Monday, December 31, 2012

greetings oysters feeling

Greetings to all who come and go and  pass by.

I have had an oyster knife now for several years but never opened an oyster with it. Today on an impulse I buy 12 native oysters from the fishmonger. He gives me a demonstration to remind me what I have to do and offers me the oyster which he opens - my definition of a gentleman. While  Heidi watches and chats I sever the muscle at the edge of each of the crustacea and slide the blade round to lift the shell. I won't say I'm an expert but two plates each with six oysters arranged in a circle and  the liquor saved round the glistening mushroom-coloured flesh testify to my new accomplishment. Brownie points into the bargain because they are a surprise and Heidi loves oysters.

This morning a cleric on the radio is talking about thinking and feeling and the problems which occur when you have one without the other. I am reminded of someone I knew years ago who mocking a young dreamy young man of our acquaintance who seemed always to be surrounded by wisps  of Irish mist, parodied h is poems with one which began: "I feel I ought to tell you how I feel..."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

shoe-tree sun randomness

Christmas tree composed of red soled shoes in a shop window in Mount Street, London

It takes five or six days of  uninterrupted cloud and rain to make you appreciate the sun which rises this morning rather warily I think from behind wispy clouds.

Looking for a new pseudonym, which I am not, I would choose Random, Joe Random. Let randomness be my guide in 1213. The philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written a book about it called Fooled by Randomness - The Hidden life of Chance in Life and in the Market. I haven't read it yet but I have a feeling it will help. Randomness is what underlies the order of  images which I have been pasting into my scrap book for the last year or so and it is already yielding unexpected delights. Random exploration often lead to what you need need most without knowing how much you need it.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

notice Pi labels

Notice board.

I am glad that I have read The Life of Pi. Now if I see the widely praised film I won't wonder what the book was  like unaffected by the screen interpretation.

How's this for labelling? In Cameroon two men, I read, are found guilty of being gay on the grounds of their effeminate appearance and on the evidence that they were seen drinking Bailey's Irish Cream.

Friday, December 28, 2012

lines sales umbrella

Wire, vapour and wireless.

The season of Sales is upon us. God rest ye merry gentlemen!

As I pass an old lady in the street her umbrella blows inside out. "Oh oh ho ooh..." she says. When I turn to see if she is alright, the brolly has returned to its proper shape.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

pineapple dazed party

Pineapples contain mysteries and also provide a subject for the app called Paper. I forgot to say that one of its great attractions is that you draw and paint on the touch screen with the tip of your finger helped by tools, a "pencil" a "paint brush" and an "eraser" . There is a starling immediacy about  the procedure.

In the High Street following the festivities people have a dazed expression as if  they have just escaped from prison.

The holly tree in a garden on the edge of The Grove is this afternoon alive with sparrows. Some have overflowed onto neighbouring shrubs like people leaving a party to get some fresh air. From a distance the excited chirping also recalls the sound of a party where voice levels rise as alcohol takes effect.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

experiment deprived laughter

  1.  With little difficulty and a spot of self- tuition, I have installed and used for  the first  time an  app called Paper which allows you to draw, paint and handwrite on screen.  It is remarkably sensitive and versatile As I am at present looking after a neighbour's cat while she is on holiday, I ventured this clumsy thing, but nevertheless feel pleased enough with it as an experiment to post it here.
Wallowing in idleness this is the  first Christmas for as long as I can remember when I have not had the opportunity to cook  the festive meal.  But I am not complaining. Our neighbours looked after us generously.  Good company and good food and drink. I could easily get used to such idleness.

As I pass The Grove Tavern someone must be telling a joke. An explosion of laughter within is followed by waves and after shocks of raucous response. It is the sort of sound that could only be heard in an  English pub. All inhibitions forgotten.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cheers antlers wet

Merry Christmas.

In the last few years people have taken to wearing antlers at Christmas presumably in honour of reindeer.  I have not yet adopted the habit but I suppose there is time.

It is not raining at the moment. Something worth noting.
"...and Noah said to is his wife as they sat down to dine
I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine"
G K Chesterton

Sunday, December 23, 2012

trails abandoned sorry sorry


On a bench in The Grove after the rain an abandoned copy of  Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. After the rain it is sodden and unreadable. Some may say, it always was. But then I have never tried to read it or its predecessor, The Da Vinci Code.

Sainsbury's is brimming over with pre-Christmas customers. It is almost impossible to push your trolley without bumping in to someone else who is bumping into someone else. Being English we say sorry.  And they say sorry. Everyone says sorry.  A cantata of polite, good humoured apology.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

pint remote charm

A pint reflected.

Radio controls are becoming common place removing the need for wires. Today a hand held switch illuminates one of the little silver trees, the socket being hard to access, which is our only concession to Christmas decoration this year. We have a similar switch which turns on a standard lamp in the bedroom. What we forget for a moment is that unless the receivers on the plugs are differently set, a transmitter can operate a switch on the wrong receiver, turning on or off a light,unexpectedly, in another room.  I run up and down stairs for a minute or two bewildered. A little bit of careful thought and the problem is resolved.

