Tuesday, November 30, 2010

texture, long johns, relief

Posted by Picasa The leaves have dried up and fallen now, but on the last day of Autumn, this photograph remains in the file.

My father as he grew older discovered long johns. Always the rebel, I rejected his advice to adopt this garment in cold spells. Yesterday I  gave in. My thin legs encased in a fine, navy blue pair, are warm for the first time since the present bitter spell set in. My days of macho fortitude are over.

This morning I feel that tasks are beginning to accumulate and weigh down on my easy life. But  I sit down at my desk and in two shakes of a lamb's tail, I write an email to an old friend whom I have rediscovered after 15 years and  solve a problem with what I am writing at the moment. What seemed oppressive has become a tidy box with a tick against it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

hip, enjoy, next year

Posted by PicasaOnce a rose, now a fruit, a brighter red than the rose it used to be.

"Enjoy," says the girl at the supermarket counter where I am buying some sausage. I might be in New York.

"Under the familiar weight
Of winter, conscience and the State,
In loose formations of good cheer,
Love, language, loneliness and fear,
Towards the habit of next year,
Along the streets the people flow,
Singing or sighing as they go."
Although the new year is still a month or so away the melancholy opening lines of Auden's New Year Letter come to mind as I come home through  the streets of Tunbridge Wells. A copy of the book, a gift from a friend, to whose mother, a poet it belonged, has been on my desk for several weeks. The book itself, with its orange cover and title in heavy black type, gives as much pleasure as the poem. It was first published in 1941, the second edition in 1942.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

skip, Beaujolais, sardines

Posted by PicasaComposition in a skip.

If there was one red wine-growing area in France which used to seem rather boring it was Beaujolais - at the southern tip of Burgundy north of Lyons. Perhaps what put me off was the fashion for Beaujolais nouveau, the new season's wine, which despite its red colour has to be drunk chilled, because of its harshness.  There was even a race between Lyons and London to see  who could be first with the new wine released on a particular day. Or else the fact that Beaujolais, with the exception of the crus - named communes with their own appellations which do not as a rule acknowledge Beaujolais on their labels, is usually drunk before it is two years old. But recently I have begun to find  its light and easy style, increasingly attractive, particularly when it is compared with  rich, fruity New World wines based on old world grapes, notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah or (Shiraz). Whether it is Beaujolais Village or one of the crus, I am happy with the freshness and lack of nonsense in the wine, no oak on the palate, no layers of meaning.  You do not find much of the Beaujolais grape, Gamay, planted in The Antipodes or North or South America. The crus, of course, are at the luxury end of this non-luxury wine. Their names alone are worth lingering over.  Before even tasting them , it is hard not to go a bundle on Fleurie, Juliénas, Moulin á Vent, Morgon or St-Amour. Beaujolais and some of the generic and less expensive Burgundies will be our tipple this Christmas.

Sardines in tins or  fresh ones barbecued  are one of the things I could live off if there were nothing else to eat.  But sardines are sardines or used to be. It's hard not to be surprised  however by the extraordinary variety of  forms in which you can buy sardines nowadays. In Sainsbury's, this morning, I noted tins of "boneless" sardines, "skinless" sardines "grilled" sardines and  "wild Scottish sardines. All of these come preserved in brine, sunflower oil or olive oil. On the fresh fish counter meanwhile I spotted filleted "kippered" sardines.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

wet, wagtail, cold

Posted by PicasaComposition: wet leaves on concrete.

Whenever, as I do today, I catch sight of the swooping flight of a pied wagtail, joyful as a child skipping, I respond with reciprocal delight.

The phrase "a cold and frosty morning" comes to me this morning, because it is a cold and frosty morning and a bright one too with the rime  on grass and trees silvered by the sun. But where does the phrase spring from in my memory? A rhyme, a song, a child's story?

Friday, November 26, 2010

taps, mice, paste

Posted by PicasaI can never resist looking into skips, and seldom resist a photograph of their content. I like the slogan here,  the eyes and nose where the taps used to reside and the plughole  among the cast-off carpets.

Any thing wild in these urban surroundings appeals to me for the relative freedom of its existence. Even mice or the evidence of mice have their charm. In the shed in the vegetable garden I left three sacks of potatoes harvested in September, where I thought they would be safe from frost, but this morning I find holes nibbled in the sackcloth and one or two potatoes half-eaten with tell-tale tooth marks in the skin and white flesh. I transfer the sack to a garage where they may be more secure, but leave the half-eaten spuds for the marauders to finish off.

