Friday, August 31, 2012

seaside hand made shades

Beside the sea a beach towel is in readiness.

"Hand made ice cream" is offered outside a restaurant in Mount Pleasant.  It sets me wondering and worrying a little about the extent to which hands might be involved.

"I have just finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey," says an 82 year old gynaecologist of my acquaintance. "I read it for its medical information. The descriptions of sado-masochist sex were of little interest to me."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

advertisement crossing top-deck

Fading advertisement on a wall. An imprint of another age.

Though I do not yet include myself in the category, I do not like to see old people hurrying across the road on a pedestrian crossing  or elsewhere when traffic has stopped for them. They should cross slowly and with dignity. A cavalier wave of the stick will suffice for thanks.

The top deck of a bus still affords this old boy immeasurable pleasure  especially when he finds the nearside seat at the front vacant.  Buses offer a closer connection with people and scenery than trains which are more remote and detached from the world. This morning a delightful rattle in front of me when in a country road the  upper window of the double-decker pushes aside the branches of wayside trees.


clouds solution surprise

Look more at clouds. Like the sea they keep changing and promise new and mysterious perspectives.
Out of the blue yesterday I find that the banner photograph of Now's the Time has been transformed into an exclamation mark. And a number of photographs in previous posts have received the same treatment. It is still a mystery. I now have a new banner but I am as yet unable to repair the damage to previous posts. At least I can have, since this blog is intended always to be positive, the satisfaction of restoring a measure of sanity to the banner. It has also given me the opportunity to introduce a new image.

When the forecast is rain to see the sun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

talking tabbouleh six

Two pairs of feet in conversation.

A salad which I enjoy making and eating is tabbouleh. It originates in the Middle East and is made with dried or cracked wheat, called burghul, which  is brought back to life by simmering for 10 - 15 minutes. To the burghul is added lemon juice, olive oil, a little finely chopped onion, a plentiful quantity of chopped parsley and almost as much chopped mint. Chopped tomatoes give it sweetness and colour. I recommend it at this time of year.

This afternoon in the bus I pass a cricket pitch in Langton Green. I think to myself that it is pretty close to the road, and that a strong shouldered batsman might easily lift a loose ball into the traffic. I wonder if players are asked to hit the ball in the direction of the road, quite a liberty, but perhaps necessary. It is a long time since I squared my shoulders and a hit a cricket ball above the outfield and over the boundary. But a good feeling to dwell upon as the bus drives on.

Something utterly weird has happened to my banner picture! I have queried it with Blogger. Help!

Monday, August 27, 2012

butterfly Facebook tee shirt

Waited with my camera ready till it - a red admiral?-spread its wings. It seemed to be thinking. Or perhaps sleeping.  I looked away and looked again to find that  it had flown off.

For a long time I have avoided Facebook. But I do like the way the web connects the world and although this could be rather more random than I would prefer, I feel quite childlike as I locate people I know or hardly know, and find that they are "friends".  What interests me is their lists of "friends" and a sense of infinite connectivity.

Ready made jokes are usually irritating. Stickers on the rear windows of cars for example, captions on greetings cards  and slogans on tee shirts. But there remains a fascination about their inventiveness. On the back of a girl's tee shirt today  I read the word "bitch" aligned vertically  so that it becomes an acronym for "beautiful, intelligent, talented, charming and hot" aligned horizontally. Somebody must have worked on that and presumably been pleased with it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

window Chalybeate Spring Yorkshire terrier

Looking in or looking out? Reflections of clouds on the outside of a window in fact. Just a  snapshot but it could be a Magritte painting

The spring in The Pantiles which is supposedly the raison d'etre of Tunbridge Wells is not flowing as well as it might. The iron-rich water  with its rusty brown colour is apparently in short supply. Cups of the stuff are not at the moment on sale. A notice near the spring apologies for the shortage but does not explain it. After one of the wettest summers on record you would have expected something different. But nobody seems to care. There is little evidence  that the water has any beneficial effect, and as a long term resident of Tunbridge Wells, who tasted it once, I can vouch for the fact that it is not among the choicest of liquid refreshments.