"A Charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld-
The lady dare not lift her Veil
For Fear it be dispelled-"
Emily Dickinson, who else?  A bit like Coleridge's belief that poetry is often at its best when imperfectly understood. And Francis Bacon's essay Of Truth  "...But I cannot tell: this same truth is a naked and open daylight that does not shew the masks and mummeries and triumphs of the world, half so stately and daintily as candlelights".

A very short Christmas story is posted  in One Fine Day

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shard repeat skating

London's South Bank with its changing skyline. Centre of the picture is the newly completed Shard dwarfing the OXO Tower below it and to the left.

The proprietor of the convenience store greets me as I enter with, "how are you?"  I tell him and politely reciprocate with an enquiry about his health. I go to the the vegetable rack and pick up a bag of tomatoes which 30 seconds later I take to the counter. "How are you," he says. I tell him and politely reciprocate with an enquiry about his health.  With time predicted, according to a Mayan calendar,  to come to a complete stop tomorrow,  a lot can happen in 30 seconds.

In Calverley Grounds people are skating in the rain. Round and round the ring they go soggier by the minute. As I pass the loudspeaker is blaring Jingle Bells.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

lingering espresso rain

Leaves linger on the heavily pruned  maple in The Grove after other leaves have fallen.

The rich and busy sound of an espresso machine frothing milk.

In my notebook  I find  a stanza from Thomas Hardy's poem A January Night.  which seem appropriate in the context of the  gusty, drenching  weather visited upon us recently:
The rain smites more and more,
The east snarls and sneezes;
Through the joints of the quivering door
The water wheezes.
Smite is a good word isn't it? Makes me think of the King James Bible where in The Old Testament people seem to much engaged in smiting one another. Trouble is that in that part of the world smiting seems to go on and on. A good word to describe a bad habit.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

peeling dedications abandoned

Ivy climbs a metal post where paint is peeling.

An anthology of French literature which  I open today has a  hand-written note on the flyleaf.  I admit to finding it  intrusive. It may seem ungracious but  it prompts me to think about the practise of dedicating  books given as presents. It is something I have myself refrained from.  It  strikes me as immodest and presumptuous. On the other hand were the note-writer James Joyce or Graham Greene I realise that it would add immensely to the value the book and my pride in possessing it. As it is I have one book with a note from the author on the fly leaf of which I am duly proud and  for which I am truly grateful. It is Gorgon Times by my friend, Roderick Robinson. I am glad that he doesn't share my misgivings.

The  hideous, empty cinema behind hoardings on the corner of Church Road and Mount Pleasant will soon become an ancient monument, perhaps a tourist destination in its own right.  The people of Tunbridge Wells have stopped complaining about it. They have simply become used to it. Today I pause  on the pavement opposite to look up at the broken windows in its mountainous superstructure. I used to photograph the pigeons which took up residence in the empty rooms and auditoriums and which posed for me on  window sills and air vents as they emerged from a kip. It seems that even they have abandoned the site, for not one of them is to be seen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

meeting soggy unbelievable

Work takes a different form nowadays from my labouring days. It is interesting to glimpse it from a London street.

On the lid of a rubbish bin in The Grove a  square red Christmas card envelope with, judging by it thickness, a card inside. It has had a thorough soaking in last night's rain. The name on the envelope is illegible. It sits there a soggy reminder of loss.

In the queue in the bank a customer who has been waiting explodes angrily as he watches a teller counting little bags of silver coins. "Unbelievable," he says, "in 2012 to be counting copper and silver by hand!" It occurs to me that he is of the age that might equally have prompted him to expostulate if the teller had been using a machine, "you can't trust these new-fangled machines. Why can't we go back to hand-counting!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

drawing parking stories

Today's wayside cat. If you think as Picassa seems to that this is a pencil drawing, it ain't. If I had  the patience, skill and time I would not draw like this, preferring instead spontaneity, liveliness and insight. Picasso rather than Picassa would be my choice. But given the opportunity I clicked the appropriate icons against the image of my original photo and here you have it.

How people park their cars is I have often thought a good an indication of  character. Some  one I know backs in everywhere assuring I always think a quick getaway. Others don' t give a damn jamming their vehicles (why do policemen always refer to cars as vehicles?) into any available space at an angle regardless of whether they are occupying the space of two rather than one vehicle or whether  they are preventing another vehicle from moving. As one who has not driven a vehicle for at least 12 years, moralising compensates me for the pleasures of motoring.

In my recent state of inanition (I  noticed the French form of the word the other day and not having used it  in English let alone French decided to do so at the first opportunity) I allowed three of the stories I have been thinking about to gambol in my floating thoughts. I will post the next one when there is evidence that enough readers (if Blogger stats are to be believed) have read the last one.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

wired Bach inanition

Berries and telephone wires.
What music do you play when you are struck down by a bug which leaves you so weak that switching on the equipment and pressing the button seems an effort? Bach. Perhaps the Goldberg Variations. . Cheerful yet deeply calming. Energising .Better already.
One thing about this bug is that in reducing you to state of inanition, as you lie flat on your back, wrapped up and warm, your mind begins to float free and a remarkable sense of freedom takes over, an out of body experience. It is not at all unpleasant.

