fences and up trees, but today, I encounter one that has nowhere to climb and instead creeps along some paving looking frantically for an upright support to help it up to the sun.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Inn signs,cloudscape, chilis

The two pubs in the village area of Tunbridge Wells, where we live, both have new inn signs. The Green King - owned pub called the Compasses has replaced the sign showing a pair of compasses with an anomalous depiction of two magnetic compasses. While the Grove Tavern, now has a hand painted sign in the art nouveau style, colourful and appropriate. It also serves better beer and, even more important, has better conversation. Removing the blanket which covered the sign at the unveiling ceremony this afternoon, was a sticky operation, but was accomplished by the landlord, Steve Baxter, with some help, to momentous cheers from the local paparazzi, cameras in one hand, pints in the other.

Posted by Picasa

Sunset over the the Common.

Royal Black, Filius Blue, Purple Tiger, Riot, Prairie Fox are among the chili varieties on a stand at the Town Hall Farmers Market. The plants, with their dark leaves and shiny pointed fruit extending in colour from red through purple, orange and green to black, are ranged on the stall, a spicy and exotic addition to the more traditional produce of Kent and Sussex.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Just in case you haven't picked it up on Box Elder, Lucy has responded to the question: Who do you think you are? on Compasses.

poppy shot, surprise, salad

Posted by PicasaPoppy talk.

My brother Ken visits and shows me the book he is reading - some poems by the American poet Weldon Kees. I haven't heard of him and to sample his work pick out a poem from the contents because of its personal appeal. It is called Problems of a Journalist. The first lines produces another quiver of recognition:"I want to get away somewhere and re-read Proust"
Said an editor on Fortune to a man on Time".I shall be reading some more Weldon Kees.

A salad of roast vegetables - peppers, courgettes, aubergine, tomatoes, garlic, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil - makes a change from lettuce.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

display, pie, wonder

Posted by Picasa Mushrooms at the Farmers' Market reveal the mysterious texture of the velvety brown gills which deserve gentle contemplation.

Switching on to the test match commentary on the radio I am just in time to hear the voice of Geoff Boycott referring laconically to the dismissal of Anderson as a result of a careless stroke. The mistake occurs in the middle of a partnership with Swan which is reviving England's fortunes in the test for the second time: "As we say in Yorkshire", he says, " 'there's more brains in a pork pie!'"

In an email to a friend I find myself writing "my mind was beginning to wonder". "Wander" is what I intend but wondering is more satisfactory.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

ruebarb, senior, eyes

Posted by Picasa

Aerial photograph of rhubarb leaf.

In the charity shop I see an elderly man with a stick on his arm reach up to a bookshelf and with a trembling hand take down a book which he slowly opens and examines. It is called Senior Moments.

In Mount Sion, I meet my neighbour, Rosemary an enthusiastic gardener, with the most elegant front garden for miles around. We stop to talk, though my mind is wandering. "My son-in-law has just fixed some eyes in my wall," she says. "He's got all those wonderful tools. " I can only smile and make noises of approval because for what I suppose might be called a senior moment, I can't get out of my head the picture of a young man screwing surrealistic enamel eyes into the wall among the clematis and roses.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

poppies, hydrangers, scents

Posted by PicasaAfter the poppies.

Half way up Mt Sion is a house in front of which hydrangeas flower in the entire range of colours from blue to pink with variations in between. Looking closely at the blue, you see that the florets fade individually to paler blue and almost white pastel shades. While the pink fade to green and sometimes cream, the mauve are tipped with white and sometimes lemon-yellow.

After a heavy shower the air gets colder and then, when the sun comes out suddenly warm again, and you smell the oils and resins released by flowers and leaves and carried in sudden gusts of wind.