Monday, August 31, 2009

beam, sedum, opposites

Posted by PicasaSupport.
I am taken at the moment with sedum. It belongs to the Crassulacaea family of which there are around 200 varieties. The most common wild form is stonecrop. It is common in coastal regions, dry, grass land and rocks, dunes and shingle. But it is the cultivated Sedum spectabile which I have been admiring in borders. It begins to flower about now. The small flowers spread out in branching saucers above the fleshy leaves and remain in bud (a gentle green) for some time. From a distance you think you are looking at green flowers, until they gradually open, introducing a hint of pinkness to the green, and then become pink But it is a dignified, mellow pink well suited to the the tones of approaching Autumn.
"Man," says Blaise Pascal, whose Pensées, I enjoy dipping into, though I suppose they should be read from beginning to end, "is naturally credulous, incredulous, timid and reckless".

Sunday, August 30, 2009

fly, walking, accepted

Posted by PicasaFly on flowerpot with shadows.
Overheard in Pantiles:"How are you going to get home? Are you walking by foot?"
My last contribution to Qtrrsiluni was rejected by the editors, which gives all the more value and pleasure to me, of the acceptance, today, of my submission on the current theme, "words of power" .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

crow again, bean, shouting

Posted by Picasa Another sighting of one of the junior crows which have been around this summer, this time, with chimney pots and finial.
The bean plant, which has been climbing along the railings between the pavement and a neighbouring front garden has begun to fruit and small green beans hang from the black wrought iron partition, proof of the persistence of a casually planted seed. Will passers-by be tempted to pick the beans, I find myself wondering.
A moment of understanding this afternoon, as the Tunbridge Wells "Music Festival" gets under way in the Pantiles and on the steps of the Forum building on the edge of the Common.
The music, as they say, is "live". Even now, where we live a quarter of mile away, it drifts up the hill - an insistent, rhythmic wailing.
Meanwhile, down there, people pack the tables outside bars and sit on walls, their pint glasses beside them. Dogs lick the remains of iced lollies that have fallen on the pavement, and there is a fever in the air, almost a hint of revolution not typical of the town or its reputation. The rock and roll is delivered, as ever on these occasions , by enormous amplifiers, which drown normal vocal exchanges and inhibit the simplest of thoughts. Close too, the ground shakes, a long lasting-earth tremor, a seismic roar. But people walk up and down apparently happy, though no one, I notice, is smiling. Perhaps the tenor of the music is too serious for smiles.
What is it that I understand as I join the crowd? I understand why it is necessary for people nowadays to speak at the top of their voices, even on their way home in the early hours of the morning. I understand that they have become accustomed to yelling at one another; that what they say makes no sense at all; that there is mutual incomprehension among them, which requires articulation to be at maximum volume; that the music and the shouting have made them permanently deaf; and that they are afraid, in any pool of silence that they may come across by chance, that a monster may be lurking within it that will consume them in one silent gulp.

Friday, August 28, 2009

bagged, three, surprise

Posted by PicasaGarden litter packed by the roadside.
I pick up three identical pencils equipped with erasers at the opposite end to the points, and holding them in a bunch compose a simultaneous pattern of three beautiful lines. Turning the pencils round there is the opportunity to draw with the erasers over the lead pattern, a second set of broader lines, with the erasers. A triple doodle, a doddle, I did.
The door bell rings this morning to reveal, when I open the door, the smiling face of Tristan Forward, (aka the Emotional Blackmailers Handbook). He is passing though Tunbridge Wells on a mission, he says. We discuss the curious title of his excellent blog, which he justifies by the volume of emotional blackmail, which he reckons, as far as I can tell, encumbers the social environment.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