Yorkshire terriers, little bundles of cuteness, are the last thing you would have expected to emerge from the county which gives them their name. At lunch in The Tunbridge Wells Bar and Grill a Yorkie  called Armani was sucking up to everyone in sight, cadging cuddles. "He'll find his way to the kitchen sooner or later," says the dog's owner, "He always does."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

column intrigue crab

The capital of the column set into the wall of one of the houses which faces ours. In the spring starlings nest in the crevices at the top.  Maybe they are in some way responsible for the fern which has recently began to grow out of  the stone beneath them.

Ever mystified and fascinated by the nature of existence and that sort of thing I have recently been unable to resist buying the weekly  New Scientist magazine.  Recent cover lines include:
  • Beyond Higgs
The Conscious Connection -the inner secret shared by the brainiest creatures

Ghost in the Atom - laying quantum theory's greatest puzzle to rest

Collapse - when nature destroys civilisations

The algorithm that runs the world.

Though I am not much more enlightened than I was before I am glad to be in contact with subjects of this kind which, though perhaps they shouldn't,  concern me more than the fate of The Euro or The Pound.

At The Farmers' Market this morning a small boy asks to look at the crabs on display on a fishmonger's stall. "What's that one called? " he asks pointing at a spider crab. "Fred" says the fishmonger.

Friday, August 24, 2012

sun artwork amplifiers

Sun,  cirrus cloud and  a vapour trail.

I can't spell, I know. Spell check doesn't often help, I know. But day before yesterday going back to a previous post, I see that I have become responsible for the astonishing remark in a caption: "vapour trails over artwork". How did I produce this piece of nonsense? Then I realise. The spell check had not recognised Gatwick  and with a amazing ingenuity had substituted "artwork"  for  London's second airport .And I inadvertently had approved it. Sometimes such mistakes are serendipitously funny. Not this one I' m afraid.

Tunbridge Wells has a  music festival. It is called Local and Live. In The Pantiles this afternoons I see stalls being set up for booze, and most significant, banks of amplifiers. Not Edinburgh. Not Bayreuth. But tomorrow, judging by previous events, the very ground will tremble as group after group compete to accecentuate   repeat base rhythms and raise the decibel count to Olympian heights. Where we live we hear the thump of percussion and occasional cries which drift our way like "ancestral voices prophesying war".

Thursday, August 23, 2012

hibiscus posing preferences

Among the plants which survived the scaffolders is this white hibiscus. The flowers have never been so abundant.
On the terrace of the Hotel du Vin, two women at lunch move their chairs closer so that the waiter in response to their request can take their photo. As he turns the camera on them their faces adopt researched expressions very different from those which return when they relax and continue their conversation. 
As a cook I often find myself thinking  about dishes people whom I know would like to eat. In the same way as a reader of books I find myself urged to recommend reading matter which it occurs to me friends would enjoy or find useful.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

setting testing competing

Sunset over The Common and vapour trails over Gatwick from Mount Sion.

In the health food shop where I buy mint tea and the like,  they have a machine for checking bank notes. Someone has taped on to it a note which says "All notes must be checked". The lady at the counter inserts my £10 note and nothing happens. She tries again. No ping of approval or whatever is supposed to happen. "Never mind," she says and pops the note in the till. "I've only just printed it," I am on the point of saying. But I have come to realise that it may be a mistake to joke about money matters as it is about terrorism. So my remark joins my ever growing stock of Esprits de l'escalier.

Outside The Compasses Ron tells me of his sporting prowess. "I always won the 100 yards at school,"he says. Afterwards I went on running until the county champion beat me after giving me a 10 yard start. I never ran again after that. I'm very competitive. I don't like losing. After that I turned to weight lifting. After six weeks my chest had broadened from 32 in to 40 in and I had pecs like bricks".

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

morning hedge Lebowski

This morning's morning glory. Ipomoea is its botanical name, derived from the Greek  ips ipos meaning worm and homoios meaning like. It is a member of the convolvulus family and is closely associated with the bindweed (with its similar white trumpet-shaped flowers), dreaded by gardeners not only in Europe but in North America too.  I grew the plants on which this specimen is now flowering from some seeds given to me in an empty tobacco packet with the usual health warnings still legible on it, by my friend Geoff. There are four of these lovely flowers this morning but all have by this afternoon shrivelled and faded. Beauty which does not last.