Friday, December 14, 2012

lunch catcher hoar-frost

Magpie on a gutter with seed in beak.

A Jack Russell who runs almost as fast as the ball thrown for him flies, shows off his astonishing athleticism in The Grove. He hares after the ball anticipates where its going to fall and catches it on the first bounce. I have seen him before and never tire of watching him.

From the train I admire the countryside bright with hoar-frost. Walking on the silvered fairway of a golf course are three figures with clubs silhouetted against the light.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

windows prostitutes conversation

Windows and reflections in windows.

A Russian diplomat comments as he looks through the window of his taxi in the City of London, "I see that you have the same sort of problem as we do with groups of prostitutes  outside  entrances to offices".

A man and dog in the Grove. The dog, a collie, holds a stick in its mouth. It appears only mildly interested as the man appears to be talking to it non-stop about problems with machinery and the importance of proper maintenance. Only after careful observation do you realise that the man must be talking into a microphone hidden in the collar of his jacket, the microphone connected to a telephone. But then again you can't be sure.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

vane frost name

The weather-vane on top of the Church of King Charles the Martyr in Chapel Place.

A lift to Crowborough this morning. From the car how lovely to see the fields and hedgerows silvered with frost! A panoramic view which I no longer take for granted.

After passing the checkout, waiting in Waitrose for the neighbours who are giving me a lift,  I watch the ballet of customers checking out accompanied by electronic pings of approval as they load their bags and pay their money. I am disturbed in my meditations by a voice which says, "I  can see you Joe. I can see your feet." Always a sucker for approval or at least recognition I look towards the cashier who appears to be addressing me. But I should be so lucky! Seated on the next bench is another Joe, an angelic two year old with flaxen curls and pink cheeks.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Waterloo toppling history


Sad to reflect on a diminishing Christmas card list and be reminded of new absences all too permanent.

English history is deeply ingrained, breathed in with school lessons and Shakespeare's history plays, but I still have a problem, especially in the medieval period, remembering and distinguishing between all the Williams and Henrys and  Edwards. To remind me of who's who and what they did I am reading and enjoying A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins.  It is mercifully short and sharp. Apart from nudging my memory it is a racy read, a good story.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

factory eggs profile

Production line line in the this year's Christmas card factory.

Among odd encounters at the checkout I should include today's. My purchases  advance on the conveyor but two boxes of eggs on account of their fragility remain on the belt's supporting frame. I  produce the" next customer sign",  to mark a division on the belt, when I remember the eggs. "I thought the eggs were for me," says the man at the head of the queue behind me. He has a purple nose. "Funnily enough" he adds "I bought some eggs yesterday." What I wonder can I do with that information?

From the train the figures of two men on the roof of a distant  building stand in profile against the watery sun pushing beams through streaky clouds. Dramatic figures in an urban landscape.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

ledge five salad

Shoes airing on a window-ledge above a fire escape.

I listen to Take 5 in memory of Dave Brubeck who died on December 5. When I first heard his music it sounded raspingly modern after the settled tempos of New Orleans. I hadn't realised until I read the obituaries that he studied classical composition under the French composer Darius Milhaud. Nor that Take 5 was  in fact written by Paul Desmond the saxophonist in the original Dave Brubeck Quartet. It seemed very modern when I first heard it. Now it appears as another milestone in the past.

It is hard to be greedy for salad, which perhaps explains the poster in the window of Pizza Hut in The Strand which offers "Free unlimited salad all day every day".

A character in a seedy novel pursues the author of the book in the new short story  called The Stalker which I have just posted in One Fine Day.

Friday, December 07, 2012

on the way naked rent


Though not proud of the picture I was glad to capture this pigeon coming in to land.

Who (or what?) do women find attractive in men? And men in women?  See  yesterday's Tone Deaf. The topic still on my mind I am startled  this evening when my other half says: "Look there's a naked man." We are in the men's clothes department of Hooper's on a special shopping evening. The absence of enthusiasm in her voice is instructive. There is indeed a naked young man noticeable for his fake tan and aspiring muscularity.  He is  wearing only a pair of rather unprepossessing shorts. One assumes he is there to promote the sale of underwear, but doesn't appear to be succeeding. The burgers of Tunbridge Wells, male and female, most wearing overcoats against the cold outside appear to be steering clear of him. As we do. "No", says the Mrs, " he's not my type. Male strippers do not and have never appealed.

A significant reduction in alcohol in-take in comparison with previous occasions,  impelled on my part  by the exigencies of age, does not seem to  affect the  level of conversation at Wednesday's Retreat meeting and afterwards at the Kings Arms. As we go on talking we refrain  by mutual consent from a  second refill though occupying a premium table in the busy real ale pub. "That's our rent," says RR casting a sad eye on our nearly empty glasses. Somewhere buried there are the remnants of a drinking etiquette which requires you to sink pint after pint until you sail towards oblivion.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

life snowflakes identity

Neighbours. Probably the two commonest inhabitants of The Grove.

