Sunday, October 31, 2010

reading, bleeps, nice

Posted by PicasaAnother in the series, reading in public.

|Waiting for my friends who take me shopping at Sainsbury's on Sunday morning, I watch people packing their purchases into  bags as they come off the conveyor.  Slaves of consumption, the shoppers are paced by the bleeping of  bar-code readers and the pressure of the queue behind them. You could call it a consumption line. There is no respite for each shopper until the bags are full, the trolley reloaded and the credit card registered and returned. to purse or wallet. The bleeping is remorseless and the commerce continuous and strangely accelerated like a film speeded up.

In The Grove this morning, as I  stop to watch a pair of magpies hopping across the the grass among the autumn leaves,  I hear the  voice of a man  behind me. He is wearings a leather jacket and jeans. "Nice, i'n 'it," he says over his shoulder  and with a smile, as he walks on.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

walking, entrance, tie-less

Posted by PicasaShadows stepping out.

On my way to The Bloggers' Retreat yesterday, I pop in to take a shifty at The Savoy Hotel, which has just reopened after two years of refurbishment. Inside it looks much the same as it used to except that the tiles in the front hall are resplendently new and that goes for the chandeliers and hangings. It is as over the top as ever, as luxury hotels should be. The River Room looks like a movie set. The American Bar has retained its white grand piano and its Art Deco styling. The Grill has not yet reopened.  I do not linger. Outside the short bit of roadway that leads  from The Strand to the front entrance has retained it clearly marked instruction to drivers to  drive on the right (the only road in England where this rule prevails), but a mini-roundabout with a fountain in the middle has been added in the forecourt in front of the doors to emphasise the turning point for taxis and other cars picking up or dropping visitors.

When I hear a few minutes ago a reference on the radio to a tuxedo, I recall that when attending a "black tie dinner", the other day, I wore the customary dinner jacket, black trousers, black shoes, black socks, but no black bow tie, in fact no tie at all. My white shirt, however, was tailored rather elegantly and adorned with simple but exquisite buttons. I had forgotten about this act of idle rebellion from the moment the long evening kicked off until now. No one asked me to leave or suggested that I was improperly dressed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

bicycle, grown-up, right

Posted by PicasaMore shadow-play to play with.

There's a yellow line on the platform at the railway station to keep passengers from standing too near to the edge, while waiting for a train. "Look at that man, " says a little girl to her mother; " he's gone past the line."
"He's a grown up," says the mother, "he knows what he's doing."

On the train I am sitting opposite a  plump young couple who, while not cuddling, are talking about their  domestic finances. The young man writes a list of their outgoings on the front page of the free newspaper called Metro which he has been reading, and ticks them off as they come to a decision about how each  item will be treated with their respective funds. The conversations wanders from the specific to the general. "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine," says the young woman. "Right," says the young man with, I fancy, just a faint undertow of doubt.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

reflected, demolishing, mistaken

Posted by PicasaThis time it is a reflection  in wet sand rather than a shadow which  takes over the frame.

Today I undo one of my favourite jobs. Taking down the beanpoles is a melancholy business just the opposite of erecting the frame for the beans to climb in the Spring. But I make up for the sense of destruction by bunching the eight foot bamboo poles and tying them together neatly to stack against a wall, ready and easy to access for reuse in the Spring.

One of the problems associated with posting daily on this blog is that I find myself looking closely at, if not staring, at people. And everyone knows that it's rude to stare. Sometimes people who I have described  here seem so familiar when I see them again, that I think that I must be on greeting, if not speaking, terms with them. Today  I pass a man with a grey moustache, and a pipe between his lips. For a moment I mistake him for the barman at The Grove Tavern, who has a similar moustache but to the best of my knowledge, no pipe.  Then I realize just in time that he is  someone I have seen puffing through The Grove, his pipe alight, and smoke rising from it like smoke from a steam locomotive. I suppose it wouldn't have mattered if I had greeted him, but there is something about his moustache which suggests that he might be affronted by a good afternoon from someone to whom he has not been introduced.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

shadows 3, purge, sparrows

Posted by PicasaThe sun is high in the sky. Their substance is long;  but the shadows are short, and have a life of their own.

Another purge of books today. The books I hung on to sometimes for sentimental reasons, sometimes in the hope that one day I might read them or at least find something useful in them, have been devalued by the presence of a Kindle eReader in the house. So accustomed am I becoming to homing into one of a number of  books I am reading, that the lifelong addiction to storing anything between covers and in print on shelves is beginning to weaken. Of course there are old friend, hard-covers, even some venerable paperbacks  to enjoy looking at and to take down from the shelf to caress. It is not that I do not love books any longer, rather that I value them in a different, more judicious manner.

