Tuesday, January 31, 2012

composition pipe gulls

Posted by PicasaBlackbird, berries and chimney.

The smell of tobacco burning slowly in a pipe greets me as I walk down towards the High Street. I wonder if the man smoking it is enjoying it as much as I enjoy the result of his efforts. In the days when I smoked a pipe I always preferred the smell of the tobacco, raw or smouldering in the bowl, to the act of smoking itself. Keeping the pipe alight might have been an art but it was often more trouble than the pleasure produced was worth. In the same way I often (but not always) find that music overhead is more pleasurable than music intensively listened to. I find myself wondering if other pleasures half encountered, anticipated,  dreamt about  or remembered (a la Proust) may be preferable to their origins.

 I often see sea gulls singly or in groups over Mount Sion and The Grove,  invariably in the same flight line. But never have I seen  one on the ground here. Then I remember that apart from the ocean, gulls love tips, and that the direction they take is towards the refuse tip in the North Farm Industrial Estate where there are delicacies almost as rich  as those found in the sea, and certainly more plentiful.There is nothing for sea gulls in The Grove

Monday, January 30, 2012

path money wrong

Posted by Picasa Path across  The Common. Paths reaching the brow of a hill have a charm and promise all of their own.

Monday mornings, when you have the choice, is the wrong time to visit the bank.  Entrepreneurs, are paying in their takings after the weekend. As I wait in the queue I watch tellers counting thousands of pounds (it seems). As  they put the bundles away each clasped by an elastic band, I can hear the money shuffling into the vaults, whispering to itself, snuggling down, keeping warm in the economy.

The telephone rings. Somebody says my name with confidence and not without familiarity. Then, "It's Diane. Diane Rhodes!"  I suppose I am not alone in forgetting the names of acquaintances. So I hesitate, but have to admit that I don't know her. Part of me expects a prompt, something like, "you know, we met on the stair case in Grand Central Station you caught me when I fell over my suitcase." Or, "it was on Bondai Beach. The shark swallowed your surfboard..." No such luck. A miserable anticlimax. I must have the wrong number". Still it is better than someone from a call-centre selling double-glazing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

path milk sarcococca

Posted by PicasaInto the wood. One of the paths leading from the London Road to The Common.

"We need milk" says a woman in the supermarket. She has a loud voice. She says it again to her little husband
who has it appears no voice at all. "We need milk," she says shouting this time." That's three times I told you."

O that scent again. Perfume I should say. Again I smell it and then hunt for the shrub. Sarcococca. There are two this time. In  a shrubbery in Calverley Ground,  proud of being able to identify it, I spot two of the bushes with their dark green leaves and small, star shaped white flowers. The aroma still makes me think of the warm smell of horses.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

holly Siberian shorts

Posted by Picasa Holly berries close to. I come in close to avoid the usual Christmas card view. A strident display like this one is supposed to promise a cold winter.

Warm days in January are a bit disturbing. Nature up the spout. Global warming in action. Now they are beginning to talk about snow and ice or at least frost.  I feel a sense of relief. But not everyone likes it cold. "Do you think we're going to have a Siberian winter?" says a neighbour as we pass in the street.  Siberian? Now that would be climate change.

It is cold already today. In Mount Pleasant I pass a man of middle age staggering up the hill. He has bow legs, one of those Australian, leather cowboy hats and is wearing shorts and short socks. Sturdy is the word which comes to mind as the best to describe him.

Friday, January 27, 2012

doodle wash dear, dear

Posted by Picasa One of the recent "doodles" which I have very deliberately made with water colours. I call them doodles in spite of their serious intent, out of a sense of uncertainty as to their true nature, but they could equally well be described as postcard-sized drawings or paintings. Some, like this one  are abstract. Others which will appear here in due course are more representational. The most difficult  to do are the abstract ones. 

In the gents in Calverley Ground the hand dryer is more approachable than most of its genre. I admire the simplicity of its design. There is one opening into which you insert your hands and three buttons labelled soap, water and air. Each of them works. The manufacturer Wallgate deserves to be named here. As some comperes might say: "Please put your hands together" for it.

