Wednesday, September 29, 2010

strike, photograph, dragonflies

Today the whole of Spain is in theory on strike. The trade unions want to be sure that the economies demanded  by La Crisis economica, will be fairly shared between the rich, by the business establishment, the working population and the poor. The Zapatero government, which came to power on a wave of popularity, like so many other governments in Europe, is left juggling with limited options. The strike is not universally supported. Our friends in Sitges, a teacher and an artist, are divided about whether to support it or not. Meanwhile, while we are prepared this morning to tighten our belts for the one day of the strike, perhaps to make out own bed, to picnic on the beach instead of eating tapas in one of our usual bars, we find that that little has changed. The street cleaners have not been round to collect rubbish, and the beach, usually meticulously swept, has been neglected. But apart from that, little has changed and most of the shops are open. A bit of an anticlimax here, (though we know that railways and air transport have been disrupted).  But the spoilt and idle side of our nature leaves us somewhat relieved on the last  full day of our holiday.

A photo session on the beach.  A young man in a formal suit staggers into the sea, while holding in his arms, a girl in a strapless, white wedding dress. From long, long ruched skirt, her little feet protrude. He turns with his burden  so that a photographer can capture the scene. He is of slight build; she rather more substantial. His trousers are soaked up to the knees.

While swimming this morning I see two dragon flies skimming the water. I look again to see that the pair have become four. The insects spiral in the sun a few feet above the waves.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

story, lights, shadows

Now here´s a story. It is about 5 pm and the people are leaving the beach. As I walk beside the railings with my camera I notice a person lying on the wet sand. It is a young woman. She wears a patterned white and brown dress and his lying face downwards. Her feet are inches away from the braking waves.  She is perfectly still. Beside her are her shoes and a handbag. She is not dressed for the beach. She is lying face downwards. Her chestnut coloured hair, short and well  cared for, is all I can see of her head. At first I think that she might be dead. And I am beginning to ask myself what action I should take, when a man walking by the sea, passes her stops, bends over and questions her. She seems to respond and he moves away, but returns to reassure himself that she is alright, and having apparently done, so walks on. So do I, having first, rather guiltily taken a photograph. When I return she is still there. And later back on our balcony when I look again, I see that she has moved, but on to the dry sand, where once again, she is lying in the same position flat on her face. Perhaps half an hour later, she is still there, in the same position. Heidi thinks that we should alert someone. But we decide that we will take no action until we return from the shops where we are bound. Almost an hour later she is still there. No one appears to have approached her.
    We decide to tell the pharmacy which is opposite the entrance to the beach. Soon the pharmacist arrives with his mobile phone and appears to be calling the police. But no sooner has he done so, than she gets to her feet, staggers and collapses on her knees. But after a while she manages to put on her shoes  and  to walk without difficulty.
    It is then that a man in a red shirt who has been sitting further down the beach comes to her help. He joins her and the pharmacist, in what looks like an animated discussion. She uses her hands and arms with sweeping gestures more than most people. She appears perfectly  recovered from whatever was wrong with her.  What we think is the last sight of her is sitting on a bench opposite the sea beside the man in the red shirt to whom she is in profound hand-waving conversation.
    We meanwhile go to join some friends for dinner further along the promenade. On returning to the hotel we note that she is no longer on the bench, but when we look down from the balcony, to our surprise, she and the man in the red shirt are sitting at a table directly beneath us. Between then is an empty coffee cup and an empty wine glass.  They have not had dinner because their table is one of the bar tables which have no table cloth.  The conversation  continues as energetically as ever, until we begin to wonder whether they are talking in a sign laguage. Are they two deaf mutes who have met by chance? Or is one of them deaf and the other gifted with this means of communication.  Did they know one another before? One thing is certain:  it is not the conventional sign language used by deaf people. They may simply be talking excitedly. The most precise of the gestures is a circle made with finger and thumb and a spreading of the fingers on the part of the man.
    From our view point we cannot be certain of the precise nature of her gestures but they consist largely of sweeping movements of her arms to left and right. In the morning there is no sign of them. They leave a sense of mystery which still teases us. Answers to our questions could produce an  anticlimax. Perhaps speculation is the best way to keep alive the memory of this strange episode.