Encouraging responses to my thoughts about scrapbooks has prompted me to embark on a scrapbook venture. It will be far removed from my childhood recollections of the genre. This one will make of use of an A3 size sketch book with a hard, black cover. In it will go all the bits and pieces that don't go in my pocket notebook - post-it tabs, sketches and spontaneous drawings and doodles, as well as pictures from newspapers and magazines, leaves, yes definitely leaves, perhaps protected by a sheet of transparent paper, all sorts of ephemera and detritus which catches my fancy.  I might also consider  the odd pressed flower,  a Victorian habit long ago discarded, but one which I might briefly revive, with the help of a flower-press, that has sat in the house unused for too long.
Yes, CC, I think of this blog as something like a scrapbook.  my book will contain many of the blog's sources.  It will like the blog  reflect as part of its scheme chance and random juxtapositions.
One link with childhood scrapbooks is the paper-glue which I found in the art shop. It is a white paste very like the sort of thing I  remember using as a child.  When the silver coloured tin is shown to me, I say, prompted by memory, "won't I need a squat flat brush to apply it?". And behold in the tin, in a cylinder in the middle of the paste, is precisely the sort of brush I remember. The  name of the petroleum-smelling glue that was used in publishing offices, before computers,  escapes me for a moment, and  I could have gone for something like that, particularly as you could easily slide around whatever you are sticking until you found its desired position. But today nostalgia wins the day. "Doesn't it smell nice!", says the girl in the art shop.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

hovering, Branstone pickle, scrap book

Posted by Picasa This graffito bird strikes me as  being almost  an improvement on the real thing - just a little more permanent.

If there is anything which I would describe as my favourite food it would be a cheese sandwich made with new, white bread, cheddar cheese and Branston pickle. So  this afternoon  my heart warms towards the man who is going to print my Christmas cards. When I ask whether envelopes are included in the price, he says, "without envelopes, it would be like a cheese sandwich without Branston pickle.

Do people I wonder, have scrapbooks any more? Some scrapbooks I know are confined egotistically  to cuttings and photographs of and about their owners.  That's not the sort of thing I am thinking of.  Catching sight this morning of an article about the scrapbook of the photographer Cecil Beaton, I realize what a scrapbook ought to be. I have a vision of a compendium of bits and pieces - ephemera that appeal to the compiler, with drawings perhaps and original photographs interwoven, and the odd commentary, here and there, a reflection of time passing and  the  detritus it strews in its wake. I see myself with scissors and heaps of  pages torn from newspapers and magazines, brochures and the like, cutting and pasting and noting sources. But then in the age of Google and Twitter, CD Roms and DVDs I am, I fear, in the wrong world spinning in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Posted by PicasaLooking up. Paddington Station.

In the hedge a sparrow with a fluffy white feather in its beak.

A neighbour walks towards me pulling behind her a suitcase on wheels. "Trundling back from my art class," she says to explain her luggage.

Monday, November 22, 2010

table, beech, minimal

Posted by PicasaLight, shade and leaves. Composition on a table outside a pub.

Unlike most of the trees in The Grove, a beech which I pass this morning still retains many of its leaves. As I examine it, I remember how when I was a child my mother used to make arrangements of beech in the Autumn. I see again for a moment the hallway in our house in Forest Row, not so far from Tunbridge Wells. I see it again now, 72 years on, beside the telephone, a tall vase of beech sprays, golden brown, crisp and slightly crinkled. They smell of the onset  of decay. To keep the leaves longer attached, my Mother would add glycerin to the water in the vase.

The  need for simplicity, reduces everything to a circle, the circle to a dot, and the dot to nothing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

phobia, technology, organic

Posted by PicasaI too fear them. But I admire them on their barely visible threads, agile and determined, defying gravity and prejudice.

In my love hate/relationship with technology, technology invariably wins. A Blackberry now keeps me in touch with the world on the move. I like it for the way it chimes just once to announce an email or a text message. I fear it for its potential to intrude when I am engaged in looking at and listening to what goes on around me. I must learn its place.

In Sainsbury's  this morning one of those male voice's - jolly,  humorous, yet with the underlying authority of someone used to being in charge and intent on implying that he knows very little about what is going on, when, in fact, he knows it all. It belongs to burly, middle-aged man accompanied by a younger woman, probably his daughter. He is not used to shopping and happy to announce his trainee status. "Organic," he says, "must be good for you!"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

soles, alright? bride

Posted by Picasa  There is seldom a closer friendship than that of one foot for the other.