"A neatly dressed grey-haired man is sitting opposite me in the train. There is a table between us. He is wearing a fawn raincoat.  From beneath the coat peeps a tweed lapel, a modestly patterned  tie and one of those check shirts which betoken a certain kind of quiet, middle-class aspiration.  He is engaged in a crossword. ""Oh dear, dear," he says to himself, as he shifts his position and folds his paper  into tighter oblong.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

proportion fashion humming

Posted by Picasa If you were a few millimetres tall this face would represent a good climb. As it is it is a part of the outcrop of rocks only a few meters high at the top of Tunbridge Wells Common, it is less of a challenge, but photographs can be deceptive.

A sign of  limited intelligence is to identify people and objects by dominant features rather than by closer detail. I fear that my own limitations are revealed where fashion is concerned. Today  a woman in the train, with short cropped grey hair  with blond highlights could be one of our neighbours. I realise that she  is  not the neighbour only  because I know that the neighbour is on holiday. This haircut seems to be quite common among women in a certain age group.

Ahead of me an old man with a white stick walks cheerfully along. He is humming. He wears a red baseball cap. When I overtake him I see that the cap is inscribed with the  logo  St Dunstan's which is a school for the blind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

stripes alarm how

Posted by PicasaVapour trails and branches in the evening sky.

As I walk across The Grove a burglar-alarm is ringing. Its demented obsessive song persists as I move out of earshot on my way to Mount Pleasant. On my return it is still ringing. No sign of fleeing burglars. No screaming police cars. All sorts of innocent explanations are given for alarms being set off. Undue vibration due to building works nearby is a common one. Another is spiders or insects picked up  by the sensor. I know that if I were a burglar I would find that the din upset my concentration no end. The job must be stressful enough as it is!

In the convenience store this morning the proprietor greets me with,  "and how are you do day?" I tell him and wander off in search of milk. On my return to the counter, as he takes my payment, he asks again: "How are you today?" Nothing has changed since we last spoke. But I tell him. This afternoon I remember that I forgot to buy some juice.  I feel a little foolish going back to the store for the second time in one day. I go straight to the shelf where the juice resides. When I proffer payment, "how are you today?" says the proprietor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

crow age pony-tail

Posted by Picasa Another family photo. I can't resist it when Mr Crow in a posing state of mind allows me to approach to within a few feet.

Paul Johnson, the historian, essayist and former editor, proclaims the achievements of old age in the edition of The Spectator.   Lord Palmerston was eighty when he died, and still in office, as prime minister, he reminds us.   His age in no sense impeded the quickness of his wits. A fortnight before his death he attended a military review in Hyde Park with Queen Victoria. When she complained of the smell of the sweaty soldiers, he replied "Yes Ma, am, it is known as esprit de corps." His last recorded remark, delivered with his staccato laugh,  was "Die, my dear doctor? That's the last thing I will do."

In Mount Pleasant, a smartly dressed young man in a suit and Trilby hat stops to light a cigarette. Protruding from beneath his hat is a beautifully coiffured pony tail. Noticeable for its chestnut sheen, it hangs above the collar  of his jacket like a question mark.

Monday, January 23, 2012

way scrap marmalade

Posted by Picasa Part of a logo familiar to almost everyone in this country. It is normally attached to the single word "footpath". On his own this man, because he is no longer merely indicative, seems to have gained in  personality and presence. Even in ambiguity.

Labels which have to be peeled off individual, supermarket fruit such as apples or pears showing their provenance or variety can be a nuisance, but when the labels are removed and stuck into my scrap book next door to something inappropriate such as a Turner landscape or a nude by Cranach, they can take on a new and surprising significance.

Nine jars of Seville Orange  marmalade still hot and ready to be labelled are my reward for today's chopping, boiling and ladling.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

morning percentages forecast

Posted by Picasa Cold and frosty morning in The Grove.

In these hard times shops are closing. It is the season of percentages. Fifty percent off in one instance. Seventy-five in another. But always with the weasel words "Up to" skillfully inserted so as not to be noticed by customers eager for a bargain.