Huge snowflakes glide down outside the window this morning, as big as saucers they seem to be.

Despite snow on the line, I am no more than two minutes late for my meeting with the possessor of two noms de plumes so deeply ingrained that I cannot always remember the real name under which he now blogs. There, sitting in the bar of the Bloggers, Retreat is Barrett Bonden, Lorenzo da Ponte and Roderick Robinson. Problem is that I have always known him as "Robbie" so that for a time I find it difficult to adjust to the shifting spectrum of nomenclature. He, in response to a request which I forget that I made, is wearing his navy blue ship captain's cap. This doesn't make it easier as I cannot  in nearly 50 years recall  seeing him in any form of headgear.   An item on the agenda is to define the short story. It enters both our minds at one point  that maybe we are in the midst of one. After nearly six  amusing hours of failure to define the short story and much else, we part company; he into the bowels of the London tube, and on to the distant Welsh Marches; I to the heights of Waterloo East Station and on to the fleshpots of Tunbridge Wells.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

last leaves off-cuts cheese

Hanging on. Self-portrait.

Christmas card time again. Mine is printed, trimmed and folded. The off-cuts are not being wasted. Some fold into a square. These will become individually tailored cards. Others form a strip which folds over to make  tailored book marks.

Two lads try to order lunch at The Compasses. When they learn that an office party in progress  and that they will have to wait up to an hour, they pop across the road to the chippie and emerge with a disposable dish of crispy pancakes and chips. The chips are layered with melted cheese a delicacy that is apparently catching on all over the country. To avoid embarrassment they do not return to the pub but join us in the smokers' shelter outside. They offer us a chip dripping with cheese. It is good, but we decide, lethal.

Monday, December 03, 2012

roosting ennui brewing

You may think that you have seen this picture before, because I posted one very similar last year. Similar starlings if not the same ones were settling down to roost in the same tree in The Grove this Autumn as last Autumn, but I am  not ashamed of repetition.  The seasons don't apologise for it. Meanwhile perhaps differences matter more than we are prepared to admit.

Ennui is my favourite French word. It sums up an almost sensual abandonment of purpose, an idleness which is at the same time irritating and  melancholic. A world-weariness which embraces tedium, a tedium  which lulls the frenzy of getting and spending. An annoyance which manages both to  grate the senses and to soothe them.  It impossible to find an English equivalent which matches it for internal music or layered meaning. Poets like Baudelaire and Mallarmé liked it it because it evoked  the sad, disentegrating world of sensuality and despair in which they lived. The first line of Mallarmé's poem Brise Marine sums it up..." La chair est triste, hélas! and j'ai lu tous les livres!". The flesh is sad, alas and I've read all the books." A sort of self-mockery and ironic wit buried there I always think. I find its musical equivalent in the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes of Eric Satie

More stories for my other blog One Fine Day are brewing. One is nearly finished and will be posted soon. Writing them is not the problem. The challenge is working them out in the early hours of the morning or last thing before going to sleep,  both curiously creative times of day. And then remembering what I have, to much asleep to write then down, recited to myself.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

looking up cold petals

Roof top parade.

"Hi ya! Bloody cold! " says the centenarian dentist  as he whizzes past on his mobility scooter."

On the ground in a corner of The Grove the fallen fuchsia petals mingle with the probing early shoots (too early)  of daffodils and crocuses.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

drama chocolate news

More of the the deserted cinema site in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Not pretty, but with dramatic potential.

A pop-up (temporary) chocolate shop has opened in Chapel Place. Demonstrating his wares is a pâtissier called Damian Allsop who has been associated with a number of Michelin starred restaurants in London and,  I think, Spain. I have always liked the idea of hot chocolate but hot chocolate without milk. His foaming chocolate is something I have hoped to find for a long time, and not far removed from what was served in the chocolaterias which you used to find in Madrid and other Spanish cities. Probably better though. The chocolate comes from a carefully nurtured source in Ecuador and its taste lingers long after you have finished drinking it or eating the solid chocolates on offer. None of his chocolates involve dairy products relying instead on what he calls a water ganache which dispenses with the use of cream or butter, but taste none the worse for it. In the words of the Michelin Guide, worth a diversion.

The wake of the row over the behaviour of the Press and the Leverson Report of which the Media is full and the country is divided now seems to reach to the horizon. Should a free Press be underpinned by a body independent, but established under the law? Or be left under the scrutiny of one free of any government involvement but equipped with a new and sharper set of teeth than the present ineffective complaints procedure? The debate has been fiery and for once, for a debate, intelligent and largely politics-free.
Meanwhile I confess to barely reading the papers at all. I get my news from the radio, TV, the BBC web site and a magazine called The Week which contains summaries of the weeks goings on, national and international. The Independent newspaper which we take, provides, after I have scanned the headline,  me with  a Sudoku to keep me alert in the morning after breakfast

Friday, November 30, 2012

eyesore birds late

Locked, bolted ,excluded, done. Part of the wooden wall erected outside the abandoned cinema in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. Now generally known as The Eyesore. More photos to come.