I have noticed it before, a greeting in the form of a question. Outside The Grove Tavern, a regular responds to my "good morning" with: "Alright?"

In The Pantiles Bride, a shop dedicated  to guess what, I see through the glass door a tall, pretty girl with a good figure in a wedding dress. She is walking up and down, examining herself in a mirror and being watched critically by two seated women.

Friday, November 19, 2010

young, fried, oaks

Posted by PicasaTo be young was very bliss.

In the cafe people are breakfasting. It is the sort of food that I can no longer afford to eat or want to eat. A man with a florid face, a loose plaid jacket over a tee shirt and a beeny on his head, is eating eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bread, with an expression of immense contentment. As he chews, he holds his knife and fork at the ready for the next assault  on his plate. While entirely without envy, I  find that I am sharing a little in his pleasure.

Eight new oak saplings have appeared in one corner of The Grove.  This little park is and will continue to be a place of trees.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

hands, animals, alone

Posted by PicasaWhile engaged in conversation with Barrett Bonden in The Kings Head in Roupell Street, I happened to have my  camera out and took this photograph of the hands of a drinker sitting at a neighbouring table. I hasten to say that I was not distracted from the subject of our conversation. Rather I was seeking to illustrate a point.  But I'm damned if I can remember precisely what point it was.

One of the novels that I am reading at the moment is La Joie de Vivre by Zola. Among other distinctions it has two animal characters - a cat and a dog - which are conspicuous for their comparative sanity when compared with most other members of the dysfunctional family central to the plot. Apart from the little dog in Iris Murdoch's The Philosopher's Pupil (thanks for your correction the other day Lucy), I can at the moment think of no novels - at least those with a human rather than an animal theme - where cats and dogs are feature significantly in the cast of characters.  Apart from The Hound of the Baskervilles, there must be some. Any suggestions?

This damp and grey afternoon, I find myself for a moment alone in The Grove, apart, that is, from the two crows which always seem to be in evidence strutting about and pecking at the grass at this time of year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

abandoned, potato, sweeping

Posted by PicasaThis is all that is left of  The Foyer, the video rental  store that has kept us supplied with DVDs over the last few years. The lease expired, and unfriendly terms of  renewal added to exorbitant business rates, has meant that Andre Golay, the owner, has had to look for "something else to do". He is a film buff and couldn't have been more helpful to his customers in finding unusual films and discussing the qualities of those in current circulation. The photograph taken through the glass door at the entrance somehow sums up the dimensions of the community's loss.

Growing potatoes in bags turned out to an utter failure. Six seed potatoes produced a crop of not more than 12 rather small tubers. I did not however empty the compost from the bag and must have left one tuber behind because today I notice, a single, green  stem of potato leaves  projecting quite unseasonably from the top of the bag. The stone that the builder rejected. But how will it fare, sheltered though the bag is, in the coming winter?

I have been watching the workmen in The Grove sweeping up leaves with blowers. These devices are powered by some sort of internal combustion engine strapped to their backs. They are equipped with ear muffs, because the machines are noisy. They blow the leaves into heaps, which they then transfer to sacks. Most open air jobs appeal to me, but this one  strikes me as especially pleasing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

rosebud, rights, robin

Posted by PicasaA late rose waves goodbye. Cold winds have wrinkled an emerging petal.

The robins which used to keep me company while I worked in the garden, following my fork to see what it revealed as I turned the earth over, were absent this summer largely on account of the self-possessed white and orange cat that took possession of the vegetable beds. The cat seems to have been absent recently because today a robin joins me by the compost heap and follows me as I inspect the kale. It is hoping that I will do some digging but the soil is too heavy with the recent rain. I look at the robin and the robin looks at me. I shrug, a faint gesture only. If robins could shrug I am sure that this one would have respond in kind. Instead it tilts its head as it watches me from the wall. '...bye" I say.

"They said, don't get drunk," blares a passing woman into her mobile: "Who are they to tell me what I can do?"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

pesto, concentration, shoe

Posted by PicasaAlthough I took this photograph a few weeks ago, I see it now for the first time, as I upload it from the camera's memory card. The basil became pesto quickly and was  used  as a  sauce with pasta, as a dressing for soup and slipped into baked potatoes. The fly? Who knows where the fly has gone?