Every evening  when it is dark a young man with a bag over his shoulder walks up and down infront of the  restaurant tables. Without warning he fires a green illuminated projectile into the air which opens a helicopter like pair of blades. The machine drifts prettily down He makes no attempt to sell these toys until people approach him, which strikes me as a most gentle form of marketing.

After dark, all the light is infront of the bars and restaurants. Beyond the crowded and colourful  rows of tables there is only darkness and, now scarcely visible, the elegant stainless steel railings above the sea. People with dogs, bicycles and push chairs profiled against the sea as they walk past are almost without colour like shadows or figures in a negative.

Monday, September 27, 2010

gold, butterfly, musician

In the clear water  lit by the sun and stirred by the waves, grains of sand shine like gold dust.

Once again to day, a yellow butterfly flutters past me while I stand in the sea. Again it is flying parallel with the beach, bound it seem for the rocks on the far side of the little bay.

He could be the subject of a short story. A tall man with a sad, narrow face and slightly bent shoulders, arrives outside the restaurant with a trolley. He unpacks  the trolley to reveal a tape recorder, an amplifier, a music stand  and a clarinette. He sets up his equipment and quietly adresses  diners, although he appears to be talking to the empty tables nearest to him. Nobody can quite hear what he is saying. Following his speech, he switches on the tape recorder. It sounds like a theme from Mozart´s clarinette concerto. He raises his clarinette to his lips and proceeds to join in. To demonstrate that he is playing his part, he moves away from his loudspeaker and his contribution reaches our ears, thin, sad and not quite on cue.  One more tune and his repetory is complete. He walks among the diners to collect what change they have to offer him.On successive nights he arrives and repeats the performance with  precisely the same musical extracts. "He is a good man," says our waiter with a smile.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

thrillers, cartilage, godess

Thrillers are reserved for holiday reading. This means that what I read on our annual sybaritic holiday where decision-making is minimal, and little that demands intellectual effort is allowed to intrude, is unlikely to be in the classic mode or right up to date and fashionable in the sense of being what everyone else is reading just at the moment. I read more slowly than I used to, so that each of the two thrillers (one of which I have finished and the other just begun)  lasts two or three days. The Ghost by Robert Harris had me gripped through a prolonged wait at the airport and through the flight. Its cleverness is amazing. The central character whose autobiograpy is being ghosted is a former British prime minister, who led the country into war with Iraq and turns out to be ... but I won´t spoil it for anyone who hasn´t yet read it. Lawyers must have had fun with the manuscript because you would expect a libel action somewhere, but the switch between obvious models (Tony Blair) and his wife and fiction is so cleverly managed that I suppose it must have avoided  the net.
     The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, the first of the Millenium trilogy by Stig Larsonn  has now been made into a film, and only the squarest or slowest of thriller readers will not yet have come to it. I read the second part of the series last year, and am only now coming to the first. The third I suppose must wait till the next holday, but this is so gripping that  I may be tempted. Sordid goings-on Swedish finance, journalistic tightrope walking and the intriguing heroine, like no other in literature, are dragging me into an unfamiliar but completely credible world.

The Ninth Conference of the International Cartilage Repair Congress is in session in Sitges. Everywhere people are walking round with labels round their necks. Watching people in bars and restaurants, we can speculate about their roles in cartilage repair. What precisely is a cartilage? If Wikipedia is to be believed it is "stiff and inflexible connective tissue found in the bodies of men and women between bones". It doesn´t contain blood vessels and its texture is softer than bone but harder than muscle.

