Saturday, June 30, 2012

Roscoff onions stats meadow

No apologies for offering a further update on the Roscoff onion sets which Lucy Kempton sent me from Britanny in the Spring.  Because of the cold weather  and grey skies it has taken time for the bulbs to begin to swell. As I have said I have hoed them assiduously and I am beginning to feel  that L's kind gesture will not be in vain.
Oh yes, and I mustn't call them Roscoff onions because although the sets come from Roscoff the bulbs are maturing elsewhere.  Appelation controlee.

As I get older when considering some of the preoccupations which  afflict people of my age, I find myself consoled by certain statistics .   I like to remember that:  the Universe is probably 13. 7 billion years old; The Earth is 4.54 billion years old; life  of some kind has existed on Earth for 3.8 billion years; human beings evolved between 150,000 - 200,000 years ago; we are supposed to share something like 97 per cent of the genes of chimpanzees.

Calverley Crescent, the road  above Tunbridge Wells with the dignified spacious houses build by Decimus Burton in the 19th Century, borders  a meadow, which is at its best at this time of year. Never in my recollection has the meadow looked better, now that the grass has been left to grow and sway in  the wind as it does this afternoon. Butterflies, so rare nowadays, are back and buttercups and willow herb are in abundance. More wild flowers please, everywhere. I have made my own contribution by sowing two substantial strips in the vegetable garden.

Friday, June 29, 2012

garden wild horseless -carriages

Gardens grow in surprising places  - this one entirely by chance on the roof of a building in The High Street. The plant which the pigeon seems to be enjoying is yellow fumitory. The plant  is prolific round here, flourishing in the angles of walls and footpaths.

A local blogger (Anke The Royal Tunbridge Wells Blog) has published a photograph of the insect-attracting plants on the corner of the lawn opposite The Town Hall.  To my dismay he doesn't  approve of the mass of wild  and semi-wild flowers clustered in charming natural disorder. "They get my goat," he says. But they make to my way of thinking a welcome change, to  the regimented lines of brightly coloured bedding plants favoured by most council gardeners. As I stand to admire the scene a young man joins me. "They've made a good job of this!" he says, and begins to identify the flowers. Together we note borage, woundwort (of which he supplies the name) different mints, poppies and marigolds a-plenty. Bronze fennel bends its fine petioles above the bank of the bed. "Look there's a bumble bee," he says. It works, and at the very centre of the town, passing traffic notwithstanding.

 Technology marches on. I read in a letter to The Financial Times of Queen Victoria's reaction to the  "horseless carriage"   "I hope you will never allow one of those terrible machines to be used in my stables."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

explorer goodbye hedgehog

Visitor beside the front door. Wild life is hard to resist even when it is on the slow side.

Someone with whom we have exchanged a few words departs from  a seat neighbouring ours in The Tunbridge Wells Bar and Grill. He says "see you later." It is a new way of saying goodbye which I have noticed is now becoming quite common.

 In a friends garden where we are drinking and eating yesterday evening a hedgehog appears and scurries across the path.  We follow quietly to see if we can see it. It is hiding in some shrubs watching us watching it.  Wild life again. A sense of other worlds close to and parallel with ours but managing as far as possible to keep separate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

photo-friendly guitar lavender

These alliums are everywhere in gardens nowadays made popular by flower-shows such as Chelsea. And no wonder! They are onions  I suppose. The genus includes lillaceous, strong smelling, bulbous plants such as onion and garlic. Last time I referred to them, perhaps a year ago, or was it two? Lorenzo da Ponte, then  Barratt Bonden, punningly commented, " 'spem in alium' referring to Thomas Tallis setting from the Latin Mass: Spem in alium numquam, habui praeter in te Deus Israel. -" I have never put my hope in any other but though O God of Israel". So puns lead onions  to music and  to the scriptures as music  does to almost everything, as the progenitor of Tone Deaf would surely agree.