Glyn greets me as we pass in the street. "Been walking round the Tunbridge Wells "lakes", he says. "See much wild life?"
"I told myself I could see 40 species of birds during the two hours it took me. And I counted precisely 40 species. Par for the course."

Last winter they severely pruned a sprightly  maple in The Grove.  Though it looked as good as dead, later than  other trees it sprouted a halo of leaves round the stumps of lopped branches. Now that Winter is setting in, it still has its leaves, some of them green, others turning yellow and red, long after the other trees have shed theirs.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

searcher universe safe water

Explorer 2.

As so often happens my eye is caught on the supermarket news stand  by the cover of New Scientist. " Before the Big Bang", reads the cover line, "Three reasons why the Universe can't have existed for ever". Why I wonder do I care so much more about this topic than whether or not women should be allowed to become Church of England bishops?

Whenever I see the miniature Penguin Classics and similar mini-book series I always hasten to buy the titles which I think of as suitable to send to certain  friends to supplement Christmas cards. Apart from everything else they fit tidily with a card into most envelopes.There are few which are not suitable so I usually splash out. Today in The Oxfam Bookshop the substantial collection  is not priced. Instead  donations are invited to the Safe Water for Schools charity. Proceeds go to schools all over the world, I am told, wherever  there is a desperate need for fresh water.  Though this is apparently not obvious because one of the shop's  recent customers was anxious to know whether donations would go to a school local to Tunbridge Wells.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

mist welcome pine apples

Mist in Calverely Park.

Although my other half is now a restrained smoker a pre-lunch drink requires a cigarette. At our favourite London restaurant on a raw day, smoking outside one one of the line of tables on the pavement might be a torment rather than a pleasure. But vertical heaters with dancing flames in glass cylinders, cushions and blankets to cover our knees provided the ultimate hospitality. Yes, I know. The heaters do nothing to limit climate change. But neither do cars and we don't possess one.

Pineapples are wonderful fruit. In the 18th Century they were grown in England in hot houses at great expense and became status symbols. The carved pineapple finials on country houses of the period are witness to their popularity. Today they are supposed to be good for you. Their benefits include the treatment of coughs and colds attributable to the enzyme bromelian which is reputed to break up mucous. Such  health claims have to be treated with suspicion. How much are you supposed to eat before beneficial effects are noticeable? Does it matter? Their mixture of sweet and sour and crisp, juicy texture are rewards enough for removing the scaly shell.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

exploration prank overheard

The way through the wood.

A bad side of me enjoys pranks. Harmless ones I hope. Today it crosses my mind that it would be fun, assuming great wealth,  to go into the poshest of restaurants and order a bottle of Krug or Dom Perignon Champagne, specifying the vintage and adding at the last moment the instruction: "Please make sure that it is hot. But on no account allow it to boil."

Overheard on the train "Edinburgh is like a beautiful woman with a bad temper."

Monday, November 26, 2012

panorama football pruning

The Grove in autumn.

I have known for a long time that one of the medieval kings of England banned the playing of football. But I couldn't remember who precisely and why.  Although I once played the game myself, I can understand how easily it comes into disrepute. But banning it always seemed a bit extreme. Today I  am reminded, while reading Simon Jenkins History of England, that the monarch in question was Edward III. Why did he presume to suppress the beautiful game? Because he banned all sport so that people could concentrate on archery and in particular the longbow, the most lethal weapon invented by man, some say, until the arrival of the Gatling gun. It explains the defeat by small English armies  of much larger French armies at Crecy and later at Agincourt. It is said that arrows released from the longbow could pierce armour at a range of 200 yards.

All morning a tree surgeon with an electric saw operates on the upper branches of the noble tulip tree opposite our bedroom  window.  The sight of the lopped branches is a sad one, but better than no tree at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

leaves siren clematis

Acer. Hard to resist against the sky.

Sunday morning outside the Compasses. The sound of a police siren from the direction of The High Street. For a moment I think of my first time in New York.

The white, curled seed-head of a clematis blows along the road. For a moment I think of  film I have seen of tumble weed in the American mid-west.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

demolition skating water

Sad to see an old house taken apart. Dust hangs in the air.  Beams and the remnants of light fitting hang about like memories.

A skating rink more elaborate than last year presides in Calverley Grounds. There is something vaguely medieval about the white onion domes of the temporary building adjoining the rink. Pop music drifts among the trees. Blue lights illuminate  leaves giving a wintry hue.  Kiosks are open offering refreshments. The park normally rather quiet and dull has a festive air. It compensates today for the greyness of the rest of the town. People seem quite happy this morning to be skating in the rain.

Tunbridge Wells has no river. But today water gurgles in gutters and drains, drips from branches and overflows, and rises in the cellars of people's houses.

