Wednesday, June 29, 2011

drops, sex, budlea

Posted by Picasa Rain drops and the veins of a nasturtium leaf.

From the bench  in our garden in the evening we watch pigeons on the roof opposite. There is a pair which sit in the setting sun and nuzzle each other's neck. A third pigeon appears on the scene. I call him Roger the lodger. He takes up a position at one one end of the roof and tries to approach  the lovers. But is challenged by the male whereupon he flies off into the lime tree. The pair nest in the wisteria below the roof. And sometime resort to their second home, a spare nest, in  the wisteria above out front  door across the road. Roger is still around, and, though a handsome and stalwart bird, seems reluctant to intrude.

From the train I see that the budlea, so untidy and scruffy at other times of year, is now in flower. Its purple inflorescences probe the air, and match the brightness of the purple loosestrife now also in floweron patches of wasteland.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

flowers, meadows, grafitti

Posted by Picasa  Flowers again. Alliums, blue and white. No apologies. Tigger likes flowers.

From the train, meadow grass flowing like a tide with soft and feathery waves.

As you enter London on the train every vertical surface is covered in graffiti. What is surprising is that there are barely any recognisable words or images, just the same swirling lines, the product of spray-paint canisters, which could all, judging by the uniformity of style, have been squirted by the same hand. It is surprising, considering the effort that so much energy could be expended for so disappointing a reward.

Monday, June 27, 2011

spectacles, smells, end

Posted by PicasaSitting outside the pub I enjoy the texture of the scrubbed table and the shadows thereon.

There are two ways of ascending Mount Pleasant from The High Street and the  railway station. One is via the street called Mount Pleasant, which has several restaurants, fashion shops and hairdressers. The other is via Mount Pleasant Avenue, a narrow, relatively featureless street, parallel to Mt Pleasant. Here, on the left as you walk up the hill, you find the rear of the shops, and often see chefs and waiting staff and the odd hairdresser, having a quick puff of tobacco on a doorstep. You also catch a whiff of  the restaurant kitchens, Italian sauces, Asian spices, grilled meat. It's a climb that sharpens the appetite, particularly when you are on the way to the Farmers' Market outside the civic complex on the crest of the hill in search of culinary inspiration.

I have reached the last page of my current notebook, which will join the stack of nine moleskins beside my desk. The early ones in the pile largely contain drawings sketched usually on the hoof or sitting at restaurant or pub tables. I have gradually switched the emphasis from graphics to words.  Most of the books have lasted nearly a year. The present one has a date, 28 August 2010, on the first page  (I should clearly have dated earlier ones, but I  used to underestimate their value as a record). The first words are "house martins". This summer there are again house martins to be seen flitting across the sky in the space between the top of our hedge and the eves of the house where the martins nest.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

portrait, toothed, bones

Posted by Picasa Portrait of the photographer as an old fart.

The toothed and slightly hairy leaves of sage -  close silvery felt on a green membrane.

In the garden some bones picked clean. Too big for a part of a chicken.  A leg of lamb perhaps. Something out of a dustbin certainly.  A few days ago there was a huge kerfuffle out there, in the middle of the night. A fight over something. Undoubtedly these bones nicked from a dustbin by foxes, probably cubs judging by  the sound, were the cause of the fight, the bones evidence of its cause.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

poppy, cherries, horse chestnut

Posted by PicasaThis poppy has flowered and shed its petals. I am glad I photographed it when I did.

Tunbridge Wells is in the heart of cherry country. This year has been a good season with abundant fruit, but the recent rain after a dry period has swelled many to  a point where they split. At the Farmers' Market I ask at  one of the stalls about the split fruit. "We've had five and a half tons," the young man says. "All wasted ?" I ask rather shocked. "No," he says, "we turn them into juice."  Cherry juice is good for you," I say, "it cures gout." "That's right," he says, " you are a knowledgeable man". I walk off glowing a little, I suppose, but refrain from admitting that I used once used  to suffer from gout.

In a flower bed this afternoon I find an infant horse chestnut tree, and the remains of the conker whence it came. We have seen squirrels in the garden and there is little doubt about the sapling's provenance.

Friday, June 24, 2011

pigeons, pubs, hands

Posted by PicasaTwo shots of pigeons in conversation beside a finial.

"It's only 100 yards from the last pub," says one gent to another, as their party of hikers enters The Grove Tavern, after evidently spending some time at The Compasses.

