Monday, February 28, 2011

grid 2, camellia, unacademic

Posted by PicasaThe absence of sunshine  in recent days may in some part account for the absence of colour in the illustrations with which my daily posts begin. But there are compensations to be found in looking into what is hidden

A camellia which flowers energetically at this time of year in Grove Avenue usually rates a mention here. Now in particular, because it reminds me that since I first referred to it- it faces north which best suits camellias and other members of the tea family, I have learned that you spell camellia with two "l"s rather than one, as I did the first time round. I am not too old to admit that I am still learning to spell.

A woman enters Hall's bookshop with a stack of books which she wants to sell. " I bought these for my children.  I thought that they were going to be academic but they turned out not to be, " she says and adds, as an afterthought: "And I've got two Oxford Dictionaries, practically new."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

grid, pigeon, mothers

Posted by PicasaThrough the grid covering a drain there is a glimpse of  water.

This morning before I make the tea, looking out of the window I see first, the sun giving an extra glow to the withdrawn into its breast. When I return with the tea tray, the pigeon is still there, but it has woken up and it is looking at the azalea, or at least in its direction.

A  young neighbour greets me in The Grove. We exchange "how are yous?". A willing informant, he says as a prelude to moving on: "It's Mothers Day soon. I must go and get some cards". Cards in the plural, I think to myself.Unusual, surely,  for Mothers Day.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

neglect, notes, nodding

Posted by Picasa Rust and peeling layers of paint add interest to a finial on these neglected railings.

My late brother Michael's occupation required him to make a lot of speeches, many of the after-dinner variety. He was widely read and appreciated the gleanings of others of the same inclination. None more than  those of Geoffrey Madan,  described by a contemporary as " a true scholar without any of the affectations of scholarship". He died in 1947. Madan's notebooks with their many quotations testify to his wit, perspicacity and consummate prose style. I can understand why Michael found them a constant source of inspiration.  So much so that when he was waiting for a replacement prosthetic leg - he had lost a leg to diabetes - he postponed an order for the new leg in order to buy, for a considerable sum, one of the six original typescripts of the notebooks compiled by Madan's wife after his death.  As far as I know, despite a year's prolonged discomfort, he did not for a moment regret his decision. Today I spot in Hall 's bookshop  on the 50p shelf a paperback selection from the notebooks of which I already have a copy.  I greedily fork out for it just in case I can find someone who would like it. The recipient will discover for himself the name of the magistrate who said: "People are entitled to shout when they are drunk. That is not being disorderly.Or the name of the American girl who said of the Ten Commandments: "They don't tell you what you ought to do: and they only put ideas in your head."

In The Grove this afternoon, the heads of  a crowd of pigeons bob up and down on the grass as they peck for food.

Friday, February 25, 2011

promise, lungwort, flowering

Posted by PicasaPromise of daffodils in The Grove to day.

And yesterday, when for the first time this year, you could feel the warmth of the sun on your face. The Grove erupted with children. In the play ground, on the grass, pedaling like mad on the paths, they cast aside their jackets and celebrated the first intimation of Spring in their brightly coloured tee shirts.

Some years ago I planted a white pulmonaria in the garden. It has taken years to get established. Unlike the more common blue variety, known in its wild state. as lungwort. It gets it name from being used in the treatment of lung disease.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

carpeted, real, anniversary

Posted by PicasaThose shoes again. First spotted a few days ago, still with tissue paper stuffed into them, in a shop window in the process of being dressed, they turn up now in the same window, but made to look as though they have just been kicked off  by a pair of elegant feet. They lie on a pile carpet. Against the background of the carpet, are  my own shoes and the lower part of my legs. They are outside the window but reflected in it, they appear to have taken on the texture of the carpet as though woven into it.  A complex relationship  which  could give rise to false surmises.  The camera can be a bit of a liar if not an outright fibber.

Today I realize with a surge of pleasure that I know for certain, what I  have always suspected,  precisely the meaning of  realpolitik. A ruthless and demented dictator is embraced (literally in some cases) by politicians  from democratic countries,who know very well that he is a ruthless and demented dictator, but do nothing about it, because of oil revenues, and because he helps  preserve a balance of power or an uneasy stability.What it describes is insidious  but I suspect that if I were a politician I would almost certainly be guilty of engaging in it.