As I walk up the hill, I notice a sparrows descending on out hedge like fans on a pop concert. Sparrows, they say, have vanished from London, but not at least, I am happy to say, from Tunbridge Wells.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

conversation, railing, politics

Posted by Picasa Bags and sandals.

There are some gentle steps -  six or eight in all - leading past King Charles the Martyr in Chapel Place. Attached to the wall is a railing to help the aged. On my way down I greet a couple going up the steps, and taking advantage of the rail.  "Hang on to the railing, Joe!" says Anne. I think of it as a slogan, but it is too late, I have managed, as I usually do (so far), without it.

"Politics", said R A B Butler who never made prime minister, "is the art of the possible". Groucho Marx defined it more precisely: "...the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."

Monday, October 25, 2010

shadow 2, late, potatoes

Posted by PicasaAnother shadow takes over.

After some wet weather Autumn is hanging on rather beautifully in the garden. It's too early to cut back the fuchsia, even the lavender. The grass is green as it might be in Spring and herbs are falling over the edges of the pots in the new "herb garden" under the hedge. An unexpected abundance.

I pass a woman on a bench beefing into her mobile: "I never would have served potatoes like that. The potatoes weren't even roasted!"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

knocker, Ruth, tree

Posted by Picasa On an old door.

It took me some time to stop thinking of The Bible as something wholly connected with religion. In spite of or perhaps because of its associations, the ringing tones of the King James version are profoundly engraved  in our minds. The language is the rootstock of  English prose and poetry. Its phrases, absorbed in a lifetime, are at the heart of the culture in which we are bred.   Now I am beginning to read it for pleasure attached to no duty or moral constraint,  as a collection of stories, poems and homilies, for the sheer pleasure of the words.
Today I happen upon The Book of Ruth, a story of  deep affection, loyalty and kindness, which I remember liking as a child.  Falling upon hard time, Naomi, her husband  and her two sons go to live , you will remember, in the land of Moab, a neighbouring country, where her sons marry local girls and prosper for a while. But her husband and both her  sons die; and Naomi advises her daughters-in-law to go back to their families, as she has no alternative but to return home. Ruth one of the  young women refuses despite her mother-in-law's entreaties to follow her advice. She says: "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge ...".  When Ruth and Naomi return home  Ruth encounters Boaz a worthy  landowner in whose fields she gleans during the barley harvest. Boaz sees to it that there is extra barley for her to glean and noting her loyalty to Naomi, to whom he is related, decides to marry her, having negotiated a number of legal problems on the way. "So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife, and when he went into her, the Lord gave her conception and she bare a son."
It is a moving story in many respects and one which Victor Hugo was deeply enough aware of to make the subject of one of his better known poems Booz endormi. To the kindness and loyalty which underlies it, Hugo adds a dimension of mystery and sensuality. He describes how Ruth, at the end of the harvest when Boaz (Booz in French) is asleep in the fields, lies down, "bare breasted at his feet. "Ruth mused and Boaz slept; the grass was dark; the bells of the flock quivered indistinctly; an immense goodness was falling from the firmament; it was the peaceful hour when the lions go to drink".

Mother to little girl in Sainsbury's this morning: "I know it's a Christmas tree, but it's not Christmas yet, honey!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

shadow, wet, weary

Posted by Picasa...and substance.

After heavy rain, as the sky clears this morning, the smell of wet, fallen leaves makes me think:  if I were abroad, this is what would make nostalgic for Autumn in England, a mellow faintly decomposing smell, an inconseqential, modest smell, the smell carried by the wind this morning among the trees in The Grove.

"I feel quite weary," says my  neighbour, David when I enquire after his well being. "Must be the weather, " I say. "No," says he, "we had a guest yesterday. I find that exhausting."

Friday, October 22, 2010

parade, ..em, crow

Posted by PicasaFeet human, canine and wheeled.

Something strikes me as desirable but unattainable: a poem comprised in less than one word, a half articulated sound, repository of half meanings,  carried away by the wind. Fading, gone.  Ing.

In Mount Pleasant this morning, a crow,  an unusual visitor to this busy street, has found something delectable in the striped area, not quite an island,  in  the middle of the road where vehicles are not supposed to go. Despite the traffic moving in both directions he persists, pecking  frantically at the tarmac between the opposing streams. Only when a car edges too close to him does he flap up into the air to settle on the roof of a bus shelter, only to return when there is a pause in  the traffic. I watch from a distance as he is driven away again,  this time into the branches of a  plane tree. A few minutes later he appears to have given up for, higher up the hill, I see him flying slowly above the road, perhaps looking for a repeat of the taste sensation which was worth  risking wing and tail for.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

waiting, tucked-in, trofie

Posted by PicasaOne floor up: the long wait.