Friday, November 23, 2012

trail found names

And never the twain shall meet.

Having lost my mobile I thought it would be a good idea to ring the number from my land line. From inside a lacquered box  where I keep important bibs and bobs just a few feet away from me came its familiar ring. And I thought I had looked for it in the box too.

I speculate about people whom I have never met and who have the same name. I know that there is at least one other person with my name. He is a young cousin. And I am happy to share it with him.  But recently thanks to the Internet  I spotted another  quite unknown to me. It seems to me that you get used to your name and to find that it also belongs to another is like coming across someone wearing a favourite item of your clothing. "Hey", you want to say, "that's mine!"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

emoticons Millennium clock gliding

Only a couple of inches in diameter this cross section of what I take to be a cable emerges from the base of a wall. The photo refers to yesterday's post,  where  I reflected that the infant's early recollection of human features seems to have become part of a general aesthetic. It occurred to me that emoticons neatly fit the theory.

 In response Roderick Robinson commented on emoticons  which he sometimes finds difficult to read. So do I. For the most part I regard them with suspicion. Depending on how they are treated they run the risk of becoming ready-made statements and supplanting the need to find the words for which they stand. I have a similar suspicion of captioned greetings cards which replace the need for original words and sentiments.

On the other hand emoticons have their uses and their virtues. "Why shouldn't we speak  in praise of emoticons?" writes Sam Leith in the November issue of Prospect magazine.  "... for a start they introduce a pictorial element into the written language: something western languages have not had since the days  of illuminated manuscripts..."  From his article I learn that it is 30 years since Scott Fahlman, professor  in the computer science department of Carnegie Mellon University in the US,  when he proposed that humerous posts on his departmental message board be marked with a sideways smiley face to make it clear that they were intended as jokes.
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The grotesque Millennium clock opposite Victoria Place in the centre of Tunbridge Wells is not working. You might say that the only purpose it serves is to tell the time. As a monument it can only  be described as a disaster.  You never hear a good word said about it; it deserves only opprobrium. As I pass it to day I think to myself  how wonderful if someone came quietly in the middle of the night, took it apart and buried the pieces. (:-  just in case anyone takes the suggestion seriously.

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A gusty day. Dead leaves whirl in circles in a sort of dance without rhythm. Above the roof tops a solitary seagull glides, tilting its wings this way and that  above the town.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

romanesco regression Tatin

Just one romananesco. With some luck and some knowledge and experience all the plants which I set out in the vegetable garden  in the summer would have produced heads like this one. So far the majority have sprouted separate stems and effectively gone to seed. Why this one behaves as it should  have done I do not know because all the plants received equal treatment. I suppose relative failure makes this something to be proud of. A bit like cauliflower and a bit like calabrese but better than both, this is a vegetable which it is worth persisting with.

One of the first sights that greet babies are faces bending over them and making gurgling noises. It strikes me that the human face, reduced to two dots a vertical line and a horizontal line, becomes for ever a recognisable symbol. So in examining patterns on walls or on rock surfaces, we look unconsciously for a human dimension. For this reason if a painter wants to produced a truly abstract picture he has to steer clear of the pattern. On the other hand the emoticon which hasn't been around very long is almost entirely dependent on it. Today I take a photograph of the cross section of a sealed gas pipe. As soon as I look at the photo I see a  rather sinister human face.

Yesterday, visitors. A tarte Tatin  - an upside down apple tarte is turned out in their honour. It is a most pleasing dish to produce. You caramelise (with lots of sugar and butter)  some apple halves  in a pan and when they have lost some of their moisture, cover the pan with a circle of short-crust pastry and put in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The pastry rises up to form a shallow dome which is going to be the base of the tart. When it is crisp and golden brown you put a plate over the pan and turn the pan over. The tart emerges with the mounds of apple glowing a rich gold. You must of course remember when cooking the apple halves to place them in the pan with the cut side facing upwards.

Monday, November 19, 2012

poseur phatic don't ask

A cat poses on a wall inviting paparazzi. Cats with round faces have lived in this road for years. Though they are of different colours I am convinced that they must be related. Not all of them have orange eyes.

 Fast talking mavens know the emotional values which underlie phatic forms of communication. In one article today I come across two words which I have to look up in the dictionary. Hence this sentence which I put together so that I can make use of them both. Maven is sometimes spelt mavin.

As I pass a neighbour I remind myself not ask how he is in case he tells me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

seeds short cut light

Seed head of Clematis orientalis of which I showed the bell-shaped yellow flowers the other say.

The 100-year old retired dentist who lives nearby greets us from his mobility scooter. The basket on the steering column is full of plastic bags. "Going shopping?"  "No," he says, with a laugh. I'm taking these round to the back of the house. It's easier than going through."  His modern terrace house is on two levels. There is a garage and back door which you reach through a rear courtyard.  As we get older such  techniques of navigation begin to be familiar.

Aiming my camera contre jour I am pleasantly surprised by the flexibility of digital over film. Or at least so it seems to me who makes no claims to be a proper photographer.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

escape dodgy Poe

Today's squirrel contemplates escape by the usual route.