Catching sight of yesterday's date, February 23, I recall that it is the anniversary of my release in 1958 from two years military service in the Royal Air Force.  National Service came to an end a few years later, but I am not sorry to have had the experience of it even if it interrupted, or perhaps I should now say augmented, my education. But who can tell  53 years after the event?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

mist, steering, sins

Posted by PicasaMisty day in The Grove (Click to see full picture).

Sometimes I think that I talk too much, define too much, pronounce too much. Montaigne quotes Seneca: "Not talking but steering is needed." I agree, at least for the moment.

Remembering the other day the maths master who drummed theorems into us, never to be forgotten, I began to remember Miss Browett who taught at the same school. She was much taken with religion. One  day she told us approvingly about a relation of hers, a Sunday school teacher,who encouraged his pupils to post their misdeeds, written on bits of paper, into a special letter box. Even at the age of eight or nine, I thought this was a daft idea. Strange how such memories linger - a nostalgia for the absurd.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

hand, wellies, books

Posted by PicasaI have rather neglected the series of photographs of hands which I started a few posts ago. Here to make up for it, is one from the archives, this one with a visitor.

Outside a front door two pairs of child's wellies, hastily kicked off. They stir memories of childhood and the pleasure of splashing through puddles without being ticked off. I don't wear mine any more, but what a noble item of footwear!  The Duke of Wellington  would deserve to be remembered if only for the boots to which he gave his name.

In Waterstone's I hear the generous voice of a woman. She is being shown a display of e-readers. "I just like books," she protests." I like the smell of them. I like the feel of them."

Monday, February 21, 2011

exits, good, indulgence

Posted by PicasaChimneys on the look out.

  In the street, a baby in a sling under his stout  father's unzipped jacket, from his snug hold, watches the world with interested eyes. Everything is taken care of. He will never have it so good.

Hooper's the department store is announcing a promotion - dinner and drinks and fashion - described as an "evening of indulgent luxury".

Sunday, February 20, 2011

boxes, comparisons, investment

Posted by PicasaA couple of Chinese lacquer boxes which I photographed after posting on the subject of lacquer the other day. They are both useful and decorative and I love the colour.

It has struck me recently that good subject for a thesis, if anyone is looking for one, would be to compare social attitudes to sex in 19th Century European novels. Today I read in La Terre one of Zola's Rougon Macquart sequence, the description of a 14 year old girl taking her parents' cow to a neighbouring farm to be impregnated by a bull,  a transaction for which she hands over a small fee.  What takes place is described in remarkable detail for the time. The cow is of somewhat larger breed than the bull and the bull has difficulty in mounting her and delivering its semen in the normal way.
"Calmly and with great care, as for a serious undertaking,  she stepped forward.  Her eyes grew dark  with concentration and her red lips half opened in her expressionless face. She had to raise and extend her arm in order to grasp the bull's member,  which she placed dexterously in  position. And he, when he felt himself in command, gathered his  full strength, and penetrated with all his might, into the depth."
It is a scene which fits tidily into the narrative and takes it forward by advancing our knowledge of the girl and of the young labourer who witnesses the proceedings. To set it in perspective:  La Terre was first published in 1887. Dickens, it is true had been dead for 17 years but Trollope had died only four years, and George Eliot seven years earlier.  Hardy, a more likely candidate for a venture of this kind, meanwhile, had recently  published Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge. But it is difficult to imagine even Hardy approaching such a subject let alone tackling it in such clinical detail. And as for the British public and the British press ....

At the butcher's counter in Sainsbury's this morning, a man buys a joint of Aberdeen Angus beef with evident relish. "A good investment!" he says to me as puts the package into his trolley.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

reflection, drops, change

Posted by PicasaThe sky , the hedge and the wicker cover of the barbecue, reflected  in a plastic bucket full to the brim with rain water.

Today drops shine in rows beneath the bars of gates and the the back  of benches. Above all they hang at the tip of every  feathery branch of every  trees and shrub like crystal buds. As they gather weight and fall new drops collect. It is not proper rain but what Jane Austen somewhere calls a "mizzling rain".