Something I have never been inclined to do is tuck a telephone into the space between my chin and shoulder. I have seen people to do this and rather admired the resort as part of what is now called multi-tasking. I note to day a mother with her mobile so installed her hands free to attend to a small child.

Today  supper will be pesto made from the last of basil that flourished in the green house this Summer. The blend of Parmesan, pecorino, pine kernels, olive oil and masses of finely pounded basil leaves is unctuous and perfumed and perfectly suited to the short, worm-like, twists of pasta called trofie, which retain the maximum amount of sauce.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

sculpture, owls, spotlights

Posted by PicasaFeet again. This time they belong to a new and not very good sculpture of a woman above the beach in Sitges. The feet are probably the best thing about the sculpture, part of which is revealed here by its shadow.

There is a delicious book  called Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim, which I have been meaning to read for at least 50 years. The author was born in Australia and brought up in England. In 1894 she and her first husband, Count von Arnim  moved to Nassenhide in Pomerania which became the setting of this, her first novel. It describes how Elizabeth took over the  deserted garden of her husband's estate and turned it into a thing of beauty. As I read the first couple of pages  I realize what I have been missing. She is sitting in her garden in late afternoon. "Two owls are perched near me  and are carrying on a long conversation that I enjoy as much as any warbling of nightingales ...They say the same thing over and over again so emphatically that it must be something nasty they are saying about me; but I shall not let myself be frightened away by the sarcasm of owls".

It is begnning to be that time of year invariably recorded in this blog when the afternoon sun shines into The Grove at a low angle serving to spotlight through the tree whatever its beams encounter. This afternoon two girls, one with long reddish hair, sitting on a bench are illuminated like characters in a play upon whom the attention of the entire audience is concentrated.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

architecture, sun, totaler

Posted by PicasaSand castles on the beach at Sitges, as I wrote here while still on holiday,  seem to reflect the architectural style of Gaudi whose La Sagrada Familia cathedral and his domestic architecture are high on the list of the things to see in Barcelona, a few miles along the coast.

On the way to Taunton, the sun, as we proceed in a westerly direction, in the late afternoon,  moves from the left hand to the right hand side of the train, as the line winds through the countryside, following, one supposes, the route originally taken by Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway.

The occasion is a dinner to celebrate  the 60 years in which the Chapman Family has managed and now owns the  stately Castle Hotel in Taunton.  Now retired, Paul Henderson, a former hotelier who had one of the finest collections of wine in the country, and by all accounts still hangs on to much of it, drinks fruit juice throughout the evening. He was, but no longer is, also also an enthusiastic smoker, and now... " I don't drink any alcohol at all," he says. "I can't do anything by halves. I'm not the sort of person who smokes five cigarettes a day."

Monday, October 18, 2010

parade, greeting, aging

Posted by PicasaSandals on parade come up again as I draw on the holiday file.

As I walk down Mount Sion I pass an elderly neighbour struggling up the hill on the opposite side of the road. "Good morning," I say perhaps, too cheerfully. By way of acknowledgment, she pushes up her sunglasses, turns her head in my direction, and raises he hand in a forlorn of wave.

At a celebration dinner which goes on into the early hours of the morning guests  many of whom I hadn't seen for 10 years of more, are flattered by the candlelight and immediately recognisable.  I think of them as they were when I first knew them in vigorous middle age. But at breakfast in the hotel next morning, by daylight, I see, they have grown older, greyer less sure in their gait and become slightly bent at the shoulder.  I, of course, haven't changed at all, I catch myself telling myself, but then who notices, in the shaving mirror,  the small changes that take place every day, and stack up like dark clouds in the evening sky?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

morning, ferret, sunflower

Posted by PicasaFirst thing in the morning on holiday (the file is still open)  we step on to the balcony and look at the rising sun to see what sort of day is promised. Today the sky is ploughed with vapour trails. A silvery morning.

In the centre of Tunbridge Wells (back in the present) beside the Millennium clock a young man in a sort of beanie walks past with a ferret on a lead. He stops to talk to some friends, picks up the ferret and caresses the creature as he chats. He introduces it to one of his friends who takes hold of it and allows it to climb up her arm on to her shoulder.

In a parked VW next to the steering wheel is a sunflower. A plastic sunflower, I think to myself, but on close inspection I see that it is a real one. Its stem is in a small vase attached by a rubber suction pad to the windscreen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

walking, archeology, Dickens

Posted by Picasa Walking on the sand. One of the regular walkers by the sea, whom while on holiday I watched with fascination. There is something of the military about this one.