From an open window this still afternoon when the air is heavy with unspent moisture and perhaps expectation, comes the sound of someone strumming  a guitar. It is a gentle almost reluctant sound, speaking of ideleness and relaxation, calm and meditation. And its source is distant enough not to irritate.

The sight in a neghbouring garden of a hedge of deep blue lavender over which flow drifts of white roses. Colours which can only charm  and never offend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

lights leeks Zarathustra

Traffic lights deconstructed. A  postcard-sized doodle that went wrong and which I have turned into a montage.

For the last few months I have been collecting the cardboard cylinders round which kitchen rolls are wound. The object is to use them  as collars to blanch leeks. Setting out  leek plants is easy anyway. You make a hole with a dibble and drop the young plant into it. Water poured from the can into the hole pulls the root down, and nature takes care of the rest. This time I sink the cylinder into the hole and drop the plant into the centre of it. I water in the roots as usual. The  cylinder issues a hollow gurgling sound  which is a pleasure to hear as it fills with water, a sort of thank you. With this system the leeks should should be longer as well as  more of stems being blanched.

For my grandson's birthday I set aside Frederich Nietzsche's Zarathustra's Discourses in the Penguin 60's Classics series. It fits neatly in a n enevelope with a card. The card is a copy of Traffic Lights Deconstructed above. It may amuse if not enlighten him. "Behold I am weary of my wisdom, like a bee that has gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it."

Monday, June 25, 2012

doodle basket hoeing

One of the first of a the series of doodles which I began recently and which I am still engaged with.

In The High Street, a small  baby in a very modern basket all buckles and blankets. The mother places it tidily in the back of a five door VW and then, following a practised procedure, arranges a larger child in the  car and collapses the push chair in which it was sitting and adds that to the payload. It is all done with great precision, one might almost say craftsmanship.

A little sun after the rain and the weeds shoot up. Fortunately I have been busy with the hoe despite the bad weather and very few weeds persist. It is a bearable chore to eliminate those which I do with swift movents of the hoe. Nothing more satisfying thanthe rows of onions which Lucy sent from Brittany in the Spring, and which are now  hoed and swelling elegantly under their green plumes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mandela summer grumbling

I often pass this bust of Nelson Mandela  beside The Festival Hall on the South Bank of the Thames. It reflects  a world that has changed.

This morning the chill wind of the last few days persists.   Then after a heavy shower  the sun unexpectedly appears. I step outside. Blessed warmth. An on the petals of the dark blue (the plantsmen call them black) violas tiny, translucent  rain drops catch the light.

Grumbling about pigeons to a neighbour I say that they have started to nibble the tops of my cos-like, little gem lettuces. They seem to have a weakness for this variety. "I hate pigeons," she says. "They don't want to eat them. They do it because they are vicious." I have heard country people describe  fox assaults on their chicken runs in the same way, when a fox apparently slaughter far more chickens than it is going to eat. I don't hate pigeons myself, but lettuce does strike me as an unusual diet for them. I think of the blog title My Cat Eats Bananas referred to me by CC whose visits to Now's the Time I always appreciate.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

reflection friends pipe

Sissinghurst gardens from the outside.

"I've made more friends here," says the Belgian nurseryman at The Farmers' Market, " than in Belgium ." He greets me with a handshake and the one word "pigeons" because we are both plagued by them in our gardens.  The pigeons have now started to nibble the tops of my Little Gem lettuces. Until  now lettuces have proved the most successful crop thanks to the rain.

I watch as a man stops to light a pipe in The Grove. He is practised smoker. Despite the wind it begins to puff out a cloud of smoke.  He walks on his pipe emitting skeins of smoke as though he is a steam engine and the pipe is a component of the machinery which propels him forward. He greets me with a cheery wave  of  his hand, the pipe still clenched between his teeth. The smell of freshly lit tobacco lingers in his wake.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

late-comer disaster horse

Cistus flowers in the afternoon visited by a late bee.