Weather forecasts, professional and amateur, are unhelpful most of the time . Black clouds are massing in the West. It's going to rain. But where? Not here. Or there. but not down the road. There is no precision. My own all-purpose weather saw is:
  " All signs and portents do ignore
    't will rain when it rains, not one minute after,
     not one before".

Saturday, January 21, 2012

cloud alive silver

Posted by PicasaPigeons flying across a cloud wheel in the wind.

As I am leaving the train a woman points to an almost deflated balloon. It is bright green and still has enough gas in it to make it bob up and down on the floor beside a seat as though it has a vestige of life in it. A woman waiting for the train door to open points it out to me. I think it scares her. "I thought it was a plastic bag", she says.  You can't be too careful nowadays.

The sky is silver over The Grove this afternoon. In places where the sun is, dazzling; in others, its tones reduced. Higher up there is a hint of pale blue, but other colours are scarce. In the foreground: the trunks of silver birches.

Friday, January 20, 2012

dry quiet ferret

Posted by Picasa Rose fruit in Winter.

Although cars are parked in The High Street, none is to be seen passing in the road. It is quiet. Not much on in town this morning. You can hear the light rain falling. I am on my way to the station. London should be busier.

In the Strand a man in army fatigues and  a hooded jacket walks with his arms crossed in front of him. Curled up in his arms is a ferret.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

bee moss stones

Posted by Picasa  An early bee alights on a packet of tobacco outside the pub.

I leave the path on The Common and walk across sparse grass and moss which is springy under foot. Just to be walking on such a surface on a brisk, fine day is enough. Enough for what? Enough to sing about.

Dave Bonta, poet and poetry editor, writes on The Small Stones or River of Stones idea, which is to be found on a blog called Walking Our Way Home, in praise of brevity. His own Morning Porch observations (a limit of 140  characters) have been made regularly on a daily basis over several years have fulfilled many of the Small Stone objectives (ie to notice something properly every day and write it down). I believe that I have been doing the same sort of thing for the last five years, while Clare Grant, from whom I copied her idea of Three Beautiful Things to be noted daily, has been doing it for at least six years. "Bad writing," says Dave, "happens when decent writers are unwilling to let go of any felicitous expression." Few who aspire to write well will disagree with those words and may share a general inclination towards what is brief and yet complete in itself.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

textures moo context

Posted by Picasa Cracks and shadows.

"I can almost hear it mooing."  Comment by  the late Denis Thatcher, husband of the prime minister,  on a very underdone steak.

Sometimes you can only see something properly when it outside its usual context.

Monday, January 16, 2012

camellia sparrows puff

Posted by Picasa First camellia. Another annual photograph in the same spot in Grove Avenue.

One of the houses in Belgrove has a tall holly tree in the garden. It is alive with sparrows. You can't see them except every now and then as they flutter in and out of their domain, but you can hear them, ringing like bicycle bells,  long before the tree comes into sight.

 On The Common I am walking down hill towards the town. Coming up the steep path towards me is a woman with five little dogs, two of them on leads.  She is wearing a pink anorak and a white, woolly hat. In response to my "good morning" she says: "I'm out of breath. It's my age."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

peeling axe books

Posted by Picasa Paint peeling from brickwork reveals the shadow of an animal.

 Two log stories.  And a half. Outside the pub a man appears and selects a log from the stack. He few minutes later he brings it back and replaces it. " A ball stuck up a tree," he says by way of explanation. Later, one of the pub staff arrives with an axe. "Don't worry,  " he says, as though the sight of a man with an axe might evoke a scene from a horror film. " I want to chop a log up to make some kindling. Customers are complaining that it is getting cold". The word "blog", I have always supposed, is derived from the phrase "web log".  Another log then.

 While talking the other day about the difference between reading a book or on an eReader, I am reminded of a passage in Albert Camus' unfinished, largely autobiographical novel, The First Man. Describing his discovery of books as a child in a lending library in Algiers, Camus writes. I translate loosely:  "Each book, moreover, had a particular scent derived from the paper on which it was printed, a scent, refined and secret, that J would have been able to distinguish  with his eyes closed ... And each of these scents before he had even begun to read,  overwhelmed him and drew him into another universe full of promise, obscuring the room where he was, the quarter in which he lived, the town and the entire world...."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

berry apocolypse age

Posted by Picasa Rowan berry with robin.