In the bed from which I have lifted all the potatoes, I am doing my Autumn digging.  Before the potatoes, the bed was, for some time, used for bonfires and the disposal of rubbish. The result is that there are still  rusting bits and pieces beneath the soil which make me feel like an archaeologist.  Today, I dig up an old screwdriver and the scoop of a trowel that has lost its handle; and here a piece of metal guttering corroded and broken. Items, which have been lying under the soil lost or forgotten, however mundane or recently buried, have the romantic quality of the lost coming to light.

 I find it hard to admit and hard to believe but I think that I am beginning to overcome a lifelong dislike of the novels of Charles Dickens. I  read the best known as a child and as a grown up almost as a penance. But now, perhaps softened by a fascination with Balzac (it seems almost unpatriotic to prefer him to Dickens), I have begun Barnaby Rudge, a book which I have avoided up till now. And lo, I am tolerating with a warm smile the overflowing, over adjectived and profligate style, and even enjoying its colour and humour. This conversion must to some extent be attributed to the  Kindle eReader which makes the work much more approachable thanks to an adjustable type size in contrast to the small cramped face used for many  editions of Dickens as well as other Victorian novelists.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

reading, close-up, hair


In  The Grove, I watch a man with a camera. He is doing what I do from time to time. He is photographing  one of the squirrels which abound in The Grove. He is standing perfectly still to see how close the squirrel will approach him without being scared by the camera, or by his movements as he adjusts the camera.

"Are  you going to take some photographs?" asks a neighbour when we meet in the street. "It depends, " I say, "on what I come across." "You wouldn't like to photograph my newly cropped hair," she says with a slight gigle which implies that she is not entirely serious, but might, if pushed,  be just willing to pose. I reply, as I begin to walk on with a laugh which seems, I hope, to say, "you can't really be serious, or can you? but  by now it is too late!" Thus we communicate, I think to myself. And should I not have noticed, if not remarked on the fact, that she had had her hair attended to.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ball, flying, smarties

Posted by PicasaIt is only today that I upload Sitges photographs from the Olympus camera. Here is the interminable bat and ball game which I described  on this  blog while we were still  on holiday.

The hedge didn't grow much after its last major pruning, but there are some untidy sproutings here and there which require some work with the shears and the step ladder. Now it is tidy and shipshape for the Winter. I sweep up the clippings but the brisk wind blows many of them away. Later as I walk down Mount Sion there are privet  leaves from the hedge still blowing ahead of me mixed with the early fallen leaves and seeds of the lime.

Being old I no longer care for Smarties, those little, multi-coloured, berry like sweets,  chocolate pills I recall in hard, sweet coats. Today, scattered along a good length of pavement  in Chapel Place at regular intervals and for some yards, is a galaxyof smarties. Did some child suddenly grow up and throw them out of its pram. On reflection I wouldn't  blame it. I wouldn't  blame it at all. I have no nostalgia for smarties.

Monday, October 11, 2010

reading, children, good

Posted by PicasaPart of the series on reading. Reading to the sound of the sea.

Sometimes, as I do to day, although the school is at least half a mile away, I can the voices of children, erupt for the mid-morning break, like the cries of seabirds presented with the discarded remains of a  catch.

The painter, Victor Willing, I read today, advised his son, the film producer, Nick Willing: "You're only rally good when you're too young to know better, or too old to care what people think."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

shadow-walker, weighing, crunch

Posted by Picasa Looking down from our balcony there is plenty of substance and shadows too.

In the bank the teller, having counted the notes I hand him, checks the accuracy of  his count, by weighing the paper money, in what must be a highly sensitive machine. When I comment on this he says that he cannot depend on its accuracy.  There will be problems, he says, if one of the notes is torn and the tear joined with selotape, or even if the notes are damp. Bank notes, too, must watch their weight.

In The Grove, I kick my way through the long, dry leaves  that have fallen from the big oak at the corner by Belvue. They talk back to me in a noisy whisper, like a stage whisper.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

barrow, magpies, weekend

Posted by PicasaReady to roll, an upturned wheelbarrow in a skip.

 On  or circling one conifer in Calverley Park, there are, I count as I pass, seven, or is it eight,  magpies. Not popular birds and the object of much superstition, old saws and like, but striking.

I am  becoming used to the expected and almost look forward to it.  The helpful lady in  the Building Society never lets me down. A whiz at small talk, she greets me this morning with one of her favourite , "Doing anything nice this weekend?" A variation of, "doing anything nice, next weekend?"  which is reserved for earlier in the week.  Christmas is not yet upon us, but she is working on her repertoire which invariably includes, "have you done your Christmas shopping yet?"  Today she says: "People are getting ready for Christmas now, " she says, "arn't they?"