An optimist and a fantasist with little sense of time I am concerned to read to day that The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will crash into one another in 4 billion years.

In the supermarket I bring some mushrooms to the checkout. "What sort of a mushrooms are these? Do you know?" asks the check out girl. "I think they're closed-cup," I say, "but I didn't look." She examines the screen above her electronic till to identify them. "Not closed-cup," she says and summons help." After further consultation it turns out that they are horse mushrooms. Excitement all round. "Magic mushrooms." snicker the young men behind me in the queue who are stocking up with cases of beer and cider.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

rare groom dentist

Chihuahua perhaps.

Moss Bros (now known as Moss) are promoting marriage or at least the hire of wedding attire in their store near Tunbridge Wells Station. "Groom goes free, when you hire or buy" proclaims a notice in the window. Free perhaps but he won't be for long.

On my way to the dentist I am waiting for the bus to Sevenoaks. The dentist who has managed by gnashers for 30 years is in that town about 12 miles from Tunbridge Wells. Along comes a couple who live nearby. "We're going to catch the bus to Sevenoaks," they say. "We're going to the dentist. It turns out to be a different dentist. But from this coincidence one might easily infer, wrongly as it turns out, that there are no dentists in Tunbridge Wells. There is still an odd element of synchronicity hanging over this encounter in my mind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

periwinkle money seeds

Not just the colour but the name made me fall in love with this flower many years ago. The genus is vinca.

The Italian delicatessen on the corner of The High Street and Mount Sion has tables outside and is now almost as much a restaurant as a deli. "I'll never make any money," says the owner. "I like to see people happy." He seems to do well enough but you feel easy with the sentiment.

June is not yet out and the longest day not yet in the past, but the seeds on the lime tree opposite our house are already showing up yellow, and miniature green conkers are already forming pyramids where barely two months ago the horse chestnut candles were alight.

Monday, June 18, 2012

cows licensing telephone

Cows again. Companionship.

Yesterday I say to the barman at The Compasses when he apologises for keeping me waiting, that there's no hurry. It seems not so long ago that at 2 pm on a Sunday the landlord used to call "time" and the clientele had to drink up and go home. He looks puzzled for a while. "Yes, " he says. "I've heard about that." He must be very young and I very old. It seems only the other day when drinking was restricted to a few hours at lunch time and a few more in the evening. "I wouldn't mind going back to that," says the barman.. "We've got a baby and I never get to see him".

|Among the sounds that I associate with this time of year are those of the starlings that nest in the capital  of the  classical column set into the facade of the house opposite.  It is a busy site, which I have blogged about before.  One family has already fledged this year. and now the demands of a second, ring insistently like a telephone, as the parents fly to and fro, slaves to their offspring.

portrait kindness Ulysses

In case anyone missed it I have reposted yesterday's post where the layout went sadly wrong.

Portrait of a lady. In a tea shop with reflections of the building opposite.

What we need in the world is kindness as opposed to preaching. I often think with pleasure of Wordsworth's "little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love". And I am reminded of his words to day by the speech delivered by Ang Sun Kui in Oslo 21 years after she was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize. "Of the sweets of adversity - and let me say that they are  not numerous - the sweetest, the most precious of all is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of others."

Yesterday was Bloomsday, when the novel, Ulysses, which records a day (June 16 as it happens) in the life of Leopold Bloom, James Joyce's unlikely hero as makes his way across Dublin mixing business with pleasure as he goes. This year the BBC broadcast a shortened version throughout the day concluding at midnight. I go to sleep with with Molly Bloom's  unpunctuated, stream-of consciousness monologue with which the book ends in my ears.  "...and first I put my arms round him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

ceonothus thought compulsive

This plant photographed near here a few days ago grows wild in California and in similar climates. In an English garden, though of a lovely colour, it often strikes an alien note, among pastel shades. We had one in our small front garden a few years back.  It grew into a tree, which took up a lot of space, and  then blew over in a storm. We missed it for a while but not any longer. When it is not in flower it stops being much of an adornment and the space can be more interestingly used.