Having lived in the same place for nearly 25 years I realize that the people I see regularly  as I walk through The Grove or along The High Street - people who have lived here for as long as I - must have grown proportionately older. But I am  struck, as this afternoon, when stopping for a chat or waving across the street,  that they seem to have altered so little in appearance.  Of course  it is because, I see them too often to note the accumulation of small changes, which occur form day to day. It is  a familiar phenomenon and one which I experience every day myself  when I look into the shaving mirror and think that the  face I see is the same one that I saw yesterday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

orchid, porcelain, running

Posted by PicasaConfrontation.

The sky behind the tulip tree this morning is like fine porcelain, which serves as a shade for the sun rising behind it. As the layers of mist shift, the intensity of the light increases, and now decreases, as though  it is controlled by a dimmer switch. There is  little colour: just lemon sky and the black trunks and branches of  the tree where, squirrels, silhouetted against the light, chase each other.  I sip my morning tea and enjoy the show.

As I walk across The Grove a lean, middle aged man is talking loudly into a telephone. He is applying for a job. The tone of his voice and its volume denotes his need for work.  "That's what I've been doing for the past 30 years," he shouts; "Yes, I'm good at getting up and running with new ventures."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

splash, locus, cashpoint

Posted by Picasa Watercolours are lovely to play with despite the reputation they have for being a difficult medium. You are always told that you have can not change your mind as with oils. You have to use the white  paper as an indication of  light. Once committed to a shade you can never go back to something lighter. All that is true.  But there are other approaches. Based on my pleasure in making drawings out of the stains left by tea cups fat stains and ink blots on note pads, the other day I  decide, on a whim, to push the watercolour paint from a tube over a page - several pages in fact - with  a brush and let it dry. Over the next few days  I see on this particular page  the outline of a chicken in a flurry of feathers. I add a touch here and a touch  there with a finer brush. And the result I find not unpleasing. More to come there I think.

As I walk through the Grove this morning, these words come unbidden into my mind: "The locus of a point is the path traced out by that point as it moves to fulfil a certain condition." I was made to write  them down in a geometry lesson when I was about 10. The exercise book was pink. The maths master was called Mr Straker. He was a chain smoker with long, yellow fingers. He didn't smoke during lessons, and always threw his fag end through the window before the lesson began. I have never been sure of what the words mean (though Wikipedia, which I now refer to, seems to confirm that they have a purpose). The  words have nevertheless remained with me as a sort of spell. It occurs to me, as I walk on this morning, that I am  myself moving, and have for 70 years or so, been moving on the locus of a point to fulfil a certain condition. It's quite a thought.

While waiting at a cash point the man in front of me barks "hello" into the grotto from where your money emerges. Does he think that there is a human person behind  the screen? No of course he doesn't. He is multi - tasking. He is combining the insertion of his cash card into the slot and his key tapping, with the use  of  a mobile telephone. Or so I suppose. You never know. I don't like to look too closely at people drawing money from a cashpoint, which sometimes seems like intruding during the performance of an intimate, natural function.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

reflected, light, lacquer

Posted by PicasaPortrait of the photographer reflected in a plastic bucket where discarded vegetation lurks under rainwater.

Daylight arrives earlier now than we have become used to.  Before it is time to get up, I  watch familiar things take on their familiar shapes as the light rises and eases through the closed blinds.

Because the word "lacquer" is used to describe various forms of paint and painted surface from floor boards to  hair and finger nails, it is easy to forget that its origins in Asia relate to the tree, Toxicdendron vernifluum -  commonly known as the varnish tree. In China and Japan, great value is and was placed on lacquered objects, the subjects of repeated applications of the material. A Chinese Han Dynasty lacquer cup dating from AD 4 is one of the objects in Neil MacGregor's History of the World in 100 Objects. I am reading it this afternoon. and stop reading   to make a note for this post.The labour intensive processes which lacquerware requires, explain the high value set on it as well as its durability. Its glowing, reddish brown beauty speaks for itself. It is a colour I recognise because, thanks to a neighbour, who has a Chinese antiques shop in The Pantiles, we have acquired a number of  lacquered boxes, which apart from looking good, stacked or on their own, make perfect receptacles  for stationery, crayons or even electronic bits and pieces like the TV and video remote controls.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