Friday, October 08, 2010

sunset, frugality, twittering

Posted by PicasaPalm trees and lampposts in Sitges.

As I clear a bed where climbing French beans have grown too coarse to eat in the pod, I collect those where I can rescue the seeds for cooking. Next to the beans, or has beans,  I sort the remains of this year's huge potato crop most of which is stored in hemp sacks for the Winter. But still lying on or in  the soil are numerous potatoes which I missed when lifting the crop. Those, which are green or beginning to be eaten by slugs and the like, are discarded, but there is a pleasure in rescuing smaller potatoes which have nothing wrong with them. It is the pleasure of frugal living. On the subject of frugality I think to myself about the opposite qualities, which seem to reign in my character - frugality and profligacy. The dominant one is, I think, frugality, but that doesn't mean to say that profligacy doesn't sometimes rudely assert itself. Not to day.

I have taken up tweeting again. I like the way it concentrates the mind. Although twitter seems to produce much that is inconsequential, I cannot help feeling that there is potential for wit and grace in the format. With apologies to Luigi Pirandello, I say to myself: one hundred and forty characters in search of an author.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

conversation, gadgets, parsnip

Posted by Picasa Used before but re-edited Conversation is part my  new series of feet photographs.

We are lucky to live in an age of electronic gadgets, where  technical progress  so often to takes us by surprise. Some time ago I questioned the value of Ebooks.  Barrett Bonden  has since lent me his Sony Reader on which to read his as yet unpublished novel. I quickly became a convert.  And now I have my own Ebook. Mine is the Amazon Kindle. I can see that it has some disadvantages when compared with the Sony Reader as well as some advantages. While I can buy books in a matter of moments with Kindle's wi-fi facility and subscribe to and receive various magazines and newspapers, I cannot get hold of books in French.  Amazon France, does not, it seems, yet have Kindle books available in French. Meanwhile the advantages of having an Ebook of whatever make, are immediately apparent. Within a few minutes of owning the device I had acquired the complete works of Shakespeare, the complete works of Charles Dickens and the complete works of Tolstoy, the King James Bible and the option to sample and buy if I choose a number of other books. The total bill is about £8.00.  new books are naturally more expensive, but less so than new books even when  the cover price has been discounted by Amazon. Two excellent dictionaries come free with the Kindle.  No worry as yet about storage space. The latest version of Kindle has capacity for around 3,500 books. Shelf space at home meanwhile becomes free because I am able to discard a number of old and dusty classics in worn bindings and with yellowing pages, for which I now have no use.

Dave Jones who is a builder and decorator gave me earlier this year a packet of parsnip seeds. He apparently has a contest every year with a friend to see who can grow the longest parsnip. And these were left over from his planting.  I am not interested in such challenges, but parsnips are now a topic of conversation when ever we meet.  Today he tells me of a man who has grown a parsnip 9ft long in a drainpipe.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

gate, sodden, squat

Posted by PicasaPart of the gate into The Grove, something I see almost every day, but which I don't really notice until I photograph it close up.

After the rain the earth is sodden and water drips from every branch and leaf.  Drops of water shine on blades of grass  and on clover leaves like glass beads.

On one of the two posts erected to support a beech sapling sits a squirrel. Its paws are folded over its stomach as though it is meditating. But something is worrying it. Every now and then it makes the odd noise that squirrels make, half a cluck, half a squeak. I take out my camera and photograph it. Usually on such occasions there is no time for a portrait, but this time the pose is held. The creature might have been waiting for me. Only when I walk away does it jump down from its perch and go about its normal business.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

cats, want, piano

Posted by PicasaIn the little garden which surrounds the memorial statue of the painter, Santiago Rusinsol, there are always cats to photograph on meditate upon. This little one clearly wasn't here last year.

A girl walks past me protesting into her mobile: "Yer, but I want to marry him."

In the window of Brittens, the music shop, is a new Bechstein grand. A  magnificent, desirable object, replete with silent potential, I think, but not one desired by me, who has no room for it, and who could produce no useful sound from it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

agave, Gaudi, past

Posted by Picasa On some low cliffs above the bay called San Sebastian in Sitges, agave and prickly pear grow side by side on the edge of  the Mediterranean.

Curious that the sand castles which children  build on the beach here  look like the towers of Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia, the still unfinished cathedral down the coast in Barcelona.

"I tend to live in the past", said the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist, Herb Caen, "because most of my life is there." Reassuring to one of my age, I think to myself, but really no excuse.