In the train I realise that I have nothing to read. Instead I decide to think. Not an easy pass time.
I don't believe that I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. But sometimes I  am nearly there. Before I go out I have to check for the following things on or about my person: Camera, notebook, pen, pencil, reading glasses, spare notebook with tear out sheets.  These are essential, and if I forget them I have to go back.  Other items - such a knife if I am going  to the garden, a handkerchief,  my wallet containing money, plastic cards and the like, and loose change - I can often do without. And I  think of myself as free.

Friday, June 15, 2012

thistle Shard chewing

Thistle growing  in full majesty in  the angle of a pavement and wall in Mount Sion.

As the train for Tunbridge Wells winds its way out of London, I catch sight of the the newly completed Shard skyscraper piercing the sky above London Bridge Station. As the line meanders southwards the glass and steel building changes its position on the skyline, and I am reminded of Proust's recollection of the twin spires at Matinville-le-Sec changing their alignment in the evening sky when seen from the carriage in which he was travelling.  He and his family had been given a lift back to Combray by Dr Percepied when one of their walks had turned out longer than planned. The experience becomes one of many which form the web of memory in  In Search of Lost Time, and which communicate their intensity to readers such as me, and so a French village  in the Nineteenth Century is linked to a new London building in the 21st.
On a bench in The High Street an elderly couple sit enjoying their lunch. In a fleeting moment as I pass I catch the enthusiasm and vigour with which they bite and chew  their generous sandwiches. The happiness with which they seem to be blessed is rare and not always, I think to myself, valued at the time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

cistus termination thinking

 A sequel to a previous photograph. Bees and cistus flower.

"This train will terminate at Tunbridge Wells,"  says the loudspeaker. Something coldly final about the word "terminate"recalls the even  more chilling  "exterminate, exterminate" repeated, with harsh mechanical croaks by the  oddly shaped, highly improbable but none the less frightening Dalek robots in the original  Doctor Who television series. The language of the railways seems to possess its own linguistic code, where passengers are addressed as"customers", which  for reasons I have never been able to fathom, I have found almost has scary as the Daleks.

Nothing to read on the train. What to do? Look out of the window at the passing countryside, the walls of green, and think. Ain't anything wrong with thinking. Perhaps none of us do it enough.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

fat elder greeting

I have a weakness for number plates and slogans where hidden messages and ironies abound. Could someone have chosen this and paid for it? Or is it chance?

From the train I spy two telegraph posts in the middle of a field. Against each is an elder tree in sprightly flower. Its white saucers ride up beside  bare brown poles. Unlikely pairings but by all appearances long established. Now that I think about it, I have noticed them before at this time of year.

On my way to the vegetable garden a builder greets me: "Hello mate, are you alright?" Is it a sign of our troubled age that the possibility of things being other than alright should be implied in a conventional  greeting between virtual strangers?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

tidbit rain drops more rain drops

Today's blackbird with tidbit.

From our bedroom window I watch raindrops sliding down the underside of the telephone wire which is at a gentle incline. Something makes them cling to the wire, though eventually they fall off. For a time though they resemble suspended overhead rail cars as they follow one another relentless as the rain itself this morning.

When it rains really heavily as it has been all day a puddle appears on the paving outside our front door. To tell how hard it is raining we have only to look through the glass panels of the front door to count the splashes.


Monday, June 11, 2012

pylons rain fat

Pylons are often thought to spoil a landscape but these seem to add interest,  forming a discrete chain across the Sussex weald. They are seen here from  the village of Fletching. I have taken photographs of them before bu  make no apologies for posting this new one.

It has rained all day. Drops fall not just from the sky but from hedges and trees. Plants need no extra watering from me, and would look complacent if it were not that they, like me seem to need the warmth and colour of the sun. 