Throughout the train journey up to London I watch a man concentrating on the small screen in his hand, which he deftly manages with the other hand.  His attention is undivided, intense, exclusive. His eyes seem to be sucked into the screen and for a moment I imagine him sucked, eyes first, into the screen's black hole.

Half way up the hill that leads from Calverley Gardens  to Calverley Road, past the rear entrances to the shops in Mount Pleasant, in an enclosed area, inaccessible from the pavement except through a locked gate, is a high window ledge, on which rests, improbably, a single, high heeled  woman's shoe. About a year ago I photographed this surreal arrangement and posted it here. The shoe is still there, in the same position. I cannot refrain from photographing it again.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

swan, cat, class

Posted by PicasaBeside the bridge in the centre of Taunton.

On a bench by the entrance to Calverley Ground an old lady sits. She wears a leather coat and a white cap. On her lap sits a black and white cat. The cat has made itself comfortable. " I think it lives somewhere over there, she says, looking into the distance". There are no houses nearby. "It just came and sat here," she says, and adds plaintively, "I've got to prepare lunch."

There is stall which sells small bags of cob nuts (a special variety of hazel nut, local to Kent and Sussex) covered in chocolate. There is plain (or as they call it nowadays, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. "Which are the most popular?" I ask the stall owner. "In Tunbridge Wells, " he says," dark".  "And elsewhere? "Milk," he says, and adds, "Maybe it's a class thing."

Friday, November 12, 2010

leaf, siblings, dark

Posted by PicasaToday's leaf is a maple in the corner of  The Grove. This particular tree has leaves of different colours in the Autumn, some are burgundy, others deep yellow. This leaf has a mixture of the two colours. I look forward to passing it on most days.

I pass two elderly women. They are too close in age to be mother and daughter. They are in their sixties or seventies. They are clearly sisters, perhaps twins. They have the same long face, the same cropped hair cut. The same withdrawn expression. I try to imagine them as children or young women.

In the dark a dog chases a ball thrown by a man with one of those ball throwers you see nowadays - there is a receptacle for the ball at the end a longish, plastic handle for swinging round, which adds force to the throw. The poor dog runs frantically over the wet grass in the fading light, round and round in circles, he runs.  He can neither see nor smell the ball. The owner rescues the ball and hurls it into the shadows, and the dog charges after  it full of hope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

feet, blood, promotion

Posted by Picasa "As I was saying..."

 We walk across Waterloo Bridge, BB and I,  on our way from The Strand to The King's Head in Roupel for a post-curry pint or two.  On the way Barrett Bonden spots the words "Feroglobin. Great Tasting Blood Builder " on the back of a van.  The product in question is the work of Vitabiotics". "Put that in your Moleskin," says BB. Obediently I do, more his beautiful thing than mine. A must for vampires, meanwhile.

I have seen him before, a middle-aged Big Issue seller outside Charing Cross station. He stands on one leg leaning forward, a copy of the magazine in one extended hand. He wears a felt hat and a leather jacket, and manages to keep the pose like the living statues in Las Ramblas in Barcelona for minutes on end.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

gigs, script, soup

Posted by Picasa I know next to nothing about gigs and groups, but the names are fascinating. Thinking up a  new and original  one must become increasingly difficult. The Forum is sort of permanent summer house on the edge of The Common where gigs take place. This a typical programme or list of forthcoming attractions.

It is raining but I still want to get something down in my notebook.  I write. I quickly close the book. When I open the book again a strange and intriguing script of smudged mirror-writing appears. I know what I wrote originally but this looks more interesting, esoteric,  if only I could decipher it.

The Hadron Collider never ceases to fascinate. I read in the paper to day of ions of lead stripped of their electrons smashing together at almost the speed of light. They generate temperatures, we are told, of "over 10 trillion degrees" a lot hotter than the sun, apparently. There is much here, nearly everything in fact,  that I do not understand, and many questions, which I would like put to a passing physicist,  but  for the time being,  in the absence of one, I  must simply enjoy the image of a  "dense soup of quarks and gluons, known as a quark-gluon plasma."

Monday, November 08, 2010

pace, waiting, brush

Waiting at a pedestrian crossing in Frant Road this afternoon I indulge in one of my favourite movie clichés, when someone in  a hurry, driven to get to the other side of the road,  by lust, grief or fear,  charges through the traffic, vaulting car bonnets or dances in between it like a matador drawing in his stomach as sweeping mudguards  and bumpers all but knock him flat. Alas even if driven by any of the requisite emotions, I have lost  every vestige of the agility (and irresponsibility) needed to accomplish such an escapade.