It seems important to emphasise the hands-on element in cheese-making, I notice nowadays. At a recent farmers market, I see "hand-made cheeses". And today I read about "artisan cheeses." Perhaps it is meant to reassure, but I somehow don't like to think of my cheese being fondled in the process of manufacture.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

pose, potatatoes, butterfly

Posted by PicasaPose or suppose in The Grove.(Click for whole picture).

In the raised flower bed of a house in Sutherland Road which is all there is between the street and the front of the house, there are potatoes growing. A good use of space; no more than  3ft x 9ft, but what satisfaction of unearthing the buried tubers in a few weeks time, and several pounds of them.

Outside the fishmonger's a blackboard offers "butterflied mackerel". A miss-spelling of a  mispronunciation? I ask myself. But inside all is revealed: the mackerel have been boned and the two sides opened out like wings. They do the same with prawns. A new verb then: to butterfly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

sculpture, windows, hat

Posted by Picasa Sculpture in St Giles, London. Is it the angel celebrated by the pub in the background?

 I look up to speculate about the little windows on the top floor of a nineteenth century house, now used for offices.   The rooms under the roof once housed chamber maids who had to get up before anyone else to dust ornaments,  light the fires and blacken  fire places. It is hard this afternoon to imagine them and their work in the age of central heating and electronics.

Thought for the day. If you have a hat with a wide enough brim you won't need an umbrella.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

looking up, visitor, marauders

Posted by PicasaI'm not sure what this is or where I was when I pointed my camera upwards but it makes an interesting contrast in textures.

In the vegetable garden I sense a presence. It is the Labrador from next door whom I have seen for several years. He must have found a new way through the reinforced hedge and fence. He mooches around as he used to, nose to the ground.

When I go through the garden door I disturb two pigeons and a magpie. They are nibbling my lettuces. The lettuces  - at least the crisp green ones - have had little chance so far. Everyday I find them  tidily and thoroughly cropped. I have given up protesting and decided to subscribe to  the fiction that I planted the lettuces just for these greedy birds. Why not? If they don't eat them, the neighbours, to whom I always deliver the surplus, will. Perhaps a few will be spared for our own use.

Monday, June 20, 2011

wall, dock, dislikes

Posted by PicasaA wall behind the abandoned petrol station between Sainsbury's car park and the London Road. I stop to take a series of photographs from the footpath beside the car park entrance. It proves a fruitful couple of minutes.

There are now two areas of grass which are allowed to grow uncut and wild in The Grove. One is in its second year of deliberate neglect and already there are signs of interest. In particular a majestic clump of docks appears among the  sedges and feathery grasses. Gardeners uproot this plant which is seldom is seen as handsome or appears and renowned only as cure for stinging nettle stings. But allowed to flourish on its own, with its big leaves folding away from the centre, it deserves a word or two here.

Though I forget much I find, as someone who enjoys cooking, that I remember the likes and dislikes of people, even people for whom I have never cooked and for whom I am never likely to cook.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday, walking, names

Posted by PicasaChatting.

 There are reasons for walking slowly in the rain.

Is there anywhere in the world an estate agent called Crumble and Crestfallen?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

together, steam, alliums

Posted by PicasaTogether in London.

After the rain, the sun and in the sun steam rises.

Globes of florets on the alliums (ornamental onions), some white, some blue, which I planted in the Autumn. At first the globes are opaque, but when the petals fall leaving the spiky seed heads, you can see through the skeletal globes. They remain a spectacle.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

view, fleeting, rain

Posted by Picasa View through a sculpture in St Giles, London.

A reddish brown shape disappears into a flower bed on the other side of  the lawn. Not a cat I am sure. It must be a fox. A cub I guess, and clever at hiding in a border. I go to investigate. There is no sign of it. I content myself with imaging its quick eyes peering out at me from among the lupins.

There is a heavy shower of drenching rain. I stand in the green house, listen to the drops falling on the roof, and watch the tangles in the overgrown garden next door, wilder and more mysterious than ever in the rain.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

toadflax, pylons, seedlings

Posted by Picasa A weed is defined as a plant growing where it is not wanted. Whether it is wanted or not, toad flax springs up quite unexpectedly in unexpected places. One plant takes shelter behind a sage in the vegetable garden and its purple flowers, mingle with those of the sage so that it goes virtually unnoticed. Here the plant grows out of the base of a wall against the unmade path (the local word is twitten) where dustbins reside. But such magnificence deserves a better description than "weed"  wherever and however it grows.

From the garden behind  the The Griffin Inn at Fletching we admire pylons striding across the weald towards the South Downs. My daughter is involved in research for the National Grid. Not everyone likes pylons, she says. But we agree that they have a certain architectural beauty. We note the way  perspective gathers the pylons together as they approach the horizon as  though they are engaged in some sort of meeting.