skip, soup, coincidence

Posted by PicasaComposition in a skip.
The third and last part of Adam Rutherford's account of the cell refers to the "prebiotic soup" where life is supposed to have originated in the extremes of heat, lightening storms and concentrations of chemicals found on earth 4 billion years ago. Although this theory about the origins of life go back to the early days of then last century, as the programme shows, things have become more dramatic in the intervening and especially in the last few years. It teases us out of mind to think that, as the presenter of the series puts it, a
"second genesis" is at hand, as scientists are on the point of creating a living cell from lifeless matter, for only the second time in the history of the Earth. A good or bad thing? Rutherford seems to have no doubt. The medical and technolgical opportunities, he clearly believes, can offer only hope for the human race. Looked at another way, we have got ourselves and our environment into such a mess that we can only dig deeper to find a way out. As I finish watching episode 3 of the Cell , I feel a little more optimistic about the future of human beings on earth than I did before. Though precisely why I am not sure.
A couple of months ago, I posted an account here of a poet called Weldon Kees, whom my bother Ken, (aka Lucas) drew my attention to. Kees was quite new to me (and I gather not widely known) and like Ken I was much taken with him. When Ken showed me Kees' collected works, I opened the book at random and read aloud a poem which contained the lines "I want to get away somewhere and re-read Proust". Yesterday I begin to read some of the poems in the series entitled The 40 poems you should know published in three parts as a supplement the Spectator. Not only did the compiler of this mini-anthology, published over the last three weeks, include a poem by Weldon Kees, but in her introduction to the Kees poem, chose to quote the lines about re-reading Proust. I am still enjoying the coincidence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

shadows, Marx, three mums

Posted by PicasaGrass and the shadows of grass against a wall.
I come across this poem today, which I find I still like, though two or three months have passed since I wrote it; and because I like it, I thought I would post it here as one of my three daily observations.
Thinking about Karl Marx
Bees, in glass cells make curious honey,
Blow spume and bubbles from what's bought and sold.
Drone swarming numbers as a litany,
Play dominoes with bars of gold.
How should we know what the animal is
That under a blanket writhes and rolls
Across the globe? What is its business?
Has it head and heart, arms, legs, genitals?
The surface heaves like a mountain range
Pushed by tectonic plates. "What's there for us?"
Say both rich and poor at the hope exchange.
Every bead has flown from the abacus.
Too big for comfort is the monstrous head
On the tomb in Highgate cemetery
Among the equal and uncaring dead.
Springs, coiled tight, still struggle to be free.
In line astern on the pavement, too narrow for all of them, three fresh young mums, leaning into push chairs, conduct their babies up Mount Sion, resonating with energy as they pass our house.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

messages, gardens, DNA

Posted by PicasaIt's surprising how many messages you can find in a single frame, particularly when your camera is pointed across a street like Piccadilly.
I like the way people make gardens in odd corners when there is no room for them elsewhere, in areas outside basement windows, in passages, in shaded places where things should not, but do manage to grow.
I ask after the health of the parrot which lives round the corner. "It hasn't flown away again", says it owner. It has always worried me that I didn't know its name: " Dot," says its owner. Is it a woman parrot, then?" "I don't know. You have to have a DNA test to find out."

Monday, August 24, 2009

secure, waste, sale

Posted by PicasaSecure.
As I tackle yet again the surplus of runner beans, I realize that I am doing something that would please the supermarkets, whose lust for uniformity in the shape and size of fruit and vegetables is generally so tedious. I select only the long, straight and tender pods discarding or leaving on the vine, those which curl or look as though they have become coarse or stringy. I console myself, at the thought of this apparent waste, with the knowledge that I can cook the individual beans , when they have reached maturity, or that the pods will, in the last resort, make a nitrogen strong addition to the compost bin.
Scarcely a shop window does not announce a sale of astounding magnitude and generosity. It is natural that the notices should compete in their promises of price cuts. None more energetically than this one in a clothes shop called Fat Face in Mount Pleasant. I was struck by its sinister undertones:" Killer Sale. Final Reductions. 70% off. You're gonna need a bigger bag."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