The very word hedge suggests restraint and discipline. Hedges are there to divide and separate. But because they are living  things they also need keeping in order, pruning and shaping. I have managed the hedge which divides our narrow garden from the road for 25 years and think that I understand it. Not quite though. I realise today that it has a will of its own. The sloping top, pitched like a roof is partly my fault, but I never intended the angle to be so great, the apex so high. Nowadays even with extending sheers I cannot quite reach it (the electric hedge trimmer has now been abandoned).  Today I  begin to attack the top and bring it down to a manageable height, a satisfying task if, as I believe, it will make future trimming less of a challenge.

Last night we watched the Coen brothers film, The Big Lubowski. Apparently it was not a success when it was first shown in America. But it has since become a cult classic. And understandably so. Though it is not surprising that it was not appreciated at first. Its relationship with Raymond Chandler's novel  The Big Sleep (and subsequent film of it) is not immediatley clear, but as soon as that dawns, its wit and intelligence begins to be apparent. I have now seen it twice and find its humour grows on me. I'm still laughing  and enjoying in retropsect the ten-pin bowling scenes. I'm now ready  to see it again.

Monday, August 20, 2012

compensation morning glory old friends

Sunflowers failed dismally this year. The rain washed the seedlings  away or slugs ate them before they had a chance. So here's one from the archive to compensate.

This morning two deep blue morning glories greet my camera in a corner of the vegetable garden where I planted them to see what would happen.

 We have not seen the old friends who come to lunch today for 20 year. They  have not changed. At least no more than we have. And so the balance adjusts. "We mustn't wait another 20 years before meeting again!" We agree that to do so might be problematic.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

wild drops jazz

Next door to the vegetable garden this wilderness presides. Three years ago it was a fairly well ordered collection of flowerbeds, vegetable beds and shrubs. Now it  is a paradise for foxes. In the Autumn I fear earth-movers will move in.

It is supposed to be a day of uninterrupted sunshine. Instead  around mid day clouds build up and huge drops of rain seem to condense in the air and fall at irregular intervals. We sit and enjoy the scattered drops.

Feeling starved of easily accessible jazz - it is easy to be spoilt nowadays by on-line music, I subscribe for less  than £4.00 to an iTunes album called The Number Jazz Album Ever.  It gives me 945 minutes of the great names in the genre. So at this very moment I am listening  to Charles Mingus' Better git it in Your Soul.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

hooker young shoes

Waiting for some action.

"I said to her, I know I'm young..."   A man passing in the street his talking to a woman, "  but I'm not stupid."

We hear of a girl passenger in a London cab who is asked to hand over her shoes to the driver. As surety. "I have known girls like you run off without paying the fare"  the driver said.

Friday, August 17, 2012

corn flower flag weeds

Another of  the "wild flowers" sown in a muslin mat in  the Spring,which are bringing bees and butterflies and other insects to the vegetable garden. This is I suspect a rather cultivated cornflower as distinct from the more common and less domesticated variety found, at least in the old days, in cornfields.

On the pavement outside our house is  a team Great Britain union flag. Though  I am not madly patriotic it gives me a little pleasure and a little pride to stick it in  the hedge.  I hope that it will still be there to welcome the guests we are expecting in the next few days.

Weeds are plants growing where they are not wanted. Like most gardeners I regard them as enemies. But not all the time. When  they do not intrude they become wild flowers  with charm, pretty names, lovely flower or  curious habits. In my garden I regularly  try to eliminate oxalis, pink and yellow flowered;  creeping buttercups; ground elder; groundsel;  fools parsley; sow thistle; fat hen; speedwell; docks; dead nettles; plantains; sun spurge; bindweed; chickweed and many others including dandelions. Knowing the names is the first hurdle, getting to like them, the second.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guinness apple flying

Nice and cool. Not an advertisement. Just a  captured sense of anticipation. One of the World's great brands waiting to be drunk outside a pub.