In Mount Sion a man in shirt sleeves looks up at the sky and says "dodgy!" as he passes me hurrying up the hill.

Edgar Alan Poe's death-obsessed poetry does not seems  to have  achieved the same ranking in American literature as his stories. The Raven with its Gothic imagery and haunting refrain "Nevermore" has been widely mocked. But in France where he was translated by Baudelaire, he was greatly admired by poets like Verlaine, Malarmé and Valéry. And Malarmé wrote a passionate sonnet for the occasion when a monument to Poe was unveiled in Baltimore in 1876. It sets out to defend Poe against the indifference of his fellow countryman. It begins with the lines (apparently frequently quoted) "eternity transforms such as he, the Poet with a naked sword, who awakens his contemporaries shocked not to have recognised  death's  triumph in that strange voice..." At the memorial service the poem was read in translation. I wonder who translated it because having attempted the first sentence I can confirm that it could not have been easy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

reading moonlight seniors


Listening to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata I recall  that it is the only thing that I remember my Mother playing on the piano. Yet she was a Licentiate of the The Royal Academy of Music. The absence of a piano at a critical time of her life may have accounted for this neglect, but when the piano was restored she very rarely played. A sad waste which I see repeated in others who  have learnt to play an instrument and then neglect it. Perhaps because I having no such skill, to ignore one seems to me all the more surprising.

Labels can be disturbing. In the window of The Oxfam Bookshop in Chapel Place a book called Gardening for Seniors catches my eye. A pair of old hands on the cover appear to be severing a runner bean from the stem.  How senior does one have to be to qualify to read the book.  Would I be presumptuous to ask to examine it?  And risk being told, off you go sonny, come back in another 10 years.  In my dreams.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

clematis trofie ready

Clematis orientalis. Another subject that occurs annually in Autumn when the flowers appear along side the seed heads climbing over a fence in Berkeley Road.

Trofie is one of the many shapes in which pasta is made. It is only recently as far as I know that it has been available in shops in this country. It consists of thin, twisted threads of pasta like
pieces of cord an inch or so in length. Cooked the pieces look a bit like worms.  Sauces like pesto are recommended to accompany it. I have found another use for it. You leave the pasta to get cold and fry them until they become crisp and golden. Much better than potato crisps and, as I found the other day when I served them with pheasant, an interesting substitute for game chips.

As I wander about with my camera at the ready, I speculate about  unexpected photo opportunities. Squirrels there are in plenty, blackbirds and  cats and pigeons and crows, but who knows? One day a spaceship may appear over a roof top. Or an angel  might land beside me with a whoosh of wings and a cantata.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

spider puppy beech

"The spider's touch  how exquisitely fine
Feels at each thread and tells along the line." Pope

A red setter puppy bounds up to me. "Now he's going to follow you," says the owner. I say, I wouldn't really mind. "He 's going to be a huge dog. He's 13 weeks old." The owner says. And the two walk on, he talking gently to it  introducing the pup to the world.

In The Grove the leaves on a large copper beech shimmer and whisper to themselves. The other trees are silent seeming to listen respectfully.

Monday, November 12, 2012

relationships lunch thick and thin

Having few pretensions to being a photographer I use the camera  almost daily to make pictures which reflect my surroundings as best I can. Recently it has occurred to me that my pictures are largely in narrow focus examining the shape and the texture of objects rather than  their context and relationships in a broader, panoramic  field. Hence this picture of the up and down platforms on Tunbridge Wells Station.

Definition of a good lunch when guests arrive before 1 o'clock and leave at 5 o'clock, and both hosts and guests believe that it is only 4 o'clock when they leave.

Market research based on a sample of four people  in the Italian deli called Arte Bianca reveals that men like thick slices of ham and women thin.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

stall checking out listening

 Textures and patterns. A market stall in the Pantiles from behind.

Self-checkouts at supermarkets are a new challenge. Everything is monitored. Most outcomes are considered. You put your bag on a shelf to one side of the machine. The screen in front of you tells you what to do. It scans bar codes and  weighs on the platform in front of the screen. Where there is no bar code your choose from a range of  illustrated product headings which lead to others within a group until by  process of elimination you arrive at what you are buying. The screen registers every purchase whereupon you transfer the product to your bag. If you pay by credit card the card reader has its own screen and takes you through the process. It even offers cash back. For wimps there is a "call the attendant" tab on the screen, which I am afraid I have used once or twice. So far no machine has invited me to "have a nice rest of the day".

Listening to music most of the time now I  contrast certain pieces, catchy and evocative, which you quickly tire of, with complex and profound ones which you do not tire of listening to, discovering more the more you listen. With the former I find that writing or even even drawing or painting is a perfectly acceptable occupation while the music is playing. But with the former it is best concentrate on the music with no distractions. A bit obvious perhaps but that is where, a student of the Tone Deaf School, I stand with music at the moment.

Friday, November 09, 2012

sky story music

Front door in the sky.