We call her The Goddess. Every morning she arrives on the beach, strips off and arranges two towels side by side. On one she places a sort of cushion like a Chinese pillow, and begins to annoint herself with cream. Her body has assumed the colour of chestnut almost that of a conker freshly emerged from its green casing. In response to the frequent reapplication of cream, it shines like the body of a much loved and polished motor car.  Most of the day she lies on the towels turning to ensure an even colour. She breaks from her prone position only to apply more cream and occasionally, having added  the top half of her bikini  to the lower half, to play a vigorous game  of bat and ball with one of the two regular players (see previous post) to whom she appears to be attached.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

hats, bodies, accordian

Yesterday, the sight of a man entering the water in swimming trunks and a hat. The hat is green with a rounded crown like a small bowler hat. When he is far enough out to swim, he plunges forward but swims with one arm. His other arm is extended like the periscope of a submarine, the hat all the time held clear of the waves. The habit must be catching. This morning I encounter a woman who has been swimming far out. She is wearing a sun hat of some sort of woven plastic, faux straw. The hat bobs up and down like a buoy for which I mistake it at first.

From our third floor balcony this afternoon I look down on the beach. It is searingly hot, far too hot for us to venture out of the shade and the cool of our room. But the beach is littered with all but naked, sacrificial  bodies, pointing this way and that, but usually with their heads to landward. Some are stretched out on towels, others on blue sun beds. All are slowly grilling, marinaded in refined and scented oils such as coconut and (I dare say) avocado or wild asparagus, or ambergris (If there is such a thing as ambergris oil, but I like the idea). Up here you can almost smell the oleoginous perfume as it floats up towards the gods.

As I look down from the balcony I hear the sound of an accordian drifting up to me The accordianist has black hair on which, perched to the front, are a pair of sunglasses. He wears a green shirt against which the black bellows of the accordian and the white key boards glitter in their different tones. The sound, interrupted by the wind and the continuous conversation  of the waves, floats up, rythmic, hypnotic, infintely persuasive like the theme music of a film. He stands feet astride beneath a palm beside a line of tables where people are lunching. He wears black a trousers and shining, black shoes with pointed toes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

cleaning up 2, horchata, butterfly

On the promenade, one of the town hall workers has a small engine on his back which powers a blower, technology´s answer to the broom. It strikes me that he is simply transferring dust and rubbish from one spot to another, when I spot a vehicle with two brushes in front of it. The brushes rotate in opposite directions, sweeping all they encounter beneath the vehicle´s belly, where  its prey is inhaled by a vacuum.

Horchata as I remember is a sweet drink with a nutty taste which they used to sell in milk bars and the like when I lived in Spain nearly 50 years ago. When I tried it again recently I found it unpallatable, but at that time it had, I suppose, lost the attraction of novelty. It comes to mind to day when I see the word Orxata, which I take to be the Catalan word for horchata. What strikes me as intereting is that it is chalked on a blackboard in an American style chain called Dunkin´Coffee. Where the entire menu and sales idea is trans -Atlantic or perhaps mid-Atlantic; and here, you have a local Spanish traditional drink and a Catalan word fighting through a franchise  like a persistent plant, despite the attention of gardeners, forcing up between paving stones.

As I stand amid sparkling waves, up to my shoulders in the sea, I see, against the blue sky, an ochre yellow butterly  fluttering on a more or less intentional course parallel with the beach.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

game, clearing up, obsession

Every year there are two men hitting a ball at one another at the edge of the sea. But this year though the game , if you can call it a game, is the same, the men are different. One has something resesmbling a bat and the other something resembling a racket, resulting in marginally different sounds when the ball is hit. The ball is somewhat smaller than a tennis ball and somewhat larger than a golf ball. It is padded in some kind of multicoloured material. The men, of middle age, like previous manifestations of players, are adept at it They seldom miss the usual volley, but if they do, pick it up on the first bounce. On they go - plop, pluck, plop, pluck. What strikes me is the persistance of the phenomenon, as though, the game is attached to the place, and its function occupied by different players year after year by default.  It is like birds of the same breed but of different generations occupying the same territory in successive years.

In the morning I watch the meticulous cleaning operation undertaken by employees of Sitges town hall. On the beach, uniformed men rake up the sea´s jetsam and the detritus of yesterday´s human occupation of the sand. They make little piles of rubbish, which they transfer to black plastic bags, which in turn are picked up by a truck. It is a daily  routine a little like the way we brush our teeth.