I wake up worrying about my basil. Yesterday the tray in the greenhouse where I had sown the minute black seeds looked dry and neglected. So this morning I check the tray, to find that spread across the  still moist compost are tiny green dots, which promise, once the seedlings are transplanted, a good crop of aromatic leaves for pesto and tomato and mozzarella salad.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

wall, to let, house fly

Posted by Picasa  This wall borders the site of an abandoned petrol station near Sainsbury's car park. It strikes me as a feature which, if it were produced as a result of deliberate thought and action, might in some quarters be taken seriously as a work of art. (Click for whole photograph).

Two pigeons arrive on a hedge where there is a "To Let" sign. One sits on top of the sign, the other squats on the surface of the hedge. The one on the sign nods its head up and down as it peers about it. Pigeons often make me laugh. These are no exceptions.

Outside The Compasses Geoff tells me that house-flies take off backwards. This is new to me, and intriguing. He says that their front legs make it impossible for them to take off forward. It is also believed that they have evolved the habit because predators tend to approach flies head on. Reverse lift-off apparently fools enemies.  If, as friend or enemy, you want to catch a fly you should therefore come at it from behind.

Monday, June 13, 2011

messages, mystery, peas

Posted by Picasa In London wherever you point your camera messages abound.

Unopened bouquets of flowers  left by the wayside are always a sad sight. Often they are left  at the site of an accident  or in a place with sentimental associations, to form a spontaneous shrine of some sort. But the  lone bunch of lilies, still in its cornet of florists' wrapping paper, under a sapling in The Grove, seems to have a less solemn explanation. The flowers are scarcely visible; no message accompanies them; and they are pointing away from the path. They  appear to have been thrown there violently or without feeling.  Perhaps they are a rejected gift of the kind often featured in soap operas to signify an apology not accepted, or a failed attempt to reestablish a broken relationship.There must be a story there.

Garden peas have always been a problem for me.. In the past, mice have eaten the seeds (or so I am told to explain the absence of any sign of germination). Or if the seeds have germinated, pigeons have eaten the tender shoots. This year I have sown the seeds in trays in the greenhouse and transplanted them when they have sprouted.  Today I transplant a second batch of seedlings and arranged pea sticks above them. So far the experiment has been successful. Next year I will try planting the seeds, as I have been advised to do, in a strip of plastic guttering and slide the seedlings with their compost into a prepared trench.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

edge, herbs, miles away

Posted by Picasa The edges of woods - cross sections of the unknown, - promise complexity, mystify, intrigue. (Click for full picture).

At The Farmers' Market I buy feverfew, St John's wort, echinacea and bergamot for the herb bed.

Woman in queue at  Sainsbury's checkout, whose trolley is blocking the way: "Sorry," miles away".
Man behind her: " Don't worry. I go there too".
Woman: "It's nicer there."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

exit, dill, vocal

Posted by Picasa Behind the restaurant which is now known in the locality of this and other blogs as The Bloggers' Retreat is this picturesque fire escape.

 I prick out a bunch of tiny, feathery dill seedlings from a pot,  and despite a warning that they do not transplant well, I set out a row of them, taking advantage of the recent rain which has soaked the earth. I smell on my fingers a hint of anise.

After a shower of rain the birds seem to be more vocal, to sing with a greater fluency. Or perhaps it is that the air, rid of its burden of humidity, carries the sound more efficiently.

Friday, June 10, 2011

investigation, six years, pedestrian

Posted by Picasa Investigation in The Grove.

To morrow, I realize, it will be six years since I posted my first observations here. The subjects were, a beech sapling in The Grove, some Morris dancers and a solitary girl hoeing in a vast field of roses.  I had been thinking about starting a blog for some time, but wanted to find a focus, before embarking on  a venture of any  sort. My inspiration was Clare Grant's Three Beautiful Things, which I am glad to say is still flourishing as an inspiration to others as well as to me.  Looking back through no fewer than 2136 posts, I recognize that I have made certain changes to the formula I started with. Most obvious perhaps is that one of my three subjects is now invariably a photograph. And second, that not all of the subjects can be described as beautiful; sometimes they may be curious or amusing, or simply interesting (at any rate to me). The observations have however remained positive. There are no beefs or moans.The important thing is that that I enjoy writing  them and  about the small corner of the world in which I live. I have not counted, but the little park round the corner from where we live, is mentioned numerous times, and has become by virtue of repetition, a permanent feature, a landmark in the geography of  my present life. So if I were to propose a toast on this occasion it would be I think to The Grove, which features both in the first post and in the present one. Oh yes, and to  all those who from time to time spare a moment to visit and comment on my posts.