watching, guano, spitfire

Posted by PicasaWatching cricket on the Common.
They have been selling gardening materials in the Oxfam shop in Mount Pleasant for some time. Today I notice a bag of fresh bat guano. It is described as "100 % pure organic fertiliser. High in microflora + chelates". Apparently it comes from Indonesia. It sounds like powerful stuff. Add one tablespoonful per 5 litres of water, says the instructions. Or add two tablespoons to your watering can, stir and allow to sit for 24 hours." The 650 grams in the bag I bought should last a good while.
An aeroplane noise makes me look up. It is familiar, yet unusual. I step out of the gate into Mount Sion and look up. A spitfire is overhead. It must be rehearsing for an airshow at the former Fighter Command aerodrome, now a civil airport, at Biggin Hill. When I watched Spitfires as a child during World War 2 , they were the fastest of flying machines.. Today's, in comparison, seems to trundle across the sky.
Lucy has answered my Beetles' inspired question, on Compasses , "All the lonely people, where do they all come from"? with an elegant Italian sonnet. I recommend it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

deserted, hissing, seed

Posted by PicasaThey are still promising to demolish the abandoned cinema and adjacent shops in the centre of the town. When they do, this mysterious set of stairs leading nowhere, will go too, and with it the boarded up windows, rusty grills, collapsing fire escapes, vents, pipes and gutters, which have been for me so fruitful a source of photographs in the last few years.
Passing a flower bed, which borders the pavement, I detect a hissing from the undergrowth. It is a buried hosepipe delivering presumably a timed ration of water. So dense are the plants that I cannot see the source of the noise, but splashes appear on the wall behind the bed, so I think I have guessed right, and enjoy the thought of the water welling up on this hot afternoon and the thoughtfulness of the person who set up the device.
Once on a hillside in Cyprus, I saw a plant with a multicoloured flower which in many respects resembled a nasturtium. On inspection I realized that it was a caper, and remembered that pickled nasturtium seeds are good substitutes for capers. Today, while dead heading a bowl of dark leaved , deep red nasturtiums, I pick a seed and chew it, unpickled, to find that it is has a subtle, peppery taste, not unlike nasturtium leaves and flowers, both of which are used in salads.

Friday, August 21, 2009

cuckoo pint, explosion, down

Posted by PicasaArum maculatum otherwise known as Cuckoo pint, Cuckoo flower, Jack in the pulpit, Parson in the pulpit, Devils and Angels, Red-hot poker, Snake's meat, Cows and bulls and, an apparently recent addition to the list, Willy lily. According to Richard Mabey in Flora Britanica, the pollen of the flowers throws off a faint light at dusk, so that when Irish labourers came to find work in the Fens during the famines in their own country in the the 19th Century, they named the lilies Fairy lamps.
"Come and look at this," says Heidi. A new form of container for her favourite toothpaste consists of a dispenser in the form of an upright cylinder, which exudes its paste (or gel as it likes to be called) when pressure is applied to a button on the lid. The dispenser has gone mad and erupts like a volcano, spewing out its evil looking blue goo, in an unstoppable stream. It is fun while it lasts. My preference is for old fashioned white toothpaste.
Probably because without complex machinery we can't manage it, everything that flies of its own accord and under its own steam, is fascinating. That goes for thistledown. In the Grove today I watch a single seed proceed, carried by the wind, parallel to the ground, at about my height, in a straight line as though it knows exactly where it is going. I wish I had the same sense of purpose, apparent or actual.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

reading, Robert, stain

Posted by PicasaReading in the Grove.
A big parcel arrives from Abe Books, containing Le Petit Robert, the monolingual dictionary which is generally regarded as the most useful and accessible by French people. It is only "petit" in the sense that it is not its bigger brother Le Grand Robert de la Langue Francais, which consists of 9 volumes. Le Petit must suffice for me. It has plenty of examples included in the definitions, which is an important feature serving almost as a dictionary of quotations.
A piece of A 4 paper has on it what looks like a red stain. On close examination I see veins and a familiar outline and I realize that it is a print of a single petal which I made by exposing the petal to the photocopy facility on my printer. I like it for it ambiguity and apparent fortuitousness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