On the sand is a woman in a mauve shift. She walks from one corner of the beach, for a few yards along the the firm, wet sand at the edge of the sea, and then strikes off at an angle across the uneven, dry sand towards the promenade. At first, I think that she is about to leave the beach, but no,  her route describes a circle round a stack of beach beds, before returning to the corner of the beach by the sea from which she started. Unlike others who have the habit of walking from one end of the beach to the other beside the breaking waves, she does not appear to be enjoying herself. Her gaze is fixed before her feet and her arms swing like those of a soldier on a forced marched. Her face has the tight expression of someone obsessed. And indeed, as I watch her time and time again, following her own track in the loose sand, I realize that she is under an obsession to look 20 years younger than she really is, at any cost.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

millionaires, explosions, distances

Feathers beneath the wisteria which climbs above our front door, betray the pigeons which visit the old nest hidden among the leaves. They come there sometimes, " says Heidi who keeps an eye on them from her desk by the window, "They are like millionaires with lots of houses."

Ten explosions follow ten flashes in the blue sky above the church in the centre of Sitges. It is 2 pm and they announce the fiesta of Santa Tecla, which will conclude tomorrow evening with fireworks. People, who unlike us are not used to this practice, start up in alarm, and shade their eyes as they look up into the sky.

As usual this morning, I enjoy looking down from the balcony of our hotel, on the half moon shaped beach. I watch people walking up a down along the sea´s edge and try to work  out the extent of this gentle excercise. How to guess distances? A hundred metres is one guage. And the other is 22 yards, the length of a cricket pitch.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

squash, drinking, mondegreen

Posted by PicasaProof of the pumpkin. Here it is, the pumpkin squash which has climbed into the branches of an espaliered pear tree in the vegetable garden. You may remember that I mentioned it here the other day. It still hangs there today, although it has expanded  in size and weight since then.

There are four of them, off to watch football, I guess. They are standing in the crowded, London-bound train. Members of the same family I imagine, a man in his 50s perhaps and two younger one in their 20s and 30s and a young woman in her 20s. Similar features, a slightly turned up nose, and an easy way of talking, (their south London accent in the ascendant), suggest a close relationship. Their conversation is lively and genial and replete with anecdote. And they are drinking, warming up for the match no doubt,  direct from the bottle, as people do nowadays.  Now and then one of them stoops to deposit an empty bottle in a cardboard box on the floor beside their feet,  from where a replacement is provided. I watch and enjoy the sensual way in which they raise the bottles, almost, but not quite in unison, and tip the beer into their mouths as they talk.

Some time ago I referred here to mondigreens  - words based on mishearings.  The word  mondigreen is derived from a mishearing of the  Scottish ballad  about the Bonny Earl of Murray, which goes " They hae slain the Earl of Murray,/ And laid him on the green." To the ears of the child to whom the poem was read, this became "They hae slain the Earl  of Murray/ And lady Mondegreen. I am reminded of mondigreens by one which seems to have occurred naturally in the way different  languages sometimes melt into one another. The French word that prompts this post is boulingrin, which is derived from the English word bowling green, and has the same meaning, a fact which is confirmed by the French dictionary Robert. The date for its first use in French is given as 1663.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

pebble, reading, gum

Posted by PicasaThis small pebble which I surprise in this position on the beach seems to have worn a crater in the larger one. But as both are lying loose among other pebbles my theory may be faulty.

In the train, opposite me and next to Heidi sits a young man reading a book. The book is on the table in front of him. And he attacks it as though he wants to eat it. It is a large book with illustrations and he appears to be short sighted, so that he leans forward over it,  his nose not far from the print. But  most surprising are  his large white hands, which clutch  the volume now at the top, now at the sides, caressing the pages and cover  as he reads.   His hands move restlessly, sometimes flipping back to the previous page to check a word or a fact. At first I think that it must be a text book of some sort which this extreme physical activity demands.  But the skill  developed over the years, in deciphering print upside down, honed by long experience in similar  cases, reveal that it is The Sherlock Holmes Short Stories which he is reading. I find myself wondering what facts  the great detective would have deduced about a reader of such marked assiduity.