In the vegetable garden I notice a squirrel running towards me along the top of a low wall. I do not suppose that it wants to interview me, or pose for a photograph,  but  I reach for my camera nevertheless. Not far in front of me is the object of its desires: an apple, a fairly large windfall, that I myself might have gone for. To the little fellow, it is attractive enough to overcome its shyness of a man with a camera. It picks up at the apple and begins to rotate with its forepaws, nibbling as it goes. The apple is rather bigger than its head. As I start to take the camera out of its case, the squirrel decides that I am not good company and managing to hold the apple in its mouth, scampers across the grass and up a tree to finish its meal in the foliage. I never manage the photograph. Hence all these words.

As we approach The Compasses a gust of wind snatches up three sunshades from their mid-table anchorages and blows them about with a whirl and a clatter. A frail old couple enjoying a drink start up in alarm. "Tell them we are being attacked by umbrellas from all sides," says the old lady as we draw near.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

self-seeding jet banded snails

Among the thousands of  wild flower seeds which impregnated the grow mat which I laid at the bottom of the vegetable garden in this spring is this scarlet flax. It is not a flower which I was acquainted with and I have only just identified it today among the nigellas, salpiglossis, cornflowers campanula, echiums and many other insect attracting flowers. The mat has succeeded beyond expectation and has already  brought butterflies and bees to help pollinate the beans, courgettes and squashes that grow behind it. The advertisement promised that the flowers would be self-seeding in years to come and on the evidence of this season's promise, I can believe it.

Sitting outside The Compasses I look up to see a plane banking overhead lower than usual on the flight path into Gatwick. For a moment I imagine myself up there looking down on myself looking up.

On the newly painted wall outside the front door is a snail unaware of the glories of the new surface on which it travels. It is one of those brown and black banded snails that looks a bit like those sweets called humbugs. Banded snails are supposed to demonstrate via their variety of colours the mechanism of natural selection in action as they adapt to different habitats.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

stains discussion right

Stains on a  peeling wall.

On a current affairs TV news programme I watch a group of people talking about the legacy of the Olympic games. The subject itself doesn't matter. What is impressive is that these people are having a  discussion as opposed to an argument. They support rather than confront each other. They try to understand the points each is making rather than pick holes in arguments they haven't or are not prepared to understand. It strikes me that we are too quick to disagree and often profoundly negligent in trying to understand opposing views. Something that schools could teach us to overcome.

On the narrow strip of pavement between Chapel Place and the lights and pedestrian crossing leading to The Pantiles I hear a woman's voice say "I'm not used to walking on the right side?"   It sounds like a continental accent, someone used to driving on the right.  We drive on the left. Others  on the right. Fair enough. But what is the correct side of the pavement  on which to walk?   I seem to recall that when I was young the only rule was that men (gentlemen) when walking with a woman (lady) were supposed take the outside. I supposed this to be to shield the weaker sex (as they were then supposed to be) from splashes from the gutter.  But an older story suggested that a man  was expected to walk on the right  of a woman in order to have his sword hand free to defend her in case of assault.

Monday, August 13, 2012

texture try three

  Not just rust. Verdigris or something like it. Two screws deeply imbedded and  mysterious letters, perhaps standing for Post Office.  This is on the side of one of those boxes by the road side containing terminals and the like, which I have beenphotographing recently. This one looks decidedly abandoned  judging by the texture of the deteriorating metal. I like the screws, and am rather glad that I do not have to apply a screwdriver to loosen them.

On the telephone on the spur of the moment  I assume an unusual accent and try to sell my brother the London Olympic stadium. "At a discount", I say. It takes a full 35 seconds of sales talk before he catches on.

Because I have a small garden I cannot always apply the rule of three.  That is, plant in threes or multiples thereof, on the principle that three plants are more intriguing and suggestive of plenty  than one or two.   For a similar reason three is the number of items posted daily in this blog. And it goes without saying on the blog which inspired mine, the Three Beautiful Things blog  of Clare Grant ( now Clare Law).  Today I feel some regret that for lack of space I buy just two rather than three of the deep coloured cosmos known as chocolate cosmos.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

poppy banana delicatessen

The self-confidence of a poppy. Just look at the perfect symmetry of the ovary at the heart of the corolla and petals which it will outlive.

A tall, thin man briskly overtakes me in The Grove. He is eating a banana. He peals it tidily and takes a bite, peels again and bites again. When he has finished he holds the remains upside down by the tip where the segments of skin are still united and posts them into a waste bin.