sunflower 2, return, curling

Posted by PicasaCrater in a sunflower.
An email from Amazon France urges: "Préparez la rentrée sans vous ruiner". I guess that refers to the annual expenditure that parents expect for their children's return to school, conflated here with the annual return to Paris from the country, an annual population surge of which there seems to be no equivalent here. Having no children of school age, and not sharing the privilege of a house in the French countryside or a dwelling in Paris to return to, the message in no way applies to me. But it still gives me pleasure to have been addressed in French, in terms intimate enough to suggest that I slot into one or all of those categories.
The climbing beans of three varieties are behaving like jungle plants this summer towering above me in ever increasing tangles. They taunt me with their long, juicy pods in burgeoning clusters, which barely give me time to pick them before more appear. Today, I notice that towards the top of the pitched structure of bamboo poles, which I built for them in the Spring and which is now completely hidden, the beans, being short of room, sometimes curl round one another to form strange rings and half moon shapes, which no supermarket would accept for their regimented displays. The nasturtiums have as usual seeded themselves from last year and now bestrew a whole bed with their orange and yellow blooms. and saucer like leaves. As I select a few flowers for cutting I note that some stems have behaved in a similar way to the beans, eager you might say, to express themselves. In one case a stem has wound itself round another rather like those puzzles of twisted steel shapes, which as a child, one was expected to unlock.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

berries, talking, surplus

Posted by Picasa Blackberry time.
Catalogues arrive almost every day, where I enjoy noting the things I don't want, and can wonder at the ingenuity that generates so much that is useless. More and more items fall into this category. At the top of the list is a watch, which is accurate to one second in 10million years. It is radio controlled and so adjusts to leap years and minor variations occasioned by blips in the earth's circuit of the sun. Meanwhile, as if there are not enough recorded voices to cope with every time you have to make a telephone call to one of the providers of heat, light, and telephonic communication, the watch, upon the press of a button will speak "the time, day month and year."
At this time of year there is generally a glut of vegetables and I have to think hard about which of the neighbours I can deliver the surplus to. Fortunately I have discovered the preferences of most of them, so that even the few remaining, old souls, who like what used to be called vegetable marrows, but nowadays tend to be overlooked and therefore over grown courgettes (or zucchini), are easy accommodate.

Monday, August 17, 2009

sunflower, crack, contrast

Posted by PicasaOne of the bronze sunflowers which I sowed in the spring for cutting and have been cutting for the last few days, on the point of opening.
While in the vegetable garden I hear a cracking sound behind me, louder than an air gun quieter than a rifle shot. It is a hazel nut falling onto the paving. The ground under the hazel trees is littered with nutshells, which squirrels, every year, open and discard. What the silly animals have failed to realize, from generation to generation, is that invariably the shells are empty, because they open them before there has been time for them to mature. Had this nut survived their predations? No such luck: it too was barren. It will be another month before the "cob nuts" a name local to Kent and Sussex will be ready and on sale in the Farmers' Market. I don't blame the squirrels for their optimistic attacks. The nuts, when they are ready, have a white and creamy texture which is remarkable and addictive, once you have tasted them.
My preference on the whole is for white and green in a garden, with a minimum of hot colours. But today when cutting flowers in the vegetable garden, I am struck by the bold clash of colours which occur when I place some nasturtiums next to a purple dahlia. I think of the abstract, majestic oblongs of contrasting colours, which the great American painter, Rothko places side by side on his simple, mystical canvases.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

hinge, leash, football

Posted by Picasa Hinge of a neglected gate.
Dogs have leads, but cats ? Lead doesn't sound right for a cat. So let's say leash. For today on the Common we see a cat on a leash, a Siamese, walking daintily with its tail in the air. Behind it, holding the leash, is a young woman. She kneels to release the cat, which wanders off to inspect a tree. The woman is nervous and probably fears that her cat will take off or climb the tree, for she speaks to it, coaxingly. She speaks to it in French, which may or may not explain a lot.
Through the wide open window of a pub I watch young men watching football. How do I know they are watching football, because I cannot see the screen, on which their attention is fixed? It is because of the noise the make and the way they jump and and down and wave their fists. As I watch them, I think of Barrett Bonden's recent sonnet on football fans, written if I recall correctly, to demonstrate that any subject could be a subject of verse, and which, the same time, revealed a contempt for the breed, which had been building up for many years.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

local,willow herb, theatre

Posted by Picasa Our neighbourhood parrot.
Rose bay willow herb is impressive enough when drifts of it take over slopes of the Common. But when it has finished flowering and with its upright spikes, sere and ochre, in their close ranks, covered in downy seeds, it has a restrained distinction, missing in its frisky youth. This becomes more dramatic when the drifts are in the shade and the breeze lifts the seeds and carries them into the sun, where suddenly you can see them soar like insects hurrying off "on urgent voluntary errands".
It is that sort of day. By late afternoon, the sun is already lower in the sky than we have been used to, and when it comes from behind a cloud, it illuminates a table of people outside a cafe with a theatrical light. And perhaps, because the sun has been behind cloud most of the day, the group, suddenly cheered by the sun, relax and begin to laugh and chatter in a theatrical way.