look down, tulip tree, Yahoo

Posted by PicasaFor a moment I look down and see what is there. Two or three tiny plants, a fag end, various stones, a piece of concrete, other fragments. I am not sure what to make of them. So I blow them up extra large. To see the world in a grain of sand. Click for wider dimension.
The first thing I see in the morning while drinking a mug of tea is the tulip tree in the garden opposite. It is an old tree with three trunks emerging from the single trunk with which it started. Some years ago tree surgeons spent the best part of a day removing its upper branches, a dangerous enterprise, which they maintained greatly extended its life. For a long time its lopped branches in the winter were a little sad to look at, but now it seems that the surgery has done its job and, the branches having sprouted, it has assumed its original sculptured elegance even when there are no leaves to clothe it. At this time of year when the sun rises there is a pale, yellow sky  behind  it,  and squirrels, scampering along the black trunks and branches, add a theatrical  dimension - a fit start for the day.

 Gulliver's Travels the greatest of English satires deserves to be read widely and regularly by anyone who is bothered  by the ghastly behaviour of human beings both now and in the past. The conflict between Lilliput and Blefuscu should be on the table at the beginning of every peace conference. The subject of their dispute and frequent military combat, the way boiled eggs should be eaten, by breaking the big end or the small end, should be the first item on the agenda. Meanwhile it is hard not to sympathise with Gulliver's dislike of his fellow humans after returning from the country of the Houyhnhnms, the rational, horse like creatures, whom he encounters in the last of his voyages;  and not to be repulsed  by the Yahoos, the name given to human beings by the Houyhnhnms. Having returned to Gulliver's Travels on my Kindle reader, I find myself  admitting reluctantly to being a Yahoo with all a Yahoo's appetites, but wishing sometimes for something better. But that's a Yahoo all over.

Monday, February 14, 2011

greetings, blackbird, mistakes

Posted by Picasa Nothing personal, Valentine. It was a good idea being kind to lovers, and still is.

I look out of the window to see what I can see. I see a black bird under the hedge looking in at me, to see what he can see.

My sister-in-law is called Di. Her name is listed on my telephone next to Dr. This morning I ring Di instead of Dr. She begins to discuss my appointment with the doctor until she can no longer stop herself laughing. Having sorted out this problem, I find I have a text from someone who signs himself X. It is addressed to multiple recipients in a  busyworld which is new to me and rather exciting. It reads: "Hey guys! just to say think we should meet up to go over our skel arguments some point before end of today. Just make sure all sound and no overlaps. Wht u think?"
 I'm not the only one who calls the wrong number.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

chance, Jack Russell, rain

Posted by Picasa Leaves in on wet concrete as they fall  and arrange themselves; and begin to disintegrate.

In The Grove Tavern, there is a Jack Russell. Beside him is his rubber ball worn on the surface and punctuated by tooth marks. I ask the owner, if it is the same Jack Russell which I have seen bounding after a ball in the Grove and catching it, following  a long, energetic throw, on the first or second bounce. "The same," he says, "but we have moved to London now." Of all dogs I have the softest spot for Jack Russells, despite their restless intelligence, or rather because of it. "All they need is attention," he says. "They need to be kept occupied and interested". This one is four years old and  clearly as well behaved as he is quick off the mark. I recall an unruly, one year old Jack Russell  which  came to our house some years ago,  misbehaved dreadfully, and among other misdemeanours, ate my sheepskin slippers. I blamed its owner  then and still do.  It was apparent that neither her intellect and attentiveness was a match for her dog's.

The local weather forecast on the BBC website says "light rain". It has rained relentlessly all afternoon. There are puddles on  the path. I think of the spring  that rose in our basement last month. Since my son-in-law sent some absorbent sheets to obstruct the next flood, none has occurred. Whatever its ultimate purpose the material has demonstrated additional,  magical properties by introducing  a period of relatively dry weather.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

concrete, Sauternes, time

Posted by PicasaSunshine on concrete.