In Sainsbury's while waiting at the deli counter  I note the eagerness of customers ahead of me as they instruct the assistant  to slice ham or sausage  or cheese to their requirement. You sense them salivating as they change their minds. "Yes, one more slice..Perhaps another... And some of that too" Buying fresh food on display by the slice is rather different from taking packed goods from the shelves. You are that bit closer to the kill.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

oignon stink spectator

In the heading I spell onion the French way because this is a French onion. A Breton onion to be precise. The sets of which this is one beginning to swell,  regular readers will know, came from Lucy and if grown in the region are allowed by the appellation  rules to to be Roscoff onions. In Tunbridge Wells  they must be just Breton onions I suppose. But special none the less. Just look at the colour.

Some  pelleted dried chicken manure which I had in a container in a sort of shed has returned to its original farmyard state. The heavy rain of recent months has somehow got into the container and the result would hold its own against the detritus from the best chicken runs in the country. A perfume like no other.  Passers by may be tempted to hold their noses.

Is it possible that watching so much athletics can make you  thinner? Or if not thinner, leave you fitter.

Friday, August 10, 2012

chive decline nettles

We usually think of chives as the finely chopped leaves of this plant. Used as a garnish they impart a delicate onion-like taste to potatoes,  a sauce or a soup without the astringency of raw onion. But the flower too has its merits and may ornament  as well as add flavour to a salad if you do not think it infra dig to eat flowers.

Mrs Plutarch is reading Proust which gives me almost as much pleasure as it is giving her. Best of all every now and then she throws a passage in my way, as she does the other day. "Swann,  in his solicitude for these new connections and in the pride with which he referred to them, was like those great artists - modest or generous by nature - who if in their declining years they take to cooking or to gardening, display a naive gratification at the compliments that are paid to their dishes and to their borders ...." I am touched by the resonance.

"I asked the gardener to get rid of the nettles in this hedge," says my neighbour  this morning in a rare
expansive mood. " And he has I am glad to see."  He may be. But I am reluctant to say that I am  myself not entirely glad. I have a liking for nettles in their place. They attract butterflies and, stuffed into a watering can and left for a few weeks, make a magnificent liquid fertiliser. On the other hand I don't have to worry for the time being. The deserted garden which borders the vegetable garden abounds in nettles.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

vegetable parking exotic

 A recent trug of vegetables delivered from the garden to a neighbour's doorstep.. Nothing special but consolation for having to throw away a similar trug full of potatoes today laboriously lifted but nastily affected by blight. We are lucky not to depend  entirely on potatoes for nourishment . I think of the Irish famine which lasted from 1845 - 47.

With a Peroni in front of me  I watch a man who trying to back his car into a space easily large enough to accommodate it. His car meanwhile is reluctant to cooperate. Judging by the noises it makes its engine or gearbox or both are as dodgy pieces of machinery as he is to be a dodgy driver. Having parked his car he sits at the wheel to recover. No sooner has he relaxed  than the car in front drives off. He switches on the engine gets into gear and edges forward into part of the space just vacated. Only to be ticked off by a newcomer, eager to back into the remains of the vacant space. He is now it seems occupying two cars worth of space. Schadenfreude is the name of the game.

Tunbridge Wells is supposed to be a quintessentially English town with a reputation for stuffiness, old fashioned values and reserve. Just in case anyone thinks this is still true, note that we are host to as many exotic influences as elsewhere in England. In Grosvenor Road for example the shop called Ocean 2 has flourished  now for two or three years.  Polski Sklep, it proudly announces above the door followed by the words: "Polish, Lithuanian,, Latvian, Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian Food." Wonderful herrings, bottled vegetables, sausages, sauerkraut and the like. Beer too. Not so conservative it seems after all.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

surface staring floods

Surfaces of deteriorating paintwork invariably attract me. This was I think on one of those locked  metal boxes by the roadside containing telephone terminals and links. It conveys a sense of mystery, an echo of chaos or  distant symmetry or both.  Think of the great abstract expressionists, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock in particular, and you find similar effects produced as a result of considered planning rather than wind and rain working at random on paint and metal.