Later  in another train, a German girl student  talking to fellow students - young men, one English and one French - offers a piece of chewing gum from a small, round box.. "Would you lend me a chewing gum", she is repeating a request from one of her companions, by way of clarification. " I would rather give you one," she  adds, and then: "To lend is to give; to borrow is to take." To complicate matters further in some languages, Heidi and I reflect, the same word is employed for  "lend" and "borrow".

Friday, September 17, 2010

reading, papers, snails

Posted by Picasa Reading. First of a series.

The plot,where I have been growing vegetables  for the last 15 years was part of a garden which belonged to a musicologist called Roy Douglas. He lived in the house to which it was attached for nearly 100 years. He is at present 103 years old. He was a friend of Vaughan Williams. About 15 years ago the people, who lived opposite us bought half his garden because they wanted to be sure that no one built another house there. I came to cultivate the plot because they were not interested in gardening and offered it to me as an "allotment". They benefited because the land was put to use, and I, because I had only to cross the road to pursue one of my chief interests. To begin with I had to clear the ground, which was covered in nettles, brambles and the stumps of old apple trees. When my benefactors sold the house, their successors allowed me to continue growing vegetables there, but added brick paths and a greenhouse. Until recently, Roy used to walk through his garden to talk to me, but infirmity caught up with him, and in the last year or two he remained indoors, looked after by a devoted carer.
    Now he has left the house and gone to live with his carer. The word is that he has perked up greatly since moving. He has resolved to put the house on the market, which accounts for the clearance that has taken place in the remaining part of his land. After the bonfire of cut down shrubs, undergrowth and weeds, the carer, following Roy's instructions, burns stacks of  his papers. "Some of them go back to 1926," she says. I pass across  the fence some beans for Roy, and some sunflowers. I miss his company when I am gardening, occasional though it was. This morning, the wind, stirring the blackened remains of his papers makes me miss his presence in the house even in recent years when I saw him no longer.

In a flower bed  in Mount Sion, which I pass on most days, they have cut down a shrub growing against a wall. This afternoon, I count,  clinging to the wall, no fewer than 13 snails. A convocation of mollusks?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

fishing, cucumbers, brevity

Posted by PicasaTranquility sensed by the watcher and experienced by the fisherman.

Among the  rampant leaves of the pumpkin squashes two prickly cucumbers hang from a plant clinging to  the fence. I had almost forgotten the row of ridge cucumbers which, not realizing the space-hungry nature of this particular squash I had planted between them and the fence. I take a slice from the smaller of the two cucumbers. It is cool and juicy and tastes of the country green.

Having read a few haiku just now, I think to myself:  
   Short poems are best
   For what is hardest to write
   Is too good for words.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

wall, contrast, unexpected

Posted by PicasaA wall above a shop peels to reveal messages from the past.

A man of substantial girth leads a thin, reluctant spaniel across Grosvenor Road. On the other side, he admonishes the still restive spaniel:  " Now, calm down."

Over the years I have exchanged emails fairly regularly with my pal, Barrett Bonden on various matters usually of a literary nature. It seems to have become tacitly the only means of communication between us apart from less frequent lunches at the  Indian restaurant, which has come to be known as "The Bloggers's Retreat". Breaks from routine are almost, by definition, a good thing. They are refreshing, even invigorating. So it is a pleasure to receive, quite unexpectedly, a telephone call from him. I do not as a rule complain of monotony or I hope inflict  it on others. But I am thinking, as a result of his call, to  try to do something unexpected every day, just for its own sake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

mystery, vegetables, Balzac

Posted by PicasaAlmost all windows, particularly when they are open or partly open, have a sense of mystery or at least rouse curiousity.

I am in the midst of harvesting beans, lettuces, chard, squashes, beetroot, courgettes, spinnach, potatoes and tomatoes, and finding suitable neighbours to give the surplus to, when  a seed catalogue arrives with 2011 on the cover. Vegetable fatigue.