"Can you help me?" asks a neighbour. "Do you like Sauternes?"  It seems that they had been to dinner with some friends who, having served them a bottle of Ch  Suduiraut, a premier cru Sauternes, had bestowed the half bottle remaining, on them as they left.  "We don't like the stuff," P says. It seems that politeness must have persuaded a contrary opinion from him during the meal, or his hosts might have kept the wine for himself. We don't drink a lot of sweet wine, but the sweet wines of Sauternes invariably unfortified, with their  underlying characteristic of balanced fruit and acidity, don't come our way often. They are not too sweet and generally expensive. They can be drunk with blue cheese or foie gras, if not with a dessert or on their own. I am glad to say that I am able to oblige.

 I am about to pass a man and a woman me in Berkeley Road. The man speaks to me, which takes me by surprise because there is no warning. "Can you tell me the time," he says. And to reinforce the nature of his request, taps his wrist. It's something I have seen people do before when asking the time. A nervous reaction perhaps or  a signal of reassurance?

Friday, February 11, 2011

drama, Satie, imagination

Posted by PicasaAt this time of year, you often catch dramatic sunsets when you look in westerly direction over the rooftops of Mount Sion. Between the sloping roof and timbered wall to the right of the photograph there is a glimpse of the heath area known as Ashdown Forest.

The two series of piano pieces by Erik Satie called Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes are on my mind.   As I go about the house, they seem to track the vestiges of a cold and wet Winter. And a little of the turmoil of history unfolding beyond the fortunate confines in which we live, They are connected in style and impact by their mild dissonances and floating melancholy, which were not wholly appreciated when Satie wrote them at the end of the 19th Century. The word Gymnopédie refers to an ancient Greek dance and draws on  lines from the poet T P Contamine de Latour
   "...where the amber atoms in the fire mirroring themselves
Mingled their sarabande to the gymnopédie."
Satie it seems invented the word Gnossienne. It refers to Knossos in Crete and by implication to the myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur.The direction for  Gnossienne 6 sums up much of the strangeness and attraction of all these pieces. "Avec conviction et avec tristesse vigoureuse". The idea of a vigorous sadness is not unappealing.

They say of Montaigne that  the more you read his essays the more you discover yourself in them. Writing of  the power of imagination he says:  " I catch the disease that I study." That's me all over. Tell me about symptoms and I instantly develop them. I am not a hypochondriac only because I  keep my imagination strictly in bounds, and make a point of banning symptoms from  my conversation. It is reassuring to know that someone writing five hundred years ago should so precisely have anticipated my own peculiarities. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

arrangement, contradiction, Valentine

Posted by Picasa Shoes in a shop window in the process of being dressed, one pair unwrapped, but still stuffed with tissue paper, one pair wrapped, make up this composition, which is completed by part of a mauve chair. There is no intention in the substance of  the picture, unless you allow for mine, in taking and cropping the photograph.

Marcus Aurelius again:. "Accustom yourself to give careful attention to what others are saying and try your best to enter into the mind of the speaker."
James Thurber, humorist and contributor to the New Yorker magazine, describing himself::" He never listens when anyone else is talking, preferring to keep his mind a blank until they get through so he can talk."
When I read Thurber as a young man I inclined towards being impressed by those words, whatever their intended, irony and humour, and confess to having shared their implied arrogance.  At least I thought them clever and  sometimes availed myself of them as an excuse for doing likewise. I still find them funny. But now,  my preference is for the advice of the great Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, which turns out, in my experience, to be altogether me more entertaining.

Valentine cards used to be truly romantic messages delivered anonymously to a lover. There was mystery and excitement in not knowing for certain from whom they came. Now  they  and everything that goes with them are entirely a commercial enterprise. They encourage couples to spend money on one another, and seem more likely to promote discord and disappointment than love within established relationships.  No Valentine! You don't love me any more! "These thoughts are prompted by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is ,  on their loved ones. There is a lyre bird, I note, imprinted on the chocolate squares.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

five, daffodils, old

Posted by PicasaNumbers give sustenance to what is being enumerated. Rhymes, ballads and myths are supported by numbers that reinforce their message: three blind mice, twa corbies, four and twenty blackbirds, four gospels, 1001 nights. I look up to see the setting sun guild  the branches of a tree, and, in the tree, five starlings. No more, no less.
Five starlings sat in a tree.
For you and me to see.
Five starlings  took to the air
And now they flown
Who knows where?