In the window of the posh gardening shop in Chapel Place I gaze at an implement called a "behind cupboard brush". It is shaped like a very fine, shepherds' crook, with the hook at the top edged with a crop of fine bristles which run down  a few inches down the handle, a bit like a Mohican haircut. Most of our cupboards are fitted, though I can see that it might be good behind radiators and the odd  free-standing bookshelf.  I enjoy looking at it,  but much as I love tools of all sorts, I  can place it  pretty high on the growing list of tools that I do not want.
Posted by PicasaA pair of sandal-clad feet in motion.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

drowning, block, optimism

Posted by Picasa Buried in sand or drowning. For the time being at any rate, the last of the series Reflections and Shadows.

Since last March I have through some sort of block failed to  respond to Lucy's question "Where would you be if not in this place?" I tried, reader, I tried. That is until a few days ago when I managed to squeeze out, as from an exhausted toothpaste tube, a sort of squiggle, which I hesitatingly submit to the testbed, a trial run. A query from Lucy results in several more stanzas and a complete version of a poem, which I hadn't realized, was incomplete. Her query meant that I looked deeper into what I was trying to say and found something as unexpected as it was unplanned; and to me at any rate reached back, in a satisfactory way,  to an experience and an image long buried in my memory.

Now, as I enter another year of my life, and as cold, short days take charge, planting bulbs - tulips and alliums - as I do today, seems to be a bold exercise in optimism, or selflessness. 

Saturday, November 06, 2010

feet, movie, tomatoes

Posted by PicasaFeetiquins.

I see a woman wearing a blanket-like garment, a poncho, I suppose. It makes me think how much I like blankets: to wear, to sit on,  to wrap about oneself, or  to lie under in the cold. Clint Eastwood notably wears a poncho in his spaghetti westerns. The cheroot and cowboy hat I'll have as well if no one else wants them.

Outside Guiseppi's shop in The Pantiles, a some big  tomatoes on the vine, plump as Christmas. "Smell them ," he says. I do. Tonight I will slice them very fine and serve them with a scattering of the herbs left in the garden, a few leaves of watercress and razor thin slices of the duck sausage I bought from the French cheese merchant at the Farmers's Market. Olive oil. Maldon sea salt and balsamic vinegar to season them.

Friday, November 05, 2010

tree, bagged, animals

Posted by PicasaTree with shadows.

In The Grove, men armed with blowers, are packing dead leaves into large woven plastic bags. The blue bags have rope handles on the corners to help when heaving them on to a truck, and to hook on to a hoist for removal from the truck deck. Such systems are intriguing.

The shop called Zebra cards on the corner of The High Street has a display of books, post cards and calenders in the window on the themes  Beautiful Chickens, Beautiful Cows, Beautiful Sheep and Beautiful Pigs. All four make use of simple photographs of the animals  against a dark background,which give them  a portrait- like quality. I buy one as a present for someone who loves cows. "If you're wondering why there are so many animals here," says the shop lady, "It's because the owner is a farmer."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

dove,future, painter

Posted by PicasaRing dove, sol y sombra.

Paul, who is the gardener across the road, likes to philosophise. We talk about the moth which is destroying horse chestnuts all over the South of England and I dare say further afield. "They'll come back," he says; "they always do.  He is thinking of the chestnuts. Then he thinks further ahead. "Well, not always," he says. "Every thing's got to come to an end. "Even the Earth, " he says. " In a million years, it will all be over."

In a corner of The Grove someone has set up an easel. Palate in one hand, he is painting a picture of a house in Sutherland Road, next to the  park entrance. This afternoon, a few minutes earlier, I  am reading a  description of Bougival by the Seine in 19th Century Paris, where "shopkeepers and factory workers went to remind themselves of the sun and the riverbanks bristled with painters' easels. For just a moment the two scenes connect.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

runner, fireworks, options

Posted by Picasa The runner.

Last night while watching the television I see through the window, what I take to be  the tear-like flames of Roman candles falling in the dark sky behind the lime tree. I fancy that the sound of the television has drowned out the usual explosions which accompany fireworks, but the silent, golden tears  are still puzzling. It is only later that I realize that what I am seeing are the leaves from the lime tree caught by the light of the street lamp, falling  from the branches of the tree.

Outside the orthodontist's in The High Street, a placard offers "Smile Options".