There is something apocalyptic about the notices advertising sales on the windows of shops which are closing down. Not the least of them, if you argue from the particular to the general, is "Everything Must Go.

Go over the notes from last year's check up the optician remarks: "Next year you will be 80." My reaction is a typical instance of intuitive rather than careful thinking. She must be wrong, I think.  At my last birthday in September I was 78 and at my next birthday in September 2012, I will be 79. But she is right: at this time next year, a year from now, I will be 80.

Friday, January 13, 2012

wings silk belly-dancing

Posted by Picasa Between the pages of a notebook this seed of a member of the acer family has  matured elegantly revealing the delicate veins on its wings.

 Here's something worth a poem. Or a fairy story. On the BBC today is an account of a golden cape woven from spider-silk.  Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley who live in Madagascar wove the silk of 1.2 million  female Golden Orb spiders to make the embroidered garment. Its rich butter yellow colour is derived entirely from the  natural colour of the silk. The spiders, about the size of the palm of a human hand were collected daily, by 80 helpers, "milked" for their silk and returned to the wild. The cape is on show at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and can be seen on the BBC web site.

In the Oxfam book shop a woman is saying that she and her husband went to Morocco for Christmas. "We wanted to get away from Christmas. But when we got there it was everywhere, Christmas trees, the lot.... We did see some belly dancing though." "Were you tempted to get up and do it yourself? asks the Oxfam lady. "Yes, but I resisted it."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

aerial scent new

Posted by Picasa Writing in the sky.

This must be the third or fourth year in succession that I have drawn attention to the powerful scent of the Sarcoccoca shrub which flowers at this time of year. Its unobtrusive white flowers have an astonishing perfume. As my plant book says "you smell them before you see them." The shrub in question is in the garden of a house in the passage called Belgrove which leads from Little Mount Sion to The Grove. Every year I forget the name  of the plant and have to look it up again. Fortunately now a bookmark in The Botanical Garden leads me directly to it and reminds me that it is a member of the box family and originates in The Himalayas. I have in the past tried unsuccesfuly to describe the scent. My best attempt goes back to the time before I had identified its source, when I fancied that someone had a horse nearby. The smell of a stable, straw and of the horse iteself after exercise still seems to fit the bill.

A small child, just at the walking stage, is introduced by a group of adults to a push chair in which a new baby lies swaddled in blankets.  "It's a baby," says one of the grown-ups, "your brother." After briefly satisfying its curiousity the child runs off to investigate  more attractive occurences.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

randomness unseasonal diversion

Posted by Picasa A couple of pages from my scrapbook, where randomness is the rule. Or almost. Available space is important in deciding what goes where and sometimes colour but not subject matter. Unexpected juxtapositions are the result as well as the object. It's the image that counts and its appeal to the eye, as much as what it turns up next to.  The picture bottom, left, is as it happens  a Christmas card from fellow blogger Marja-Leena  Rathe and her husband Fred. Above it on the right is a reproduction from a magazine of one of  Mark Rothko's noble abstracts.

Today, January 11, Geoff tells me outside the pub that he has just seen a bee and three butterflies in The Grove. As he speaks a bee arrives and settles on his packet of tobacco. It is attracted we suppose by  the yellow colour of the wrapping. "Look," he says, "it's exploring the bar-code."

I have always enjoyed the rather ponderous use of the word divert to mean amuse. It has a Dickensian ring about it. So it is that whenever I see, as I do today,  a  road sign announcing "Diverted Traffic", I imagine cars with smiling radiators and  windscreen-wipers dancing with hilarity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

robin boneless reader

Posted by Picasa  No more seasonal bird than the robin at this time of year, full-throated, bright and, like this one  relatively unafraid of a man pointing a camera at him.