Friday, August 14, 2009

visitor, umpire, manners?

Posted by PicasaToday's blackbird, with take-away.
In the convenience store a young man stacking shelves asks: "You play cricket?"
"Too old", I say. "You'd make a good umpire with that hat!" A panama, in fact, foldable, which arrived in the post the other day wrapped in a tube.
"Manners maketh man," according to the 15th century prelate William of Wykeham. May be. But according to a tv programme on the cell, it is rather: 18 kilos of carbon, nitrogen, water phosphorus, iron and a few other elements organised into something like 100,000 billion cells.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

focus, sprouting, vegan

Posted by PicasaOut of focus, but worth while I think.
The stump of the bay tree, which we reluctantly cut down a few months ago, has begun to sprout pretty shoots, despite the promise of the tree surgeons to poison it. For the time being we are glad that they forgot the poison. The little leaves have a reddish tint and look alarmingly healthy.
In the health food shop, where we buy some rather good porridge oats, I am always on the look out for new items of interest. Today, I spot on the counter "New Vegan Condoms" with the added invitation on the display pack, "Fun with flavours".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ladybird, manners, throw

Posted by PicasaInvestigator 2.
Academic manners can be as suspect as social manners, but , like social manners, nice in the old sense of the word, to observe. In the preface to his book on the Romance Languages, the author Professor W. D Elcock, says with becoming modesty:"This volume has been committed to print in the belief that its subject, at least in countries of English tradition, has long awaited the attentions of an author." and further on "...The initial prospect of publication, and the encouragement which this implies, I owe to one whom I can no longer thank, but only remember with lasting esteem and affection, the late Professor Entwistle." The book was written in 1959 and perhaps nowadays some of the elegance of expression and old fashioned deference might have coarsened. Meanwhile I can only record that my toes curl with pleasure as I read and appreciate every nuance of that preface, and imagine the two professors discussing the morphology and syntax of Vulgar Latin over a glass of Tio Pepe.
On a bench on The Common I sit and watch a cricket match. One of the batsmen turns a loose ball past fine leg for a boundary. The ball slows and stops at my feet. I pick it up and rather feebly throw it to the fielder on his way to collect it. But my throwing powers have declined through lack of practice and the ball falls short of the hands waiting to catch it. I feel like an old man, which I suppose in a manner of speaking I am.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

elder, 1500, bye bye bye

Elder: after the white flower-saucers, before the purple berries, which hang like miniature bunches of grapes, these little green beads wait for the sun to ripen and the rain to swell them.
My list of post tells me that this is number 1501. That makes 4500 (mostly I hope) beautiful things recorded day by day. Thank you Clare Grant for the idea.
Of such mistakes, of no material importance, are stories made: " Bye..." I say to the woman in the chemists, as I turn to leave. "'Bye..." she says. ""Bye ..." says the woman, who was ahead of me at the counter, turning as she leaves the shop and believing, mistakenly, that one of the "byes" is addressed to her.