In the window of Cafe Nero in The High Street, they have placed a sofa and armchairs with a low table to create a sense of relaxation and comfort and so attract customers.  It's a bit a like a scene from  the Friends series on TV.   But there's a problem for passers-by when people are occupying this furniture. We are used to looking into shop windows and certainly for the most part licenced to do so,  but  ins at the same time we are instructed from childhood that its rude to stare at other people. Curiousity invariably wins in my case when I see an interesting face or for that matter an iteresting surface(as above)  I stare regardless. But this afternoon confronted with a blond woman at leisure with her coffee just a couple of feet away on the other side of a shop window, I look and look away and look again, as I walk past. And I feel, for no good reason, slightly uncomfortable.

Earlier this year following the heavy rain we had a pump installed against the flood in the larder in our basement..  In the health food shop I often meet an elderly lady with a similar flood problem.  She is there today. "I was hoping to see you," she says, "how are your floods?" I tell her. She says that despite the rain, hers have not reappeared.  Noah, had he been passing, might have  understood.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

purring crocodiles wildness

Many people, I know,  have an intense dislike of pigeons. Urban pigeons in particular arouse dislike if not contempt for their greed, scruffiness and absence of any sense of decorum. I on the other hand find them comical and not unlike, in their habits and behaviour, the primate with whom they have developed  so close  a relationship homo sapiens, you and me. Here a couple are profiled under the road bridge which bestrides the platforms in Tunbridge Wells railway station.  It is a structure which pigeons have made their own, and in between the coming and going of trains and  the intrusion of loudspeaker  announcements can be heard purring to one another.

Have you noticed how cameras, video and still, have made a point of capturing sportsmen (men, seldom if ever women) with their jaws wide open exposing their teeth as though for a dentist?  Sometimes they seem to be imitating lions in the process of roaring defiance or proclaiming supremacy over other animals; sometime they look more like crocodiles about  to devour unsuspecting prey. I am thinking of making a collection of such pictures which may come in useful to frighten children who persist in misbehaving.

A little wildness in relatively ordered lives can be beneficial. As I prune the hedge it occurs to me that  hedges are managed wildness.

Monday, August 06, 2012

burning bush tidying hydrangeas

I have often wondered about the burning bush in The Bible. How could a bush apparently on fire not be quickly reduced to ashes?  But you were not supposed to question the scriptures. If it says "burning" then it was afire and that was the end of it. The other evening a solution presented itself. The sun was setting. And behold there in a corner of The Grove  was a burning bush. And the bush was not consumed by fire, and Plutarch was well pleased.

Making something tidy that was an appalling mess is mighty satisfying. After the scaffolds have gone we prune the hedge which we could not reach, sweep up the scraps of old paintwork and other detritus, tie back shrubs achieve stage one of restoration, put away unwanted pots and tools ... and pause to reflect. Things are just beginning to get back to normal. Normal is a beauteous thing at the moment. And then on cue it rains. The residual dust  settles or is washed away and  as the sun reappears surfaces shine.

Among things I used to dislike are hydrangeas. There was one in a corner of my grandmother's garden. It spoke to me of dusty neglect and a sort of despair. Subsequent hydrangeas had a similar effect. Today I realise that I have learnt to like these showy flowers especially the lace cap variety. I pass a bed and marvel at them, some pink, some blue, like a mosaic come to life.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

sweet nomenclature ardour

Despite the lack of sun, our  few sweet peas thanks to abundant rain, have flourished this year.

It could be a form snobbery to refer to plants by their Latin names, suggested Lorenzo da Ponte here a few days ago.  Possibly, but the numerous different names given to flowers and herbs in different parts of the country justify a single, precise nomenclature to avoid confusion.  Take Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) for example. Geoffrey Grigson's The Englishman's Flora lists more than 50 local English names.  Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) has nearly 30.

"The ardour which we do not share, chills us," said the Victorian poet Coventry Patmore. I think of this and wilt a little at the ecstatic reaction to a few gold medals, well earned though they may be. Well done,  I  say, but that's enough. "Patriotism," said Dr Johnson, "is the last refuge of the scoundrel. I sometimes agree with him. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

slate milkmen basset hounds

Slate roof tiles provide a platform for today's pigeon which flies into my ken as pigeons inevitably do.