The way people spoke on the radio and TV 50 or 60 years ago is often mimicked nowadays. I find myself listening and watching, almost in disbelief, on the BBC archive, to John Lehmann interviewing Aldous Huxley. Their closed vowel sounds, musically  but monotonously articulated, are matched by the stiffness of their posture, which barely changes throughout  the interview, and the absence of a smile or any other expression on their faces.  "In one of your essays," Lehmann says to Huxley, "you suggest that Balzac made the mistake of putting everything he knew in his novels; can you be accused of doing the same thing.? As I am half way through my seventh Balzac novel,  and thinking a lot about Balzac at the moment, I find myself wanting to join in the conversation, but my vowells, hard as I might try, would not be up to it, even if I managed to get back through time to 1958.

Monday, September 13, 2010

occasion, curry, magpie

Posted by PicasaA repeat performance. I took a similar photograph from the same position in St Leonards earlier this year. But the occasion is different, the people are different and the shadows perhaps are longer.

A faint scent of spices serenades my taste buds as I walk past the Indian restaurant in Grosvenor Road.

In a rowan tree among the orange berries, a magpie, between taking pecks at the fruit, emits a staccato clucking sound.  Is he proclaiming his territory? The French have a verb for  for the sound jacasser.  It is commonly used metaphorically for chatter.  I'm not sure that an equivalent exists in English. Jacasse  is apparently an alternative word for pie, the more usual French word for magpie.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

pebble, picnic, older

Posted by Picasa The only pebble on the beach.

In The Grove, a childrens' picnic. Two balloons sway and nod, above a blanket spread on the ground and covered with a mixture of packets, bottles and rubber balls. Grown ups stand round chatting. The sun gleams on the skin of the balloons.

A year on, I watch
Different leaves falling from
The same lime's branches

Saturday, September 11, 2010

at sea, spondulics, fall

Posted by PicasaMy young seagull model takes to the water. I find myself wishing I could join him.

Spondulics, an American slang word for money, from the Greek spondulikos, the adjectival form of spondulox, a type of shell used as early money, I discover. My friend Barrett Bonden uses "spondulics"  in his novel, which I have just read with increasing enjoyment. Spondulics is one of the many things I have learnt from it.

Through the bedroom window  this morning, I see, the first leaves of Autumn blow past. Among them the twirling wings of  lime seeds. Fall, the American term, is more fitting than Autumn. But Autumn has, two melancholy vowel sounds between the the "t" and "mn"  with its silent "m", like an expiring lament, which is not out of place on this grey, drizzly day, when summer should still be around.

Friday, September 10, 2010

gulls, crows, electronics

Posted by PicasaNot everyone likes gulls. I take several shots of this young one,  who strikes me as a bit of a poseur, on the breakwater and in the sea. I take his posing as an invitation to snap. More poses to follow.

Crows, likewise, are not the most popular of birds. For me they are a constant fascination. In The Grove for a number of years now there is always a pair of crows in evidence at this time of year. I call them Mr and Mrs Crow, although I do not believe that that they are the same birds who return year after year. Rather they are more like actors who play the roles prepared for them in my mind. As they strut up and down pecking at the grass, I still imagine them as being in charge of the little park, of seeing it as their personal territory. Today there are two other birds of the crow family, Mr and Mrs Magpie. They keep their distance.

A few minutes ago I finish reading a book downloaded on a Sony Ereader. The book is by Barrett Bonden and I am spellbound both by the medium, which is new to me, and the novel, which I have now read twice, and enjoy more the second time. My thoughts on the novel are reserved at present for its author, but the Ereader strikes me comfortable and pleasant to use. Above all it is a lot easier than reading the novel on the computer screen, which I did the first time round.  Mind you as I come to the end of a "page" it takes me some time to stop going to the top of the screen and looking for something to turn over rather than simply pressing a button with an arrow for forward and one going the other way for back. Will it take the place of the solid, old fashioned book? Certainly as I look around the shelves which line  the walls of our houses, we would have a lot more space for pictures and the like if our library were digitalised, but I have got used to books and love to see them on the shelves, sometime just to run my hands over the binding.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Posted by PicasaThis photograph seems to have disappeared from the post for which it was intended. See below.

landing strip, mate, prickly eggs

Bids for the old cinema site, for so long up for sale, are now in. If a new development goes ahead this time, the pigeons will miss it. And so, because it still provides an endless series of photographic subjects, will I.