In the vegetable garden I cut two fat lettuces and place them in a round,  shallow basket to show them off  to advantage. Tonight a salad garnished with grilled  haloumi cheese.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

visitor tennis commentators peppers

The cistus outside our front door attracts bees in reassuring numbers every year.

The French Open Tennis at Roland Garros is not in my opinion as good as Wimbledon . The clay courts do not produce the speed and drama of grass. While watching the tournament on TV I have been trying to imagine a device which would allow me to hear the sound of the racket striking the ball, the server bouncing the ball in front of him before serving, the applause of the crowd, even the grunts of the players, but which cuts out  the constant stream of chatter from the official commentators. (And why two commentators? One supplying the minimum of factual information required would be enough.)  The tension during a tennis match between points is a great part of the excitement of the game. It is a tension made the more poignant by the expectant silence of spectators. It is a silence which as a TV viewer I want to share.  I write imaginary letters to the newspapers asking them to imagine watching a tennis match at the court-side while two people sitting next to you talking to each other relentlessly between every rally. It makes me feel better but it doesn't solve the problem.  If the last few years are anything to go by  TV viewers we will be forced to suffer surplus jawing at Wimbledon in a few weeks time.
In the soaked earth I plant  out a row of pepper plants produced from seed. I have never grown them out of doors before. It seems madly optimistic in the coldest and wettest of June days to attempt it this year.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

break corner chervil

Decorators in a doorway take a lunch time break.

Hedge cutting time again. Someone is coming to help. But there is one corner of the garden where we sit with tables and flowerpots, where for comfort and peace of mind, I always cut the hedge first. Today, with the hand shears, I clip the seven foot monster and restore a sense of order where it matters most. Help does not materialise today, but  I sit in the nest, minus the sense of frustration with which I started the day.

Under the hedge where most of the herbs grow as, I sit down  with a cup  of tea, I spot some chervil in  a pot which I recently planted but have forgotten about.   I think of omelette aux fines herbes. I suspect that in France the fine herbes would as a rule include chervil, whereas in England its delicate  flavour ( imparting a hint of lickerish) is less well known.

Friday, June 08, 2012

market flute tufts

At the Pantiles  farmers' market.

A Buddhist monk is photographed playing a bamboo flute at Chegde in Hebei province in  China.  If a photograph can be heard you can hear this one thanks to  the combination of calm and tension in the subject's  face, a fleeting mischief in his eyes and  his attentive fingers disposed over the instrument. It is for photographs like these that I buy The National Geographic Magazine's  sister magazine Traveller, even though my travels are nowadays strictly limited.

Gales have been blowing last night and all day with an unseasonable abandon. In The Grove tufts of leaves are scattered everywhere  as if a monster vandal has been at work grabbing and stripping the branches.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

herd Vivaldi new

Although no expert I suspect that the breed of this herd is Sussex. It is hard to resist  photographing such gentle  beasts especially when cows and their calves are allowed to enjoy the rich summer meadow together.

In the garage through which I have to pass to reach the vegetable garden a Vivaldi  CD is playing. Builders are renovating the house. Someone is extending an ornamental pond in the garden and the regular gardener is mowing the lawn. Wheelbarrows, lawn-mowers and skips, stacks of gravel and quartets.

I begin a new note book. I enter the date.  I started the last one was June 28 2011. I realise that I began this blog in June 2005 which means that I have been seven years ablogging.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

cow empty bunting


In the super market, an old man, collects two or three items from the shelves and puts them straight into a plastic bag, instead of  one of the baskets provided. At the check-out he places his purchases on the conveyor and  shows the check-out girl that his bag is empty, before, as she registers them on her cash machine, he replaces them in the bag.

Where yesterday's jubilee party was held the bunting is still up criss-crossing the street. It chatters in the wind. A bleak sound like rain falling on a roof  top.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

aerial Jubillee party

Blackbird sings on aerial.