Is there a borderline between poems and short stories? To put the  possibility I am posting a poem which I wrote a few months ago in One Fine Day. It seems to me that  it has some of the narrative elements of a story combined with the intense concentration of language and images which you look for in a poem. It is called The Black Butterfly 1988. See

Music is back on the agenda in my life, but  as my memory, never much to boast of,  is rapidly disintegrating, I now resort to a music notebook in which I write details of what I like, performances, performers and, sometimes if I can find the words, why I like them

Thursday, November 08, 2012

spider Janecek romanesco

Spider and hydrangea.

Lorenzo da Ponte now  writing under his real name Roderick Robinson still onTone Deaf  remains  a music guru. I'm grateful to day for his directing me to Janacek's string quartets. While I am listening to them for the first time this morning, Sam who visits once a week to clean the house, says: "That music makes me think of the background to silent films." . I am quite glad of  remark. It reminds me of  a talk by the late, great music critic Anthony Hopkins. To help listeners begin to appreciate Stockhausen, he  made  up a science fiction story and used the music as a background to an account of a space ship about to land on an alien planet. Not that Janacek that I mean to compare Janacek to Stockhousen.

Romanesco, a sort of green cauliflower, is quite a common vegetable nowadays. This year not for the first time I tried to grow it. Instead of forming firm, tight heads, however, it sprouts in all directions like  unhappy broccoli. Except tday for one plant. Today to my amazement I spot a proper conical romanesco head among the leaves. What I would like to know is why this plant rather than the others is  behaving  as it should. But it pleases me all the more.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

landing demolition music

Coming in to land.

They are beginning to knock down the deserted house next to the vegetable garden. An end to peace as I dig the beds before winter sets in, and to the view of the deserted garden attached to it and the wild life it contained. The windows of the house are being knocked out by workmen masked against the clouds of plaster that rise as they attack  old walls with picks and sledge hammers. A JCB waves its trunk in the air. One of the workmen asks me who lived in the house. And I tell him about Roy Douglas, aged 103 (or is it 104), who  now lives with carers. The house used to belong to him and he must have lived there for nearly 100 years. He was a musician and a friend of Vaughan Williams. In the old days he used to come across to talk to me when I was working.

For the last few months my music problems have been solved. No more dependence on  CDs or tapes. It is all digital, drawn from iTunes, and amplified by a Bose Bluetooth speaker. Not for the hi fi enthusiast perhaps but surprisingly good, accessible and good enough for me. And music is back in my life.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

hiding skating holly

Sun hiding behind the branches of a silver birch and a thin layer of cloud.

One of the gardeners working in Calverley Grounds tells about the excavations taking place. There is going to be a skating rink installed again this year, though of a more stable variety than last year's ramshackle structure, one hopes. Cable is being laid under the grass and lights hung ready in the trees.  We hope that it will look better than last year. Little harm in the prospect of people skating on a sheet of ice over the Christmas holiday.Good for family outings even though they will doubtless be expensive. An expensive measure for the Council at any rate.  "It's only our money," says the gardener.

 I congratulate some  people whose house adjoins The Grove on the contents of the holly tree which hangs over their garden. It  is as ever alive with sparrows and pleasure to walk past. "The Council has agreed to reduce its height by 15 per cent," they tell me. "I hope the sparrows don't mind," I say aware of the declining number of the birds in London, but I sense that the extra light afforded by pruning, is of more importance than the welfare of sparrows.

Monday, November 05, 2012

window-shopping forbidden likes

The need for a change of scene.

My smoking is confined to about a dozen Havana cigars a year. And I know how terribly bad smoking is for our well-being. But sometimes I wonder whether the laws on the sale of cigarettes are a bit extreme. The latest rules do not allow the display of cigarettes on shelves behind the counter in supermarkets. In Sainsbury's sliding doors hide the foul things from greedy eyes. If you want to buy some the assistant draws back the door and selects your purchase before quickly closing it again. Standing behind a cigarette buyer  in the queue today I can't help seeing the rows of packets lined up on display when  for a moment the door is opened. Reader, my frame is shaken with a hideous trembling. I break out in a cold sweat.  Is it excitement or horror? You must judge for yourself.

My friend who used to  call himself Lorenzo da Ponte and now goes under the name of Roderick Robinson (based on a little known, eponymous 18th Century novel?) delivers a blog called Tone Deaf, which in its original form directly addressed most of  my problems with music.  He has now strayed from his original path into more open country.  And I don't blame him but I miss the original scenery. I like music. My tastes are catholic, perhaps too catholic. And because I have no confidence in them I am reluctant to talk about what I like or to make recommendations, as I would in matters of literature, painting or sculpture. Today I resolve  that from now on I will indulge myself with what I like to listen to and neglect anything which has an "ought" or a "should" linked to it. So I lean against the radiator and listen to Pomp and Circumstance No 1 followed by Pomp and Circumstance No 4.and quite involuntarily waive my arms around like a conductor. Next for want of contrast  I switch to the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Take Five.