You are used to see people walking towards you on the pavement. This afternoon, it strikes me as curious that, instead of a person, coming down the middle of the footpath, with dignity and deliberation,  it is a single rather plump wood pigeon. As I draw near it doesn't fly off, but instead turns sharp right and proceeds towards the front door of a house, as though  on an errand, to make a visit or leave a  card.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

magpie, seeds, sticks

Posted by PicasaThe the feathers on this magpie's back seem to shine and to reflect the blue of the sky.

This morning while the sun is still out I sow seeds of spinach and set out some dill plants which I have been bringing on in the greenhouse.

I always seem to be short of  sticks to prop up the garden peas which are coming on well just now. That is the explanation for my behaviour if anyone sees me and wonders why, like an old man in a fairy story, I am collecting branches blown down from  trees in The Grove and elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Pantiles, horse chestnut, fruit

Posted by Picasa Saturday lunch time.

Scattered by a high wind  on the grass under a horse chestnut are the tree's immature fruit like prickly green marbles.

A review of the refurbished Savoy Hotel in London lists among its luxuries "softened tap water" and  "perfectly polished fruit."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

weed, mother, shadows

Posted by PicasaWall lettuce Mycelis murales is a favorite plant of mine at this time of year. It grows out of cracks and corners and has a handsome habit. Against a silvery weathered fence it has a presence which particularly appeals.

As we enter Hall's bookshop, we are greeted by two people and one of them is greeted at the same time  by a young man.. It is like a piece of ensemble acting. "Is this your Mother?" asks Peter who works in the shop. addressing in good faith the young man standing beside Heidi? He has never met Heidi.  There is laughter all round, the more good  humoured because the young man is good looking and  Heidi is at her cheerful best. This  could be an opera," says Peter.  I pick up a business card on the counter. "Whose is this?" I ask. "It could be the subject of an aria ". "Cuesta carta?" chants Peter.

Sitting with a coffee opposite the derelict cinema, I watch pigeons settle on the broken glass of a window on the first floor. They vanish inside the room - it must be the former  upstairs lobby of the cinema; and, as my eyes follow, for a moment - their shadowy wings behind  the dust-coated  fragments of window glass, I imagine the patterned carpet and 30s decor of the space they have made their home..

Monday, June 06, 2011

cherry, talker, territory

Posted by PicasaThat blackbird again, this time with a the remains of a cherry in her beak.

There's a man who passes our house sometimes who talks to himself.  He has a pronounced limp.  We see him passing occasionally early in the morning and hear him shout into the air at no one in particular.  This morning he is walking ahead of me as I make my way to Sainsbury's. I catch  up with him  at the pedestrian crossing in Warwick Road. The lights are against him and he shouts and gesticulates  at the traffic, not in an aggressive way, but rather with a sort of forbearance. I feel myself in sympathy with him and  have the same attitude to traffic, especially now that I no longer drive a car.

This afternoon in Berkeley Road, the air is fresh, after the morning's heavy shower. The birds are especially lively, and I find myself between two blackbirds.  They sing from different rooftops at a distance of about 100 yards. They are supposed to be defending their territory, but I think as I often do how surprising it is that such sweet and fluid  a sound, should be essentially aggressive in nature.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

thrush, labels, polentoni

Posted by Picasa  A  young thrush poses for me not without suspicion in The Grove.

I  enjoy neatly labelling the rows of vegetable in the garden, but not, I suspect, as much as  visiting birds attracted by the white plastic strips, enjoy pulling them out and dropping them a few feet away.

I have always known that people who live in the south of Italy refer, with unkind intentions, to their northern neighbours intentions, as polenta eaters (polentoni) but I didn't know until today that northerners respond by calling southerners terroni a derogatory reference to their occupation with the soil.

Friday, June 03, 2011

butterfly, frames, poet's day

Posted by PicasaMale common blue  on the back of a hand outside the Compasses.

In the past I have constructed wigwam frames from bamboo canes which come to a point at the top like real tents. For some time I have known that it is more practical to bunch and secure the uprights low down so that they cross earlier, saltirewise, and protrude on all sides allowing whatever is climbing the frame - beans or sweet peas  - to hang down on the outside of the pyramid rather than become tangled at the apex. This year I remember to do it the proper way.

"We used to call Friday "poet's day"," says Bill. It stands for "piss off early tomorrow's Saturday." A variation of "thank God it's Friday," I suppose.  A very English variation, I suggest.