One moment during the celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is engraved on my memory. During the concert outside Buckingham Palace last night the pop group Madness performed  its song My House from the Palace Roof. Among the images projected onto the classical facade of The Queen's  imposing  London home  was a  photograph of a 1960's block of flats. In an instant a  building which has come to symbolise royalty, riches  and privilege was transformed into one which suggests poverty and  mean streets.  Neither building  is an architectural masterpiece but the irony amid the cheery good humour of the occasion could not have been entirely lost on anyone whether republican or royalist by inclination.

After watching on TV the Lancaster bomber and Spitfires fly over the cheering crowds in  the Mall at the end of the four days of ceremony I step out into the rain for some fresh air. The Grove is deserted but sounds of music flows up from the streets between the park and The High Street. A street party is in progress. The rain is steady but a spread of cakes, meringues and sandwiches is displayed on trestle tables beneath a marquee with transparent sides. Children are running in and out of the rain and grown-ups are drinking beer and tea under umbrellas. What a strange people we are: noisy, sentimental, brash, crude, brave, kind,  vulgar,  knowledgeable, wise and often proudly, blissfully ignorant. But still mercifully alive and kicking.

Monday, June 04, 2012

cat ivy basket ball

I have often seen this cat in an upstairs window but by the time I have produced my camera, it has moved away. This time I am lucky.

From our bedroom window you can see a street lamp.  Today I notice that ivy has climbed almost half way up the standard towards the bulb container. There is something apocalyptic about the thought of a street lamp  completely enshrouded in ivy.

As we sit for a few minutes in Calverley Park I watch  a basket ball rising in the air and falling into a basket above some shrubs. It seems to be propelled by invisible hands belonging to invisible people.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

petal evolution rain

Parrot tulip petal.

Going through the stack 11 notebooks  which I have filled over the last 9 or 10 years ( I wish I could be more precise,  but their object has  not been  to serve as a diary or  any other record except that of ephemeral images and thoughts as they occur), I see that when the series began my chief preoccupation was drawing flowers, trees and animals,  or people sitting at  pub table or lying on beaches, walking in towns or lounging in cities. In the space of one book  I see that the focus begins to  change and drawings give way to words, until now the pages are packed with them and there are scarcely any drawings. I realise that this change coincides with the evolution of the blog I am now writing. But an odd sense of detachment  removes me from a sense of responsibility for the blog or  for that the matter for the notebooks. Both seem  products of hazard like the weather. They seem simply to have occurred, which may explain why there is little that I can decipher in the notes and less that I can understand.

Having watched the rain falling on the later stages of the pageant on The Thames, I step into the garden where a thinner rain is falling and listen to drops splashing  on leaves. As most people are in front of  televisions, the town is quieter than usual. Birds meanwhile seem to sing louder in the rain.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

fruit tea bags cut


 Overheard : "She said she's bring her own tea bags."

"Nearly cut my arm off the other day," says Henry who is enlarging a pond in a neighbouring garden. He shows me a scar on his forearm. "Just missed the tendon." He was using a long petrol driven hedge cutter.  Henry is  man who clears land and builds paths.  Sometimes I call him Attila on account of his energy in changing the shape of a  piece of landscape. "You have to be careful, " I say for want of anything better to say. " You never know what's going to hit you," he says. He is as proud of his scar as an old soldier of a war wound.

Friday, June 01, 2012

cornice subjects found

Cornice with pigeon.

An idea says my daughter would be to string together and make a long list of  the subjects of a year's emails.

Looking for a letter  which  I have mislaid, I find another  lost item that I had given up all hope of recovering. It is a neat little box of acquerelle crayons which I bought when visiting the Tapies Museum in Barcelona. It has accompanied me on my travels and I have grown fond of it. Somehow it has slipped over the back of a drawer into the space behind where  in my desperation I have been searching for the letter. No letter but a fair exchange I think. And then I find the missing letter too. Not in the drawer space but in a folder among some drawings. A nagging feeling  now assails me:  I can't thing of anything which I should be looking for and can't find.