Daffodils are pushing up their buds in the Grove, but remain only a few centimeters above the ground.  On the table beside our front door, a bunch of daffodils, grown under glass and  bought, still in bud, at the farmers' market on Saturday, opens today in its vase,  a brazen symbol  of triumph.

In the doctor's waiting room, a  passing nurse greets an old man.  How are you?  With the help of his stick, he stands up to acknowledge her: "Not so bad," he says, "for an old un."

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

snowdrops, history, warm

Posted by PicasaThis year's snow drops, perhaps because of the snow and cold weather earlier, are something truly to celebrate, now that the buds have opened.

One of the broadcasting successes of last year was A History of the World in 100 Objects presented by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum.  I missed quite a lot of it, and longed for the book which would eventually appear. It did appear and I was lucky to have been given a copy for Christmas. Today I open it to read  it for the first time. I realize now that the book, unlike the programme, gives the opportunity to examine photographs of the objects as you read about them.  It is indeed an advantage.  But there there is an opposing argument, which I wholly understand. The absence of a photograph MacGregor says, in his preface caused "especially lively debate" in the planning of the series. "At first," he writes, " ... the Museum team, used to close examination of things, was daunted by this, but our BBC colleagues were confident. They knew that to imagine a thing is to appropriate it in a very particular way, that every listener would make the object under discussion their own, and in consequence, make them their own history."
With the book in front of me, I now have the best of both worlds, but I note that its layout, does not lend itself to easy viewing of the photographs side by side with the text. It is not a coffee table book, with emphasis  on the illustrations, as one might have been supposed it was going to be; rather it is a fat book, not much larger than an average paper back.  It has beautiful print and the photographs are never anything less than exquisite. But it is designed to be read, and read it will be, at least by me.

After a cold,damp winter, we sit outside the Black Pig, in the sun. We can feel the warmth on your face. "Vitamin D," says Heidi. "There is a glass of rosé  in front of her and in front of me a pint of Harvey's

Monday, February 07, 2011

smoker, change, enormous

Posted by PicasaThe alley backing on to Mount Pleasant, has no name. Presumably the addresses of the rear entrances here are the same as on the street itself, where there are shops and restaurants surmounted sometimes by offices. For the few  who work in the shops and still like or need a cigarette, it is a place for a quiet puff. Although the environment is not the most attractive in the neighbourhood.

There was a time when I valued inflexibility as a virtue, the sign of a strong  person.  Now, while mindless vacillation, is no more attractive, I can see that the ability to think again and to see the implications of revision and reconstruction, is the mark of maturity and good sense. Marcus Aurelius has it right:  "To change your mind," he writes, "and defer to correction is not to sacrifice your independence; for such an act is your own, in pursuance of your own impulse, your own judgement, and your own thinking."

No one can walk out of the Grove into Sutherland Road without catching sight of the life-size teddy bear pressed up against the first floor window of the house on the corner. Parents point it out to their children, if the children have not spotted it already. I wrote about the bear here two or three years ago; and this afternoon, I make no apology for doing so again. "An enormous bear," says a mother to to her little boy, walking by her side. She lingers on the word "enormous" with relish; and I think to myself, as I hear the boy repeat "an enormous bear" with an almost sensuous affection for the sound, that the word "enormous" will probably be joined for ever in  his mind, with the sight of the bear looking down on him from the window.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

texture, flames, nibbling

Posted by PicasaTexture of a pub, outdoor table top.

Crocuses appear like blue flames in the Grove. A mauve-ish grey, perhaps, best describes the colour. All you see at present are the buds, sharp and pointed like the  flames in a gas jet.  There is not a hint of green, unless you look closely at the base where the stems are  pushing up the flowers.   Beside the crocuses there are decorous snowdrops.