Monday, August 10, 2009

snail, prairies, wild

Posted by PicasaInvestigator crosses shadow of garden gate.
We buy a plant called Gaura lindheimeri. Four, unequal, narrow white petals, eight stamens bending backwards. Pollen sticking together in strings. The Botanical Garden, from which I take that description also says that it is found on prairies and in dry, rocky places and deserts. Tunbridge Wells offers none of those habitats so I hope it survives in its new home. This is a flower bed by the front door, once shaded by a bay tree, which we cut down a couple of months ago because it took away light from the windows of the house and the garden.
I stand in Grove and ponder the grey sky. Where has the sun gone? A cold wind comes up. The only consolation is the sound of the wind at the top of the trees. It is wild a and restless and doesn't give a damn.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

young crow, trolley driving, gate

Posted by PicasaCrows have been busy round here this summer, cawing in back gardens, flapping over roof tops where normally only woodpigeons, blackbirds and magpies venture. The result of their carryings-on, sits on a fence here, looking decidely unsure of itself, probably its first venture out on its own. Its sits posing for a photograph before flying off to occupy an old apple tree.
Shopping this morning in Sainsbury, on a couple of occasions I find myself steering my trolley cleanly but dangerously between another trolley and a shelf. It brings back the thrill of dodgem cars and, subsquently, the even greater thrill of negotiating traffic in jams and queues on my way into work, in London. I must have been the worst of competitive drivers, eager to save a minute here and a minute there, switching lanes, and nosing into momentarily clear spaces, utterly contemptable. In the supermarket, similar behaviour, is not so bad, a venial sin.
This morning I learn of a missing front gate removed by drunkards or thieves from the entrance of some elderly, disabled neighbours. This afternoon, while watering our garden, I come across the gate neatly placed in our side entrance. I carry it back to its owners not without a swagger of triumph. Another case solved by Inspector Plutarch!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

lacecape, frittata, martins

Posted by PicasaOne flower from the edge of a lace-cap hydrangea, a fragment of the cap.
I make a frittata with slices of courgettes (zucchini) of which there is a glut at the moment. The omelet, cooked slowly on both sides is generously flavoured with basil. You need little else apart from salt and pepper. But today it occurs to me to grate the courgettes. You cook the grated vegetable in a frying pan until it is soft; season it well, add coursely chopped basil; squeeze as much moisture from the courgettes as possible and add them to beaten eggs (as a rough guide, allow an egg per person. Have a deep frying pan ready with a little hot oil. Tip in the mixture and stir and shake until it lies flat and deep in the pan. Now cook the omelet slowly so that it neither sticks nor becomes more than a light, golden brown (You can't see it so you have to guess).When the egg begins to beome firm in the centre - the mixture should still be slightly liquid -check, by lifting up to see the underside, if the omelet is now ready to slide on to a plate, the upper side still uncooked. Slip it from pan to plate. You can now put the pan over the plate and tip the plate over so that the uncooked side lands in the pan. Finish cooking slowly. Turn onto a plate and eat warm or cold like a cake, which it resembles. For variation add small lumps of feta cheese to the courgettes mixture. Cold, it's good for a picnic.
High over the station clock, martins are wheeling; so high you know, without resorting to the weather forecast, that it will be fine tomorrow.

Friday, August 07, 2009

binned, cupboard, remote

Bouquet in a bin.
A metal vase of some kind is employed as a wastepaper basket in a room not always in use in our house. I had not noticed it for some time. I think to myself, when I see it empty today, that I would like to put something in it, anything. It contains an inviting space. In the same mode, I think to myself, show me a cupboard and I will show you something to put in it.
The gate which I have to go through to reach the vegetable garden is remotely operated by means of a code. On my way back to day, I see that someone has just been through it and it is beginning to close behind them. As it clicks to, I punch in the code, and here's the point, I feel a twinge of guilt at making the gate swing open again, when it is just settled down into its customary closed state. Will I ever learn to be completely at ease with machines?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

verbscum, tiles, tools

Posted by PicasaThe majestic spikes of a verbascum have appeared again (self-seeded) in the vegetable garden. It is a flower garden escape, but my well composted beds have provided generous hospitality now amply rewarded. In close up, the florettes are everyhting that summer flowers should be. In the wild, the plant is known as mullein. There are around 360 species in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. For those who care, it is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family. As I write this, I realize that I made the same remarks last year. Another anniversary. The dance of the seasons.
From the side of a house in Mount Sion some builders have removed the weathered hung tiles and stacked them on the scaffolding. They have arranged them neatly in rows and stacks so that from a distance they look like old leather bound books.
Among some workman's tools by the roadside are a kettle, two caddies for tea and sugar, and a teapot with a cracked spout.