As I come out of the convenience store in Grosvenor Road, I nearly bump into a young man, who is coming in. "Sorry, mate," he says. I  find myself enjoying this form of address more and more. Although it wasn't always so, it now seems to be classless.   It is inevitably friendly. If you're a mate, you are on the same wave length, up against the same problem, share common enemies.  No question about it. I find myself using it sometimes, though it doesn't often come naturally to one of my generation, and managerial background;  and I don't always feel qualified as a mate, potential or otherwise.  But still, cheers, mate! Cheers!

Something is making  the leaves of the horse chestnut trees go brown at the edges. It is some sort of bug or virus and has, I suspect, been the cause of a number of such trees being cut down in The Grove. Today I look into the branches of one in someone's garden. Its leaves are sadly disfigured, but the conkers, fat and green, because of the depleted leaves, are more than usually visible among the branches at this time of year, They seem to be a bit distorted though, not quite spherical. They are, I think to myself, like prickly, green eggs.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

breakwater, pies, orator

Posted by PicasaThe texture worn into the wood of this breakwater in St Leonards intrigues the more I look at the photograph. But when I looked at the breakwater before taking the photograph I saw only an interesting composition with a rust stain, probably from a metal fixing, emerging from a hole.

In the butchers an elderly man asks for "two large pork pies" with a sensual relish and appetite in his voice, which makes me feel hungry.

Standing at the entrance to The Grove is a man in a suit. Beside him is a wheeled suitcase in the upright position, its handle extended.  He is apparently using a mobile telephone device hanging round his neck - something new to me - which can pick up his voice from a distance. He looks and sounds as though he is addressing an invisible crowd. He has a loud voice and an American accent. " We upgrade products at the data centre..." he is saying. His voice goes on  and on as I walk past. When I look round, he is still talking into the air, but now walking as well, dragging his suitcase behind him.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

potatoes, shelter, option

Posted by PicasaLifting potatoes, is rewarding, like digging for and finding treasure. These  are Picasso, a main crop variety, which I haven't grown before. Like King Edwards they have a purple tinge and firm flesh, good for baking and mashing. "Trouble free," says the catalogue, and they have been.

A heavy shower and I retire to the greenhouse, where I stand by the open door and smell the rain, and watch it falling on the big leaves and nodding heads of the sunflowers just outside.

As I turn a corner a girl  passes me  walking fast in the other direction. She is talking urgently into a mobile. " He feels like he doesn't have any option, but he does..." she says. And vanishes, a little like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland,  though I can see no rabbit hole.

Monday, September 06, 2010

archive, one wheel, beans

Posted by Picasa I may have posted this before, but moving through my Picasa archive, I decide that I like this tulip, with the light coming though its petals, enough to risk repetition.

In a space in the traffic descending Mount Pleasant, a schoolboy on a bicycle travelling at full tilt, leans back so that the front wheel of his cycle comes off the ground, and he is travelling on one wheel only. As I catch sight of him, he reminds me of a rider on a horse rearing up on its hind legs. Except that in this case the rider is whizzing down hill.

After two days absence from the garden there are plenty of beans to be picked. I gather them into a trug and relish the variety of colours. There are thin, dark blue French beans, yellow flat podded French beans and bright green, traditional runner beans. You don't need to eat them. The sight of them is enough.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

customer, appreciation, improvisation

Posted by PicasaYou have to look twice to see who is drinking outside the pub these days.

To appreciate flowers properly you often have to grow them yourself. A certain variety of sedum began to appeal to me last year at about this time. A year or so ago I couldn't put a name to it. Its big fleshy leaves have an architectural attraction of their own even out of season, but in September with its flower heads opening in clouds of little flowers, it bring new life to a border. Until I planted two sedums  earlier this summer, which are now in flower, I don't think I really understood them, as I do now. In  the process of writing this post, I pop out of the front door to have another look.

In The Grove, this afternoon a group of dads, have gathered opposite the playground where their children are engaged.  One of the dads must have said to another: "To think, we might have been in the pub instead of wasting time here."  "Why not bring the pub to us?" another must have said. Because,  here they are now, standing round a litter bin, bottles, wine glasses and beer mugs on the bin cover, happy as lambs clover,  as if they were in the pub rather than on child duty in the playground. 