An advertisement for "the best boneless chicken" rather terrifies me, as someone fond of chickens and suitably separated from the living creature, of chicken too. It is an advertisement for a new Kentucky Fried Chicken brand . It has the KFC logo, a picture of  old Colonel Sanders and the slogan "So good". The brand is called Dippin' and Strips. The poster shows bits of breaded chicken in a box beside a pot of red dip and one of white, and the price £3.69. I'm runnin'. Away.

On the bus I am beginning to enjoy the satisfying "ping" when you show you free bus pass to the
electronic reader. But you don't get a ticket anymore. I have always liked tickets, even the new ones printed and torn from a perforated reel. I remember with affection the coloured tickets pre-printed on oblongs of thick coloured paper,  and taken by conductors from dispensers which were part of their kit, and punched  to the sound of a bell by a machine hanging round their necks.

Monday, January 09, 2012

again Miss Otis ashes

Posted by Picasa Mr Crow again. This comes from the archives, but seeing him on parade this morning, I am prompted to look up his photo again.

Yesterday evening a BBC 4 programme called The Great American Songbook  takes me along one of the many paths opened up by the blog Tone Deaf. If Signor Dar Ponte will forgive my trespassing on his preserves, the lyrics of Cole Porter  come to life in the programme sometimes in unusual guises. The folk singer Kirsty MacColl makes startlingly good job of Miss Otis Regrets She's Unable to Lunch Today. Her version is  accompanied by the  band of The Irish Guards, and  the sad ballad of the respectable Miss Otis, who is hanged for shooting her lover, and has therefore to break her lunch appointment, is performed in dirge-like march time, rather than in the blues style of the original. Miss Otis Regrets was first performed at The Savoy Theatre in London in 1934. You'll find the MacColl version of 1995 on YouTube.
Above the High Street a flock of pigeons swirls up like smoke and ashes carried in a gust of wind before settling on some rooftops.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

skeleton long-suffering relief

Posted by Picasa The skeleton of a leaf gracefully flattened against the tarmac.

In Sainsbury's a pale woman closes her eyes and holds back her trolley as I inadvertently cross her path. Her expression suggests that such sacrifices of space and time are too frequent in her life. In a later encounter a shadow of a smile crosses her face, but her eyelids are still lowered.

With a sense of relief I read that the UK economy should be growing strongly by 2050. I simply can't wait.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

back-lit fragile candle-lights

Posted by Picasa Today's squirrel dramatically back lit by the afternoon sun.

Fragile,  is my small stone to drop into a pool.  It is a word, which keeps returning to my mind. We live in fragile islands of relative calm in a world where men and Nature challenge each other for notoriety in outbursts of horrific violence. A  universe of unimaginable proportions, which we do not yet completely understand,  is, meanwhile, riddled with explosions  across unimaginable distances. Beautiful? It depends where you are standing and in which direction you are looking. A terrible beauty perhaps!

In The Pantiles an art gallery has closed down to be replaced by a hair-dressing salon. When you look though the window the room seems to be poorly lit. A central chandelier is oddly out place and the lights above the mirrors are modest in their intensity. Then it strikes me that women or men for that matter, staring at themselves while their hair is rearranged, are probably more comfortable if their faces are not exposed to the harsh, clinical light required by a surgeon or a dentist. As the philosopher, Francis Bacon observed  of truth, " it doth not show the masques and mummeries and triumphs of the world half so dainty and stately as candle-lights".

Friday, January 06, 2012

lamp post greeting rescue

Posted by Picasa Another abstract  composition taken from paint peeling on a lamp post in The Grove.

The blond woman with the white Pomeranian is walking ahead of me in Sutherland Road, her dog ahead of her eager for the freedom of the park. "Happy New Year! " she calls to a man approaching with an Alsatian and a Cavalier King Charles both  tugging on leads. "Happy New Year! he responds. All three of the dogs begin barking whether as part of the exchange of greeting or  because they making territorial statements is not clear. "Thank God it's over," she says. Is she referring to 2011 or to the recent festivities?

A flotilla of pushchairs comes into sight. From the midst of it, a wailing cry goes up "Lion". One of the mums turns back. "Lion," she says, waving a yellow fluffy toy. All's well with the world again.