Wake today to the thought that milk delivered to the front door is now almost if not completely a thing of the past.  Most of my life there have always been milkmen. When I stayed with my grandparents in London I remember one with a horse and cart. I can almost hear its hooves on the tarmac as it trots past. "What I asked my mother is that?" as the milkman fastened a bag over the horse's mouth. "The horse is feeding" I was told. Now we and nearly everyone I know buy milk from supermarkets or convenience stores. Though I gather that in country districts milk is still delivered to the door. As someone who only takes milk in tea and occasionally uses it as a cooking ingredient, I can't say I care much about the change of custom. Perhaps others, if they are old enough, are more nostalgic.

Low slung basset hounds, with their  melancholy  faces and long, floppy ears almost brushing the ground, are scarcer than  they  used to be. Today we see two. One of the them sits down beside a man on the stepped curb at the bottom of The High Street. In this position, the dog sitting upright, the man seems only a little taller than the dog. He tickles the basset under its chin. If ever a basset hound looked cheerful this one does. Cheerful and rather proud.

Friday, August 03, 2012

tansy ATM gold

I planted this in the herb bed last year and  had forgotten its name when it shot up and flowered this year. It is tansy.  Its flowers have traditionally been used as an insect repellent.  It was rubbed over meat to keep flies off. In the Middle Ages it was one of the strewing herbs used to keep the floor sweet smelling.

At the foot of Mount Sion on the corner of Chapel Place we sit and watch people pass. Instead of coffee it is lemon and ginger tea for me in a smart white teapot. Opposite in the flank of the newsagent which boasts a sub post office, is an ATM. When cards are inserted and money is dispensed the machine makes a contented if monotonous noise like a nest of small birds.

Sellotaped to the counter of the building society is a big gold medal with a ribbon. No mention of The Olympics of course. The name is now copyright and belongs to the sponsor. "It's not real," says the teller, a plump and friendly girl. "It's made of chocolate." It is wrapped in gold paper. No where it seems can you escape the longing for medals.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

got you scaffolding rearranging

Though I no longer have a car to park I feel sorry for those who get caught with a fine. But I also feel sorry for the meter attendants who invariably get a bad press for doing their job.  Meanwhile here is the hunter with its prey between its jaws.

This morning the scaffolders arrive to take down the scaffolding. A heavy shower coincides with their work of dismantling and when they leave, the little strip of grass which I laughingly call a lawn, is more like a ploughed field. But to look out of the window without being confronted with metal tubes and planks is deeply satisfying.

Space at last  in the little brick area where we sit in garden brings the perennial problem of balancing it against the introduction of pots of plants. It is a pleasant problem and one which we will enjoy resolving in the next few weeks. Herbs grow well under the hedge but the remaining agapanthus, which, having been fed in Autumn and Spring, has produced a vast number of blooms, is a challenge.  It is now huge. And on top of that is an over-riding principle: one plant of a particular variety is unsatisfactory; two  are even more so. You need three. I doubt if we have room.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Hastings pier asparagus Kindle

The remains of the pier at Hastings makes is a melancholy sight in isolation from the foreground snapped the other day. The superstructure was recently destroyed by fire. To my ageing and melancholy perception it is an improvement on its brash original. I am not a fan of seaside piers and cannot join the chorus of nostalgia on their behalf.

"Clotilde, 27 years old, was standing up at the time. Her position allowed the mocking regard of the Marquise d'Espard to take in her skinny figure which perfectly resembled a stem of asparagus" . So Balzac describes the unfortunate Clotilde de Grandlieu  in  The Splendours andMisfortune of Courtisanes. Cruel it may be but still makes me laugh aloud when I read it. I  have recently become an enthusiastic reader of this prolific 19th Century French novelist.

Wonderful technology surrounds us. When some time ago Barrett Bonden first transmitted a recent novel to me I had to struggle to read it on my computer screen.  Now part of a new novel  arrives as an email attachment from Lorenzo da Ponte into whom by a technological miracle Bonden has transformed himself.  This morning  in a matter of minutes it arrives on my Kindle in form which is a pleasure to read and easy to annotate.