Saturday, September 04, 2010

tomatoes, pale, French

Posted by PicasaA stack of tomatoes from  the Isle of Wight deserves and receives careful consideration at The Farmers' Market in Civic Way.

Morning glories again. They persist, running along the branch of a vigorous climbing rose, and weighing it down;  although, almost as a guage of temperature, they seem paler in the autumnal weather.

In Hall's bookshop, following a discussion about  the charms of cumbersome19th  Century novels Sabrina says: "Have you seen the box of French paperback?" She has never taken to stocking  books in French, and hides them away out of sight. She pulls a box  from under a table. They aren't all paperbacks.  I can't resist two Alphonse Daudet  (Editions Fasquel) hardbacks with illustrations, while the paperbacks, all in good condition, include four by Henri Troyat, an author whom I have recently begun to enjoy and several others, including two by Philippe Labro, both  in Gallimard's Folio Collection. I stagger to the cash desk where she casts an eye over them with apparent distaste, " Two pounds," she says.

Friday, September 03, 2010

wayside, games, pouring

Posted by PicasaAutumn and winter are the seasons for photographing fallen leaves. But this one, prematurely fallen on the edge of a path, catches my eye once, and then again, surely a reason to take my camera out of my pocket, and  perhaps, at the same time, offer an explanation of why I always try to have a camera with me wherever I go.

In the train, two girls, one perhaps 15 and the other seven or eight, are sitting opposite us. They appear to be sisters, and to pass the time  playing old fashioned nursery games. I spy with may little eye... lasts  for about five minutes, but was replaced by one, new to me, called Granny went to the Supermarket. One players says "Granny went to the supermarket and bought an elephant ..." and the next player continues, "My granny went to the supermarket and bought an elephant and a teapot..." And so on. That game, too, lasts a mesmerising five minutes before, thank God, it runs out of steam. But still learn something new every day.

On the terrace in front of the Moroccan restaurant called Momo in Heddon Street,  London,  a waiter, with a flourish and practiced accuracy, pours mint tea,  in a long, pale stream, from a tall pot, held at shoulder height, into a glass on the low table in front of us.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

gloves, sculpture, age

Posted by PicasaA basketful of gardening gloves.

The  carrots which I planted earlier in the Summer have been more successful than usual; but, because of the varied rainfall, and  scarcity of rain earlier in the year, the roots, in pursuit of water,  have adopted curious postures and sometimes developed multiple forks leading me to think that perhaps a new type of sculpture has evolved. Regardless of their appearance the vegetable are crisp and sweet, sweeter than the uniform and monotonous supermarket carrots.

The vegetable garden once belonged to the man who owns the neighbouring house.  He was a music historian of some distinction. He is 103. This morning I talk to the gardener who is cutting back his wilderness of a garden and making a bonfire. I ask after Roy, for that his name. Any vegetable to spare for him? I gladly hand across the fence a bag of beans, tomatoes, various leaves and potatoes, and a couple of sunflowers. He is not in any sense a poor man, but will appreciate the fresh produce and the thought.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

creature, beginning, sweet

Posted by PicasaGoing back to the time when I was photographing things discarded in the street, which seemed to be assuming a status beyond their means, I come across the photo of an abandoned umbrella that looks as though it is resting after a long crawl.

Looking into a basement window, I see a man sitting at a table in his shirt sleeves. He is talking into a telephone. He is on the edge of a world with whom he is trying to communicate.  Just as  there is always something beginning for everyone, everywhere, all the time, something is beginning for him, here and now. For him, and for me, a story about him.

The sweet peas, which I have been cutting throughout the summer,  can no longer boast  the long stems and  self-regarding flowers of their early days. But they are none the worse for that. They smell as sweet and their delicate colours and butterfly shapes, though smaller,  remain untainted and undistorted. In a small vase, their stems bending and twisting over the rim,  look as good, perhaps better, than their confectioned predecessors, beloved of florists and flower arrangers.