Somewhere I had read of the practice of having your feet nibbled by fish as a form of therapy.  But I didn't expect to see it in Tunbridge Wells.  In a shop in Victoria place are a number of banquettes in front of which are glass sided fish tanks about the size of buckets. The process is called Zoola Fish.  People are sitting on the banquettes their feet bare, their shoes and socks on the floor beside them. Their feet are in  the buckets slightly magnified by the water. And flitting round their feet are little fish nibbling and tickling and no doubt feeding off  them.  For the privilege of feeding the fish in this manner  customers pay  £10.00 for 15 minutes. "Fish massage and pedicure" says the notice in the window. "Weird but wonderful". This afternoon it is surprisingly busy.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

over, bad, clean

Posted by PicasaThe end of the sale.

We see a  bad film the other day. No, a very bad film. Which in itself is an education. It is a DVD called Unrelated. It is an English film set in Italy,  where a bourgeois English family,  is on holiday in a villa. The family are the sort of people whom you (or at least I) would run a mile from on  first meeting them. They are rude, arrogant, stupid, pretentious, ignorant and they play party games like sticking labels on your forehead and asking you to guess who you are.  Are we meant to condemn these people or admire  them or at least admire the skill with which they are depicted? It is  impossible to tell. There are no standards by which to judge them. Everyone is awful, and try as you might, you can feel no sympathy for or interest in them. Or even for their guest a woman relative whose marriage is on the rocks, you gather because of numerous fraught telephone calls to England. You long for something bad to happen to them, but nothing does, at least until about two thirds of the way through the film, when eventually we switch off. After that we are past caring.  So where is the education?
What strikes me about a film  like this is that someone - the director for example, the producer, even the actors, must have been quite pleased with it, or they would have binned it long before its public showing.
And here's the lesson. The beautiful lesson.
Anyone who paints a picture, writes a poem or makes a film, unless it is to be seen by consenting adults and in private, should be sure that they have not allowed pride in their creation alone, to let them believe that they have produced anything of value. I address these remarks, I hasten to add, to myself. My ability to see faults in my own work, I have found only begins to surface after weeks or months. And I  trust it, therefore, only in deep perspective.

Malcolm the window cleaner comes with his power cleaner. It is a hose with a brush on a long telescopic pole which extends to upper floors. Water gushes through the brush  and streams down the window panes. He manipulates the device from ground level. I think of a pole vaulter about to vault. Will he leap over our three storey house. I doubt it.  But I try not to think about it as I work at my desk. Soon normality is restored. Normality is a beautiful thing, almost a beautiful as normality disturbed.

Friday, February 04, 2011

sky, ordinary, chips

Posted by PicasaPuddle under a slatted table.

Nowadays no one wants to be ordinary. "Look at me! " people say; "Look at me! Look what I've done!" So it  is refreshing to find someone who doesn't want to stand out from the crowd. These thoughts come to me when Bill, whom I talk to sometimes in  the pub, gives me a book the other day. "Take it to the charity shop, when you've finished with it " he says, "that's where I got it. Let someone else read it." I will,  but first, thank you Bill. The book is  by the late Harry  Patch, who when he died in 2009 at the age of 110, was the oldest surviving veteran of the trenches in World War 1. It is written with the assistance of the Great War specialist, Richard van Emden,  Harry didn't talk about the war until he was pressed to do so in his hundredth year. He clearly hated war and the slaughter he saw at first hand.  He didn't ask to be a celebrity and only became one by virtue of his great age. And then a modest celebrity, moved by memories of his fallen companions, and his childhood in Somerset, rather any desire for self-promotion, One quote from Harry Patch's niece sums up for me the ordinariness and the specialness of his background, something understated and gently humorous. He could only have been English.. "Harry's father was keen on rabbiting.After he died his sons found his gun. Nobody knew whether it had ever been licenced, so they threw it down Granny's well".

Walking down the street  towards me this afternoon is a young couple. Each holds a bag of chips waist high to the fore, the white paper surrounding the bag spreads out like the wings of a white dove. As they progress their hands move, in a steady motion,  into the bag and from bag to mouth, with almost military precision, as though they are engaging in a ritual, some sort of national dance.